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The Beginnings of Historic Greece

The Beginnings of Historic Greece

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  • William R. Shepherd. The Historical Atlas. University of Texas Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, 1923

History of Anatomy

Anatomy is the study of the body. The actual term derives from the Greek verb “anatomein,” which means “to cut open, to dissect”. It describes the most important process of this field of study— the opening up and dissecting of the body into its individual parts, and their description.

The Beginnings

3rd century B.C.

Anatomy is the oldest scientific discipline of medicine. The first documented scientific dissections on the human body are carried out as early as the third century B.C. in Alexandria.

At that time, anatomists explore anatomy through dissections of animals, primarily pigs and monkeys.

Claudius Galen (129-199) is the most prominent physician in Ancient Greece whose conclusions are purely based on the study of animals and whose faulty theories on human anatomy dominate and influence the medical science until the Renaissance, i.e. for over 1,000 years.

Although anatomy is not officially banned by the Church, social authorities reject the dissection of human corpses until the 12th and even 13th century.

This is why anatomical research stagnates. A change in attitude towards the teaching anatomy only happens during the 13th and 14th century. However, teaching consists primarily of lectures from the canonical works of Galen—without verification through actual dissections.


15th/16th Century

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), today’s most well-known Renaissance artist and scientist, performs many anatomical dissections of human corpses that form the basis for his famous, highly detailed anatomical sketches.



In medieval times, the body is seen as the frail housing of the soul. During the Renaissance, however, the human body is exalted for its beauty, and becomes the primary source of inspiration for artists of this epoch. For the sake of art, many Renaissance artists begin studying the human body.
Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo do not only attend dissections performed by their medically trained friends, but rather pick up the scalpel themselves – with the aim to illustrate the body in all its natural splendor. Not only are body and muscles depicted in the most realistic way, but also the bone structure, the skeleton and the skin.

Leonardo da Vinci passionately studies the human body. Under cover of the night, he climbs cemetery walls, steals bodies, and drags them into his studio. There, he dissects them and uses them as models for his sculptures.

From the 16th century onwards

The actual science of anatomy is founded during the Renaissance with the work of anatomist and surgeon, Andreas Vesalius. Vesalius describes what he observes during the public dissection of human corpses. By dissecting human bodies, preparing muscles, tendons, and nerves down to the smallest detail, Vesalius is able to prove more than 200 errors in Galen’s anatomical works.

With his comprehensive scientific studies of human bodies, the young professor of medicine not only revolutionizes anatomy, but consequently, the whole science of medicine.

During the Renaissance, the dissections are not only of interest to a medical forum, but also access by the broader public.

This becomes evident on the frontispiece illustration for Andreas Vesalius’ 7-volume opus, “On the Fabric of the Human Body”. It shows Vesalius performing a dissection in a crowded theatre.



Artistic passion inspires the anatomists of the Renaissance, and interest in anatomy grows among the masses. More and more, physicians, as well as the general public, want to see the human body with their own eyes. The word “autopsy” hails from the Greek phrase, “To see with one’s own eyes”.

Anatomical theaters are built in many cities. Rich and poor alike would flock to the public dissection presentations.



Some anatomists use their dissection skills in a traditionally artistic way and render their specimens into lasting works of art. Honoré Fragonard renders his anatomical specimens into lasting pieces of art. He injects them with colored wax that hardens inside the blood vessels. The remaining tissues dries up and is treated with varnish. His works are still on display at the Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire d‘Alfort near Paris, France.

In the 18th century, anatomical artists create the first whole-body specimens, which are dried and varnished. Some specimens from that time contain metal alloys which are melted and injected into the arteries while still hot.


19th/20th CENTURY

After the principles of human macroscopic anatomy—the study of dissected organs—is established. The field of anatomy becomes more specialized, and the microscopic anatomical realm opened up to anatomical scholarship.

The public interest in anatomy does not wane for several centuries. It is not until the 19th century, when anatomy becomes a science, that the public is excluded from witnessing dissections.

The BODY WORLDS exhibitions succeed in reviving a culture of public anatomy, inspiring millions of people to take an interest in anatomy.

Thomas R. Martin, An Overview of Classical Greek History from Mycenae to Alexander

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Introduction to the Historical Overview in Perseus

There can be no such thing as an authoritative history of ancient Greece, not least because the surviving evidence is often so thin. Many interpretations expressed in the Overview obviously would not win universal assent, but not all such points of potential controversy can be marked in a survey that is meant to be brief. Users of Perseus should regard the Overview as a source intended to provide a series of jumping-off points for learning through discovery in the many other resources of Perseus.

NB: Users of Perseus are reminded that the Overview is under separate copyright and that use of the Overview is governed by the regulations pertaining to copyrighted material as well as by the terms of the Perseus licensing agreement.

