Greek

Hayk and Bel. August 11, 2492 BC.

August 11, 2492 BC is the traditional date set for the defeat of Bel by Hayk, progenitor founder of the Armenian nation. Bel, signifying “lord” or “master“, is a title rather than a genuine name, applied to various gods in the Mesopotamian religion of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia. Bel is represented in Greek as Belos and in Latin as Belus. Bel became especially used for the Babylonian god Marduk and when found in Assyrian and neo-Babylonian personal names or mentioned in inscriptions in a Mesopotamian context it can usually be taken as referring to Marduk and no other god. Though often identified with Greek Zeus and Latin Jupiter as Zeus Belos or Jupiter Belus, in other cases Belus is euhemerized as an ancient king who founded Babylon and built the ziggurat. He is r...

Tempio dei Diosuri. July 15, 484 BC.

The Temple of Castor and Pollux (Tempio dei Dioscuri) is an ancient temple in the Roman Forum in Rome. It was originally built in gratitude for victory at the Battle of Lake Regillus (495 BC). Castor and Pollux (Greek Polydeuces) were the Dioscuri, the “twins” of Gemini, the twin sons of Zeus and Leda. The last king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, and his allies, the Latins, waged war on the infant Roman Republic. Before the battle, the Roman dictator Aulus Postumius Albus Regillensis vowed to build a temple to the Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux) if the Republic were victorious. According to legend, Castor and Pollux appeared on the battlefield as two able horsemen in aid of the Republic; and after the battle had been won they again appeared on the Forum in Rome watering thei...

The Battle of Leuctra. July 6, 371 BC.

The Battle of Leuctra was a battle fought on 6 July 371 BC between the Boeotians led by the Thebans, and the Spartans along with their allies amidst the post-Corinthian War conflict. The battle took place in the neighbourhood of Leuctra, a village in Boeotia in the territory of Thespiae. The Theban victory shattered Sparta’s immense influence over the Greek peninsula, which Sparta had gained long before its victory in the Peloponnesian War a generation earlier. In 371 BC, the newly established democracy of Thebes had elected four Boeotarchs, the traditional title of the generals of the Boeotian League, and so proclaimed their intention of reconstituting the aforementioned league that Sparta had disbanded. During this period, Thebes had had an ally in Athens, but Athens was far from h...

The Battle of Raphia. June 22, 217 BC.

The Battle of Raphia, also known as the Battle of Gaza, was a battle fought on 22 June 217 BC near modern Rafah between the forces of Ptolemy IV Philopator, king and pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt and Antiochus III the Great of the Seleucid Empire during the Syrian Wars. It was one of the largest battles of the Hellenistic kingdoms and was one of the largest battles of the ancient world. The battle was waged to determine the sovereignty of Coele Syria. This is the only known battle in which African and Asian elephants were used against each other. Due to Polybius‘ descriptions of Antiochus’ Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), brought from India, as being larger and stronger than Ptolemy’s African elephants, it had once been theorized that Ptolemy’s elephants were in fact...

The Ashmolean Museum, the first university museum. May 24, 1683.

Its first building was finished in 1683 to house the cabinet of curiosities that Elias Ashmole gave to the University of Oxford in 1677 and opened its doors on May 24. Ashmole was an antiquary with a strong Baconian leaning towards the study of nature. His library reflected his intellectual outlook, including works on English history, law, numismatics, chorography, alchemy, astrology, astronomy, and botany. Although he was one of the founding Fellows of the Royal Society, a key institution in the development of experimental science, his interests were antiquarian and mystical as well as scientific. He was an early freemason, although the extent of his involvement and commitment is unclear. Throughout his life he was an avid collector of curiosities and other artefacts. Ashmole donated most...

The Source of the Nile. November 14, 1770.

James Bruce was born at the family seat of Kinnaird, Stirlingshire, and educated at Harrow School and Edinburgh University, and began to study for the bar, but his marriage to the daughter of a wine importer and merchant resulted in him entering that business instead. His wife died in October 1754, within nine months of marriage, and Bruce thereafter travelled in Portugal and Spain as part of the wine trade. The examination of oriental manuscripts at the Escorial in Spain led him to the study of Arabic and Ge’ez and determined his future career. In 1758 his father’s death placed him in possession of the estate of Kinnaird. On the outbreak of war with Spain in 1762 he submitted to the British government a plan for an attack on Ferrol. His suggestion was not adopted, but it led t...

