LLR Books

Then I awoke

“Then I awoke, and knew not whether to throw myself into the sea or to live on and make the best of it.” Homer, The Odyssey

Available June 2015

Ancient Greek Tomb Of Alexander Era: Mystery Deepens Over The Skeletons And Bones Found

By  Kalyan Kumar

Considerable mystery surrounds the disclosures about a vast tomb in Greece, built during the period of Alexander the Great, with archaeologists now claiming that they have found ancient remains of five people. Ever since the tomb was discovered in 2014, there has been intense speculation that it may have been built for Alexander the Great, for his mother or a General in his military. But the disclosure of archaeologists on Monday that they unearthed bones of five people, including a woman above the age of 60, a newborn baby, two men aged between 35 and 45, overturned many of the hitherto held assumptions. The ruins of another body, believed to be of an adult, could not be verified in terms of its age.
Intriguing Excavation
The ancient tomb dates back to 300-325 BC and was located at the Kastas hill in Amphipolis, reported The Telegraph. Alexander died in 323 BC, at the age of 32, in Babylonia, and his body was supposed to have been transported to Alexandria for burial. Inside the tomb, archaeologists also found some marble statues of sphinxes and a mosaic pavement that depicted the abduction of Persephone by Hades, who was the king of the underworld.
According to the experts, the bones of one of the men had cut marks, possibly from a sword or a dagger, adding a new twist to the occupants of the necropolis. A Daily Mail report said there is also speculation whether the woman buried at the Amphipolis site was Roxana, Alexander's Persian wife. It quoted the Culture Ministry, which said the woman was approximately 5ft 1inch tall.
Great Warrior
Born in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia in July 356 BC, Alexander, despite of his short life that ended at the young age of 32, became world famous for his heroic military expeditions across the Persian territories of Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt. He came and literally conquered the lands he surveyed. The warrior's greatest victory was at the Battle of Gaugamela, now in northern Iraq, in 331 BC. His triumphant treks across Persian territories made him known as Alexander the Great. After the battle in Gaugamela, Alexander led his army further 17,800 km and found 70 cities. The expedition led to Alexander creating an empire that stretched across three continents-- from Greece to Egypt and further to Indian Punjab.
Creating one of the largest empires in the world with territories that stretched from the Mediterranean to the Indus, Alexander became a military legend of all times. But the death of Alexander also unleashed a bitter succession war to take control of the empire. During the war, Alexander's mother, widow, son and half-brother were murdered near Amphipolis. Now the mystery is whether the tomb in questions is housing those bodies.

9 Roman Gods Who Weren't Just Rip Offs Of Greek Gods

Rob Bricken
We know that the ancient Greeks had a massively entertaining sets of gods and goddesses. So it's no wonder that when Rome conquered Greece, they replaced their own dull pantheon with renamed versions of Zeus, Athena, and the others. But not all Roman gods were Greek copies — here are a few of the more important ones.

1) Janus
Despite Rome's wholesale acquisition of the Greek pantheon, perhaps their most important deity was uniquely their own. Janus was the god of beginnings and endings, transitions, doors, basically anything that had two different but complementary functions — epitomized by the fact he had two faces. Janus was so important he remained a part of the Roman pantheon even after they had co-opted the Greek gods, and arguably stayed their most important deity, receiving the bulk of the worship for important beginnings and ending like births, marriages, days, seasons, deaths, etc. Since he presides over beginnings, he had to be worshipped first in all major religious ceremonies; this also made him the god of omens, and the Romans loved omens and trying to divine the future. Even though Jupiter was the king of the gods after the great Greek pantheon acquisition, Janus was the door between heaven and earth, and had been since the beginning of time — which effectively meant Janus could have metaphorically locked Jupiter in his room. He didn't, of course, but he could have.

2) Quirinus
When Rome was founded, it was near a group of people called the Sabines. Some of the Sabines were absorbed into Rome peacefully — some were very much not — but they brought Quirinus with them, a god of war, before the Romans took Ares and redubbed him Mars. By the first century B.C., somehow Quirinus had become the divine form of Rome's legendary founder Romulus, making him a pretty big deal. He effectively became the god of the Roman state; as the republic turned into an empire, and the empire grew, he was eventually supplanted by Jupiter and the other formerly Greek gods.

