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Ancient Bactria: Battleground For Civilization

by on April 14, 2021

Written by Ed Whalen, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom

The ancient region of Bactria was in what is now Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in Central Asia. Today, this is a remote, relatively little-known area. In the ancient past, Bactria was a culturally and economically dynamic region of great interest to ancient empires. In fact, Bactria’s contribution to history and civilization from 500 BC. to approximately 500 A.D is immense.

Bactria’s Early History

In the Bronze Age, Bactria was mainly populated by Iranian-speaking people who established urban settlements. The region first enters recorded history under the Persian Achaemenian Empire. During the sixth century BC, Cyrus II subjugated the region, making it a satrapy. Bactria became a province of the Persian Empire for two centuries during which time the area prospered.

On Angels: Myth and Belief East and West, Part 3

by on April 13, 2021

Written by Stefan Sencerz, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Parts 1 and 2 of this series focus on angels in the Western tradition. To read them, click here and here, respectively.
Angels in the Eastern Tradition

According to the Buddhist and Hindu scriptures, humanity has been migrating in the Grand Wheel of Life and Death, driven by our own karma that we have accumulated since time immemorial.

Do we need Stereotypes? Do they have value?

by on April 12, 2021

It was just last week my husband and I went out for a nice French meal to celebrate our anniversary. Sitting outside on a quaint corner in “Palermo Soho”, we couldn’t help but notice the couple next to us. Clad in a tight black shirt, cigarette causally in hand, the young, good looking man reached over and passionately kissed his girlfriend, also dressed head to toe in black. He ordered more wine, while she lit up yet another cigarette, and then they commenced into a no-doubt deep and romantic conversation.
My husband and I smiled at each other. We didn’t have to say it, as we knew the other was thinking…. So French.
To pretend stereotypes just don’t exist is naive at best and perhaps willfully ignorant… and to be perfectly honest, it’s always just a little satisfying when these historic boilerplates for cultures materialize in front of our eyes.

Typical Socrates… selling Drinks in Rio

For instance, once while we were living in Taiwan we went for a hike in the mountains and, I kid you not, as we crossed over a beautiful glittering stream there was an elderly gentleman, complete with one long hair protruding from a mole on his chin, catching dragonflies with chopsticks.

From Roman Sarcophagi Comes The Gospel of Bacchus

by on April 9, 2021

Written by Barry Ferst, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom

Serving as a “billboard” for the faithful, images sculpted on Roman-era marble coffins offer a visualization of the Gospel of Bacchus, a graphic stone bible especially meaningful to devotees contemplating death’s doorway. Since much about the cult of Bacchus remains a mystery, a beautifully-carved frieze on a sarcophagus can go a long way to prying open some of the cult’s secrets.

By 100 C.E. the Bacchus mythos (known alternatively as Dionysus or Liber) had become standardized, i.e., made socially acceptable (the earlier Greek version could instill terror).  The story begins with a double birth, first from Semele whom Jupiter has inseminated, and then from Jupiter’s thigh where the infant has been hidden from Jupiter’s jealous wife Juno. The babe is brought by Hermes to woodland creatures to be tended by them.

There, the young Bacchus is taught by a centaur and recognized as a god. As a young adult he rides in a chariot pulled by panthers or centaurs. He travels to India, which he and his troupe conquer (known as the Indian Triumph). On return, he is given an emperor’s adventus, the circus-like processional proceeded by dancing maenads. When he totters, wine-intoxicated, he is held upright by one or more of his troupe. He marries Ariadne, and he retrieves his mother Semele from the land of the dead. His friends are satyrs, pans, and centaurs.

Rituals, Temples and Worship in the Ancient World

by on April 7, 2021

Written by Ben Potter, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom

The importance of rituals and temples in the ancient world are hard to clearly differentiate from worship. At first glance this might seen a little odd to the modern reader. These days, it seems perfectly normal for a disinterested secularist to wander around the great cathedrals of the world drinking in their beauty and splendor; they might even fully participate in the festive period–from caroling and dancing to donating to Goodwill.
That it’s harder to imagine this disconnect between worship and ritual in the ancient world is, in a way, quite convenient… as it’s also much harder to analyze due to a lack of source material. 
That said, there are some writers who occasionally give us a glimpse into what was in men’s souls. 

On Angels: Myth and Belief East and West, Part 2

by on April 6, 2021

Written by Stefan Sencerz, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom

Part 1 of this series can be found here.

In Wim Wendersmovie, Wings of Desire”, Peter Falk is credited as himself” but really represents a fallen angel, the angel who had rejected his angelic nature, ceased to be but a spirit, and acquired a human body with all that it entails. In the film, angels see” the world in black and white instead of in color like humans, a beautiful poetic device first adopted by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in their romantic fantasy A Matter of Life and Death”.

Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire

To me, my sensations are what make me feel human. The first sip of hot coffee in the morning, a gentle kiss of a breeze on my neck, feeling the taut strings of a stunt kite tugging on my arms. Or falling in love: holding hands, a dance late into night, the smell of her hair, the magical moment right before our lips meet, the soft alabaster of her skin under my touch. This is how we, mortals, perceive and relate to reality.