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How the Spider Came to Be

by on June 17, 2019

Or, The Girl Who Told the Truth about the Gods
By Nicole Saldarriaga, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Painting of Arachne

Minerva and Arachne, René-Antoine Houasse, 1706

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.

Leucippus, Democritus, and Atomism

by on June 14, 2019

By Jacob Bell, Associate Editor, Classical Wisdom
Most folks know something about atomic theory…  its surprising ancient history, however, is often less discussed.
The current modern atomic theory is the prevailing scientific theory of matter and explains the physical world in terms of discrete units referred to as atoms. Atoms are made up of various subatomic particles such as electrons, protons, and neutrons.
However, the term “atom” actually comes from the Greek adjective atomos, which means “indivisible.” Like many other modern scientific and philosophical theories, atomic theory has its roots in ancient Greek philosophy.

Herodotus’ Giant Ants

by on June 12, 2019

by Cam Rea, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Herodotus

Illustration of the Bust of Herodotus

Earlier this week I came across a quote by Herodotus on Classical Wisdom’s Facebook page. The main theme was “giant gold digging ants.” Sounds fanciful, right? Well, behind every myth is a general truth, and that is something I think we all can agree on. Herodotus states in The Histories book 3.102:
“Besides these, there are Indians of another tribe, who border on the city of Caspatyrus, and the country of Pactyica; these people dwell northward of all the rest of the Indians, and follow nearly the same mode of life as the Bactrians. They are more warlike than any of the other tribes, and from them the men are sent forth who go to procure the gold. For it is in this part of India that the sandy desert lies. Here, in this desert, there live amid the sand great ants, in size somewhat less than dogs, but bigger than foxes. The Persian king has a number of them, which have been caught by the hunters in the land whereof we are speaking. Those ants make their dwellings under ground, and like the Hellene ants, which they very much resemble in shape, throw up sand-heaps as they burrow. Now the sand which they throw up is full of gold.”
herodotus histories fragment

Herodotus histories fragment

Understand that Herodotus never went to India or anywhere near India… as far as we know. But, I think his statement speaks for itself, and perhaps even Herodotus was skeptical of the giant gold digging ants. However, I could be wrong?

Spotlight on Heroes: Achilles

by on June 10, 2019

achilles

Achilles

Known From: The Iliad
Notable Quotes about Achilles:
 “Sing Goddess, Achilles’ rage, 
Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks
Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls
Of heroes into Hades’ dark” 
 
“For my mother the goddess, silver-footed Thetis, tells me that twofold fates are bearing me toward the doom of death: if I abide here and play my part in the siege of Troy, then lost is my home-return, but my renown shall be imperishable; but if I return home to my dear native land, lost then is my glorious renown, yet shall my life long endure, neither shall the doom of death come soon upon me.”
 
The Hero

Chrysippus the Under-Rated

by on June 7, 2019

By Jacob Bell, Associate Editor, Classical Wisdom
“If Chrysippus had not existed, neither would the Stoa.”
This became a popular catchphrase of the Stoics. The Stoics viewed Chrysippus as a central figure in helping to establish the core doctrines and principles of Stoicism. Chrysippus is often hailed as the “second founder of Stoicism.”

Roman copy of a Hellenistic bust of Chrysippus (British Museum)

The Stoics who we often think of as central to the tradition, such as Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus (known as the big three of Stoicism), considered Chrysippus as one of the most important figures within Stoicism. So I think it is due time that we give Chrysippus the recognition that he deserves.

Roman Chariot Racing: a Sport for Fanatics

by on June 5, 2019

By Mónica Correa, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Nowadays folks use fast cars and designer handbags to flaunt their wealth. Back in the ancient Greek world, however, owning horses was the ultimate status symbol. This tradition continued during the Roman Empire and indeed, anyone who partook in equine activities was immediately assumed to belong to the elite. Chariot racing was no exception… And while the rich got the bragging rights, it was the drivers, the horses and even the fans that took the risk.
Chariot Racing’s Unknown Origins
Chariot racing was a popular sport for centuries, enjoyed under various governments and leaders throughout the ancient world. Its exact origins, however, are unknown.