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Reflections on the Brevity of Life

by on November 15, 2019

By David Hooker, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom Weekly
“Life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” So said  the 17th Century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes in his magnum opus, Leviathan. It is a stark and negative statement, to be sure.
Of course, Hobbes had in mind that the life of ordinary people would go much better under both a strong Sovereign and governmental structure, but on its surface there is some serious truth in his statement.
Human life can be full of wonder, happiness, fulfillment, and love. However, often concurrent with these positives, we must all endure negatives such as terrible diseases, loss, loneliness, war, destruction, and ultimately death.

Of Gods and Laurel Trees

by on November 13, 2019

Next year, 2020, will be the XXXII Olympiad, and once again the world will be cheering for their most acclaimed athletes. But, have you ever wondered why in ancient Greece the winners of competitions were garnered with Laurel wreaths? Well, herein lies the tale of Daphne…

Playing hard to get?

As appears to be somewhat familiar through ancient Greek myths, the antagonist of this story is Eros, Aphrodite’s son and the god of love. Daphne, a naiad daughter of the river god Peneus and the nymph Creusa, was the unwilling victim of a curse placed by Eros on his uncle, Apollo.
But why would Eros do this? Well, to prove a point, of course. The story goes that Apollo made a rude remark as to Eros’ archery skill. Given that Apollo is the god of archery and sport, his opinion would normally hold great value.
However, in this case, all in love and war must have been fair game. Eros, having taken affront to his uncle’s words also took aim and let loose two arrows; one was lust-laden, with which he shot his nemesis, the other with repulsion, which was directed at Daphne.

The History of the Messenian Wars

by on November 12, 2019

By Edward Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
The Messenian Wars, which took place between Sparta and Messenia in the 8th century BC, were very crucial in the rise of Spartan society. Victory in the Messenian Wars was important in the history of Sparta, and by extension, in the history of Ancient Greece as a whole.
Background to the Messinian Wars
The Spartans were a Dorian tribe who invaded Greece from the southern Balkans. They conquered much of the Peloponnesian from the native Achaeans (1100 BC), and some Dorians settled in what became Messenia. There, they created a small kingdom and later adopted the culture of the native Achaeans. Over time, tensions developed between the Spartans and the Messenians; this was born out of a rivalry for resources as well as cultural differences. While the Spartans in Laconia may have resented the Messenian elite, who they believed betrayed their Dorian origins, many historians suggest that the actual cause of the war was the Spartans’ desperate need for more fertile land.

A Lion and a Fox

by on November 8, 2019

Written by Brendan Heard, Author of the Decline and Fall of Western Art
When I was about twenty five years of age, I read Plutarch’s Lives. I did so because I came across it in a used book shop, and it had a nice leather bound cover, and because it seemed to be a history of the lives of some very interesting classical characters.
I enjoyed this tome immensely, reading all of the biographies therein.
Plutarch's Lives

Third Volume of a 1727 edition of Plutarch’s Lives, printed by Jacob Tonson

Yet, it was in the account of Alcibiades that I was particularly struck. Struck so intensely that I put down the book and was changed forever.

Minor but Mighty: Ursa Minor

by on November 6, 2019

By Danielle Alexander, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
The night sky might seem like a random collection of twinkling stars to some, but to others, the stars create images and patterns filled with stories and legends. These images and patterns are known as constellations, and they’ve been captivating human imagination for as long as records have existed – and long before we started to write things down too!
One of the oldest, most recognizable constellations is the ‘saucepan set’ – sorry, I mean the Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, or Big and Little Dippers. They’ve been known under many names, sometimes as Bears, or even a Waxon and an Oxherd. Where do all these different names come from?

Ursa Minor clearly indicated. (Image: Star Registration)

Ancient Greek Astronomy?

Battle of Actium (31 BC)

by on November 5, 2019

By Edward Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
The battle of Actium was one of the most important naval battles in all of history. The victory resulted in the fall of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra and the elevation of Augustus to the position of absolute ruler of the Roman Empire. Indeed, this battle determined the direction and the fate of the Roman Empire for over five centuries.
The Background to the Battle of Actium
Rome was engulfed by civil war for decades and was fought over by a series of generals, such as Marius, Sulla, Pompey, and Julius Caesar. Following the assassination of Caesar (49 BC), a political alliance known as the Second Triumvirate brought a measure of stability between his heir Octavian, Mark Anthony, and Lepidus. The Roman world and spheres of influence were divided between Octavian and Mark Anthony. The heir of Caesar controlled the Roman West and Anthony the East. Cleopatra, the ruler of Egypt, became the lover of Mark Anthony and so the two effectively ruled the Eastern Mediterranean.