Eris: Chaos and Confusion in Ancient Greek Mythology

The most famous tale of Eris recounts her initiating the Trojan War by causing the Judgement of Paris. Introduction Eris is the Greek goddess of strife and discord. Her Roman equivalent is Discordia, which means “discord”. Eris’s Greek opposite is Harmonia, whose Roman counterpart is Concordia.[1] Homer equated her with the war-goddess Enyo, whose Roman[…]

The Dragon in Ancient China

Dragons were one of the earliest creatures to appear in the tales and legends of ancient China. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Dragons appear in the mythology of many ancient cultures but nowhere else in the world was the creature quite so revered as in China. There, in marked contrast to other world mythologies, the dragon[…]

Ten Ancient Stories and the Geological Events That May Have Inspired Them

If you dig deep enough, you can find some truth to legends and creation stories. Introduction Myths have fed the imaginations and souls of humans for thousands of years. The vast majority of these tales are just stories people have handed down through the ages. But a few have roots in real geological events of[…]

Ancient Mesopotamian Cosmology and Mythology

Mesopotamian myths appear to have had a more practical purpose and were used to cure and prevent various physical ailments. Introduction In order to understand the place of myth in Mesopotamian culture, it is first necessary to give a general introduction to Mesopotamian religion. First, there is no single Mesopotamian ‘religion.’ The region known by[…]

Elektra: A Sense of Justice in Ancient Greek Mythology

Meet one of the greatest of all the characters in ancient Greek drama. Elektra’s Story To understand Elektra (also known as Electra), daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, you need to know that her family is cursed. Her story is tragic. Elektra’s father is Agamemnon and her mother is Clytemnestra. She has a brother, Orestes, and[…]

‘Risen from Foam’: Aphrodite, Ancient Greek Goddess of Love

The lure of Aphrodite still resonates in Western popular culture today. Introduction Aphrodite is the ancient Greek goddess of love, beauty, and sexuality. She is primarily associated with selfish sexual desire and lust. Thus, it is not surprising that Aphrodite is characterized in many myths as vain, ill-tempered, and easily offended. She is also often[…]

Spells, Charms, Erotic Dolls: Love Magic in the Ancient Mediterranean

Erotic spells were a popular form of magic in ancient Greece and Rome. Ancient spells were often violent, brutal and without any sense of caution or remorse. It was a well-kept secret among historians during the late 19th and early 20th centuries that the practice of magic was widespread in the ancient Mediterranean. Historians wanted[…]

Investigating Homo Floresiensis and the Myth of the Ebu Gogo

According to folklore, such tiny, hairy people as her once roamed the tropical forests alongside modern humans. An ancient legend from the Indonesian island of Flores speaks of a mysterious, wild grandmother of the forest who eats everything: the ‘ebu gogo’. According to folklore, such tiny, hairy people as her once roamed the tropical forests[…]

Laocoön: The Suffering of a Trojan Priest and Its Afterlife

Is this statue at the Vatican actually the ancient sculpture mentioned by Pliny, or rather a clever Renaissance forgery? Introduction The sculpture group of Laocoön and His Sons, on display in the Vatican since its rediscovery in 1506 CE, depicts the suffering of the Trojan prince and priest Laocoön (brother of Anchises) and his young sons Antiphantes[…]

Zorvanism: Zorastrian Sect in the Ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire

It is often referenced as a Zoroastrian heresy because it departed significantly from central Zoroastrian beliefs. Introduction Zorvanism (also given as Zuvanism, Zurvanism) was a sect of the Persian religion Zoroastrianism which emerged in the late Achaemenid Empire (c. 550-330 BCE) and flourished during the Sassanian Empire (224-651 CE). It is often referenced as a[…]

Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Persia

Ancient Persia had the same interest in what happens after death as any culture in the present day. Introduction A vision of the afterlife is articulated by every culture, ancient or modern, in an effort to answer the question of what happens after death, and this was as true for the ancient Persian view of[…]

Ancient Persian Mythology

The ancient Persian religious tradition was passed down orally, and the only written texts relating to it come from after the prophet Zoroaster. Introduction The mythology of ancient Persia originally developed in the region known as Greater Iran (the Caucasus, Central Asia, South Asia, and West Asia). The Persians were initially part of a migratory[…]

An Epilepsy ‘Demon’ on a 2,700-Year-Old Tablet

A 2,700-year-old cuneiform tablet from ancient Iraq depicts the demon that the ancient Assyrians thought caused epilepsy. It’s a previously overlooked element of the tablet describing medical treatments. The demon is visible at the bottom of the image—horns and face to the left and legs to the right. When Assyriologist Troels Pank Arbøll of the[…]

