Category Archives: Antiquities

The First Navigator

 

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The First Navigator

Beaver floating on a logTHE origin of navigation is unknown. It has baffled the research of antiquaries, for the simple reason that men sailed upon the sea before they committed the records of their history to paper, or that such records, if any existed, were swept away and lost in the periods of anarchy which succeeded. Imagination has suggested that the nautilus, or Portuguese man-of-war, raising its tiny sail and floating off before the breeze, first pointed out to man the use which might be made of the wind as a propelling force; that a split reed, following the current of some tranquil stream and transporting a beetle over its glassy surface, was the first canoe, while the beetle was the first sailor.

Mythology represents Hercules as sailing in a boat formed of the hide of a lion, and translates ships to the skies, where they still figure among the constellations. Fable makes Atlas claim the invention of the oar, and gives to Tiphys, the pilot of the Argo, the invention of the rudder. The attributing of these discoveries and improvements to particular individuals doubtless afforded pastime to poets in ages when poetry was more popular than history.

Instead of trusting to these fanciful authorities, we may form a very rational theory upon the matter in the following manner: Whether it was an insect that floated on a leaf across a rivulet and was stranded on the bank, or a beaver carried down a river upon a log, or a bear borne away upon an iceberg, that first awakened man to the conception of trusting himself fearlessly upon the water, it is highly probable that he learned from animals, whose natural element it is, the manner of supporting his body upon it and of forcing his way through it. A frog darting away from the rim of a pond and striking out with his fore-legs may have suggested swimming, and the beaver floating on a log may have suggested following his example. The log may not have been sufficiently buoyant, and the adventurer may have added to its buoyancy by using his arms and legs.

Excerpt from Man Upon the Sea by Frank B Goodrich – 1858

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Further Reading and External Links

Navigation on Wikipedia

Greek & Roman Mythology – Cronus

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There is a charm in the name of ancient Greece; there is glory in every page of her history; there is a fascination in the remains of her literature, and a sense of unapproachable beauty in her works of art; there is a spell in her climate still, and a strange attraction in her ruins.  

Today we cover the Greek God Cronus, other postings examine more particularly the religious belief of the Greeks and Romans, with the view of preparing the way for the descriptions that follow of the gods individually.

Cronus

Cronus and RheaCRONUS, “The ripener, the harvest god,” was, as we have already remarked, a son of Uranus.  That he continued for a long time to be identified with the Roman deity, Saturnus, is a mistake which recent research has set right, and accordingly we shall devote a separate chapter to each. Uranus, deposed from the throne of the gods, was succeeded by Cronus, who married his own sister Rhea, a daughter of Gaea, who bore him Pluto, Poseidon (Neptune) and Zeus (Jupiter), Hestia (Vesta), Demeter (Ceres), and Hera (Juno). To prevent the fulfilment of a prophecy which had been communicated to him by his parents, that, like his father, he too would be dethroned by his youngest son, Cronus swallowed his first five children apparently as each came into the world. But when the sixth child appeared, Rhea, his wife, determined to save it, and succeeded in duping her husband by giving him a stone (perhaps rudely hewn into the figure of an infant) wrapped in swaddling clothes, which he swallowed, believing he had got rid of another danger.

While the husband was being deceived in this fashion, Zeus, the newly born child, was conveyed to the island of Crete, and there concealed in a cave on Mount Ida. The nymphs Adrastea and Ida tended and nursed him, the goat Amalthea supplied him with milk, bees gathered honey for him,Curetes Guarding Zeus and in the mean time, lest his infantile cries should reach the cars of Cronus, Rhea’s servants, the Curetes, were appointed to keep up a continual noise and din in the neighborhood by dancing and clashing their swords and shields.

When Zeus had grown to manhood he succeeded by the aid of Gaea, or perhaps of Metis, in persuading Cronus to yield bark into the light the sons whom he had swallowed and the stone which had been given him in deceit. The stone was placed at Delphi as a memorial for all time. The liberated gods joined their brethren in a league to drive their father from the throne and set Zeus in his place.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897

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Further Reading and External Links

Cronus on Encyclopedia Mythica

Greek & Roman Mythology – Uranus

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There is a charm in the name of ancient Greece; there is glory in every page of her history; there is a fascination in the remains of her literature, and a sense of unapproachable beauty in her works of art; there is a spell in her climate still, and a strange attraction in her ruins.  

Here we cover the Greek God Uranus, other posting examine more particularly the religious belief of the Greeks and Romans, with the view of preparing the way for the descriptions that follow of the gods individually.

