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Pericles – A king without a crown

Pericles

Pericles: CameliaTWU via Flickr

Pericles (ca. 495-429 BCE) was an Athenian general and statesman born in the wealthy and powerful Alcmaeonid family during Athens‘ so-called Golden Age.

He had an unusually large head and legend has it that before his birth, his mother dreamed she bore a lion. It’s hard to know if this is just an embellishment, the lion being a well known symbol for royalty.¹

Also, Pericles’ large head was the object of much satire in his day, so perhaps the story was a retroactive flourish based on his physicality.

Aside from the jokes and legends, Pericles was a great orator who reached the masses without stooping to their vulgar idioms, as one historian put it.

He was calm, self-controlled and yet charismatic when he wanted to be. Possessing the ruling power of a king (443-429 BCE), he was never crowned as such. His influence to the Greeks at Athens was such that the historian Thucydides (circa 460 BCE – 395 BCE) called him “the first citizen of Athens.”

Pericles advocated legal reforms that culminated in an Athenian democracy (462-461 BCE).² He became the head of the democratic party in 461 BCE, while his wealthy and influential opponent Cimon was exiled.

Educated in music and philosophy by the best teachers of his day,³ he was active in the literary, philosophical and artistic community of Athens, and the driving force behind the erection of the Parthenon (begun 447 BCE) and several other impressive structures.

Anaxagoras, one of Pericles’ leading teachers via ECO SOCIAL…OJO CRÍTICO CCL

During the Thirty Years Peace he remained antagonistic to Sparta, this fueling the onset of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BCE).

While the Peloponnesian War raged, Athens was hit by a plague that claimed his life.

The Greek historian and philosopher Plutarch (c.46-c.120 CE ) wrote a biography of Pericles. He’s also mentioned by Herodotus (484– circa 425 BCE).  Shakespeare read Plutarch’s biography and wrote the play Pericles, Prince of Tyre (c.46-c.120 CE ) with his usual wit:

So, this is Tyre, and this the court. Here must I kill King Pericles; and if I do it not, I am sure to be hanged at home: ’tis dangerous. Well, I perceive he was a wise fellow, and had good discretion, that, being bid to ask what he would of the king, desired he might know none of his secrets: now do I see he had some reason for’t; for if a king bid a man be a villain, he’s bound by the indenture of his oath to be one!4

¹ Legend has it that Alexander The Great’s father had a similar dream just before the birth of his illustrious son.

² http://www.stoa.org/projects/demos/article_democracy_development?page=6

³ Most notably, Anaxagoras.

4 https://www.opensourceshakespeare.org/views/plays/play_view.php?WorkID=pericles&Act=1&Scene=3&Scope=scene


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The Parthenon – Portal To The Past

Athens - Acropolis: Parthenon (West Side)

Athens – Acropolis: Parthenon (West Side): wallyg / Wally Gobetz (see photo at flickr for excellent notes)

The Parthenon is a Greek temple designed by the architect Iktinos and built in 477-433 BCE. It sits on top of the acropolis at Athens.

A stunning example of Doric architecture, the pure marble sanctuary was dedicated to goddess Athena, originally containing at center a massive gold and ivory statue of the deity.

Later transformed into a church, then a mosque, it was damaged in 1687 from an explosion while the Turks were at war with the Venetians.

Today the Parthenon is recognized as a world heritage site.

Despite the best efforts of Greek officials to preserve this magnificent portal to the past, its very survival is threatened by acid rain and automobile pollution.

Myself, I haven’t visited the Parthenon in person. After graduating I had a couple of years to peruse travel videos, so have a pretty good idea what it’s about. Wikipedia has this interesting animation, showing what the Parthenon looks like—(probably) then and now.

Image – Wikipedia

Tastes have changed. To me it looks a bit gaudy. The old version I mean. Same thing with Egyptian reconstructions. Most people think of the windblown monochrome look that pervades today. But in the past, things were much more lively.

Related » Acropolis, Pericles


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The Furies – an early attempt to outline a core dynamic?

The Remorse of Orestes or Orestes Pursued by t...

The Remorse of Orestes or Orestes Pursued by the Furies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Furies were ancient Greek avengers usually personified as three ugly, old women carrying torches and covered in snakes. Typically seen as three sisters – Alecto (The Unresting), Tisiphone (The Avenger) and Magaera (The Jealous) – the Furies are the offspring of Gaia and Uranus or, depending on which myth you subscribe to, Nxy (night).¹

In Greece the Furies were also called the Erinyes. The Erinyes mostly punished people within families for their ill deeds on Earth.

