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What ships did pirates use in ancient Greece and Rome?

What ships did pirates use in ancient Greece and Rome?


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I imagine they did not have the funds to buy or build heavy military ships, so I wonder what did they use.

Did they re-purpose civilian ships?


I don't think that it is possible to generalise.

I don't doubt that ancient pirates did re-purpose civilian ships in most cases. Indeed, it is said that even sailors on merchant ships which had been attacked by pirates would turn to piracy themselves when they were otherwise out of work. In fact, the number of vessels reportedly used for piracy by the Cilician pirates virtually guarantees that most were re-purposed civilian craft (Strabo writes that Pompey destroyed 1300 pirate vessels of all sizes).

However, ancient writers also say explicitly that pirates possessed and used galleys. Cicero, for example makes several references to the pirates' use of galleys in his fifth book against Verrus.

Although not cheap, Philip de Souza's book Piracy in the Graeco-Roman World is well worth reading if you can get hold of a copy. Alternatively, his 1992 PhD thesis on Piracy in the Ancient World is available free online.


Keep in mind that "heavy military ships" were rare -- most galleys were triremes or smaller designs -- biremes, penteconters, liburna. Their construction was well within the capabilities of small ports, and manning them took 50 or so crew -- also within the capabilities of small ports and pirate bands. They only had to be faster than merchant ships, and just about any lightly-loaded galley with a fresh crew could manage that.

And the differences between civilian and military ships were narrow, at times. The Greek penteconter was BOTH.


The pirates used the "same" ships as everyone else. Or at least similar types such as galleys.

In those times, there was (practically) no such thing as "heavy" or dedicated military ships. (OK, a few large ships carried extra (wooden) "armor" or "rams.")

This was before the existence of cannon, or other "missile" weapons for warships that set them apart from other ships. So what distinguished one navy from another was not the quality of ships but the quality of the "sailors," or "marines." (The Roman use of the corvus to pit its superior "marines" against the superior Carthaginian "sailors" demonstrates this principle.)

Pirates, by definition, were better marines and sailors, (except against the professional navy), and that's what accounted for their success. Their ships could sail faster than merchant vessels unless they were also loaded with treasure, and because "incentivized" pirate crewmen rowed faster than crews composed partly of slaves.


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Letters from Nebby Where Reformed Theology meets Charlotte Mason Homeschooling

Angeletti, Roberta. Vulcan the Etruscan . The Etruscans preceded the Romans. Elementary.

Asimov, Isaac. The Roman Empire . From the famous scientist and science fiction writer. Teens.

Balit, Christina. Escape from Pompeii . Elementary.

Banks, Lynne Reid. Tiger, Tiger . From the author of The Indian in the Cupboard . Middle years.

Church, Alfred. Aeneid for Boys and Girls . A good retelling of the classic Roman story. I find it to be a poor man’s Odyssey but that’s for the Romans and Greeks to duke out, I suppose. Elementary+.

Connolly, Peter. Connolly has some books with lovely illustrations including Greece and Rome at War , The Roman Army , The Roman Fort and Pompeii.

DiPrimio, Pete. How’d They do That: Ancient Rome . Not the most living. Elementary-middle.

Douglas, Lloyd. The Robe , Really a negative recommendation — I assigned this one to myself, and honestly couldn’t get through it all. The writing is okay, though not stellar. At times it was engaging. But it is set at the very end and just after Christ’s time and says a lot about Him and His disciples and I found that it plays with the biblical story too much. Teens.

Foster, Genevieve. Augustus Caesar’s World . Foster’s books make wonderful spines that can be used for a variety of ages. Elementary +.

Gerrard, Roy. The Roman Twins . Elementary.

Hamilton, Edith. The Roman Way . Good older book on the culture and influence of Rome. Teens.

Harris, Jacqueline. Science in Ancient Rome. Elementary.

Hillyer, V.M. Child’s History of Art . This book could be on most of my booklists. We read the sections on Rome from all three books within a book: painting, sculpture and architecture. This is elementary level but one can still get quite a bit out of it at later ages.

Lawrence, Caroline. Roman Mysteries (series). Middle years.

Macaulay, David. City and Rome Antics . All his books are lovely. Elementary+.

McCaughrean, Geraldine. Roman Myths . Her books are lovely. Elementary +.

Mills, Dorothy. The Book of the Ancient Romans . Another spine type book. Middle years, but could be used for a range of ages.

Moss, Marissa. Galen: My life in Imperial Rome . Elementary.

Sinkiwicz, Henryk. Quo Vadis . Historical fiction set in the time of Christ. Teens.

Snedden, Robert. Technology in the Time of Ancient Rome . Elementary.

Snedeker, Caroline. White Isle , Forgotten Daughter and Triumph for Flavius . White Isle is about Romans in Britain. Middle years.

Speare, Elizabeth George. Bronze Bow . Middle years.

Tappan, Eva Marie. Story of Rome . I much prefer Tappan’s volumes on Greece and Rome to Guerber’s for style and the treatment of myth and false gods. These are probably written at a middle school level but can be used as a spine for a wide variety of ages.

Usher, Kerry. Heroes Gods and Emperors from Roman Mythology . Rome largely borrowed the mythology of Greece so it is harder to find books on Roman religion (but see this post for some books on Greek mythology). This is one. Middle years.

Wallace, Lew. Ben Hur , You really should watch the movie too. Teens.

Winterfield, Henry. Detectives in Togas and Mystery of the Roman Ransom . Middle years.

Booklist: Living Books on Ancient Greece

Living Books about Ancient Greece

Asimov, Isaac. The Greeks: A Great Adventure . From the famous science and science fiction writer. Teens.

Church, Alfred. The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer . There are so many versions of these classic sagas. While it is worth reading the full stories with older children, there are also many good versions for younger ones. Elementary-middle.

Colum, Padraic. Children’s Homer , The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tale of Troy, and The Golden Fleece . Wonderful retellings of these classic stories. Can be read aloud to elementary and used for a wide variety of ages.

Connolly, Peter. Ancient City and Greece and Rome at War and others. Lovely illustrations in these books.

Cottrell, Leonard. The Mystery of Minoan Civilization . Read about the Greeks’ predecessors. Middle years (?).

Hamilton, Edith. The Greek Way and Echo of Greece . Good older books on the culture and influence of Greece. Teens.

Hillyer, V.M. Child’s History of Art . This book could be on most of my booklists. We read the sections on Greece from all three books within a book: painting, sculpture and architecture. This is elementary level but one can still get quite a bit out of it at later ages.

Homer’s the Odyssey , trans. by Robert Fagles. I really enjoyed reading this with my high schoolers and was surprised how accessible it was. If you want a study guide for it, try the one by Leland Ryken. Teens.

Macrone, Michael. By Jove! Brush Up Your Mythology . Maybe not the most living but I liked this book. It has short chapters which discuss words we sue in English which come from Greek myths. Middle-teens.

Mills, Dorothy. The Book of the Ancient Greeks . Another spine type book. Middle years, but could be used for a range of ages.

Osborne, Mary Pope. Tales from the Odyssey (series). From the author of The Magic Treehouse Series. Elementary-middle.

Robinson, Charles Alexander. First Book of Ancient Crete and Mycenae . An older book but good if you can find it. Middle years.

Strauss, Barry. The Battle of Salamis . For the battle loving boy. Middle-teens.

Sutcliffe, Rosemary. The Wandering of Odysseus and Black Ships Before Troy . Elementary-middle.

Tappan, Eva Marie. Story of the Greek People . I much prefer Tappan’s volumes on Greece and Rome to Guerber’s for style and the treatment of myth and false gods. These are probably written at a middle school level but can be used as a spine for a wide variety of ages. She also has a volume called Greece and Rome from her World’s Story series which has primary source documents.


Ancient Greek Women and Warfare: Building a More Accurate Portrait of Ancient Women Through Literature

The present study explores the portrayal of women in ancient Greek literature within the context of warfare. More specifically, this work focuses on Classical Period Greek literature, particularly between 450 and 350 BCE, written by Athenian men. The genres studied include tragedy, comedy, philosophical works, and histories. As a highly elusive and largely unexplored subject, the lives of the women of antiquity are often generalized by modern scholars. Feminists and classicists tend to recombine all the information they find, regardless of genre or context, attempting to produce a well-supported argument. By conducting a close analysis of the ways in which women are represented in the various literary genres, however, it becomes clear that different genres portray women in different lights. Therefore, not only is it difficult to come to any conclusion regarding the portrayal of women in literature, it is an extremely challenging endeavor to determine how women were perceived at the time, or even the realities of their lives.

