1. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The Ancient History Thread

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by jonathan hernandez13, Aug 21, 2009.

    I, the mighty Johnny the Great, hereby propose an Ancient History Thread...

    Herein we, the nerds of history, may speak of deeds and people and places of old, and ponder them in all nerdiness. What say you? Join me!

    -I propose, that since the accuracy of ancient history is in question and debatable that we leave accounts open for speculation and debate. Just keep the debate friendly and respectful is all I ask.

    That being said, let us transport ourselves into the past (swoosh)
    [​IMG]

    Enter, comrades, let us quaff ales and toast to the gods. This thread is hereby open!
     
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  2. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    I think if more people read Euripides, ancient history would be more popular. Or they'd be really, really scared of it. Either works for me.

    Edit: Also, I still think Aristophanes is one of the funniest writers ever. Basically, not only does Ancient History rule, but so does the literature. I hope we can discuss both here.
     
  3. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    For the first topic I suggest that we examine Cleopatra VII Philopator, otherwise known as...

    Queen Cleopatra

    1)Cleopatra (January 69 BC - 30 BC)

    Originally sharing power with her father, Ptolemy XII, and later with her brothers (and husbands) Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV, she eventually gained sole rule of Egypt (not only that, but she was the last of the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt before it became a Roman province).

    As Pharaoh, she consummated a liaison with Gaius Julius Caesar that solidified her grip on the throne, as he made Egypt one of his conquests following his successful defeat of Pompey, his opponent in the Civil War.

    After Caesar's assassination, she courted Mark Antony and begat a pair of twins and a son. In total, Cleopatra had four children, a first born son by Caesar (Ptolemy Caesar, otherwise known as Caesarion) and three by Mark Antony (the pair of twins; Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios, and lastly, a son named Ptolemy Philadelphus).

    Her successive marriages with her brothers produced no children (thankfully:D). It is quite certain that they were never consummated; in any case, they were not particularly fond of each other outside of political and strictly polite matters.

    As already noted, she was the last Hellenistic ruler of Egypt before Roman rule. Her son with Julius Caesar, Caesarion, co-ruled in name with his mother only a very few years before Octavian, later on renamed Caesar Augustus, (nephew of Julius Caesar, his adopted son, and first Roman Emperor) had him executed, most probably by strangulation, which in Antiquity was the execution method reserved for infants and pre-pubescents, thus adding humiliation to his execution (as a son of Caesar he was a contender for rulership and a political threat).


    After Antony and Cleopatra were defeated at Actium by their rival and Caesar's legal heir, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavian (Augustus), Cleopatra committed suicide, the traditional date being 12 August 30 BC, allegedly by means of an asp bite.

    The story, according to the ancient Historian Strabo, was that Augustius planned on humiliating her by making her a slave conquest to be brought before him to gloat over. By killing herself it was considered a sign of her dignity and pride, and in Egyptian culture the Asp was a sacred animal, so the whole account might have been symbolic of eternal life (the snake is an animal associated with life in many cultures because it "sheds its own skin", and survives its own death. There are snake priestesses in Southeast
    Asia and in Hindu lore the NagaRajah or Snake King, is catered to, fed, and often treated better than a hman. By dying through the snake Celopatra cheated death and found eteranl life and youth by becoming a popular figure in a world many centuries after her death.

    2)Who was she, was she some lecherous woman with dark skin, wearing little more than golden jewels as she's often depicted? No. That is merely a western fantasy with "orientalist" influences.

    Cleopatra was not even Egyptian by the way we would think of them. She was a direct descendent of Ptolemy, a General of Alexander the Great and a Macedonian.

    Now of course, one can counter that the Ptolemaic line ruled Egypt for 300 years, surely by then they had assimilated into the Egyptian culture, but they hadn't. By and large, they were unpopular with their subjects, made few efforts to adopt the cultures, and Cleopatra herself was the first of the Ptolemies to even learn the Egyptian language (she also accepted the religion through the adoption of Isis as her patron goddess; but again, she was eccentric in that regard).

    The bloodline had also been diluted very little through mixing with the natives, because the Ptolemies didn't, they marrieed within the family much like nobility of later ages, which is why she married her brothers.

    One can argue that she was an Egyptian as being born in Egypt and having ancestors that lived there for centuries (this is analogous to an American of French origins being a French American). Semantics asside, and political orientations asside, ethinically Cleopatra was Macedonian.

    3)I've done some searches of images of Cleopatra. The best I believe that we can do are some busts produced in the Roman era (there are some coins with her profiles as well, but with arguably far less attention to details). The one below is found in a Berlin museum. Far from being some sort of super sexy near east bombshell, she is rather average looking at first glance.