Uranus

Council of the GodsUranus is a personification of the sky as the ancients saw and understood its phenomena, and with him, according to the version of mythology usually accepted by the Greeks, commences the race of gods. Next succeeded Cronus, and lastly, Zeus (Jupiter).  With regard to this triple succession of supreme rulers of the world, we should notice the different and progressive signification of their three names, Uranus signifying the heavens viewed as husband of the earth, and by his warmth and moisture producing life and vegetation everywhere on it; Cronus, his successor, being the god of harvest, who also ripened and matured every form of life; while in the person of Zeus (Jupiter), god of the light of heaven, as his name implies, culminated the organization and perfectly wise and just dispensation of the affairs of the universe.  Uranus, as we have already observed, was a son of Gaea (the earth), whom he afterward married, the fruit of that union being the Titans, the Hecatoncheires, and the Cyolopes.

The Hecatoncheires, or Centimani, beings each with a hundred hands, were three in number: Cottus, Gyges or Gyes, and Briareus, and represented the frightful crashing of waves and its resemblance to the convulsion of earthquakes. The Cyolopes also were three in number: Brontes with his thunder, Steropes with his lightning, and Arges with his stream of light. They were represented as having only one eye, which was placed at the juncture between nose and brow. It was, however, a large flashing eye, as became beings who were personifications of the storm-cloud, with its flashes of destructive lightning and peals of thunder.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897

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Further Reading and External Links

Uranus – God of the Sky

Uranus – at the Roman Colosseum

Norse Mythology – Odin

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Odin

OdinThe physical origin of the idea of Odin is evident, first from the moaning of his name, and, secondly, from the various attributes assigned to him.  The word Odin is simply another form of Woden, or Wuotan, which Grimm connects with the Latin vadere.  He is thus the moving, life-giving breath or air of heaven; and as such corresponds to the Hindoo Brahmin – Atman (German, Athem), or ever-present life and energy.  His Greek correlative is, of course, Zeus, who is likewise spoken of as All-father.  The name Zeus is derived from a root signifying “to shine,” and thus the King of the Greek Asgard was originally “the glistening ether.”  

It was but natural that Odin, as the personification of the blue sky, should rule the rain-clouds and the sunlight; hence as Odin the rain-giver he corresponds with Zeus Ombrios (the showery Zeus), while as the light-god he is merely a Norse Phoebus or Apollo, whose spear – the sun rays – disperses the darkness.  As sky-god, and god of the moving air, he was, no less naturally or inevitably, invoked as the protector of sailors.  In this respect he corresponds or is interchangeable with Thor.  But this interchange, or overlapping, of functions is as distinctive of Norse as of Greek mythology,

Finally, Zeus and Odin resemble each other in their development from purely physical into spiritual beings.  Odin, the ever-present ether, becomes the ever-present and ever-knowing spirit, the Father of all.  And as Zeus is the father of the Muses, so Odin is the father of Saga, the goddess of poetry. The two ravens that sat on the shoulders of Odin, and every morning brought him news of what was passing in the world, were called Hunin and Munin – Thought and Memory.  Memory, or Muemosyne, was the mother of the Greek Muses.  

A trace of the worship of Odin survives even to the present day.  In one of the Orkney islands is an Odin stone, in a hollow of which superstitious people thrust their hands, by way of testifying on their most solemn oath.  The island of Heligoland is said to have derived its name from Odin, who was also named Helgi (der Helige), or the Holy.  “Charles’s Wain” as we now call it, was named Odin’s Wain; and the “Milky Way” was also known as Odin’s Way.  Unlike Zeus – the Greek All-father – Odin was also a god of war.  Hence it was that, as already observed, he received into Walhalla one-half of the heron slain in battle.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897

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Further Reading and External Links

Norse Mythology

Odin – Ruler of the Universe

Greek Mythology – Apollo

Phoebus Apollo, Helios, or Sol

Apollo

From the sun comes our physical light, but that light is at the same time an emblem of all mental illumination, of knowledge, truth, and right, of all moral purity; and in this respect a distinction was made between it as a mental and a physical phenomenon a distinction which placed Phoebus Apollo on one side and  Helios on the other.  Accordingly Phoebus Apollo is the oracular god who throws light on the dark ways of the future, who slays the Python, that monster of darkness which made the oracle at Delphi inaccessible.  He is the god Helios, or Sol. of music and song, which are only heard where light and security reign and the possession of herds is free from danger.  Helios, on the other hand, is the physical phenomenon of light, the orb of the sun, which, summer and winter, rises and sets in the sky.  His power of bringing secrets to light has been already seen in the story of Vulcan and Venus.

