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Greek archaeologist believes he unearthed Aristotle’s ancient tomb: ‘As certain as one can be’

ATHENS, Greece — A Greek archaeologist who has been leading a 20-year excavation in northern Greece said Thursday that he believed he had unearthed the tomb of Aristotle.
In an address at a conference in Thessaloniki, Greece, commemorating the 2,400th anniversary of Aristotle’s birth, the archaeologist, Konstantinos Sismanidis, said he had “no proof but strong indications, as certain as one can be,” to support his claim.
The tomb was in a structure unearthed in the ancient village of Stagira, where Aristotle was born, about 60 kilometres east of Thessaloniki. According to Sismanidis, the structure was a monument erected in Aristotle’s honour after his death in 322 B.C.
“We had found the tomb,” he said. “We’ve now also found the altar referred to in ancient texts, as well as the road leading to the tomb, which was very close to the city’s ancient marketplace within the city settlement.”
Although the evidence of whose tomb it was is circumstantial, several characteristics — its location and panoramic view; its positioning at the centre of a square marble floor; and the time of its construction, estimated to be at the very beginning of the Hellenistic period, which started after the death of Aristotle’s most famous student, Alexander the Great, in 323 B.C. — “all lead to the conclusion that the remains of the arched structure are part of what was once the tomb-shrine of Aristotle,” Sismanidis said.
Aristotle, who was born in 384 B.C., was a pupil of Plato in Athens and became a crucial figure in the emergence of Western philosophy. His work forms the basis of modern logic, and his metaphysics became an integral part of Christian theology. His “Poetics” still offers penetrating analysis of what works, and does not work, in theater. King Philip II of Macedon engaged him as a tutor to his son Alexander.
A separate excavation in another part of northern Greece, Amphipolis, in 2014 led to the discovery of the largest ancient tomb ever found in the country. Speculation linking the tomb to Alexander the Great set off huge media interest, but archaeologists later concluded that it had probably been built for a close companion of the king and conqueror.


DIONYSIUS, tyrant of Syracuse, was not happy, in spite of all his wealth and power. He was especially haunted by the constant fear that some one would murder him, for he had been so cruel that he had made many bitter enemies.
We are told that he was so afraid, that he never went out unless surrounded by guards, sword in hand, and never walked into any room until his servants had examined every nook and corner, and made sure that no murderer was hiding there.
The tyrant even carried his caution so far, that no one was allowed to come into his presence until thoroughly searched, so as to make sure that the visitor had no weapon hidden about his person. When his barber once jokingly said that the tyrant's life was daily at his mercy, Dionysius would no longer allow the man to shave him.
Instead of the barber, Dionysius made his wife and daughter do this service for him, until, growing afraid of them also, he either did it himself or let his beard grow.
Suspicious people are never happy; and, as Dionysius thought that everybody had as evil thoughts as himself, [209] he was always expecting others to rob or murder or injure him in some way.
His sleep, even, was haunted by fear; and, lest some one should take him unawares, he slept in a bed surrounded by a deep trench. There was a drawbridge leading to the bed, which he always drew up himself on his own side, so that no one could get at him to murder him in his sleep.
Among the courtiers who daily visited Dionysius there was one called Damocles. He was a great flatterer, and was never weary of telling the tyrant how lucky and powerful and rich he was, and how enviable was his lot.
Dionysius finally grew tired of hearing his flattery; and when he once added, "If I were only obeyed as well as you, I should be the happiest of men," the tyrant offered to take him at his word.
By his order, Damocles was dressed in the richest garments, laid on the softest couch before the richest meal, and the servants were told to obey his every wish. This pleased Damocles greatly. He laughed and sang, ate and drank, and was enjoying himself most thoroughly.
By chance he idly gazed up at the ceiling, and saw a naked sword hanging by a single hair directly over his head. He grew pale with terror, the laughter died on his lips, and, as soon as he could move, he sprang from the couch, where he had been in such danger of being killed at any minute by the falling sword.
Dionysius with pretended surprise urged him to go back to his seat; but Damocles refused to do so, and pointed to the sword with a trembling hand. Then the tyrant [210] told him that a person always haunted by the fear can never be truly happy,—an explanation which Damocles readily understood.
Since then, whenever a seemingly happy and prosperous person is threatened by a hidden danger, it has been usual to compare him to Damocles, and to say that a sword is hanging over his head.

