The Relevance of the Ancient to the Modern

“I don’t feel much direct relevance of ancient things to modern things. It was the temper of the times, especially in the seventies and eighties when I was getting my degree and teaching, to claim that the project of being a classicist was to find relevance to antiquity and invent courses that convinced students that you could learn everything you needed to know about modern life from studying the ancient Greeks. Well, this is bizarre, to say the least. What’s entrancing about the Greeks is that you get little glimpses, little latches of similarity, embedded in unbelievable otherness, in this huge landscape of strange convictions about the world and reactions to life that make no sense at all.”


Anne Carson, The Art of Poetry No. 88

Limestone ram-bearer

Limstone RamBearer

Limestone ram-bearer

Cypriot, second quarter of 6th century B.C. (Archaic period)

Images of worshipers bringing an animal for sacrifice emphasize the importance of agriculture and animal husbandry for the subsistence of the community. Such limestone examples have been found not only on Cyprus but also in sanctuaries on Samos and Rhodes, for instance. More modest representations exist in terracotta.

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Smartphone Christianity

I have to but wonder what Lucian would think of smartphone Christianity? – –

In many ways developers of religious apps are no different from their secular counterparts. Everyone is trying to take a desired habit (in this case, prayer or scripture reading) and make it more painless, easier, and more deliverable. The word “frictionless” pops up often. YouVersion will send you a gentle reminder if you haven’t made much progress on the plan you selected, and give you a few helpful hints for keeping up. Abide provides an array of recorded prayers users can listen to so that they can learn how to pray.

Evangelical Christianity is very interested in cultural relevance. One of its flagship magazines is actually called RELEVANT; church services have been streaming online ever since the technology was made available; pastors trumpet their love of U2 and Sufjan Stevens as badges of being with it. With the demise of Christian separatist communities and the crumbling of the moral majority’s denunciation of culture, Christians are increasingly adapting to existing cultural norms, in this case, those of the tech sector. In a 2014 New Yorker article, Casey Cep compared this phenomenon to a “FitBit” for the soul, and she’s not wrong. In the quest to live quantified lives, we can set reminders for ourselves to exercise, eat well, and now, to pray. And it makes sense, if we think of the spiritual life as a discipline, that it could benefit from some of the same techniques that have reimagined the way people approach fitness.


Inside the Christian app boom: It turns out prayer and smartphone habits go well together
By Laura Turner on December 20, 2015 12:30 pm

The Two Sides of Devi: Uma and Durga

Devi’s more benevolent side is worshipped as Uma, and this facet of her character is represented as both beauty and light. This softer side is also referred to as Jaganmata (Mother of the World), Gauri (Yellow and Brilliant or Golden), Bhavani, Haimvati, and Parvati (the Mountaineer).

Devi’s dark side is represented as the terrible Durga (the Inaccessible) who has ten arms, an impressive armoury of weapons, and who rides a magnificent lion or tiger. This side is further manifested in the forms of Kali, Kalika or Syama (the Black Goddess); Candi or Candika (the Fierce), in which guise she killed many a demon or asura; and Bhairavi (the Terrible). Worshippers of this face of Devi seek her favours and dark powers and so make blood sacrifices and perform wild rituals in the ceremonies of Durga-puja, Carak-puja, and the Tantrikas which call on Durga’s sexual and magical powers.


Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms.

The Mykonos vase, with one of the earliest known renditions of the Trojan Horse

Mykonos Vase

The Mykonos vase, with one of the earliest known renditions of the Trojan Horse. (Note the depiction of the faces of hidden warriors shown on the horse’s side.)

Scene shows Diogenes leaning on a tablet and Antisthenes holding a club in his right hand.


English: Detail of plate 35, from Achillis Bocchii Bonon, Symbolicarum quaestionum de Universo genere quas serio ludebat. Print made by Giulio Bonasone. Scene shows Diogenes leaning on a tablet and Antisthenes holding a club in his right hand. Inscription reads “caede sivis nihil tam durum quome summove as dum aliquid dixeris” which seems to translate as “strike if you want, nothing is so tough to drive me away, as long as you have something to say”.
Source Bibliothèque nationale de France
Author Giulio Bonasone

A Seal Impression of King Hezekiah

A seal impression of King Hezekiah
A seal impression of King Hezekiah unearthed in the Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount, conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology under the direction of Dr. Eilat Mazar.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar; Photographed by Ouria Tadmo

