“It is truly vast, built from 2.3 million blocks of stone, each weighing on average more than a ton, and covering an area of thirteen acres. A simple calculation reveals that the builders would have had to set one block of stone in place every two minutes during a ten-hour day, working without a pause throughout the year for the two decades of Khufu’s reign (2345 – 2525). Once completed, 481 feet high, the Great Pyramid remained unsurpassed in scale until modern times. For forty-four centuries, until the completion of the Eiffel Tower in A.D. 1889, it was the tallest building in the world.”
~ Toby Wilkinson, from “The Rise and Fall Of Ancient Egypt”
Delphi (Greek: Δελφοί) is famous as the ancient sanctuary that grew rich as the seat of Pythia, the oracle who was consulted about important decisions throughout the ancient classical world. Moreover, the Greeks considered Delphi the navel, or center, of the world, as represented by the stone monument known as the Omphalos of Delphi.
Delphi is perhaps best known for its oracle, the Pythia, the sibyl or priestess at the sanctuary dedicated to Apollo. According to Aeschylus in the prologue of the Eumenides, the oracle had origins in prehistoric times and the worship of Gaea. Gaea is the personification of the Earth and one of the Greek primordial deities. Gaea is the ancestral mother of all life: the primal Mother Earth goddess.
Apollo spoke through his oracle. She had to be an older woman of blameless life chosen from among the peasants of the area. Alone in an enclosed inner sanctum she sat on a tripod seat over an opening in the earth (the “chasm”). According to legend, when Apollo slew Python (Python was the serpent, sometimes represented as a medieval-style dragon, living at the centre of the earth, believed by the ancient Greeks to be at Delphi.) its body fell into this fissure and fumes arose from its decomposing body. Intoxicated by the vapours, the sibyl would fall into a trance, allowing Apollo to possess her spirit. In this state she prophesied. The oracle could not be consulted during the winter months, for this was traditionally the time when Apollo would live among the Hyperboreans. Dionysus would inhabit the temple during his absence.
The site was first settled in Mycenaean times in the lateBronze Age(1500-1100 BCE) but took on its religious significance from around 800 BCE. The original name of the sanctuary was Pytho after the snake which Apollo was believed to have killed there. Votive offerings at the site from this period include small clay statues (the earliest),bronze figurines, and richly decorated bronze tripods.
Delphi was also considered the centre of the world, for in Greek mythology Zeus released two eagles, one to the east and another to the west, and Delphi was the point at which they met after encircling the world. This fact was represented by the omphalos (or navel), a dome-shaped stone which stood outside Apollo’s temple and which also marked the spot where Apollo killed the Python.
Perhaps the most famous consultant of the Delphic oracle was Croesus, the fabulously rich King of Lydia who, faced with a war against the Persians, asked the oracle’s advice. The oracle stated that if Croesus went to war then a great empire would surely fall. Reassured by this, the Lydian king took on the mighty Cyrus. However, the Lydians were routed at Sardis and it was the Lydian empire which fell, a lesson that the oracle could easily be misinterpreted by the unwise or over-confident.
The first temple in the area was built in the 7th century BCE and was itself a replacement for less substantial buildings of worship which had stood before it. The focal point of the sanctuary, the Doric temple of Apollo, was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 548 BCE. A second temple, again Doric in style, was completed in c. 510 BCE with the help of the exiled Athenian family, the Alcmeonids. Measuring some 60 by 24 metres, the facade had six columns whilst the sides had 15. This temple was destroyed by earthquake in 373 BCE and was replaced by a similarly proportioned temple in 330 BCE. This was constructed with poros stone coated in stucco. Marble sculpture was also added as decoration along with Persian shields taken at the Battle of Marathon. This is the temple which survives, albeit only partially, today.