3) Mithras
While Rome obviously loved borrowing religion from their Greek neighbors, Mithra was one of the few divinities that came to the empire from somewhere else. Original a Persian god, Mithra began to be worshipped by soldiers in the Imperial armies, but as part of a cult — they had secret rituals and prayers and temples, although it doesn't seem like there were any crazy cult leaders or nefarious dealings. They just worshipped Mithra and hung out and refused to tell other people about it, almost like a club.

4) Lares
Not all gods needed worship from the masses; every Roman household had a variety of smaller, more personal gods that they worshipped at a family altar right in their home. Among the most important were the Lares, the gods of the family, which included the spirits of their ancestors. Obviously, as part of the family themselves, they had a vested interest in keeping their descendents happy and protected, and the descendents had good reason to keep them satisfied. They were offers of small tokens of food and grain and wines every day, but more elaborate rituals were held for important family events like weddings and births.

5) Dis Pater
Originally a god of land-based riches — which is to say fertile land, precious minerals, etc. — Dis Pater eventually turned into a god of the underworld because anything precious in the ground was considered the treasure of the underworld. It's kind of a weird association to move from God of Gems and Stuff to God of the Place People Go When They Die, which is likely why he was absorbed into Pluto, nee Hades, when the Greek gods came over. Pluto was a much more impressive, imposing god of the underworld.

6) Orcus
The Etruscan were a group of people living near Rome that got absorbed/conquered early in Rome's history. As such, Orcus is believed to have been the Etruscan god of death and the afterlife, alongside Rome's Dis Pater. Eventually, Orcus came to represent the more evil, monstrous aspects of the afterlife, and became seen as a demonic tormentor of the damned; between that distinction and the fact that he was mostly worshipped on farms instead of in the cities, he continued to exist as a divinity long after Dis Pater had disappeared into Pluto. Fun fact: Orcus is the origin of the name of J.R.R. Tolkien's evil Orcs.

7) Liber
The origin of Liber is mostly unknown — he was definitely worshipped in Italy for quite some time, and was joined by his female companion Libera — but he was a major god in the Roman pantheon. He was the god of male fertility, the transition to adulthood, the bounty of harvest and the common man — a weird conflation of rights, manhood, fertility, and partying. Perhaps "liberty" is the best word for it. Rome devoted a whole month to celebrating him — the Liberalia festival — in which of course a giant penis was paraded about, ostensibly to protect the crops, as penises are wont to do. Eventually Liber was superceded by the Greek god of wine, Dionysis, renamed Bacchus, but worship of Liber continued, evolving into cults with outrageously unsavory reputations for sexual free-for-alls and occasional murder.

8) Divus Julius
Going into all the reasons why Julius Caesar was deified while he was still ruling Rome would be incredibly complicated, but you need to know two things: 1) Caesar had been a friend to the common people of Rome forever, and they loved him even before he brought an end to a horrible civil war and ruled the nation, and 2) Caesar's willingness to be honored, including having a month named after him, a priest devoted to him, countless statues, etc., was a primary reason why many people in the Senate wanted him dead. But after the murder, Marc Antony helped get Julis officially recognized as a deity, which gave him more or less a divine mandate to punish Caesar's murderers and take over, although that also got super-complicated thanks to Julius' nephew Octavian. Julius Caesar's divinity was primarily a political move, first by him, and continued by his successors to legitimize their power.

9) Divus Augustus

Julius' nephew Octavian did not make the same mistakes his uncle had. Even when he defeated Mark Antony and became emperor, he refused to be voted divine honors while he was alive — and since he ruled for over 40 years, that was quite a long time. Even when the "savages" of Rome's furthest provinces specifically requested to be allowed to worship their Emperor as a god, Augustus did not want to follow in his uncle's footsteps. But he also didn't want to offend his new subjects. As such, he basically told them to worship the spirit of Rome itself, and hey, if they happened to mention him too, no biggie. But he refused to allow any pretense of divinity in the more traditional Roman portion of the empire. He also helped restore countless temples and festivals, thus worshipping every god he felt he should; between that, and the fact that he ruled for 40 pretty peaceful, incredibly prosperous years, when he died in 14 AD both the common people and the senate were more than happy to declare him an official god.

