Reconsidering Bacchus

The ancient Roman god, also known as Dionysus, does not have a good image today. His name is linked to drunkeness, excess, madness. But the ancients did not see him as one-sided. He was the god of losing one's inhibitions. But he was also the god of getting together. Ancient nicknames included Bacchus the Liberator, Bacchus the Saviour, and Bacchus the God Who Gives Men's Minds Wings. Those do not sound all bad, right?

Bacchic cults were banned in Roman times, because their members held allegiance to "a parallel state," but at the same time, Roman leaders have quotes on how fantastic it is that conquered populations enjoy Roman wine so much -- it makes them easier for Rome to control. To the ancients Bacchus was an ambiguous god, both beneficial and harmful.

Ancient Mirrors Said Nice Things To Their Owners

These five lead mirror frames, dating to the turn of the 200s CE, have been found while excavating a Roman villa in northern Bulgaria. Three of the frames are decorated with the image of a large wine vessel and bear an inscription that means a “good soul.” A nice thought to have when looking at oneself, no?   The villa belonged to a Roman military veteran. The specific building where the mirrors were found was initially thought to be a house for workers, but the mirrors suggest perhaps it was a temple.

Was the Persian Army so Big Its Arrows Really Blocked out the Sun?

The army of the Persian Empire had enough archers that they were said to be able to "block out the sun." You might remember the Spartan's famous answer to that: great, we "can fight in the shade."

Were those ancient chroniclers exaggerating? We do not know, but conservative estimates of the Persian army's capabilities was that they had 50,000 men in their army. Yes, that's a conservative estimate. Previous armies in the region are believed to have fought with mainly infantry, with archers being a supporting group; we know the Persians innovated by increasing the numbers of archers. Let’s crunch some numbers.

As a conservative estimate, let's say there are about 20,000 archers in the Persian battle line. Each archer can fire about 5 arrows a minute. And their quivers held 120 arrows, but let's assume they had to go hunting for dinner the last few nights, and give them 100 arrows. When you do the math, that means the Persian Army could fire 100,000 arrows a minute. And they could do that for as long as their arms held out, or until their arrows run out, so about 20 minutes.

The Persian army could fire 100,000 arrows a minute, for 20 minutes. As a conservative estimate. Now, I've never been on an ancient battle field, but that sounds like it could block out the sun.

Cato the Elder Almost Got Into Trouble For Cowardice, Talked His Way Out Of It

Here [in Hispania], as [Cato] was engaged in reducing some of the tribes by force, and bringing over others by good words, a large army of barbarians fell upon him, so that there was danger of being disgracefully forced out again. He therefore called upon his neighbours, the Celtiberians, for help, and on their demanding two hundred talents for their assistance, everybody else thought it intolerable that even the Romans should promise barbarians a reward for their aid; but Cato said there was no discredit or harm in it; for, if they overcame, they would pay them out of the enemy’s purse, and not out of their own; but if they were overcome, there would be nobody left either to demand the reward or to pay it.


quoted from a translation of "Plutarch's Lives"

This Is The World's Largest Sarcophagus

The Sidamara Sarcophagus, made in the 200s CE, is the heaviest sarcophagus in the world at 32 tons. The name is not from its occupant, but the town in Turkey where it was found.

Have you heard of the “Blythe Intaglios”?

In 1932, pilot George Palmer was flying from Las Vegas to Blythe, Calif., when he saw drawings sketched on the desert. Someone had scraped away the dark surface soil to draw three human figures, two four-legged animals, and a spiral.

Like the more famous Nazca Lines in Peru, the Blythe Intaglios had gone unnoticed for so long because they were too big! The largest is over 170 feet long. Much too big to be seen from the ground. No local Native American group claims to have made them; radiocarbon dating places their creation between 900 BCE and 1200 CE.

What is your answer to the Euthyphro Dilemma?

In a dialogue written by Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates asks Euthyphro “Is what is morally good commanded by the gods because it is morally good, or is what is commanded by the gods morally good, because it is commanded by the gods?”

There is no agreed-upon answer, though many traditions have their own solution.

Owls in Ancient Mythology

The Aztecs and Mayans feared and hated the owl and believed they were symbols of death and destruction. Interestingly, the Romans agreed, believing that the owls were bad omens -- but the ancient Greeks did not.  In ancient Greece, owls represented Athena, the goddess of wisdom.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    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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