greek historian

Did you know that the concept of subtext and fanfiction has existed for actual millennia?
For example: in the illiad Homer never explicitly states that patroclus and Achilles were lovers BUT for centuries after other ancient Greeks argued that their relationship was all in the subtext and that any educated man or audience member could read between the lines to see what Homer was stating. For centuries scholars like Plato argued that their relationship was beyond even the practice of pederasty and was a kin to the love felt between Andromache and Hector (true husband and wife). Another 5th century scholar, Aeschylus, wrote a lost epic called the Myrmidons which blatantly expressed their sexual relationship. He wrote gay smut fanfiction of the illiad in the 5 the century!!!! The relationship between Achilles and patroclus went on to inspire the relationships of countless other Greek male male relationships and has been connected to those between Gilgamesh and Enkidu as well as David and Joshua. You heard right, the bible is home to one of the most intense and possibly homoerotic relationships of all time. The hella gay nature of the illiad was heavily censored by the church and colonialist western historians for centuries. But original works of the Illiad and from Plato remain, as well as snippets of Aeschylus’s epic. If the fact that ancient Greeks and other historians have been analyzing, debating, and making fanfiction of the Illiad since approximately 800 BC isn’t along and wonderful I don’t know what is.

For the Greek historian Herodotus, writing in the fifth century BC, the world was divided into three parts. To the east was Asia, to the south was a continent he called Libya, and the rest was Europe. He knew that people and goods and ideas could travel easily between the continents: he himself travelled up the Nile as far as Aswan, and on both sides of the Hellespont, the traditional boundary between Europe and Asia. Herodotus admitted to being puzzled, in fact, as to “why the earth, which is one, has three names, all women’s”. Still, despite his puzzlement, these continents were for the Greeks and their Roman heirs the largest significant geographical divisions of the world.

But here’s the important point: it would not have occurred to Herodotus to think that these three names corresponded to three kinds of people: Europeans, Asians, and Africans. He was born at Halicarnasus – Bodrum in modern Turkey. Yet being born in Asia Minor didn’t make him an Asian; it left him a Greek. And the Celts, in the far west of Europe, were much stranger to him than the Persians or the Egyptians, about whom he knew rather a lot. Herodotus only uses the word “European” as an adjective, never as a noun. For a millennium after his day, no one else spoke of Europeans as a people, either.
Mythological Throwback Thursday: Werewolves

It’s Mythological Throwback Thursday again, and we’re in a wolfish kind of mood. Maybe it’s because the full moon is coming this week. Let’s dip into some werewolf lore, to be ready!

Werewolves are creatures from European folklore; shapeshifters born or cursed with the ability to change between human and wolf forms. Tales of people changing or being changed into wolf-shapes stretch back to ancient times: Herodotus the Greek historian claimed that the Neuri tribe, who lived in what is now Ukraine, could change into wolves once a year, for several days. In the Middle Ages, Viking tales of the Ulfhednar, the wolf-coated men, bear resemblance to more modern depictions of werewolves. They wore wolf-skins in battle, fought savagely and it’s claimed they channeled wolf spirits to increase their strength.

Even in lands where wolves were not common predators, legends spread of shapeshifters. Tales of weretigers were common in India, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. African legends told of deities that could take the form of pumas, lions or leopards, and would pass on these abilities to any mortal progeny.

In European folklore there were said to be telltale traits that werewolves possessed. People with monobrows, curved fingernails or low-set ears were all suspected. In Russia people checked for bristles beneath the tongue. Werewolves were sometimes believed to be distinguishable from regular wolves because of their lack of tails. These days one of the most common associations with werewolves is the full moon, but in olden times this was not a universal belief, only becoming firmly linked with the 1914 film ‘The Wolfman’.

There were many different ‘cures’ for werewolves. A common one was ingesting wolfsbane, a classic curative (but highly poisonous). In Sicily, piercing a werewolf’s hands with nails was considered a surgical alternative. Exorcism was also a staple– many believed that werewolves obtained their powers from dark sorcery or demonic intervention. While werewolves were not averse to religious iconography in the same way as vampires, they were thought to be particularly susceptible to certain metals, principally silver (though iron was also considered effective by some). If all else failed, a silver bullet could end a werewolf problem.

Werewolf hunts and trials became a feature of 15th and 16th century Europe, like witch hunts. Perhaps the most infamous case was of a German fellow called Peter Stumpf, a one-handed man who claimed under torture to possess a magical wolfskin girdle which he could use to transform into a wolf, and that he had used this power to murder and eat fourteen children and two pregnant women. Testimonies against him claimed that the ‘werewolf’ was also missing a paw. For Stumpf’s crimes he was brutally tortured to death, in order to prevent him from using his supernatural powers to return to life.

