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Article

Courtney Ann Roby

Ancient Greek and Roman scientific and technical works, especially in the exact sciences, were much more commonly illustrated than texts in other genres. The images in those texts ranged from the relatively abstract diagrams in mathematical, astronomical, and harmonic texts to the more pictorial images of botanical, medical, and surveying texts. For the most part, the images that survive are found in medieval manuscript copies. Although there are often striking variations from one manuscript to another, and the parchment or paper codex offers very different possibilities for illustrations than the papyrus rolls on which the ancient texts would originally have been composed, the texts themselves often offer clues about the author’s intentions for the images that accompanied the text.

Illustrations ranging from schematic diagrams to veristic pictorial images are found in surviving copies of many Greek and Roman works on mechanics, harmonics, surveying, medicine, zoology, pharmacology, and other technical subjects.

Article

Neville Morley

Capitalism is a contested term, both in the modern world and in historical studies; different theoretical traditions understand it in radically different ways and, hence, disagree both as to its utility in analysing the ancient economy and as to the meaning and significance of a claim that classical antiquity was in any sense capitalist. These questions overlap with other major debates in ancient economic history. This article identifies the theoretical issues and debates involved in the use of the term, rather than engaging with substantive questions about the nature and development of the ancient economy.Capitalism is a term freighted with heavy ideological baggage; its meaning and significance is disputed in the modern world, and the question of whether or not it is a useful or appropriate term for understanding classical antiquity is inextricably entangled with broader debates about the nature of the ancient economy and how it should be studied. A typical dictionary definition of the term is “an economic system characterized by private or corporation ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision rather than by state control, and by prices, production and the distribution of goods determined mainly in a free market”—contrasted with systems of .

Article

The Hebrew Bible is a book that was primarily written by men, for men, and about men, and thus the biblical text is not particularly forthcoming when it comes to the lives and experiences of women. Other evidence from ancient Israel—the society in which the Hebrew Bible was generated—is also often of little use. Nevertheless, scholars have been able to combine a careful reading of the biblical text with anthropological and archaeological data, and with comparative evidence from the larger biblical world, to reconstruct certain features of ancient Israelite women’s culture. These features include fairly comprehensive pictures of women’s lives as wives and childbearers within Israel’s patrilineal and patrilocal kinship system and of women’s work within the economy of a typical Israelite household. Because the Bible is deeply concerned with religious matters, many aspects of women’s religious culture can also be delineated, even though the Bible’s overwhelmingly male focus means that specific details concerning women’s religious practice must be painstakingly teased out of the biblical text. The Bible’s tendency to focus on the elite classes of ancient Israelite society likewise means that it is possible to sketch a reasonable portrait of the experiences of elite women, especially the women of the royal court, although, again, this information must often be teased out of accounts whose primary interest is elite men.

Article

Courtney Ann Roby

Illustrations were extremely rare in ancient literary texts. They were only occasionally used in medical texts, principally Apollonius of Citium, Dioscorides, and perhaps Soranus; references survive to illustrations in lost works on biology by Aristotle.1 Illustrations, or diagrams, were mandatory in the exact sciences—the unique genre of illustrated text in antiquity. Such diagrams were formed by a network of straight and curved lines (certainly drawn with ruler and perhaps by compass as well; the few extant arcs on papyri are drawn freehand). In the extant literature, diagrams are always labelled by letters of the alphabet, standing typically at the intersection points of the lines. The diagrams are crucial to the logical development of the text and encode some of the information the text takes for granted, in a nonverbal way. At the same time, diagrams are drawn schematically so that the apparent metrical relations of the diagram are not meant to represent the metrical relations of the object studied. Thus, diagrams encode topological rather than metrical properties. The foundational study of these attributes of diagrams is Reviel Netz’s study of 1999.

Article

Bernard Wood, Dandy Doherty, and Eve Boyle

The clade (a.k.a. twig of the Tree of Life) that includes modern humans includes all of the extinct species that are judged, on the basis of their morphology or their genotype, to be more closely related to modern humans than to chimpanzees and bonobos. Taxic diversity with respect to the hominin clade refers to evidence that it included more than one species at any one time period in its evolutionary history. The minimum requirement is that a single ancestor-descendant sequence connects modern humans with the hypothetical common ancestor they share with chimpanzees and bonobos. Does the hominin clade include just modern human ancestors or does it also include non-ancestral species that are closely related to modern humans? It has been suggested there is evidence of taxic diversity within the hominin clade back to 4.5 million years ago, but how sound is that evidence? The main factor that would work to overestimate taxic diversity is the tendency for paleoanthropologists to recognize too many taxa among the site collections of hominin fossils. Factors that would work to systematically underestimate taxic diversity include the relative rarity of hominins within fossil faunas, the realities that many parts of the world where hominins could have been living are un- or under-sampled, and that during many periods of human evolutionary history, erosion rather than deposition predominated, thus reducing or eliminating the chance that animals alive during those times would be recorded in the fossil record. Finally, some of the most distinctive parts of an animal (e.g., pelage, vocal tract, scent glands) are not likely to be preserved in the hominin fossil record, which is dominated by fragments of teeth and jaws.

