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The Most Unbelievable Deaths of the Ancient World

by on February 21, 2020

Written by Visnja Bojovic, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Never have I thought as much about how difficult being a judge must be, as when I was completing this difficult task of choosing only a few among the cornucopia of surprising and absurd deaths attested by ancient sources!
A lot of things in our lives revolve around death. Paradoxically, it is one of the most important parts of life. The most powerful thing about it is the fact that it strikes everyone. It doesn’t matter how rich or handsome or intelligent you are – we are all heading towards the same destination. Only a few of us, however, get to be laughed at by Grim Reaper from Horrible Histories. For those of you who don’t know, it is a segment of this brilliant show (called “Stupid Deaths”) in which Grim Reaper works as the receptionist for entering the Afterlife. He asks every person for the reason of their death and then makes fun of its absurdity.
I am confident that this list would make our Grim Reaper seriously entertained. So, let’s get down to it!

Aeolus: Keeper of the Winds

by on February 19, 2020

Written by Jocelyn Hitchcock, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
In Greek mythology the name Aeolus pops up in reference to three different characters: Aeolus, the son of Hippotes, and keeper of the winds; Aeolus, the half-human son of Poseidon; and Aeolus, the son of Hellen (not the Helen of the Trojan War, but a mortal ruler who is the legendary ancestor of the “Hellenic” people) and a nymph Orseis, who’s wife gave birth to a daughter, Arnes, who is said to have given birth herself to the Aeolus of Poseidon.
While the Aeolus of the Odyssey is clearly the god of the winds, later Roman writers such as Ovid conflate the Aeolus’ together. It’s all very confusing, but it wouldn’t be Greek mythology if it weren’t!
Here, we’re going to focus on Aeolus, the keeper of the winds, as he appears most prominent in myths of Odysseus and the larger Greek mythological universe. Aeolus, or Aiolos, was said to reside on the floating island of Aiolia/Aeolia.

Delphi: The Center of the Greek World

by on February 18, 2020

By Edward Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Delphi was an important religious, social and cultural center in Ancient Greece. It was one of the few places where the Greeks came together; indeed, Delphi was crucial in their collective identity. This religious site played a critical role in Greek politics, which meant that a number of wars were fought over its control.
The History of Delphi
In Greek myth, it was believed that Delphi was the center of the world, known as the navel of the earth, ‘omphalos’. From the Late Bronze Age the location was a religious sanctuary, the site of an oracle, and archaeological evidence suggests that the Mycenaeans had a temple dedicated to the Mother Earth goddess here.

Valentine’s Day Advice from Aristotle: Love Yourself

by on February 14, 2020

Written by Alex Barrientos, Senior Editor, Classical Wisdom
What does it mean to love yourself—to practice self-love (Philautia)? It’s not uncommon to see self-love being lumped in with selfishness: we see someone who is greedy, who only cares for his own advantage, often at the expense of those close to him, and we say, “He doesn’t love anyone but himself.” In this way and others self-love is used in a derogatory manner.
Aristotle, however, thought this needn’t be the case. He argued instead that “the good man should be a lover of self.” Perhaps you find such a claim rather shocking. After all, couldn’t the world use a little more selflessness? What need have we of more people loving themselves?
Well, hold onto those questions and hear me (well… Aristotle) out.

Asclepius: Modern Medicine in Ancient Times

by on February 12, 2020

Written by Jocelyn Hitchcock, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Medicine may often seem like a miracle. People are quick to praise god and marvel at the outcome of the doctor’s skill and training, with families often turning to hope of divine intervention of a higher power to save their loved one. This is not new to the modern age—nor should this come as a surprise.
Throughout history, the skill of doctors and their results have often been touted as the work of gods, or even magic depending on the healer and the time. And, just like today, entire cultures and regimes grew out of the notion of medicine and healing; just take a look at the ancient Greeks.
Asclepius, while not often depicted in common Greek receptions, is undoubtedly one of the more important of the gods and demigods. As the god of medicine, Greeks would find themselves lifting up sacrifice and prayer to him at one point or another. He was the son of Apollo and Coronis, with Apollo himself being the god of healing, plagues, and prophecy (amongst other things, of course).

The Exile of Ovid: Tragedy of a Great Poet

by on February 10, 2020

By Edward Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Ovid (43 BC-17/18 AD) is one of the great poets of Rome and indeed of the classical world. He is still studied and read to this day and his works, especially the Metamorphoses has consistently maintained its popularity. While he is remembered as a poet of love and joy, Ovid was, in his real life, an exile who suffered greatly.
Statue of Ovid

Statue (1887) by Ettore Ferrari commemorating Ovid’s exile in Tomis (present-day Constanța, Romania)

The life and career of Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso was born in the provincial town of Sulmo, some 100 miles (140 km) from Rome, into an equestrian family. His father had the means to send Ovid and his brother to Rome to further their education. There, Ovid studied rhetoric but was more interested in verse. Based on his autobiographical poems, he travelled widely in Greece and Italy and later held a number of minor positions in the government. Soon though, he dedicated himself to poetry and rapidly became one of the leading lights of the Roman literary world.