It is almost foolishly redundant to say that an understanding of the Classical world relies upon the study of the ancient literature. Ancient texts have been translated, analyzed, and interpreted since antiquity, and they continue to reveal new information on virtually everything pertaining to the ancient world. From legislative operations, social demographics, commercial activities, and political deliberations, to religious practices, urban design, fashion, and cultural norms and taboos, the wealth of information that the literature provides is astounding. In terms of primary sources, the written and archaeological records are regarded as the two most important types of evidence for interpreting the ancient world, and utilizing the two, which coexist by complementing and reinforcing one another, enhances our understanding of the various aspects of antiquity. 1

Or so scholars had hoped. This perception that a clear understanding of the ancient texts would automatically illuminate the mysteries of the ancient world is, in fact, merely an unattainable ideal, or at best, a heavily obstacle-ridden endeavor. Not only is the literature often extremely elusive and vague, hardly any of it is a straightforward, objective narrative of the realities of the ancient world there is a pressing need to consider the texts&rsquo authors, dates, purposes, genres, and audiences.

Each of these factors can have a tremendous effect on the nature of the text and consequently, its contents. Modern scholars, however, tend to conveniently ignore or overlook this complication. Although problematic, this tendency is certainly understandable the topic being considered may be so severely underrepresented that scholars feel the need to gather any piece of evidence they can find in order to present what appears to be a well-supported idea.

This endeavor, this effort to cite every single piece of literature without any regard to its context, is overwhelmingly abundant in the study of ancient Greek women. In an age when the history of men is still obscure to modern scholars, the documentation of women is even more fragmented and scarce. As a result, scholars employ as many resources as possible to put together a portrait of women in the period. Based on this methodology, it has generally been agreed upon that the women of the ancient world were considered subordinate to men and were confined to their houses. 2 Gomme&rsquos (1925) words can be applied to the present work: &ldquoThis paper is not an attempt to prove that this view is untrue but that there is a conflict of evidence that much that is relevant is ignored and other evidence misunderstood and misapplied that is, that the confidence in the prevailing view is quite unjustified&rdquo (p. 5). 3

Although commendable for its far-reaching nature, this all-inclusive method of creating a comprehensive account of women in antiquity is fundamentally flawed. It is hardly deniable that works of different genres, time periods, purposes, or audiences would portray women in different lights. Thus, it becomes extremely difficult to use ancient literature, as a generalized whole, to illustrate the realities of women in ancient Greek society. Instead, one must carefully approach the analysis of these resources meticulously and scientifically, using strict controls and constants. All but one factor that could affect the outcome of an experiment, or in this case, the portrayal of women in literature, must be kept constant. This exposes the impacts that the one isolated factor may have. Only once a single factor has been isolated, can results be gathered and analyzed to produce a general conclusion.

Taking this into consideration, this study focuses on how works of various genres portray women of ancient Greece differently, with authorship and age of publication limited to males and the Classical Period. The focus is further restricted to works produced by Athenians (with the exception of Aristotle, who, having been born in Chalcidice, spent a large portion of his life in Athens), roughly between 450 and 350 BCE, with emphasis on the years of the Peloponnesian Wars. Because of the specified timeframe, this study necessarily investigates the portrayal of women in literature within the context of warfare. In short, this study is an attempt to demonstrate that works of varying genres &ndash namely dramatic tragedy and comedy, philosophy, and history &ndash written by Athenian men in the Classical Period portray women in contrasting ways, and that therefore, it is extremely difficult to paint a generalized picture of the realities of women during ancient Greek war.

Because modern scholars typically fail to recognize the complexities of genre and its effects on content and interpretation, they have arrived at fundamentally different conclusions regarding various aspects of the ancient women&rsquos lives. One of the most compelling debates has centered on the nature of the women&rsquos statuses in antiquity. As alluded to above, while the traditional orthodoxy had maintained that the position of women remained ignoble and subordinate to men throughout antiquity, some scholars have argued that, especially in the Classical Period, women enjoyed more social freedom and independence.

In his famous article, &ldquoThe Position of Women in Athens in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries,&rdquo Gomme (1925) suggests that the traditional view is held too confidently, considering the discrepancies in the evidence (p. 2). Gomme claims that Pericles&rsquo funeral speech indicates a slight decline in women&rsquos freedom, whereas the later tragedies point to a revolutionary elevation of status and freedom (p. 7). Gomme further criticizes his predecessors, condemning them for selectively making references to out-of-context passages from tragedy and other ancient works, using them to build a &ldquofanciful history&rdquo (p. 8). As a recent supporter of Gomme&rsquos works, Richter (1971) concludes that &ldquothe special circumstance of the cloistered, secluded and servile Athenian wife living quietly in an &lsquooasis of domesticity&rsquo needs further examination before definite conclusions can be reached&rdquo (p. 8). 4

Pomeroy&rsquos book, Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity (1976), on the other hand, assumes the traditional view that women of antiquity were secluded and subordinate to their men her evidence all &ldquocontribute to painting a considerably bleaker picture of Greek and Roman women&rdquo (p. xiii). Incorporating a wide variety of mostly literary sources, Pomeroy attempts to relate the realities of women&rsquos existence in chronological order, beginning with the Homeric and Bronze Ages (p. 229).

Most scholars commend Pomeroy&rsquos work as a necessary response to the lack of focus on the women of antiquity. Some, however, criticize her unoriginality and failure to provide new evidence. 5 Regardless of whether or not Pomeroy&rsquos individual views are new, her synthesis work undoubtedly can be regarded as an invaluable starting point for the study of women in antiquity.

Following Pomeroy&rsquos work, a number of contributions have been made to the scholarship regarding women in antiquity. By 1981, for example, Foley was able to compile various essays from Women&rsquos Studies (volume 8, issues 1-2) in a work entitled Reflections of Women in Antiquity. The book contains ten articles by notable scholars, such as Pomeroy, Amy Richlin, and Marilyn Katz, with topics ranging chronologically from Bronze Age Greece to the early Roman Empire. The writers&rsquo variety of sources and approaches together present a complex picture, illustrating the difficulties in making easy generalizations about women in antiquity.

It is hard, for example, to reconcile the discrepancies between the strong women of tragedy and the muted existence portrayed in prose of the Classical Period, and Foley notes in her article, &ldquoThe Conception of Women in Athenian Drama,&rdquo that in tragedy, the simple female-male/oikos-polis dichotomy becomes more complex, and &ldquohelps us to define a norm against which to read the inversions and aberrations of drama&rdquo (p. 161). Similarly, Blok&rsquos compilation of articles, Sexual Asymmetry: Studies in Ancient Society (1987), contains works pertaining to women from Homer and Hesiod, women of Athens, and ancient infanticide, to the women of Republican and Late Empire Rome. Again, the wide range of evidence employed by the various authors &ndash including history, social anthropology, literature, iconography, and archaeology &ndash poses problems when attempting to make concrete conclusions about the realities of women in antiquity (p. vii).

The publication of these volumes, in addition to various other articles and books, 6 truly speaks to the increased scholarly interest in the study of women in antiquity, especially during the last quarter of the 20th century. By no stretch of the imagination, however, are all of these works necessarily successful. As previously mentioned, efforts to make reference to virtually all of the ancient evidence, although admirable, is ultimately untenable. When discussing the apprehension felt by young girls facing marriage, for example, MacLachlan (2012) refers to mythology, Plutarch&rsquos biographies, and Apollodorus&rsquo (contested) poetry (p. 56).

It must be stressed that, although they may be referring to the same issues (in this case, a bride-to-be&rsquos concerns), literature from differing genres, each written for different contexts, motivations, and audiences, produce conflicting portrayals of their subjects. Some scholars, however, seem to be at least partially aware of this. In her chapter entitled &ldquoImages of Women in the Literature of Classical Athens,&rdquo for example, Pomeroy carefully focuses on portrayals of women in tragedy, comedy, and philosophy in turn (p. 93-118), and avoids making any generalizations based upon any sort of recombination of literary evidence. Therefore, she is able to make clear distinctions between the portrayals of women in each genre.

The limited scholarship concerning women in the context of warfare, however, is almost entirely guilty of broad over-generalizations or conclusions, reached without any regard for the genres of which the literary evidence is a part. In &ldquoWomen, War, and Warlike Divinities&rdquo (1984), Graf argues that women were largely passive participants in war, but in order to reach this conclusion, he makes reference not only to ancient histories and epic poetry, but also to artistic representations (p. 245-254). Schaps similarly utilizes a variety of genres for his literary evidence. In &ldquoThe Women of Greece in Wartime&rdquo (1982), Schaps also attempts to provide a general overview of the extent to which women participated in armed conflict. His citations, although admittedly history-heavy, 7 also include substantial references to Aristophanes&rsquo comedies and Aeschylus&rsquo tragedies.

