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The All Seeing Greek but Overlooked God: Helios

by on October 18, 2018

By Alicia McDermott, Contributing writer, Ancient Origins
Painting of the Greek sun god

‘Helios on His Chariot’ (Detail) by Hans Adam Weissenkircher (17th century).

An unpunished second-generation Titan of Greek myth, Helios was a deity who was important, but not always recognized for his powers. Until his role was usurped by a newer god, Helios was the deity of the life-giving, season-changing sun. He appeared in artwork riding his horse-drawn chariot across the sky and was a firsthand witness to several major events in the lives of other gods and goddesses, but Helios generally seemed to pass along in the background, seeing everything going on both on earth and in the heavens as he made sure to follow his daily routine.
Titans, Nymphs, Kings, and Oceanids: Helios’ Extensive Family
Helios’ parents were the Titans Hyperion, god of light, and Theia, goddess of sight. His sisters were Selene (the Moon) and Eos (Dawn). He was born/created in what is called the Golden Age of Greek Mythology and was responsible for bringing light to the world as the god of the sun. That role would gradually be usurped.

Alcoholism in the Greco-Roman World

by on October 17, 2018

By Dale Vernor, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Ancient drinking
Binge drinking is nothing new. Gilgamesh, the semi-mythic Mesopotamian king who lived around 2,800 BC, is reported to have promised his workers “(a river of) ale, beer, and wine”,… which doesn’t exactly suggest moderation.
Indeed, most practices, beliefs, and attitudes linked to alcohol use date back to the earlier cultures… but that doesn’t mean its consumption didn’t change over time and between cultures.

When in Rome, Be Greek

by on October 10, 2018

By Jocelyn Hitchcock, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Roman Versus Greek Art

The Discobolus Lancellotti and a fragmentary statue of the Lancellotti type, Roman copies

Rome: a Mediterranean giant, known far and wide for its conquering and warfare… and its strong penchant for proudly displaying spoils all around the city. For hundreds of years Rome’s military prowess led to Triumphs, civil ceremonies and religious rites paraded through her famous streets. Rome was powerful…and she wanted to make sure her control extended not just to the military, but to the artistic endeavors of the empire as well.
After the Roman Empire conquered Greece and found (relative) stability in their position in the Mediterranean, a certain movement swept through the upper level Romans. Philhellenes – literally friends of Greece- were adamant admirers of Greek culture and everything that went with it. This movement, finding its roots in the literate upper class as early as the 3rd century BCE, led to centuries of cultivating Greek art for Roman consumption.
Roman Empire Map

Map of the Roman Empire

And the Romans absolutely loved it. The sculptures of Greek athletes, the strong and toned depictions of gods and goddesses, the busts of famous philosophers – it all showed beauty and power of a great civilization that was now under the jurisdiction of Rome. The Romans knew that at the height of Greek power architecture, art, theater and philosophy as well as war, politics, and money were valued greatly. They saw the Greek civilization not as defeated or crumpled, but as a narrative of the not so distant past and the potential greatness that they too could achieve.

Armillary Spheres: Following Celestial Objects in the Ancient World

by on October 6, 2018

By Ḏḥwty, Contributing Writer, Ancient Origins

Detail of Augustinus in betrachtendem Gebet. (1480) Sandro Botticelli. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Astronomy is often considered to be one of the oldest branches of science. In many ancient societies, astronomical observations were used not only for the practical job of determine the rhythm of life, (e.g. the various seasons of the year, the celebration of festivals, etc.) but also for the philosophical exploration of the nature of the universe as well as that of human existence. Therefore, various instruments were invented to aid the important science of astronomy. One of these instruments was called the armillary sphere.
The Function of Armillary Spheres
An armillary sphere is an astronomical device made up of a number of rings linked to a pole. These rings represent the circles of the celestial sphere, such as the equator, the ecliptic and the meridians. Incidentally, it is from these rings that the name of this device is derived from (the word armilla is Latin for “bracelet, armlet, arm ring”).

The Bloodless – but perhaps Most Clever – Greek Tragedy Ever Written

by on October 2, 2018

By Ben Potter and Anya Leonard
Sophocles’ Philoctetes, first performed in 409 BC, isn’t a typical tragedy, certainly not in the more modern perception of the genre. There is no high death toll and no evil, underhand conniving that leaves characters bitter and crushed. In a word, there is no blood. In fact, as far as Greek tragedy goes, Philoctetes is really a ‘happy ever after tale’ with all the characters basically getting off the island of Lemnos with a good deal. But then how does Sophocles keep it interesting? Through the tension and conflict that is a precursor to the successful conclusion that the audience knows is to come. So whilst Philoctetes may disappoint with its lack of fatalities, it is certainly abundant in suspense.
Painting of Philocletes

Attributed to Jean Germain Drouais (French, 1763–1788)

But let’s rewind a little bit and set the scene. Philoctetes takes place on the island of Lemnos and is a prelude to the triumphant Greek conclusion of the Trojan War. In order to succeed in said campaign, the Greeks need a specific weapon, which was once owned by Heracles and currently in possession of the lame and tormented castaway Philoctetes, who received the gift for lighting the demi-god’s pyre. Unfortunately this poor fellow received a particularly nasty snake bite on the journey to Troy, which when it festered, made him unpopular company. They rid the stinking sick man by stranding him on the island where he remained… until a team of Greeks returned in order to obtain the sacred bow.
Enter Odysseus, hero of the Odyssey and Neoptolemus, son of Achilles. They have an extremely difficult task in front of them though, as Philoctetes did not take kindly to his abandonment and is still quite embittered.

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