Poseidon figured prominently into life, myth in ancient Mediterranean world

With trademark trident in hand, Poseidon, characterized with a sturdy build, thick wavy hair and full beard, looms large in Greek mythology.
He’s the central figure in the battle between the Olympian gods that brought order to the world and a monstrous race of giants.
The Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College in Hanover on Saturday opens an exhibition dedicated to how ancient societies in the Mediterranean realm worshipped this heralded figure, who had dominion not only over the sea but horses and diverse natural phenomena.
“Poseidon and the Sea: Myth, Cult and Daily Life,” to run through March 15, includes ancient vases decorated with mythological scenes and other objects that demonstrate cult worship of this god known as Poseidon to the Greeks, Nethuns to the Etruscans and Neptune to Romans.
The showing was curated by Dartmouth alumnus Seth Pevnick, Class of 1999, who is acting director, chief curator and Richard E. Perry Curator of Greek and Roman Art at the Tampa Museum of Art, as well as a former Hood Museum of Art intern.
Pevnick was inspired to organize the show by the nearly life-sized marble statue of the god from the Tampa collection, which presides over the entrance to the exhibition.
The works of art and material culture on view were created by ancient Greek, Etruscan and Roman artists and artisans. They include striking black-figure and red-figure pottery; sculptures in terracotta, marble, and precious metals, and examples of ancient glass, mosaics, carved gems and coins.
According to myth, Poseidon’s most famous sanctuary was at Isthmia, where the Peloponnesos joins the Greek mainland, but he was also worshipped at landlocked sanctuaries. Votive offerings, from a small bronze horse and schools of fish made of lead to representations of the god himself — were meant to illuminate and impress. The exhibition also includes a bronze trident from the J. Paul Getty Museum that is more than a dozen feet long and is believed to have accompanied a colossal statue of the god that has since been lost.
Beyond mythology and religion, however, the sea was the center of daily life in towns and cities along the coast of the Mediterranean. It provided food and other resources, and allowed for easy travel and trade. Allusions to the sea are found throughout ancient art, from cargo boats and warships to dolphins, fish, and octopi.

At least five persons buried at Amphipolis tomb: Greek Culture Ministry

ATHENS, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- At least five persons were buried at the Amphipolis tomb which was unearthed last summer in northern Greece, the Greek Culture Ministry announced on Monday.
The results of the forensic study of part of the skeletal material showed that the 157 bones, out of a total of intact and fragmented 550 bones discovered, which have been examined so far belonged to at least five individuals, a press release said.
Some bone fragments were identified as belonging to animals, including a horse.
One of the dead buried at the massive 4th century BC tomb was an elderly woman over 60 years old, according to the results of the macroscopic study of the bone tissue.
Some of the remains belonged to two men aged 35-45 and some to an infant. The fifth person's body had been cremated and specialists cannot tell whether it was a male or female, the team of scientists from two Greek universities said.
Greek archaeologists refrained from any guesses on the identities of the buried persons at the Alexander the Great era impressive burial complex at the Casta hill, about 550 km north of Athens.
They stressed that the analysis of the skeletal material and studies on the rest of the findings which are expected to give more detailed information on the buried persons' social and economic status, life style and health problems, will continue for several months.
The mystery of the identity of the buried tomb occupants will drag on.
The findings are expected to be compared to a sample of some 300 skeletons unearthed in the broader Amphipolis area dating to between 1000 and 200 BC.
In parallel archaeologists continue to study architectural finds which include a pair of 2 meter-high sculptures of Sphinxes, two captivating Karyatids (female figures), a mosaic depicting the Abduction of Persephone (a daughter of God Zeus in ancient Greek mythology) and drawings.
The excavation works will also continue this year, as scientists have identified with a geophysical survey at least one more ancient chamber at the 200-meter diameter and 33-meter high hill.
The Culture Ministry refuted allegations that the skeleton found at the Amphipolis tomb belongs to Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great. Historians said that she was stoned to death in 316 BC at approximately that age.
The excavation's chief archaeologist Katerina Peristeri had implied during a first press briefing on the findings in November that the tomb was maybe built for a prominent Macedonian general close to Alexander the Great.
The Greek scientists had stressed then that the Amphipolis tomb had been looted in ancient times.

The beginning

“The beginning is the most important part of any work.” ―                                                                                     Plato

Would you be beautiful in the ancient world?

