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The Last Words of Marcus Aurelius

by on January 26, 2022

by Andrew Rattray
There’s something poignant about last words. A final flourish made all the more beautiful because we know there’s no more wisdom to come. A reminder that all things come to an end. Eugene Delacroix, the 19th century romantic artist, certainly thought so when he painted Last Words of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius’. The piece is exactly what you would expect when you picture the final utterances of someone so storied as Marcus Aurelius. Attendants and family clamouring around the deathbed with Commodus, Marcus’ son, prominently featured. 
Interestingly, Aurelius and Delacroix had more in common than perhaps either would have realised.  Aside from being a great admirer of the Stoics, Eugene Delacroix is also considered by some to be one of the last ‘old masters’ of European painting, while Marcus Aurelius is considered to be the last of the ‘good Emperors’ who oversaw the Pax Romana. This was a ‘Golden Age’ of Rome’s majesty, a time of unparalleled consolidation, development, peace and prosperity. These two men unwittingly oversaw the end of an era in their respective fields.
So, Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor, and last in a line of greats. But what were his last words exactly, and why do they still resonate with us nearly 2,000 years after his death? Well, first, to better understand his words we must better understand the man.

Dante’s Ulysses and Poetic Presumption

by on January 25, 2022

by Justin D. Lyons, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Dante’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy (completed in 1320) is full of allusions. As readers travel the road through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, they are everywhere confronted with names and stories stretching back to classical mythology. The classicist will find a great many familiar characters. But one of these, Ulysses (also known by his Greek name, Odysseus), is central to Dante’s journey through the afterlife.
Dante’s presentation of Ulysses was not drawn directly from Homer, but from Virgil, Statius, Ovid, and especially Cicero. Cicero linked Ulysses for a drive for knowledge and wisdom. In De Finibus (V.18), Cicero described Homer’s account of the call of the Sirens, which exerted a powerful draw on Ulysses, as an offer of knowledge. Thus, Ulysses becomes an archetype for all who possess a passionate love of learning, disdaining hardship in pursuit of knowledge.
Ulysses (or Odysseus) and the Sirens
Ulysses (or Odysseus) and the Sirens
Dante incorporates the classical tradition into his Ulysses, adopting the Roman view of the man as a treacherous schemer, placing him among the false counselors in the eighth circle of Hell for his deceptions and tricks. (Inferno XXVI. 58-63). But these offenses are not the emphasis of the Canto. The highlight is Dante’s presentation of the story of the last journey of Ulysses, which seems to be the poet’s own invention.

The Mysterious Death of Alexander The Great (Part Two)

by on January 21, 2022

by Lydia Serrant, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Part One can be found HERE.
Alexander the Great was one of the greatest conquerors the world has ever known. Yet he died young, at the age of 32. What exactly caused his shocking, premature death? The main theories are below….

The Mysterious Death of Alexander The Great (Part One)

by on January 21, 2022

by Lydia Serrant, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Known for his great achievements throughout life, the death of Alexander the Great is just as famous as the man himself.
Considered as one of the greatest military generals the world had ever seen, Alexander the Great established a vast empire that reached from Egypt to India and the Middle East during his short 13-year rule as King of Macedonia.
But how did he die? Alexander’s demise has been the subject of debate for 2,000 years, with many probable causes having been put forward by professional and novice historians alike.

The Triad of Artemis-Selene-Hecate

by on January 21, 2022

by Ed Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Ancient religion was very dynamic and evolved over the centuries. One of the most interesting examples of this is the Triad of Artemis, or the Triple Goddess, wherein three goddesses were conflated or grouped together. These three goddesses were Artemis, Selene and Hecate.
The group is frequently known in modern times as the Artemis Triad.  But in Graeco-Roman civilization, the Triad was known by a variety of different names.  Artemis is one of the Olympian gods and was the patron deity of hunting, wildlife, virginity, and the Moon. She was revered as the protector of women and children and for her healing powers. She was a daughter of Zeus and was also known as the virgin goddess.
Selene (or Cynthia) was another lunar deity and was believed to embody the Moon.  She was the daughter of Titans, and her siblings included Helios, god of the sun and Eos, the dawn. Selene was thought to drive her silver chariot across the skies at night, which represented the moon. Her partner was Endymion with whom she had up to 50 daughters. She was often represented with horns, which are thought to represent the Moon in its waning crescent phase.

Should the Classics be used for Nationalism?

by on January 18, 2022

Today we will begin with an excellent query as posited by one of your fellow readers, Inês from Portugal: 
“Hello Classical Wisdom! Happy new year! 
I’m a huge fan of your work and all things of the classics.
I’ve been attending your webinars and I think that a great theme for discussion would be “The classics and Nationalism.”