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.

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.

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

The Abandoned City of Mud and Mystics

The ruined city of Arg-e-Bam is made entirely of mud bricks, clay, straw and the trunks of palm trees. The Iranian city was originally founded during the Sassanian period (224-637 CE) and while some of the surviving structures date from before the 1100s, most of what remains was built during the Safavid period (1502-1722).     Bam prospered because of pilgrims visiting its Zoroastrian fire temple, which had been built early in the Sassanian period, and because Bam was a trading hub along the Silk Road. It was later the site of Jame Mosque, built during the Saffarian period (866-903 CE). Next to the mosque is the tomb of Mirza Naiim, a mystic and astronomer.     The city was largely abandoned since a series of invasions in the early 1800s. In 1953, work began to intensively restore Arg-e-Bam. Restoration work continued until December 26, 2003, when a massive earthquake hit the area -- an estimated 6.6 on the Richter Scale. Almost everything in Bam was destroyed. After that, restoration was given up, and today Arg-e-Bam is at the mercy of the elements.     click through the image gallery to see photographs of what Arg-e-Bam looks like today

The Moment of Enlightenment

  After meditating for forty days beneath a pipal tree, the Buddha approached the moment of omniscience. Evil demons have failed to distract him, and he calmly touches the earth goddess to witness his attainment of enlightenment. His right hand, lowered in the earth-touching gesture (bhumisparsha mudra), signals that this sculpture depicts that specific moment.     Kushan Dynasty, Pakistan or Afghanistan. Late 100s to early 200s CE.

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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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