Image found on


Notable female poets in Ancient Greece


(third century b.c.e.) Greece: Locri
Nossis was a Greek poet from Locri, a city in
southern Italy. Influenced by the poetry of Sappho, she wrote dedications, mostly to the gods,
and epigrams, only 12 of which survive. Nossis
was probably well born. She was the daughter of
Th eophilis, and she paid tribute to her mother and
grandmother in the dedication of a valuable linen
wrap to the goddess Hera.
Nossis explored new possibilities in the very
formulaic and conventional form of a dedication.
She added a personal voice that spoke to women
and about women. She praised the beauty of women’s bodies and celebrated the sweetness of desire as
the greatest of all pleasures, even sweeter than the
sweetest honey. Speaking as if from the grave, Nossis asked any passing stranger to remember her.
Th e conceit and the lament were characteristic of
the ancients, but her language carried the passion
that raises poetry above the trite and sentimental.


(fifth?–century b.c.e.) Greece
Myrtis was a Greek lyric poet from Anthedon in
Boeotia, in central Greece. She was said to have
composed a poem about the tragic hero Eunostus,
who was killed after a false accusation by a woman
he rejected. None of her work survives. Some
sources claim that she was also the teacher of the
poets Pindar and Corinna, a lyric poet from Tanagra in Boeotia. In one fragment by Corinna she
appears to criticize Myrtis for competing against
Pindar. However, Corinna most probably lived in
the third century b.c.e., some 200 years after Pindar and Myrtis.


(second century b.c.e.) Greek: Italy
Melinno was a Greek poet who wrote in a Doric
dialect most probably during the fi rst half of the
second century b.c.e. Possibly she lived in one of
the Greek cities in southern Italy, all of which
came under Roman control after the defeat of Pyrrhus in the middle of the third century.
She composed a hymn to the power of Rome in
five Sapphic stanzas. In it she depicted warlike
Rome, the conqueror of the world, as a goddess
who was the daughter of Ares, father of the Amazons. Nothing is known about her personal life.


(fourth century b.c.e.) Greece: Telos
Erinna was an esteemed poet who lived on the
Greek island of Telos, off the coast of western Asia
Minor. She wrote about her personal life and feelings. Her most famous poem, “Distaff ,” consisted
of 300 hexameters. It was written before she was
19 years old. Only a few fragments have survived.
Th ey movingly relate childhood experiences with
her friend Baucis and lament Baucis’s death shortly
after her marriage. She also wrote two funeral epigrams to Baucis.
Erinna died young and never married.


(third century b.c.e.) Greek: Tanagra
Corinna was a poet from Tanagra, in Greece, who
probably lived in the third century b.c.e. Her parents were Procatia and Acheloadorus. She wrote
lyric poems in a local Boeotian dialect. Her subjects were the legends of gods and heroes presented
in a simple and straightforward narrative without
metaphors or similes. Unlike Sappho’s work, her
poetry was neither passionate nor personal.
In the works of Pausanius and Plutarch there
are references to her life that place her in the sixth
century b.c.e. as a contemporary of the Greek poet
Pindar, against whom she was said to have won
five competitions. Pausanius wrote that in her
tomb at Tanagra there was a painting that portrayed her in the gymnasium at Thebes binding
her hair with a fillet in honor of her victory over
Pindar. He credited her victory to her beauty and
to the Aeolian dialect of her poetry, which he
claimed was understood better than the Doric
used by Pindar. However, her name first appeared
in the fi rst century b.c.e., possibly as a later addition to the compendium of women poets originally collected by the Alexandrians. The third
century b.c.e. is now considered a more likely time
period for her life.
Knowledge of her poetry has come mainly from
papyrus texts written in the first three centuries
c.e. Propertius and Ovid, Roman poets of the first
century c.e., named their poetic lovers Corinna in
celebration of her beauty, gracefulness, and


(sixth century b.c.e.) Greek: Rhodes
Cleobuline wrote riddles in verse in imitation of
her father, the philosopher Cleobulus of Rhodes.
Her father advocated the education of women.
Cleobuline was a literate woman in the sixth century b.c.e., a time when few men and fewer women
could read or write. She was mentioned by Cratinus, one of the greatest poets of Old Attic comedy,
who named one of his plays after her.