Tales of primal shapeshifters permeate all societies where dangerous predators stalked the wild. These days, as people fear the wild less and Romantic notions of the idealised, pure wilderness abound, werewolves are most commonly seen not as demonic, savage despoilers but as conflicted figures trapped between two lives, possibly even heroes loyally protecting their ‘pack’ from the threats of a corrupt world. An appealing image for some. I’d keep some wolfsbane handy all the same…

Join us same time next week for the next Mythological Throwback Thursday! And if you want more wolf tales, why not download BADWOLF, only available for Beyond Books? In the post-apocalyptic future, the remnants of humanity live on a rustic pleasure server. But the viruses and worms of the world’s final war gnaw at the edges of their idyllic world, and the worst of all of them is the BADWOLF. Get your copy today!

Hortensia circa 42 BCE

Art by Lacey (tumblr)

After the death of Julius Caesar, Rome’s leaders proposed a tax on the city’s  1400 wealthiest women to fund a campaign against those responsible for Caesar’s death.  The women were outraged by the tax and chose Hortensia as their spokesperson.  Hortensia was the daughter of Quintus Hortensius Hortalus, a well-known Roman orator.  Hortensia gave a rousing speech, questioning the government’s right to levy taxes on women who, by virtue of their gender, had no voice in government. 

According to the Greek historian Appian, Hortensia asked Rome’s leaders: 

You have already stolen from us our fathers and sons and husbands and brothers by your proscriptions, on the grounds that they had wronged you… if we women have not voted any of you public enemies, if we did not demolish your houses or destroy your army or lead another army against you; if we have not kept you from public office or honour, why should we share the penalties if we have no part in the wrongdoing? Why should we pay taxes when we have no part in the honours, the commands, the state-craft, for which you contend against each other with such harmful results?”

In the end, the tax was limited to 400 women and expanded to include all men who owned more than 100,000 drachmas. 

Reconstruction of Hecataeus’ world map

Hecataeus of Miletus ( c. 550 BC – c. 476 BC), was an early Greek historian and geographer. He was probably the first of the logographers to attempt a serious prose history and to employ critical method to distinguish myth from historical fact, though he accepts Homer and other poets as trustworthy authorities. Herodotus, though he once at least contradicts his statements, is indebted to Hecataeus for the concept of a prose history.

Besides his written works, Hecataeus is also credited with improving the map of Anaximander, which he saw as a disc encircled by Oceanus. As you can see, Greece is at the center of the known world.

Nava Vihara in Balkh: Sun/Fire Temple.

Nau-Vihara Temple: Balkh is one of the oldest towns in the world, being the birthplace of Zoraster. As per Zorastrian tradition Balkh was built by first Aryan ruler Bakhdi. Ancient Greek historians called, it Bactra, (Baktra or Bactria) and the whole country ‘Bactriana’. Situated in north-west Afghanistan, its present capital is Mazar-i-Sharif. It is a small town now, lying in ruins.The Nava-Vihara was also an important Buddhist monastery in Balkh for advance learning. It was a strongly built Vihara and was remarkable for its imposing structure. This Vihara was most sacred place of Balkh for it housed in its shrine-hall the water-basin (pot) and a tooth-relic of the Buddha,

Cimmerian

Adjective

[si-meer-ee-uh n] 

1. Classical Mythology. of, relating to, or suggestive of a western people believed to dwell in perpetual darkness.

2. very dark; gloomy:
    deep, Cimmerian caverns.

Origin:
Cimmerian, also spelled Kimmerian, comes from the Latin plural noun Cimmeriī, a borrowing from the Greek plural noun Kimmérioi. In the Odyssey the mythical Cimmerians lived at the edge of Oceanus that surrounds the earth in a city wrapped in mist and fog, where the sun never shines, near the entrance to Hades. The historical, “real” Cimmerians are mentioned in Assyrian sources (Gimirri), the Hebrew Bible (Gomer in Genesis 10:2), and by the Greek historian Herodotus (5th century b.c.). Herodotus says that the Cimmerians were nomads driven south from the steppes of southern Russia by the Scythians through the Caucasus Mountains, turned west, and c676b.c. overthrew the kingdom of Phrygia (in west central Turkey), whose last king was Midas. The connection between myth and history is that there are variant readings for Homer’s Kimmérioi—Cheimérioi, “Wintry People, Stormy people”; and Kerbérioi “Cerberus’s People,” both of which were displaced by the historical Cimmerians. Cimmerian entered English in the 16th century in reference to the nomads, and in the 19th century in reference to the Homeric people.