The myth of Apollo is, like that of Aphrodite, one of the oldest in the Greek system, but, unlike the latter, which is at least partly traceable to oriental influence, is a pure growth of the Greek mind.  No doubt certain oriental nations had deities of the sun and of light similar in some points to Apollo, but this only proves the simple fact that they viewed the movements of the sun and the operations of light in a general way similarly to the Greeks.  We have seen in the preceding chapters how the sky, earth, sea, and lower world were personified by divine beings of a high order, while in the same way other forces and powers in nature were imagined as beings.  In the myth of Apollo we shall find represented the various operations of the eternal light of the sun.

It is the sun’s rays, or the arrows of Apollo, that everywhere, as the fields and gardens teach us, quicken life, and foster it toward ripeness; through them a new life springs all around, and in the warmth of their soft, kindly light the jubilant voice of nature is heard and awakens an echo in the human soul.  At the same time these arrows destroy the life of plants and animals; even man falls under them in southern climates, such as Greece.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897

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Further Reading and External Links

Greek God Apollo

Apollo – God of the Sun

Greek & Roman Mythology – Aphrodite or Venus

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Aphrodite or Venus

Aphrodite or VenusWas the goddess of love in that wide sense of the word which in early times embraced also the love of animals, and the love which was thought to be the cause of productiveness throughout nature.  

Accordingly we find in her character, side by side with what is beautiful and noble, much that is coarse and unworthy.  In the best times of Greece the refined and beautiful features of her worship were kept in prominence, both in poetry and art; but these, when times of luxury succeeded, had to give way to impurities of many kinds.  

The feelings awakened by observing the productive power of nature had, it would seem, given rise to a divine personification of love in very remote early times among the nations of the East.  The Phoenicians called this personification Astarte, and carried her worship with them wherever they established factories or markets in Greece, in the islands of the Mediterranean, and on to Italy.  The early Greeks coming in contact with these traders, and obtaining from them a knowledge of coinage, weights, measures, and other necessaries of commerce and trade including, it is said, a system of writing appear to have transferred some of the functions of the oriental goddess to their own Aphrodite, as, for instance, the function of protecting commerce.  The earliest known Greek coins – those of Aegina – the weights of which correspond accurately with the oriental standard, have the figure of a tortoise, the well-known symbol of Aphrodite.  How much else of the character of their goddess the Greeks may have derived from the Phoenicians it would be impossible to say.  But the extraordinary zeal with which she continued to be worshipped in Cyprus, Cythera, Corinth, Carthage, Sicily, and wherever in early times the Phoenicians had made settlements, may signify that others of her functions besides that of protecting commerce had been borrowed from the oriental goddess.  The older Aphrodite worshipped in Greece previous to the introduction of Phoenician elements in her character is described as a daughter of Zeus (Iliad v. 312) and Dione, and through her mother was associated with the ancient worship at Dodona.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897

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Greek & Roman Mythology – Ares or Mars

ARES, OR MARS

ARES, OR MARS

A son of Zeus (Jupiter) and Hera (Juno), according to the belief of the Greeks, was originally god of the storm and tempest, and more particularly of the hurricane; but this his natural meaning was lost sight of at an earlier period, and more completely than in the case of most of the other gods, the character in which he appears to us being exclusively that of “god of the turmoil and storms in human affairs,” in other words, “god of dreadful war,” or more correctly, “of the wild confusion and strife of battle.”  Of all the upper gods he was the most fierce and terrible, taking pleasure in slaughter and massacre.

In this respect he forms a striking contrast to Pallas Athene, the goddess of well-matched chivalrous fights, who we often find opposed to him in mythical narratives.  When fighting she was invulnerable, and always on the side of the victor; while Ares (Mars) being not only god of battle but also a personification of war, with its double issue of victory and defeat, was sometimes wounded, and even taken prisoner.

When assisting the Trojans in their war with the Greeks, in the course of which he took under his special protection their leader, Hector, he was wounded by the Greek hero Diomedes, aided by the goddess Athene.  He fell – so Homer describes the event in the Iliad (v. 853) – with a thundering crash to the ground, like the noise of ten thousand warriors engaged in battle.  Again (Iliad xxi.400) he was wounded by Athene and fell, his armor clanking, and his body covering with his fall seven acres of ground – an obvious reference to the roar and destruction attending a great storm.

He was once captured by Otus and Ephialtes, the giant sons of Aloeus the planter, and kept imprisoned in a great bronze vase (Iliad v. 385) for thirteen months – a space of time which, when we remember that the names of the two heroes are derived from husbandry, seems to indicate a full year of peaceful agriculture.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897

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Further Reading and External Links

Greek Mythology on Wikipedia

Ares – God of War

Early Sparta – 10th Century BC

Early Sparta – 10th Century BC

Sparta

Sparta was one of the cities of the Peloponnesus which owed their origin or importance to the Dorian Invasion (sect. 145).  It was situated in the deep valley of the Eurotas, in Laconia, and took its name Sparta (sown land) from the circumstance that it was built upon tillable ground, whereas the heart and center of most Greek cities consisted of a lofty rock (the citadel, or acropolis).  But Sparta needed no citadel.  Her situation, surrounded as she was by almost impassable mountain barriers, and far removed from the sea, was her sufficient defense.  Indeed, the Spartans seem to have thought it unnecessary even to erect a wall round their city, which stood open on every side until late and degenerate times.  And events justified this feeling of security.  So difficult of access to an enemy is the valley, that during more than four hundred years of Spartan history the waters of the Eurotas never once reflected the camp fires of an invading army.