Неделя 2

Module 2 brings us into the turbulent, creative Archaic Age, during which the Greeks acquired a cultural identity distinct from that of their neighbors in the Eastern Mediterranean. They developed their characteristic form of community, the polis, or “city-state.” With a rebound in population, moreover, they founded numerous colonies abroad. In addition, the Greeks recovered literacy, which enabled them to write down law codes for the poleis. The newly established communities had a new form of military organization, the hoplite army, manned by citizen-soldiers. The lyric poets of that era wrote verses that address such great social changes, and also offer vivid accounts of individuals’ emotions and opinions. The module ends with another poet, Hesiod, somewhat later and less famous than Homer, but also very significant. His subjects range from the origins of the cosmos and the gods, to personal ethics, to practical advice about farming.

6 материалов для самостоятельного изучения

1 практическое упражнение

Ancient Greece


The area that is now Greece was home to the first civilizations in Europe. Ancient Greece had powerful cities, great thinkers called philosophers, and fine art. The idea of democracy—rule by the people—also came from ancient Greece.

Aegean Civilizations

Greek civilization began sometime after 3000 bce on the island of Crete. Crete lies south of Greece, on the southern border of the Aegean Sea. This first civilization is called the Minoan civilization.

In the 1500s bce Greek-speaking people developed another civilization on the Greek mainland. This civilization was called the Mycenaean civilization. The Mycenaeans conquered the Minoan capital between 1500 and 1400 bce . In about 1200 bce they probably fought a war against Troy, a city in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Many Greek legends tell of this war, called the Trojan War. Two great poems from ancient Greece tell of Mycenaean times. The poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey, were said to be the works of a man named Homer.

In about 1100 bce the Dorians, a people from the north, invaded. Mycenaean civilization came to an end. Many Mycenaeans moved across the Aegean Sea. They settled in Ionia in Asia Minor.

Greek Cities

The Dorians settled mostly in the western sections of Greece. The people in the eastern parts became known as Ionians. Together, the Dorians and the Ionians formed the civilization known as classical, or ancient, Greece. They built cities in most of what is now Greece.

By 800 bce the Greeks were building cities in new lands, too. Some went east to the Black Sea. Others settled in the west, on the island of Sicily and the mainland of Italy.

Most of the classical Greek cities, called city-states, were independent of each other. Athens and Sparta grew to be the most important city-states. Athens spread its influence by uniting all the surrounding villages. By contrast, Sparta sent armies to make slaves of its neighbors. By the 500s bce Sparta had the strongest army in Greece.

The Hellenes

Despite their differences, the Greeks came to think of themselves as one people. They called themselves the Hellenes.

The Hellenes shared a similar culture and spoke forms of the Greek language. They even invented the word barbarian to describe anyone who did not speak Greek.

The ancient Greeks believed in many gods. They pictured their gods as larger, more beautiful, and more powerful humans. These gods were said to live on Mount Olympus in northern Greece.

People often gathered together for festivals in ancient Greece. The most famous festival was the original Olympic Games, which began in about 776 bce .

Democracy and Culture in Athens

Powerful leaders ruled most of the city-states. Eventually, Athens took the first steps toward democracy. In 621 bce a ruler named Draco drew up a written code of laws. Then, in the last years of the 500s bce , another leader set up a democratic government. All free men with Athenian parents were members of the city’s lawmaking group. However, women, foreigners, and slaves were not included.

Athens also became the Greek center of literature and the arts. The philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were great teachers there. Poets and playwrights wrote works that are still read and performed today. Painted pottery became a fine art and a great industry. Athenians built beautiful buildings and sculptures out of marble.

The Persian Wars

In the 500s bce the empire of Persia (modern Iran) took over the Greek cities in Ionia. In about 499 bce the city of Miletus started a rebellion against the Persians. Athens sent 20 ships to aid the Ionian Greeks, but the Persians crushed the revolt.

Beginning in 490 bce , the Persians attacked the Greek mainland several times. The Greeks fought back and finally defeated the Persians in 479 bce . After the Greek victory, Athens grew stronger.

The Peloponnesian War

By the 400s bce , Athens controlled most of eastern Greece, many of the Aegean islands, and the Ionian coast in Asia Minor. The Spartans thought that Athens was too powerful. They began the Peloponnesian War against Athens in 431 bce .

At first, the Athenians avoided battle on land. They stayed within the walls of their city. Their navy attacked Sparta from the sea. The Athenians stayed safe until 430 bce , when plague (a deadly disease) broke out in the city. The disease killed one-quarter of the people, including Pericles, their leader.

Sparta won the war in 404 bce . Sparta kept a leading position for only 30 years, however. In 371 bce another Greek city, called Thebes, defeated Sparta.