Bettany Hughes is a classical historian, author of Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore

In ancient Greece the rules of beauty were all important. Things were good for men who were buff and glossy. And for women, fuller-figured redheads were in favour - but they had to contend with an ominous undercurrent, historian Bettany Hughes explains.
A full-lipped, cheek-chiselled man in Ancient Greece knew two things - that his beauty was a blessing (a gift of the gods no less) and that his perfect exterior hid an inner perfection. For the Greeks a beautiful body was considered direct evidence of a beautiful mind. They even had a word for it - kaloskagathos - which meant being gorgeous to look at, and hence being a good person.
Not very politically correct, I know, but the horrible truth is that pretty Greek boys would have swaggered around convinced they were triply blessed - beautiful, brainy and god-beloved. So what made them fit? For years, classical Greek sculpture was believed to be a perfectionist fantasy - an impossible ideal, but we now think a number of the exquisite statues from the 5th to the 3rd Centuries BC were in fact cast from life - a real person was covered with plaster, and the mould created was then used to make the sculpture.
Those with leisure time could spend up to eight hours a day in the gym. An average Athenian or Spartan citizen would have been seriously ripped - thin-waisted, small-penised, oiled from his "glistening lovelocks" down to his ideally slim toes.
A rather different story though when it comes to the female of the species. Hesiod - an 8th/7th Century BC author whose works were as close as the Greeks got to a bible - described the first created woman simply as kalon kakon - "the beautiful-evil thing". She was evil because she was beautiful, and beautiful because she was evil. Being a good-looking man was fundamentally good news. Being a handsome woman, by definition, spelt trouble.
And if that wasn't bad enough, beauty was frequently a competitive sport. Beauty contests - kallisteia - were a regular fixture in the training grounds of the Olympics at Elis and on the islands of Tenedos and Lesbos, where women were judged as they walked to and fro. Triumphant men had ribbons tied around winning features - a particularly pulchritudinous calf-muscle or bicep.
My favourite has to be the contest in honour of Aphrodite Kallipugos - Aphrodite of the beautiful buttocks. The story goes that when deliberating on where to found a temple to the goddess in Sicily it was decided an exemplar of human beauty should make the choice. Two amply-portioned farmer's daughters battled it out. The best endowed was given the honour of choosing the site for Aphrodite's shrine. Fat-bottomed girls clearly had a hotline to the goddess of love.
So wide hips and white arms, sometimes blanched by the application of white-lead make-up, were all good for the Greeks. Redheads could also take comfort. Though they were spurned as witches across the later medieval world - and still are in some countries even today - they had prehistoric power, as shown in one of the most sublime pieces of art from all of antiquity.
The Bronze Age wall-paintings on the Greek island of Thera (modern-day Santorini), preserved when the island-volcano erupted c1600BC, show a gaggle of beauties. Just one young woman is allowed to approach the goddess - after restoration it became clear this exquisite creature is unique thanks to a mane of deep red hair.
Xanthos - "golden" or tawny - is a standard epithet used to describe heroes in epic literature. Orthodox thought tells us this is just a literary trope, but anyone who has stood with a tawny or redhead friend, backlit by a Mediterranean sun, will know something magical does happen. Here in front of you is spun gold. For a magpie culture that collected gold trinkets and golden jewellery so fine a single necklace could be made of 16,000 individually worked pieces, the power of the blonde was believed to be real.
Interestingly the femme-fatale-ness of one blonde-bombshell - Helen of Troy - was considered to stem not from the way she looked, but how she made men feel and what she made men do. When we first meet her in book three of Homer's Iliad, the old men sing, their voices rising and falling, like cicadas: "Oh what beauty!" they say. "Terrible beauty - beauty like that of a goddess" - meaning the kind of presence that drives men to distraction.
 If Helen represents the real aristocrats of the Bronze Age Aegean we know a Spartan queen 3,500 years ago would have sported fierce, kohl-rimmed eyes, red tattoos of suns on her chin and cheeks, her hair shaven as a teenager and then dressed to look like snakes. Her breasts would have been bare or covered in a diaphanous gauze.
The literary Helen drew men both to her bed and to their deaths. Her beauty was a weapon of mass destruction. In the Greek mind everything had an intrinsic meaning; nothing was pointless. Beauty had a purpose; it was an active, independent reality, not a nebulous quality that only came into being once it was discerned.
Beauty was a psycho-physical parcel that had as much to do with character and divine favour as chest size. The philosopher Socrates famously confounded all ideas of how a beautiful Greek should look, with his swaggering gait, swivelling eyes, bulbous nose, hairy back and pot belly. Passages in the Socratic dialogues are dedicated to a radical exploration of how this satyr-like shell might in fact contain a luminous character. But Socrates and his pupil Plato were fighting an uphill battle. The sheer number of mirrors found in Greek graves show that beauty really counted for something. Looks mattered. The Ancient Greeks were, I'm afraid, faceist.

