Archive for the ‘Ancient Greece’ Category
A discovery made in Iklaina Greece has turned out to be the oldest example of decipherable text in Europe. A dig has unearthed many Mycenaean artifacts including a piece of writing made by a Greek-speaking Mycenaean scribe.
Other Mycenaean artifacts were found at the same dig. They included parts of a palace, murals, giant terrace walls and even proof of a drainage system. The Mycenaeans had a very advanced civilization and were able to dominate much of Greece between 1600 BCE and 1100 BCE. The civilization became legendary after Homer mentioned them in his work, the Ilead, which is an account of their war with Troy.
The tablet measures 1 inch tall by 1.5 inches wide. It was written using a writing system known as Linear B. This system was made up of 87 different signs that represented syllables rather than individual letters. The system was usually used to record financial matters that may have been of interest to the ruling elite at the time. This holds true for the pottery fragment that was discovered. Archaeologists have been able to determine that the syllable appearing on the fragment had to do with manufacturing although it is unknown what the rest of the piece would have said in its entirety.
There is also text on the back of the piece as well. This piece of writing includes a list of names as well as numbers. Archaeologists believe that this may have been part of a property list. There are a number of reasons why this find is so big.
The first reason is that the tablets were only meant to last a season and were therefore not made out of clay that was fired. They were dried in the sun and this made them extremely fragile. Because they were so brittle very few of the tablets have been found. They usually turn up in major palaces rather than at digs like the one at Iklaina.
It was believed that the tablet was only preserved as a fluke of luck. It appears as though the tablet was thrown into a fire pit where garbage was being burned. The heat from the burning garbage fired the clay and made it durable enough to last for thousands of years.
It is important to remember that while this is the oldest known sample of writing in Europe it is not the earliest known sample of writing that has been discovered to date. The oldest samples include pieces found in China, Egypt and Mesopotamia. The writing that has been found in those areas dates back to as early as 3,000 BCE. Scientists are hoping to be able to find evidence of an earlier writing system known as Linear A that may have been related to Egyptian hieroglyphics. Scientists and archaeologists have been unable to translate any of the Linear A writings that have been found to date.
Scientists are also hoping that the Linear B writing will give information on how Greek kingdoms may have been organized.
Theseus was almost to Athens. He had been travelling around the Saronic Gulf instead of taking the easier method of traveling by boat. His partially divine nature had given him the ability to defeat many of the bandits and monsters that he encountered along the way. He had avoided being torn in two by Sinis, beaten with a club by Periphetes and had managed to kill an enormous pig that had been killing other travelers. He had also avoided being tossed off a cliff near the town of Megara.
He still had a ways to go, however, before he could reach the city and claim his birthright as one of Aegeus’ sons. He still had two more enemies to defeat before he could reach Athens and meet his father.
At Eleusis, an important religious site and the location of the Eleusinian Mysteries Theseus met up with King Cercyon. Cercyon was extremely strong. Some legends say that he was also a son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. Other legends state that he was the son of Branchus and the grandson of Apollo. Cercyon challenged Theseus to a wrestling match. In the past, Cercyon had always managed to defeat his opponents and would kill them after he had defeated them. But he had met his match in Theseus. Instead of being defeated and slain, Theseus was able to defeat Cercyon and killed him after the wrestling match was over.
After defeating Cercyon at Eleusis, Theseus continued along the route to Athens. He met the final enemy that he would have to defeat on the plain of Eleusis. His final battle was with Procrustes. Procrustes was also known as “The Stretcher”.
Procrustes was a rather nasty man. He would force passers-by to lay down in an iron bed. He would then measure them against the bed. If they were too tall for it he would cut off their legs. If they were too short to fit in the bed he would stretch them out until they fit. Of course, nobody ever fit the bed. This was because Procrustes actually had two beds. One was shorter and one was longer. Nobody would ever fit the beds. Theseus defeated Procrustes and forced him to lie down in his own bed. When Procrustes did not fit, Theseus cut off his legs and then decapitated him using Procrustes’ own axe.
With these enemies defeated, Theseus could continue on to Athens and meet up with his father, Aegeus. Instead of immediately announcing his parentage Theseus decided to lay low. His father was suspicious of who this powerful young stranger was. Aegeus’ wife Medea recognized him and was not happy that he was there. She worried that Aegeus’ son would supplant her own son as ruler of the kingdom.
Medea decided that she wanted Theseus to be killed. She set him the task of capturing the Marathonian Bull. She thought that he would likely die in the attempt and she would no longer have to worry about him taking the throne away from her son Medus. Theseus left on this task and Medea thought she could sit back and relax. But could she?
Tomorrow: What really happened with Theseus and the Marathonian Bull.