Loman, contrary to Graf and Schaps, argues in his article, &ldquoNo Woman No War: Women&rsquos Participation in Ancient Greek Warfare&rdquo (2004), that women&rsquos participation in Greek warfare was extremely important and indeed, necessary (p. 54). Unfortunately, Loman also cites literature of various genres Anyte and Nossis&rsquo lyric poetry, Herodotus&rsquo, Xenophon&rsquos, Plutarch&rsquos, Thucydides&rsquo, and Polybius&rsquo histories, Aristophanes&rsquo comedies, Aristotle&rsquos philosophical works, and even fragments of Athenaeus&rsquo publications, are all heavily cited. Barry, in &ldquoRoof Tiles and Urban Violence in the Ancient World&rdquo (1996), is one of the very few scholars who are able to restrict their sources to one literary genre. Barry makes reference to ancient histories exclusively, and thus is able to provide an uncompromised deduction about historians&rsquo depictions of women as active participants in urban conflict. 8

As Culham (1987) astutely admonishes, there is a fine line between parts of text that represent an image and those that depict a reality, a line which is too often crossed by scholars on the basis of unarticulated preconceptions (p. 15). It is pertinent, therefore, to recognize the interrelationship of text, genre, and reality, and its associated complications. A great majority of the modern scholarship concerning ancient women in warfare, not to mention ancient women in general, however, fails to acknowledge these complexities.

Given the diverse, and yet limited, nature of the extant literary evidence, it is extremely challenging to paint a comprehensive picture of women in antiquity, much less during armed conflict. I would argue, therefore, that the best one can do is accept that the literary sources are merely male-oriented portrayals of women, limited by various constraints and conventions prescribed for each genre. This work, then, is a literary analysis in which I attempt to highlight the conflicting portrayals of women in each genre and to emphasize the flaws in modern scholarship of using multiple literary genres to support a claim.

In the context of war, the women of Classical tragedy, in one word, can be described as pathetic. Whether these female characters evoked pathos or were simply seen, by the male audiences of the time, as a representation of what is only natural is certainly worth exploring, but regardless, it is evident that the women were depicted as wretchedly helpless victims of war. The number of times certain words pertaining to suffering, distress, and lamentation occur within the texts truly speaks to the constant misery experienced by women during war: when considering one tragedy by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides each, these words occurred 72 times in Persae, 46 times in Antigone, and 108 times in Troades. 9 As Pomeroy (1976) writes, &ldquoWomen glory especially in being the mothers of sons, and the lamentation of mothers over sons killed in war is a standard feature in Euripides&rsquo [&hellip] plays&rdquo (p. 110). Hecuba&rsquos monologue at the beginning of Euripides&rsquo Troades is especially poignant:

Alas, alas, to groan in lamentation (&sigma&tau&epsilon&nuά&chi&epsilon&iota&nu) is the wretched fate for me (&mu&epsilon&lambdaέᾳ), who lost her fatherland, children, and husband. Oh, all of the ancestors humbled, as if you all amounted to nothing. What woe shall I keep silent? What shall I lament? What dirge shall I sing? Wretched me (&deltaύ&sigma&tau&eta&nu&omicron&sigmaf), my unfortunate limbs lie here, having been laid on the firm ground. Alas my head, my temples, and my ribs I long to turn and to rest my back and spine, constantly wailing the elegies of anxieties (&mu&epsilon&lambdaέ&omega&nu). But this is music to the wretched (&delta&upsilon&sigma&tauή&nu&omicron&iota&sigmaf), this singing of joyless ruins (ἄ&tau&alpha&sigmaf). (Euripides, Troades, 105-121) 10

The chorus in Euripides&rsquo Phoenissae alludes to not only its own misery, but also to the wretched state of Jocasta, a mother about to lose her two sons in battle:

Alas, alas, I hold my trembling, trembling heart with shudders and pity, pity for the wretched mother goes through my flesh. Which of the two sons will stain the other with blood &ndash oh, my suffering oh, Zeus oh, Earth &ndash a brother&rsquos throat, a brother&rsquos life, with shields and blood? [&hellip] I will wail a cared-for cry, to be mourned with tears, for the dead their light is about to go out. This murder is unhappy, ill-starred because of the Furies. (Euripides, Phoenissae, 1284-1306)


The Greeks were the first civilization to break away from ancient mythology and apply evidence-based reasoning to explain life. Some of the greatest philosophers in history studied and taught in Ancient Greece -- Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. These philosophers of the ancient world placed heavy emphasis on political, social and educational involvement. Their arguments for deductive reasoning, and an ever-evolving reality, have translated for every generation since.

In 490 B.C., the Persian army invaded Greece. The Greek armies were outnumbered and relied on local runner Pheidippides to seek help and warn local leaders of impending attacks. In under 10 days, Pheidippides ran 280 miles over rough terrain. Legends recount his death as he finished his last 26 mile trek from Marathon to Athens. Pheidippides was credited for the Greek victory over the Persians. Greece still hosts marathons covering Pheidippides' final 26 mile route.


The Oracle of Delphi: How the Ancient Greeks Relied on One Woman’s Divine Visions

An cient Greece was a world dominated by men. Men filled the highest positions in society, men fought on the battlefield and men ruled the mightiest empires. However, all these men, from the lowliest peasant to the emperor himself, sought the council and advice of one person – and that person was a woman.

The city of Delphi had long traditions of being the centre of the world it was said that Zeus himself named it the navel of Gaia. According to legend, a huge serpent, named Python, guarded the spot before it was slain by the infant god Apollo. When Apollo’s arrows pierced the serpent, its body fell into a fissure and great fumes arose from the crevice as its carcass rotted. All those who stood over the gaping fissure fell into sudden, often violent, trances. In this state, it was believed that Apollo would possess the person and fill them with divine presence.

These peculiar occurrences attracted Apollo-worshipping settlers during the Mycenaean era, and slowly but surely the primitive sanctuary grew into a shrine, and then, by 7th century BCE, a temple. It would come to house a single person, chosen to serve as the bridge between this world and the next. Named after the fabled serpent, this chosen seer was named the Pythia – the oracle.

Communication with a god was no small matter, and not just anyone could be allowed or trusted to serve this vnerated position. It was decided that a pure, chaste and honest young virgin would be the most appropriate vessel for such a divine role. However, there was one drawback – beautiful young virgins were prone to attracting negative attention from the men who sought their council, which resulted in oracles being raped and violated. Older women of at least 50 began to fill the position, and as a reminder of what used to be, they would dress in the virginal garments of old.

The oracle sat upon her tripod in John Collier’s The Priestess of Delphi, 1891

These older women were often chosen from the priestesses of Delphi temple, but could also be any respected native of Delphi. Educated noble women were prized, but even peasants could fill the position. Those Pythia who were previously married were required to relinquish all family responsibility and even their individual identities. To be an oracle was to take up an ancient and vitally important role – one that transcended the self, and entered into legend. Pythia were so important to Greek civilisation that it was essential that they were a blank slate, so children, husbands and any links to previous life had to be severed in favour of Apollo and divinity.

The reason for the growing importance of the oracles was simple – the Pythia provided answers. For an ambitious and religious civilisation, this very visual and vocal link to the gods was treated with the utmost respect. For the nine warmest months of each year, on the seventh day of each month the Pythia would accept questions from all members of Greek society. This was to correspond with the belief that Apollo deserted the temple during the winter months.

After being ‘purified’ by fasting, drinking holy water and bathing in the sacred Castalian Spring, the Pythia would assume her position upon a tripod seat, clasping laurel reeds in one hand and a dish of spring water in the other. Positioned above the gaping fissure, the vapours of the ancient vanquished serpent would wash over her and she would enter the realm of the divine.

Home to the Pythia and her priesthood, the island was considered a sacred place by all Greeks

The exact origin of these magical vapours – assuming they weren’t actually being given off by the rotting remains of Python – remains something of a mystery. Excavation work of the temple ruins in the 19th Century didn’t uncover the sort of cave or hole in the ground archaeologists had expected to find, so for much of the 20th Century, scholars thought the Delphic fault was strictly mythological. That was until the late 1980s, when a new team of curious scientists decided to investigate the ruins for themselves. The rocks they discovered beneath the temple were oily bituminous limestone and were fractured by two faults that crossed beneath the temple. This had to be more than a coincidence. The scientists theorised that tectonic movements and ancient earthquakes caused friction along the faults. Combined with the spring water that ran beneath the temple, methane, ethylene and ethane gas would rise through the faults to the centre and directly into the temple. The low room with its limited ventilation and lack of oxygen would help amplify the effect of the gasses and induce the trance-like symptoms experienced by the oracles.