170. Classes in the Spartan State. The population of Laconia was divided into three classes Spartans, Perioeci, and Helots.  The Spartans proper were the descendants of the conquerors of the country, and were Dorian in race and language.  They formed but a small fraction of the entire population, at no period numbering more than ten thousand men capable of hearing arms.  The Perioeci (dwellers around), who constituted the second class, were probably the subjected pre-Dorian inhabitants of the land a mixed AEgean-Achaean population.  They are said to have outnumbered the Spartans three to one. They were allowed to retain possession of their lands, but were forced to pay tribute-rent, and in times of war to follow the lead of their Spartan masters.

Excerpt from Ancient History by Philip Van Ness Myers – 1916

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Further Reading and External Links

Sparta on Wikipedia

A Study of Ancient Sparta

Lack of Money

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Lack of Money

Roman CoinsLack of money was one of the great evils.  The empire did not have sufficient supplies of precious metals for the demands of business; and what money there was was steadily drained away to India and the distant Orient (p. 15).  By the fourth century this movement had carried away hundreds of millions of dollars of coined money.  Even the imperial officers were forced to take part of their salaries in produce, robes, horses, grain.  Trade began to go back to the primitive form of barter; and it became harder and harder to collect taxes.

In the third and fourth centuries there were no more great poets or men of letters.  Learning and patriotism both declined.  Society began to fall into rigid castes, the serf bound to his spot of land, the artisan to his trade, the curial to his office, Freedom of movement was lost.   Above all, there was dearth of money and dearth of men.  The Empire had become a shell.

For five hundred years, outside barbarians had been tossing wildly about the great natural walls of the civilized world.   Commonly they had shrunk in dread from any conflict with the mighty Roman legions, always on sleepless ward at the weaker gaps – along the Rhine, the Danube, the Euphrates.   Sometimes, it is true, the barbarians had broken through for a moment, but always to be destroyed promptly by some Roman Marius or Caesar.   In the fifth century they broke in to stay.

But meanwhile Christianity had come into the world.  The supreme service of the dying Empire was to foster this new force for human progress.

Excerpt from The Story of Modern Progress by Willis Mason West – 1920

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Why did the Roman Empire Fall

The Fall of the Western Roman Empire

Merging of Roman and Teuton

 

 

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Merging of Roman and Teuton

In the sixth century, after long decline, the Empire fell for a time to a capable ruler, Justinian the Great (527-565).  We remember him chiefly because he brought about a codification of the Roman law.  In the course of centuries, that law had become an intolerable maze.  Now a commission of able lawyers put the whole mass into a new form, marvelously compact, clear, and orderly.

 

Church of St Sophia

Church of St Sophia, Constantinople – built by Justinian upon the site of an earlier church of the same name by Constantine.  The whole interior is lined with costly, many-colored marbles.  This view shows only a part of the vast dome, with eighteen of the forty windows which run about its circumference of some 340 feet.  In 1463 the building became a Mohammedan mosque (p. 121). In 1919 it became again a Christian temple.

 

Justinian also reconquered Italy for the Empire, and so the code was established in that land. Thence, through the church, and some centuries later through a new class of lawyers, it spread over the West.

Justinian’s conquest of Italy had another result less happy.  His generals destroyed a promising kingdom of the East Goths in Italy.   Then (568), immediately after the great emperor’s death, a new German people, the savage Lombards, swarmed into the peninsula, and soon conquered much of it. Their chief kingdom was in the Po valley, which we still call Lombardy; but various Lombard “dukedoms” were scattered also in other parts.  The Empire kept (1) the “Exarchate of Ravenna” on the Adriatic; (2) Rome, with a little territory about it; and (3) the extreme south.  

Thus Italy, the middle land for which Roman and Teuton had struggled for centuries, was at last divided between them, and shattered into fragments in the process. No other country suffered so terribly in the centuries of invasion as this lovely peninsula which had so long been mistress of the world.

Excerpt from The Story of Modern Progress by Willis Mason West – 1920

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Further Reading and External Links

Justinian the Great on Wikipedia

The Fall of the Western Roman Empire

More on Justinian the Great