Theseus had been quite busy on his trek to Athens. Instead of taking the easy route and sailing to Athens Theseus decided to take the hard route and travel overland. He was on his way to Athens to claim his birthright. His mother, Aethra, had lain with both the Athenian king Aegeus and Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. Because he had been fathered by both a God and a mortal man, Theseus had a mixture of both divine and mortal abilities.
It was perhaps this supernatural strength that had allowed Theseus to move the giant rock that Aegeus had placed over his sandals, sword and shield. Aegeus did so and had told Aethra that his son would be able to move the rock if he were heroic enough. According to Aegeus, his son needed to be able to present the sword, shield and sandals to him in order to prove his royal heritage and heroic status.
Theseus had been travelling around the Saronic Gulf on his way to Athens. In the process he had fought a number of bandits as well as some enemies that had divine parentage as well. His first encounter of this sort came at Epidaurus. Theseus defeated the clubber Periphetes who used a massive metal club to beat his opponents. Next came Sinis, a man who would tie travelers to two pine trees and allow them to be ripped apart.
His next encounter was at Crommyon. There he had an encounter not with a semi-divine human but with an enormous pig. This creature was wild and it roamed through the countryside around Crommyon (which is also known as Krommyon). This was a town that was located east of the Isthmus of Corinth. In some Greek legends the pig was a boar and in others it was a sow. It was large enough and fierce enough to kill humans. Theseus slew both the pig and its owner, an old crone named Phaia.
A fourth encounter was with a robber named Sciron who was the son of the God Poseidon and a nymph named Iphimedeia. This encounter came near the town of Megara. The path was very narrow and made its way along the face of a cliff. Sciron did not rob travelers. Instead, he required them to wash his feet if they wanted to move past him. The path was narrow enough that travelers had to do what Sciron wanted or they would not be able to travel the rest of the way to Athens. Unfortunately for the travelers, Sciron would wait until they had knelt down and then he would push them off the cliff. In some legends he is eaten by a sea monster. In others, the creature that devoured the travelers was a giant turtle.
Theseus did not fall for the same trick that so many travelers had before. Instead of being pushed off the cliff he threw Sciron off where, theoretically, he would have been eaten by the same monster that had devoured so many unlucky travelers before.
Tomorrow: The final two trials that Theseus had to face on his way to Athens
When last we left our intrepid hero Theseus he was on his way to Athens in order to claim his royal birthright. He had already moved a massive stone and reclaimed his father’s sandals, sword and shield. His mother, Aethra had told him that he was the son not only of Aegeus (the then king of Athens) but also that Theseus was the son of Poseidon, the Greek God of the sea.
He had chosen a route around the Saronic Gulf even though it was more treacherous than a sea route would have been. On the way to Athens, he encountered six entrances to the Greek Underworld. The first was at a place known as Epidaurus. This tiny town was sacred to the Greek God Apollo and was reputed to have been the birthplace of his son Asclepius. Asclepius was the Greek God of healing. His staff, entwined with serpents is still used today as a symbol for medicine.
Apollo was not the problem at Epidarus and neither was Asclepius. Instead, Theseus had to face a man by the name of Periphetes. In some legends, Periphetes was also known as Korynetes. He was an outlaw who didn’t have much going for him even though he was the son of Hephaestus, the god of blacksmiths, craftsmen, metal and many other similar things. Periphetes was lame and wielded a massive wooden club that was wrapped in bronze. Periphetes was lame like his father and only had one eye. He lived in Epidauros but was actively robbing travelers on the road from Athens to Troezen and killing them with his club.
The battle was a fairly quick one. Periphetes tried to strike Theseus in the head with the club but Theseus was able to grab the club from Periphetes and strike him with it, killing him. Theseus then was able to take the club for himself and was shown in many drawings as carrying the weapon and using it in future encounters. In some accounts, the club was made of iron instead of steel.
After defeating Periphetes, Theseus continued along his path until he came to the next entrance to the underworld. This was located on an isthmus. There, he encountered a robber named Sinis. Sinis was a relative of Theseus as he also was the son of Poseidon. Sinis was a giant whose name meant “pine bender” This was an accurate name for the giant who killed travelers in a rather unpleasant way.
He would force travelers to help him bend two pine trees to the ground and then suddenly let them go. As a result, the pine trees would straighten up and the force would rip unwary travelers in two. In some legends, Sinis tied the people directly to the pine trees and in others he had them help him bend them down. Theseus managed to tie Sinis to his own pine trees and allowed them to rip him apart. It was a fitting end to someone who killed travelers in a most unpleasant way. Once Sinis was dead, Theseus was able to continue on his way to Athens.
Tomorrow: Theseus’ journey to Athens to claim his birthright.
Previous page | Next page