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Article

Rebecca Futo Kennedy and Katherine Blouin

Natural environments such as the air currents, temperatures, waters, and topography were thought to shape humans, animals, and plants. For humans, the impact was physical, behavioural, and cultural. For animals, the impacts were mostly physical (e.g., oxen in Scythia have no horns because of the cold). This is typically referred to as environmental or climatic determinism. Early explicit examples of this idea include the HippocraticAirs, Waters, Places and occasional comments in Herodotus, but arguments for such a relationship between identity and environment as early as Homer’s Odyssey and Hesiod have been made.1 There is a long-standing tradition beginning with Homer and extending through the Roman imperial period of humans, animals, and their hybrids being associated with geographic distance from an imagined centre, dwelling in designated climate bands, or being earth-born or autochthonous (gēgenēs, autochthōn) that may reflect early forms of environmental determinism. The ideas continue to circulate in much the same form as found in the Hippocratic Airs in Roman authors such as Vitruvius, Manilius, Pliny the Elder, and Vegetius.

Article

Sumerian-Akkadian mythology reaches back to the earliest lists of gods in the third millennium bce and preoccupied the Mesopotamian intellectuals for more than 2000 years. This overview describes four major moments in the earlier phases of that history, each putting in place a different type of cosmic building block: ontologies, infrastructures, genealogies, and interfaces. These four phases stretch from the first mythological narratives in the mid-third millennium down to the late second and first millennium bce, when Mesopotamian materials are reconfigured and adapted for cuneiform scribal traditions in northern Mesopotamia, Syria and the Levant. Rather than limiting ourselves to late, somewhat heterodox recompilations such as the Enuma Elish or the Baal Epic, this contribution argues that the most important and long-lived features of the mythological tradition in Mesopotamia came into existence between 2500 and 1500bce.Like the poetry of a particular language or the usual turns of phrase in a family, the mythology embedded in a particular culture or civilization provides decisive clues to the central concerns of that society. These clues are indirect hints at most, constrained by the need to transmit specific textual materials (mythologems, proverbs, or narratives), while at the same time producing the local pragmatic effects that they are thought to achieve. Surprisingly, then, mythological materials are also usually quite susceptible to translation, giving the unknowing reader the impression that things were not so very different four thousand years ago in ancient Iraq. If we adopt a definition of myth that limits our quarry to “stories about deities that describe how the basic structures of reality came into existence,” excluding thereby .

Article

Marijana Ricl

The Cayster River flows through Southern Lydia and empties into the Aegean Sea NW of Ephesus. The lower part of its fertile valley belonged to Ephesus in the Hellenistic and Roman period, as is amply attested by inscriptions. A substantial part of this region belonged to Ephesian Artemis. East of ancient Thyaira (modern Tire) began the Caystrian plain known for its urban centres Hypaipa and Dios Hieron. Hypaipa and its venerable sanctuary of Persian Artemis often feature in ancient literary and documentary sources. The Cilbian plain was the easternmost and the least urbanized part of the valley, no less fertile and populated than the rest. The prevalent type of community throughout the valley were village settlements (komai/katoikiai) or varying size and population.The Cayster River (modern Küçük Menderes) flows through southern Lydia for about 120 km in a valley rarely more than 20 km wide: it is widest between Gülüce (ancient Hypaipa) and Konaklı, situated between the Tmolos Mt. (mod. Bozdağ) on the north (100 km long, 2157 m high) and the Messogis (mod. Aydın Dağları, .

Article

Kim Bowes

Roman landscapes exhibited enormous diversity, from the rolling hills of the Mediterranean heartland, to Nile marshlands, Apennine mountain pastures, and African pre-deserts. New work on this diversity has demonstrated the intensive methods with which they were managed for agriculture and artisanal output, as well as their highly periodized histories. While much debate in the study of these landscapes has revolved around ancient climate change, more apparent is robust human intervention, which often reached a peak during the Roman period. Romans thought deeply about landscapes, and their literature and religious rituals used landscape to frame moral, religious, and political values.

Unlike the landscapes of the Greek city states, those encompassed by the Roman empire at its height were diverse in the extreme. Among the empire’s territories were the pre-desert regions of Tripolitania and the Syrian frontier, the mountain pastures of the Apennines, and the marshes of the Egyptian oases, not to mention the rolling limestone landscapes of the Mediterranean heartland. Even within smaller slices of these territories (and even within tiny micro-regions), new work has revealed the remarkable diversity of vegetation, sunlight, rainfall, and topography. It is the plurality of these landscapes that gave Romans material for a rich tradition of literary and religious expression as well as a vast and intensive apparatus for economic exploitation.

