A clay tablet, found near the ruined Temple of Zeus in the ancient city of Olympia, Greece, could be the oldest written record of The Odyssey. The tablet was uncovered by archaeologists and tentatively dated to the Roman-era 200s CE.
It is engraved with 13 verses from the Odyssey’s fourteenth book,
in which Odysseus speaks to his lifelong friend Eumaeus, the first person he sees on his return from his decade away from home.
Electra is a play written by the 5th-century BCE Greek tragedian Sophocles. Similar to Aeschylus’ Libation Bearers, Electra focuses on the return of Electra’s brother Orestes from exile and the plot to murder their mother. Years earlier, their mother Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus killed their father Agamemnon upon his return from the Trojan War. In this version of the story, Electra has been treated as a slave since the death of her father. She tries to procure the assistance of her sister Chrysothemus in her plot but fails. With the return of Orestes and his friend Plyades, Electra is able to successfully avenge her father’s murder.
The play begins with Orestes, son of Agamemnon and brother of Electra, returning to Mycenae and plotting his revenge against his mother. He tells his old slave to go to the palace and announce to Clytemnestra that Orestes is dead. He and Plyades will use the urn containing his supposed ashes to gain access to the palace. Meanwhile, Electra is pacing before the palace, bemoaning her plight in life and ranting against her mother and her lover, Aegisthus. The years have not quelled her intense hatred. Her sister, Chrysothemis, exits the palace and is confronted by Electra. Over the years, Chrysothemis has become complacent and somewhat accepting of her mother’s role in her father’s death. Later, when asked to join in a plot to kill their mother and Aegisthus, she will refuse.
When Clytemnestra and Electra meet outside the palace, they argue; Electra is even threatened with exile. The old slave arrives and speaks to Clytemnestra, telling her of her son’s valiant death in a chariot race. Electra is heartbroken. When Chrysothemis returns from offering libations at their father’s grave, she tells her sister that she believes Orestes is still alive and in Argos. Electra informs her of the news of Orestes death. Shortly, Orestes and his friend Plyades arrive with the urn, and, after convincing Electra of his identity, they enter the palace, killing Clytemnestra. Later, when Aegisthus returns, he, too, is killed.
Italian authorities announced in 2018 that the first-ever Etruscan settlement has been discovered in Sardinia. The site dates to the 800s BCE and was strategically situated on the small island of Tavolara. It was likely intended to facilitate trade between Early Iron Age Sardinian Nuraghic communities, known to have inhabited Sardinia at the time, and Etruscan cities nearby on the Italian mainland. There had been extensive archaeological evidence of Etruscan-Nurghic exchanges, but this is the first evidence of an expatriate Etruscan community in Sardinia.
The Etruscans are famous for adopting many Greek cultural aspects and blending them with their own native culture. The resulting mélange in turn influenced Roman culture, which was initially a small backwater to the mighty Etruscans. One potential reason for the Etruscans’ strength? Extensive trading ties with southern Italy, Greece, and Sardinia.
ARISTOTLE of Stagira (l. 384-322 BCE) was a Greek philosopher who pioneered systematic, scientific examination in literally every area of human knowledge and was known, in his time, as “the man who knew everything” and later simply as “The Philosopher”, needing no further qualification as his fame was so widespread. He literally invented the concept of metaphysics single-handedly when he (or one of his scribes) placed his book on abstract philosophical speculation after his book on physics (metaphysics literally means “after physics”) and standardized in learning – how information is collected, assimilated and interpreted, and then communicated – across numerous disciplines.
During the later Middle Ages (c. 1300-1500 CE), he was referred to as "The Master”, most notably in Dante’s Inferno where the author did not need to even identify Aristotle by name for him to be recognized. This particular epithet is apt in that Aristotle wrote on, and was considered a master in, disciplines as diverse as biology, politics, metaphysics, agriculture, literature, botany, medicine, mathematics, physics, ethics, logic, and the theatre. He is traditionally linked in sequence with Socrates and Plato in the triad of the three greatest Greek philosophers.
He was hired by Philip II, King of Macedon (r. 359-336 BCE) as tutor for his son Alexander the Great (l. 356-323 BCE) and made such an impression on the youth that Alexander carried Aristotle’s works with him on campaign and introduced his philosophy to the east when he conquered the Persian Empire. Through Alexander, Aristotle’s works were spread throughout the known world of the time, influencing other philosophies and providing a foundation for the development of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theology.
The earliest known alternative history was written by the Roman historian Livy. In his grand history of the world, Livy makes a digression in book 9, and imagines that if Alexander the Great had lived longer, he may have turned west and attacked Italy, and the Romans would have defeated him.
