Part One: In art history we’re looking at Greek & Roman art. 🤾🏼‍♂️🗡🎭🎨 A majority of the art portrays humans based on the ideal beauty for that time period. Men chiseled, women an average size with some defined curves in their hips, faces symmetrical, hair groomed & “perfect”, etc….

“Persephone? You have a visitor.” She turned, and Demeter laid eyes on her daughter for the first time in months.

She hardly recognized the women who had answered to that name. She was cloaked in a black fitted dress accented in silver, heavy diamonds dripping from her ears and covering her chest, her eyes darkly lined, her lips painted red.

Her daughter was bright, girlish, and free-spirited. This woman looked reserved, sophisticated, and thoughtful. A dread queen.“

we think Greeks were a very rational people and all until we learn about the Buphonia, an Athenian ritual where a laboring ox had to be sacrificed but at the same time, this was considered a terrible crime. so when the priest killed it with an axe, he had to throw it aside and get the fuck out of there running for his life. then the rest of the people discovered the crime scene and blamed the axe, the only one present. the axe was immediately carried before the court of the Prytaneum which charged the axe with having caused the death of the ox. sometimes it was absolved, others, it was thrown into the sea,

I know we’re all tired of the “man proudly holding fish he caught” genre of profile picture on dating apps & sites, but I think we’re just going to have to accept that fishbros aren’t going to stop because they’ve been doing it for millennia

big bones don’t lie - griffins

[If you found my blog because you’re curious about Greek people mixing up prehistoric bears and demigods, this post is for you. I studied archaeology with a focus on other things, and the research on this topic goes back decades, but imo the best book on how dinosaur bones influenced mythology is Adrienne Mayor’s The First Fossil Hunters. I strongly suggest you support this amazing historian and buy her stuff - she’s a great writer and she specializes in folklore and geomythology, it doesn’t get much cooler than that - but if you can’t and you’re interested in the subject - well, I believe scientific knowledge should be shared and accessible to everyone, so here are a few highlights. Part one of six.] 

Griffins: a very mysterious mystery

“A race of four-footed birds, almost as large as wolves and with legs and claws like lions.” 

The one thing you need to know about griffins is that they don’t really fit in anywhere. They have no powers, they don’t help heroes, they’re not defeating gods or anything like that. Technically speaking, they’re not even monsters - people thought griffins were legit - real animals who lived in Central Asia and sat on golden eggs and mostly killed anyone who went near them. And okay, someone might say, ‘Frog, what’s fishy about that? People used to be dumb as rocks and there’s plenty of bizarro animals out there, anyway’ and yeah, that’s a very good point - except for one thing. See, what’s creepy about griffins is that we’ve got drawings and descriptions of them spanning ten centuries and thousands of miles, and yet they always. look. the. freaking. same

Like, here’s how people imagined elephants.

This is insanely funny and probably why God sent the Black Death to kill everyone, but also pretty common tbh, because a) people want to feel involved, b) people are liars who lie and c) it’s hard to imagine stuff you’ve never seen. So the more a story is passed around, the more it’s going to gain and lose details here and there, until you get from dog-footed hairy monkey of doom to plunger-nosed horror on stilts. But griffins - art or books, they’re consistently described as wolves-sized mammals with a beaked face. So that’s what made Adrienne Mayor go, Uh

And what she did next is she started digging around in Central Asia, because that’s the other thing everyone agreed on: that griffins definitely lived there and definitely came from there. And this is where things get really interesting, because as it turns out, on one side of the Urals you’ve got Greeks going, ‘Mate, the Scythians, you know - they’ve got these huge-ass lion birds, I’m not even shitting you rn’ while on the other side of the Urals - wow and amaze - you’ve got Siberian tribes singing songs about the ‘bird-monsters’ and how their ancestors slaughtered them all because they were Valiant and Good.

(This according to a guy studying Siberian traditions in the early 1800s, anyway, because you know who writes stuff down? Not nomads, bless them: dragging around a shitload of books on fucking horseback is not a kind of life anyone deserve to live.)