Rise of Macedonia

In the 300s bce Macedonia, a kingdom to the north, gained strength. The Macedonians were distantly related to the Greeks. The Macedonian king Philip II conquered the Greek city-states by 338 bce . When he died in 336, his son Alexander came to power.

Alexander, called Alexander the Great, was a military genius. First he defeated the Persian king Darius III in 333 bce . Then he spent a decade conquering lands from Egypt to India. He took Greek civilization to much of the ancient world.

The Hellenistic Age

Alexander died in 323 bce . The period following his death is called the Hellenistic Age. “Hellenistic” means “Greek-like.”

Alexander’s empire broke into three main kingdoms in Macedonia, Egypt, and the Middle East. In these kingdoms, Greek culture mixed with local cultures. In Greece itself, some of the cities regained their independence or joined together in leagues.

Ancient Rome conquered all of Greece and the three Hellenistic kingdoms by 30 bce . Greece remained under the Roman Empire until 395 ce . Then it became a part of the Byzantine Empire.

Archaeologists Are Only Just Beginning to Reveal the Secrets Hidden in These Ancient Manuscripts

Last summer, Giulia Rossetto, a specialist in ancient texts at the University of Vienna, was on a train home to Pordenone, in northern Italy, when she switched on her laptop and opened a series of photographs of a manuscript known as “Arabic New Finds 66.”

It is no ordinary manuscript. In antiquity, it was common practice when parchment supplies were limited to scrape the ink from old manuscripts, with chemicals or pumice stones, and reuse them. The resulting double-text is called a palimpsest, and the manuscript Rossetto was studying contained several pages whose Christian text, a collection of saints’ lives written in tenth-century Arabic, hid a much older text beneath, in faintest Greek. Nothing was known about what this “undertext” contained. Rossetto, a PhD student, was given the images as an afterthought, when an older scholar complained that reading them was beyond his failing eyesight.

But these were no ordinary photographs, either. They were taken using a state-of-the-art technique known as multispectral imaging, or MSI, in which each page of a text is photographed many times while illuminated by different colors and wavelengths of light, and then analyzed using computer algorithms to find a combination that most clearly distinguishes the two layers of text. As Rossetto’s train sped through the Austrian Alps, she flipped between the images, adjusting the contrast, brightness and hue to minimize the appearance of the Arabic overtext while picking out tiny Greek letters, each around three millimeters tall.

The style of the script suggested that it was probably written in Egypt in the fifth or sixth century, and Rossetto expected another Christian text. Instead, she began to see names from mythology: Persephone, Zeus, Dionysus. The lost writing was classical Greek.

There was no internet connection on the train. But as soon as she got home, Rossetto rushed to her computer to check her transcription against known classical texts. “I tried different combinations, and there was nothing,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is something new.’”

In his poem “Endymion,” based on a Greek myth about a shepherd beloved by the moon goddess Selene, John Keats paid tribute to the enduring power of superior works of art. “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” he wrote. “Its loveliness increases it will never / Pass into nothingness.” Surely to uncover lost poetry from an ancient civilization from which we draw so many of our literary traditions is as exciting as unearthing any material treasure.

And this promise reaches beyond aesthetics. When classical Greek literature was rediscovered during the European Renaissance, it remade Western civilization, and planted seeds that still shape our lives today: Thomas Jefferson’s ideas about the pursuit of happiness were sparked by the Greek philosophers suffragists were inspired by Euripides’ heroine Medea. Like finding an old photograph of a long-dead relative, discovering a lost piece of text can help us glimpse ourselves in the people who came before us.

Rossetto’s text is just one of hundreds whose recovery was recently announced by researchers participating in a project to decipher the secrets of a unique treasury. In the Sinai Desert, in Egypt, a monastery called St. Catherine’s hosts the world’s oldest continually operating library, used by monks since the fourth century. In addition to printed books, the library contains more than 3,000 manuscripts, accumulated over the centuries and remarkably well preserved by the dry and stable climate. The monks at St. Catherine’s were particularly fond of reusing older parchment for their religious texts. Today the library holds at least 160 palimpsests—likely the largest collection in the world. But the ancient scribes did their job frustratingly well. In most cases, the texts underneath were hidden and, until now, thought lost.

St. Catherine’s, a community of 25 or so Greek Orthodox monks at the foot of Mount Sinai, transcends history, in that ancient traditions live on into the present day. The first mention of its written collection comes from an account by a fourth-century pilgrim named Egeria, who described how the monks read biblical passages to her when she visited a chapel built to commemorate Moses’ burning bush. In the sixth century, the Byzantine emperor Justinian protected that chapel with hefty granite walls. Fifteen hundred years later, they stand intact.

