Readers’ wildlife photos

July 15, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today we feature another travel/historical/picture contribution from Athayde Tonhasca Júnior.  His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Macedonian treasures

Macedonia, in northern Greece, is the descendant of the Kingdom of Macedon of Alexander the Great fame, and not to be confused with Northern Macedonia, the independent country resulting from the dissolution of Yugoslavia. The young country’s choice of ‘Macedonia’ for its name caused a 25-year kerfuffle with Greece, which is still bitter about it (source of the images in parentheses).

Some of the 266 fragments of the Derveni Papyrus, the oldest European ‘book’ and one of the documents in the UNESCO’s ‘Memory of the World’ Programme. The papyrus roll from the 3rd-4th c. BC was found carbonized among the remains of a funeral pyre in northern Greece. The text, read with special photographic techniques, consists mainly of an allegorical-philosophical interpretation of a poem ascribed to the mythical poet Orpheus. One of the lines read: Zeus is the hea[d], Zeus the mid[dle], and from Zeus all things are ma[de], which unsurprisingly resonates with the idea of a Grand Poobah from the Abrahamic religions. Most modern myths such as the Flood, Immaculate Conception, Chosen People, Garden of Eden, Hell, are not original – the Ancient Pagans thought of them first. (Thessaloniki’s Archaeological Museum, AM):

A bill of sale from 3rd c. AD.: Titos, son of Lykos, buys from Amphotera a two-month old slave girl. The girl’s name is Nike. The price is set at 15 silver pieces. Slavery was a fact of life for the Greek city states and every other ancient civilisation. (AM):

JAC: I’ve highlighted Nike’s name

Aphrodite, or Venus for the Romans. Her family tree was unusual even for the imaginative Greeks: she was born from the white foam produced by the severed genitals of Uranus (Heaven), after his son Cronus threw them into the sea (aphros means ‘foam’). Aphrodite had a wide portfolio: goddess of sexual love, beauty and fertility, she was also worshipped by seafarers, prostitutes and warriors. This terracotta figurine is an early representation of Aphrodite, with no features to distinguish her from other goddesses. (Pella Archaeological Museum):

Some of Aphrodite’s later incarnations: The Birth of Venus, by Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510) © Uffizi Gallery, Wikimedia Commons, and The Birth of Suburbia, by Rosaleen Ryan.:

Hermaphroditus, the son of Aphrodite and Hermes. The water-nymph Salmacis, seeing him bathing in a pool, fell in love and prayed that they may never be separated. The gods acquiesced and joined the pair into one body with a dual nature, boy and girl. Among Greeks and Romans, Hermaphroditus was worshipped by – unsurprisingly – hermaphrodites, and also by ‘effeminate men’. But he was also seen as a deity of marriage for representing the union of a man and a woman. Hermaphroditus has experienced an unexpected revival into the modern pantheon, as the Church of Woke often cites him in mendacious arguments for the idea of sex as a continuum. (AM):

A votive relief dedicated to Hades, the god of the dead and the ruler of the underworld. 2nd c. AD. The Greeks had a god or demigod for any imaginable situation or activity. Listeners of A Way with Words mentioned some gods missing from the museum, including: Lemonades, god of cool refreshments; Ledes, god of low power lamps; Marmalades, god of chunky fruit spreads; Seus, god of children’s literature; Mediocretes, god of things that are slightly below average; Herpes and Chlamydia, the incurable romantics; Auricles and Ventricles, protagonists of a heart-breaking story; Apallo, god of shock and dismay; Diabetes, the god of carbonated sodas; and Phlebotomies, god of vampires. (AM):

You may have attended symposiums, but not likely the ones put together by the Ancient Greeks. Symposiums were gatherings of upper-class men in the andrones (‘men’s quarters’), which were furnished with couches along the walls. The lads would dine and drink in a semi-reclining position, which was a mark of elegance and decorum (the standing figure is a slave, who are always depicted as small). Household women did not take part: instead, cultured and sophisticated courtesans (the hetairai) were hired to entertain the guests with music, songs, dances and their ‘feminine charm’. (AM).

A helmet and funerary mask from ~520 BC. The warrior was buried wearing his helmet and his face was covered with a golden mask. The facial characteristics must have been created by pressing the gold sheet against the dead man’s face. (AM).

