Did You Know Ancient Greeks Invented Flamethrowers?

(We think.) The first recorded example of military flamethrowing appears in Greek historian Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian War between Athens ad Sparta in 431 to 404 BCE.

During the Battle of Delium in 424 BCE, the Athenians were surrounded and dug in at a fort made of wood and vines. Rather than wait them out, the Spartans hollowed out a great wooden log, lined it with an iron pipe, filled it with a smoldering mixture of coal, sulfur, and pitch. They attached a giant bellows to the Spartan end of the pipe, and were able to blow and burn down the Athenians’ fort. After this, it appears the Spartan invention became a standard weapon in war.

Goldworking Is Ancient Technology In The Americas

Gold was probably the first metal to be exploited in the Andes, by the end of the 2nd millennium BCE. From there, the archaeological record suggests goldworking then traveled north, reaching Central America in the first centuries CE, and Mexico by about 1000 CE.

This particular necklace is from the Chavin Civilization, which developed in the northern Andean highlands of Peru from about 900 BCE to about 200 BCE. That sounds old, but relatively speaking, that is not old at all. Gold had already been mined and worked in the Andes for a thousand years when the Chavin arrived on the scene.

Ancient Politicians Had To Respond To Public Disasters, Too

In 29 CE, the worst sports disaster in the history of the world took place. In Fidenae, a town 8 miles north of Rome, a cheap, wooden gladiator amphitheater collapsed killing about 20,000 people.

In response the Roman Senate banished the builder of the stadium, and passed building regulations for arenas to prevent future disasters, requiring that new amphitheaters had to be inspected and certified by the state as safe.

Just to make really sure no one would be building cheap, collapsible stadiums, they also banned anyone with a fortune of less than 400,000 sesterces from building amphitheaters. That translates to between 630,000 and 2,400,000 USD today. Yes, it is a really wide margin, I know. Converting ancient commodity currency to modern fiat currency is hard, guys.

What Textiles Tell Us About Ancient Italy and Greece

In the ancient world, textiles were a valuable commodity, because every piece of cloth had to be made by hand. Clothing was important economically. Early Bronze Age Linear B tablets from the Aegean Sea document the careful attention given to managing textile production, and on the other side of the globe, the Incan Empire levied tribute in textiles. Unfortunately, clothing and the cloth they are made form tend not to survive in the archaeological record. They often have to be studied indirectly, by examining the scraps of textile that survive in the extremes of arid or waterlogged conditions, and comparing the scraps to visual or sculptural records of clothing. Recent frozen discoveries from the retreating glaciers of the Alps offer new insight into ancient Greek and ancient Roman textiles.

Iron Age Italians seem to have favored a weave known as a twill. When colors are used, they will create neat diagonal patterns (most notably in the modern tweed). Currently, the earliest known examples of twills are from Hallstatt in Austria. The Italians likely shared textile production preferences with their northern European neighbors, placing the Romans firmly in the European textile tradition.

In Greece, a form of weave known as a tabby was the most popular. It is considered the simplest type of textile available, when in purest form: horizontal and vertical threads repeatedly pass over and under each other. The ancient Greeks favored a particular type of tabby, however, where the horizontal threads were beaten into the weave so hard that the vertical strands become near-invisible. It is perfect for bold blocks of color, and can make more varied designs than just diagonals; such a technique has been used to produce spectacular tapestries and Turkish carpets. Early examples of this tabby have been found in ancient Ur, in Iraq, and in Turkey. Twill weaves have notably not been found in ancient Greece or in the ancient Near East. That situates the Greeks in the Eastern textile tradition, relatively uninfluenced by their northwestern neighbors.

By looking at their textiles, then, we can tell that Iron Age Italy and ancient Greece were culturally in two different spheres. Italy took after its European neighbors, while Greece took after the Near East. They were a small example of the wider break between East and West.

The Discovery of Metals

There were seven known metals until the 1200s CE: gold, silver, copper, tin, lead, iron, and mercury. These were the metals that built humanity's first civilizations. (For those who point out the Bronze Age from about 3300 BCE to 1200 BCE, bronze is a mix of copper and tin.) Arsenic was discovered in the 1200s, antimony in the 1400s, and things just took off from there. Today there are 86 known metals.

2,000-Year-Old Horse Head Is Much Cooler Than It Sounds

An early first-century CE horse head, once part of a Roman statue of Emperor Augustus, was discovered near Frankfurt, Germany in 2009. The 28-pound gilded bronze horse head, plus artifacts found near it, provide more information about the relationship between the Roman Empire and its northern "barbarian" Germanic neighbors.

They indicate there was a Roman civilian village or town nearby. Before the finds, historians thought Rome intended to subdue the area with military force. The horsehead and related finds suggest, instead, that the Romans set up non-military settlements nearby, and were actively trading with the Germanic tribes for a number of years.

Burning the Books of the Prophet

Zoroastrianism, arguably the world's first religion to worship just one god, still exists today -- mainly in India. But it barely survived an ancient blow. Specifically, the conquests of Alexander the Great.

When Alexander took Persia in the 320s BCE, large portions of the compiled works of Zarathustra were lost, in the destruction of cities and holy places. Some say it had once been over 12,000 pages. What remained was re-collected after Alexander's death, named the Avesta, and standardized into a five-part text which is still used by believers today.

The main section, named the Gathas, is the oldest: it contains 17 hymns believed to have been written by Zarathustra during his lifetime. Other sections contain prayers, rituals, accounts of how the world was created, and Zoroastrian law.

A head in the Ecuadorian Chorrera art style. Circa 300 BCE to 600 CE. This was a time of social, political, economic, and artistic innovations in the region, prompted by agricultural improvements and a growing population. New settlements and towns, with ever-larger numbers of inhabitants, triggered the need for methods to manage village life and ensure the well-being of the community, which, in turn, led to greater social hierarchy. Hand-in-hand with the growing social complexity was the appearance of more complex religious practices. Both developments encouraged the desire for novel artworks to express the new sociopolitical and spiritual ideologies that characterize this dynamic time throughout ancient Ecuador.

The earlier Valdivia figurine tradition developed into an elaborate figural art form with such novel artistic expressions as the elegant, mold-made sculptures of the Jama Coaque and La Tolita styles of Ecuador's northwestern coastal region. This particular figure likely is an example of La Tolita style, which is differentiated by its heightened naturalism.

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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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