Sunday, February 15, 2004
THIS DAY IN ANCIENT HISTORY
ante diem xv kalendas martias
- Parentalia (day 3) -- the period for appeasing the dead continued
- Lupercalia -- annual ritual of uncertain (and perhaps evolving
purpose) run by a pair of special collegia of priests. On this
day, the members of the collegia would meet at a sacred cave called
the Lupercal (on the Palatine) where Romulus and Remus had supposedly
been suckled by the she-wolf. There, the ceremony would begin with
the sacrifice of goatts and a dog and offerings of sacred cakes which had
been prepared by the Vestal Virgins. Some of the older members of
the priesthood would then wipe the sacrificial knife on the foreheads
of some of the younger members. Others would then wipe away the
blood with wool that had been dipped in milk. The 'wipees' were
supposed to laugh at this point. Then the gang would cut up the
skins of the goats and make them into long strips, which they would
put on somehow. They would then run wildly around the Palatine,
whipping people -- especially women -- with the strips of goatskin. FOR THE RECORD: I have not found any evidence of the oft-mentioned
(in the popular press) practice of the Romans pulling "billets" out
of a jar to choose a girlfriend/marriage partner/whatever for the
day and/or until the next Lupercalia.
- 44 B.C. -- Marcus Antonius offers a crown to Julius Caesar, who
- ca. 130 A.D. -- birth of Faustina (II), daughter of the emperor
Antoninus Pius and wife of the emperor Marcus Aurelius
- 273 A.D. -- martyrdom of Agape, a student of St. Valentine
- 1331 -- birth of Coluccio Salutati
CHATTER: Tom Harpur
On Monday I had posted a fair chunk of a Toronto Star article relating David Martel Johnson's theories about the development of conciousness and how there was a "Greek revolution" in same ca. 1000 B.C.. Now, for reasons unknown, Toronto Star 'religion' writer Tom Harpur has taken offense and responds:
The idea of a "Greek Revolution" as a totally seismic shift in human consciousness and modes of thinking about 1000 B.C.E. must be challenged. The sophistication of ancient Egyptian thinking and doing will soon be on view in Toronto as the Royal Ontario Museum opens its well-nigh incredible exhibition, "Eternal Egypt," on Feb. 28 (through to June 6). The masterworks of ancient art are all from the British Museum in London. But, in anticipation of that, several vital points should be made.
The first is that all of the major classical Greek philosophers were themselves deeply indebted to Egyptian wisdom and learning. The early Greek philosopher Pythagoras spent time in Egypt at the feet of Egyptian masters. So did Solon, the lawgiver, and Plato, and many others.
Scholars such as Godfrey Higgins, Gerald Massey, and Alvin Boyd Kuhn — not to mention Sir Wallis Budge, the great Egyptologist — and scores of others have named ancient Egypt as the "light of the world" when it comes to religio-philosophical erudition.
Before Pythagoras, a school of teachers known as Orphics brought their secrets to Greece from Egypt. Homer's great epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey have subtexts of ancient myths of Egyptian and Sumerian origins stretching millennia before 1000 B.C.E.
According to the Bible, Moses was learned in all things Egyptian. Even his name has an Egyptian source. Few non-scholars are aware of it, but Sigmund Freud once wrote a book on Moses in which he wrote that the entire Bible is a "plagiarism" of ancient Egyptian religion.
The reason for saying something so apparently shocking — though the idea of plagiarism as wrongdoing is a recent invention — is that there isn't a single ethical or religious teaching or rite in either the Old Testament or the New Testament that cannot readily be shown to have had an Egyptian "parent," from the Ten Commandments to the Sermon on the Mount.
In recent years, while researching the Book of the Dead and other Egyptian lore, I have been almost overwhelmed by how much Judaism and Christianity have both been influenced by the culture that produced the pyramids and other wonders. The name of Jesus (Iusu) occurs in Egyptian texts before 10,000 B.C.E. The idea of incarnation — the key doctrine of Christianity — was in Egyptian lore millennia before the New Testament was even thought of.
Herodotus, the Greek "Father of History," spent many months in Egypt and wrote in detail about the marvels he saw and experienced. He found every field of endeavour one wishes to name, from medicine to astronomy to viticulture to the arts, was steeped in an accumulated wisdom of thousands of years.
