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#onthisday in 480 BCE (or on 20 August, according to other sources), the Battle of Thermopylae began at the “Hot Gates”, 120 miles northwest of Athens, a narrow coastal passage named after the sulphur springs nearby.

Few battles draw level with Leonidas’ heroic last stand at Thermopylae in terms of cultural connotation and voluntary misinterpretations of the event. Probably since the day the battle itself ended after three days of hard fighting when the Spartans and their Thespian allies made the ultimate sacrifice to defend their way of life. Which was, after all was said and done, anything but free and democratic and Xerxes and his Persians were certainly no horde of savages 500,000 strong. But read more on:

http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.de/2015/08/go-tell-spartans-battle-of-thermopylae.html

Depicted below is an image of a Bronze helmet of the Corinthian type from the late 6th century BCE, the type of headgear commonly worn by most Greek hoplites around the time of the Battle of Thermopylae.

#ancienthistory  #culturalhistory  #europeanhistory  #history  #militaryhistory
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8 April 1820, #onthisday the young farmer Georgios Kentrotas, looking for construction material in the ruins of the old capital of the island of Melos, found the Aphrodite of Milos, better known as Venus de Milo.

After Napoleon’s defeat and the end of the First Empire, the Louvre had to return a couple of artworks to their previous owners. Among them was the Venus de’ Medici, shipped back to the Uffizi in Florence already in December 1815. This particular Venus is not quite a work by famed Praxiteles, the inscription on her plinth clearly states that she was created by one Cleomenes of Athens who lived around the 1st century BCE, but she was modelled along the lines of the groundbreaking Aphrodite of Knidos. In March 1821, when the Venus the Milo arrived, the Louvre was not quite Venus-less, but lacked a few highlights, especially after the rival British Museum had just acquired the infamous Elgin Marbles and the curators were all too happy to pronounce their new arrival to be a work of Praxiteles himself. Even though the inscription on her plinth read (Alex)andros, son of (M)enides, citizen of (Ant)ioch at Meander made (it).

But read more on:

http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.de/2017/04/it-was-of-course-venus-de-milo.html

Depicted below is Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse's ceiling panel of the Louvre's Salle des Bijoux, where the Venus is exhibited (1822), showing Father Chronos (Time) with his scythe, giving back the lost masterpiece.

#ANCIENTHISTORY #ART #ARTHISTORY #EUROPEANART #HISTORY
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3 November 1879, #onthisday a team of archaeologists discovered fragments of the head of the Nike of Paeonius 100 yards away from the site where the statue was excavated at Olympia.


Nike was the Winged Goddess of Victory and Zeus’ divine charioteer. The deity was famed for flying over battlefields and distributing war glories and was one of the most popular images in Greek art. The creator of the statue, Paeonius of Mende, was probably a student of Phidias and a member of his workshop at Olympia. He probably had won a few awards for designing the frieze of the Temple of Zeus. His Nike is a masterpiece of sculpture of the classic period of Greek art at its climax. The 7’ statue with a wingspan of 9’ was, according to the antique travel writer Pausanias, mounted on 30’ pedestal, coloured blue to gave the statue the appearance of hovering over the site. Paeonius’ Nike stood in place for 800 years until Emperor Theodosius forbade all pagan ritual acts in 394 CE, including the Olympic Games and the site fell into ruin, suffered a couple of earthquakes and floodings, until Olympia was rediscovered by the English antiquarian Richard Chandler in 1766. Excavations began in 1875 by a German team of archaeologists led by Ernst Curtius and young Wilhelm Dörpfeld who continued to dig at Olympia until 1929. Paeonius Nike is now at Olympia’s Archaeological Museum and features prominently in the design of the medals awarded at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

But read more on:

http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.de/2015/01/greeks-kept-memory-of-victory-over.html

#ancienthistory #archaeology #culturalhistory #history


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8 October 319 BCE, #onthisday the Hellenistic general and King of Epirus, Pyrrhus of the royal house of the Aeacids, descendant of Peleus and Achilles and relative of Alexander the Great, initiator of the term “Pyrrhic Victory”, was born in Ambracia, present-day Arta, in northwestern Greece.


