Skip to Content

The Machine Gun of Ancient Greece

by on August 16, 2019

By DHWTY, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
The polybolos (which may be translated literally as ‘multiple thrower’) was a type of weapon used in the ancient world. The polybolos has been described as a sort of ballista / catapult that was capable of firing several projectiles before needing to be reloaded. That’s why it’s sometimes referred to as an ancient machine gun.
Polybolos: Improving on the Catapult
Whilst the catapult was likely to have been used since the 9th century BC (based on a relief from Nimrud), it was during the 4th century BC that the catapult began gaining popularity throughout the Mediterranean. In the Greek world, early catapults were large bows that relied on winches to draw the weapon back for firing. It may have been during the time of Philip II of Macedon (the father of Alexander the Great) that tight bundles of sinew / rope that functioned as ‘springs’ were used to replace the bow arms of the catapult. These catapults relied on torsion to fire their projectiles, and could either be used to fire arrows, like their predecessors, or be modified so that heavier projectiles, such as stones, could be hurled at enemy defenses.

The Battle of Adrianople

by on August 14, 2019

By Edward 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.
Roman Infantryman

Re-enactor dressed as a 4th-century Roman infantryman.

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.

Should We Bring Back the Swastika?

by on August 12, 2019

A few months ago the lead singer of an all girl Thai pop group made a tearful apology. The 19 year-old had made a horrible mis-judgement in her wardrobe choice, donning a swastika only two days before the Holocaust Rememberance day.
The deputy chief of mission of the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok took to Twitter to express “shock and dismay” at the outfit.
While the young lady was upset at her lack of knowledge regarding modern world history, she should perhaps be given a bit of a pass. After all, for the majority of the world’s human history, the swastika has held a very different meaning. Indeed, prior to the 1930s, the ancient symbol enjoyed an unblemished reputation for over 12,000 years!
Thai Band

Poor outfit choice…

Originally based on sanskrit, the swastika means ‘’conducive to well being’ or ‘auspicious’. To the billion Hindus on the planet, it represents the sun and prosperity and in Buddhism, which has almost 500 million adherents, it symbolizes the auspicious footprints of the Buddha. Meanwhile the famously nonviolent Jainists believe that the swastika is the symbol for Suparshvanatha – the seventh of 24 Tirthankaras (spiritual teachers and saviours).

The Palace of Knossos

by on August 9, 2019

When we think about the birth of western civilization, we recall Knossos and its stunning palace. Crete is called the cradle of Europe, after all, and Knossos, the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete, is reputed to be Europe’s oldest city!
Knossos is thought to be the first settlement in the Neolithic period, though it is in fact, one of many Neolithic remains scattered across Crete. The site of Knossos is multilayered, revealing inhabitation for many, many years. From humble origins as an encampment, it eventually became the location of the most famous palace on the island, the Palace of Knossos.
The Palace of Knossos

The Palace of Knossos, Crete. Source: Pavel Timofeev / Adobe.

Founding a civilization
The Palace at Knossos flourished between 2700-1100BC when the Minoans shone as a prime example of Bronze Age Aegean civilization, both on the island of Crete and on other smaller Aegean islands. This palace, as well as the one at Phaistos, is remarkable due to the magnitude of its construction.

Apollonius of Tyana: The Pagan Jesus Christ?

by on August 7, 2019

By Edward Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Apollonius of Tyana was a remarkable and complex person. In the Ancient World he was called a magician, a fraud, a scientist and many even believed that he was a divine figure who could save humanity. Many saw him as a pagan messiah and indeed, he was more popular than Jesus for a time in the Roman Empire.
We know quite a lot about this fascinating man, but much of it is unfortunately unreliable. It appears that he lived in the first century A.D, though some believe that he lived much later. He was almost certainly a Greek born in Tyana, Roman Cappadocia, which is now in the modern nation of Turkey. Apollonius was educated in a local temple and became a religious teacher. He later became a follower of the religious teacher and mathematician Pythagoras and was heavily influenced by his philosophies.
Apollonius of Tyana

A probable statue of Apollonius of Tyana

The Goal of Happiness: A summary of Nicomachean Ethics

by on August 5, 2019

The achievement of happiness, according to Aristotle, is the end goal of every man.
His reasoning is thus: All human activities are done in order to attain something that is good. We don’t do something because we think it will be bad for us. In addition, most of these activities are not the main objective, but rather a means to a higher end. Consequently, the activity that is an end in itself, writes the prolific philosopher, is the highest good, and that good is happiness. We aim at happiness for its own sake, not because it will achieve something else. Happiness, therefore, is our greatest mission.
Supposing this to be our aim, Aristotle then proceeds in his Nicomachean Ethics to figure out how best to achieve this goal.