The City of Gilgamesh: Temple Rule in Ancient Babylon

Passing lion, brick panel from the Procession Way which ran from the Marduk temple to the Ishtar Gate and the Akitu Temple / Photo by Jastrow, Louvre Museum, Wikimedia Commons Gilgamesh, legendary ruler of Uruk, famous drinker, womanizer and battler against monsters, was a King Arthur of Mesopotamian antiquity. By Dr. Paul Kriwaczek British Historian Uruk[…]

Human and Non-Human Sacrifice in Aztec Religious Practice

 / An Aztec ceremonial knife with a cedarwood handle and flint blade. The figure of the handle is covered in turquoise and shell mosiac and represents an Aztec Eagle knight. 1400-1521 CE. (British Museum, London) / British Museum, Creative Commons This was a strictly ritualized process which gave the highest possible honor to the gods and was regarded[…]

The Power Struggle between Government Officials and Clergy in Ancient History

Fragment of an inscripted clay cone of Urukagina (or Uruinimgina), lugal (prince) of Lagash. The inscription reads: “He [Uruinimgina] dug (…) the canal to the town-of-NINA. At its beginning, he built the Eninnu-(E-ninnu or Temple-Ninnu); at its ending, he built the Esiraran”. / Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen, Louvre Museum, Wikimedia Commons When secular governors supported by the armies appeared[…]

The Ancient Roman Cult of Mithras

The Tauroctony / Photo by CristianChirita, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Wikimedia Commons The Roman deity Mithras appears in the historical record in the late 1st century A.D., and disappears from it in the late 4th century A.D. By Dr. Roger Pearse Ancient Historian Introduction The Roman deity Mithras appears in the historical record in the late 1st century A.D., and disappears from it[…]

Hero Cults in Ancient Greece

Sacello Ipogeico (Heroon), Paestum, Italy / Photo by Berthold Werner, Wikimedia Commons Hero cults were one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion. Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 11.24.2018 Public Historian Brewminate Editor-in-Chief Introduction Hero cults were one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion. In Homeric Greek, “hero” (ἥρως, hḗrōs) refers to a man who[…]

How Punitive, Omniscient Gods May Have Encouraged the Expansion of Human Society

With moralistic gods watching, it’s easier to be fair and cooperative. Olivier, CC BY-NC-ND For human groups to grow from small, intimate communities to the huge interconnected societies we know now, people needed to be willing to cooperate with strangers. Religion might have played a big role. By Dr. Benjamin Grant Purzycki / 02.10.2016 Senior Researcher, Department of Behavior, Ecology, and Culture Max[…]

The Petrifying Gaze of Medusa: Ambivalence, Explexis, and the Sublime

Photo by bl3w, Flickr, Creative Commons Tracing the notion of ekplexis in Greek rhetoric and the connections in etymology, myth, and pictorial traditions, between the petrifying powers of art and the myth of Medusa. By Dr. Caroline van Eck Professor of Art History University of Cambridge Abstract The Dutch art theorists Junius and van Hoogstraten describe the sublime,[…]

Common Beliefs and Practices in Ancient Greek Religion

Aegeus at right consults the Pythia or oracle of Delphi. Vase 440-430 BC. He was told “Do not loosen the bulging mouth of the wineskin until you have reached the height of Athens, lest you die of grief”, which at first he did not understand. / Photo by Zde, Antikensammlung Berlin, Altes Museum, Wikimedia Commons We speak of Greek religions or “cults” in[…]

Living the Principles of Ma’at in Ancient Egyptian Religion

The limestone Pyramidion of Ramose, from the top of the tomb of the ‘Necropolis Scribe’. Scenes on all four sides depict the worship of the sun. From Deir-el-Demina, New Kingdom, XIX Dynasty, 1279-1213 BCE. (Egyptian Museum, Turin) / Photo by Mark Cartwright, Creative Commons During one’s life on Earth in ancient Egypt, one was expected to uphold the principle[…]

Hippolytus: Asexuality and Ancient Greece

“Phèdre et Hippolyte” (1802), by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin / Wikimedia Commons Classical discussions often get caught between that problematic binary of social constructionism vs essentialism. By Dr. Chris Mowat / 05.17.2018 Visiting Fellow in Classics Newcastle University Myth was a great tool with which the ancient Greeks were able to think about themselves and their place[…]

The Julio-Claudian Imperial Cult at the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias

The Sebasteion, excavated in 1979-81, was a grandiose temple complex dedicated to Aphrodite and the Julio-Claudian emperors and was decorated with a lavish sculptural program of which much survives. / Photo by wneuheisel, Wikimedia Commons Augustus and the Julio-Claudian emperors’ successful reign over the vast Roman Empire were due primarily to provincial loyalty and acquiescence.[…]