Others have suggested that the oracle’s trances might have been brought on by upon by snake venom, particularly that of the cobra or krait snake, which is known to be hallucinogenic, which the seer might have mistaken for divine visions. Of course, o ne of the most popular theories explaining the state of the oracles is that they were simply faking their trances. Because of the power that their prophecies could hold, it’s argued that the priests or the women themselves manipulated this power as they saw fit.

Back in Ancient Greece, once the story of the woman who could communicate with the gods got us, people to flocked to speak with her. Rather confusingly given the modern meaning of the word, people who requested an audience with the oracle were known as ‘consultants’. Many of those who wished to ask the oracle a question would travel for days or even weeks to reach Delphi. Once they arrived, they underwent an intense grilling from the priests, who would determine the genuine cases and instruct them the correct way to frame their questions.

Those who were approved then had to undergo a variety of traditions, such as carrying laurel wreaths to the temple. It was also encouraged for consultants to provide a monetary donation as well as an animal to be sacrificed. Once the animal had been sacrificed, its guts would be studied. If the signs were seen as unfavourable, the consultant could be sent home. Finally, the consultant was allowed to approach the Pythia and ask his question. In some accounts, it seems the oracles gave the answers, but others report the Pythia would utter incomprehensible words that the priests would ‘translate’ into verse. Once he received his answer, the consultant would journey home to act upon the advice of the oracle.

The god Apollo grabs the oracle by the hand as she slips into a divine trance

This was the tricky part. The oracle received a multitude of visitors in the nine days she was available, from farmers desperate to know the outcome of the harvest to emperors asking if they should wage war on their enemies, and her answers were not always clear. Responses, or their translations by the temple priests, often seemed deliberately phrased so that, no matter the outcome, the oracle would always be right. It was essential for the consultant to carefully consider her words, or else risk a bad harvest, or even the defeat of an entire army. When Croesus, the king of Lydia, asked the oracle if he should attack Persia, he received the response: “If you cross the river, a great empire will be destroyed.” He viewed this as a good omen and went ahead with the invasion. Unfortunately, the great empire that was destroyed was his own. In this way, the oracle, just like the gods, was infallible, and her divine reputation grew. To question the oracle was to question the gods – and that was unthinkable.

Soon, no major decision was made before consulting the oracle of Delphi. It wasn’t just Greek people, but also foreign dignitaries, leaders and kings who travelled to Delphi for a chance to ask the oracle a question. Those who could afford it would pay great sums of money for a fast pass through the long lines of pilgrims and commoners. Using these donations, the temple grew in size and prominence. Quickly, Delphi seemed to be fulfilling its own prophecy of being the centre of the world, and attracted visitors for the Pythian Games, a precursor of the Olympic Games. On the influence of the oracle’s statements, Delphi became a powerful and prosperous city-state. The oracle sat at the centre of not just the city of Delphi, but the great Greek empire itself. No important decision was made without her consultation, and so, for nearly a thousand years, the position of perhaps the greatest political and social influence in the ancient world was occupied by a woman.

This article originally appeared as part of a larger feature in All About History issue 25. Discover the latest issue of All About History here or subscribe now.

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Ancient Greek Pantry Staples

The foods of ancient Greece didn't include many that are considered standard present-day Greek ingredients, like lemons, tomatoes, eggplant, and potatoes, because many of these foods did not exist in Greece until after the discovery of the Americas in the 15th century. Because of the introduction of so many new fruits and vegetables to this Mediterranean country, Greek cuisine has changed quite radically over time. In ancient Greece, the basic foods were cereals, legumes, fruit, fish, game, oil, and wine. Many of these ingredients are still part of the Greek diet, along with the addition of fresh and local ingredients, olive oil, and herbs.


We propose below information about the different architectural periods and styles in Greece and the Greek islands from the Minoan times to modern days.

Minoan Architecture

The Minoan civilization prospered on the Greek island of Crete from the 27th till the 15th century BC. The most famous architectural achievement of this period is definitely the impressive Palace of Knossos. The palace is situated on a hill and surrounded by pine forests. It is divided into two courts: the west wing, where you can visit the religious and official staterooms, and the East Wing, which was used for domestic and workshop purposes.

Archaeologists have found the wonderful frescoes of Knossos almost untouched, under layers of ash, which leads them to believe that the destruction of the Minoan town of Knossos is probably connected to the huge volcanic eruption of the Santorini in about 1,450 BC. These frescoes have vivid colors and represent happy scenes from everyday life and festivities. These frescoes in combination with the fact that the Minoan towns had no walls show that the Minoans had peaceful relationships with other cultures and did not interfere in wars. Other important Minoan sites in Crete are the Minoan Palace of Phaestos and the Palace of Zakros.

Mycenaean Architecture

The Mycenaean architecture, that flourished from 1600 to 1200 BC, differs a lot from the Minoan. Unlike the Minoans, whose society was based on trade, the Mycenaean society advanced through warfare. The Mycenaeans were frequently involved in wars and that is why their towns had so strong and tall walls. These walls took the name Cyclopean because people thought that only Cyclopes could lift the huge stones to build them. The walls of Mycenae and Tiryntha have very characteristic Cyclopean walls. Very typical of Mycenaen architecture is also the vaulted tombs where the king and high priests were usually buried. In fact, the most famous vaulted tomb is the Treasury of Atreus in Mycenae, which is believed to be the tomb of King Agamemnon.

Classical Architecture

Architecture in the Greek classical antiquity reveals unique marble temples that were characterized by three different orders: the austere Doric style, the elegant Ionian style, and the Corinthian style. a mixture of the two previous styles. All over the mainland of Greece and the Greek islands, there are many ancient temples dedicated to various gods, including the temple of Apollo in Delphi, the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens, the temple of Athena Aphaia in Aegina and others. However, the greatest Greek monument is the Temple of Parthenon, constructed on the sacred site of the Acropolis Athens. The Parthenon, built from 447 to 438 BC, is a brilliant example of Doric and Ionian architecture. This octostyle, peripteral temple was dedicated to goddess Athena, the protector of the town, and housed a giant chryselephantine statue of Athena Parthenon, sculpted by Phidias. The Corinthian style was not so popular in the classical architecture, but still, a very important monument in Athens is made of Corinthian rhythm: the Temple of Olympian Zeus in the city center.

Very typical structures of Classical architecture are also the Ancient Theatres. At first, these theatres were actually places of gathering for people who wanted to take part in a ritual. For example, during the festivities to honor a god, people would gather in the theatre to take part in the offerings headed by the priest of the god. With the invention of theatre as an art form, the drama performances became part of such religious festivities and thus they were presented in the theatres. The most typical ancient Greek theatre is the Theatre of Epidaurus that was constructed in the 4th century BC and stands out for the perfect symmetry and amazing acoustics. Other famous theatres are the Theatre of Dionysus, that is considered the first theatre of the world, and the Theatre of Herodes Atticus, both located at the foot of the Acropolis.

Roman Architecture

In the 2nd century BC, the Romans conquered Greece and marked a new era in Greek architecture. The Roman architecture was actually a mixture of the ancient Greek, the Phoenician and the Etruscan style with few influences from other cultures of the Roman empire. In Athens particularly, there are many structures from the Roman period with characteristic arches and stone carvings of Roman battles. The Arch of Hadrian, for example, was constructed in 132 AD to mark the borders between the old (classical) Athens and the new (Roman) part of the town. The Roman Agora and the Library of Hadrian are also important structures and so is the Stoa of Attalos, the first mall in the world.

Byzantine Architecture

As the Eastern Roman Empire was gradually transformed in the Byzantine Empire in the 3rd and 4th century AD, a new architectural style made its presence. The Byzantine Empire had a strong religious base and quickly Christianity was made the official religion. Many churches were constructed in the almost 10 centuries that the Byzantine Empire lasted. Although the first Byzantine churches had one central aisle and oblong size, then a great innovation appeared: the dome. The typical Byzantine church, as dominated along time, has a square plan crowned by one or more circular domes. The floor and the churchyard had impressive mosaics, while the walls were decorated with colored frescoes. The most usual material for the construction of a church was the brick. The most famous Byzantine church is the Church of Agia Sofia in Constantinople, while very interesting Byzantine chapels are found in Mystras, Thessaloniki, Meteora, and Mount Athos.

