Ancient History et cetera

Warriors Across the Ancient World

This post is part of a series of image posts Ancient History et cetera will be putting together each month. Today’s post concerns ancient warriors!

Ancient warfare was vastly different from how it is conducted today; the vanquished could be certain that slavery or execution awaited them. Initially, ancient armies were made up of infantry units who would engage enemy forces on the field with spears, shields, some form of body armour and a helmet. In time, armies developed to include shock troops, peltasts and include strategies like the formation known as the phalanx.

The hoplite is the Greek solider most are familiar with. His complete suit of armour was a long spear, short sword, and circular bronze shield; he was further protected, if he could afford it, by a bronze helmet, bronze breastplate, greaves for the legs and finally, ankle guards.

The Aztecs engaged in warfare (yaoyotl) to acquire territory, resources, quash rebellions, and to collect sacrificial victims to honour their gods. Warfare was a fundamental part of Aztec culture and all males were expected to participate. Eagle knights were a special class of infantry soldier in the Aztec army and one of the two leading military orders in their society.

The Assyrian war machine was one of the most efficient military forces in the ancient world. The secret to its success was a professionally trained standing army, use of iron weapons, advanced engineering skills and most importantly a complete ruthlessness, which proclaimed the power of ancient Assyria across the Near East.

The Roman army was usually commanded by a consul. Roman commanders generally preferred an aggressive and full-frontal attack, and they had many strategies to break enemy lines such as the tortoise, the wedge, skirmishing formation, repel cavalry and the orb.

Aztec Eagle Warrior

An almost life-size Aztec Eagle Warrior, one of the elite warrior groups in the Aztec military. 13-15th century CE, from Tenochtitlan (National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City) Photo © Dennis Jarvis.

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Art and Sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Marble Head of a Companion of Odysseus

This week’s sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a marble head of a companion of Odysseus, copied after a famous work from the Hellenistic period.

Marble head of a companion of Odysseus from the Pantanello at Hadrian’s Villa, British Museum

This head shows the face of a man that probably belonged to a multi-figure group depicting Odysseus with his twelve companions blinding the one-eyed giant (and the most famous of the Cyclopes), Polyphemus, with a burning stake.

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Conjecture or Fact? The Two Faces of Alexander the Great

Two Faces of Alexander the Great

Two Faces of Alexander the Great. Image on the left: wikimediacommons. Image on the right: Jim Haberman

The headline “Mosaic of Alexander the Great Meeting a Jewish priest,” recently caught my attention. I have been to Greece twice, once on an archaeological excavation, and I teach ninth grade world history. This is just the kind of headline to get my students excited about ancient Greece. It reminds me of the excitement surrounding the discovery of a second Mona Lisa back in 2012. Is this an open and shut case? Could this really be another image of Alexander? So far the circumstantial evidence indicates that this newly discovered mosaic is the famous general, king and warrior. The Daily Mail describes a legend in which Alexander meets with a Jewish priest, and the new mosaic discovered in Israel could be the long-awaited confirmation of that myth.

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Ancient Mediterranean Funerary Art

This post is part of a series of image posts Ancient History et cetera will post each month. Today’, it is all about ancient funerary art!

All ancient cultures had varying and extensive beliefs about life and death. They also had elaborate burial rituals performed at death. These rituals ensured safe travel to the afterlife, so that the dead are remembered forever.

By the sixth century CE, ancient Greek concepts of the afterlife and ceremonies associated with burial were well established. They believed that when one died they went to the realm of Hades and his wife, Persephone. Greek burial rituals were usually performed by the women of the family and involved a prothesis (laying out of the body) and the ekphora (funeral procession). The most common forms of Greek funerary art are relief sculpture, statues, and tall stelai crowned by capitals, and finials.

Similarly, the Romans performed a funeral procession for their dead which would end in a columbarium. These columbarium, depending on the person’s station in life, could be quite elaborate. Roman Sarcophagi also tend to be quite beautiful and visually tell us Roman values. (Whereas, epitaphs provide literary insight into Roman values.) Roman funerary art also includes death masks, tombstones and sculptural reliefs.

In ancient Greece and Rome, the Etruscans were identified as a culture of their own. Etruscans burial practices resulted in many items of funerary art such as: sculpture, sarcophagi, decorative cinerary or burial urns and tombs.

The various Egyptian burial rites, I am sure most have heard about! Rather than go into detail about Egyptian beliefs, I think everyone can agree that their practices resulted in a mass of items which could be classified as funerary art.