    [​IMG]

    I've heard her called homely, plain, and even ugly. If there was some sort of secret suductive power attributed to her, it may or may not have been her looks(standards of beauty in the modern age are different than then). Also, she was a noted scholar, and men like Julius Caesar and Mark Antony may have been charmed with her culture and class. I made an artistic rendition below based on the sculture above.

    [​IMG]

    As depicted, she appears very much like a modern woman of mediterranean origins, from Spain to Turkey, and while not the mainstream ideal of vogue is not at all grotesque. She rather resembles some actresses or models today of mediterranean origins.
    [​IMG]
     
  4. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Absolutely friend, and patron of the arts!

    Without the scarce little writing that we have from that time (that's survived fires and loss) all that we have left to study the past with is archaelogy and similar disciplines. We can dig up the bones, but with ancient literature we can get inside their heads and make the bones speak to us.
     
  5. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I just finished an essay on Aristophanes' Lysistrata...its the first classical text that's actually made me lol. His puns are so unbelievably bad and his farce is so ridiculous, its surprising how similar it is to a lot of modern comedy. Lots of sex jokes and innuendo, cross-dressing, wordplay. Even managed to put a sex joke into my essay: Indeed, it is a trait of Aristophanic comedy that his plays end in either marriage or sex, with both constituting a return to the Athenian natural order of male and female relations, and a return of the woman to her subjugated position under her husband.

    Haha! Position! Haha! Under!

    As for Euripides, I find him a little hit and miss. I loved Medea, but just couldn't really get into Agamemnon in the same way...
     
  6. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    I was actually going to make this comment. Studying a culture by way of their literature is I think an interesting way to get a sense of what they thought about themselves. Though this is stepping a bit outside Antiquity, of all the things that made domestic life in the Middle Ages click for me was a simple journal kept by the wife of a minor landowner. It turns out it was a pretty ruthless time! But my favourite of using primary sources as a means of studying ancient history is dealing with and sorting through the bias of the writers.

    Lysistrata is great, and if you have to write an essay on ancient literature, it's a pretty awesome source. My favourite by him is The Clouds. I first read it in a class on Greek Philosophy, and I can't think of a better introduction to The Republic :D The best part was the professor going out of his way in lecture to break down one of the jokes- a major in geology with a minor in astronomy. It turns out the Greeks liked fart jokes too.

    Euripides is one of my favourite writers, but I've heard the same from classmates and friends about his inconsistency. Medea is definitely my favourite by him as well, for so many reasons it could easily have a thread of its own. My next favourite is The Trojan Women, which I think is at its best when read alongside or after the Iliad. But I agree, even The Bacchae I found much less accessible than Medea.
     
  7. afinemess
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    afinemess Active Member

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    I wanted to say I dont have much to contribute to this thread, the most ancient thing I've read is Gilgamesh, but I find it all very fascinating, and I will enjoy reading through the thread. :)
     
  8. Sabreur
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    Sabreur Contributing Member Contributor

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    Most ancient things I've read is the history of the Peleponnesian War by Thuycides (I think. Never got through it.) and the Irish Epic the Tain Bo Cualinge (I dont know how to put accents over the correct letters.) which was considerably more enjoyable.
     
  9. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmmm

    In the ancient Greco-Roman world drama was divided between the camps of Comedy and Tragedy. Hence this iconic image known to all actors.

    [​IMG]

    The Greco-Roman ideas of drama affected theater for ages, as the later Byzantine civilization adopted Greek and Roman customs and assimilated it into modern western culture (as well as preserving the ancients plays!).

    By these standards Lysistrata would be a comdey and Oedipus a tragedy.

    Epic poems like the Odyssey, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the epic ancient Irish poems are different. They come from an earlier age (typically bronze) and detail the exploits of heroes and gods as well. There is often the depiction of men killing beasts, exploring unknown lands, or battling with powerful dark forces.

    Interpretive analysis tells us that this reflects early human fear of a world yet unshaped by geography, unexplored, and hence we become fearful of Leviathans and such.

    PS: Thucydides was not a drama writer, and it was post the mythic or heroic age. The Greeks were less gullible and fearful of their environments, Athenian sailors were exploring.

    In his introduction Thucydides even gives his best reasonable assumption of how the archaic Greeks arrived and settled the region, and acknowledges that most mythological accounts of past rulers were probably exaggerated.

    Thucydides is very important because he was influenced by Herodotus, widely regarded as the first western historian. Previous to history events would have to be remembered, recounted with oral traditions (pre-industrial societities still do this in some places), or mythical tales (which have a disproportionate amount of actaul fact to socially inherited fables).

    Thucydides followed in the footsteps and sought out to detail the course of the Athenian war with the Spartans, and is one of the few scholarly sources for it and what took place.
     
  10. SonnehLee
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    SonnehLee Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wish I was smart enough to contribute to this thread. Geez.
     
