Tag Archives: Greece

Tufts Releases the Perseus Catalogue

Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 10.38.19 AMTufts, publisher of the Perseus Project, announces the launch of the Perseus Catalogue:

The Perseus Digital Library is pleased to announce the 1.0 Release of the Perseus Catalog.

The Perseus Catalog is an attempt to provide systematic catalog access to at least one online edition of every major Greek and Latin author (both surviving and fragmentary) from antiquity to 600 CE. Still a work in progress, the catalog currently includes 3,679 individual works (2,522 Greek and 1,247 Latin), with over 11,000 links to online versions of these works (6,419 in Google Books, 5,098 to the Internet Archive, 593 to the Hathi Trust). The Perseus interface now includes links to the Perseus Catalog from the main navigation bar, and also from within the majority of texts in the Greco-Roman collection.

The release allows broader access to Greek and Latin texts in the original language as well as in translation. This is an excellent resource and tool for educators and students in ancient history, Classics, Latin, and Greek.

Scientists apply Genetic Estimates to Homer’s Iliad

iliad-2-TOPHomer’s Iliad is one of the most famous works of Bronze Age Greece. Its date and composition, however, is one of the academically controversial. Recently, a group of researchers at the University of Reading applied the same techniques to researching genetic evolution (using the rate of genetic mutation) to the evolution of language. Using this method, they determined that the Iliad was written approximately 762 BCE +/- 50 years; a date consistent with historical theories.

“Languages behave just extraordinarily like genes.It is directly analogous. We tried to document the regularities in linguistic evolution and study Homer’s vocabulary as a way of seeing if language evolves the way we think it does. If so, then we should be able to find a date for Homer.” — Mark Pagel, Ph.D.

To learn more about the process and extensive findings, see the article published at Inside Science, “Geneticists Estimate Publication Date of the ‘Iliad‘” or the paper, published in the Journal of BioEssays.

Greek Austerity Measures Spell Danger for Antiquities

© MSNBCWith the debt crisis and pending austerity measures in Greece, one of the great losers in this could be the Antiquities of Ancient Greece. Already plagued with deficiencies in conservation, preservation, guarding (as highlighted in the recent armed theft at Olympia), Greek antiquities face further cuts. Greek authorities are reaching out to private investors and philanthropists, but without much success.

To read more about the campaign to preserve Greek Antiquities, see the article at MSNBC.

Artifacts at Ancient Olympia Stolen at Gunpoint

Thieves robbed the museum at Olympia (the site of the ancient Olympic Games). Two armed masked men smashed display cases and grabbed priceless artifacts (at least 60) after overpowering guards at the museum.

In the wake of the chaos of Greece’s financial crisis, violent crime (targeting art) has skyrocketed. To read more about the theft, see the article at BBC News.

Update on Libya’s Antiquities

In the wake of the civil unrest in the Libya, the state of its antiquities has been cause for concern for scholars and archaeologists. Due to the current political state, independent reporters and UNESCO investigators cannot travel to the state to verify their status.

Libya has a wealth of historical material, prehistory, Carthaginian, Phoenician, Greek, Roman, and more modern amenities. Such sites are often of little to no concern during bloody coups when people are most concerned about basic survival.

We know that artifacts have already been stolen, and UNESCO has issued statements to auctions houses warning them to be on high alert for looted antiquities (see the article on BBC). Native archaeologists have already begun to petition the provisional government to take special efforts to preserve sites and artifacts. CNN has issued a special report on Libya’s “other wealth” and you can read more about here.

“This is Sparta!” – The Battle of Thermopylae

August 9, 480 BCE is the traditional date for the final day of the Battle of Thermopylae. The battle is one of the most famous in all of Western History, rivaling the Alamo as one of the most significant “last stands” of military history. The battle was one of the last of the Persian Wars, which ultimately ended with the Greeks successfully deflected the Persian invasion of the Greek mainland.

The Battle of Thermopylae saw a relatively small Greek force of approximately 7,000 men hold off the entirety of the Persian Army for seven days (three of them in active battle). While Herodotus’ and other historians’ counting of the army is rather dubious (anywhere from 800,000 to 2.6 million), the reality is that it was by far the largest military force ever gathered at that point.

The success of the Greeks’ can largely be attributed to strategy – as King Leonidas selected a narrow pass (more easily defended by a smaller number of men) to hold off the invading Medes. While popular culture celebrates the 300 Spartans who fell at Thermopylae, the reality is that Greeks from all over the Peloponnese (numbering approximately 4,000) were present, upwards of 1,000 men from Sparta, 700 from Thesbia, 400 from Thebes, 1,000 from Phocia, as well as Greeks from several other smaller city-states (not including the slaves and servants that would have accompanied fighting men to battle).

The Battle saw the death of most of the Greek soldiers (some surrendered, others strategically retreated). All of the Spartans, including King Leonidas, were reported to have been killed violently in the struggle. When the Persians recovered the body of Leonidas, Xerxes reportedly ordered his head removed and his body crucified – uncharacteristic behavior of the Persians who frequently honored their defeated enemies. However, Xerxes was known for his fiery temper and the action seems to have been keeping with his character.

The Battle of Thermopylae has become a defining and romanticized moment in history. It has perpetuated our ideas (some true, some false) of Spartan military culture and the event is embodied in my favorite quote from ancient history attributed to the specially brave Spartan warrior Dienekes. Reportedly, a Trachian (on the eve of the first day of battle) told the Spartans that the Persian has so many archers, their arrows would block out the sun. Dienekes reportedly retorted:

“εἰ ἀποκρυπτόντων τῶν Μήδων τὸν ἥλιον ὑπὸ σκιῇ ἔσοιτο πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἡ μάχη καὶ οὐκ ἐν ἡλίῳ” — Herodotus Historis 7.226

“If the sun is hidden by the arrows of the Medes, then the battle will be in the shade and not the sun!” — translation mine

The battle is also the theme of one of my favorite classical movies (albeit grossly historically inaccurate), 300 – see the trailer below (and then see the movie).