Other notable constructions at the site were the theatre (with capacity for 5,000 spectators), temples to Athena (4th century BCE), a tholos with 13 Doric columns (c. 580 BCE), stoas, stadium (with capacity for 7,000 spectators), and around 20 treasuries, which were constructed to house the votive offerings and dedications from city-states all over Greece. Similarly, monuments were also erected to commemorate military victories and other important events. For example, the Spartan general Lysander erected a monument to celebrate his victory over Athens at Aegospotami. Other notable monuments were the great bronze Bull of Corcyra (580 BCE), the ten statues of the kings of Argos (c. 369 BCE), a gold four-horse chariot offered by Rhodes, and a huge bronze statue of the Trojan Horse offered by the Argives (c.413 BCE). Lining the sacred way, which wound from the sanctuary gate up to the temple of Apollo.
The site was ‘re-discovered’ with the first modern excavations being carried out in 1880 CE by a team of French archaeologists. Notable finds were splendid metope sculptures from the treasury of the Athenians (c. 490 BCE) and the Siphnians (c. 525 BCE) depicting scenes from Greek mythology. In addition, a bronze charioteer in the severe style (480-460 BCE), the marble Sphinx of the Naxians (c. 560 BCE), the twin marble archaic statues – the kouroi of Argos (c. 580 BCE) and the richly decorated omphalos stone (c. 330 BCE) – all survive as testimony to the cultural and artistic wealth that Delphi had once enjoyed.
The Great Pyramid at Giza was constructed between 2584 and 2561 BCE for the Egyptian Pharoah Khufu (known in Greek as `Cheops’) and was the tallest man-made structure in the world for almost 4,000 years. Excavations of the interior of the pyramid were only initiated in earnest in the late 18th and early 19th centuries CE and so the intricacies of the interior which so intrigue modern people were unknown to the ancient writers. It was the structure itself with its perfect symmetry and imposing height which impressed ancient visitors.
HANGING GARDENS OFBABYLON
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, if they existed as described, were built byNebuchadnezzar IIbetween 605-562 BCE as a gift to his wife. They are described by the ancient writer Diodorus Siculus as being self-watering planes of exotic flora and fauna reaching a height of over 75 feet (23 metres) through a series of climbing terraces. Diodorus wrote that Nebuchadnezzar’s wife, Amtis of Media, missed the mountains and flowers of her homeland and so the king commanded that a mountain be created for her in Babylon. The controversy over whether the gardens existed comes from the fact that they are nowhere mentioned in Babylonian history and that Herodotus, makes no mention of them in his descriptions of Babylon. Diodorus, Philo, and the historian Strabo all claim the gardens existed. They were destroyed by anearthquakesometime after the 1st century CE.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was created by the great Greek sculptorPhidias(known as the finest sculptor of the ancient world in the 5th century BCE, he also worked on theParthenonand the statue ofAthenathere inAthens). The statue depicted the god Zeus seated on his throne, his skin of ivory and robes of hammeredgold, and was 40 feet tall, designed to inspire awe in the worshippers who came to theTempleof Zeus at Olympia. He has shown Zeus seated, but with the head almost touching the ceiling, so that we have the impression that if Zeus moved to stand up he would unroof the temple.” With the rise of Christianity the statue was carried off toConstantinoplewhere it was later destroyed, sometime in either the 5th or 6th centuries CE, by an earthquake.
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, a Greek colony inAsia Minor, took over 120 years to build and only one night to destroy. Completed in 550 BCE, the temple was 425 feet high, 225 feet wide, supported by 127 60 foot high columns. Sponsored by the wealthy KingCroesusofLydia, who spared no expense in anything he did the temple was so magnificent that every account of it is written with the same tone of awe and each agrees with the other that this was among the most amazing structures ever raised by humans. On July 21, 356 BCE a man named Herostratus set fire to the temple in order to achieve lasting fame by forever being associated with the destruction of something so beautiful. The Ephesians decreed that his name should never be recorded nor remembered but Strabo set it down as a point of interest in the history of the temple. On the same night the temple burned,Alexander the Greatwas born and, later, offered to rebuild the ruined temple but the Ephesians refused his generosity. It was rebuilt on a less grand scale afterAlexander’sdeathbut was destroyed by the invasion of theGoths. Rebuilt again, it was finally destroyed utterly by a Christian mob lead by Saint John Chrysostom in 401 CE.
