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.”
by Ed Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
The influence of Plato on western philosophy has been immense; some of his key thoughts are encapsulated in the Allegory of the Cave. This presents some of his key philosophical ideas on the nature of truth, reality and even society. It is essential for understanding the Athenian thinker’s concepts which are still as relevant today as they were over two thousand years ago.
To understand Plato’s Allegory, it is first necessary to grasp some of his major ideas. In his masterpiece, the Republic, he outlines his theory of reality. He proposed that there are two worlds. There is the world of the senses that we know, which is always in flux, and unreliable. Then there was a second world; a timeless and unchanging world of eternal ideas or forms. What we call ‘truth’ is knowledge of these forms or ideas, which are the models for all that we perceive in the physical realm. This world of Ideas is the ‘real’ world. According to Plato we can know the Forms by the practice of reasoning and philosophy.
By Kevin Blood
It was a widespread cult of enormous importance in the ancient world. Socrates’ last words referenced its central figure. Their symbol is still recognizable today, worldwide – even if you don’t know what it is, you’ve likely seen it. But what exactly was the cult of Asklepios?
Established towards the end of the sixth century B.C. in the ancient Greek city of Epidauros, the cult worshipped the ancient Greek god of healing and medicine, Asklepios. The Temple of Asklepios at Epidauros flourished as a healing centre thanks to the careful management of its priests, and the cult’s temples and sanctuaries spread and went on to provide health services for the people of the Graeco-Roman world.
According to myth, Asklepios was the son of the god Apollo, and a mortal woman, Koronis. Apollo loved Koronis, yet her father, King Phlegyas, arranged her marriage to a mortal man. Jealous, Apollo killed the groom with an arrow. In turn, the goddess Artemis killed the pregnant Koronis in the same manner. Apollo saved Asklepios from his mother’s womb, and he was then fostered and tutored by the centaur Kheiron, who taught him the healing arts of medicine.
by Brendan Heard, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
The Roman world was a pagan society with a very strong moral code – but what can be hard for people to understand is that, while moral, that code was very different from our own. Religion was everywhere and part of everything Romans did. Religion’s role was to protect the state, the social order, and to maintain the reciprocal power-play between mortals and the gods. It was not necessarily a dualistic good/evil moral framework of absolutes. Or at least, the absolute rules for good and evil they had were not the same as ours today.
It takes imagination to achieve a distanced and appreciative understanding of life in ancient Rome. Religion in their age, in many ways, had very little to do with morality, in the sense that its purpose was not to ensure you were good or bad. Rather, it was more of a functional backdrop of the casual relations of daily life.
This is evident in the gods the Romans worshipped. In Rome, the gods were everywhere and present in all actions. The Roman gods, in particular, often had a very direct, practical ‘function’. For example: Terminus was the god of landmarks and boundaries, Cloacina was the goddess of the sewer system, and Forculus was the god of the integrity of doors, along with Cardea (goddess of hinges).
by Sean Kelly, Managing Editor, Classical Wisdom
The myth of Elektra, daughter of Agamemnon, seems to have held a particular power on the minds of tragedians – all three of the great Greek playwrights wrote a version which survives to this day. While they are all working with the same core myth, the versions each have some significant differences from one another, which are revealing of the different worldviews of the playwrights, as well as changes in Greek society. By taking a deeper look at these plays we can come to a greater understanding of the respective playwrights, and also the multi-faceted figure of Elektra herself…
Aeschylus’ Libation Bearers
The earliest extant Greek tragedy on this subject matter is the version by Aeschylus. Entitled Libation Bearers (or Choephori in ancient Greek), it is the middle play of the Oresteia trilogy, which was first performed in 458 BC. This play takes place many years after the trilogy’s opener Agamemnon, in which the title character is murdered by his wife Clytemnestra upon his homecoming (or nostos) from the Siege of Troy. Now, his son Orestes and daughter Elektra have grown. Orestes was raised separate from the royal household, but his sister Elektra was brought up by Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus, cousin of Agamemnon.
by Ed Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
We all know January is the first month of the year. Many may even know the month is named after the Roman god Janus. Yet what do we know about this mysterious, two-headed figure?
Janus was the god of entrances, thresholds, and transition. Yet unlike many other Roman gods, which had Greek counterparts (the Roman Venus and the Greek Aphrodite, for instance) Janus was a god that was unique to the Romans. An understanding of this god, therefore, can help us to understand the Romans more distinctly.
What are the Origins of Janus?