Tag Archives: Ancient Greece
Hawara mummies created a sensation when they were discovered, and in 1997 visitors to the British Museum found the first major exhibition of the mummy portraits from the Fayum very disquieting. Some burst into tears, some had to leave, unable to bear the clear bright gaze of the living dead.
The Apollo of Delphi was the god of black jokes. Herodotus says that Croesus, legendarily wealthy king of Lydia, feared an attack from the envious Persians. He couldn’t decide whether to hold fast or launch a pre-emptive strike, so he sent emmissaries to consult the oracle at Delphi. She said that if he crossed the River halys and attacked with vigour he would destroy a great nation. He did, in 532 BC, and he did destroy a great nation, his own. His army was annihilated.
On his death, Alexander left as heirs only a mad brother and a posthumous son, neither of whom were able to rule. Power in the provinces was seized by Alexander’s generals and the empire broke up in a complex series of conflicts known as the Wars of the Diadochi (‘the successors’). The big winners were Ptolemy (r. 323 – 283 B.C.), who seized Egypt, and Seleucos (r. 312 – 281 B.C.), who took Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia.
It was only in the 6th century BC that Athens began the startling development that was to carry it to the centre of the european stage in social reform, industry and art. There is a suggestion that the enterprising island of Aegina, just offshore in the Saronic Gulf, had actually blocked trade from Athens. But the city had no colonies until, in 620 BC, there were set up in the Dardanelles. These were later to give her control over the important trade timber, grain and metals from the Black Sea.
Publisher: Yale University Press
Reviewed by: Paul Cartledge
Price (RRP): £14.99
Paul Cartledge savours a breezy history of the ancient Greek Olympics, presented in travel-guide style