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was thetombof the Persian Satrap Mausolus, built in c. 351 BCE. Mausolus chose Halicarnassus as his capitalcity, and he and his beloved wife Artemisia went to great lengths to create a city whose beauty would be unmatched in the world. Mausolus died in 353 BCE and Artemisia wished to create a final resting place worthy of such a great king. Artemisia died two years after Mausolus and her ashes were entombed with his in the mausoleum. The tomb was 135 feet tall and ornately decorated with finesculpture. It was destroyed by a series of earthquakes and lay in ruin for hundreds of years until, in 1494 CE, it was completely dismantled and used by the Knights of St. John of Malta in the building of their castle at Bodrum. It is from the tomb of Mausolus that the English word `mausoleum’ is derived.
The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the godHelios(the patron god of the island of Rhodes) constructed between 292 and 280 BCE. It stood over 110 feet high overlooking the harbor of Rhodes and, despite fanciful depictions to the contrary, stood with its legs together on a base and did not straddle the harbour. The statue was commissioned after the defeat of the invading army of Demetrius in 304 BCE. Demetrius left behind much of his siege equipment and weaponry and this was sold by the Rhodians for 300 talents (approximately the equivalent of 360 million U.S. dollars) which money they used to build the Colossus. The statue stood for only 56 years before it was destroyed by an earthquake in 226 BCE. It lay in impressive ruin for over 800 years, according to Strabo, and was still a tourist attraction. According to the historian Theophanes thebronzeruins were eventually sold to “a Jewish merchant ofEdessa” around 654 CE who carried them away on 900 camels to be melted down.
The Lighthouse at Alexandria, built on the island of Pharos, stood close to 440 feet in height and was commissioned byPtolemy ISoter. Construction was completed sometime around 280 BCE. The lighthouse was the third tallest human-made structure in the world (after thepyramids) and its light (a mirror which reflected the sun’s rays by day and a fire by night) could be seen as far as 35 miles out to sea. The structure rose from a square base to a middle octagonal section up to a circular top and those who saw it in its glory reported that words were inadequate to describe its beauty. The lighthouse was badly damaged in an earthquake in 956 CE, again in 1303 CE and 1323 CE and, by the year 1480 CE, it was gone. The Egyptian fort Quaitbey now stands on the site of the Pharos, built with some of the stones from the ruins of the lighthouse.
TRUTH: It’s unlikely that the Egyptians made wide use of slaves to construct the pyramids. Hieroglyphs and archeological sites suggest that it was actually a potentially society-wide network of skilled ancient workers who were paid relatively well.
#Myths #AncientEgypt #Pyramids
MYTH: The Greeks used a Trojan horse to sack the city of Troy.
TRUTH: The only places that the Trojan horse is mentioned in antiquity is in the Aeneid, an epic poem written by Virgil hundreds of years after the supposed events; and The Odyssey, an epic poem written by Homer. Likely, this infamous subterfuge never actually happened.
#TrojanHorse #Troy #Homer #Virgil
Myth: Just 300 Spartans held off the Persian at Thermopylae for three days.
Truth: Indeed, there were only 300 Spartan soldiers guarding the pass at Thermopylae, but they had support from neighboring allies numbering over 5,000 soldiers. It is true however, that the Persian army was tens of thousands strong, perhaps even 100,000 in number. So a three day stand with less than 6,000 soldiers is still impressive.
Myth: The Colossus of Rhodes straddled the Greek harbor of Rhodes.
Truth: The Colossus of Rhodes was an authentic statue, but it did not straddle the harbor of the Greek isle of Rhodes. The 100-foot high statue of Helios was erected adjacent to the harbor in 280 BC. Artistic recreations showing the statue straddling the harbor are simply wrong. The giant statue toppled over during an earthquake in 226 BC, and its legend remains today.
