Ancient Greek Scroll’s Hidden Contents Revealed through Infrared Imaging

The scroll was discovered and painstakingly unrolled in 1795. More than 200 years ago, scholars glued the remains of an ancient papyrus scroll onto cardboard to preserve it. But the scroll, a history of Plato’s Academy, also had writing on the back. Now scholars have deployed imaging technology to read what’s been concealed. This scroll[…]

The Plague at Athens, 430-427 BCE

The epidemic killed upwards of 1/3 of the population; a population which numbered 250,000-300,000 in the 5th century BCE. Introduction In the 2nd year of the Peloponnesian War, 430 BCE, an outbreak of plague erupted in Athens. The illness would persist throughout scattered parts of Greece and the eastern Mediterranean until finally dying out in[…]

The Dark Ages of Ancient Greece

The details of Greek history in the Dark Age remain difficult to discover. Introduction The local wars, economic disruptions, and movements of peoples in the period 1200–1000 B.C. destroyed Mycenaean civilization in Greece and weakened or obliterated cities, kingdoms, and civilizations across the Near East. This extended period of violence brought grinding poverty to many[…]

Helen of Troy, Counter-Ambush Expert

Helen knows both how to spot an ambush in the making and how to tell a great ambush story. Introduction In addition to her superlative beauty, Helen in the Iliad and Odyssey has exceptional talents. She recognizes Telemachos before anyone else in Sparta does (Odyssey 4.138–146). She can also recognize a goddess in disguise (Iliad[…]

Exploring the Architecture of Greek World Heritage Sites

Greece, the ‘cradle of western civilization’, is home to a large number of spectacular sites from the ancient world, several of which have been placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Introduction These sites of great historical importance, interest, beauty, and impact do not all reflect the civilization we call Classical Greece – they range[…]

The Parthenon Sculptures at the British Museum

The temple known as the Parthenon was built on the Acropolis of Athens between 447 and 438 B.CE. By the British Museum Athens and Democracy By around 500 B.C.E. ‘rule by the people,’ or democracy, had emerged in the city of Athens. Following the defeat of a Persian invasion in 480-479 B.C.E., mainland Greece and[…]

The Heroic Cult of Agamemnon in Ancient Greece

Agamemnon received heroic worship from the establishment of the sanctuary at Amyklai along with his consort Kassandra, known locally as Alexandra. The Atrid Agamemnon received cult in two Peloponnesian towns, Mycenae and Amyklai, both of which claimed to have his grave. The conflicting reports about the location of his grave correspond to early variations in the literary[…]

Ten Hidden Ancient Treasures in Caria, Turkey

Caria was ruled by satraps who were subject to Cyrus the Great. Introduction Located at the crossroads of many ancient civilizations, Turkey is a haven for archaeology lovers. Over the centuries, a succession of empires and kingdoms – Hittite, Lydian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and, finally, Ottoman – ruled over Anatolia. The country’s unique cultural[…]

Plato’s Euthyphro: Piety, Pretension, and a Playwright’s Skill

In reading Plato as Plato-the-Philosopher, one misses the nuances of Plato-the-Artist. Introduction The Dialogues of the Greek philosopher Plato (l. 428/427-348-347 BCE) have exerted such an extraordinary influence over western thought and culture for the past 2,000 years that readers in the modern day frequently approach his works as philosophical icons. The Republic is routinely taught in college classes as the blueprint for[…]

Euripides’ ‘Bacchae’ in Its Historical Context

The Peloponnesian war had been dragging on for 25 years, and the military situation was getting progressively worse for the Athenians. Euripides in Macedonia The Bacchae,[1] as we know it, was first produced in Athens under the direction of Euripides’ son, also called Euripides, in perhaps 405 BC,[2] a year or two after his father’s[…]

Sparta and the Collapse of Ancient Greece

Neither the course nor the conclusion of the Peloponnesian War was foreseeable at its outset. Of the two most powerful states in classical Greece, Athens was a forward-looking democracy with a far-flung naval empire, Sparta a land-locked mixed government heading a league of nearby states.  In 431 BC, the long-simmering rivalry between them erupted into open[…]

The Graces in Ancient Greek Mythology

They were considered the youthful bestowers of beauty in all its forms. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Graces (alsoCharites, sing. Charis) were goddesses from Greek mythology who personified charm, grace, and beauty.  Hesiod  describes  three Graces, and this is their most common grouping in literature and art, but their number varies depending on the source. Associated with  Aphrodite and spring flowers especially, they were[…]

How to Worship Artemis and Get Something in Return in Ancient Greece

What the epigraphic and archaeological evidence have shown. For centuries, worshippers of Artemis flocked to the ancient city of Ephesos in present-day Turkey for an annual nativity rite. Young men known as Kouretes hiked to the summit of Mount Solmissos, beating their spears on their shields, diverting the attention of the Greek goddess Hera from[…]

Finding the Hidden Hellenism in Melbourne’s Architecture

Take a tour through Melbourne with a Greek lens and discover the rich Hellenic influences that shape the city. Introduction Melbourne is the city with the largest Greek population outside of Europe. Since the earliest instances of Greek migration in the mid-19th century, the Greek community has been a great contributor to the richness of[…]