As you approach it, the sand-colored monastery, nestled low on the mountain, looks humble and timeless, like something made of the desert. Inside is a warren of stone steps, arches and alleyways a square bell tower draws the eye upward toward the jagged mountain peaks above. Despite the rise and fall of surrounding civilizations, life here has changed remarkably little. The monks’ first daily worship still begins at 4 a.m.

Central to St. Catherine’s, now as in Egeria’s time, is the library, and the person in charge of it is the Rev. Justin Sinaites, who wears a long, gray beard and the black robes traditional to his faith. Born in Texas and brought up Protestant, Father Justin, as he prefers to be known, discovered Greek Orthodoxy while studying Byzantine history at the University of Texas at Austin. After converting to the faith, he spent more than 20 years living at a monastery in Massachusetts, where, as head of the monastery’s publications, he became adept at using computer and desktop publishing technology. In 1996, Father Justin moved to St. Catherine’s, and when the monastery’s abbot decided to digitize the library’s manuscript collection to make it available to scholars around the world, Father Justin was asked to lead the effort.

When I reached Father Justin in Egypt by telephone this fall, he was thoughtful and articulate, and gave the impression, like the monastery itself, of existing on a plane outside of worldly limitations. Asked to describe the physical size of the library, he at first seemed baffled. “I don’t think in those terms,” he said. During our conversation, he routinely answered my questions with stories rooted hundreds of years in the past. Because the librarian alone was allowed to access the library vaults, the manuscripts were always brought to him one by one, their darkened edges and drops of candle wax testament to centuries of wear and use. “I was so eager to go in and see everything else, and I couldn’t,” he says. Then, about ten years ago, “they made me the librarian.”

Finally he could explore the full collection, including the palimpsests. The problem was that there didn’t seem much hope of reading them. But in 2008, researchers in the United States announced the completion of a ten-year project to use multispectral imaging to read lost works by the Greek mathematician Archimedes hidden beneath the liturgy of a 13th-century Byzantine prayer book. Father Justin, who already knew members of the group, asked if they would come to St. Catherine’s.

The resulting collaboration, known as the Sinai Palimpsests Project, is directed by Michael Phelps of the California-based Early Manuscripts Electronic Library, a nonprofit research group that works with universities such as UCLA and other institutions to digitize historical source materials and make them accessible for study. Beginning in 2011, Phelps and other members of the project made 15 visits to the monastery over five years, each time driving for hours through the Sinai Desert, the site of ongoing conflict between Egyptian security forces and Islamic militants. Many of the palimpsests come from a cache of about 1,100 manuscripts found in a tower of the monastery’s north wall in 1975, and consist of damaged leaves left behind when the library was moved in the 18th century, then hidden for protection after an earthquake. They are tinder dry, falling to pieces and often nibbled by rats.

The overtext is a copy of liturgical text in Syriac from the 11th century. (Courtesy of St. Catherine’s Monastery of the Sinai, Egypt) The undertext is a ninth-century Syriac translation of “On Drugs,” a pharmacology manual by the Greek physician Galen. (Courtesy of St. Catherine’s Monastery of the Sinai, Egypt) Shelfmark: Arabic New Finds 8. Overtext — a 5th or 6th century copy of a heretofore unknown classical Greek medical text.  This folio describes the surgical procedure for removing a polyp from the nose. (Courtesy of St. Catherine’s Monastery of the Sinai, Egypt) Shelfmark: Arabic New Finds 8. Undertext — a 5th or 6th century copy of a heretofore unknown classical Greek medical text.  This folio describes the surgical procedure for removing a polyp from the nose. (Courtesy of St. Catherine’s Monastery of the Sinai, Egypt) Shelfmark: Arabic New Finds 8. Overtext — a 5th or 6th century copy of a second heretofore unknown classical Greek medical text,  a glossary of ancient Greek medical terminology. (Courtesy of St. Catherine’s Monastery of the Sinai, Egypt) Shelfmark: Arabic New Finds 8. Undertext — a 5th or 6th century copy of a second heretofore unknown classical Greek medical text,  a glossary of ancient Greek medical terminology. (Courtesy of St. Catherine’s Monastery of the Sinai, Egypt) Shelfmark: Arabic New Finds 8. Overtext — the oldest surviving copy of the Christian Gospels in Arabic translation (late 8th or 9th century). (Courtesy of St. Catherine’s Monastery of the Sinai, Egypt) An illustrated Greek medical text was found beneath the oldest Arabic translation of the Gospels. (Courtesy of St. Catherine’s Monastery of the Sinai, Egypt)

Father Justin brought each palimpsest out in turn to be photographed by the project’s chief camera operator, Damianos Kasotakis, who used a 50-megapixel camera custom-built in California. Photographing each page took about seven minutes, the shutter clicking repeatedly while the page was illuminated by infrared, visible and ultraviolet lights that ran across the color spectrum. The researchers toyed with different filters, lighting from strange angles, anything they could think of that might help pick out details from a page’s surface. Then a group of imaging specialists based in the United States “stacked” the images for each page to create a “digital cube,” and designed algorithms, some based on satellite imaging technology, that would most clearly recognize and enhance the letters beneath the overtext.

