Here is a rundown on News regarding the ancient world, and important anniversaries, from the past month. The news articles were brought to my attention thanks to http://www.ablogabouthistory.com/, a site I definitely recommend you check out if you are interested in reading news regarding history.
Notable Historical Events
- May 31, of the year 1279BCE is the traditional, and generally assumed, date of the ascension of Ramesses II to the throne of Egypt. His 66 year reign would see the Egyptian Empire rise to its greatest size and power. When one pictures Ancient Egypt and the Egyptian Pharaohs, Ramesses II and his Egyptian Empire is what you are pictures, to the point where he is often depicted in stories set in ancient Egypt with which he had nothing to do(mostly famously several versions of the Exodus story). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rameses_II
- June 2nd, of 455CE, is a commonly held date for the beginning of the Vandal Sack of Rome, a event of considerable destruction(hence the term Vandalism being associated with pointless destruction) but some sources say that it was not a particularly bloody one. This Sack of Rome is cited by some historians as being the end of the Roman Empire in the West, if any one date can be called such. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sack_of_Rome_(455)
- June 9th, of 68CE, was the date of the suicide of the Emperor Nero, bringing an end to the Julio-Claudian Dynasty which had ruled the Roman Empire for 99 years. Though Nero had been popular with the common people of the Empire, and still had plenty of support his increasingly fearful and erratic behavior in dealing with the rebellion of Galba in Spain and the disquiet of the German Legions caused the Praetorian Guard to abandon their allegiance and the Senate to declare him an enemy of the state(the first emperor to be so declared). Abandoned by his friends Nero eventually opened his veins. On his death Galba would be declared Emperor, however his severe style of rule would spark a brutal civil war the following year which would see 4 emperors, 3 of them dying, including Galba, before Vespasian would stabilize the Empire, inaugurating the Flavian Dynasty. Despite its severity, the civil war, and Nero’s death itself, would demonstrate the stability of the Roman Imperial Administration, which retained its stability and effectiveness through the rough transition. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nero#The_revolt_of_Vindex_and_Galba_and_the_death_of_Nero
- Either June 10th or 11th of the year 323BCE marked the death of the Macedonian King Alexander the Great in Babylon at the age of 32. Accounts are unclear as to what exactly he died from, some argue that he was poisoned, others that he died of some illness or another, although most agree that his heavy drinking habit likely indirectly contributed. His young death ensured that no stable Macedonian kingdom came out of his vast conquests as his general soon set about to fighting amongst themselves and formed the Antigonid, Seleucid, and Ptolemaic Kingdoms. The extraordinary things he accomplished in his short life, especially the seizure of the Persian Empire(for he can be more accurately described as having seized control of it from its Achaemenid founders and rulers than having conquered it), and the Hellenistic Culture which came out of his conquest, has ensured that no aspect of his life has not been more exhaustively scrutinized and debated than almost any other figure in history. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_the_Great
Here is a rundown of ancient historical anniversaries of the coming two weeks(I normally do one, but a)there isn’t much going on in the next couple weeks and b)I’ll be out of town and thus unable to write one of these next weekend) and news on ancient history from the past week. As always, the news articles come from http://www.ablogabouthistory.com/, which is well worth looking at.
- May 20th marks the anniversary of the beginning of the First Council of Nicaea in 325CE, the first ecumenical council of the Christian church. It was called by the Roman Emperor Constantine who, having recognized the Christian religion, called the council to decide matters of doctrine and orthodoxy and hopefully end some of the schisms and infighting with the young religion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Nicea
- May 22nd is the date often given for the Battle of Granicus, in which the Macedonian armies of Alexander the Great defeated the army of the Satraps of Asia Minor. This was the first of Alexander’s three battles against the Persian Empire and gave him virtually free reign to seize control of Asia Minor, the first part of his conquest of the Persian Empire. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Granicus
Here is a rundown of the news stories from the past week and anniversaries of important events from the coming week. As always, most of the news stories come from http://www.ablogabouthistory.com/. I highly recommend checking it out to keep updated on news regarding history.