The Library of Celsus in Ancient Ephesus

This was a great center of learning and early Christian scholarship during the Roman period. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Library of Celsus in ancient Ephesus, located in western Turkey, was a repository of over 12,000 scrolls and one of the most impressive buildings in the Roman Empire. Constructed in the 2nd century CE, it[…]

Foreign Influences and Imported Luxuries in Ancient Thrace

A substantial amount of the artifacts in the Thracian archaeological record comes from diverse cultural and stylistic traditions. By Teodora A. Nikolova Introduction Defining Thracian art is a difficult task due to the fact that what we call today Thrace was never a single unified state but, rather, a collection of many independent communities (or[…]

Winged Victory: The Nike of Samothrace

The statue of the goddess of victory was excavated in 1863 CE on the Greek island of Samothrace. Introduction One of the most celebrated works of Hellenistic art is without doubt the Nike of Samothrace, on display at the Louvre since 1884 CE. The white Parian marble statue represents the personification of winged victory. In a sense, the impact of[…]

The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta

The Lacedaemonians abandoned the grand strategy they had articulated early on. Introduction In ancient Lacedaemon, as in all enduring political communities, there was a symbiotic relationship between the form of government chosen, the way of life that this form of government fostered, and the grand strategy that the community gradually articulated for the defense of[…]

Agriculture in Ancient Greece

Agriculture was the foundation of the Ancient Greek economy. Nearly 80% of the population was involved in this activity.[1] Agricultural Products Farm During the early time of Greek history, as shown in the Odyssey, Greek agriculture – and diet – was based on cereals (sitos, though usually translated as wheat, could in fact designate any type of cereal grain). Even if the ancients were[…]

The Celtic Invasion of Ancient Greece

While in the Balkans, Celtic tribes managed to conquer several Greek, Illyrian, and Thracian armies, carving out territories in short order. By Jeffrey KingHistorian Introduction Between the 5th and 4th centuries BCE, Celtic tribes moved en masse into southern Europe, intent on seizing land and wealth to feed their swelling numbers. As these tribes began[…]

Ancient Greek Temples of Sicily

Greek temples are one of the earliest well-defined expressions of what we now recognize as the Western tradition in architecture. Introduction There are at least a thousand reasons to visit Sicily, the great island – indeed the largest in the Mediterranean – that forms the triangular football to the boot that is the Italian peninsula. They are all[…]

Santorini Volcano: Scientists Learn More about the Bronze Age Monster

Geophysicists use sound waves to build a picture of the magma and rock beneath this active volcano, most of which is underwater. It’s like CT scanning the Earth. Introduction The island of Santorini in the Mediterranean has attracted people for millennia. Today, it feels magical to watch the sun set from cliffs over the deep[…]

Exploring Western Crete’s Ancient Minoan Archaeological Treasures

Remainders of Crete’s extraordinary past are scattered all over the island. Introduction As the cradle of European Civilization and a meeting place of diverse cultures, Crete is a magical island that stands apart in the heart of the Mediterranean sea. Its prominent place in world history dates back to the mysterious and fascinating Bronze Age civilization of the Minoans, who were building lavish labyrinth-like[…]

The Battle of Issus: Alexander’s Rematch with Darius

Darius took personal command of his army for this encounter and led them to a resounding defeat. Introduction The Battle of Issus (also Issos) occurred in southern Anatolia, on November 5, 333 BC between the Hellenic League led by Alexander the Great and the Achaemenid Empire, led by Darius III, in the second great battle[…]

Battle of the Granicus: Alexander the Great’s Opening Move on Persia

It was here, against all odds, that Alexander defeated the forces of the Persian satraps of Asia Minor. Introduction The Battle of the Granicus River in May 334 BC was the first of three major battles fought between Alexander the Great and the Persian Empire. Fought in northwestern Asia Minor, near the site of Troy,[…]

The Ancient Macedonian Conquest of Persia

The conquest of Persia was not preordained and those living within its vast empire could never foresee its fall. Introduction In the year 356 BC, the Persian Empire still stood strong and seemed as if it would last another hundred years. However, on the 20th of July a sign was sent that brought the men of[…]

Was the Real Socrates More Worldly and Amorous than We Knew?

The typically idealized picture of Socrates is not the whole story, and it gives us no indication of the genesis of his ideas. Socrates is widely considered to be the founding figure of Western philosophy – a thinker whose ideas, transmitted by the extensive writings of his devoted follower Plato, have shaped thinking for more[…]

The Ancient Samaritans and Greek Culture

In a gradual process of Hellenization, the Samaritans developed their own variant of Hellenism. When Alexander the Great conquered the Middle East, including ancient Palestine, in 332 BCE, that conquest brought about profound changes in the entire region. From then onwards, all countries in that area (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Palestine) underwent a[…]

Ennea Hodoi: The ‘Nine Ways’ of Ancient Amphipolis

Exploring the settlement of the Thracian tribe of the Edones. Human occupation of the area of Amphipolis dates back to prehistoric times. In the sixth century BCE, it was a settlement of the Thracian tribe of the Edones, favorably situated on a hilltop (“hill 133”) on the east bank of the river Strymon. Ennea Hodoi[…]