Category: Ancient History Encyclopedia

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EDDA: EDDA is a term used to describe two Icel…

EDDA: 

EDDA is a term used to describe two Icelandic manuscripts that were copied down and compiled in the 13th century CE. Together they are the main sources of Norse mythology and skaldic poetry that relate the religion, cosmogony, and history of Scandinavians and Proto-Germanic tribes. The Prose or Younger Edda dates to circa 1220 CE and was compiled by Snorri Sturluson, an Icelandic poet and historian. The Poetic or Elder Edda was written down circa 1270 CE by an unknown author.

Snorri Sturluson’s work was the first of the two manuscripts to be called Edda, however, scholars are uncertain how this exactly came about. Snorri himself did not name it. The term, ‘Edda’, was later ascribed to Snorri’s work by a different author in a manuscript from the early 14th century CE, the Codex Upsaliensis, which contained a copy of Snorri’s Edda within it. Gudbrand Vigfusson, in The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue, quotes the Codex Upsaliensis as saying, “This Book is called Edda, which Snorri Sturlason put together according to the order set down here: First, concerning the Æsir and Gylfi.” The first use of the word ‘Edda’, that has thus far been located, was in a poem called the Lay of Righ (Háttatal), which was authored by Snorri. 

In this poem, the word ‘Edda’ is used as a title for “great-grandmother.” Multiple theories exist, but one suggests that the term may have become associated with Snorri’s manuscript because, like a great-grandmother, it carries a breadth of ancient knowledge and wisdom. Another theory that is more widely accepted by scholars today proposes that ‘Edda’ is closely associated with the word Oddi, which is the Icelandic town where Snorri grew up.

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HAPPY Easter to all those who celebrate it! 

HAPPY Easter to all those who celebrate it! 

LEARN all about the myth and legend of Medus…

LEARN all about the myth and legend of Medusa! Kelly Macquire tells the story of how Medusa became a terrible snake-headed monster in Greek Mythology.

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SAGA: The Old Norse word saga means ‘story’, ‘…

SAGA: 

The Old Norse word saga means ‘story’, ‘tale’ or ‘history’ and normally refers specifically to the epic prose narratives written mainly in Iceland between the 12th- and 15th centuries CE, covering the country’s history as well as Scandinavia’s legendary past. A few sagas were also written in Norway but in either country their usually anonymous writers shaped their stories in high-quality, nuanced prose, leading the saga to now be considered one of the prime vernacular literary genres of Medieval Europe. Poetry is generally included, too, which helps point out the influence older, oral traditions of storytelling are thought to have had on the saga’s development.

Although the heyday of Old Norse saga composition lay in the 13th century CE, the tales often dive back through the ages into the times of ancestors, heroes and legendary kings, spanning from prehistory through the Viking Age (c. 790-1100 CE) – including the settlement of Iceland – to the writers’ own times. History and fiction are often mixed in a sort of Gordian knot that is hard to disentangle, and the stories have as their playground not just Iceland but also Scandinavia, the British Isles, the North Atlantic (including Greenland and North America), the Mediterranean, Russia and the Middle East.

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EMPEROR TAIZU OF SONG: EMPEROR Taizu (960-976 …

EMPEROR TAIZU OF SONG: 

EMPEROR Taizu (960-976 CE), formerly known as Zhao Kuangyin, was the founder of the Song (aka Sung) dynasty which ruled China from 960 to 1279 CE. Taizu settled for a territorially smaller but more unified and prosperous China than was seen in previous dynasties, and he made particular efforts to curb the powers of the military and bolster those of the scholar-officials within the state bureaucracy. Taizu’s careful governance would ensure that his successors had the foundation upon which they could build one of the most successful dynasties in China’s history.  

The Tang dynasty had ruled China from 618 CE with great success, but their collapse in 907 CE resulted in a sustained period of political upheaval. The once unified Chinese state was broken up into many competing political entities and so the era from 907 to 960 CE is often referred to as the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (Wudai shiguo) period. One man would rise above all other military rulers in these turbulent times, the Later Zhou dynasty general-warlord Zhao Kuangyin (also spelt Guangyin).