It took on the scale of a Panhellenic crusade. Antiochus I of the Seleucid Empire provided the money, Ptolemy II of Egypt provided 9,000 men and 50 elephants and guaranteed for the security of the backwoods kingdom of Epirus, Antigonus Gonatas, son of his old enemy Demetrius Poliorcetes, soon king of Macedonia, offered the ships to ferry the army over to Italy, Ptolemy Keraunos, still ruler of the great Alexander’s native land and another former enemy, sent Macedon warriors, dearly missed when the Celts invaded a couple of months later, and off went red-bearded, fiery-headed Pyrrhus with an army of 30,000 and the Ptolemaic pachyderms to save the city of Tarentum and the Magna Graecia from the land-grabbing Romans. To win his first Pyrrhic Victory over the Romans at Heraclea, somewhere in southern Italy. And there were more to follow.

But read more on:

http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.de/2015/02/if-we-are-victorious-in-one-more-battle.html

Depicted below is a bust of Pyrrhus wearing a Thracian helmet from the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, a Roman copy after the Hellenistic (and probably quite lifelike) original.


#ancienthistory #hellenisticage #history #militaryhistory #romanhistory

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20 September - in Ancient Greece, the climax of the Teletai, the Greater Mysteries of Eleusis, began with the initiates entering the Telestrion where they were shown the sacred relics of Demeter.

The ages-old interactive drama of the changing of the seasons, of death and rebirth, that nature acts out with mankind in the Northern Hemisphere from time out of mind manifested itself in many formative myths. The one the Attic Greeks gave their best attention to on a long-term basis was the legend of Demeter, the harvest goddess, whose daughter Persephone was abducted into Hades by the eponymous god of the Underworld and the seasons halted with Demeter’s grief. Searching for Persephone, Demeter came to Eleusis in Attica and taught the son of the local king, one Triptolemos, the secrets of agriculture out of gratitude for taking her in while she wore the guise of an old beggar-woman. When Persephone finally returned to the world of the living and the first spring happened, her return was commemorated with the Minor Mysteries. Since she had to return for one third of the year to Hades, in Winter, mysteries were celebrated in autumn as well since the time of the Mycenaeans, in Eleusis, usually beginning in mid-September.

But read more on:

http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.de/2015/01/on-greater-mysteries-of-eleusis.html

Depicted below is Henryk Siemiradzki’S (1843–1902): “Phryne at the Poseidonia in Eleusis“ (1899)


#ancienthistory #culturalhistory #europeanhistory #history #mythology

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23 August 237 BCE, #onthisday, on the traditional site of the battle between Horus and his uncle Set in Apollinopolis, present day Edfu, between Assuan and Luxor on the western bank of the Nile, King Ptolemy III Euergetes ordered the begin of the construction of the Temple of Edfu.


Hellenism blended quite nicely with the thousands of years old local culture of the Nile valley. The old Egyptian gods finally bore the names Herodotus had given them already 300 years before and a few new ones were added. Now, Hellenes and Egyptians revered deities like Zeus Ammon, Osiris became Serapis and Toth Hermes. A few retained their old names like Isis. The old struggle between Horus and Set appeared in a new guise of Apollo fighting Typhon but with the old imagery, going through their ages-old struggle dressed up as Greeks. Thus, the third Ptolemy ordered a new temple for and old sacred site, a project that would drag on for the next 180 years into the reign of Ptolemy XII, father of Cleopatra, the last ruler of the line.

But read more on:

http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.de/2015/01/laying-of-first-stone-of-temple-of-edfu.html


#ancienthistory #history #mythology
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15 May 326 BCE, #onthisday or around this date, during his attempted conquest of India, Alexander the Great defeated King Porus of the Paurava Kingdom at the Battle of the Hydaspes in present-day Pakistan.

The northern part of the Indian subcontinent was, by and large, a conglomerate of several warring states in the early 320s BCE. The ancient kingdom of the Pauravas might have been one of the more powerful and its lord, Porus, literally stood out as being over 7’ tall and maybe he was the scion of an ages-old Vedic clan, the Puru. Porus had assembled a mighty army to put a stop to the conquest of northern India by Alexander the Great who set off from Bactria in the spring of the year 327 BCE, with 40,000 foot and 7,000 horse, his heavies, the hetairoi, companions, among them as well as light horse, mostly archers recruited in the Middle East, onwards through the Caucasus Indicus, the Hindu Kush, and further, across the Indus to the Land of the Five Waters, the Punjab. The decision would fall in May of the year 326 BCE on the banks of the Hydaspes, one of the eponymous rivers there in what was to become the last and probably the most hard-fought of Alexander’s battles. Or so the story goes.