  11. Sabreur
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    Sabreur Contributing Member Contributor

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    He was more boring than watching paint dry.
     
  12. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well that's your opinion, I can stomach history much more than pretentious dramatic plays
     
  13. Sabreur
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    Sabreur Contributing Member Contributor

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    Eh. History is interesting, but Thuycides was not a good writer. This is not to say that the Peleponnesian War was not interesting, just that Thuycides is not interesting.

    Believe me, I love history. I find your hostility a bit baffling, as well as your insinuation that I prefer shallow drama to supposed deeper subjects such as actual history.
     
  14. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wasn't insinuating anything, you stated an opinion, and then I stated one.
     
  15. Sabreur
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    Sabreur Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay.
     
  16. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    I think if you want to get a more complete sense of the period, reading both the histories and the dramatic works is valuable. Of course, Herodotus is so entertaining he can be read for fun- I'm so sad I misplaced my copy of The Histories. I personally prefer the dramatic works though- first of all, as was discussed early in the thread, Aristophanes is still wickedly amusing today. Many of his comedies satirise his political opponents- and so Aristophanes paved the way for modern politics :) The tragedies are very interesting as well- by turning to the stories that ground their culture (whether they believed they were literally true or not) as a means of discussing thoughts on the concerns of their day, we can find an interesting level of self-reflection.
     
  17. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    Oh, I love history. Right now I'm dying to read the Illiad and Odyssey, and also the Aeneid. I also find very interesting the way Greeks and Romans saw Odysseus. Greeks saw him as a hero, while the Romans (who thought they were descendants of Troyan survivors) saw him as a villainous trickster. I'm not really sure, but I think this POV is explored in the Aeneid.
     
  18. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    Oh Em, everyone is! It's just a question of fascination and research... And the secret ingredient is not to be bored to death by it. :D

    Also, great thread Johnny, two thumbs up!
     
  19. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    He (Odysseus) is also deep down near the bottom of Hell in the Inferno. Which should be expected I guess considering Dante's guide is Virgil.
     
  20. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    Never read Dante's Divine Comedy, but it's also one of the books I want to read. It's funny how beliefs from almost two thousand years ago (First Romans believing to be descendants of Troyans) can still influence (Dante using Virgil's "Cruel Odyssey" POV) us so many years later. Personally, I prefer to see his hero side. :p
     
  21. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    Don't let the thread die! Come on, suggest historical figures or periods. Let's start with Richard Wagner. He was a German composer and teather director that was born in Leipzig in the 19th Century. During his time he composed many operas, among them the famous Der Ring des Nibelungen.

    A topic of much debate is his supposed influence over Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitism, and some historians say that during his final years he came to believe in a racialist philosophy. His essays on the races made a man named Houston Stewart Chamberlain expand Wagner's racialist ideas, and finally made him proclaim the superiority of the Aryan races.
    Adolf Hitler was an admirer of Wagner's work, and it is said that it could have influenced Nazi thinking. Think about it: His essays might have caused World War II. Who said an image was worth more than a thousand words, eh?
     
  22. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    I don't know that I'd consider Wagner ancient- he was certainly inspired by ancient sources though.

    With regards to his supposed influence on Hitler, it's worth noting that he was a monumental force in German culture- consider also that he served somewhat as a muse for Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy. By co-opting Wagner for his cause, Hitler attached himself to a national icon. Which is not to say that Wagner never expressed racist or anti-Semitic thoughts in his writings nor excuse him for doing so, but I'm not convinced Wagner envisioned anything like Nazi Germany.
     
  23. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    Oops, totally forgot the thread was about ancient history. Anyway, it was not that Wagner envisioned Nazi Germany. He expressed his ideas, and many people around the country started to expand them and reshape them into what became the ways Nazi thought (Like Houston S. Chamberlain, basing his writings on Wagner's original essays, he started to claim the superiority of the Aryan race). In other words Wagner could have been the precursor of the philosophy we call Nazism.

    I don't know where I heard this, but it bears resemblance with the case. People have done thousands of things for their gods, and many times they do horrible things for them. However, it doesn't mean that their gods agree with it.
     
  24. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    In that sense, I agree- and whatever his intent, Wagner did provide materials the Nazis were able to use for their purposes. Which is ironic because he was somewhat of a revolutionary, especially in his younger years.

    About ancient history, that might be an interesting topic because even in the OP its meaning is assumed but not explained- when you think 'Ancient History,' what are you thinking of? What period of history, and which civilisations fall under this quite wide and often imprecise term?
     
  25. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    When I think of 'Ancient History', images of Egypt, Rome and Greece come to my head. Strange enough, I think of China, Egypt, India and Mesopotamia as the four civilizations that fall under Ancient History. And concerning the period, I'd say somewhere between 6,000 B.C. to 0 B.C.
     

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