Ancient Greek astronomy computer deciphered

By Nicholas Paphitis
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece — When you're trying to fathom a mangled relic of very old hi-tech, it helps to have the manufacturer's instructions.
For more than a century since its discovery in an ancient shipwreck, the exact function of the Antikythera Mechanism — named after the southern Greek island off which it was found — was a tantalizing puzzle.
From a few words deciphered on the twisted, corroded fragments of bronze gears and plates, experts guessed it was an astronomical instrument. But much more remained hidden out of sight.
After more than a decade's efforts using cutting-edge scanning equipment, an international team of scientists has now read about 3,500 characters of explanatory text — a quarter of the original — in the innards of the 2,100-year-old remains.
They say it was a kind of philosopher's guide to the galaxy, and perhaps the world's oldest mechanical computer.
“Now we have texts that you can actually read as ancient Greek, what we had before was like something on the radio with a lot of static,” said team member Alexander Jones, a professor of the history of ancient science at New York University.
“It's a lot of detail for us because it comes from a period from which we know very little about Greek astronomy and essentially nothing about the technology, except what we gather from here,” he said. “So these very small texts are a very big thing for us.”
The team says the mechanism was a calendar of the sun and the moon that showed the phases of the moon, the position of the sun and the moon in the zodiac, the position of the planets, and predicted eclipses. Nothing of the sort was known to be made for well over 1,000 years.
“It was not a research tool, something that an astronomer would use to do computations, or even an astrologer to do prognostications, but something that you would use to teach about the cosmos and our place in the cosmos,” Jones said. “It's like a textbook of astronomy as it was understood then, which connected the movements of the sky and the planets with the lives of the ancient Greeks and their environment.”
“I would see it as more something that might be a philosopher's instructional device.”
The letters — some just 1.2 millimeters (1/20 of an inch) tall — were engraved on the inside covers and visible front and back sections of the mechanism, which originally had the rough dimensions of an office box-file, was encased in wood and operated with a hand-crank.
It wasn't quite a manual, more like a long label you would get on a museum to describe a display, according to another team member, Mike Edmunds, who is an emeritus professor of astrophysics at Cardiff University.
“It's not telling you how to use it, it says ‘what you see is such and such,' rather than ‘turn this knob and it shows you something,”' he said Thursday, during a presentation of the team's findings in Athens.
The mechanism's fragments were raised in 1901 from a mid-1st century B.C. shipwreck, and at first seemed like a scruffy footnote to a magnificent body of finds that included bronze and marble statues, luxury glassware and ceramics.
But the sediment-encrusted, compacted lumps soon attracted scientific attention, and were studied by successive teams over the next decades. While hypotheses were made as to the functioning of the gears and the use of the machine, it was for long impossible to read more than a few hundred characters of the texts buried on the inside of a multi-layered mechanism a bit like a big clock.
About 12 years ago, Jones' and Edmunds' team started to use x-ray scanning and imaging technology to analyze the 82 surviving fragments.
“The original investigation was intended to see how the mechanism works, and that was very successful,” Edmunds said. “What we hadn't realized was that the modern techniques that were being used would allow us to read the texts much better both on the outside of the mechanism and on the inside than was done before.”
It was a painstaking process, as to read each of the tiny letters, researchers had to look at dozens of scans.
Edmunds said the style of the text — formal and detailed — implied that it was designed to be much more than a rich collector's plaything.
“It takes it to me out of the realm of executive toys — an executive wouldn't pay all that money to have all that waffle — it's more serious than a toy,” he said.
It was probably made in Greece between 200 and 70 B.C., although no maker's signature has been found.
The team says they have read practically all the text on the surviving fragments. Their greatest hope is that archaeologists currently revisiting the shipwreck will uncover pieces overlooked by the sponge divers who found it a century ago — or even another similar mechanism.
The commercial vessel was a giant of the ancient world — at least 40 meters (130 feet) long — and broke into two as it sank, settling on a steep underwater slope about 50 meters (164 feet) deep.
Most of the inscriptions, and at least 20 gears that worked to display the planets, are still there.
“Perhaps, at some point, our reading may be fleshed out by sections retrieved from the sea,” said team member Yanis Bitsakis.