This gold chest is believed to have held the bones of King Philip II, and the gold wreath of oak leaves adorned his dead body. Philip II turned the kingdom of Macedonia into a regional power and prepared the ground for his son, Alexander the Great. The discovery of Philip’s tomb near modern Vergina in 1977 by Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos is one the most remarkable archaeological findings ever. (Royal Tombs of Vergina):

A replica of the Horologion of Philippi from 250-350 AD. This amazing instrument was used to calculate time, latitude, the height and the azimuth of the sun or some other star. You can find out how it works here. Only the Antikythera Mechanism could be more spectacular and awe-inspiring (AM):

A clay alabastron (a vessel used for storing oil) with a bust of the god Dionysus from the 2nd-1st c. BC. It is shaped like a phallus, which was a symbol of fertility and well-being, and a charm to avoid bad luck. Phallic amulets, often in the form of winged willies, really took off with the Romans. They were depicted in jewellery, pendants, lamps, relief carvings, mosaics, etc. and given to male children to ward off the evil eye and keep them healthy during their early years. These phallic charms were known as fascini (sing. fascinus), which is fascinating. (Museum of the Roman Agora, Thessaloniki):

Alexander III, aka the Great (356-323 BC). As king of Macedonia, Alexander created the largest empire in the ancient world until the Romans came to the stage, and he laid the foundations for the Hellenistic Period, when Greek language and culture spread throughout the Mediterranean. Alexander was no thicko: he studied literature, science, medicine and philosophy under the supervision of Aristotle, his private tutor. This head bust embodies all that riles the Woke apostles: empire, male dominance, whiteness. So inevitably the Classics are being cancelled, sometimes by classicists themselves. (Pella Archaeological Museum):

This lead tablet from the 4th c. BC contains a curse in the dialect spoken by the population of Pella (the ancient capital of Macedon). Among other things, it says: ‘…were I ever to unfold and read these words again after digging (the tablet) up, only then should Dionysophon marry, not before; may he indeed not take another woman than myself, but let me alone grow old by the side of Dionysophon and no one else”; ‘But please keep this (piece of writing) for my sake so that these events do not happen and wretched Thetima perishes miserably’. Curse tablets with magic texts intending to cause harm or to ward off evil were a big thing among Greeks and Romans. They were placed in graves, thrown into wells or nailed to the walls of temples. A whole collection of them was found in the English city of Bath. (Pella Archaeological Museum):

Lead was also a handy resource for psychological warfare; Greeks and Romans used catapults (sling shots) with deadly efficacy, but some of their lead bullets were intended to carry messages to threaten, insult or taunt the enemy. In 41 BC, during the civil war of Augustus, Octavius (the future Emperor Augustus) cornered his enemies Lucius Antonius and Fulvia (Mark Antony’s brother and wife) in the town of Perugia. During the long siege that followed, the opposing armies showered each other with glandes (lead bullets). Many of these projectiles have been recovered from the archaeological site, and some make interesting reading, although nothing like the Aeneid or Metamorphoses. The precision and concision of the Latin language made these messages come across sharply and to the point: sede, laxe Octavi: ‘sit [on this], gaping-arse Octavius’; peto landicam Fulviae: ‘I’m aiming at Fulvia’s clitoris’; salve Octavi, felas: ‘Hello Octavius, you suck cock’; L. Antoni calve; Fulvia, culum pandite; ‘L. Antonius you baldy; Fulvia, spread you cheeks’ (during that period, Romans saw baldness as a disfigurement subject to ridicule; Cesar had a big chip on his shoulder because of his thinning hair). This taunting tradition has endured: American military staff scribbled their names and messages on ‘Fat Man’, the bomb that obliterated Nagasaki, and today you can pay to send a custom message on artillery shells that Ukrainian soldiers are firing at the Russians. Image: Greek lead bullets with a winged thunderbolt on one side and the inscription “ΔΕΞΑΙ” (Dexai) meaning ‘take that’ or ‘catch’ on the other side. 4th c. BC © Marie-Lan Nguyen, British Museum:

11 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Always a great read – I don’t always comment though, depends on how busy things are.

    … I was not aware of the Horologion of Philippi – fascinating!… ahem, I mean – amazing!…

  2. Wow. An entire history of ancient Greece in one post—and some humor thrown in on the side. Thank you!

  3. Love these posts, entertaining and educational, and really makes me want to see these for myself. Thank you!

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