Topic: Classical Greece and Rome
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A True Story
A True Story (Ancient Greek: Ἀληθῆ διηγήματα, Alēthē diēgēmata; Latin: Vera Historia or Latin: Verae Historiae) is a novel written in the second century AD by Lucian of Samosata, a Greek-speaking author of Assyrian descent. The novel is a satire of outlandish tales which had been reported in ancient sources, particularly those which presented fantastic or mythical events as if they were true. It is Lucian's best-known work.
It is the earliest known work of fiction to include travel to outer space, alien lifeforms, and interplanetary warfare. As such, A True Story has been described as "the first known text that could be called science fiction". However the work does not fit into typical literary genres: its multilayered plot and characters have been interpreted as science fiction, fantasy, satire or parody, and have been the subject of much scholarly debate.
- "A True Story" | 2018-10-15 | 525 Upvotes 72 Comments
The Antikythera mechanism (, ) is an ancient hand powered Greek analogue computer which has also been described as the first example of such device used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendar and astrological purposes decades in advance. It could also be used to track the four-year cycle of athletic games which was similar to an Olympiad, the cycle of the ancient Olympic Games.
This artefact was retrieved from the sea in 1901, and identified on 17 May 1902 as containing a gear by archaeologist Valerios Stais, among wreckage retrieved from a shipwreck off the coast of the Greek island Antikythera. The instrument is believed to have been designed and constructed by Greek scientists and has been variously dated to about 87 BC, or between 150 and 100 BC, or to 205 BC, or to within a generation before the shipwreck, which has been dated to approximately 70–60 BC.
The device, housed in the remains of a 34 cm × 18 cm × 9 cm (13.4 in × 7.1 in × 3.5 in) wooden box, was found as one lump, later separated into three main fragments which are now divided into 82 separate fragments after conservation efforts. Four of these fragments contain gears, while inscriptions are found on many others. The largest gear is approximately 14 centimetres (5.5 in) in diameter and originally had 223 teeth.
It is a complex clockwork mechanism composed of at least 30 meshing bronze gears. A team led by Mike Edmunds and Tony Freeth at Cardiff University used modern computer x-ray tomography and high resolution surface scanning to image inside fragments of the crust-encased mechanism and read the faintest inscriptions that once covered the outer casing of the machine.
Detailed imaging of the mechanism suggests that it had 37 gear wheels enabling it to follow the movements of the Moon and the Sun through the zodiac, to predict eclipses and even to model the irregular orbit of the Moon, where the Moon's velocity is higher in its perigee than in its apogee. This motion was studied in the 2nd century BC by astronomer Hipparchus of Rhodes, and it is speculated that he may have been consulted in the machine's construction.
The knowledge of this technology was lost at some point in antiquity. Similar technological works later appeared in the medieval Byzantine and Islamic worlds, but works with similar complexity did not appear again until the development of mechanical astronomical clocks in Europe in the fourteenth century. All known fragments of the Antikythera mechanism are now kept at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, along with a number of artistic reconstructions and replicas of the mechanism to demonstrate how it may have looked and worked.
- "The Antikythera Mechanism" | 2021-07-22 | 23 Upvotes 3 Comments
- "Antikythera Mechanism" | 2019-07-27 | 83 Upvotes 35 Comments
Band-e Kaisar – “Caesar's dam”
The Band-e Kaisar (Persian: بند قیصر, "Caesar's dam"), Pol-e Kaisar ("Caesar's bridge"), Bridge of Valerian or Shadirwan was an ancient arch bridge in Shushtar, Iran, and the first in the country to combine it with a dam. Built by the Sassanids, using Roman prisoners of war as workforce, in the 3rd century AD on Sassanid order, it was also the most eastern example of Roman bridge design and Roman dam, lying deep in Persian territory. Its dual-purpose design exerted a profound influence on Iranian civil engineering and was instrumental in developing Sassanid water management techniques.
The approximately 500 m long overflow dam over the Karun, Iran's most effluent river, was the core structure of the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System (سازههای آبی شوشتر) from which the city derived its agricultural productivity, and which has been designated by the UNESCO as Iran's 10th World Heritage Site in 2009. The arched superstructure carried across the important road between Pasargadae and the Sassanid capital Ctesiphon. Many times repaired in the Islamic period, the dam bridge remained in use until the late 19th century.
- "Band-e Kaisar – “Caesar's dam”" | 2016-01-03 | 16 Upvotes 2 Comments
Battle of Alesia
The Battle of Alesia or Siege of Alesia was a military engagement in the Gallic Wars that took place in September, 52 BC, around the Gallic oppidum (fortified settlement) of Alesia, a major centre of the Mandubii tribe. It was fought by the army of Julius Caesar against a confederation of Gallic tribes united under the leadership of Vercingetorix of the Arverni. It was the last major engagement between Gauls and Romans, and is considered one of Caesar's greatest military achievements and a classic example of siege warfare and investment. The battle of Alesia marked the end of Gallic independence in France and Belgium.
The battle site was probably atop Mont Auxois, above modern Alise-Sainte-Reine in France, but this location, some have argued, does not fit Caesar's description of the battle. A number of alternatives have been proposed over time, among which only Chaux-des-Crotenay (in Jura in modern France) remains a challenger today.
At one point in the battle the Romans were outnumbered by the Gauls by four to one. The event is described by several contemporary authors, including Caesar himself in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico. After the Roman victory, Gaul (very roughly modern France) was subdued and became a Roman province. The Roman Senate granted a thanksgiving of 20 days for his victory in the Gallic War.
