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Galen: The Father of Modern Medicine and Anatomy

by on June 17, 2020

Written by Edward Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Graeco-Roman Civilization has shaped the modern world in many ways. Among these is the fact that it laid the foundations for modern medicine. Perhaps no single person did more for the development of medicine in the Ancient World than the physician Galen. His genius helped to establish medicine as a science, and he was the foremost authority in the field until the Renaissance.
The life of Galen
Galen (129-216 AD) was born in the rich city of Pergamum, which is now near Bergama in modern Turkey, during the zenith of the Roman Empire. He was a Greek speaker and the son of a wealthy architect. Galen received a typical liberal education for a member of the elite, studying literature and philosophy.

Should We Take Down Monuments? Damnatio Memoriae in the Modern Age…

by on June 15, 2020

Toppling Statues is nothing new. It’s just for the ancient world, they have a cooler term for it:
Damnatio Memoriae – the damnation of memory.
Okay, okay, the term wasn’t actually used by Romans (I know, I’m gutted also), but the practice was certainly employed. The Romans adopted the practice, which they deemed worse than death, from the peoples of Ephesus who attempted (though clearly ultimately failed) to erase the arsonist Herostratus, who set fire to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of antiquity.
Statues of vicious Caligula, as decreed by the senate, came crashing down like the likenesses of Stalin or Saddam. His coins were recalled and his vainglorious projects (including the ingenious inventions therein) were sunk to the bottom of a lake.

Aeschylus Speaks To Me

by on June 12, 2020

Written By Walter Borden, M.D., Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Aeschylus speaks to me. Born in Eleusis, a village just north of Athens and the haunting grounds of the goddess Demeter, said to be the goddess of fertility and the harvest. To Aeschylus that was just a myth that masked her true identity—the goddess of grief. When he was a little boy crying at the grave of his grandfather, she’d whispered to him that his sadness and tears would make the soil rich, would bring new life to sprout.
Only the citizens of Eleusis were aware of Demeter’s real meaning—and mission. She’d lost her daughter, Persephone, to a plague, but Demeter felt it as a robbery—her baby stolen by a death she called Hades, god of the underworld. He was the evil of ancient times. She vowed to find her daughter, bring her back, to her arms, to life.
The citizens of Eleusis were sworn to secrecy, never to reveal her grief—it was too agonizing. Their oath of secrecy became the cult of the “Eleusinian Mysteries.”

Psyche and Cupid: Mythology’s Greatest Love Story

by on June 10, 2020

Written by Edward Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
There are many beautiful myths from Classical civilization. One of the most beautiful of all is that of Psyche and Cupid. Unlike most ancient legends, it is a romantic tale and has a happy ending. This myth has been enormously influential, and it has helped to shape modern romantic literature and even modern conceptions of love.
Origin of the myth
The main source for this myth is one of the greatest Roman novels, the Metamorphoses by Apuleius, which dates to the second half of the 2nd century AD. The story is narrated by the main character Lucius to a young bride who has been kidnapped by pirates. However, the story is much older and there are depictions of Cupid and Psyche in Hellenistic Greek art. Many believe that there are elements taken from Mystery Religions in the story. These were cults that promised their adherents salvation, which were popular throughout the Classical era.

Lessons on Racism from the Ancient World

by on June 8, 2020

In lieu of our normal monday mailbag, I’d like to discuss Racism…and what the ancient world can teach us about this extremely important issue.
Now, I wasn’t certain if I should say anything about it or not. I’m currently trapped in the world’s longest lockdown, the new epicenter where pandemics haven’t yet become passé. Down here on Las Pampas, our daily attention is still focused on the invisible war, on the C-word.
That’s to say, I’m not in America, so it’s hard to ‘read the room’ if you will…and I don’t want to miss the mark.
However, I believe that it is important at an historic moment like this to take a step back and be thoughtful, really thoughtful; to recall the advice of the ancient philosophers to try to understand ourselves and the world in which we live.

Antigone: Democracy vs. Authoritarianism

by on June 5, 2020

Written by Alex Barrientos, Senior Editor, Classical Wisdom
In Sophocles’ Antigone there are several different struggles taking place concerning different aspects of social, ethical, and political thought. The role of the citizen, the role of the leader, the right to rule, piety, disobedience, and other issues are discussed throughout the play.
Indebted as we are to the Greeks for the foundations of our political institutions and political thought, it is no wonder that one should discover parallels between the tensions within the play and those that persist in our society today.
One such tension, and one of the major themes of Antigone, is the struggle between authoritarianism and democracy.  One of the most salient moments of the play regarding this struggle takes place between Creon, the newly appointed king of Thebes, and his son, Haemon.