Myth: Viking warriors wore horned helmets
Truth: It’s difficult to tackle this because the image of the Viking warrior with his ax, dragon-headed boat, and horned helmet is one of the most iconic in European history. Almost every popular representation of a Viking has the horns. Unfortunately, there’s a problem… there were no horns!
Myth: Droit de Seigneur
Truth: Did lords really have the right to spirit newly married women away on their weddings nights, as Braveheart would have you believe? Well, no, not at all. This was a lie designed to slander your neighbors, and most probably didn’t exist at all, let alone in the way the film shows.
Myth: Nero Threw Christians to the lions.
Truth: There were a lot of crazy shows Romans saw at the Colosseum. The ones best remembered today are the gladiator fights and Christians being thrown to the lions. However, there is no reliable evidence to suggest that Christians were ever executed in the Colosseum, by lions or otherwise. The idea was spread mostly by Renaissance artists and writers.
Just to be clear, there have been Christians sentenced to damnatio ad bestias(condemnation to beasts). There have also been people who were killed by animals in the Colosseum. There just is no reliable proof that the two overlapped.
We know for a fact that Nero never did this for a simple reason: The Colosseum didn’t exist when he was emperor. Nero reigned until AD 68, and construction of the Colosseum didn’t start until four years later under Vespasian. Nero is often the emperor most associated with the act because, according to contemporary historians, he was the first Roman emperor to persecute Christians. Tacitus said that Nero blamed Christians for the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD. However, Tacitus wrote that Nero had Christians killed by burning, crucifixion, or being mauled by dogs. He makes no mention of lions.
#Christians #Nero #Colosseum
Myth: All gladiators were slaves
Truth: While it’s true that most gladiators were captives who’d been forced into this dangerous occupation, the lifestyle attracted plenty of freeborn citizens as well—including women. The appeal was plain to see: Like modern wrestlers, successful gladiators frequently became celebrities. A few of them even amassed small fortunes, since winning a big fight could mean taking home a cash prize.
Those who willingly became gladiators were usually impoverished people who sought the financial security that the profession offered. A good number of ex-Roman soldiers signed up as well. To receive training, they’d join what was known as a ludus—gladiator troupes that doubled as rigorous combat schools. The typical ludus was owned by a wealthy politician or former gladiator, who’d rent out his fighters for use in organized shows. Julius Caesar himself once ran a troupe which may have contained up to 1000 gladiators.
Eventually, the government cracked down on freeborn combatants. To help keep young aristocrats out of the fighting pits, the Senate issued an age requirementin 11 CE. This made it illegal for free men who were younger than 25 and free women who hadn’t yet turned 20 from joining a ludus. A subsequent ruling enacted in 19 CE barred all upper-class ladies from becoming gladiators. Then, in 200 CE, Emperor Septimus Severus officially turned this into an all-male sport.
#Gladiators #NotAlwaysSlaves #Women
Myth 2: Gladiator fights were to the death.
Truth: Historian Georges Ville has calculated that during the first century CE, out of 100 fights (and 200 gladiators), 19 gladiators died, giving a death rate of around 10 percent (approximately 20 percent for the loser). By the year 300 CE, however, these confrontations became deadlier. In Ville’s estimation, half of all the man-to-man gladiator fights around that time ended with the loser’s demise.
Even so, those odds still might seem low to contemporary movie fans—after all, in “sword and sandal” flicks, gladiator fights almost always result in at least one fatality. However, Ville’s numbers make a lot more sense when you consider the real-life economics involved. Gladiators were expensive, and if one died in combat or was permanently disabled, the venue paid a steep fine to the owner of his ludus. To help keep the body count down, fighters might receive first-rate medical attention after leaving the arena.
But with that said, the crowd often demanded death. Throughout Roman history, most gladiator duels concluded when one party was rendered too weak or injured to keep fighting. Defeated athletes could surrender by throwing down their weapon or shield, or the loser would extend one arm and point upward. At that point, the bested fighter’s fate would be decided by the presiding event chairman, or editor. Generally, his verdict could be expected to appease the audience, whose cheers and jeers helped determine if the fallen warrior lived to fight another day.
