Lessons From A Demigod
The Epic of Gilgamesh has been read in the modern world for a little longer than a century, and, in that time, this oldest of stories has become a classic college text. In my own courses on ancient literature and mythology, it is the book I always begin with. But why should a tale whose origins stretch back more than four thousand years draw such attention in an age of genetic engineering and text messaging? The answer I have given to hundreds of students is that almost every joy and sorrow they will face in life was revealed in Gilgamesh millennia before they were born. Reading Gilgamesh will not only teach them to face the challenges that lie ahead, but also give them an appreciation for the idea that no matter how much our modern world might seem different from earlier times, the essence of the human experience remains the same. [more inside]
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia
was written by Pliny the Elder
between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian
, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum
, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification. [more inside]
Pass the Garum
is a cooking blog focused on the recipes and cuisine of ancient Rome. [more inside]
If you’ve spent much time in museums—or even leafing through art books—you’ve probably come across something that leaves you scratching your head. You’re not alone. The very funny, if occasionally puerile blog WTF Art History
was created, according to the anonymous art historian who writes it, for “everyone who loves art history but has a sense of humor to know that even great masters create things that leave us asking, WTF?” [via
The Beer Archaeologist.
"Biomolecular archaeologist" Dr. Patrick McGovern
has unearthed millennia-old
alcohol recipes and ancient medicinals
, "by analyzing residues in ancient pottery. Now he's working with brewer Sam Calagione, (of Discovery Channel's Brew Masters, (autoplaying video)
) whose pub Dogfish Head
serves up beers
based on recipes that are thousands of years old." (Via) [more inside]
Hundreds of volunteers are needed to help create a line of light along the length of Hadrian's Wall
to mark the purported 1600th anniversary of the departure from Britain of Roman legions under Constantine III
Organisers are looking for 500 people to help create the spectacle on 13 March, which will light up the wall from one end to the other
. Each of the volunteer "illuminators" will be responsible for one of the 500 individual points of light that will be placed at 820ft (250m) intervals along the route of the 84-mile (135km) Hadrian's Wall Path National Trail
There is something gloriously pointless about this, although it will undoubtedly be a spectacle. One has to ask though - apart from building a fucking big wall to keep the Jocks
out, what have the Romans ever done for us……?
Explore the History of the Ancient Greek World
from the Neolithic to the Classical Period. Covering important topics, such as Art and Architecture
, Culture and Society
, Poetry, Olympics
, History Periods
, Philosophy, Playwrights, Kings and Rulers
of Ancient Greece.
The ancient web
is an online resource for students, teachers, and anyone interested in the cultures of the ancient world. With the Olympics fast approaching, here is an opportunity to learn more about the past 4500 years of Chinese civilization
. Or how the Celtiberians
would get drunk and eat raw meat before going to war. 24 ancient civilizations in all.
Art Images for College Teaching
is a searchable
collection of 2,027, well, art images for college teaching, and appears to be mainly the personal collection of Art Historian Allan Kohl (previously on MeFi)
, and thus represents his interests and specialities, not to mention the variable quality of his photographic skills. Rather strong in Ancient and Medieval, especially architecture, but tapers off as you become more distant from Europe or closer to the 20th century. Nice sets include the Lion Hunt from Ashurbanipal,
Iraq; the exterior sculpture
of Chartres; and grave stele
The Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has a nice collection of online exhibits
, including ones on Roman glassmaking
, the ancient history of wine
, and a history of body modification. (Other exhibits have appeared on Mefi previously.)
Before RSS and personalized aggregators such as Personalized Google
, there was CRAYON
, a service that allowed you to "CReAte Your Own Newspaper" by providing a page with links to chosen sources. [mi]
A man, just back from a trip abroad, went to an incompetent fortune-teller.
He asked about his family, and the fortune-teller replied: "Everyone is fine, especially your father." When the man objected that his father had been dead for ten years, the reply came: "You have no clue who your real father is."--that's one of the jokes from The Laughter Lover (Philogelos),
an ancient Greek joke book published in the 4th or 5th century AD. The New Yorker commented on it, and other old jokes here,
stating about one of the possible authors: ... there is some scholarly speculation that the Hierocles in question was a fifth-century Alexandrian philosopher of that name who was once publicly flogged in Constantinople for paganism, which, as one classicist has observed, “might have given him a taste for mordant wit.”
The 100 Wonders of the World
. A list, which includes both photos and a short description of all the wonders. The list may not be complete, but it's an interesting list for those of us, who love to travel.
Italy seems to be a nice place to start, with 12 of the 100 wonders (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
are denouncing plans for a tunnel under Stonehenge.
It's not the idea of the tunnel itself that is drawing fire, so much as the execution. The govt seems to be doing it on the cheap, in a way that won't solve the problem of the modern world intruding on the prehistoric megalith.
A Guide to Medieval and Renaissance Instruments. Complete with both .wav and .mp3 samples.
Say it twice -- don't it feel nice? Most people think of the enigmatic maoi
when they think of Easter Island but an equally vexing mystery is found in twenty-six wooden objects which contain pictographic symbols comprising...what
? A language? A mnemomic system for recording stories now long forgotten? A resource for modern primitives' tribal tatoos? We could ask, but the authors are long-gone
-- the victims of hard times -- leaving only a few tablets and a bunch of carved stone to puzzle over.
Roman Cosmetics Found at Temple Dig:
Stunningly well preservered, the cream still bears the fingerprints of whoever used it last, almost 2,000 years ago.
examines how ancient cultures studied and worshipped the heavens. From the arrangement of the Stonehenge stelae
to the Mayan reverence for the planet Venus
, this science has resulted in some fascinating
and often beautiful
discoveries, including star charts found in tombs in Ireland
, the Lascaux caves in France
, and rock paintings of a supernova
in 1054 that resulted in the Crab Nebula
. My personal favorite is the “Sun Dagger”
in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico (scroll down for photos).
Nearly everyone is familiar with the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
. Now Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber
wants us to think about the new
seven wonders - the wonders of the modern world. His website, new7wonders.org
, allows you to peruse a list of around two dozen "modern wonders" ("modern" being a relative term - most date back hundreds or thousands of years)
and vote on your seven favorites. Even if you don't vote, this is a great way to learn about astonishing places (like the old city of Sana'a
in Yemen or Machu Picchu
in Peru) that you might not have otherwise heard of.Note: I found this site via a recent New York Times article about the efforts to rebuild and restore Taliban-destroyed cultural artifacts in Afghanistan. Apparently Mr Weber is also backing a plan to rebuild the Bamiyan Buddhas.
- 'These composite beings ... are a common theme from the beginning of painting.' (link via Weblogging Considered Harmful