“The sunny English noon had swallowed him as completely as if he had gone out into Cimmerian night.”
- Edith Wharton, “Afterward,” Tales of Men and Ghosts, 1910

For those less familiar with Ancient Greek history, the Sacred Band of Thebes was an elite military cavalry unit composed of 150 male couples, it being believed that their devotion to one another would strengthen their ferocity and prowess on the battlefield. They were described by the Greek historian Polyaenus as “devoted to each other by mutual obligations of love“ and were required to exchange vows at the shrine of Iolaus the lover of Hercules at Thebes as a condition of entering the unit. They were then mutually trained in wrestling, dancing, and equestrian warfare for their task of guarding the sacred citadel of Thebes from foreign invaders.

Calling it, this is EXACTLY how the elite cavalry of Themyscira is organised. Pairs of women wishing to join the unit must prove themselves athletically and then exchange vows before their role-model couple*, Antiope and Hippolyta to prove their devotion to one another, to become members of the unit and the ultimate guardians of Themyscira’s Citadel and protectors of the God-Killer. 

*Yes I know dc verse Antiope and Hyppolyta are sisters, but THIS IS THEMYSCYRA! and any two women with an eternal bond can apply to join the Sacred Band whether or not their relationship is of a sexual nature fuck it

Shield Of Pharnaces I, King of Pontus, C. 185–169 BC

The star on this bronze shield symbolizes the sun and kingship, and the inscription states that the shield was made in the name of King Pharnaces I, King of Pontus. (map)

Pharnaces I, the 5th King of Pontus, was of Persian and Greek Macedonian ancestry. He was the son of King Mithridates III of Pontus and his wife Laodice, whom he succeeded on the throne. Pharnaces had two siblings: a brother called Mithridates IV of Pontus and a sister called Laodice who succeeded as Pontian monarchs on the throne.

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Scenes from the 2016 World Nomad Games hosted in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan. The World Nomad Games brings athletes from various countries, primarily from the Central Asian region and Russia, to participate in sports native to the Eurasian Steppe. The Eurasian Steppe was home to various nomadic peoples particularly the Iranic-speaking Scythians and Sarmatians, who were a source of fear for the ancient Greeks due to their warriorlike nature and great horse-riding skills; including their mastery of horseback archery. Both groups are believed to have originated in the Eurasian Steppes, but their settlements ranged from China to Poland, and because of this they greatly impacted the genetic pool and cultures of a number of different groups in Eastern Europe and Central Asia such as the people of the Caucasus, Slavs, Turkic people, and other modern Iranic people. The Sarmatians in particular were famed by Greek historians for their female warriors and rulers that inspired the stories of the Amazons. 

nickbread  asked:

I have the same problem!! Actually I get that a lot whenever I try to research old Slavic (especially Polish) cultures and mythologies. We have SO MUCH MISSING because Christian priests decided to just get rid of all them records (what's new?). It's so obscure to find all this stuff about Celts that you have to go back all the way to old Greek historians that have no names and it's still scarce, can't even think about searching that stuff about Slavic regions

Exactly! It can be quite frustrating, but there’s also a beauty to it. Ironically, it’s one of the things that drew me to the ancient Celts - that they were immersed so deeply in the mists of time, mysterious, unknown, leaving little behind.

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The Ancient Egyptian City of Cats

In Ancient Egypt the cat was more than just a domesticated feline pet, it was a holy animal which represented the goddess Bastet.  By the New Kingdom of Egypt, cat worship became common place among Egyptians, and there was even a special “Cult of the Cat” dedicated to Bastet and the veneration of kitties.  In the 9th Century BC the Egyptian Pharaoh Shoshenq I made the City of Bubastis the capital of his empire, and dedicated the city to the worship of Bastet and of cats.  At the center of the city was a temple dedicated to Bastet, described as one of the most attractive temples in all of Egypt.  However it was not the temple itself that caught the eye.  After the time Egypt had become a part of the Hellenic (Greek) world Cult of the Cat continued to flourish in Egypt.  In 450 BC the Greek traveler and historian Herodotus visited Bubastis and the temple.  What he saw was shocking.  Thousands upon thousands of cats, all of which were venerated as sacred animals and cared for by priests. To control the cat population (in an age before spaying, neutering, or Bob Barker) periodic culling of the cat heard through ritual sacrifices conducted by the priests.  The mummified cats were then sold to pilgrims as relics.  Herodotus goes on further to report that the annual Festival of Bastet was held in the city every year, drawing as many as 700,000 people from all around Egypt, who would spend the time drinking, partying, and having sex, all because of the cats.  

While many may scoff at the idea of thousands of sacred cats occupying a holy temple, there is real evidence to back such a claim.  In the late 19th century a tomb containing the mummies of 80,000 cats was discovered near the Temple of Bastet in modern day Beni Hasan.  Peashooter is amazed by the thought of so many cats, but wonders how badly that temple must have smelled.