- "Battle of Alesia" | 2020-01-08 | 77 Upvotes 91 Comments
Carthago delenda est
"Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam", or "Ceterum autem censeo Carthaginem esse delendam" (English: "Furthermore, I consider that Carthage must be destroyed"), often abbreviated to "Carthago delenda est" (English: "Carthage must be destroyed"), is a Latin oratorical phrase pronounced by Cato the Censor, a politician of the Roman Republic. The phrase originates from debates held in the Roman Senate prior to the Third Punic War (149–146 BC) between Rome and Carthage, where Cato is said to have used it as the conclusion to all his speeches in order to push for the war.
- "Carthago delenda est" | 2019-07-21 | 64 Upvotes 62 Comments
Pēdīcābō ego vōs et irrumābō ("I will sodomize and face-fuck you") is the first line, sometimes used as a title, of Carmen 16 in the collected poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84 BC – c. 54 BC). The poem, written in a hendecasyllabic (11-syllable) meter, was considered so explicit that a full English translation was not published until the late twentieth century. The first line has been called "one of the filthiest expressions ever written in Latin—or in any other language, for that matter."
Carmen 16 is significant in literary history as an artistic work censored for its obscenity, but also because the poem raises questions about the proper relation of the poet, or his life, to the work. Later Latin poets referenced the poem not for its invective, but as a justification for subject matter that challenged the prevailing decorum or moral orthodoxy. Ovid, Pliny the Younger, Martial, and Apuleius all invoked the authority of Catullus in asserting that while the poet should be a respectable person, his work should not be constrained or restricted.
- "Catullus 16" | 2018-10-25 | 22 Upvotes 5 Comments
The Diolkos: an ancient Greek paved trackway enabling boats to be moved overland
The Diolkos (Δίολκος, from the Greek διά, dia "across" and ὁλκός, holkos "portage machine") was a paved trackway near Corinth in Ancient Greece which enabled boats to be moved overland across the Isthmus of Corinth. The shortcut allowed ancient vessels to avoid the long and dangerous circumnavigation of the Peloponnese peninsula. The phrase "as fast as a Corinthian", penned by the comic playwright Aristophanes, indicates that the trackway was common knowledge and had acquired a reputation for swiftness.
The main function of the Diolkos was the transfer of goods, although in times of war it also became a preferred means of speeding up naval campaigns. The 6 km (3.7 mi) to 8.5 km (5.3 mi) long roadway was a rudimentary form of railway, and operated from c. 600 BC until the middle of the 1st century AD. The scale on which the Diolkos combined the two principles of the railway and the overland transport of ships remained unique in antiquity.
- "Diolkos" | 2020-10-21 | 167 Upvotes 28 Comments
- "The Diolkos: an ancient Greek paved trackway enabling boats to be moved overland" | 2016-07-31 | 121 Upvotes 27 Comments
In the theatre of ancient Greece, the eirôn (Ancient Greek: εἴρων) was one of three stock characters in comedy. The eirôn usually succeeded in bringing down his braggart opponent (the alazôn) by understating his own abilities.
- "Eirôn" | 2019-04-28 | 11 Upvotes 1 Comments
A laconic phrase or laconism is a concise or terse statement, especially a blunt and elliptical rejoinder. It is named after Laconia, the region of Greece including the city of Sparta, whose ancient inhabitants had a reputation for verbal austerity and were famous for their blunt and often pithy remarks.
- "Laconic Phrase" | 2015-04-24 | 12 Upvotes 3 Comments
Mandaeism or Mandaeanism (Arabic: مَنْدَائِيَّة, Mandāʾīyah), also known as Sabaeanism (Arabic: صَابِئِيَّة, Ṣābiʾīyah), is a monotheistic and gnostic religion with a strongly dualistic cosmology. Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enos, Noah, Shem, Aram, and especially John the Baptist. The Mandaeans have been counted among the Semites and speak a dialect of Eastern Aramaic known as Mandaic. The name 'Mandaean' is said to come from the Aramaic manda meaning "knowledge", as does Greek gnosis. Within the Middle East, but outside of their community, the Mandaeans are more commonly known as the Ṣubba (singular: Ṣubbī) or Sabians. The term Ṣubba is derived from the Aramaic root related to baptism, the neo-Mandaic is Ṣabi. In Islam, the "Sabians" (Arabic: الصَّابِئُون, aṣ-Ṣābiʾūn) are described several times in the Quran as People of the Book, alongside Jews and Christians. Occasionally, Mandaeans are called "Christians of Saint John".
According to most scholars, Mandaeaism originated sometime in the first three centuries AD, in either southwestern Mesopotamia or the Syro-Palestinian area. However, some scholars take the view that Mandaeanism is older and dates from pre-Christian times.
The religion has been practised primarily around the lower Karun, Euphrates and Tigris and the rivers that surround the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, part of southern Iraq and Khuzestan Province in Iran. There are thought to be between 60,000 and 70,000 Mandaeans worldwide. Until the Iraq War, almost all of them lived in Iraq. Many Mandaean Iraqis have since fled their country because of the turmoil created by the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation by U.S. armed forces, and the related rise in sectarian violence by Muslim extremists. By 2007, the population of Mandaeans in Iraq had fallen to approximately 5,000.
The Mandaeans have remained separate and intensely private. Reports of them and of their religion have come primarily from outsiders: particularly from Julius Heinrich Petermann, an Orientalist as well as from Nicolas Siouffi, a Syrian Christian who was the French vice-consul in Mosul in 1887, and British cultural anthropologist Lady E. S. Drower. There is an early if highly prejudiced account by the French traveller Jean-Baptiste Tavernier from the 1650s.
- "Mandaeism" | 2018-05-21 | 83 Upvotes 41 Comments