Medieval Architecture

As the Byzantine Empire was starting to fall down in the 12th century BC, Greece was gradually conquered by the Venetians. Till 1453, when Constantinople fell to the Ottomans, the Venetians had already conquered the western side of the old Byzantine Empire, as the eastern side had been conquered by the Ottomans. Therefore, almost all the mainland of Greece and the Greek islands were at the hand of Venice. The Venetians reconstructed the towns with stone houses, paved streets, and many public buildings. They also reinforced the ports, as the largest part of the Venetian societies was coming from trade. The most famous Venetian towns in Greece are the Old Town of Rhodes, Corfu, Chania, and Rethymno in Crete.

The Venetians had no large army, but they had a very powerful fleet. Their war strategy was to build strong castles that could resist the Turkish or Arabian attacks until help would arrive from the sea. This they built huge castles in every strategic part of the Greek mainland and in almost all the Greek islands. The majority of these castles underwent few reconstructions along time and survive till today.

Ottoman Architecture

After the 16th century, almost the entire country fell to the Ottomans, who also left a vivid sign in many towns and islands. Ottoman remains to include mosques, baths, fortification towers and castles in strategic spots. Very characteristic Ottoman monuments are the mosques in Kos, Crete, and Rhodes as well as the Ottoman baths in the Old Town of Chania.

Neoclassical architecture

The establishment of the modern Greek state in the late 1820s, after four centuries of Ottoman rule, marks a crucial point in the historical course of Greece. King Otto, the first king of modern Greece, tried to inspire a new sense of nationalism to the citizens. In this effort to connect the glorious classical past with the present, he made Athens the capital of Greece, he ordered to found the modern town of Sparta and also invited the famous Austrian architect Theophil Hansen to build monuments of Neoclassical style all over Greece, an architectural style that was already flourishing in Europe that time.

Theophil Hansen and his student Ernst Ziller designed many important buildings of Neoclassical style in Greece, including the Neoclassical trilogy in the center of Athens: the Academy, the Library and the University of Athens. Particularly Ziller traveled all around the country and designed any kind of buildings, from private houses to town halls, theatre, train stations, and churches. Among his most famous works are the Presidential Mansion of Athens, the Athens Numismatic Museum that was originally the house of archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, the Town Hall of Syros, the Apollo Theatre in Patras, the Church of Saint Gregory Palamas in Thessaloniki, the Royal Palace in Tatoi Attica, the train station in Olympia and many others.

The most characteristic features of the Neoclassical style are the symmetrical shape, the tall columns that rise the full height of the building, the triangular pediment, and the domed roof. One great example of the Neoclassical architecture is the town of Nafplion in Peloponnese.

Cycladic architecture

The Greek islands are known for their special architecture. More, the ambassador of Greek islands architecture is the Cyclades. The local Cycladic architecture has a special interest, highlighting beautiful houses, stones churches, and paved town streets. The most characteristic feature of Cycladic architecture is the colors: blue and white are the dominating colors in all the islands of the complex. It is quite interesting the fact that houses were painted in these two colors after a government act. The Greek prime-minister Ioannis Metaxas actually ordered in 1936 the inhabitants of Cyclades to paint their houses white with blue doors and windows so that these colors match with the blue sky and the white wave foams of Greece. These two colors are also used for churches, as the walls are painted white and the domes are blue.

The houses in the Cyclades are small and have a rectangular shape with a flat roof, as the strong winds do not allow the construction of triangular roofs. They are built with stones and bricks and most of them have flowered yards or gardens. The inner streets of the towns are narrow and paved, as in the old times all transportation was done on foot or by donkey. Most capitals in the islands of Cyclades are called Chora. Many of them are built on the back side of slopes so that they were not visible by pirates that used to plunder the Aegean islands till the late 19th century.
One of the most beautiful samples of Cycladic architecture can be seen in the villages of Oia on Santorini island.


Experiencing War: Trauma and Society from Ancient Greece to the Iraq War

This volume of ten essays derives from the conference, “Achilles in Iraq: War and Peace in Ancient Greece and Today”, held at the University of Missouri-St. Louis in April 2004. A sense of mission, which no doubt reflects the atmosphere of the conference, is palpable in the present volume, which editor Michael Cosmopoulos describes as, “a contribution towards raising awareness about and promoting understanding of the catastrophic impact” of war and violence “on our individual and collective lives” (1). Contributors are passionate about the fact that the lives and well-being of young soldiers depend upon the votes of a civilian population that is often ignorant of, or apathetic about, the realities of (and reasons for and against) war. Specifically, the collection aims to use ancient Greek understandings to think about “the ways in which war affects our lives at the personal, social, and political level” (3). It draws on a diversity of expertise—from eminent scholars in the field of ancient Greek and Roman warfare, to non-classicist academics, to practitioners whose primary commitment is to the prevention and treatment of psychological injury in American soldiers.

It must be said that the topics covered do not accord with the brief as Cosmopoulos states it, or with the promise of the title. As a glance at the table of contents will confirm, the emphasis is overwhelmingly on army personnel and the conduct of war: five chapters (4, 5, 6, 7, 9) deal with combat experience (this includes Col. Westhusing’s chapter on the moral stance of the ideal American warrior), five chapters (3, 7, 8, 9, 10) with the causes of psychologically disabling combat trauma (with some overlap between the two groups), and two chapters (8,10) specifically with its proper treatment and prevention. The remaining chapters (1, 2) are concerned with the American public’s ignorance of the realities of war and the kinds of rhetorical appeal which won support for the invasion of Iraq. Important though these issues are, they do not constitute a consideration of the impact of war on “our individual and collective lives”. For instance, there is no mention of the economic, environmental, and social costs of war, or the strain on communities and individuals of coping long-term with traumatized and/or disabled family members, or the continuing danger to civilians posed by the lethal debris of modern war. A brief account of individual chapters follows.

Thomas Palaima (“Civilian Knowledge of War and Violence in Ancient Athens and Modern America”) contrasts the American culture of censorship and media “spin” with the unflinching truth of Homeric depiction of death in combat or Euripides’ confronting portrayal in Trojan Women of the consequences of defeat for a civilian population. He observes that in fifth-century Athens, where military service was universal for all adult males, no one was exempt from the sacrifices and suffering of war.

Palaima also offers a detailed discussion of the dishonestly sentimentalizing media accounts of the death of 2nd. Lt. Therrel ‘Shane’ Childers, the first US casualty in Iraq. However, he represents the annual state funeral ceremonies held in Athens for the war dead as an honest acknowledgement of casualties rather than, as I suggest, the vehicle for a similar kind of spin. The funeral oration customary on these occasions, the epitaphios logos, is famously concerned with the heroization of the warrior dead and the glorification of the state in a way perhaps reminiscent of the media and government establishment culture he critiques so powerfully.

Moon and Collins (“Moving the State to War”) compare Thucydides’ account of the debate between Alcibiades and Nicias over whether Athens should invade Sicily (215 BCE) with the differing approaches of George W. Bush, the US Congress, and the UN in the dispute over pre-emptive war against Iraq (2002-03 CE). Their comparison is loosely informed by Aristotle’s analysis in On Rhetoric of the principles of successful political persuasion and the role of emotion in the formation of rational judgements. The authors conclude that in both cases rationally inferior arguments were successful because they were coupled with emotionally powerful appeals in fifth century Athens, to shame and patriotism and in modern America, to fear and patriotism. Possibly because too much is attempted in too short a space, the language of this piece is frustratingly woolly, for instance, a speech that relies on “empirical” evidence is described as a “logical proof” (46) “logical” is used as synonymous with “rational” (51, 54, 55) and “proof” as synonymous with “argument” (55). There are also editing issues, for instance, one reads “passivity” where sense demands a word like “energy” (39), “ignorance” for “innocence” (49), “insure” for “ensure” (50).

Nadejda Popov (“The Place of Soldier Speeches in a Democracy at War. Aeschylus and Michael Moore”) compares the Messenger’s tale, at Agamemnon 551-82, of his suffering at Troy with the complaints of soldiers in Iraq compiled by Michael Moore in Will They Ever Trust Us Again? Letters from the War Zone. 1 This is potentially an interesting discussion, especially as the Messenger’s account of the siege conforms to fifth-century, rather than Homeric, practise and (as Popov notes) probably alludes to the contemporary Egyptian campaigns. Unfortunately, instead of allowing the telling similarities in soldiers’ experience to emerge in full acknowledgement of the patent disparity between the two “texts”, the author spends a great deal of time attempting to demonstrate that the “texts” themselves (she persists in calling them “case studies”) are equivalent. Thus, for instance, in Popov’s view, Moore’s edited collection of emails and letters (with introduction) is “in many ways a literary creation” which, in the (entirely hypothetical) circumstance that it were ever made into a documentary film, would be comparable to Aeschylus’ thirty line passage (from the Messenger’s 160 line, three-part speech), even in terms of “performance…dimension” (64).