IN ’Ancient Cultures and Civilizations: The Culture of Athens’, Vic Kovacs provides a clear and helpful overview of the political structure in Athens, religion in Athens, and the major political and military conflicts between Athens and other polities and cities. Though a long period of history is unaddressed in the volume, I nonetheless recommend the volume for public and private libraries.
Previously, I reviewed Vic Kovacs’ Ancient Cultures and Civilizations, The Culture of Sparta. In this volume, Kovacs shifts from Sparta to Athens: Ancient Cultures and Civilizations: The Culture of Athens. Divided into five chapters, the volume details various aspects of Athenian culture and history: a broad overview of ancient Athens, Athens as it is concerned with democracy, the military in Athens, daily life in Athens, and the downfall of Athens.
Overall, the book provides a clear and helpful overview of the political structure in Athens, religion in Athens, and the major political and military conflicts between Athens and other polities and cities. With its simple language and clear communication, the book is oriented towards elementary school students and middle school students. As such, teachers would benefit from having this book in their private or classroom libraries, just as it would be an excellent addition to a school library.
THE Peace of Callias (aka Kallias) refers to a possible peace treaty made in the mid-5th century BCE between Athens and Persia following the Persian Wars. The existence of such a treaty is not agreed upon by all historians, and if it did exist, its precise terms are also disputed. Even the possible date of such a treaty continues to be debated amongst scholars, with either the 460s BCE or c. 449 BCE being the most popular suggestions. The treaty is named after the wealthy Athenian statesman Callias who may have led the Athenian ambassadors during the peace discussions. Even if a treaty by this name was never drawn up, it is true that there was an end to the hostilities between Athens and Persia in the mid-5th century BCE.
The existence of a peace treaty between The Achaemenid Empire of Persia and the Greekcity-state of Athens called the ‘Peace of Callias’ is not known for certain, primarily because the Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484 – c. 413 BCE) does not mention it and, more significantly, Thucydides (c. 460 – c. 398 BCE), who is our principal contemporary source on the end of the Persian Wars, does not mention it explicitly either. However, scholars point out that neither author gave very much attention to the precise period in question and suggest that certain passages in Thucydides’ work do constitute indirect evidence that there was such a treaty between the two powers.
Even so, doubts have existed going all the way back to Theopompos in the 4th century BCE. That Greek historian had perhaps seen a copy of the treaty but, because he thought it an original and it was written in the more recently used Ionic alphabet, did not think it genuine (although Ionic Greek was used on occasion in 5th-century BCE documents). On the other hand, the existence of some sort of agreement between Athens and Persia is noted by such ancient figures as the Athenian orators Demosthenes and Lycurgus in the 4th century BCE, as well as later authors like Plutarch and Aelius Aristideswriting in the 2nd century CE.
This is a restored Minoan fresco, from the Bronze Age settlement of Akrotini on the Greek island of Santorini. The settlement was destroyed in the Theran eruption sometime in the 1500s BCE and buried in volcanic ash, which preserved the remains of fine frescoes as well as many everyday objects.
SEVEN Against Thebes is the third part of a trilogy written by one of the greatest of the Greek tragedians, Aeschylus in 467 BCE, winning first prize in competition at Dionysia. Unfortunately, only fragments of the first two plays, Laius and Oedipus and the accompanying satyr drama Sphinx remain. Based on the well-known ancient Greek myth surrounding King Oedipus of Thebes, Seven Against Thebes centers on this rivalry between Eteocles and Polynices, the two sons of Oedipus, fulfilling the curse of their father, never being able to settle their dispute and, in the end, falling by each other’s hand. As evident with his most famous work Oresteia, Aeschylus may well have been the only tragedian to treat his trilogies as a single drama. This practice is evident in Seven Against Thebes where he makes a number of references to events from the first two plays.
TRADE was a fundamental aspect of the ancient Greek world and following territorial expansion, an increase in population movements, and innovations in transport, goods could be bought, sold, and exchanged in one part of the Mediterranean which had their origin in a completely different and far distant region. Food, raw materials, and manufactured goods were not only made available to Greeks for the first time but the export of such classics as wine, olives, and pottery helped to spread Greek culture to the wider world.
In Greece and the wider Aegean, local, regional, and international trade exchange existed from Minoan and Mycenaean times in the Bronze Age. The presence, in particular, of pottery and precious goods such as gold, copper, and ivory, found far from their place of production, attests to the exchange network which existed between Egypt, Asia Minor, the Greek mainland, and islands such as Crete, Cyprus, and the Cyclades. Trade lessened and perhaps almost disappeared when these civilizations declined, and during the so-called Dark Ages from the 11th to 8th centuries BCE international trade in the Mediterranean was principally carried out by the Phoenicians.