“You just throw everything you can think of at it,” Kasotakis says, “and pray for the best.”

Perhaps someone was listening. Late last month, the monastery and the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library announced at a conference in Athens that over the five-year period they had imaged 6,800 pages from 74 palimpsests, which will be made accessible online by UCLA sometime in early 2018. So far, their work has revealed more than 284 erased texts in ten languages, including classical, Christian and Jewish texts dating from the fifth century until the 12th century. The collection is being compared to the greatest manuscript discoveries of the 20th century, including the Nag Hammadi codices of Egypt and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Already, as a part of the Sinai Palimpsests Project, some two dozen scholars from across Europe, the United States and the Middle East are poring over these texts. One of the most exciting finds is a palimpsest made up of scraps from at least ten older books. The manuscript is a significant text in its own right: the earliest known version of the Christian Gospels in Arabic, dating from the eighth or ninth century. But what’s underneath, Phelps predicts, will make it a “celebrity manuscript”—several previously unknown medical texts, dating to the fifth or sixth century, including drug recipes, instructions for surgical procedures (including how to remove a tumor), and references to other tracts that may provide clues about the foundations of ancient medicine.

Another fragment of this palimpsest contains a beautiful two-page illustration of a flowering plant—from an “herbal,” or guide to medicinal plants, which Nigel Wilson, a classicist at Oxford who is studying the text, believes may be a work by Crateuas, physician to the poison-obsessed Anatolian king Mithradates in the first century B.C. Copies of his drawings made as late as 600 years after his death survive, but until now we only knew his writings through quotations by the first-century physician Dioscorides. “This is the first scrap we’ve got of an actual manuscript of his work,” says Wilson.

From the same palimpsest Agamemnon Tselikas, director of the Center for History and Palaeography in Athens, recovered the earliest known versions of classic texts by Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, which are four centuries older than any copies previously known. Other fragments include bits as unexpected as a version of an ancient Greek adventure story called Apollonius of Tyre, which is now the oldest known Latin translation and the earliest with illustrations by 500 years.

Giulia Rossetto, who discovered her own celebrity manuscript aboard a train ride home to Italy, is still piecing together the implications of her find. So far she has deciphered 89 lines of text (many of them incomplete) and learned that they belong to a previously unknown poem written in Greek hexameter—the same scheme used for Homer’s epics. They tell of a myth in which Dionysus, the young son of Zeus and Persephone, sits on a throne as a group of murderous Titans tries to win his confidence. Rossetto also found the number 23 in the text, which she believes denotes a book number, hinting, she says, that the lines might come from the Rhapsodies, attributed by the ancients to the mythical poet Orpheus and collected in 24 books, like Homer’s poems. The Rhapsodies were widely studied until at least the sixth century, but are today known only through fragmentary quotations by later philosophers.

Now Rossetto has found what may be lines from the Rhapsodies themselves. The discovery, says Claudia Rapp, a professor of Byzantine studies at the University of Vienna and Rossetto’s supervisor, is the kind of thing that appears perhaps once in a generation. “The dream of everybody working with palimpsest material is to find previously unknown bits of classical texts from pagan antiquity.”

The secrets of each individual manuscript will keep scholars busy for years to come. Yet there’s an even bigger discovery emerging from this project, beyond the many textual revelations: the surprising history of St. Catherine’s itself.

Rapp, who also serves as the Sinai project’s scholarly director, has been especially intrigued to learn what the palimpsests reveal about the process by which parchments were reused. In none of them is there an apparent relationship between the overtext and undertext, she says. Indeed, scattered pages from multiple older manuscripts, in different languages, were often brought together to make a new book. Rather than individual scribes selecting manuscripts to scrape clean for personal use, this suggests an organized production, perhaps even commercial circulation, of recycled parchment sheets.

St. Catherine’s sixth-century walls rise as high as 65 feet and protect sites including a fourth-century chapel. (Getty Images)

And the sheer variety of languages uncovered was entirely unexpected. Some of the texts are even helping to reconstruct lost languages, including Caucasian Albanian, spoken in an ancient kingdom in present-day Azerbaijan, and Christian Palestinian Aramaic, used by Christians in Palestine until the 13th century.

