By Ed Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
The Battle of Adrianople (378 AD) was one of the most important battles in ancient history. It was one of Rome’s greatest defeats and left an Emperor missing, presumed dead… it was the beginning of the end of an empire.
Background to the Battle of Adrianople
The Roman Empire was already greatly weakened by the death of the Emperor Julius, the Apostate in Persia. When Valentinian became Emperor, he was able to stabilize the situation. He then appointed his brother, Valens (328-378), to be the ruler of the Roman East, despite the fact that was not an able soldier. Indeed, he once nearly resigned in a panic during a revolt! Valentinian died of a stroke in 375 AD and left the Western Empire to his son Gratian. It was at this moment that a crisis developed on the Danuban frontier.
Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Athena… these are just a few of the names that Greek mythology lovers know, as they are no doubt aware of the standard Greek pantheon, the Olympians. They get all the air time, after all, with their epic tales of love, murder, incest, revenge…and everything in between.
The Titans, likewise, grab headlines with their creation stories… They gave fire to man, hold up the earth, and father the sun, the moon and the dawn.
While these deities were held in high esteem by the ancients, the Greeks also worshipped smaller, kinder, more…natural gods – the gods of the countryside. Not surprisingly, these represent water, trees and beasts. Some of these you will have heard about, but others, perhaps, are a little less known:
Or, The Girl Who Told the Truth about the Gods
By Nicole Saldarriaga, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
I’d take a look at the humble spider. Though spiders may not qualify as the most terrifying of creatures, their inclusion in a popular myth about Roman goddess, Minerva, certainly clues us into what the Greeks and Romans found chilling. I’m speaking here about the myth of Arachne, of course.
Though it’s considered one of the “lesser myths” of Greco-Roman mythology—probably because it’s not quite as detailed as other myths—it still gives us wonderful insight into ancient culture. Essentially, it functions as three different things: a moralistic warning, a subtle jab at the gods, and an origin story.
by A.P. David
Unlike Socrates, Plato wrote—and wrote and wrote. This was a man who said, on a rare occasion in the first person, that his theories could not be expressed in writing. Just as inner contradiction is a key to effective drama, where we call it ‘conflict’, contradiction appears to be the fount and foil of philosophy. This is likely a reason why Plato was obsessed with the daimonic, galvanic impact of one peculiar man on the sophistic/philosophical movement that came to a head in fifth-century Athens. It was a man whom Plato had probably known all his life… it was none other than Socrates himself.
Athens was the birthplace of tragedy and comedy, and Plato was supposed to be a successor to Euripides and Agathon in tragedy. Instead, he fell victim to that indescribable pull of Socrates.
After that, only one person could be dramatized by Plato and it certainly wasn’t the traditional, mythic figures posed as Trojan horses. It could only be Socrates, who died for his sins. The man who sent Plato and his crowd into despair at his death would be the focalizing agent for Plato’s dramatic instinct.
By Jocelyn Hitchcock, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
The Pompeii Mosaics: The Volcano Erupts
For nearly 2000 years Pompeii and its destruction has captivated the minds of historians, archaeologists, and tourists alike. Although lost beneath rubble until rediscovered in 1748, writings from Pliny the Younger clued us in to a massive volcanic eruption that shook the Bay of Naples. The date of the Mount Vesuvius eruption is generally 79 CE, though recently research has been carried out to refine this date, even down to the exact day.
The volcano erupted and layered the Bay of Naples, especially Pompeii, in a thick layer of ash and debris, acting as a preservation blanket over the people, buildings, and material of the site. Because of the chemical makeup of the volcanic ash and its special properties, what archaeologists have uncovered in the past 250 years is nothing short of a completely intact, Roman city at the height of the Roman Empire. While much ink has been spilled on the impressive preservation and casts of bodies, the mosaics from Pompeii are equally as stunning and deserve an in-depth look of their own.
Written by Jocelyn Hitchcock, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
“Sing, O Muse, of the man of many devices…”
Line one of the Odyssey begins like so many in ancient literature, by invoking the muses or gods. It was a common practice to ask, thank, and implore the other-worldly forces for inspiration and guidance in writing and story-telling.
The muses themselves are generally split into two different generations: the “Elder” and the “Younger.” The Younger Muses are perhaps more widely known, as they were often represented on Mount Olympus or in the company of Dionysus and Apollo. Stories, music, and dance were all a part of their entertainment repertoire, performing in joy and in sorrow, as they were said to have been present even at the funerals of Achilles and Patroclus, lamenting the deceased and their honors in life.