The Romans adapted the bulk of Greek myth to suit their own purposes and mindset. The Roman poet Vergil depicts the Furies in the underworld, where they torment the wicked. Although vicious, the Furies mete out just punishments to those who have sworn false oaths.

Night of the Furies

Night of the Furies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I see myths like this as primitive or prototypical attempts to understand some basic dynamics of what later would be called the “collective unconscious.”² The old saying what goes around comes around comes to mind. In other words, we can fool others, we can fool ourselves, but sooner or later we have to pay for our bad choices.

¹ According to variant accounts, they emerged from an even more primordial level—from Nyx (“Night”), or from a union between air and mother earth. »  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erinyes

² Not to imply that this term is adequate. The Jungian James Hillman rightly points out that the idea of the unconscious is just another concept, another myth. And better understandings of how the mind works in relation to All That Is most likely will come in the future. See James Hillman, The Myth of Analysis.


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Gorgons – Ancient archetypes that just won’t go away

Medusa from Clash of the Titans.

Medusa from Clash of the Titans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gorgon

noun
  1. Classical Mythology. any of three sister monsters commonly represented as having snakes for hair, wings, brazen claws, and eyes that turned anyone looking into them to stone. Medusa, the only mortal Gorgon, was beheaded by Perseus.
  2. (lowercase) a mean, ugly, or repulsive woman.
gorgon. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved August 3, 2016 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/gorgon

Section of Perseus beheading Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini. | Located in: Loggia dei Lanzi.

Related Posts » Medusa

Yes, I copied straight from dictionary.com but I think it’s okay as long as I give a full reference. There’s a lot more info there if you follow the link. It’s a hot day in the middle of summer and I’m going through old entries that need updating or content addition.
In other words, it was either do nothing or do this.

Basically I just wanted a bit of background for my entry on Medusa, which also needs updating!

I should be at the beach… 🙂


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Sibyl

A Sibyl

A Sibyl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The term Sibyl represents alleged prophetesses who were consulted in ancient Greece and Rome. They apparently prophecized in ecstasy, under the temporary possession of Apollo. The Oxford Classical Dictionary notes that

Originally the Sibyl seems to have been a single prophetic woman, but by the time of Heraclides (1) Ponticus… a number of places claimed to be the birthplace of Sibylla, traditions concerning a number of different Sibyls began to circulate, and the word came to be a generic term rather than a name.¹

Ten Sibylline oracles have been recorded by history. The best known Sibyl is said to have resided in a cave at Cumea, near Naples—The Cumean Sibyl.

In Vergil‘s Aneid this Sibyl is visited by Aeneas before his descent to Hades. She is also believed to have composed the original Sibylline books.

Study for the Phrygian Sibyl fresco by Raphael...

Study for the Phrygian Sibyl fresco by Raphael for the Chigi Chapel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These prophetic works were taken to Rome, where they were guarded by two nobles. Extended volumes of Sibylline books survived into the 4th century CE.

M. C. Howatson and Ian Chilvers relate a story about the Cumaean Sibyl where the god Apollo asks what she would want in return if he were to make love with her. She asks for a lifespan equal in years to the number of grains in a heap of sand. It turns out there are 1,000 grains of sand. She forgot, however, to ask for youthfulness, so grew wickedly old and miserable, wishing only to die.²

Another famous Sibyl lived in Erythia in Asia, “The Erythian Sibyl.”

Sibyls appear in Christian art and literature. Early Christian interest in the Sibylline oracles raised them to a status comparable to the Old Testament Prophets. As Celia E. Schultz puts it:

The fact that many of the Sibylline oracles touch on Christian and Jewish themes is a reflection of the popularity of the Sibyl as a prophet of the Messiah for early Christian writers.³

Picture of Shirley Ardell Mason, aka Sybil Isa...

Picture of Shirley Ardell Mason, aka Sybil Isabel Dorsett (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1973 a popular novel, Sibyl, was written by Flora Rheta Schreiber based on the life of Shirley Ardell Mason, a woman diagnosed with so-called multiple personality disorder (MPD). In 1976 the book was made into a film with Sally Field as Sibyl.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, at least two other novels have been entitled Sibyl.

¹ “Sibyl” in The Oxford Classical Dictionary: Oxford University Press 1996, 2000 CD ROM version.

² Concise Companion to Classical Literature, Oxford 1996, p. 493.

³ Schultz, Celia E. “Sibyls and the Sibylline Books.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. : Oxford University Press, 2010. Oxford Reference. 2010. Date Accessed 16 Nov. 2015 http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195170726.001.0001/acref-9780195170726-e-1162.