Researchers also discovered several Greek texts translated into Syriac, which was first spoken by Syrian Christians before becoming a major literary language throughout the Middle East. We already know that in the eighth and ninth centuries, the Islamic caliphate, then based in Baghdad, sponsored a huge program to translate Greek classical knowledge through Syriac into Arabic (a project that helped save much of classical Western knowledge during the Dark Ages). These Syriac undertexts show that Christian scholars at St. Catherine’s were a part of this effort. “We can see this great translation movement in process,” Phelps says.

Each surprise adds a piece to the puzzle. The discovery of two unknown Christian texts in the ancient language of Ge’ez suggests that Ethiopian monks, who were not thought to have had much contact with Sinai in antiquity, may once have practiced at the monastery. And one palimpsest, which Michelle Brown, a former curator at the British Library in London, describes as a “Sinai sandwich,” is remarkable for the relationship it suggests between four different layers of text. Its oldest layer was written in Greek, at St. Catherine’s. Next is an undertext in a Latin script used in Italy at the turn of the seventh century, then an eighth-century Latin insular script, a style of writing pioneered by monks in Ireland that flourished in the British Isles. The top layer is an Arabic script written at St. Catherine’s around the turn of the tenth century.

This is a real breakthrough—a “smoking gun,” Brown says. Scholars have assumed that there was little contact between the Middle East and the West in the Middle Ages, before the Crusades, but Brown suspected from what she could already make out of the palimpsest and other fragments at St. Catherine’s that this view was wrong. The layering of these scripts revealed by the new imaging supports her hunch. It’s exceedingly unlikely that the pages were carried from Sinai to Rome, to Britain, and then back again. Instead, she says, monks from these distinct Western communities must have been working at St. Catherine’s over the centuries.

Put all of that together, and our view of this humble outpost is transformed. We might think of the Sinai Desert merely as a remote wilderness where the Jews wandered for decades after their escape from Egyptian slavery. But the diverse findings of the palimpsests project offer stunning testimony to St. Catherine’s role as a vibrant cosmopolitan center and a key player in the cultural history of East and West, where people of different languages and communities met and exchanged practices and intellectual traditions. “It is a place where people made the effort to travel to,” says Rapp. “And they came from all over the world.”

For Father Justin, the project represents a remarkable opportunity to extend what he calls a “living tradition” at St. Catherine’s, in which each manuscript is not only a holy object but a tangible witness to visitors from the remote past. For centuries, the monastery’s walls protected these manuscripts, but the political situation outside remains turbulent last spring, militants allied with ISIS killed a policeman a few hundred yards from its gates. Although Father Justin insists this danger isn’t representative, he hopes the imaging project will help to protect the manuscripts’ treasures for centuries to come: “That is our obligation and our challenge today.”

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This article is a selection from the January/February issue of Smithsonian magazine

Part 3: Clash of the Titans?

Titans were, of course, the children of Uranus and Gaia. They are a part of mythology that is so remote that there is no record of them being worshipped they were probably "created" for the sheer history of the gods.

As previously mentioned, Hesiod's Theogony chronicles the story of the gods from Chaos to Zeus. The Titans fall somewhere in the middle. Uranus was extremely jealous of his offspring and confined them in the body of his wife. Of course, Gaia was a tad miffed at such a burden, and she found the load to be quite unbearable. She encouraged her bravest son, Cronus, to help her end her suffering. She gave him a sickle and&mdashthat sly woman!&mdashtold him exactly what to do the next time her husband approached her. He obediently castrated his father and tossed Uranus's genitals into the sea. In some versions of myth, the goddess Aphrodite arose from the foam where the private parts landed. The Furies and Giants emerged from the blood that dripped.

A defeated&mdashso to speak, indeed!&mdashUranus left his kingdom to Cronus and his brothers and sisters. Cronus took his sister Rhea as a bride, and together they became king and queen of the universe. But Uranus wasn't so weakened that he could not warn his son that the same fate awaited him: Cronus was soon to be usurped by one of his own sons.

[Did you notice that the path to dethronement meant castration&mdashalmost demasculization? Perhaps a symbol of the fall of the goddess?]

Fraternity and Sorority Life

This account of the history of Greek life traces the beginnings of the organizations that have come today to be known as Greek Fraternities and Sororities. This history was compiled from Baird's 20th Edition, Manual of American College Fraternities. The information concerning the origins and early uses of the words fraternity and sorority may be useful in fully understand the history of Greek Life.

In the mid to late nineteenth century, students began forming their own groups to debate and discuss current events and literature. This was largely a reaction toward the strict curriculum set forth by their colleges. Students wanted to learn about a greater variety of topics than were offered in the classroom, explore other academic venues in more detail than time allotted for with their professors during class time, and be able to express themselves freely. Hence began the first organized, modern-day debating and literary societies. Some universities fostered these organizations by encouraging students to think for themselves.