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DE OFFICIISDe Officiis is a treatise written b…

DE OFFICIIS

De Officiis is a treatise written by Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 – 43 BCE), Roman statesman and orator, in the form of a letter to his son just after the death of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE. Strongly influenced by stoicism, De Officiis is divided into three books and reflects the author’s view on how to live a good life. The first two books are based on the teachings of stoic philosopher Panaetius of Rhodes, with Book I analysing honour and its roots and Book II delving into utility and what is to one’s advantage. Book III links honour with usefulness and explores which should prevail.

Cicero was a Roman statesman and politician, born in 106 BCE, a member of the lower aristocracy called the ordo equester or the equestrians. He studied in Athens and on the island of Rhodes where he probably got his stoic inspiration from. At the minimum age, he became quaestor in 75 BCE, aedile in 69 BCE, praetor in 66 BCE, and finally consul in 63 BCE.

The pinnacle of his political career was probably the Catiline Conspiracy when he was granted emergency powers by the Roman Senate and given the title pater patriae afterwards for saving the Roman Republic. Later on, Cicero, as the proconsul (governor) of Cilicia, was a major participant in Roman politics, supporting Pompey. After the Ides of March, Cicero returned to Rome to defend the Republic from Mark Antony. In 43 BCE Cicero was assassinated by the order of Mark Antony while fleeing Italy.

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The Newly Discovered Tablet II of the Epic of …

The Newly Discovered Tablet II of the Epic of Gilgamesh: 

IN 2011 CE, the Sulaymaniyah (Slemani) Museum in Iraqi Kurdistan purchased a large number of clay tablets. After the dramatic fall of Saddam’s regime on April 9, 2003 CE and the ransacking of the Iraq Museum as well as other museums, the Sulaymaniyah Museum (guided by the Council of Ministers of Iraqi Kurdistan) started an initiative, as part of an amnesty program. The museum paid smugglers to ‘intercept’ archaeological artefacts on their journey to other countries. No questions were asked about who was selling the relic or where it came from. The Sulaymaniyah Museum believed that this condition kept smugglers from selling their merchandise to other buyers (locally) or antiquities dealers (outside Iraq), as they would have otherwise done so with ease and without any legal consequences.

A large cache of clay tablets came from southern Iraq through illegal excavations after April 2003 CE. None of them was looted from the Iraq Museum, as no tablet bore an Iraqi Museum acquisition number, storage number, or even an excavation number. Therefore, their precise provenance remains a mystery. However, sometimes one can apply the ‘best guess’ conjecture depending on the cuneiform text a tablet has. This proved true occasionally; some scholars were quite sure that some tablets were unearthed in Larsa (modern-day Tell as-Senkereh, in Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq) by the plunderers.

At that time, luckily present at the museum, professor Farouk Al-Rawi (of the Department of Languages of Cultures of the Near East, SOAS, University of London), immediately spotted that one of the tablets turned out to be Tablet V of the Epic of Gilgamesh; the tablet was transliterated and an article was published about it in June 2014 CE by Al-Rawi and George. Recently Professor Al-Rawi visited the Governorate of Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan to do research about some clay tablets acquired by the Sulaymaniyah Museum. I met him many times and we chatted a lot. Professor Al-Rawi and my dear friend, Hashim Hama Abdullah (the Director of the Sulaymaniyah Museum), told me that Professor Al-Rawi spotted another tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh (among that cache) and he has completed the transliteration.

In 2011 CE, as part of that large collection of clay tablets, the Sulaymaniyah Museum acquired a small fragment, somewhat triangular in shape. Its final price was about 300 USD after some negotiation. After some cleaning, the overlying cuneiform text became very clear. “It is part of Tablet II of the Epic of Gilgamesh”, professor Al-Rawi said. On April 7, 2019 CE, I interviewed him about this tablet and what it conveys.

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