And anyway, do you know what else those Mighty Ancestors did? They mined gold sand, and they kept tripping over dinosaur bones because that entire area is full of both things and some places are lucky like that. And in fact, the more excavations were carried out in ancient Scythian settlements, the more we started to realize that those guys were even more obsessed with griffins than the Greek were. Hell, some warriors even had griffins tattooed on their bodies? 

And it’s probably all they ever talked about, because that’s when griffins suddenly appear in the Mediterreanean landscape: when Greek people start trading (and talking) with the Scythians.

(Another important note here, not that I’m not bitter or anything: something else those excavations are showing is that Herodotus was fucking right about fucking everything, SO THERE. Father of lies my ass, he was the only sensible guy in that whole bean-avoiding, monster-fucking, psychopathic and self-important Greek ‘intelligentsia’ and they can all fuck off and die and we don’t care about temples Pausy you dumb bitch we want to hear about the tree people and the Amazons and the fucking griffins goddammit. Uuugh. /rant)

So anyway, Scythian nomads had been hunting for gold in places with exciting names like ‘the field of the white bones’ and basically dying of exposure because mountains, so Herodotus (and others) got this right as well: that successful campaigns could take a long-ass time, and very often people just disappeared, never to be heard from again. What everybody got less right: the nomads and adventurers and gold miners weren’t killed by griffins, because by the time they started traveling into those mountains, ‘griffins’ had been dead for hundreds of thousands of years. What they did see, and what was sure to spook the fuck out of them, were fossils - and, more precisely, protoceratops skulls, which can be found on all the major caravan routes from China all the way to Uzbekistan and are so ubiquitous paleontologists call them ‘a damn nuisance’.

And guess what they look like.

Just fucking guess.

[Left: a golden griffin, Saka-Scyhtian culture; right: psittacosaurus skull, commonly found in Uzbekistan and the western Gobi.]

Also, fun detail if you’re into gory and painful ways of dying: many of the dino skeletons are found standing up, because the animals would be caught in sand storms and drop dead. So basically you’d be riding your horse and minding your own gold-related business when all of a sudden you see the empty sockets of a beaked something staring at you and yeah - as a reminder, the idea of evolution was not a thing until Darwin, so any Scythian or Siberian tribesman seeing something like that would assume there was a fairly good fucking chance of a live whatever-the-hell-this-is waiting for him behind the next hill. And that’s what he’d say to Greek traders over a bowl of fermented mare’s milk: to stay the fuck away from those mountains, because griffins, man, they’re fucking real and there’s hundreds of them and anyway, maybe write that down if writing’s something you’re into, never saw the point myself but eh, to each his own, right, and cheers, good health, peace and joy to the ancestors. 

Man, don’t you just love mythology?

(How fossils influenced mythology: part two, Cyclops, will be up soon.) 

Signs as interesting ancient greek words

Aries: οἰνομέλι - a combination of somehing strong and sweet

Taurus: νηπενθές -something capable of causing oblivion of grief or suffering.

Gemini: ἁμαρτία - fatal flaw leading to a tragic end, usually in tragedies and refearing to hero or a heroine

Cancer: μετάνοια - process of experiencing a “breakdown” that results in positive psychological re-building or “healing”

Leo: ὕβρις - foolish pride and overconfidence

Virgo: καλόν - the ideal of both physical and moral beauty especially

Libra: εὔνοια - beautiful thinking, bond that forms between two people when speaking

Scorpio: φωσφαινε - blur of colors you get after rubbing your eyes

Sagittarius: κάθαρσις - cleansing, purification; process of purgating deepest emotions, sorrow, fear through art, and resulting in renewal.

Capricorn: σωφροσύνη - ideal that you can reach the highest purity, temperence, moderation and self control if you have an excellent character and peaceful mind

Aquarius: άκαταλαμβάνειν - the impossibility to comprehend the universe, limit of human knowledge

Pisces: εύδαιμονια - “human flourishing”, virtue, ultimate good that a person can achieve

Sculpture of Episteme, symbolizing Science, at the Celsus Library in Ephesus, Anatolia. The third largest library in the ancient world, it was built in honor of a Roman Senator and completed between 114-117 AD. It had the capacity to hold 12,000 scrolls.