By Mary Beth Griggs Posted May 17, 2016

Poetry has the ability to transport us to other places and times without our bodies ever leaving the room. But where exactly does it take us?
In the case of one poem, written over 2,500 years ago by the Greek poet Sappho, scientists think they can pinpoint the time to early spring somewhere in ancient Greece.
In a paper recently published in the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington used a planetarium to narrow down the window in which Sappho's 'Midnight Poem' might have been written.
"Planetarium software permits us to simulate the night sky more accurately on any date, past or future, at any location," said Levent Gurdemir, one of the authors of the study. "This is an example of how we are opening up the Planetarium to research into disciplines beyond astronomy, including geosciences, biology, chemistry, art, literature, architecture, history and even medicine."
In this case, Sappho mentions the Pleiades, a star cluster also known as the Seven Sisters. By using the planetarium software to show when the Pleiades were visible in Greece during Sappho's lifetime, they could figure out roughly when the poem might have been set.

The poem in question is below:
δυκε μν σελννα κα πληαδες μσαι δε νκτες, πα δ‘ χετ‘ α, γω δ μνα κατεδω

If that's all Greek to you, here are three translations from the 1800's provided by the authors:
The Moon hath left the sky;
Lost is the Pleiads‘ light;
It is midnight
And time slips by;
But on my couch alone I lie.
(Symonds, 1873–1876).
The moon has set,
and the Pleiades;
it is midnight,
the time is going by,
and I sleep alone.
(Wharton, 1887: 68).
The silver moon is set;
The Pleiades are gone;
Half the long night is spent, and yet
I lie alone.
(Merivale, 1838: 226).
The study found that during Sappho's lifetime (around 570 BC), the earliest date during which the astronomy mentioned in the poem would have been visible in the sky was probably January 25, and the last possible day was March 31, confirming earlier suspicions that it might have been written in the spring.
However others, including blogger Rogue Classicism, have pointed out that the study isn't saying that Sappho wrote the poem at 11:59 pm on January 25, 570 BC.
In fact, by some accounts, Sappho might have died around 570 BC, but even that isn't certain. Much of her life (and death) remains a mystery, with the clues long since lost to time. The authors of the study picked 570 BC somewhat arbitrarily, after determining that the Pleiades were taking roughly the same course across the sky for the decades surrounding 570 BC, always appearing over Greece in the springtime. In other words, if she'd written it in 571 BC or 569 BC (or 581 BC, or 559 BC...you get the idea), the dates would be approximately the same.
Nowadays, folks in the Northern Hemisphere can see the Pleiades mostly between November to April--changes in the Earth's tilt have shifted the time period over the millennia.
It's interesting to think about what Sappho might have been seeing as she wrote the poem, but it's also important to note that it's entirely possible she was taking some poetic license, just describing a lonely evening when even the moon and familiar stars have left her to her thoughts, lying in darkness.
Authors and poets have always looked to the stars for inspiration, including Shakespeare, who sprinkled astronomy liberally throughout his works, but his works weren't scientific observations recorded in iambic pentameter. It was just marvelous dialogue, just like Sappho's simple, elegant lines weren't necessarily a faithful recording of the evening sky. And that's ok. It doesn't make her words any less beautiful.
But it still adds a note of complexity and context to the poem to know that if her words were faithful to the skies, that she was writing of an evening set not in the heat of summer or the icy cool of winter, but rather in the cool hopefulness of a spring night.

The Wrath of Achilles

IN all their battles, the booty won by the Greeks from the enemy had been divided among the chiefs and soldiers, and on one occasion female slaves were given to Agamemnon and Achilles. These girls were not born slaves, but were captives of war reduced to slavery, as was then the custom; for, while the men and boys were always killed, the women and girls were forced to be the servants of the victors.

