Interesting Facts About The Zodiac

Whether you read your horoscope faithfully, or you do not even remember your own zodiac sign, here's a fun list to learn more about this ancient system of divination.

  • Astrology developed before the Copernican Revolution. As a result, the zodiac is based on the incorrect assumption that the sun moves around the Earth, passing through the different star constellations.
  • The modern zodiac's 12 signs were finalized in ancient Greece, and is directly based on Ptolemy's writings in Egypt during the 100s CE
  • Saint Augustine of Hippo published a criticism of astrology in opposition to early Christians who were trying to cast horoscopes for Christ
  • Ancient Babylonians had their own zodiac of 12 signs, including a scale and a pair of twins
  • In India, astrological predictions are based on the 12 zodiac signs, which are the same as western signs, and the five elements fire, earth, water, air, and ether, each of which correspond to a planet
  • The Chinese zodiac runs on a sixty-year cycle of 12 signs (rat, rooster, dragon, etc) combined with the five phases (wood, fire, metal, water, earth)

The Alternative Foundings of Rome

Ancient Rome's foundation myth -- twins suckled by a she-wolf -- is actually just the winner of a number of competing origin myths. One had Romulus and Remus happily founding the city together. Multiple connected Rome to the acknowledged great civilization, Greece. The Trojan hero Aeneas escaped Troy, wandered the Mediterranean, then established a city in central Italy. There are hints that one of Hercules' labors was completed in the area, perhaps he was once seen as the city's founder. Or Romulus was the son of Odysseus and the sorceress Circe. Then there is the myth that Romulus, just the one boy, was the son of a slave-girl, Ocrisia, who became pregnant thanks to a phallus that grew from the ashes in her hearth. But none of these myths were as potent as the now-immortal image of the two baby boys, suckled by a wild wolf.

This hand-crafted figure portrays a spirit being, or perhaps a shaman in spirit form, ready to battle supernatural forces. Given the shape of the shaman and the long walkway behind the shaman, it is likely a snuff tray! This artifact comes from the Jama-Coaque culture (in what is today Ecuador). The Jama-Coaque's religious figures are believed to have engaged in shamanic transformations. These spiritual events were aided by psychoactive plants that they ground into a fine powder, then ingested as a snuff, from trays like this one. Circa 300 BCE to 600 CE.

North-western Syria has about seven hundred "Dead Cities" or "Forgotten Cities." They include villages, towns, and some cities that were mainly abandoned between the 700s and 900s CE. Because they rest in an elevated area of limestone known as the Limestone Massif, which gets relatively little rain, the settlements are more or less still at surface level and well-preserved. There are three main groups of highlands on the Massif, each with their own Dead Cities. They provide us with insight into what life was like for prosperous agriculturalists in Late Antiquity and the Byzantine period.

The Dead Cities became a massive UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, although they have been largely inaccessible since 2013.

What's In A Name

The Canary Islands were named after dogs, not after canaries. In Latin "dogs" is "canariae." There are three possible explanations for why the islands were named after dogs in ancient times. The first explanation, according to ancient Rome's Pliny the Elder, was because the islands were home to "vast multitudes of dogs of very large size." The second explanation is that the island's native inhabitants revered and worshiped dogs. The third explanation is the least interesting; it simply says that the original people of the largest island in the Canary Islands called themselves a word similar to "canari." When the islands were discovered by outsiders, their word for themselves got transmuted and used to name the whole island group. What is absolutely certain is that canaries (the birds) were named after the Canary Islands where they were first identified as a unique species.

The invention of tofu is actually a little obscure, but it is generally thought to have been invented during China's Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE).

Chinese Medicine Really Likes Licorice

Licorice root is first mentioned in Chinese medicine in Zhang Zhongjing's medicinal masterpiece "Treatise on Cold Pathogenic and Miscellaneous Diseases" around 190 CE. Although licorice was probably in usage as a medicine long before then. It decreases thirst and soothes the throat, and was used to "harmonize" other flavors in Chinese medicines. Thus licorice is found in an astonishing 5,000 Chinese herbal formulas today!

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    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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