Popov’s claim that Aeschylus’ dual “purpose” in lines 551-82 was to convince the Athenians not to go to war with Sparta and not to maintain their empire is questionable in its implication that a conception of Athenian empire existed in 458 BCE and indefensible in its assertion of authorial intention (75). 2 In her view, Aeschylus’ “goal” is analogous to Moore’s attempt to influence the outcome of the 2004 presidential election. With similar imprecision, Popov construes Odysseus’ silencing of Thersites at Iliad 2.225-42 as evidence for censorship of soldier speech in democratic fifth century Athens and as equivalent to the modern punishment of court marshal for public criticism by soldiers of the military in times of war. The essay is also marred by infelicities of language, as for example, “amount of the similarities” (63), feelings “hinted upon” (72), soldiers letters “eradiate a uniform message” (75).

Kurt Raaflaub’s discussion (“Homer and Thucydides on Peace and Just War”) is informed by the tragic observation that peace movements tend to fail. His teasing out of the complex factors that work against arbitration between opposing armies in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War and Homer’s Iliad emphasizes that, ironically, men are spurred to fight by the notion of “just war”, by the belief that they are in the right. Less idealistically, men also fight if they believe they can win. Raaflaub observes that the “deep yearning” of the rank and file of both Greeks and Trojans for peace in the Iliad does not lead to an end to fighting and, even more sobering, that the eloquent opposition to war mounted by comic and tragic playwrights in fifth century Athens failed to influence the political decisions of their audiences. His essay leaves the reader with a certain hopelessness about the possibility of peace.

Friend (“The Notion of a Fair Fight in Ancient Greece and in Modern Warfare”) contrasts the Greek hoplite ideal of the disciplined phalanx, hand-to-hand combat, and all-out decisive battle with the attritional, or guerrilla, approach to war in which individuals do not scruple to retreat and the aim is to wear down the enemy. Friend emphasizes the continuities between the values of ancient Greek and modern soldiers, especially their common admiration for an enemy who “fights by the rules”. However, the author appears far too invested in the honour codes he describes and, finally, to betray a serious lack of objectivity when he writes of the Viet Cong guerrilla: “He uses cowardly tactics and tries to avoid battle. Just as the Greek hoplite despised light troops because their refused to stand their ground, the modern soldier hates guerrillas for the same reason” (113). One cannot help but wonder how fair a fight can be if one side is hopelessly outmatched by the other in weaponry and war technology.

Col. Ted Westhusing’s lengthy contribution (“The American Warrior. Winning the Nation’s Wars, for ‘This We Will Defend'”) is included, almost unedited, in respectful tribute to his memory. The essay is a patriotic statement of the moral attitude of an ideally “virtuous” American warrior. Westhusing’s major concern is to define an ethical standpoint from which a warrior may violate societies’ injunction against the taking of life, and be the most effective possible fighter, without relinquishing self-respect and humanity. In his view, this involves management of the passions and natural selfishness through the education of reason, exhaustive physical training, embracing of “communally sanctioned Law”, and ability to see the integrity of unfamiliar social structures. Sadly, but perhaps inevitably, Westhusing’s high minded idealism is belied by the contemporary and historical real world information so abundantly provided by Tritle, Matsakis, and Chrissanthos.

Lawrence Tritle (“Two Armies in Iraq: Tommy Franks in the Footsteps of Alexander the Great”) tellingly compares the ongoing American led invasion of Iraq with Alexander’s lightning swift conquest in 325 BCE. He demonstrates that after the conquest of Babylon/Bagdad Alexander quashed the early stages of a widespread insurgency similar to that which has proved crippling for the US and her allies. He writes of the suffering and large casualties in the civilian population past and present.

Tritle also focuses on the brutalizing and desensitizing effect on soldiers of prolonged military campaigning and the unspeakable terror of constant exposure to violent death. He proposes that the “explosion of conspiracies, imagined or other, that emerge in the sources” is evidence that Alexander himself was suffering from the paranoia and distortion of judgement symptomatic of PTSD (179). Tritle concludes by detailing the statistics for PTSD, depression, and suicide in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, concluding that American troops “are experiencing the same sort of trauma that Alexander and his army found there, and has been the case in every war since” (183).

Matsakis (“Three Faces of Post-traumatic Stress: Ares, Hercules, and Hephaestus”) claims that these three mythic figures are psychic models which can provide new insights into post-traumatic stress. (The author gives Ares and Hephaestus their Greek names, but uses the Roman form Hercules and makes no category distinction between the gods and the hero.) Matsakis’ concern is with the treatment of PTSD, especially in veterans, and I am willing to accept that her approach may make for effective therapy. But her version of Greek myth is entirely a therapist’s artefact and is in no sense a dialogue with ancient understandings. Matsakis takes no account of the contexts for the stories she chooses to tell, of the complexities of cultural difference, or of the wider intellectual discussion about the nature of myth. She writes as though Ares, Hercules, and Hephaestus were historical people with psychological autonomy and personal agency. She tells us that Heracles’ “gluttony”, “binge drinking”, and sexual promiscuity are “motivated by guilt” but that Hephaestus, who suffers from “depression, rage and self-loathing” as a result of parental abuse and rejection, is able to find an “outlet” in his creative work and make “a positive contribution to society” (197, 212, 221). She claims (without any sense of incongruity) that Ares becomes the god of war largely because of “being confined in a bottle for thirteen months as a toddler” (201).

Chrissanthos’ material (“Aeneas in Iraq: Comparing The Roman And Modern Battle Experience”) is similar to Tritle’s (above). He compares the experiences of soldiers from WWI through to Vietnam with their counterparts in Caesar’s Roman campaigns (an exception to the volume’s focus on Greece). Chrissanthos links the unspecified illnesses that afflicted Caesar’s “‘whole’ army” with the psychological and physical malaise typically suffered by modern soldiers during and after active service (238). He broaches the issue of alcohol and drugs abuse, the practise of self-harm and, at the other end of the spectrum, the perpetration of atrocities on those perceived to be the enemy. Chrissanthos discusses desertion, mutiny, combat refusal, and even the murder of “incompetent or ineffective superiors” (245). He also notes the phenomenon, then and now, of veteran movements for peace, as an entirely positive and constructive manifestation of battle trauma.

Jonathan Shay (“Homer’s Leaders in American Forces: Leadership and Prevention of Psychological and Moral Injury”), a psychologist and advocate for the America’s servicemen and women, takes the view that, if we cannot abolish war, the next best way to reduce psychological injury in soldiers after combat—he rejects the term PTSD—is to establish a culture of trust, especially between service members and their leaders (272). By way of illustration, Shay compares the leadership styles of Achilleus, Agamemnon, and Odysseus in the Iliad and Odyssey. Shay’s account clearly has direct application to American military practice, but this unapologetically didactic purpose leads him to simplify and shift the emphasis of the Homeric portrayals. Ignoring Achilles’ tragic indecisiveness, he describes him as a blunt, truthful leader who cares for the men and who, if he had lived, would have brought most of them “home alive and in good heart” (265). Conflating the somewhat different portrayals of Odysseus in the Iliad and Odyssey, Shay represents him as, by contrast, one who habitually lies to his men, will take them into danger for personal gain, and brings no one home alive. Finally, Agamemnon, the Commander-in-Chief, the “almost perfectly bad leader”, will take no responsibility for his failure effectively to blockade Troy, violates the armies’ “moral order” by refusing to ransom Chryseis, and publicly humiliates Achilleus (266). Shay interprets the stampede for the ships that follows Agamemnon’s trial of the armies’ loyalty as a predictable loss of morale resulting from this betrayal of “‘what’s right'” (264).

Apart from its narrowness of scope, my other criticisms of the collection are, first, that contributors do not acknowledge the obvious differences between ancient and modern war technology that we moderns have far greater destructive capacity, that modern war has a global impact, and that the stakes are perhaps as high as the ultimate survival of humanity. A second, related, regret—as my comments on individual chapters have no doubt indicated—is that many contributions look for exact matches, or, equally misleading, straightforward contrasts, between the ancient material and modern American cultural templates. Too few chapters rise to the opportunity genuinely to “think with” the complexity, otherness, and nuance of the ancient material and thereby to arrive at truly surprising, even paradigm shifting, insights.

