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Locusta the Poisoner: Ancient Rome’s First Female Serial Killer

by on June 22, 2021

Written by Ed Whalen, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Ancient Rome was a brutal place where life was cheap. Romans accepted violence and oppression as part of everyday life, evidenced by their terrible treatment of slaves. However, in the first century AD, even they were appalled by the murders and practices of a woman known as Locusta the Poisoner. Involved in the deaths of countless people, Locusta—possibly the first documented female serial killer in history—played a crucial role in the history of the Imperial Family.
Poison and the Black Arts in Ancient Rome
In Graeco-Roman society, murder was much more common than today, even during the so-called Pax Romana. Poison was frequently used to dispose of one’s personal enemies and to settle feuds. It appears that there were many women in particular who had knowledge of natural poisons and could concoct lethal potions.

Who was Petrarch? Do we need another Renaissance?

by on June 21, 2021

Before getting ready for tomorrow’s event, I’ll admit I was woefully unknowledgeable about the man. After all, I deal with the 12th century BC to the 5th AD…. what did I have to do with an Italian living in the 1300s? That’s positively modern in my books!
But just in my preparatory readings, I have already been hugely inspired. Not necessarily by his specific philosophies (those are interesting of course), but by his way of thinking… and his way of thinking about thinking.
Considered to be the father of humanism, the first tourist, the first mountaineer and the man responsible for finding and preserving so many ancient Latin texts and thus making them popular, Petrarch is credited with beginning the entire Renaissance.
 

Homer’s Real Story: The Truth Behind the ‘Iliad’

by on June 18, 2021

Written by John Martin, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
For the nearly three millennia since the Iliad’s creation, its grand story remains undiscovered. Homer’s masterpiece was a brilliant exercise in telling a new kind of story while letting his listening audience think that they were hearing another (more familiar, more easily accessible) one. 
The blind poet, as antiquity knew him to be, created a beautiful and powerful work which pleased mortal audiences. But Homer’s Real Story was created for the gods, and meant to be one which only the gods could understand.
Homer
Homer and His Guide (1874) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
The Iliads prologue invokes, not a Muse, but an unnamed “goddess”(1.1; see footnote (1) note below). Close scrutiny informs us that Homer himself, with only the most limited help from the Muses, created this imaginative fantasy. In devising his own alternative mythology, Homer the storyteller placed himself at the level of the gods.

The Cunning Homer: A New Look At The ‘Odyssey’

by on June 16, 2021

Written by Alberto Majrani, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Who really killed the suitors in Homer’s Odyssey? A careful reading of the epic poem reveals a myriad of clues left by Homer with a surprising conclusion: Ulysses was not…really Ulysses. He was the expert Achaean archer Philoctetes in disguise! 
With this key, the Homeric poem suddenly assumes a logic and coherence hitherto unsuspected. This explains why Homer continues to praise the art of deception: it is he who has deceived us for three thousand years! And the surprises do not end there: all the apparent inconsistencies of the Iliad and the Odyssey that have plagued students and teachers for generations, known as the “Homeric Question”, now fall effortlessly in place. The ancient texts finally agree with historical and archaeological data, fully revealing the genius of their author.
It’s a strange story, that of Ulysses. Is it possible that the King of Ithaca stayed away for twenty years, missing his homeland, abandoning a beautiful nymph who would make him immortal, only to return to a wife no longer young after a dangerous solo crossing?

Hipparchia of Maroneia: Female Philosopher and Provocateur

by on June 15, 2021

Written by Ed Whalen, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Many women have made an important contribution to philosophy, and one of the most famous—or indeed infamous—female philosopher is Hipparchia (fl. 300 B.C.). Married to a leading Cynic philosopher, Hipparchia greatly contributed to the development of Cynicism and helped popularize it in the Classical World. 
Detail of a fresco showing Hipparchia of Maroneia c. 1st century CE, Museo delle Terme, Rome, image credit: Carole Raddato
What Were The Teachings Of The Cynics?
One of the founders of Cynicism was Diogenes of Sinope, who infamously lived in a barrel. Cynics sought ‘peace of mind’ by living according to nature. They rejected contemporary civilization and society and also all comforts and amenities. Living a natural life was the only way to live ethically because they believed that civilization was corrupt. They taught that humans only needed the basics required for survival.

The Evolution of Greek Art, Part 3: Greek Art Throughout History

by on June 11, 2021

Written by Lydia Serrant, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Ancient Greek art and drama was pivotal in the development of artistic expression the world over. From the earliest Archaic Greeks to the masters of the Classical age, the Greeks have produced art that has inspired Western civilization for thousands of years.
The Greeks established the foundational methods for practical stone-working that are still used today, particularly in limestone, clay, and marble. The bold lines and district curves that are an essential feature of Greek art also opened doors for the exploration of human anatomy and medical experimentation. The Greek thirst for knowledge and beauty paved the foundation stones of modern scientific discoveries in chemistry, physics, biology, and natural geometry. 
Temple of Apollo
The Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae, east colonnade, Arcadia, Greece
Capturing bodily movement and mastering correct composition became incredibly important to the Greeks during the Classical period (480-323 BC) and the Golden Age. As anatomical knowledge and sculpting techniques became more sophisticated, so too did the artist’s ability to express various emotions. These new capabilities allowed sculptors and painters to experiment with different artistic styles in new and innovative ways.