The plethora of images listed below shows that, although closed down as an institution, the idea of the Sibyls continues to fascinate and inspire through the centuries.

Related » Mistletoe, DSM-IV-TR

The Libyan Sibyl by Cliff

Michelangelo's rendering of the Erythraean Sibyl

Michelangelo’s rendering of the Erythraean Sibyl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sibylla Palmifera

Sibylla Palmifera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michelangelo's Delphic Sibyl, Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo’s Delphic Sibyl, Sistine Chapel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sibyl seated among Classical ruins

Sibyl seated among Classical ruins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Janssens, Abraham - The Agrippine Sibyl

Janssens, Abraham – The Agrippine Sibyl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Guercino - Persian Sibyl

Guercino – Persian Sibyl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Detail of the vault (one of the 4 sibyls : Sib...

Detail of the vault (one of the 4 sibyls : Sibyl of Delphi) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sibyl velasquez

Sibyl velasquez (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo, The Liby...

Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo, The Libyan Sibyl, post restoration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Cumaean Sibyl Deutsch: Cumäische Siby...

Cumaean Sibyl Deutsch: Cumäische Sibylle a Sibila de Cumas, por Michelangelo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Domenichino - Cumaean Sibyl

Domenichino – Cumaean Sibyl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Image by John Leech, from: The Comic History o...

Image by John Leech, from: The Comic History of Rome by Gilbert Abbott A Beckett. Bradbury, Evans & Co, London, 1850s Tarquinius Superbus has the Sibylline Books valued (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Prophet Hosea and the Delphic Sibyl Fresco...

The Prophet Hosea and the Delphic Sibyl Fresco Borgia Apartments, Hall of the Sibyls (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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Sophists

 

Early Athenian Coin, an "owl"

Early Athenian Coin, an “owl” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Sophists were independent Greek public speakers of the 5th century BCE, teaching for a fee about politics, philosophy and rhetoric.

Protagoras is usually regarded as the first with Gorgias being another prominent sophist. Wikipedia also lists Prodicus, Hippias, Thrasymachus, Lycophron, Callicles, Antiphon, and Cratylus.

Plato portrays them in his dialogues as foils for the sober, sound argumentation of Socrates.

In the most general sense sophists are usually depicted as denying the existence of ultimate reality and morality in favor of worldly pleasures derived from the senses.

Likewise, they’re often said to reject the Greek gods and advocate the perfection of humanity.

English: The School of Athens (detail). Fresco...

The School of Athens (detail). Fresco, Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In actual fact, there is no single school of Sophist thought. Plato’s response to the leading Sophists is as complex as their various positions.

Generally slighted by Plato, the sophists were quick and intelligent, contributing to knowledge about linguistics, drama and a prototypical form of applied sociology. And they were instrumental in helping young men to “better” themselves in terms of learning how to win arguments—a skill set essential to upward mobility and entrance into political life not only in ancient Greece but also for men and women today.¹

¹ See, for instance, the excellent introductory discussion about ancient Greek philosophy in this DVD set: http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/history-of-the-ancient-world-a-global-perspective.html

On the Web:

  • Video touching on some of the topics that the ancient Greeks debated, topics that continued through the Middle Ages, right up to contemporary debates.

Related Posts » Jean A. Baudrillard


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Athens

English: Temple of Zeus in Athens, Greece on a...

Temple of Zeus in Athens, Greece on a rainy day from the Acropolis. The Arch of Hadrian is in the foreground. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Athens is the largest city and the capital of modern Greece. It was a city state of Attica around the 7th century BCE.

Athens reached its economic and cultural zenith during the 5th century BCE while ruled by Pericles. Wikipedia nicely sums up just how huge this city was in the ancient world:

A centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato‘s Academy and Aristotle‘s Lyceum,[3][4] it is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy,[5][6]

Indeed, Athens is home to much philosophical thought that remains relevant today. The Athenian democracy, for instance, in which women and slaves couldn’t vote, is the first formalized democracy recorded in human history.

In 146 BCE it fell sway to the Romans, later to become a province of Rome. By 1456 the Ottoman Empire engulfed Athens. In 1835 it became the capital of modern Greece and it was occupied by the Nazis during WW-II.

The contemporary city attracts hordes of tourists for its scenic locale and historical marvels of art and architecture like the Parthenon and the temple of Olympian Zeus.

In the summer of 2004, Athens hosted the XXVIII Olympiad, returning the Olympics to their place of origins (there were only foot races for the first 13 Olympics; other events like wrestling and the pentathlon were added later).

A previous modern Olympics was hosted in Athens in 1896, and an unofficial one in 1906.

Related Posts » Aristotle, Plato