Classical Wisdom Weekly

Skip to Content

The Homeric Question: Who WAS Homer?

by on December 3, 2021

by Ed Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Homer is considered one of the greatest poets who ever lived. The literary and cultural influence of the Iliad and the Odyssey is incomparable. But who was Homer, exactly? The answer is a little bit complicated…
You see, for many centuries scholars have questioned not just the identity, but even the existence of Homer. The ‘Homeric Question’ seeks to understand if Homer actually wrote the works attributed to him, and if not, then who?
The Life of Homer

The Mystery of the Sea Peoples

by on November 30, 2021

by Andrew Rattray
If you’re anything like me, you love a good mystery.
The provenance of the Sea Peoples is one enduring enigma that still hasn’t been answered. You see, accounts from the 12th Century BCE describe massive armies who terrorised the Eastern Mediterranean by sea. In fact, these armies have been argued to be one of the major causes of the Late Bronze Age Collapse, a period of destabilization during the early part of the 12th Century BCE, which saw the destruction of empires and civilisations all across the region. No primary accounts detail the origin of these people, and today contemporary scholars are still unsure of exactly where they came from. 
While the ultimate cause of the Bronze Age Collapse is highly contested, the devastation these people wrought is hard to overstate, and impossible to deny. One foreboding inscription from the second pylon of Medinet Habu, a Temple devoted to the life of Ramses III of Egypt reads:

The Tragic Love Story of Orpheus and Eurydice

by on November 26, 2021

by Ed Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is one of the greatest love stories in all of Greek myth, and possibly one of the greatest ever told. This story has been enormously influential from the classical world through to today. The story concerns the tragic love story of Orpheus, the archetypal artist, and his wife Eurydice.
Orpheus was widely believed to be of Thracian origin, but some claim he was of Arcadian origin. He is not mentioned in the works of Hesiod or Homer. From an early date, the singer was considered the archetypal poet and musician. It was believed that Orpheus perfected the art of the lyre, and that his singing could charm the birds from the trees. According to legend he was the son of the god Apollo and the muse Calliope. Another story claims that he was the son of a Thracian king. It was also claimed that Orpheus was one of the Argonauts under Jason who travelled to Colchis. His beautiful singing drowned out the Sirens’ song, which sought to lure the adventurers to their death. Orpheus was associated with lyric poetry, which was sung accompanied by the playing of the lyre, and he was considered to be a forbearer of Homer. Eurydice was a wood nymph, a spirit of the forest and very beautiful.
The Tragic Love Story of Eurydice and Orpheus

Seven Sages of Ancient Greece

by on November 24, 2021

by Ed Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
The seven sages of Ancient Greece were seven wise men who lived in the Archaic Period (6-7th century BC). They were thinkers, rulers and statesmen. Their wisdom was revered in the ancient world, offered practical advice, and also influenced the development of the Golden Age of the Classical World.  They were pioneers of Ancient Greek philosophy and politics, which still influences us to this day. Little is known about these figures or their thought and many appear to be semi-mythical.
Mosaïc of the Seven Sages, also featuring Socrates (top) and Calliope (center)
The origin of the Seven Sages
The idea of extremely wise men possibly originated in Ancient Mesopotamia.  The list of seven sages was drawn up by ancient writers including Herodotus, the ‘Father of History’. There was disagreement among the writers as to who should be included in the list. In total, about 23 men have been included in different versions of the list of the seven sages. The list of seven sages discussed below is the canonical list.

A Brief Overview of Social and Political Structure in Early Roman society

by on November 24, 2021

by Kevin Blood
To understand the political, social, economic and military developments that happened in Rome in the middle and late republican periods, it is important to understand the manner in which early republican society functioned and was organized. The relative positions of Roman citizens in the political, religious, legislative, social, economic and military bodies of the early Roman state was ordered by the sharp distinctions between the Patrician and Plebeian classes.
Gens – clans
The primary unit of early Roman society was the family household (familia). Numbers of related households of families (familiae) constituted a clan. These clan units, gentes (clans), made up of families who were descended from a common ancestor, these clans also had certain religious rites in common.

What Makes a Book GREAT?

by on November 22, 2021

Dear Classical Wisdom Reader,

Fortunately I have a very thoughtful and intellectually inquisitive husband.

You see, I’ve been prepping for tomorrow’s conversation, and it appears I’ve got Canon on the mind…

DH (dear husband) has been my constant interlocutor on the subject of whether we need a canon, what it should look like and what goes in it. (So you can see, it’s not small talk). 

His perspective is invaluable, but he’s also a writer himself... and so certain elements of literature are much more important to him than perhaps are to the general public. 

He’ll willingly admit that he’s more than happy to immerse himself in words that are truly well-written… even if they don’t actually say much (art for art’s sake). Madame Bovary, for example. 
Flaubert’s Challenge: Write a fantastic book in which nothing happens… did he succeed?
I’m more of a plot/character driven kind of gal myself. And of course, I hold great value in a work’s historical and philosophical standing. After all, if we are to judge literature just by aesthetics, then what in the world are we going to do with Aristotle?
Which is why I thought I should ask you, dear reader, for your valued opinion on the subject… to open up the conversation even more.
Tomorrow Dr. Anika Prather (of Howard University), Alexandra Hudson (of Civic Renassiance) and myself will ask whether we need a canon and if so, what should go into it… so I think before delving into such an important discussion, we should first ask: 
What make a book GREAT?