Tag Archives: ancient history

‘Who’s Buried in Alexander’s Tomb?’

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The ancient world was full of all sorts of neat stuff that you can’t find anymore. All those fabulous treasures that Herodotus saw with his own eyes, and described for us… and the well-preserved body of Alexander the Great.

Back in 1991, a Greek archaeologist made a big splash for a couple days by claiming to have discovered where the body was hidden.

https://leeduigon.com/2013/09/15/whos-buried-in-alexander-the-greats-tomb/

It seems reasonable to suppose that if it was still kicking around 500 years after Alexander’s death, it could have survived even longer, provided no one messed around with it. Alexander’s mother hated his father, so she taught him that his real father was Zeus, king of the gods–not that glorified peasant, Philip of Macedon.

It’s not good for anyone to believe things like that.


‘Erased from History’ (2011)

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Public baths? Municipal swimming pool? We’ll never know.

The end of any year is a time for reflection. Historical reflection is allowed.

Imagine a real civilization with hundreds of cities, millions of people, international trade, fine architecture… about which we today know virtually nothing: a civilization so totally erased from history that not the name of even a single one of its people has come down to us.

https://leeduigon.com/2011/05/31/erased-from-history/

Think about it. The Indus Valley civilization. The names of its rulers and artists, its cities, its gods–all lost. We cannot read their writing. Surely the Sumerians, with whom they traded, should have written about them; but if they did, we haven’t found it. Not one voice, not even one, speaks to us for the Indus Valley people. One look at their buildings is enough to convince us of their greatness. But buildings don’t talk. Not when you can’t read the inscriptions.

Think about it.


A Lesson in Democracy

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Timoleon

Once upon a time, the Greek settlers in Sicily were oppressed by tyrants, who had the backing of Carthage. They sent to their founding city, Corinth, to plead for help, but no one wanted to take on such a hopeless mission. Finally someone thought to nominate Timoleon to lead it–a man who had once been something of a civic hero, but who’d been so long in retirement that most people thought he’d died. Timoleon consented to his appointment as general, and set sail for Sicily with a token force that no one ever expected to see again: for the tyrants of Sicily were fierce and powerful, and the might of Carthage stood behind them.

To make a long story short, Timoleon performed military miracles, rid the island of the tyrants, defeated the Carthaginians, and restored democracy to the city of Syracuse.

For which he himself was accused of tyranny and put on trial for it: and to which he said that he had prayed that he would live to see the Syracusans given the right of free speech. As Plutarch said, every lark must grow a crest, “and every democracy a false accuser.” Some things never change. But in Timoleon’s case, his mild reply so shamed his accusers that they dropped their charges; and the city permitted him to grow old and die in peace, honored by all.

People do have short memories and are also short on gratitude. Those were two reasons why our country’s founders gave us a republic instead of a democracy.

To say nothing of our own modern variants of folly: “Alexa, who should I vote for?”

Study history, and learn what to expect.

And pray for better–to God who is sovereign over history. The ancient Greeks did not know that, but we do. Don’t we?


‘7,000-Year-Old Lost City’ Found

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Abydos in Egypt–does this look “lost” to you?

I love archaeology. I’m fascinated by the distant past. So when I saw a headline that proclaimed “7,000-year-old Lost City Found” by Egyptian archaeologists, naturally I hastened to read the story ( http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/egypt-lost-city-found-luxor-a7435206.html ).

Hmm… Egyptian history has long been written up as starting sometime around 5,000 years ago, so 7,000 is quite a long extension of it. Also, “Abydos” is a well-known ancient site nearby–as well as a town by the same name in Asia Minor. So “Abydos,” the name given to the lost city in the headline, was never actually “lost.” Maybe just misplaced.

We are also told that Egypt’s tourist industry, since the fall of Hosni Mubarak and all that business with the Muslim Brotherhood, has taken a terrible hit. This discovery is expected to give it a much-needed boost. Hmmm… again.

In all periods of history, there have always been groups of people who did not partake of civilization, even as there are today. I’ve been coming around to the opinion that the “cave men” that we think we know so much about were really just people who weren’t part of any civilization–and that whatever civilization might have coexisted with them has been largely erased by the passage of thousands of years.

I’ve always wondered how what we call “civilization”–with buildings, writing, government, etc.–got started in the first place. If it’s “wired in” for us, why did it take so long to appear? And if it’s not, why did it ever appear at all?

The Bible tells us that the descendants of Adam, once they were expelled from Eden, lost little time in getting cities built, creating a civilization that was wiped out in the catastrophe of the Great Flood. Another civilization arose after the flood, only to be knocked down when God confused human language when they built the Tower of Babel.

So civilization comes and goes, and the ages roll on over its remains. Stuff only lasts so long. And then we’re puzzled when we discover something like Potbelly Hill in Turkey, or that wooden tablet full of indecipherable writing dredged up from a pond in northern Greece after 7,000 years at the bottom–discoveries that upset our preconceptions of the ancient world. Maybe this discovery in Egypt is on the level, and our preconceptions will take another hard knock.


The Father of Tall Tales

I have been reading Herodotus–called by Cicero “the Father of History,” and by other ancient commentators “the Father of Lies.” I don’t know which side to come down on, but one thing’s for sure: Herodotus was definitely the Father of Tall Tales. Davy Crockett was a mere exaggerator, compared to him.

Herodotus’ Histories, written sometime around 450 B.C., is one of the most entertaining books in the world. Boy, could that old man spin yarns! The book is supposed to be about the wars between the Greeks and the Persians, but Herodotus crams it full of stories about anything and everything you could imagine.

Here we find the giant ants of India, as big as foxes, and the flying serpents of Arabia, not to mention griffins that guard huge stores of gold, the first circumnavigation of Africa by a Phoenician sailor–a story which Herodotus himself was unable to believe because it only makes sense if you consider the world to be a globe with an Equator–and a treasury of historical curiosities, from the character and riches of Croesus to the homicidal madness of Cambyses, son of Cyrus the Great. Open the book at random, and on any page you’ll find either an eye-popping marvel or a desperate adventure.

Warning: once you start reading Herodotus, you’ll find it very hard to stop. And I defy you to read it only once. I come back to it again and again, every few years.

If we had a cottage by the bay, and a stretch of rainy winter nights too cold for fishing, my wife and I agree that nothing would suit us better than to have old Herodotus visit for a time and treat us to several dozen hours of his tales.

No fantasy writer who ever lived was able to top Herodotus for flights of the imagination.


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