Antique Old Greek coast scene - Alois Hans Schram (1864-1919)


A happy life is one which is in accordance with its own nature.-- Marcus Annaeus Seneca (60 BC-37 AD) Roman Rhetorician and Writer

More reasons why the Greek poet Homer may never have existed

By Terrence McCoy, Washington Post

Nearly 200 years ago, a French painter created what would become a famous depiction of the Greek author Homer. In it, Homer looks like a pretty big deal. In the shadows of the Pantheon, he’s ensconced among a throng of muscle-bound specimens draped in robes, one of whom is playing the harp. “Homer, in this view, was the product of a new, dynamic, politically inventive and culturally burgeoning moment in Greek history,” writes historian Adam Nicolson in a new book on Homer. “Homer was the poet of a boom.”
But this image of Homer, Nicolson said, is inaccurate. The painting glorifies all the antiquated theories that held that Homer was a blind, illiterate genius poet who singlehandedly created two of the greatest stories in human history, the Odyssey and the Iliad. As appealing as that portrayal may be, it’s most likely not true. Homer perhaps never even existed — or, at least, he was nothing like he is often portrayed.
Homer, rather, was an idea. A cultural manifestation. A figment. “Homer is a foundation myth, not a man nor of the natural world, but of the way of thinking by which the Greeks defined themselves, the frame of mind which made them who they were,” Nicolson wrote in his recently published book, “Why Homer Matters.”
In an interview with the Washington Post, Nicolson compared Homer to a Viking ship. It was a gorgeous thing, he said. “Just this exquisitely-made thing. And yet no one ever says there needed to be some great maker behind it. It was emergent from a tradition.”
Homer’s existence has been in doubt for years. In fact, there’s an academic field of inquiry that examines everything involving Homer called the “Homeric Question.” Homer has puzzled just about every scholar who has studied him for the simple reason that there isn’t much to study. There’s no reliable historical information about him. “Who was Homer, if there was a Homer?” asked Martin West of Oxford University in 2010. “When and where did he live? Did one poet produce both epics, or was there a different poet for each? Or was there in each case a succession of poets, or a syndicate of poets and redactors?”
But the reasoning that supports Nicolson’s theory is different from most. There’s a general consensus among scholars that Homer — if there was a Homer — lived sometime during the 8th century B.C. This was already a problematic conclusion for many academics, given the fact the earliest “ascription of both poems to Homer can’t be traced further back than about 520 B.C.,” West wrote. “… A century or more after the poems came into existence.”
Nicolson, however, says the time gap between when the poems first materialized and when that parchment emerged was actually significantly wider. He contends that the poems actually came into being around the year 2000 B.C. — nearly 1,200 years before others thought.
Two elements support his theory, Nicolson told the Washington Post Tuesday morning in an interview. Numerous aspects of the Homeric works are shared across the European continent and into parts of India, Nicolson said, and have nothing to do with either Greece or the Aegean region. That suggests the works were actually a confluence of numerous tales floating around at that time. “So the implication is that you have to have a common root for all of that,” Nicolson said. “Elements of these stores are shared across many lands.”
And the second issue deals with The Iliad’s description of ancient Greece, which Nicolson says does not conform with conditions that existed in the 8th century B.C. The savagery depicted in The Iliad reflects a much earlier period. “Outside Troy is this camp of wild barbarians — the Greeks,” he told National Geographic. “The Greeks’ are Homer’s barbarians. … All ideas of rule and law and love count for nothing. The only thing that makes sense is revenge and self-assertion. And that picture of the Greeks doesn’t make sense any later than about 1800 to 1700 B.C.”
So if the epic poems derived from a much earlier period than others have thought, where does that leave us? Does that mean “the Homeric Question is dead?” Nicolson asked. Not by a long shot. It appears the question, even centuries after its birth, yet lives. Even if Homer himself never did.

Terrence McCoy writes on foreign affairs for The Washington Post's Morning Mix. Follow him on Twitter