(third century b.c.e.) Greek: Tegea
Antye was a well-known and well-respected poet of
the third century b.c.e. Born in Tegea, a city on
the southern Greek peninsula, she was said to have
written in the traditional form and to have mirrored Homer in her grammar and sentence structure. However, she was attracted to the bucolic
themes that were characteristic of the emerging
traditions of the period after the death of Alexander the Great.
Although Antye’s lyric poems have been lost, 19
Doric epigrams are extant. Th ey are grave in tone
and restrained in style. Her quatrains, possibly
used as funerary inscriptions, are sensitive without
being sentimental.


(fifth century b.c.e.) Greek: Sicyon
Praxilla, a poet from Sicyon in Greece, wrote short
poems, drinking songs, and hymns of which only a
few fragments survive. Her innovation in meter,
the praxilleion, was named in her honor. She juxtaposed the conventional and the unconventional,
a characteristic that was mocked by some critics. In
one poem, Adonis is asked on his arrival in Hades
what he will miss most. His list is headed with sunlight, followed by the shining stars and the moon,
and then ripe cucumbers, apples, and pears. In
another fragment, she linked the parts of the body
with two diff erent stages of life. The viewer was
described as the possessor of a virgin’s head and a
married woman’s body. Lysippus of Sicyon, a
famous sculptor, caste a bronze statue of her.


(c. 612 b.c.e.–?) Greek: Lesbos

Sappho was ranked with the greatest poets of
antiquity. Called “the tenth muse” by the philosopher Plato, her poetry was read and recited by
Greeks and Romans across the Mediterranean. She
composed nine books of lyric poetry. Some were
love poems addressed to individual women; others
were women’s wedding songs. Still others address
the goddesses of music, poetry, literature, and
dance. Only one complete poem, “Hymn to Aphrodite,” and a number of fragments have survived.
There is enough extant, however, to suggest her
union of the spiritual and the physically passionate, always with women as her subject.
Sappho taught a group of young women music
and poetry and probably led rites in celebration of
Aphrodite. Possibly she belonged to a formal school
where women lived together until marriage. Alternatively the arrangements may have been a less formal sharing of poetry, music, and mutual affection.
Born about 612 b.c.e. in Eresos, on the west
coast of the island of Lesbos, her parents, Cleis and
Scamandronymus, were well-to-do landowners.
She was exiled to Sicily. She later returned to Mytilene, on
the east coast of Lesbos, where she lived for the
remainder of her life.
Sappho married Cercylas, a wealthy man from
Andrus. She had a daughter named Cleis. One of
her brothers, Charaxus, sold wine from Lesbos to
the Egyptians. From an extant lampoon in her
poetry, we know that in Egypt her brother met
Rhodopis, a famous beauty of her day, and was
sufficiently enthralled to purchase her freedom


(fi fth century b.c.e.) Greek: Greece
poet and military leader
Telesilla was a renowned poet. She also organized
and led a successful defense of her native city,
Argos, against an invading army of Spartans. She
was honored for both service to the muses and
military victory. Sickly as a youth, her passion for
poetry was a source of strength. Nine fragments
from larger hymns survive. Her poetry was said to
have been addressed to women, and women were
her greatest admirers. Th e Greek meter telesilleion,
or acephalous glyconic, was named after her.
At one point in her life, Cleomenes of Sparta
defeated the Argive army, which suff ered an unusually large number of causalities. He then attacked
the city, which was fi lled with noncombatants.
Telesilla organized a defense of the city’s walls by
the male slaves and any other available men, some
too old and some too young to have been a part of
the army. She also armed the women with weapons
that had been left in the city. She led the women to
a confined area through which the Spartans would
have to travel. Th e women fought fiercely, and the
Spartans retreated. Th e sources excuse the Spartan
withdrawal with the observation that the Spartans
feared the odium of either defeat or victory over an
army of women.
The women who fell in battle against the Spartans
were buried along the Argive Way. In a temple of
Aphrodite in Argos, in front of a seated statue of the
goddess, was a slab engraved with the figure of Telesilla holding a helmet. Th e victory was celebrated
once a year by the people of Argos in the Hybristica,
or Feast of Outrage. For hundreds of years after the
event, on that day women dressed in the shirts and
cloaks of men, and men, in the robes of women.

