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The Humours of Hippocrates: Which one are you?

by on July 10, 2019

The Four Humors Illustration

Four Humors Drawing by Granger

If you had assumed that the theory of ‘humours’ had been unanimously relegated to the ‘didn’t work’ shelf of ancient philosophy, then… perhaps you’d be wrong. It appears that Hippocrates’ concept of a four chemical system that affect behavior is enjoying a bit of a revival.
Recently the New York Times posted an article called, “Could Ancient Greek Philosophy Help You Work Smarter and Better”, advocating “Humourism” and apparently it’s making the rounds. For those who want a recap, Humourism or humoralism, conceives that there are four basic fluids in the body; blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile, and that different levels of these fluids, or humors, affect our personalities.
While Hippocrates (460 – c. 370 BC) is usually credited with the theory, the concept has more ancient roots, including ancient Egypt and perhaps even Mesopotamia. Specifically, the medical theorist Alcmaeon of Croton (C. 540–500BC) outlined the idea, though with many substances, and the Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Empedocles (c. 494 – c. 434 BC) believed that there were only four temperaments composed of natural elements like water, air, fire and earth.

The Greek Gods of the Countryside

by on July 8, 2019

Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Athena… these are just a few of the names that Greek mythology lovers know, as they are no doubt aware of the standard Greek pantheon, the Olympians. They get all the air time, after all, with their epic tales of love, murder, incest, revenge…and everything in between.
The Titans, likewise, grab headlines with their creation stories… They gave fire to man, hold up the earth, and father the sun, the moon and the dawn.
While these deities were held in high esteem by the ancients, the Greeks also worshipped smaller, kinder, more…natural gods – the gods of the countryside. Not surprisingly, these represent water, trees and beasts. Some of these you will have heard about, but others, perhaps, are a little less known:
1. Pan

The Birth of the Biography

by on July 5, 2019

By Ben Potter, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Painting of Thucydides

Painting of Thucydides

What springs to mind when we think about literature of the Ancient World? Maybe it’s Homer’s Achilles dragging the corpse of Hector around Troy or Sophocles’ Oedipus stabbing out his polluted eyes. Perhaps it’s Plato’s Socrates holding forth or Herodotus’ Leonidas and his 300 Spartans. It even might be the dulcet tones of Sappho, the penetrating ones of Catullus, or the scathing superiority of Cicero.
Whilst the above mentioned epic poetry, theatrical drama, philosophical dialogue, historiography, romantic poetry, and private correspondence are all represented as well as appreciated, we give less thought to an area of literature that has never been more prevalent than it is in modern times.
It is the form of writing which is the savior for those wishing to buy lousy, last-minute Christmas presents; the biography.

Mummy Mia: the Fayum Mummy Portraits

by on July 3, 2019

By Jocelyn Hitchcock, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
A mummy, a vampire, and Frankenstein’s Monster walk into a bar… and order a classic Hollywood horror trope. Throughout the years, mummies have been cinematic vehicles for fear, leading to a widely held belief that Egyptian mummies were inherently spooky themselves. Immediately, we picture stiffly postured, white, tattered linen dressed bodies coming out of coffins. Pop culture has not been kind to the bulk of this ancient Egyptian practice.
Once we remove the veil of modern entertainment, however, we are left with a complex corpus of material.
Mummy 1

Aristotle’s Rhetoric: The Philosophy of Persuasion

by on June 28, 2019

How to persuade someone
In this life, whether you are a philosopher or not, you will need to know how to persuade people.
Aristotle tells us as much within his work on rhetoric, aptly titled Rhetoric.
This was one of old Artie’s books that I only glossed over in my formative years. Depending on whom you read in your introductory to philosophy class as an undergrad, you might be of the belief that philosophy and rhetoric are mutually exclusive. They are as incompatible as cats and dogs, cops and robbers, Giants and Jets fans. You get the picture.