Funerary urn lid of an Etruscan woman

Painted terracotta funerary urn lid of an Etruscan woman, from Chiusi, ca. 150-120 BCE (Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe, Germany). Photographer: Carole Raddato

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Traveling in Israel on a Budget

Me in front of the Latin inscription dedicated to Hadrian revealed in Jerusalem on Wednesday 22nd October 2014 (1)

Carole in front of the Latin inscription dedicated to Hadrian revealed in Jerusalem. Photo © Carole Raddato

On the shores of the Mediterranean sea, Israel is a country with a rich archaeological and religious history. As a land of great significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims, it has many sacred sites like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque. People are also drawn to the many ancient relics and landmarks Israel has to offer.

In this interview with Ancient History Encyclopedia, Jade Koekoe speaks to Carole Raddato of Following Hadrian. Carole discusses her recent experiences in Israel and gives her advice about traveling to this magnificent country on a budget.

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The Ancient Minoans of Crete

dolphins

A detail of the dolphin fresco, the Minoan palace of Knossos, Crete, (c. 1700-1450 BCE). Photograph taken by Mark Cartwright for Ancient History Encyclopedia. Uploaded by Mark Cartwright, published on 26 April 2012 under the following license: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike.

The Minoan civilization flourished on the Mediterranean island of Crete during the height of the Bronze Age (c. 2000-c. 1500 BCE). By virtue of their unique art and architecture, the ancient Minoans made significant contributions to the subsequent development of Western civilization. However, we still know less about the Minoans than the civilizations of Egypt or Mesopotamia. Professor Louise Hitchcock, an archaeologist specializing in Aegean archaeology at Melbourne University, introduces us to the world of the ancient Minoans and the importance of Aegean archaeology in this exclusive interview with James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE).

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Sanliurfa: Home to largest new museum complex in Turkey

Today we have another contribution from Timeless Travels Magazine in which Nicholas Kropacek discusses the new Sanliurfa museum in Turkey.

View of the new museum complex

View of the new museum complex. Photo © Alkans Tours, Nicholas Kropacek

In short, Sanliurfa (often called Urfa) is a city with such a magnificent and tumultuous history that one would have thought that it must have had a large and important world-class museum. But it didn’t, at least not until now. The old Urfa museum was a small, modest building on two floors and with a small sculpture garden having room for a mere 500 or so exhibits. But what has been taking shape in Urfa’s central Haleplibahçe district over the past two years has been something of an entirely different order and will accommodate at least 10,000 items.

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Volunteering for History: Australia

Unlike Europe, Australia does not have many great structures that need protecting or preserving. It’s ancient history lies in the natural and social worlds. The Australian Indigenous people’s culture stretches back over 20,000 years. Making them one of the oldest living culture on earth. There are museums and heritage institutions across Australia that help to preserve that culture.

Diggers

Volunteers doing digging work. Photographer: Daniel Thornton (CC BY 2.0) https://goo.gl/RcW5v

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In the Footsteps of Xerxes: Following the Remains of the Persian Wars in Today’s Greece

Today we have another contribution from Time Travels Magazine in which Ben Churcher writes about the remains that can be found of the Persian wars in Greece.

View of the Acropolis, Athens.

View of the Acropolis, Athens.

The road from the Plain of Marathon to downtown Athens is, as we all know, around 40 km due to the length of the modern marathon that supposedly commemorates a run undertaken in 490 BCE to announce to the Athenians that they had defeated the Persians. First, to put one thing straight, the runner was not, as the eminent scholar tells me, made by a Greek soldier Pheidippides. Pheidippides was not a soldier but a professional long-distance runner who, a few days before the Battle of Marathon, made a run from Athens to Sparta where he reached Sparta the day after he left Athens. Secondly, common belief has it that when the runner reached Athens to announce the victory that he collapsed and died after delivering his message. Again this is wrong.

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Best Views of the Erechtheion in Athens

by Mark Cartwright July 30, 2015 Photos 0 Comments

The Erechtheion temple of the Athenian acropolis was constructed between 421 and 406 BCE under the supervision of the architect Philocles. The temple was built to house the ancient cult wooden statue of Athena and as a shrine to other local gods such as the early Athenian kings Erechtheus and Kekrops, and Boutes and Pandrosos. Poseidon and Zeus also had sacred precincts within the building. The south porch has the iconic Caryatids which make the building one of the most distinctive surviving structures of antiquity.

The Erechtheion, named after the demi-god Erechtheus, the mythical Athenian king, was built using local Pentelic marble. The largest inner chamber housed the diiepetes, the olivewood statue of Athena Polias (of the city-state), clothed in the specially woven robe which was carried in the Panathenaic procession, held in the city every four years. In front of the statue stood a gold lamp designed by Kallimachos which had a bronze palm-shaped chimney and an asbestos wick which burned continuously. The sacred serpent (oikouros ophis), which was believed to be an incarnation of Erechtheus, dwelt in one of the western chambers and acted as guardian to the city. Well looked after, it was regularly fed with honey cakes.

The front facade of the Erechtheion.

The front facade of the Erechtheion.

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