Latest update: 10/1/2004; 5:10:54 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca

ante diem viii kalendas octobres

  • 15 A.D. (?) -- birth of the future emperor Vitellius
Friday, September 24, 2004 5:48:55 AM

~ Thracian History

Novitne has a nice little synopsis/excerpt dealing with Thracian history:

The boundaries of the Thracian ethnos comprise not only the territory of present-day Bulgaria but also the land of present-day Romania, Eastern Serbia, Northern Greece and Northwestern Turkey. According to the Greek historian Herodotus (5th century BC) the Thracians were the most numerous people in Europe and came second in the world after the Indians (obviously the world Herodotus knew).

Regrettably, during their 2000-year-long history the Thracians have not created an alphabet of their own. The reconstruction of the past of this people - builder of one of the pillars of the ancient European civilization, has been based on the scanty information available in the literary tradition of Hellenians and Romans and, naturally, on the results obtained from the particularly large-scale archeological excavations carried out over the past three or four decades.

Without doubt the basis of the Thracian economy during the first centuries of the development of the Thrace people had been the production of foodstuffs, raw materials and other goods which fully satisfied the local needs, leaving considerable quantities for exports in all directions.

The exchange of merchandise was chiefly carried out by sea through the ports of Thrace, Phoenicia, Egypt, Caria, Crete and Mycenae. This inevitably led to active exchanges of people, of political and cultural ideas and of technological information, too. All this, in turn, precipitated a revolution in the social and political life of Thrace and its people.

It seems that the social differentiation in Thrace has gained momentum and has given rise to the first class and social formations quite early (as far back as the latter half of the II millennium BC). This process comprised all Thracian tribes whose number was some several dozens.

Their social structure was simple - the leader or the ruler who was also the supreme priest was at the top of the social pyramid. He exercised his powers aided by a retinue of aristocrats who ranked above the stratum of free community farmers and artisans. Bondage had not been widely practiced in the Thrice economy, except for the limited royal domains where it was, but to an insignificant degree.

This structure of the Thracian society remained unchanged up to the Roman Conquest of Thrace in the first century AD, i.e. over a span of more than fifteen hundred years.

In the beginning of the 13th century BC, some Thracian state formations comprising the territorial and ethnic borders of the individual tribes are already mentioned by ancient authors with relation to the Trojan War. They were linked with the lands of Southern Thrace and were allies of the Trojans with whom, as it looks, they had economic, political and, perhaps, ethnic relations.

Among the Thracian rulers in this zone, there lived king Rhesus who was famous for his influence, treasures and tragic fate. He was killed by Ulysses in his camp before joining the battles near Troy.

The political detachment of the Thracian tribes was preserved until the beginning of the 5th century BC.

Then Theres, the chieftain of one of the tribes, the Wends, made a successful attempt at organizing a unified Thracian state. Under his successors Sparadokus, Sitalkus and Sevtum (5th century BC), all Thracian tribes in present-day Bulgarian homeland had been united within the borderlines of the Thraco-Wendish kingdom.

Allies of Athens in the Peloponnesian Wars, the Wends' rulers inspired with respect the adversaries of ancient democracy in its northern zones of influence by ensuring steady supplies of grain, raw materials and metals. Also during the 5th century BC, the Wends suppressed the attempts of Macedonia to come up the big political stage.

However, in the middle of the next century (4th century BC) the Macedonians, headed by Philip and his son, Alexander the Great, took their revenge. The Wendish kingdom suffered severe blows and its borderlines shrunk into the relatively small region of the Upper Thracian Valley.

New Thracian states enjoying brilliant, though transient, political success, those of the Bessae, Astae, Getae and the Dacean tribes, emerged on the Thracian political and battle scene in the quickly changing atmosphere between the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 1st centuries BC.

The endless scuffles for political domination between the Thracian family dynasties facilitated the invasion of Rome which, after a series of sanguinary wars and complex diplomatic combinations, succeeded in imposing its power on the Thracian people in the year 46 BC.

Spartacus, the Thracian who rose the biggest uprising of slaves in the antique world and thus, nearly brought to the downfall of Rome, was captured in the vicissitudes of this nearly two-century-long resistance and was made a gladiator.

Friday, September 24, 2004 5:27:45 AM

~ Bronze Head of Zeus Photo

I've finally come across a photo of that head of Zeus found in Bulgaria:

Wow! The accompanying article is at Novite ...

