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The Sirens: A Symbol of Fear

by on May 22, 2019

By Jocelyn Hitchcock, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Sirens with Odysseus

Odysseus and the Sirens, an 1891 painting by John William Waterhouse

“For with their high clear song, the Sirens bewitch him, as they sit there in a meadow piled high with the moldering skeletons of men, whose withered skin still hangs upon their bones.” Odyssey. 12: 39-54
The elusive Sirens of the Aegean have been cornerstone characters in Greek mythology since the 7th century BCE. The two Sirens (sometimes three), Scylla and Charybidis reside in the Strait of Messina between Italy and Sicily- a common passage in the ancient World for ships conducting trade, expeditions, and contacts with the Central Mediterranean powers. Having prominent scenes in the Odyssey and the Argonautika, and being heavily featured in vase paintings in the Aegean, Italy, and Sicily, the Sirens are well-known to us today.
Beautiful singing, captivating, fatal women of the sea permeate even children’s material, like The Little Mermaid…but, these half bird, half woman creatures are more complex than we may think at first glance.

Hippocrates The Father of Medicine

by on May 20, 2019

Hippocrates the father of medicine

Engraving by Peter Paul Rubens, 1638, courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

Hippocrates embodied the perfect doctor: kind, wise, old, knowledgeable, with a long beard and profound wrinkles around perceptive eyes. At least that is what we’d like to think. While his fame was such to warrant a mention from the likes of Plato and Aristotle, not much is actually known about Hippocrates the father of Medicine. Consequently, he has become the projection of what people ideally want in a physician.
What we do know is that Hippocrates was born on the Greek island of Kos around the year 460 BC. He was a strong proponent for medicine, even when it was opposing the infrastructure of Greece. As a result he endured a period of twenty years inside a prison where he authored many famous medical works, such as The Complicated Body.
Beyond these details, however, much of exactly what Hippocrates wrote or said is unknown.
Despite this, Hippocrates is attributed with a great many wonderful deeds and thoughts. He is recognised as the founder of the Hippocratic School of Medicine, a college that revolutionized the understanding of medicine in Ancient Greece. Many of the invaluable lessons prescribed in that place of learning are assigned to Hippocrates. If that was the case, then it truly was Hippocrates, with his approach to healing and the role of the doctor, that influenced western medicine for thousands of years.

Ptolemy, the Man who Reached the Stars

by on May 17, 2019

By Mónica Correa, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
The study of the earth, stars and space started millennia ago. With a lot of observation and subsequent writings, men such as Ptolemy built the foundations of our understanding of the universe that surrounds us.
Today we know that his name was, in fact, Klaudios Ptolemaios. He probably lived in or near Alexandria, Egypt during the times of the Roman Empire. Better known as Ptolemy, he made astronomical observations between the mid 120s and the early 140s of our era. Some have identified his method as Aristotelian, as while there are no records of his education, he regularly quotes Aristotle. This can give us hints regarding his methods.

Tyrannical Hell or Harmonious Utopia?

by on May 15, 2019

By Jacob Bell, Associate Editor, Classical Wisdom
Republic's Utopia

Utopia

Imagine this… You are born into a political and social structure which has three classes. The class you are born into depends upon your lineage and will determine the career you have for your entire life. This structure is upheld by a noble lie which is embedded into each citizen of the city-state.
The lie claims that each citizen, being a creation god, has within him or her one of three metals. Those endowed with gold during creation are part of the ruling class. Those with silver are part of the warrior class. Those with bronze are part of the craftsmen and farming class.
Now, it is possible for someone of the gold demarcation to beget a child of silver or bronze status, and it is also possible, but rare, for someone of the lower classes to beget a child of higher status. It is also possible, but difficult, for someone to move up the classes during their lifetime.

12 Ancient Greek Terms that Should Totally Make a Comeback

by on May 14, 2019

Learning Ancient Greek can be… challenging.
For one thing, there are competing dialects (as was discussed in our Podcasts with Professors Episode with the Professor of Linguistics at the University of Cyprus.) As such, there are times when we aren’t even sure how the word is pronounced.
There are also like 5 different translations for every word, which gives translators a huge artistic license, truth be told. It can be difficult to figure out which version of the word the author intended because we just don’t think like ancient Greeks. The huge differences in time and culture can make it tricky to figure out what they really meant.
So while actually dedicating years to learning this beautiful and complicated ancient language might not be the most practical use of your time, I do think you should at least learn a few of the most important concepts.

Anaxagoras and His Mind

by on May 10, 2019

By Monica Correa, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
In ancient Greece, the idea of a flat earth was simply assumed to be true. There were a select few that doubted this notion, and with their doubt came an ideological and theoretical struggle to sustain various points of view on the matter. This created a rich environment of natural philosophy, wisdom, and debate. It was in this culture that Anaxagoras of Clazomenae flourished.
Anaxagoras was born in Clazomenae (modern day Turkey) around 510 BCE. He moved to Athens, and then to Lampsacus, where he lived out his remaining years. He died around 428 BCE and had an altar of Mind and Truth built in his honor.
Anaxagoras Fresco

Detail of the right-hand facade fresco, showing Anaxagoras. National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.

Anaxagoras’ Theory of Everything is in Everything