1. M. Moore. Will They Ever Trust Us Again? Letters from the War Zone. Simon and Schuster: New York, 2004.

2. For the difficulties associated with the term “empire” in the context of fifth century Athens—and of determining when Athens may be said to lead an empire rather than an alliance, see: P. Low (ed.), The Athenian Empire. Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, 2008.


Throughout Ancient History humanity’s first great civilizations developed which, in addition to writing, meant greater complexity in urban life, the division of labor, the establishment of different social organizations, the creation of religions and the implementation of the first governments or States. This is why in this period of history we can find evidence of large villages and cities that were superior in many ways to the simple and primitive Neolithic villages.

The aforementioned features have become present in different parts of the globe in which human communities settled permanently. Hence, the study of Ancient History includes the civilizations of Ancient Mesopotamia located in the valley of the rivers Euphrates and Tigris (where the Sumerian civilization was the first to develop its power), Ancient Egypt, the small Hebrew and Phoenician communities, Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, perhaps the most important in terms of its geographical extension during the Empire. Lastly, Ancient History should also include the historical civilizations that remain outside the geographical framework known as the Old World and within these we can find China, India and the small pre-Columbian communities in America.

The legacy of Ancient History is without doubt a very rich and diverse one and its influence still affects us today. Some of humanity’s most important and significant phenomena were developed in this point in history, and amongst these we find Cuneiform writing (the first human way of writing), the development of important religions (like the Egyptian, the Greek and the Roman, the Jewish and the Christian), important literary works (such as the Iliad, the Odyssey, Hammurabi’s Code, the Bible, the Book of the Dead, amongst many others), the construction of incredible monuments and buildings (such as the Egyptian pyramids, the Sphinx, the Parthenon, the Roman Coliseum, Ishtar’s Gate, and the Palace of Knossos), and the creation of unique elements such as democracy, law, different sciences, philosophy, the Olympics, and engineering, amongst others.

Why do we categorize history?

History has been divided into different periods for practical reasons, such as making the study of it easier, but the periods are also there for a reason. They mark the changes or substantial differences between one era and the former and subsequent eras.

For example, the classic division of history into Ancient History, Medieval and Modern coincides with the materialist (Marxist) division of eras according to the modes of production: slavery, feudal and capitalist.

However, it is also interesting to make a comprehensive history (of all people and cultures), as in the end there is one unique line of study, otherwise known as Humanity. We could say that after there are “various sub-divisions” that would be the history of each specific group of people.

According to Collingwood: “History books have a beginning and an end, but not the events that they describe”.

These facts do not end because they truly stay forever, permanently fixed in time.

It could also be understood that Collingwood was saying that in books only the facts are written down, and not the “processes” that lead to the facts.

Thus, the archaeological remains all together make up what Binford calls “static” (the last goal the football inside the goal post). The archaeologist analyzes the mute and immobile object, and it is from there, history is made.

But what we really want is “dynamics”: how the match unfolded and how the ball made it into the goal how this object got there.

Obviously, this is the most difficult part that, above all, cannot be proven.

Traditional Chronologies

Formerly, the Egyptians, Greeks, Sumerians, Acadians, and many other groups of peoples had become interested in history and wrote history treatise, dividing it into different periods.

Keller (17th Century) divided history in a very similar way to the way we still use today:

  • Ancient History (until Constantine the Great)
  • Medieval History
  • New History (the beginning of his era, the 17th Century)

Materialist historians talk of different stages according to the modes of production:

Definition of Ancient History, Writing, Civilization, and State

We say that a region makes history when there is presence of writing, civilization and a state. These are the 3 key elements to name the beginning of Ancient History.

Note: when we talk about a civilization, we also refer to certain cultural traits that are spread throughout time and space (we also refer to art, etc.).

Auxiliary Disciplines of History

With this we refer to which other fields of knowledge can help historians to elaborate on and understand history. So, lets see how history is constructed.

Historians use, and rely upon, some sources to build history (the main objective). These sources will be studied according to some disciplines, further explained below:

1 – Material Remains. These are “Primary Sources”: everything that is found on the excavation site.

It must not be forgotten that these excavation remains could have written documents. The material remains will later be studied by archaeologists and with archaeological auxiliary techniques.

2 – Written Documents (which are obviously also “material remains”)

This refers to any type of document that could help us to construct history. The study of such documents gives us Philology, Epigraphy and Papyrology.

These can be studied as a Material Remain, or even by its lettering (from the point of view of the Written Document). The study of this is called Numismatics.

4 – The Ethnographic Testimony of current cities in order to interpret the remains discovered in the excavation. This way, hypotheses can be made about the way of life of the community being studied. Ethnologists or Cultural Anthropologists studies these.

Historians divide the work between a team (they have specialists in other fields). Thus, the most important disciplines that help historians are:

1 – Remains without lettering will be studied by:

a) Archaeologists
b) Also by Numismatists, taking into account the fact that in the end, coins are just simple objects.

2 – Written Documents will be studied by:

a) Philologists
b) Epigraphy
c) Papyrology
d) Numismatists (they will study the lettering embossed on the coins that are found in excavations).

3 – Ethnographic Testimonies will be studied by Cultural Anthropologists and Ethnologists.

For example: let’s say an archaeologist finds a piece of crockery in an excavation. There were times in Rome where they “mass-produced” objects in Campania (Naples) and from there sold them throughout all of the Mediterranean. This means that we can make a catalogue with dates etc. And when we see a similar piece in the archaeological site we can immediately date the whole site.

Or for example, if we find some tombs with human remains with their burial goods etc., a paleoanthropologist could tell us by looking at the cranial capacity exactly what type of hominid it was, the possible cause of death and other information such as fractures, cavities, etc.

What is the Ancient Age?

The Ancient Age is a historical age that coincides with the emergence and development of the First Civilizations (Egypt, Greece, Rome, etc.) also known as the Ancient Civilizations. According to the historiography, the beginning of this period is characterized by the emergence of writing (around the year 4000 BC), which also represents the end of Prehistory. According to this system of historical periodization, the Ancient Age spans from the emergence of writing until the collapse of the Roman Empire, due to the barbaric invasions of the 5th Century. It would have lasted 5500 years.

Main historical characteristics of the Ancient Age

  • Emergence and development of urban life
  • Political power centralized by Kings
  • Societies marked by social stratification
  • Development of organized religions (mainly polytheists)
  • Militarism and occurrences of continuous wars among groups of people
  • Development and strengthening of trade
  • Development of the system of tax collection and social obligations
  • Creation of legal systems (laws)
  • Cultural and artistic development

Major Civilizations or Ancient Cultures

Ancient Egypt

This was an ancient civilization in the Eastern side of North Africa, concentrated along the lower course of the Nile River in what is now the modern State of Egypt. The civilization was unified around the year 3150 BC with the political unification of upper and Lower Egypt during the reign of the first Pharaoh, and it flourished over the next three millennia. Its history occurred in a series of comparatively stable periods, called by today’s scholars as kingdoms separated by periods of relative instability known as intermediate periods.

The Egyptian civilization reached its pinnacle in what is now called the New Kingdom, and shortly after entered a period of slow and steady decline. Egypt was conquered by a succession of foreign powers in its late period, and the rule of the Pharaohs officially ended in 31 BC, when the Roman Empire conquered and absorbed Ptolemaic Egypt, which disappeared as a State. This event did not represent the first period of foreign domination, but it did lead to a gradual transformation in the political and religious life of the Valley of the Nile, marking the end of the independent development of their culture.

The success of the ancient Egyptian civilization comes in part from its ability to adapt to the conditions of the Nile River Valley. They had an ability to predict flooding and control irrigation of the fertile valley with crops that offered a surplus of products that fueled social and cultural development. With surplus resources the administration sponsored mining within the valley and the surrounding desert regions. They soon developed a way of writing and collective organization in construction and agricultural projects, helped by trade with the surrounding regions, and a military policy to defeat foreign enemies and assert Egyptian dominance helped motivate the State organization to make these activities efficient and productive. The bureaucracy was formed by an elite: scribes, administrators and religious leaders ensured the cooperation and unity of the Egyptian people in the context of an elaborate system of religious beliefs under the control of a Pharaoh.

The many achievements of the ancient Egyptians include the exploitation of quarries, surveying and construction techniques that facilitated the building of monuments, pyramids, temples and obelisks, a mathematical system, a practical and effective system of medicine, systems of irrigation and agricultural production techniques, the first known ships, pottery and glass with Egyptian technology, new styles of literature, and in politics, their Peace Treaties.