Article

Bianca Maria Altomare

Marcian of Heraclea (beginning of the 5th century ce) was the editor of a geographical corpus, as well as an important researcher and intermediary between the ancient Greek and Byzantine traditions. He was the author of three works: The Periplous of the Outer Sea, an epitome of Artemidorus’ Geographoumena, and an edition of Menippus’ Periplous. Only the first survives directly, albeit transmitted in a fragmentary state via a sole medieval manuscript, but the others can be reconstructed on the evidence of Stephanus of Byzantium.Marcian came from Heraclea Pontica, one of the few certain facts about his biography. There is much uncertainty surrounding even his era, but he can plausibly be dated to the 4th or 5th centuryce on the basis of certain details, such as his cultural milieu (probably Neo-Platonist) and internal evidence.1 In his correspondence with Pylaemenes of Heraclea, Synesius of Cyrene (Ep. 101.8) mentions a Marcian who participated in a literary circle in Constantinople, the .

Article

Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

Depictions of the underworld, in ancient Greek and Roman textual and visual sources, differ significantly from source to source, but they all draw on a common pool of traditional mythic motifs. These motifs, such as the realm of Hades and its denizens, the rivers of the underworld, the paradise of the blessed dead, and the places of punishment for the wicked, are developed and transformed through all their uses throughout the ages, depending upon the aims of the author or artist depicting the underworld. Some sources explore the relation of the world of the living to that of the dead through descriptions of the location of the underworld and the difficulties of entering it. By contrast, discussions of the regions within the underworld and existence therein often relate to ideas of afterlife as a continuation of or compensation for life in the world above. All of these depictions made use of the same basic set of elements, adapting them in their own ways to describe the location of, the entering into, and the regions within the underworld.

Article

David Paniagua

Vibius Sequester is the author of the De fluminibus, fontibus, lacubus, nemoribus, paludibus, montibus, gentibus per litteras, a short repertoire of geographical names mentioned by Virgil, Silius, Lucan and Ovid. The text, written at the end of the 4th or in the 5th century ce for the author’s son, Vergilianus, was likely intended to be used at school as an instrument providing basic information about the collected toponyms and ethnonyms. Despite the occasional mistakes in the text, Sequester’s repertoire represent a fine instance of school culture in Western Late Antiquity. The work was much appreciated by Italian humanists, which explains that it was copied in nearly 50 recentiores manuscripts; all of them, however, descend from a second-half of the 9th century manuscript (Vat. Lat. 4929).Vibius Sequester was the author of a short alphabetic repertoire of geographical names mentioned in Latin poetry, probably compiled at the end of the 4th or in the 5th century .

Article

Giusto Traina

The most common words to designate a marsh, a swamp, or a bog are helos in ancient Greek and palus in Latin; beside these terms, less common words were also employed. Literary and epigraphic texts give evidence for marshlands in the countryside, in the coastal areas, and also close to urban agglomerations. The sources often give evidence for drainage activity, but cases of extensive drainage are rare. In fact, they were possible only at public expense, by employing free or slave labor. On the other hand, several territories were characterized by a sort of marsh economy. Although rarely portrayed in literature, and despite the risk of malaria, marshy areas presented some economic potential: fishing, hunting, salt extraction, and farming. In many respects, the negative image of wetlands is a modern invention. The contrast between the rational order of the Roman countryside and the “barbaric” medieval landscape was introduced by the Enlightenment, and must be treated with caution.

Article

The Classical world witnessed many forms of physical landscape change due to long-term and short-term geological and climatological processes. There have also been alterations to the land surface resulting from an interaction between human impact and these natural factors. Cyclical changes in land use, agricultural technology, economy, and politics have continually transformed the rural landscapes of the Mediterranean and the wider Classical world and their mapping, in turn, can shed light on fundamental aspects of ancient society that are not always documented in Classical texts.

As with natural causes of landscape change (see changing landscapes, natural causes of), a useful approach is offered by the chronological framework developed by French historian Fernand Braudel, who envisaged the Mediterranean past as created through the interaction of dynamic forces operating in parallel but on different wavelengths of time: the long term (up to as much as thousands or millions of years, not at all in the awareness of past human agents); the medium term (centuries or more, not clearly cognisant to contemporaries); and the short term (observable within a human lifetime or less).

Article

Paola Marone

Aethicus Ister is the unknown author of the Cosmographia, a fictional world travelogue that probably belongs to the 7th to 8th centuries. This work, written in an abstruse Latin, makes use of a whole range of antique (the Bible, the Isidore’s Etymologies, the Pseudo-Augustine’s De mirabilibus sacrae scripturae, etc.) and medieval texts (the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius, the Liber historiae Francorum, some Latin translations of the Alexander Romance, etc.). It is one of the most difficult and puzzling early medieval texts, and it has been the object of intense study since its earliest editions. According to a recent theory espoused by Herren, it could have been written c. 675–725 by a Frank with connexions to Ireland and, possibly, England.Aethicus Ister (c. 7th–8th century ce), otherwise known as Aethicus of Istria or the philosopher of Istria, is the supposed author of the Cosmographia, a description of the world that claims to have been written originally in Greek and subsequently translated into Latin by an ecclesiastical called Jerome (not Saint .