THE Peloponnesian War fought between ancient Athens and Sparta (who won) and their respective allies came in two stages, the first from c. 460 to 446 BCE and the second and more significant war from 431 to 404 BCE. With battles occurring at home and abroad, the long and complex conflict was damaging to both sides but Sparta, with financial help from Persia, finally won the conflict by destroying the Athenian fleet at Aegospotami in 405 BCE.
In the 5th century BCE Sparta and Athens were the two major powers in Greece and it was perhaps inevitable that their spheres of influence would overlap and cause conflict. Sparta seems to have been particularly alarmed at the growing power of Athens, able to build an ever-bigger fleet of ships thanks to tributes from its allies and dependants. Sparta was also suspicious of the Athenians’ project to rebuild their Long Wall fortifications which protected their harbour of Piraeus. In addition, Sparta was also concerned that inaction would push the other major Greek power, Corinth, to side with Athens.
The Turkish national flag is mostly red, with a white star and a crescent in the center. Ottoman Sultan Selim III formalized the look in 1793, but the flag is actually much older.
The crescent-and-star combination has been used in Turkey since Hellenistic times (400s to 100 BCE). It likely came from ancient Mesopotamian iconocraphy. Ancient depictions of the symbol always show the crescent with horns pointing upward and with the star placed inside the crescent, for reasons that have been lost to time. When it came to Turkey, they gave it their own meanings. For Byzantium the moon symbolized Diana, also known as Artemis, the patron goddess of the city.
In 1453, when the city was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, the flag remained unchanged. With time, it became not just Istanbul’s flag but the Ottoman flag, with its design formalized in 1793 and its status as national flag formalized in 1844. Turks affectionately call the flag “ay yildiz” – the “moon star” flag.
Many nations that were once part of Ottoman Empire adopted the star-and-crescent when they gained independence, including Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria. In the 1900s the symbol became associated with not just the Ottomans, but with Islam in general, and many states that were never part of the Ottoman Empire adopted it too, including Pakistan, Malaysia, and the Maldives. Pretty amazing that an ancient Mesopotamian symbol is flown around the world today.
A man who beat his wife or child laid violent hands, Cato the Elder said, on what was most sacred. A good husband he believed to be more worthy of more praise than a great senator. He admired the ancient Socrates “for nothing so much as for having lived a temperate and contented life with a wife who was a scold, and children who were half-witted.”
The Wasps is a play written by the lone representative of Ancient Greece’s Old Attic Comedy, Aristophanes (c. 445 – c. 386 BCE). It won second place at the Lenaea competition in 422 BCE. Written in two acts, the play focuses on a reoccurring theme, the tension between the old and new.
The first act revolves around the young Athenian Bdelycleon (Cleon-hater) and his old-fashioned father Philocleon (Cleon-lover). Bdelycleon endeavors to prevent the father from participating in the city’s jury system; a system he believes is controlled by the unscrupulous pro-war Athenian leadership, namely Cleon. The son barricades his father in the house, stationing two slaves outside to prevent his escape. Late, one night, dressed as wasps and denouncing the son as pro-Spartan, a chorus of old men arrives at their house and endeavors to help Philocleon escape and perform what they consider to be their civic duty. Finally, the son cures his father of his passion for the law court by staging a mock trial of their own at home, trying a dog for the theft of a piece of cheese.
Ancient Greek soldiers would hold shields with their left arm, and swords with their right. This created an interesting dilemma.
Thucydides, an Athenian general and historian, wrote that “fear makes every man want to do his best to find protection for his unarmed side in the shield of the man next to him on the right.” The soldier who is farthest right must try to “keep his own unarmed side away from the enemy, and his fear spreads to the others who follow his example.” In other words, the man farthest to the right would always try to go to the right of the enemy, so his unprotected right side would be safe. He would keep going to the right, and each man would follow, trying to protect their own unprotected right side. The result, Thucydides wrote: “the right wing tends to get unduly extended.”
More than two years ago researchers from the University of Cincinnati unearthed a 3,500-year-old tomb in the southwest of Greece. The tomb belonged to a Bronze Age warrior nicknamed the “Griffin Warrior.“ Inside were beautiful treasures, which made headlines and challenged previous theories about how Greek civilization developed.
Almost a year after the tomb was found, a new discovery was made. A tiny, tiny sealstone – just an inch and a half wide. The “Pylos Combat Agate” meticulously displays two warriors engaged in battle with bodies strewn at their feet, with some details less than a millimeter wide. The carving is perhaps most astonishing because it predates artistic skills that were not associated with Greek civilization for another thousand years.
The anatomical precision in the fighter’s muscles, for instance, is not seen again until the classical period of Greek art, around 2,500 years ago. Also astonishing? Magnifying glasses were not believed to be used for another thousand years, either. The anonymous artist either had hawk-level eyesight, or the magnifying glass was invented earlier than previously believed.
One tiny seal is upending archaeologists’ understanding of how ancient Greek art developed and progressed. It shows a sophistication and interest in true-to-life representational art literally centuries ahead of its time.
MOUNT Athos, located on the Chalkidike peninsula near Thessalonica, Greece, is a holy site which first saw hermit monks living there in the 9th century CE. Regarded as one of the most important monastic sites in the Byzantine Empire, there were at one time 46 monasteries on the mountain, which attracted monks from all over Europe and beyond. Today the peninsula boasts 20 monasteries, many of which offer a well-preserved glimpse into Byzantine monasticism as well as being treasuries of medieval Christian architecture, art, and manuscripts.
Mount Athos, height 1,935 m (6,350 ft), is situated on the easternmost of the three promontories of Chalkidike which is located to the southeast of the city of Thessalonica in northeast Greece. The name Athos comes from the giant of Greek mythology who threw a mountain into the sea. For the ancient Greeks this mountain, which descends directly into the Aegean Sea, was sacred to Zeus. The rocks of the peninsula certainly proved troublesome and were responsible for many shipwrecks, notably the entire fleet of the Persian king Darius on its way to the battle of Marathon in 491 BCE. As a result of this loss, a decade later Darius’ successor Xerxes decided to avoid the mountain altogether in his invasion of Greece and built a canal across the promontory which measured 2.4 km (1.5 miles) in length and up to 30 metres (100 ft.) in width. Another maritime victim of Athos was a Spartan fleet in 411 BCE during the Peloponnesian War.
In the 400s BCE, Athens forbade anyone to die or to give birth on the island of Delos, to render it fit for the proper worship of the gods. Since 1878, no births or deaths have been permitted near Japan’s Itsukushima Shrine, a sacred site in Shinto belief.
Death is still outlawed in some places today, but for more prosaic reasons. In 1999 the mayor of the Spanish town of Lanjarón outlawed death, again because of an overcrowded cemetery. His edict ordered residents “to take utmost care of their health so they do not die until town hall takes the necessary steps to acquire land suitable for our deceased to rest in glory.”
The French settlements of Le Lavandou (in 2000), Cugnaux (in 2007), and Sarpourenx (in 2008) have all outlawed death because of limited capacity in local cemeteries. The Sarpourenx ordinance added: “Offenders will be severely punished.” In 2005 Roberto Pereira, mayor of the Brazilian town of Biritiba Mirim, proposed a ban on death because the local cemetery had reached its capacity – although he was unsuccessful.