- Chinese Archaeologists have discovered a tomb dating back 2500 years that may have belonged to one of the warlords of the Eastern Zhou Period(770-256BCE). The tomb was discovered in January in Shandong Province and several bronze weapons, jade jewelry and ritual utensils have been found. The remains of the warlord archaeologists presume was buried there have yet to be found. The tomb was found on a steep hill, which was unusual given that warlords tended to be buried on mountains. The unique aspects of this tomb may shed more light on an extremely chaotic period in Chinese history. Source: http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2012-04/24/content_15126480.htm
- The Temple of Hathor, on the island of Philae in Upper Egypt is due to be opened this month after a program to restore the long deteriorated temple. The temple was originally built by King Ptolemy VI and expanded under Ptolemy VII and the Roman Emperors Augustus and Tiberius. That the site has been restored, its blocks had been deteriorated and the walls cracked, points to the ability of workers and archaeologists to restore and reinforce ancient buildings, even when they are pretty poor shape. Source: http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/9/40/40238/Heritage/Ancient-Egypt/Philaes-Hathor-temple-gets-facelift-in-advance-of-.aspx
- Evidence has been uncovered from the remains of a large, sunken, Roman vessel, found six months ago near the shore of Marausa Lido, contains evidence of Roman smuggling activities. The vessel dates from the 3rd century CE and primarily contains jars, which have been perfectly preserved, of walnuts, figs, olives, wine, oil and fish sauce. Also found on the ship were a bunch of terracotta tubes, pointed at one end, which were used by builders to reinforce vaulted ceilings. These fictile tubes were approximately a quarter of the cost in North Africa than they were in Rome and were likely smuggled by sailors looking to pad their small pay. This vessel is in pieces but when the pieces are assembled it will be the most complete Roman ship ever discovered. Archaeologists in Salerno are expecting it to be restored and on displayed within 2 years. More importantly this discovery sheds more light on both commerce in the Roman world, and smuggling activities which is one of many activities which are not well recorded in ancient sources. Source: http://news.discovery.com/history/roman-shipwreck-smuggling-120425.html
- In an excavation beginning in 2010, archaeologists have discovered the remains of a small temple in the mountains between Ilia and Messinia in Greece, across from the famous temple of Epicurean Apollo. The temple dates from the 6th century BCE and seems to have been demolished and some point to make way for a larger temple. Various pieces from the temple, including its triglyphs, and items dedicated to the god of the temple, including bronze figure of a naked man holding a spear, and some sharp iron weapons. Tools used to build a small temple were also found. It is unclear exactly what god the temple was dedicated too, but presumably it was a deity that was involved war in some way. Source: http://greece.greekreporter.com/2012/04/24/ancient-temple-discovered-in-messinia/
- Archaeologists working on the Struma Highway in Bulgaria have found a Necropolis dating back approximately 2800 years. Archaeologists are apparently perplexed at the size of the site and the amount of time it was in use, although there are two ancient settlements that have been found in the region. source: http://www.sofiaecho.com/2012/05/02/1818561_archaeology-ancient-necropolis-found-in-path-of-bulgarias-struma-motorway
- In excavations in Jerusalem a building has been discovered below the base of an ancient drainage channel near the Western Wall of Temple Mount. It is the closest building to the First Temple that has thus far been uncovered. Among the discoveries was a personal seal of a semi-precious stone marked with Lematanyahu Ben Ho, meaning ‘belonging to matanyahu ben ho’. The rest of the inscription has been erased. Such personal seals were common during the First Temple Period. Source: http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/History/Early+History+-+Archaeology/Hebrew_seal_Matanyahu_uncovered_Jerusalem_1-May-2012.htm
This weeks unique figure is fairly well known and inspired two schools of thought, but despite that very few of those who follow his school of thought have chosen to live as he lived. The figure this week is Diogenes of Sinope, or Diogenes the Cynic, or simply Diogenes, because there is an excellent chance that if you say Diogenes, this is the one you are talking about.