Had a mob of Christians not torched the then-famous library at Alexandria, Egypt in about 400 C.E., destroying up to 750,000 rare volumes on every topic under the sun, we might have much more respect for the human mind prior to 1000 B.C.E. than those who say the Greeks were a radical watershed now hold.
Professor Johnson's major thesis that culture or "history" formed the way our minds are today may be correct. His estimate of the true abilities and state of the human mind before the Greeks is in my view seriously flawed. The ancient Egyptians could teach us a lot.
Hey Tom ... didja read the book?
REVIEW: ... Or perhaps Comparanda
A theatre review from the Anchorage Daily News catches one's optical organs:
Frank Canino's play "The Angelina Project" is, to greatly oversimplify, about the consequences of abuse.
His script is loosely based around the documented legal case of Angelina Napolitano, who in 1911 murdered her sleeping husband with an ax on Easter morning in Canada's Sault St. Marie. She was sentenced to death, but instead spent more than a decade in prison before being released.
Opening night of the University of Alaska Anchorage Mainstage production showed that this play has tremendous value as social commentary as well as serious theater. Directed by Fran Lautenberger, the play uses several elements of the Greek drama to draw parallels between the past and the present, especially concerning the condition of women in patriarchal societies. The whole production takes place on a stylized jumble of what appears to be the ruins of an ancient Greek theater (with scene design by Brent Glenn).
A gruesome tale on the surface, it becomes more tragic as the details and Canino's dramatic extrapolations of the events surrounding the murder are revealed.
The plot transitions back and forth from the turn of the 20th century to contemporary Toronto, with brief, well-timed interjections by Clytemnestra, murderer of her husband Agamemnon in the Greek tragedy of Aeschylus.
Amelia (Christian Gold) is a modern woman trying to do and have it all. Raising her teenaged daughter while trying to earn a master's degree in Women's Studies, she must also cope with the disapproving eye of her Italian mother, Rafaella (Jennifer Faulkner), who feels that for Amelia to end her crumbling marriage with a divorce would stain the family reputation.
The connections among the lives of Amelia, Rafaella, Angelina (Mariko Sarafin) and even ancient Clytemnestra create the central shaping idea of Canino's play. Each of the women must find their way of reacting to poor marriages and abusive husbands -- all played with chilling authenticity by Brandon Lawrence -- family secrets and a culture of Italian tradition that Amelia describes as "being trapped in a room with no door," until she must fight her way out with her violence and anger. [more]
CHATTER: Sports ... Achilles ... not the tendon
I often rant about the horrid state of Classical knowledge in Canada, so I feel I must trumpet things when someone does get it right. This time it's Rosie DiManno, a sportswriter for the Toronto Star, waxing about the Maple Leafs' lack of success against their down-the-QEW rivals from Buffalo:
The Buffalo Sabres are to the Toronto Maple Leafs as Paris was to Achilles. That is to say, a pain in the a...nkle.
Paris, abductor of Helen — we're talking the Iliad here, for those trying to follow along at home, and for no logical reason except that these QEW match-ups always feel vaguely epic and tragicomic — was more indolent lover than scary warrior. But he was lethal to the mighty (and mighty arrogant) Achilles all the same, getting off one good shot to his enemy's only vulnerable spot, that eponymous tendon, after the latter had survived a decade of war against the obstinate, besieged Trojans.
Buffalo is Troy, irreversibly doomed in the big picture. But the Sabres have bloodied the Leafs repeatedly and memorably over the past 30-plus years, playing some of their best hockey against their rivals from across the water. The record will show that, prior to last night's Sabres win at the Air Canada Centre, the Sabres enjoyed a hefty 68-46-17 advantage over the Leafs, all-time. In terms of more recent history, Toronto had yet to defeat Buffalo this season, posting one loss and one tie in previous meetings.
Last night, hubris struck again. [more]
Full marks to Rosie for getting the Paris thing correct (it's not in the Iliad as far as I recall) and making me eat crow for my Sunday lunch (on two counts ... I'm not a big fan of the Star, either).
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