Inevitably, the students in these groups began to form deeper relationships and depend on each other for more than just an intellectually stimulating conversation. Through the end of the nineteenth century, intellectualness was still the center of fraternity life, but the members also made plenty of time to organize parties, sports events, dances and so on.

The Chapter House

The members of these groups sometimes lived together in college dorms or boarding houses, but the actual Chapter House did not become common until the 1890's. Most fraternities before this time were rather small in number, with no more than 30 members if that. Therefore, they were able to hold meetings on campus in a hall or dorm room. But their small numbers made it financially impossible to obtain a house for only the organization members to live in since they essentially did not have enough members to pay the cost of renting, much less owning a house.

However, in the 1890's some groups had graduated enough alumni who had become successful and donated money and services to the fraternity to help secure a house for the chapter. The advent of the Chapter House marked the beginning of a period of prosperity and increased growth for fraternities. It also signaled a change in the makeup of the organization and their priorities. What used to be a special occasion when the fraternity all gathered together all of a sudden became a regular event. While this meant more interaction, it also meant a large part of the attention of the fraternity had to be focused on the house itself. Alumni had to form boards to become incorporated and handle mortgage payments, legal matters and large repairs or improvements. Active members at the chapter had to handle day to day business, which no longer included only intellectual daydreaming, free expression or academic exploration. It meant cleaning, maintaining, and paying for the property, and in some cases building the house!

Since many of the members were now formally living together, recreational activities came to the forefront since they were spending so much time together. Economic concerns also became a priority, simply because it takes money to own and maintain a property. But the Chapter House gave its members the opportunity to learn more practical skills and offered them the chance to take on more responsibility and gain leadership skills.

Originally members were given formal invitations and initiated one by one, often on separate occasions. But with many organizations now having their own houses that needed to be kept full, they often fiercely competed for the interests of incoming freshman. "Rush" comes from this period when the fraternities literally "rushed" to get to the freshman before another organization got to them first. Today, "rush" has been replaced by "recruitment", signifying the active role a chapter takes to find the best members for their organizations.


The very first fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa was founded in 1776, and was kept a "secret". In 1831 they disclosed their secrets and bylaws. Today, some fraternities keep their traditions and constitutions secret, and some publish them. When many fraternities were founded, initiation rites and ceremonies were often borrowed and/or modified from any combination of the following items in history: Philosophy and Literature from Ancient Greeks and Romans Jewish and Christian Scriptures Chivalric traditions military codes of honor, precepts and forms of Freemasonry Enlightenment Science and Philosophy and Romanticism.

These items no longer held the importance in the curriculum that they had previously. So as time went on, teachings of The Classics became less and less common. As a result, the meanings of many of the rituals the fraternity was originally based on began to fade and become unknown to its members. Due to this lack of knowledge, some fraternities began to depend on theatrical aspects of ceremonies, as opposed to the deeper, more profound meaning that had essentially been lost. Some say this was the period in which "Hazing" took its roots.

There are also traditions surrounding fraternity items. Most organizations have some type of badge, crest and/or symbol, that only initiated members may wear. An exception to this rule is the old tradition where a fraternity man's sweetheart is given and allowed to wear the letters or symbol of the organization. It is not tradition for men to wear their sweetheart's letters or symbol.


Since the beginning of Greek Life, there have been vehement critics. So it is important to note that Greek Organizations truly have become more than just an extracurricular activity, but a way of life. Greek Organizations have fought for their continued existence throughout all kinds of hardships. Although chapter and member numbers may have fluctuated over time, The Greeks have survived every major period of chaos it has encountered and other tragedies including The Revolutionary War, The Civil War, World War I and II, the Great Depression, The Vietnam War, and the turmoil and upheaval of the 1960's and 70's, just to name a few. In the past some Universities have tried to shut them down and some state governments have tried to disband them. Yet the fraternity survives. And it will continue to survive.

What is a "Fraternity"?

Fraternities and sororities were established to further the social, scholastic and professional interests of its members. They are mainly associated with colleges and universities. Most fraternities and sororities adopt Greek letters to represent their organization, and as a result they are often referred to as Greek letter societies, or simply Greek organizations.

"Fraternity" vs. "Sorority"

The word fraternity comes from the Latin word "frater" meaning brother. The word fraternity is often used to described not only organizations comprised of men, but also women. Originally, both groups were called fraternities because that was the only word that existed during the 1800s to describe the type of organization they were. This may be due to the fact that most of these organizations were originally started by men. In 1882, the Gamma Phi Beta women at Syracuse University began to call themselves a sorority. This was by the suggestion of their advisor who was a Professor of Latin and thought the word suited them better. The word sorority comes from the Latin word "soror" meaning sister. However by this point, many women's organizations had already been officially and legally incorporated and could not change their name. Today, many of the older "sororities" are referred to by that name, but may have the word fraternity in their official title.