Prometheus and Tityus: Hepatic (Liver) Regeneration in Ancient Greek Mythology

Hepatic regeneration was well known to ancient Greeks, and this natural ability was established in the tales of Prometheus and the Giant Tityus. Abstract The accurate knowledge of surgical anatomy, the amelioration of post-operative processes and the continuously increasing experience of surgeons nowadays allow the performance of severe hepatic operations (e.g., wide liver resections, liver[…]

Noah’s Ark: The Mythology of a Journey as Impossible as the Travels of Odysseus

It contains so many incredible violations of the laws of nature that it cannot possibly be accepted by any thinking person. By Robert A. Moore Introduction Suppose you picked up the newspaper tomorrow morning and were startled to see headlines announcing the discovery of a large ship high on the snowy slopes of Mt. Ararat[…]

The Atrahasis Epic: One of the Oldest Ancient Mesopotamian Flood Myths

Written down in the mid-17th century BCE, the Atrahasis can be dated to the reign of the Babylonian King Hammurabi’s great-grandson. Introduction The Atrahasis is the Akkadian/Babylonian epic of the Great Flood sent by the gods to destroy human life. Only the good man, Atrahasis (his name translates as `exceedingly wise’) was warned of the[…]

Ancient Persian Religion

How the early Persians worshipped their gods is unknown except that it involved fire and outdoor altars. Introduction Ancient Persian religion was a polytheistic faith which corresponds roughly to what is known today as ancient Persian mythology. It first developed in the region known as Greater Iran (the Caucasus, Central Asia, South Asia, and West[…]

Twelve Ancient Persian Mythological Creatures

Introduction The mythology of any civilization reflects its core values, greatest fears, and highest hopes and so it is with the mythology of ancient Persia. The great heroes like Karsasp, Thraetaona, and Rustum express particularly Persian values but, as with all mythical figures, are recognizable to people of any culture as role models whose best[…]

Cyclops: The One-Eyed Giant of Ancient Greek Mythology

Hesiod (c. 700 BCE), writing in his Theogony, tells us that the Cyclopes were the children of Earth (Gaia). By Mark CartwrightHistorian Historian A cyclops (meaning ‘circle-eyed’) is a one-eyed giant first appearing in the mythology of ancient Greece. The Greeks believed that there was an entire race of cyclopes who lived in a faraway[…]

Asclepius, Ancient Greek God of Medicine

By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Asclepius was the ancient Greek god of medicine and he was also credited with powers of prophecy. The god had several sanctuaries across Greece; the most famous was at Epidaurus which became an important centre of healing in both ancient Greek and Roman times and was the site of athletic, dramatic,[…]

Maenads: The ‘Raving Ones’ of the Ancient Greek Bacchanalia

These women were mythologized as the “mad women” who were nurses of Dionysus in Nysa. Introduction In Greek mythology, maenads were the female followers of Dionysus and the most significant members of the Thiasus, the god’s retinue. Their name literally translates as “raving ones”. Maenads were known as Bassarids, Bacchae, or Bacchantes in Roman mythology[…]

Hippolyte and the Amazons of Ancient Greece

In mythology, the Amazons were daughters of Ares, the god of war. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction In Greek mythology, the Amazons were a race of warlike women noted for their riding skills, courage, and pride, who lived at the outer limits of the known world, sometimes specifically mentioned as the city of Themiskyra on the[…]

Roman Household Spirits: Manes, Panes, and Lares

The gods were thought to have a vested interest in the health and success of the Roman state. Introduction To the ancient Romans, everything was imbued with a divine spirit (numen, plural: numina) which gave it life. Even supposedly inanimate objects like rocks and trees possessed a numen, a belief which no doubt grew out[…]

The Priestess Pythia at the Ancient Delphic Oracle

The role of priestess at Delphi was enormously influential. She was consulted on everything from warfare to love to public policy. Introduction In a time and place that offered few career opportunities for women, the job of the priestess of Apollo at Delphi stands out. Her position was at the centre of one of the[…]

The Devil Does His Mischief: The Huguenot World of Demonology during the Scientific Age

Huguenots were not only believers in science, but also remained firmly committed to their belief in God and his providence.[1] At the request of the famed scientist Robert Boyle, the French divine, Pierre du Moulin, translated an account of a demon that had plagued a Huguenot family in Burgundy, France in 1612. Moulin’s 1658 translation[…]

Ghosts in Ancient China

Ghost stories were the earliest form of literature in ancient China. By Emily MarkHistorian Introduction Ghost stories were the earliest form of literature in ancient China. They were almost certainly part of a very old oral tradition before  writing  developed during the Shang Dynasty (1600 – 1046 BCE) and they continue to be popular in China today. Ghosts were taken very[…]

Religion in Ancient Greece

The religious practices of the Greeks extended beyond mainland Greece. Introduction Ancient Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs, rituals, and mythology originating in ancient Greece in the form of both popular public religion and cult practices. These groups varied enough for it to be possible to speak of Greek religions or “cults” in the[…]