But read more on:

http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.de/2016/05/victorious-hellenes-should-dance-again.html

Depicted below is Alexander in the thick of it – at the Battle of the Hydaspes, as imagined in T. H. Mannerhow's "Peeps at History", illustrated by Allan Stewart (1911)


#ancienthistory #culturalhistory #europeanhistory #history #militaryhistory
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8 April 1877, #onthisday, the German archaeologist Gustav Hirschfeld discovered a statue of Hermes in the cellar of the Heraion of Olympia.

Two years after a team of German archaeologists, lead by Ernst Curtius, began their project of excavating and preserving the site of Ancient Olympia, Gustav Hirschfeld discovered a remarkable piece of art in the cellar of the Heraion, the large temple dedicated to the goddess Hera. With the customary classical education and well read in the classics, Hirschfeld identified the wonderful statue with Pausanias’ description from the second century CE as Hermes carrying the baby Dionysus, shaped around 370 BCE by the hands of Praxiteles himself, arguably the most renowned sculptor of Antiquity. An attribution that has been debated ever since, as befitting for a trickster deity, an ancient prince of thieves who had made lying into an art form.

But read more about the mercurial messenger of the gods and Hirschfeld’s discovery on:

http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.de/2016/05/hermes-has-entered-our-midst-gustav.html

Depicted below, looking a bit like a young Paul Newman, is Hermes with the infant Dionysus, at least probably, attributed to Praxiteles around the 4th century BCE, now at the Archaeological Museum of Olympia in Greece.

#ancienthistory #art #arthistory #europeanart #mythology
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24 April 1184 BCE, #onthisday, 3,200 years ago, the city of Troy fell after ten years of siege, at least according to the Greek polymath of the third century BCE, Eratosthenes of Cyrene.
 
"I fear the Greeks, even those bearing gifts". The story of Troy's fall itself, like many other legends of the Trojan War, is not told in Homer's "Iliad", though. The epic actually covers only a few weeks of the 10th year of the war during Agamemnon's and Achilles' quarrel over the "rosy Briséis" - even though the coming sack of the city is mentioned. Ulysses' ploy, Laocoön and the snakes, Aeneas and the Palladium and all the primal scenes that took place after Achilles' son Neoptolemus and his warriors jumped out of the Wooden Horse and put many-towered Ilium and her inhabitants to the sack are stories told in the Epic Circle, especially the Iliupersis, the "Sack of Illium", probably by one Arctinus who lived in the 8th century BCE while other events of the war were retold first by Ulysses himself in Homer’s “Odyssey”. However, wherever and if ever these events took place, their narrative marks the birth of Western literature and established the cultural identity of classical Greece. Along with a first-rate debate among archaeologists and classical philologists whether the site discovered by Schliemann under Hisarlik Hill in Turkey in 1873 really was the Homeric Troy, what Bronze Age culture or cultures built and inhabited the place, if the events told by Homer and in the Epic Cycle really happened, which of the ten settlement layers under the hill was the one occupied by then and what role the Bronze Age town actually played in the wider context of the Aegean cultural cycle and that of the Ancient Orient. And, naturally, about the identity of Homer himself.
 
But read more on
 
http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.de/2016/04/troy-is-no-more-and-ilium-was-town-fall.html
 
Depicted below is Johann Georg Trautmann’s (1713 - 1769) imagination of "The Burning of Troy" from 1762.
 
#ancienthistory  #culturalhistory  #europeanhistory  #europeanliterature  #history  #mythology
 
 
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#onthisday  in  362 BCE, or supposedly around this date, the Boeotian military genius fought his last battle at Mantinea and died after a winning a close victory against Sparta, leaving Classic Greece in ruins and open for conquest.

Just before Ancient Greece suffered the fate of old paintings, auntie’s table spoons and other heirlooms, becoming a legacy bequeathed first to the Macedonians, then the Romans and later the Byzantines, the system of the polis, the famous Greek city states, brought fourth a brilliant leader, unfortunately at a time when the sun was already setting over Athens and Sparta and from a rather unlikely place, Thebes in rural Boeotia. The quite un-Boeotian Boeotarch Epaminondas, a well-educated man, a confessed Platonist with the frugal lifestyle of a cynic won two brilliant victories, was celebrated as a liberator throughout Antiquity and his invention of the “oblique order” tactics in battle was copied well into the modern era. But his success was the death blow for his world. Read more on:

http://wunderkammertales.blogspot.de/2015/07/a-napoleon-from-belgium-battle-of.html

Depicted below is “The Death Bed of Epaminondas“ as imagined by Isaac Walraven (1686–1765) in 1726

#ancientgreece #ancienthistory  #europeanhistory  #history  #militaryhistory
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