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.

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"

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.

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.

Arctic ice brings an understanding of ancient Europe’s economy

Greenland's icy mountains are not an obvious place to search for an archive of economic history, but a study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that they provide one. Read the full article at The Economist

Two Bog Bodies, Found Within Months of Each Other, May Have Been Kings

Not far from Dublin in the town of Clonycavan, County Meath, and near Croghan Hill, County Offaly, two bog bodies were found within three months of each other in 2003. Clonycavan Man had been severed in half by a peat-cutting machine, but scientists were able to recover his body from the torso up. He had crooked teeth and a small beard. He was also likely murdered. His skull had been split open, likely by a stone ax, and the bridge of his nose was also struck, probably with the same weapon.

Twenty-five miles away, peat workers found Old Croghan Man, who similarly is just a torso with arms. And Old Croghan Man shows evidence of what can only be described as overkill. He had a defensive wound on his upper left arm where he may have tried to protect himself. He was bound by a hazel branches which had been threaded through holes in his upper arms. He was stabbed in the chest, struck in the neck, decapitated, and finally cut in half.

Radiocarbon dating showed that Clonycavan Man lived between 392 and 201 BCE and Old Croghan Man between 362 and 175 BCE, the height of the Celtic Iron Age. Both men were young, showed few signs of physical labor during their lives, and were healthy at the time of their deaths. There is some evidence that they were failed kings. Or perhaps claimants to kingship who failed to win the throne. Both Clonycavan and Old Croghan men's nipples were pinched and cut. Sucking a king's nipples was a gesture of submission in ancient Ireland. Cutting off their nipples would have made them ineligible to be kings, even in the afterlife. Their place of burial, in bogs that formed important tribal boundaries, also suggests the killings were political as well as ritual.

an original piece by historical-nonfiction

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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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