Now, it happened that the slave given to Agamemnon was the daughter of a priest of Apollo. He was very sorry when he heard she had fallen into the hands of the Greeks, and sent a message to Agamemnon, offering to give him a large sum of money if he would only set her free.

Agamemnon would not accept the money, and sent a rude message to the priest, who, in anger, asked Apollo to avenge this insult by sending a plague upon the Greeks. The god heard and granted this prayer, and soon all the soldiers in the Greek camp were suffering from a terrible disease, of which many of them died.

As no remedy could relieve the sufferers, the Greek leaders consulted an oracle, to find out how the plague might be stopped. Then they learned that Apollo was angry with Agamemnon because he had refused to give up his slave, and that the Greeks would continue to suffer until he made up his mind to give her back to her father.

Thus forced to give her up to save his men from further suffering and even from death, Agamemnon angrily [49] said he would take Achilles' slave instead, and he had her brought to wait upon him in his tent.

Achilles, who wanted to save the Greeks from the plague, allowed the maiden to depart, warning Agamemnon, however, that he would no longer fight for a chief who could be so selfish and unjust. As soon as the girl had gone, therefore, he laid aside his fine armor; and although he heard the call for battle, and the din of fighting, he staid quietly within his tent.

While Achilles sat thus sulking day after day, his companions were bravely fighting. In spite of their bravery, however, the Trojans were gaining the advantage; for, now that Achilles was no longer there to fill their hearts with terror, they fought with new courage.

The Greeks, missing the bright young leader who always led them into the midst of the fray, were gradually driven back by the Trojans, who pressed eagerly forward, and even began to set fire to some of the Greek ships.

Achilles' friend, Patroclus, who was fighting at the head of the Greeks, now saw that the Trojans, unless they were checked, would soon destroy the whole army, and he rushed into Achilles' tent to beg him to come and help them once more.

His entreaties were vain. Achilles refused to move a step; but he consented at last to let Patroclus wear his armor, and, thus disguised, make a last attempt to rally the Greeks and drive back the Trojans.

Patroclus started out, and, when the Trojans saw the well-known armor, they shrank back in terror, for they greatly feared Achilles. They soon saw their mistake, however; and Hector, rushing forward, killed Patroclus, tore the armor off his body, and retired to put it on in honor of his victory.

Then a terrible struggle took place between the Trojans and the Greeks for the possession of Patroclus' body. The news of his friend's death had quickly been carried to Achilles, and had roused him from his indifferent state. Springing upon the wall that stretched before the camp, he gave a mighty shout, at the sound of which the Trojans fled, while Ajax and Ulysses brought back the body of Patroclus.

Mars désarmé par Vénus Mars Disarmed by Venus 1824

BENOUVILLE, François-Léon

French painter (b. 1821, Paris, d. 1859, Paris)
The Wrath of Achilles
Oil on canvas, 156 x 95 cm
Musée Fabre, Montpellier

Painter, part of a French family of painters, brother of Jean-Achille Benouville.He was a student of Picot at the same time as his brother and entered the École des Beaux-Arts at the age of 16. He exhibited regularly at the Salon from 1838 and won the Prix de Rome in 1845 (the same year as his brother) with his Christ before the Tribunal (Paris, École Nationale Supérieur des Beaux-Arts), the almost violent intensity of expression and realism of which is rare in paintings of this period. In Rome he became interested in Early Christian art, from which he acquired a sense of the monumental without being distracted from his search for realism, as exemplified in Martyrs Led away to their Ordeal (1855; Paris, Louvre).
In 1852 he and Alexandre Cabanel, with whom he shared the prestigious prix de Rome in 1845, made several decorative paintings (now destroyed) for the Hôtel de Ville in Paris. Tragically, few large-scale compositions remain by this artist. Considered by many to be among the most promising history painters of his time, Benouville died of typhoid fever at the age of thirty-eight.


"It is a good thing to be rich, it is a good thing to be strong, but it is a better thing to be beloved of many friends."

- Euripides (480-406 BC) Greek Playwright