#Gladiators #MedicalAttention #SurvivalRate
Myth: The romans made slaves row their war vessels.
Truth: In an iconic sequence from Ben–Hur, we see a group of slaves being forced to row a Roman galley ship at increasingly demanding speeds. While a war beating drum sets the relentless tempo, wandering soldiers mercilessly flog those poor souls who collapse from fatigue. Though the scene is definitely compelling, it’s also inaccurate. Roman galleys were actually powered by paid and well-trained freemen unless absolutely necessary. Frankly, handing this job over to slaves would have been foolish—if a ship were captured, enslaved oarsmen might well side with the enemy and attack their masters.
A UNESCO World Heritage site. As described by UNESCO,
“An oasis in the Syrian desert, north-east of Damascus, Palmyra contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences.
First mentioned in the archives of Mari in the 2nd millennium BC, Palmyra was an established caravan oasis when it came under Roman control in the mid-first century AD as part of the Roman province of Syria. It grew steadily in importance as a city on the trade route linking Persia, India and China with the Roman Empire, marking the crossroads of several civilisations in the ancient world. A grand, colonnaded street of 1100 metres’ length forms the monumental axis of the city, which together with secondary colonnaded cross streets links the major public monuments including the Temple of Ba’al, Diocletian’s Camp, the Agora, Theatre, other temples and urban quarters. Architectural ornament including unique examples of funerary sculpture unites the forms of Greco-roman art with indigenous elements and Persian influences in a strongly original style. Outside the city’s walls are remains of a Roman aqueduct and immense necropolises.
Discovery of the ruined city by travellers in the 17th and 18th centuries resulted in its subsequent influence on architectural styles.
Criterion (i): The splendour of the ruins of Palmyra, rising out of the Syrian desert north-east of Damascus is testament to the unique aesthetic achievement of a wealthy caravan oasis intermittently under the rule of Rome from the Ier to the 3rd century AD. The grand colonnade constitutes a characteristic example of a type of structure which represents a major artistic development.
Criterion (ii): Recognition of the splendour of the ruins of Palmyra by travellers in the 17th and 18th centuries contributed greatly to the subsequent revival of classical architectural styles and urban design in the West.
Criterion (iv): The grand monumental colonnaded street, open in the centre with covered side passages, and subsidiary cross streets of similar design together with the major public buildings, form an outstanding illustration of architecture and urban layout at the peak of Rome’s expansion in and engagement with the East. The great temple of Ba’al is considered one of the most important religious buildings of the 1st century AD in the East and of unique design. The carved sculptural treatment of the monumental archway through which the city is approached from the great temple is an outstanding example of Palmyrene art. The large scale funerary monuments outside the city walls in the area known as the Valley of the Tombs display distinctive decoration and construction methods.
All the key attributes, including the main colonnaded street, major public buildings and funerary monuments, lie within the boundary. The tower tombs and the citadel are vulnerable to minor earthquakes and lack of conservation. Since the time of inscription, the population of the adjacent town has increased and is encroaching on the archaeological zone. Although traffic has increased, the main road that passed through the site has been diverted. Increased tourism has brought pressure for facilities within the property.
The key attributes display well their grandeur and splendour. However the setting is vulnerable to the encroachment of the adjacent town that could impact adversely on the way the ruins are perceived as an oasis closely related to their desert surroundings.
Protection and management requirements (2009)
The site was designated a national monument and is now protected by the National Antiquities law 222 as amended in 1999. A buffer zone was established in 2007 but has not yet been submitted to the World Heritage Committee.
The regional strategic action plan currently under preparation is expected to provide guidelines to expand and redefine the site as a cultural landscape, with respect to the transitional zones around the archaeological site, the oasis and the city.
There is an on-going need for a conservation and restoration plan to be developed that addresses fully the complex issues associated with this extensive multiple site and will allow for coordinated management, clear priorities and a cultural tourism strategy and address the issues of expansion of the nearby town.”