Author: Ancient History Encyclopedia

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TROY: TROY is the name of the Bronze Age city …

TROY: 

TROY is the name of the Bronze Age city attacked in the Trojan War, a popular story in the mythology of ancient Greece, and the name given to the archaeological site in the north-west of Asia Minor(now Turkey) which has revealed a large and prosperous city occupied over millennia. There has been much scholarly debate as to whether mythical Troy actually existed and if so whether the archaeological site was the same city; however, it is now almost universally accepted that the archaeological excavations have revealed the city of Homer’s Iliad. Other names for Troy include Hisarlik (Turkish), Ilios (Homer), Ilion (Greek) and Ilium (Roman).

Troy is the setting for Homer’s Iliad in which he recounts the final year of the Trojan War sometime in the 13th century BCE. The war was in fact a ten-year siege of the city by a coalition of Greek forces led by King Agamemnon of Mycenae. The purpose of the expedition was to reclaim Helen, wife of Menelaos, king of Sparta and brother of Agamemnon. Helen was abducted by the Trojan prince Paris and taken as his prize for choosing Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess in a competition with Athena and Hera. The Trojan War is also told in other sources such as the Epic Cycle poems (of which only fragments survive) and is also briefly mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey. Troy and the Trojan War later became a staple myth of Classical Greek and Roman literature.

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SHIVA: SHIVA (or Siva) is one of the most impo…

SHIVA: 

SHIVA (or Siva) is one of the most important gods in the Hindu pantheon and, along with Brahma and Vishnu, is considered a member of the holy trinity (trimurti) of Hinduism. A complex character, he may represent goodness, benevolence and serve as the Protector but he also has a darker side as the leader of evil spirits, ghosts and vampires and as the master of thieves, villains and beggars. He is also associated with Time, and particularly as the destroyer of all things. Nevertheless, Shiva is also associated with creation. In Hinduism, the universe is thought to regenerate in cycles (every 2,160,000,000 years). Shiva destroys the universe at the end of each cycle which then allows for a new Creation. Shiva is also the great ascetic, abstaining from all forms of indulgence and pleasure, concentrating rather on meditation as a means to find perfect happiness. He is the most important Hindu god for the Shaivism sect, the patron of Yogis and Brahmins, and also the protector of the Vedas, the sacred texts.

Shiva’s wife was Parvati, often incarnated as Kali and Durga. She was in fact a reincarnation of Sati (or Dakshayani), the daughter of the god Daksha. Daksha did not approve of Sati’s marriage to Shiva and even went further and held a special sacrificial ceremony to all the gods except Shiva. Outraged at this slight, Sati threw herself on the sacrificial fire. Shiva reacted to this tragedy by creating two demons (Virabhadra and Rudrakali) from his hair who wreaked havoc on the ceremony and beheaded Daksha. The other gods appealed to Shiva to end the violence and, complying, he brought Daksha back to life but with the head of a ram (or goat). Sati was eventually reincarnated as Parvati in her next life and she re-married Shiva.

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PLACES IN THE ANCIENT WORLD: Abu Simbel (Egypt…

PLACES IN THE ANCIENT WORLD: Abu Simbel (Egypt) 

Abu Simbel is an ancient temple complex, originally cut into a solid rock cliff, in southern Egypt and located at the second cataract of the Nile River. The two temples which comprise the site were created during the reign of Ramesses II (c. 1279 – c. 1213 BCE) either between 1264 – 1244 BCE or 1244-1224 BCE. The discrepancy in the dates is due to differing interpretations of the life of Ramesses II by modern day scholars. It is certain, based upon the extensive artwork throughout the interior of the Great Temple, that the structures were created, at least in part, to celebrate Ramesses’ victory over the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh in 1274 BCE. To some scholars, this indicates a probable date of 1264 BCE for the initial construction as the victory would have been fresh in the memory of the people. However, the decision to build the grand monument at that precise location, on the border with the conquered lands of Nubia, suggests to other scholars the later date of 1244 BCE in that it would have had to have been begun after the Nubian Campaigns Ramesses II undertook with his sons and was built as a symbol of Egypt’s power.

Whichever date construction began, it is agreed that it took twenty years to create the complex and that the temples are dedicated to the gods Ra-Horakty, Ptah, and the deified Ramesses II (The Great Temple) and the goddess Hathor and Queen Nefertari, Ramesses’ favourite wife (The Small Temple). While it is assumed that the name, `Abu Simbel’, was the designation for the complex in antiquity, this is not so. Allegedly, the Swiss explorer Burckhardt was led to the site by a boy named Abu Simbel in 1813 CE and the site was then named after him. Burckhardt, however, was unable to uncover the site, which was buried in sand up to the necks of the grand colossi and later mentioned this experience to his friend and fellow explorer Giovanni Belzoni. It was Belzoni who uncovered and first excavated (or looted) Abu Simbel in 1817 CE and it is considered likely that it was he, not Burckhardt, who was led to the site by the young boy and who named the complex after him. As with other aspects regarding Abu Simbel (such as the date it was begun), the truth of either version of the story is open to interpretation and all that is known is that the original name for the complex, if it had a specific designation, has been lost.

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PHOTO COMPETITION: Win a the “Seven Wonders” board game, a lifetime AHE membership and our favourite book on the Seven Wonders! With Time Passport, we’re launching a photo competition to find the best augmented reality photos of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World!

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MARCUS AURELIUS: PLATO’S PHILOSOPHER KING: MAR…

MARCUS AURELIUS: PLATO’S PHILOSOPHER KING: 

MARCUS Aurelius Antoninus (r. 161-180 CE), last of the “good emperors” of the Roman Empire, has been hailed as “the noblest of all the men who, by sheer intelligence and force of character, have prized and achieved goodness for its own sake and not for any reward” (Grant, 139). His reign was characterized by a devotion to his people and this, as well as his enduring philosophical work, Meditations, attests to the truth of Grant’s praise.

Scholar Michael Grant, however, is hardly the first to express such sentiments. Aurelius was highly respected in his lifetime and is referred to as “the philosopher” by later ancient sources such as Cassius Dio (c. 155-235 CE) and the author (or authors) of the Historia Augusta (4th century CE), a history of Roman emperors. It is clear from both these sources that Aurelius’ Meditations was known to them but the authors focus, not only on the written work – which Aurelius never intended for publication – but on how he lived his philosophy throughout his reign.

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