History for the Rest of Us

Ampyx – Greek Hair Band

Ampyx – Greek Hair Band

Nov 1, 2012

The ampyx was a frontlet, or band, worn by Greek ladies to confine the hair, passing around the front of the head and fastening behind. It was generally a plate of gold or silver, richly worked, and adorned with precious stones. The ampyx appears in festive scenes depicted on Etruscan tombs worn by females. SOURCE: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, Volume 1 edited by Sir William Smith, William Wayte, George Eden...

Amulet – Charm for Securing Good Luck

Amulet – Charm for Securing Good Luck

Nov 1, 2012

An amulet was a charm attached to the body of a human being or animal to avert calamities or secure good fortune. The shapes of ancient jewelery and ornaments were in great measure decided by a belief in their magical powers. Directions for the choice and application of amulets form no small part of many ancient documents on medicine, and it is often difficult to draw a distinction (which did not exist in the minds of many ancient physicians) between a medicine and an amulet. Sometimes a connection can be traced between the amulet and its purpose, for example when teeth of animals are used as a charm against dental diseases, but typically the relationship between the charm and its use seems entirely arbitrary. Below are some of the materials used for amulets and their magical purposes: Amethyst – believed to counteract the effects of wine Opal – believed to be beneficial to the eyes The ant, wasp, caterpillar, snail, and spider – used against fevers and mental disorders Amulets assumed the forms of necklaces, pendants, rings, bracelets, earrings, hairpins, etc. It was a very common practice to avoid bad luck by wearing some ill omened, grotesque, or obscene shape which would instantly catch the ‘evil eye’ and divert its malice. SOURCE: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, Volume 1 edited by Sir William Smith, William Wayte, George Eden Marindin Items from the Creating History...

Pericles’ Funeral Oration

Pericles’ Funeral Oration

Oct 11, 2012

Pericles’s Funeral Oration is a famous speech from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. Pericles, an eminent Athenian politician, delivered the speech after the first year of the Peloponnesian War as a part of an annual public funeral held for those killed during the war. For three days offerings could be made for the dead, whose remains of the dead were left out in a tent. After this three day period, a funeral procession was held with one cypress coffin for each of ten Athenian tribes carrying the remains of the dead. The procession would end a a public grave where they were buried. To conclude the funeral, a prominent Athenian citizen would deliver a speech. While this is the account of the speech by Thucydides, and therefore it is doubtful to be a verbatim quotation, certainly an attempt was made to accurately record the key aspects of the speech. The speech consists of the following significant sections: The Proemium – Praise of the custom of a public funeral and criticism of the difficult task the orator has of magnifying the deeds of the dead to satisfy their associates without being suspected of exaggeration. Praise of the Dead – Pericles praises the war dead by paying tribute to and honoring the city for which they died. The Greatness of Athens – Pericles speaks to the greatness of Athens, its principle of ‘equal justice under the law’ and more, finally tying it back to those who died in its defense. ‘Having judged that to be happy means to be free, and to be free means to be brave, do not shy away from the risks of war’. Exhortation to the Living – Pericles exhorts the living to follow the example of those who were willing to sacrifice their lives for their country ‘though you may pray that it may have a happier outcome.’ Epilogue – Reminding those gathered of the difficulty of speaking under such circumstances, the audience is dismissed. Pericles’s Funeral Oration: Most of those who have spoken here before me have commended the lawgiver who added this oration to our other funeral customs. It seemed to them a worthy thing that such an...

Fall of Troy

Fall of Troy

Jun 11, 2012

According to Eratosthenes, Troy was sacked and burned on June 11, 1184 BC. Trojan Horse Odysseus devised a plan to create a hollow wooden horse, a sacred animal to the Trojans, in which soldiers would be stationed. The horse was left with the following inscription: The Greeks dedicate this thank-offering to Athena for their return home. Thinking the Greeks had surrendered and the war was over, the Trojans dragged the horse into the city. Warnings The Trojans were warned by both Cassandra and Laocoön not to keep the horse. Cassandra was a prophetess who had been given the gift of prophecy by Apollo, who also cursed her to never be believed. Laocoön, a Trojan priest, tried to expose the Trojan Horse as a fraud by striking the horse with a spear. Legend says that Poseidon sent snakes to strangle Laocoön and his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus for their attempt to expose the ruse. The Trojans insisted that the snakes were a sign that the horse was sacred and should not have been touched by Laocoön. Victory for the Greeks A night of victory celebrations and revelry ensued. Once it was midnight, the Greek fleet waiting on the island of Tenedos were signalled, the soldiers emerged from inside the horse, and the guards were killed. The Greeks began the work of destruction upon the sleeping Trojan population. The work of death being described in the following manner by Quintus Smyrnaeus a Greek epic poet from the 4th century: Blood ran in torrents, drenched was all the earth, As Trojans and their alien helpers died. Here were men lying quelled by bitter death All up and down the city in their blood. The Greeks divided the spoils of Troy and the city was completely destroyed by...