Posted by Iphigenia on

Heraclitus Criticized Achilles’ Wish, The Scholia Set Us Straight: Strife, Heraclitus and the Scholia

Heraclitus Criticized Achilles’ Wish, The Scholia Set Us Straight: Strife, Heraclitus and the Scholia by sententiaeantiquae

In book 18 of the Iliad, when Achilles laments the events that led to the death of Patroklos, he also makes an impossible wish for the gods to erase conflict from the lives of men. Rather than seeing this as an emotional–and somewhat reasonable–desire on Achilles’ part, the presocratic philosopher Heraclitus is alleged to have taken issue.

The comments appear in two traditions of Scholia to the Iliad. Both attempt to explain Heraclitus’ mistakes.

Homer, Iliad 18.107: “I wish that the gods would erase strife from men”

Schol A ad Iliad 18.107: “Heraclitus criticizes Homer because he believes that the nature of things as they are depends upon strife, and here Achilles then seems to be praying for the collapse of the cosmos. To this someone might reply that he is not saying here that strife is something in opposition but rather that it is hateful—this is the reason he adds in the next line “and anger as well” [kholos]. For, the opposition of things [e.g. Heraclitus’ principle of nature] does not drive prudent men out of their powers of reason.”

Schol T. “Heraclitus says that Achilles is praying for the collapse of everything, since all things depend upon their opposites. But Achilles means that this strife is has led to worse affairs. Otherwise [if he doesn’t mean this], this should be allowed, since he is afire with suffering [over the death of Patroklos]”

ex. ὡς ἔρις ἔκ τε θεῶν :

῾Ηράκλειτος (fr. 28 p. 133 M.; Vors. 6 A 22) τὴν τῶν ὄντων φύσιν κατ’ ἔριν συνεστάναι νομίζων μέμφεται ῞Ομηρον, σύγχυσιν κόσμου δοκῶν αὐτὸν εὔχεσθαι. πρὸς ὃν ἄν τις εἴποι ὅτι οὐ λέγει νῦν τὴν ἐναντίωσιν ἔριν, ἀλλὰ τὴν ἔχθραν· ὅθεν ἐπιφέρει „καὶ χόλος” (Σ 108)· οὐ γὰρ ἡ τῶν πραγμάτων ἐναντίωσις τοὺς φρονίμους ἐξίστησι τῶν λογισμῶν.


ὡς ἔρις ἔκ τε θεῶν: ῾Ηράκλειτος σύγχυσιν αὐτὸν εὔ-
χεσθαι ἁπάντων φησί· κατὰ γὰρ ἐναντίωσιν τὰ πάντα συνέχεσθαι. ἀλλὰ τὴν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον ἄγουσαν ἔριν νῦν φησιν. ἄλλως τε δοτέον τοῦτο, φλεγμαίνοντος τοῦπάθους

07 Friday Aug 2015

A Little Bit About Pomponius Mela

The general views of the De situ orbis mainly agree with those current among Greek writers from Eratosthenes to Strabo; the latter was probably unknown to Mela. But Pomponius is unique among ancient geographers in that, after dividing the earth into five zones, of which two only were habitable, he asserts the existence of antichthones, inhabiting the southern temperate zone inaccessible to the folk of the northern temperate regions from the unbearable heat of the intervening torrid belt. On the divisions and boundaries of Europe, Asia and Africa, he repeats Eratosthenes; like all classical geographers from Alexander the Great (except Ptolemy) he regards the Caspian Sea as an inlet of the Northern Ocean, corresponding to the Persian and Arabian (Red Sea) gulfs on the south.


His Indian conceptions are inferior to those of some earlier Greek writers; he follows Eratosthenes in supposing that country to occupy the south-eastern angle of Asia, whence the coast trended northwards to Scythia, and then swept round westward to the Caspian Sea. As usual, he places the Rhipaean Mountains and the Hyperboreans near the Scythian Ocean. In western Europe his knowledge (as was natural in a Spanish subject of Imperial Rome) was somewhat in advance of the Greek geographers. He defines the western coast-line of Spain and Gaul and its indentation by the Bay of Biscay more accurately than Eratosthenes or Strabo, his ideas of the British Isles and their position are also clearer than his predecessors. He is the first to name the Orcades or Orkney Islands, which he defines and locates pretty correctly. Of northern Europe his knowledge was imperfect, but he speaks of a great bay (“Codanus sinus”) to the north of Germany, among whose many islands was one, “Codanovia,” of pre-eminent size; this name reappears in Pliny the Elder’s work as Scatinavia. Codanovia and Scatinavia were both Latin renderings of the Proto-Germanic *Skaðinawio, the Germanic name for Scandinavia.