Friday, September 24, 2004 5:24:34 AM

~ Allegory of the Cave

From the Korea Herald comes an application of Plato's Allegory of the Cave:

The allegory of the cave is found in book seven of Plato's "Republic" where a dialogue takes place between Socrates and Glaucon. It contains insights relevant to our contemporary political life.
Prisoners, their legs and necks chained in the den from their childhood, are unable to turn their heads for years. Thus, they take shadows on the wall for real figures of men and animals, echoes for real sound, the puppet show for real life, and the light of the fire for the sunlight. A prisoner, who came out of the cave, realized that what he saw, heard, and believed were all wrong. He starts a new life in sunlight from darkness (ignorance and illusions) and slowly comes to grips with reality, and he may even arrive at the understanding of the "goodness," the brightest and best of being.

I wonder, for instance, if the ruling elites and people in North Korea today are not suffering from a tunnel vision like the Socratic prisoners in the cave.

Socrates observes that the state in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern and most quietly governed, is always the best and the state in which they are most eager, the worst. He points out that the true philosopher kings regard the honors of this present world as being mean and worthless, and uphold justice as the greatest and most important canon. He also warns against "the narrow intelligence" flashing from the keen eye of a clever rogue, whose "eyesight is forced into the service of evil."

How does our present world compare with the Socratic vision? Justice is imperiled in many places. We are daily witnessing terrorism, violence, and civil disturbances, generated by both state and non-state actors. How responsible are the misguided or misperceived policies, for example, in the present Palestine-Israeli conflict, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Sudan's Darfur, or North Korea's conundrum for creating havoc?

The highlight in the allegory of the cave seems to be what Socrates called "an eye of the soul." Every man has an eye of the soul which is lost and dimmed by other pursuits in life. But when it is purified and re-illumined, it is more precious than 10,000 bodily eyes, for truth is seen by it alone. He believes that there are two kinds of people: those who agree with him and take his words as a revelation and those who do not.

From cave man to digital man, mankind has made spectacular advances in all areas of human endeavors. Still, no child can learn all the accumulated knowledge and wisdom at birth. Political leaders are no exception. Their previous experiences, knowledge and skills aside, when they take office, they have to start from scratch, for the job is new. Throughout the ages, the philosopher kings like Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (A.D. 121-180) or King Sejong the Great (1397-1450), have been few and rare. This being the case, political leaders may find the following set of caveats useful in minimizing what Socrates called the mischievous acts of "a clever rogue."

Be mindful of time. A democratic leader must not lose sight of the political realities that he/she cannot rule forever. The term of the office is limited by the constitution and/or by election. Hence, the time factor should be the first and foremost consideration in formulating and implementing any important policy. George Washington (1732-1799), the first U.S. president, for example, was a rare leader, who set the precedent for the de facto two-term presidency. [more]

Yes ... it's always a good idea to keep one's eye out for that 'clever rogue' ...

Friday, September 24, 2004 5:17:24 AM

~ Reviews from BMCR

Niall Livingstone, A Commentary on Isocrates' Busiris.

Werner Eck, The Age of Augustus.

Friday, September 24, 2004 5:09:57 AM

~ Blair as Caesar

Regular rogueclassicism reader RMB passed this one along (thanks!) ... yesterday we had George Bush as Alcibiades; today, in Peter Jones' Spectator column, we have Tony Blair as Caesar:

The sort of flak that Mr Blair’s recent autocratic performances have drawn was also directed at Julius Caesar in his final year — from Cicero in particular — and we all know what happened to Julius Caesar.

At the start of the civil war against Pompey (49 bc) which brought Caesar to power, Cicero was already saying that Caesar had put personal advantage before ‘the safety and honour of the country’. Appointed dictator, Caesar effectively decided who was to hold what positions, and seemed almost to hire and fire consuls at will. On one occasion he had a friend made consul for an afternoon, at which Cicero joked ‘the consul’s vigilance was extraordinary: in his whole term of office, he never closed an eye’. Cicero tells us that decrees were drawn up in private houses, and that he was often astonished to find himself a signatory to them (‘letters have been brought to me from monarchs at the end of the earth thanking me for my motion to give them the royal title, when I was unaware even of their existence, let alone their recent elevation’). [more]

Friday, September 24, 2004 5:06:05 AM

~ AWOTV: On TV Today

9.00 p.m. |HISTU| Hail Caesar!
Pharsalus, Thessaly (Northern Greece), 48 BC. Roman versus Roman for control of the civilized world! Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey) was the darling of the Senate, and Gaius Julius Caesar the champion of the troops. These two men had been pursuing one another all across Europe. And at Pharsalus, the Pompeians were confident of victory, with Caesar's forces on the point of starvation. But on August 9, generalship would decide the day as Caesar acted on inspiration into the tactics of Pompey.

HISTU = History Channel (US)

Friday, September 24, 2004 5:01:52 AM

1. n. an abnormal state or condition resulting from the forced migration from a lengthy Classical education into a profoundly unClassical world; 2. n. a blog about Ancient Greece and Rome compiled by one so afflicted (v. "rogueclassicist"); 3. n. a Classics blog.

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