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.
Lakedaimon: An Eternal Truth is the first book in the epic, six-part story of the Spartans and centers around the Spartan Dienekes and the monumental Persian Wars. It is a resurrection, and history’s greatest will rise.
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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.
It’s toothpaste! Though a modern person likely would not recognize it. Ancient Egyptian toothpaste was made of rock salt, pepper, mint, and dried iris flowers.
So here’s a bonus fun fact: toothpastes have been minty since there was toothpaste to be minty.
“Succession of the Plebians” was a common form of revolt in the early Roman Republic. Everyone except the hereditary aristocrats (called patricians) would leave the city. The patricians would be left to fend for themselves. No servants, no shopkeepers, no farmers.
It was a very effective way to make the patricians negotiate.
One of the main duties of an Egyptian pharaoh was to suppress Egypt’s enemies. Their war campaigns were therefor on the god’s orders, who would grant them victory in battle. The pharaoh would thank the gods by dedicating spoils and prisoners to the gods, principally to Amun at Karnak. Successive pharaohs added to the temple, inscribing their triumphs (and keeping quiet about their failures) so that the gods and posterity would know their greatness. As a result, the temple at Karnak is a vast storehouse of historical information.
For instance, the outer walls of Karnak’s Hypostyle Hall are inscribed with accounts of the campaigns of Seti I in Syria-Palestine, and Ramesses II’s defeat of the Hittites at the Battle of Qadesh. The terms of the peace treaty Ramesses’ victory won are also inscribed on the wall. It’s not all war and battles. One of the small rooms adjoining the Festival Hall contained an important list of Ramesses’ 57 ancestors.