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Musaeus (5th or early 6th centuryce; Colluthus and Agathias know his poem1) is the author of Hero and Leander, an epyllion of 343 lines. The attribution to him of a fragment of an epic poem dedicated to the welcoming of Alpheus by Arethusa (AP 9. 362) is generally contested.2 The earliest extant manuscript of the epyllion, the Bodleian Baroccianus 50, was produced in the 10th century, probably in the region of Otranto.3 According to several manuscripts, Musaeus was a grammatikos (a scholar of literature and a secondary school teacher). He imitates Nonnus’s meter and style.4 He might have been a Christian, though the arguments adduced are inconclusive.5 In his version of the tragic love story, Hero and Leander meet at the festival of Aphrodite and Adonis in Sestos. Hero is a priestess of Aphrodite and lives secluded in a tower, while Leander lives in Abydos. Since they are barred from marriage by Hero’s parents, they arrange secret rendezvous. Each night Leander swims across the Hellespont, guided by the light of Hero’s torch, and in the morning he swims back. But one night a storm extinguishes both the light and Leander. Hero throws herself from her tower.

Article

This entry concerns mythological narratives that developed in ancient times in lands extending from the eastern Mediterranean seaboard as far as Central Asia. Whereas the term Near Eastern applies to a range of different cultures—including Mesopotamian, Elamite, Hittite, Canaanite, Hebrew, Urartian, Phoenician, and Egyptian—the expression Old Iranian is used only of ancient Iranian culture as evidenced primarily in the texts of the Avesta, and in certain Old Persian inscriptions and iconography. From the early 1st millennium onwards, as ancient Iranians moved across the plateau into Mesopotamia and beyond, so Iranian culture, including its mythology, interacted with that of the Near East. The ensuing worldviews continue to impact the religions that evolved within the region, specifically, the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions.Mesopotamian myths comprise the earliest literature committed to writing. Alongside the discovery of archaeological sites in which some of the myths are set and of material objects relating to those myths, these texts provide insight into the general ethos, ritual activity, and social structure of the pertinent cultures of Mesopotamia—notably, Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian. The contemporary ancient Egyptians present a similar richness of material and literary culture. In contrast, the Old Iranian myths of the Avesta endured within an oral context until about the 6th century ce, with only cursory allusion to a cosmogony in Old Persian inscriptions, Achaemenid reliefs, and stamp seals.

Article

Sarah Iles Johnston

Myths were told in a broad variety of contexts by a broad variety of people in ancient Greece. Unlike fairy tales and fables, Greek myths focus on specifically named individuals, such as Heracles and Athena, who interact with other such individuals across a span of different stories, creating a network of stories and characters. Although Greek myths explore many of the same plots and themes as other traditional tales, they were particularly interested in tales of heroes, metamorphosis, and love affairs between gods and human women. Ancient intellectuals interpreted myths as allegories or as distorted versions of real history. Modern scholars have used a variety of approaches to interpret Greek myths, most of which have been anchored in act of comparing them to the myths of other cultures: the ritualist approach, the structuralist approach, the psychoanalytical approach and narratological approaches. In the past few decades, there has been increasing interest in mythography and in the reception of Greek myths.

Article

Sylvia Berryman

The ancient Greek mechanical art addressed itself to the manufacture of assorted working artifacts, which were loosely organized into categories that reflected different understandings of the techniques by which they worked. Theories positing mathematical relationships were one reason for regarding groups of devices as part of a technical field; common physical principles governing their operation were another reason. The view that ancient Greek mechanics was regarded as working by magic has been discredited: although mechanics as a field produced “wonders” or show-pieces, this does not seem to have informed the understanding of the technê—a term often translated as art, but bearing implications of systematicity and method—by its practitioners. Aristotle classified mechanics, along with harmonics, astronomy, and optics, as one of the fields intermediate between mathematics and physics (Posterior Analytics 1.13, 78b37; 1.9, 76a24), based on mathematical principles.Balance and weight-lifting technologies, like levers and pulleys, were understood to exhibit mathematical proportions. A weight twice as far from the fulcrum could counterbalance another object twice its weight, or a lever twice as long could be used to raise twice the weight with the same power.

Article

Sylvia Berryman

A branch of the ancient Greek mechanical art, roughly concerned with the movement of fluids and the ways that its properties could be used to produce effects, whether lifting water, holding it suspended, or producing surprise effects that imitate the motions of living beings in theatrical displays. Water-driven timepieces and a steam-powered turbine are included in this branch.A number of early experiments in this area were aimed at establishing the corporeality of air—Anaxagoras, for instance, is credited with a test involving the lowering of a tube closed at its upper end into water, to show that the water’s entrance into the tube is somehow blocked by the air contained in the tube (DK 59A69). Many other such early investigations by natural philosophers were concerned with the explanation of biological phenomena such as respiration and the propulsion of fluids through the body, often by analogy with other more readily visible processes such as the operation of the water clock or klepsydra (see clocks), which features in the Empedoclean account of the mechanics of respiration (DK 31B100; see empedocles).