Consultation with Apollo’s Pythia at Ancient Delphi

The Sacred Way at Delphi with the remains of the Athenians’ Treasury The Delphic Oracle belonged to Apollo, and his priestess, called The Pythia, gave her oracles from inside Apollo’s temple. By Dr. Susan O. Shapiro (above) and Jessica Mellenthin Shapiro: Professor of History Utah State University Introduction The word, “oracle,” comes from the Latin[…]

From Mythology to Psychology: Archaic Psychology in Greek Myths

The Triumph of Civilization / Photo by Grizzli, Kunsthalle Hamburg, Wikimedia Commons The enormous contribution of ancient Greeks to the progress of philosophy, natural sciences and arts, can’t be contested. Unfortunately, the role they played in the history of psychology is hardly mentioned. By Dr. Vlad Petre Glăveanu Associate Professor of Psychology Webster University Geneva[…]

Cronus and Rhea: The Second Dynasty of Greek Gods and Goddesses

The rise of Zeus. By E.M. Berens / 05.21.2014 Cronus (Saturn) Cronus was the god of time in its sense of eternal duration. He married Rhea, daughter of Uranus and Gaea, a very important divinity. Their children were, three sons: Aïdes (Pluto), Poseidon (Neptune), Zeus (Jupiter), and three daughters: Hestia (Vesta), Demeter (Ceres), and Hera[…]

Aztec Sacrifice: Repayment to the Gods for Continued Prosperity

An Aztec ceremonial knife with a cedarwood handle and flint blade. The figure of the handle is covered in turquoise and shell mosiac and represents an Aztec Eagle knight. 1400-1521 CE. (British Museum, London) / British Museum The highest possible honor to the gods regarded as a necessity to ensure humanity’s continued prosperity. By Mark Cartwright / 05.03.2018[…]

The Enduring Appeal of Norse Gods

The stuff of legend. Shutterstock Norse mythology is having a moment as a leading author re-tells the tales for a new generation. By Dr. Carolyne Larrington / 02.21.2017 Professor and Tutorial Fellow in English St. John’s College University of Oxford The Norse gods are back and ready for a new generation in acclaimed fantasy author Neil Gaiman’s newly published book Norse Mythology. Yet the truth is[…]

Get Literate in Myth, Religion, and Theology

We need to move beyond assumptions that religion is simply about dogmatism. Daniel Montemayor We need to move beyond assumptions that religion is simply about dogmatism, and should continue teaching religion within a secular educational structure. By Dr. Constant Mews / 03.19.2015 Director, Center for Religious Studies Monash University Myth and religion are terms re-entering public debate in Australia. Certainly, myth is a[…]

Britannia, Druids and the Surprisingly Modern Origin of Myths

Sky Atlantic We think of the Druids as being embedded in British culture from the mists of ancient times. But what we think we know about Druids is of surprisingly modern provenance. By Dr. Matthew Kelly / 01.16.2018 Professor of Modern History Northumbria University, Newcastle The new TV series Britannia, which has won plaudits as heralding a new generation of British folk-horror, is clearly not intended to be strictly historical. Instead[…]

The Truth about the Amazons – the Real Wonder Women

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman: a true Amazonian, she is trained in a range of skills in both combat and hunting. Atlas Entertainment, Cruel & Unusual Films, DC Entertainment Since the epics of the Homeric poets, there have been tales of the mysterious, war-like Amazon women. The myth is likely based on the ‘strong, free’ women of the nomadic Scythian tribe. By Dr. Marguerite Johnson / 03.29.2017 Associate Professor of Ancient History[…]

‘Let Us Adore and Drink!’: A Brief History of Wine and Religion

Caravaggio’s 1595 masterpiece Bacchus. Wikimedia Commons Wine, more than other beverage, is intimately connected to celebration and worship. By Dr. Robert Fuller / 12.23.2014 Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies Bradley University In a letter to the Abbe Morellet in 1779, Benjamin Franklin mused that the strategic location of the elbow is proof that God desires us[…]

How King Arthur Became One of the Most Pervasive Legends of All Time

Vuk Kostic/www.shutterstock.com Historic heroes like King Arthur have helped audiences through the ages to cope with troubling times. By Dr. Raluca Radulescu / 02.02.2017 Professor of Medieval Literature and English Literature Bangor University King Arthur is one of, if not the, most legendary icons of medieval Britain. His popularity has lasted centuries, mostly thanks to the numerous incarnations of his story that pop[…]