ANCIENT Asia Minor is a geographic region located in the south-western part of Asia comprising most of what is present-day Turkey. The earliest reference to the region comes from tablets of the Akkadian Dynasty (2334-2083 BCE) where it is known as “The Land of the Hatti” and was inhabited by the Hittites. The Hittites themselves referred to the land as “Assuwa” (or, earlier, Aswiya) which actually only designated the area around the delta of the river Cayster in Lydia but came to be applied to the entire region. Assuwa is considered the Bronze Age origin for the name `Asia’ as the Romans later designated the area. It was called, by the Greeks, “Anatolia” (literally, ‘place of the rising sun’, for those lands to the east of Greece).
The name ‘Asia Minor’ (from the Greek `Mikra Asia’ – Little Asia) was first coined by the Christian historian Orosius (c. 375-418 CE) in his work Seven Books of History Against the Pagans in 400 CE to differentiate the main of Asia from that region which had been evangelized by the Apostle Paul (which included sites known from Paul’s Epistles in the Bible such as Ephesus and Galicia). The Byzantine Empire of the 9th century CE referred to the region as “East Thema” which meant, simply, Eastern Administrative Division, and later sailors called it “The Levant” which meant `the rising’ or `to rise’ referring to how the land rose up out on the horizon of the sea.
ENUMA ELISH – THE BABYLONIAN EPIC OF CREATION – FULL TEXT:
THE Enuma Elish (also known as The Seven Tablets of Creation) is the Mesopotamian creation myth whose title is derived from the opening lines of the piece, “When on High”. All of the tablets containing the myth, found at Ashur, Kish, Ashurbanipal’s library at Nineveh, Sultantepe, and other excavated sites, date to c. 1100 BCE but their colophons indicate that these are all copies of a much older version of the myth.
As Marduk, the champion of the young gods in their war against Tiamat, is of Babylonian origin, the Sumerian Ea/Enki or Enlil is thought to have played the major role in the original version of the story. The copy found at Ashur has the god Ashur in the main role as was the custom of the cities of Mesopotamia. The god of each city was always considered the best and most powerful. Marduk, the god of Babylon, only figures as prominently as he does in the story because most of the copies found are from Babylonian scribes. Even so, Ea does still play an important part in the Babylonian version of the Enuma Elish by creating human beings.
THE religion of the Aztec civilization which flourished in ancient Mesoamerica (1345-1521 CE) has gained an infamous reputation for bloodthirsty human sacrifice with lurid tales of the beating heart being ripped from the still-conscious victim, decapitation, skinning and dismemberment. All of these things did happen but it is important to remember that for the Aztecs the act of sacrifice – of which human sacrifice was only a part – was a strictly ritualised process which gave the highest possible honour to the gods and was regarded as a necessity to ensure mankind’s continued prosperity.
The Aztecs were not the first civilization in Mesoamerica to practise human sacrifice as probably it was the Olmec civilization (1200-300 BCE) which first began such rituals atop their sacred pyramids. Other civilizations such as the Maya and Toltecs continued the practice. The Aztecs did, however, take sacrifice to an unprecedented scale, although that scale was undoubtedly exaggerated by early chroniclers during the Spanish Conquest, probably to vindicate the Spaniards own brutal treatment of the indigenous peoples. Nevertheless, it is thought that hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of victims were sacrificed each year at the great Aztec religious sites and it cannot be denied that there would also have been a useful secondary effect of intimidation on visiting ambassadors and the populace in general.
ANNA Komnene (aka Anna Comnena, 1083-1153 CE) was the eldest daughter of Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos(r. 1081-1118 CE) and the author of a lengthy biography of her father’s reign, the Alexiad. Although not an impartial history, Anna’s position at court, her thorough research of sources and a good measure of pithy observation and insightful opinion have all ensured the Alexiad remains one of the most important and colourful primary sources of Byzantine history.
Anna Komnene was born in 1083 CE in the Porphyra, the purple room of the Byzantine royal palace in Constantinople where royal babies were usually born and which was a potent symbol of royal legitimacy. She was the eldest daughter of Alexios I Komnenos and his wife the Empress Irene Doukaina. The emperor had no sons and so, for a time, Anna was the official heir following her betrothal to Constantine Doukas, the son of Michael VII (r. 1071-1078 CE). Constantine was nine years older than Anna and the empress-to-be later wrote of him in the following glowing terms:
“[Constantine was] seemingly endowed with a heavenly beauty not of this world, his manifold charms captivated the beholder, in short, anyone who saw him would say, He is like the painter’s Cupid” (Herrin, 233)
A Roman gladiator was an ancient professional fighter who specialised with particular weapons and armour. They fought before the public in organised games held in large purpose-built arenas throughout the Roman Empire from 105 BCE to 404 CE (official contests). As fights were usually to the death, gladiators had a short life expectancy and so, although it was in some respects a glamorous profession, the majority of fighters were slaves, former slaves or condemned prisoners. Without doubt, gladiator spectacles were one of the most watched forms of popular entertainment in the Roman world.
The Romans were influenced by their predecessors in Italy, the Etruscans, in many ways. For example, in the use of animal sacrifice for divining the future, the use of the symbolic fasces and organising gladiatorial games. The Etruscans associated these contests with the rites of death and so they had a certain religious significance. Although the first privately organised Roman gladiator contests in 264 BCE were to commemorate the death of a father, the later official contests discarded this element. Vestiges of the religious origins did, however, remain in the act of finishing off fallen gladiators. In this case an attendant would strike a blow to the forehead of the injured. The attendant would wear a costume representing Hermes the messenger god who escorted souls to the underworld or Charun (the Etruscan equivalent). The presence of the divine Emperor himself, accompanied by priests and the Vestal Virgins also lent a certain pseudo-religious air to the contest
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.