The Parthenon in 1800

The Parthenon © When Elgin's men removed the sculpture from the Parthenon, the building was in a very sorry state. From the fifth century BC to the 17th century AD, it had been in continuous use. It was built as a Greek temple, was later converted into a Christian church, and finally (with the coming of Turkish rule over Greece in the 15th century) it was turned into a mosque.

Although we think of it primarily as a pagan temple, its history as church and mosque was an even longer one, and no less distinguished. It was, as one British traveller put it in the mid-17th century, 'the finest mosque in the world'.

All that changed in 1687 when, during fighting between Venetians and Turks, a Venetian cannonball hit the Parthenon mosque - temporarily in use as a gunpowder store. Some 300 women and children were amongst those killed, and the building itself was ruined. By 1800 a small replacement mosque had been erected inside the shell, while the surviving fabric and sculpture was suffering the predictable fate of many ancient ruins.

On the one hand, the local population was using it as a convenient quarry.

On the one hand, the local population was using it as a convenient quarry. A good deal of the original sculpture, as well as the plain building blocks, were reused in local housing or ground down for cement. On the other hand, increasing numbers of travellers and antiquarians from northern Europe were busily helping themselves to anything they could pocket (hence the scattering of pieces of Parthenon sculpture around European museums from Copenhagen to Strasbourg) - and among these collectors was Lord Elgin.

Whatever Elgin's motives, there is no doubt at all that he saved his sculpture from worse damage. However, in prising out some of the pieces that still remained in place, his agents inevitably inflicted further damage on the fragile ruin.

The Beginnings of Historic Greece - History

Supporting pillars in female form hold up the Erechtheoin porch in Athens.
Courtesy MacGillivray Freeman Films

The “golden age” of Greece lasted for little more than a century but it laid the foundations of western civilization. The age began with the unlikely defeat of a vast Persian army by badly outnumbered Greeks and it ended with an inglorious and lengthy war between Athens and Sparta. This era is also referred to as the “Age of Pericles” after the Athenian statesman who directed the affairs of Athens when she was at the height of her glory.

During this period of time significant advances were made in a number of fields including government, art, philosophy, drama and literature. Some of the Greek names most familiar to us lived in this exciting and productive time. It was an era marked by such high and diverse levels of achievement that many classical scholars refer to the phenomenon as “the Greek miracle”. Even those who don't believe in miracles will concede that it is possible that the ever-competitive Greeks were spurred on to higher levels of innovation in their field by seeing the bar being raised in so many other areas.

None of this would have happened without an encouraging environment and Athens was at that time at the “top of her game”. Her citizens were supremely confident, filled with energy and enthusiasm and utterly convinced that their city provided what a combined London - Paris - New York might offer today.

Military victory over the Persians, largely achieved under Athenian leadership, set the stage. The transition in government from the reluctant hands of the aristocratic elite into the mass of common people also played an important role. More people felt that their opinions mattered than ever before.

The theatre in Delos, where a whisper from center stage easily reaches the back row.
Courtesy MacGillivray Freeman Films

One of the greatest inventions of the ancient Greeks was drama. It evolved out of religious ritual and promptly proved to be both an enduring and popular creation. Greek tragedies, featuring historical and mythological events, were written and directed by authors such as Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. (Many feel that only Shakespeare merits inclusion in their company.) Each won numerous prizes and critical acclaim and each added innovations to the field of drama.

The lyric poet Pindar ushered in the era and became famous in his lifetime for victory odes written to celebrate athletic success. The writers of prose also flourished. Herodotus, regarded as the father of history, wrote several illuminating books on the Persian wars (and is still a often consulted source on ancient Egypt). Another war historian, Thucydides, is still admired as a lucid and evocative writer. Plato, whose writings largely survive, is said to have penned the most poetical prose since the Bible.

The golden age gave us Socrates who steered philosophy in the direction of morals, logic and ethics. His life, and the manner of his death, had a massive impact on other major figures of that epoch such as Plato, Aristophanes and Xenophon.

The physician Hippocrates, the sculptor Phideas, the architects of the Parthenon, all contributed to an era that truly deserves to be called “golden”.

What brought the golden age to an end? The long and mutually murderous war between Athens and Sparta, with their conflicting values and aspirations? Military misadventures? Dreams of imperialism? Possibly the best answer lies in what the Greeks call hubris. Perhaps Athens overstepped its bounds and failed to follow the twin admonitions of Delphi- know thyself and All things in moderation. Perhaps, like Icarus, it tried to fly too close to the sun.

Watch the video: kvinder i antikke grækenland historie (July 2022).


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