Egypt left a long lasting legacy. Its art and the architecture were widely copied, and their antiques were taken all over the world. Its monumental ruins have inspired the imagination of writers and travellers for centuries. A newfound understanding of the antiquities and excavations in the early modern period gave rise to the scientific investigation of Egyptian civilization and a greater appreciation of its cultural legacy, from Egypt itself and the rest of the world.

Ancient Greece

The term Ancient Greece refers to the period of Greek history, which lasted from the Greek Dark Ages around 1100 BC, and Doria’s invasion around 146 BC and the Roman conquest of Greece after the Battle of Corinth. It is generally believed that the Greek culture formed the basis of Western civilization and the cultures in all of South West Asia and North Africa. The Greek culture influenced the Roman Empire in a big way. The civilization of the Ancient Greeks has been incredibly influential in terms of language, politics, education systems, philosophy, science and art. They were an inspiration for the Islamic Golden Age and the European Renaissance and again the resurgence during various neo-classical renovations in the 18th and 19th Centuries in Europe and America.

Ancient Rome

This is the name given to the Roman Civilization, which developed in the Italian Peninsula during the 8th Century BC, as of the establishment of the city of Rome. Throughout the twelve centuries of its existence, the Roman civilization had forms of government such as the Roman Monarchy which was then replaced by the Roman Republic, until it became a great Empire which dominated Western Europe and the vicinity of the Mediterranean Sea through conquest and cultural assimilation: this was the Roman Empire.

However, a series of social-political factors caused the decline of the Empire, which was divided in two. Half was the Western Roman Empire, which also included Hispania, Gaul and Italy, which eventually collapsed in the 5th Century (Barbaric invasions) and gave place to various independent kingdoms the other half was the Eastern Roman Empire, which governed the Eastern part of the Roman Empire from Constantinople. This Empire is also known by modern historians as the Byzantine Empire from the year 476 AD, the standard date of the fall of Rome, which marks the beginning of the Middle Ages.

Ancient Rome tends to be inserted in what is known as Classical Antiquity, which belongs to the Ancient Age, along with Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia which preceded and greatly inspired the Roman culture, and in particular the Greek culture.

Mesopotamia

The Mesopotamian civilization arose in a geographically determined historical period. In the Fertile Crescent, a term coined by German historians, which describes a territory in the shape of a half moon that unifies two big rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates. The civilizations that resided in this Fertile Crescent (Sumer, Akkad, Lagash) are determined by a common element, which is the presence of a river, which became the backbone of the Mesopotamian civilization. The Mesopotamian civilization emerged in the year 3000 BC, and came about through the ancient Neolithic settlements, which became city-States, which then developed their own Governments.

Phoenician Civilization

The Phoenicians settled between the foothills of the Lebanon Mountains and the Mediterranean, on the coasts of Asia Minor, on a small and narrow geographic strip about 200 km long and 40 km wide, which in ancient times was known as Phoenicia, which meant “Land of Palm trees”.

Phoenicia was a Kingdom of antiquity, which was located in the coastal plain, which today is Lebanon, in the East of the Mediterranean. This civilization developed between the 10th and 5th centuries BC, when colonies were being established throughout North Africa and southern Europe.

It is not clear up to what point the Phoenicians were considered a single ethnic group. Their civilization was organized in city-States, in a similar way to ancient Greece. Each city-State was a politically independent unit, and there was a possibility of a city entering in conflict and being dominated by another city-State, although they did also collaborate, forming leagues or alliances.

Despite the narrowness of their lands, and the steep and rocky coast, the stretch of the land offered magnificent ports and natural shelters. The mountains also provided excellent wood that the inhabitants of the region used to build ships. For this very reason, due to the ruggedness of the terrain and the scarcity of earth for cultivation, the Phoenicians tried to get out of the sea the space and substance that geography had denied them they became excellent sailors, great colonizers and enterprising businessmen, bringing together, perhaps for the first time in history, the products and crops of the East and the West.

Persian Civilization

The Persians’ geographical scenery was the plateau of Iran, in Central Asia. Their territory in the North reached from the Caspian to the Turkestan Seas in the South, with the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, and in the West, their territory bordered with Mesopotamia. The Persians used to live where we can find Iran today. From the 6th Century BC onwards, the Persians began to conquest their surrounding territories, and that was how they formed one of the biggest empires of ancient times.

The Persians were the greatest empire in the ancient east, they unified several villages in the Fertile Crescent, and their borders extended from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean. They inhabited the Iranian plateau, situated to the east of the region of Mesopotamia, a semi-arid region, with mountains rich in minerals, deserts and few fertile valleys, with a dry climate, and big fluctuations in temperature.

From the year 2000 BC onwards, the region was occupied by groups of shepherds and farmers (Medes and Persians), who came from the South of what is now Russia these groups invaded the Iranian plateau. The Medes settled in the North of the Iranian plateau, whilst the Persians settled in the South Eastern part of the Iranian Plateau, next to the Persian Gulf.

The first inhabitants in the Iranian plateau mainly worked as shepherds and farmers, and in these fertile valleys they developed the cultivation of cereals, fruits and vegetables. The region was also rich in minerals, which inspired them to make metal tools to improve agricultural production and the art of war. They found iron, copper, silver and more in the mountains.

Hebrew Civilization

The Hebrews was the name given to the people who lived in the region of the Middle East around the second millennium BC, which would later give rise to the Semitic people such as the Arabs and the Israelites, the spiritual and historical ancestors of today’s Jews.

The Palestinian region was the territorial target of the Semitic people of the Arabian Desert. The first to arrive were the Canaanite Semitics, who took the name of the country named Canaan who were defeated by the Hebrew Semitics who settled in the region divided into tribes (in the 14th and 11th Centuries BC) they founded two kingdoms: Israel (Capital Samaria) and Judas (Capital Jerusalem) in the 11th and 8th Centuries BC. Subsequently they were conquered by powerful civilizations. Their main contribution was in religion (Monotheism) they promoted the belief in one God, Jehovah, whose worship did not require statues or material figures.

Indian Civilization

Indian or Hindu culture (Indian Civilization) has been molded by its long millennial history, its unique geography, its diverse demographics, and its acquisition of customs, traditions and religious ideas of its neighboring regions. They have also preserved ancient legacies, which were formed during the Indus Valley Civilization and later transmitted to the Vedic Civilization. During the Muslim conquests and European colonization they maintained their own traditions, but mixed them with other customs.

India, also known as Hindustan, is a wide peninsula located in the South of Asia. It has a triangular shape, bordered by the Arabian Peninsula to the West and Indochina to the East. The Northern border is limited by the Himalayan mountains by the Bay of Bengal to the East the Indian Ocean to the South and the Oman or Arabic Sea to the West.


Overview

There is no clear description of a lamp in the Bible but many have been discovered from the ancient world, especially in Israel. We know the lamps that were in use during the time of Jesus, and we also know the lamps that were in use by the Hebrews in early Egypt because of archaeological discoveries.

Oil lamps were made of common pottery and first began to appear in Israel during the Neolithic Period. Throughout the centuries the shape of oil lamps changed a great deal, and more elaborate designs were being implemented.

In the ancient world people did not have electricity like we have today, in fact the inside of the home was about as dim as a 40 watt light bulb. Most homes would contain several oil lamps because olive oil was in abundance and therefore not expensive. There was also an oven that provided a little bit of light, but the oil lampswere the main source of light in every home.

The King James Version of the Bible translates the word for lamp "candlesticks," but that is not an accurate translation because in ancient world they did not use candles. Even the seven branches on the menorah within the Tabernacle and the Temple were actually lamps that held olive oil and wicks.

Ancient lamps were oval shaped, and flat on top. They actually had small bowls on one end, with the other end pinched real tight which formed a groove to hold the cotton or flax wick. One end of the wick would even float in the olive oil. Some of the lamps had a lid over the bowl. They were usually made of clay, but the more expensive lamps were made of bronze and sometimes even of gold. Some of these were very beautiful and would contain very elaborate decorations, manyRoman lamps had images of their gods.

In order to light a lamp they had to rub sticks together, or they would strike stones to make sparks. Olive oil was available in abundance and therefore lamps were left on for long periods of time, and also gave off a sweet scent.

The Bible often talks about lamps:

Psalms 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.

Jesus often spoke of lamps and light in His teachings:

Luke 15:8-10 "Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!' Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."


Watch the video: Η Πειρατεία στην Αρχαία Ελλάδα (July 2022).


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