The Battle of Actium. September 2, 31 BC.

The Battle of Actium was the decisive confrontation of the Final War of the Roman Republic, a naval engagement between Octavian and the combined forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra on 2 September 31 BC, on the Ionian Sea near the promontory of Actium, in the Roman province of Epirus Vetus in Greece. Octavian’s fleet was commanded by Agrippa, while Antony‘s fleet was supported by the power of Queen Cleopatra of Ptolemaic Egypt. Octavian’s victory enabled him to consolidate his power over Rome and its dominions. He adopted the title of Princeps (“first citizen”) and some years later was awarded the title of Augustus (“revered”) by the Roman Senate. This became the name by which he was known in later times. As Augustus, he retained the trappings of a ...

Deciphering Rosetta Stone. July 15, 1799.

The Rosetta Stone is a granodiorite stele, rediscovered in the western world in 1799, inscribed with three versions of a decree issued at Memphis, Egypt, in 196 BC during the Ptolemaic dynasty on behalf of King Ptolemy V. The top and middle texts are in Ancient Egyptian using hieroglyphic script and demotic scripts, respectively, while the bottom is in Ancient Greek. As the decree has only minor differences between the three versions, the Rosetta Stone proved to be the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs, thereby opening a window into ancient Egyptian history. The stone, carved during the Hellenistic period, is believed to have originally been displayed within a temple, possibly at nearby Sais. It was probably moved in Late Antiquity or during the Mameluk period, and was eventually use...

The Eclipse of Thales. May 28, 585 BC.

The Eclipse of Thales was a solar eclipse that, according to The Histories of Herodotus, was accurately predicted by the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus. If Herodotus’s account is accurate, this eclipse is the earliest recorded as being known in advance of its occurrence. Many historians believe that the predicted eclipse was the solar eclipse of 28 May 585 BC. How exactly Thales predicted the eclipse remains uncertain; some scholars assert the eclipse was never predicted at all. Others have argued for different dates, but only the eclipse of 28 May 585 BC matches the conditions of visibility necessary to explain the historical event. According to Herodotus, the appearance of the eclipse was interpreted as an omen, and interrupted a battle in a long-standing war between the Medes...

The Venus de Milo is found. April 8, 1820.

The Venus de Milo is an ancient Greek statue and one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture. Initially it was attributed to the sculptor Praxiteles, but from an inscription that was on its plinth, the statue is thought to be the work of Alexandros of Antioch. Created sometime between 130 and 100 BC, the statue is believed to depict Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty; however, some scholars claim it is the sea-goddess Amphitrite, venerated on Milos. It is a marble sculpture, slightly larger than life size at 203 cm high. Part of an arm and the original plinth were lost following its discovery. It is currently on permanent display at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The statue is named after the Greek island of Milos, where it was discovered. It is generally asserted tha...

December 17, 217 B.C. Saturnalia.

Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honour of the god Saturn, held on 17 December of the Julian calendar and later expanded with festivities through to 23 December. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, in the Roman Forum, and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms: gambling was permitted, and masters provided table service for their slaves. A common custom was the election of a “King of the Saturnalia“, who would give orders to people and preside over the merrymaking. This custom derived in the Middle Ages into the Lord of Misrule in England– known in Scotland as the Abbot of Unreason and in France as the Prince des Sots – that was an officer appo...

The Battle of Gaugamela. October 1, 331 BC.

The Battle of Gaugamela was the decisive battle of Alexander the Great‘s invasion of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. In 331 BC Alexander’s army of the Hellenic League met the Persian army of Darius III near Gaugamela, close to the modern city of Dohuk (Iraqi Kurdistan). Though heavily outnumbered, Alexander emerged victorious due to his army’s superior tactics and his deft employment of light infantry. It was a decisive victory for the Hellenic League and led to the fall of the Achaemenid Empire. After the failure of the second negotiation attempt, Darius started to prepare for another battle. Even so, he made a third and final effort to negotiate after Alexander’s departure from Egypt. Darius’ third offer was much more generous. He praised Alexander for the tr...

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