Life of Diogenes
Diogenes was born in the Greek colony of Sinope as the son of a banker in either 412 or 404 BCE. After a scandal involving the defacing of currency he was exiled from the colony and came to Athens. There is archaeological evidence which supports this story as there is a large number of defaced coins dating from the time period. Arriving in Athens Diogenes is said to have come to the conclusion that living close to nature was the only true way to live life and that all societal and political conventions were not only unnecessarily complex, but false. He also believed that most people didn’t bother taking any thought on what evil was and merely followed tradition.
As such, Diogenes sought out the philosopher Antisthenes, a follower of Socrates who had dedicated himself to living an austere life, and though he was said to originally have been violently driven off, became his disciple. It is unclear whether the two men ever actually met, however. What is certain is that Diogenes took to sleeping, eating, and performing all other bodily functions in public. He also became known for going around in broad daylight with a lit lantern, claiming that he was looking for ‘an honest man’. He was also rumored to have ended lectures which he gave by doing things like defecating.
After living in Athens for a time, Diogenes was said to have been captured by pirates and sold into slavery to a Corinthian named Xeniades, in order to tutor his children. It is unknown whether he was freed at some point or not, assuming the story is true at all, but he lived the rest of his life in Corinth, where he continued many of the same practices which he had begun in Athens. He died in 323BCE.
Diogenes’ Contemporary Fame
Despite his extremely austere life and his deliberate flaunting and mockery of social convention, Diogenes was very well known during his life. Though he was routinely rebuked for eating in the marketplace, to say nothing of his habit of relieving himself in public, he seems to have never been prosecuted or punished for his actions. He seems to have had at least some disciples, most notably Crates(365-285) who helped found the school of cynicism. On his death, the city of Corinth erected a statue of Parian marble in his honor with a dog on top of it.
He was also particularly well known when he was in Athens for his antagonism of Plato (424/423-348/347BCE). Like Socrates, he believed that he could be a doctor to society, in his case by making a deliberate mockery of social conventions and by showing how to live a life as a close to nature as possible. As such he objected to Plato’s interpretations of Socrates’ teachings. He also objected to Plato’s abstract philosophy(Plato, of course, being the first person we have record of who developed an abstract philosophy). Plato apparently referred to Diogenes as ‘Socrates gone mad.’
Diogenes was also the first person to call himself a ‘citizen of the world’(Cosmopolitan), which was a huge deal at the time, given how closely one’s identity at the time was associated with one’s Polis. He is considered(along with the aforementioned Crates) as the founder of Cynicism. Cynicism, which comes from the Greek ‘kynikos’ or ‘dog-like’. It is unclear whether Diogenes came up with the idea himself or repurposed an insult to his own purposes. He did routinely praise the virtues of dogs, who eat what they like, think nothing of relieving themselves in public, bark at what pleases them, bite their enemies, and take no concern for the future.
Among Diogenes’ admirers was Alexander the Great(356-323BCE) who was reported to have quipped that ‘if he were not Alexander, he would wish to be Diogenes.’ When Alexander visited Corinth he was said to have sought out Diogenes, who was sunning himself. On presenting himself as an admirer and asking if there was any favor he could do for Diogenes, the ascetic philosopher was said to have responded by asking Alexander to stop blocking his light.
Though Diogenes was said to have written 10 books, a volume of letters, and seven tragedies none of them survive. Most of what is known of Diogenes comes from various anecdotes and saying, many of which are from Diogenes Laertius’ Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. However, none of these anecdotes and sayings are definitive or above questions of authenticity.
Posthumous Fame of Diogenes
Not only was Diogenes the founder of the school of cynicism but his pupil Crates taught Zeno of Citium(c. 334-262BCE) who founded the school of Stoicism, one of the most famous of the schools of Greek thought. Few people have endeavored to live their lives exactly in the manner of Diogenes, but the idea of being cynical, making a deliberate mocking of social and political convention is still very popular.
Diogenes has also been a popular figure among artists and sculptors, with a larger number of famous works having been created depicting aspects of his life, such as Raphael, and a variety of busts found in the Vatican, the Louvre and the Capitoline Museum. He is also featured or referenced in numerous works of literature, including works by Checkhov, William Blake, and Terry Pratchett. He is also the inspiration behind the Diogenes club, the club for intelligent men with no interest in socializing, founded by Sherlock Holmes’ brother Mycroft.
the image is from wikipedia