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

Massimo Raffa

From the earliest stages of Greek thought, sound was thought to originate as the result of an impact between two objects. At first it was believed that the swiftness and force of the impact affected both volume and pitch; then it became clear that these were two different parameters. Pitch, in particular, was connected either to quantitative factors, such as the speed of the movement or the number of subsequent impacts, or to qualitative ones, like the idiotes (“peculiarity”) theorized by Theophrastus. The least investigated parameter of sound is timbre, which was usually attributed to the physical characteristics of the source.There is no specific branch of ancient Greek science or physics named akoustike; nevertheless, the Greeks showed a keen interest in sound and its characteristics from the earliest stages of their literature. In the Homeric poems, sound is conceived of as something that possesses magnitude and direction. Such adverbial forms as .

Article

Nikolay Kradin

Throughout more than two millennia, the extensive droughty areas in East Asia were occupied by pastoral nomads. A long history exists of hybridity between steppe and agricultural areas. The ancient nomads had a specific pastoral economy, a mobile lifestyle, a unique mentality that assumed unpretentiousness and stamina, cults of war, warrior horsemen, and heroized ancestors that were reflected, in turn, in both their verbal oeuvre (heroic epos) and their arts (animal style). They established vast empires that united many peoples. In the descriptions of settled civilizations, the peoples of the steppe are presented as aggressive barbarians. However, the pastoral nomads developed efficient mechanisms of adaptation to nature and circumjacent states. They had a complex internal structure and created different forms of social complexity—from heterarchical confederations to large nomadic empires. The different forms of identity in pastoral societies (gender, age, profession, rank) are presented in this article. Special attention is given to how ethnic identity is formed from small groups. The ethnic history of the ancient nomads of East Asia is described, particularly for such pastoral societies as the Xiongnu, the Wuhuan, the Xianbei, and the Rouran.

Article

Festivals are periods of time, cut out from daily life, during which a group performs activities that are most often thought of as communications with the superhuman world. Festival names in Greece and Rome often express this close connection with a divinity, a hero, or a human founder, or they refer to a ritual activity that is characteristic for a festival. The basic ritual elements that underlie a specific festival scenario are similar in both cultures (as well as in other cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world): processions, sacrifices with ensuing banquets, and athletic and musical contests are most common and exist already in the festival descriptions in Homer, such as the New Moon festival on Ithaca in the Odyssey. Common festivals founded and expressed group identity, first and foremost on the city level, but also for smaller and larger groups, from the family and clan group to the tribe or the community of all Hellenes. Greek and Roman festivals were so similar in their basic forms that, during the Imperial epoch, cities in the eastern part of the Empire adopted Roman festivals despite the fact that Greek cities followed a lunar calendar, whereas Rome early on had introduced a luni-solar system. The one festival type absent from the Roman world, at least during the Republican epoch, was the mystery ritual that, typically through a one-time initiation ritual, founded groups that transcended a single city, as well as the limits of gender and social status. During the Imperial epoch, both Rome and the cities of Greece continued their traditional festivals, but also developed their festival calendars in new directions, continuing and exploring innovations that had occurred already in Hellenistic times. An early development was ruler cult, developed in the Greek cities during Hellenistic times and adopted for the cult of Roman emperors, who exploited its potential to tie together a heterogeneous empire through shared cultic activities. The most important driving force was an understanding of divine power that was defined through its helpful manifestation and thus allowed the cult of outstandingly powerful humans. Wealthy citizens of Hellenistic cities also founded festivals in the memory of family members, and during the Imperial period, such foundations multiplied and gained in grandeur. The Imperial epoch also saw the extension of single festivals to events that lasted many days, if not an entire month and helped to shape the Christian festival calendar with its long festival periods.

Article

From the end of the Archaic era to the end of the Hellenistic period, all officials of Greek cities were required to render their accounts (euthynai) through procedures, which varied according to political regimes and times. Most of the time a board of controlling officials examined the accounts. This examination would take place at the end of the officials’ terms of office, but sometimes a partial examination took place during the terms. The controlling magistrates could initiate prosecutions against officials. In democracies, ordinary citizens could also sue magistrates in court. The procedure for holding officials accountable is called euthynai (correction) in the ancient sources. Many literary texts and epigraphic sources show the importance of the practice, particularly during the Classical and the Hellenistic periods. It was one of the most important features of civic institutions. From the End of the Archaic Period onwards, the Greek cities took a series of measures to prevent abuses of power by officials: accountability was only one of these measures. In fact, in Greek political thought, tyrannical power is characterised as aneuthynos (e.g., Herodotus 3.80.3), which broadly means “not subject to legal proceedings” or “uncontrolled.” Officials had to render their accounts (mostly logon apodidonai or tas euthynas didonai in Greek), at the end of their time in office as well as while in office. In most poleis, a separate body of magistrates was tasked with examining these accounts. At these moments, a set of procedures (which varied from city to city) enabled ordinary citizens to bring charges against officials before the courts.

Article

Along with ceramics production, sedentism, and herding, agriculture is a major component of the Neolithic as it is defined in Europe. Therefore, the agricultural system of the first Neolithic societies and the dispersal of exogenous cultivated plants to Europe are the subject of many scientific studies. To work on these issues, archaeobotanists rely on residual plant remains—crop seeds, weeds, and wild plants—from archaeological structures like detritic pits, and, less often, storage contexts. To date, no plant with an economic value has been identified as domesticated in Western Europe except possibly opium poppy. The earliest seeds identified at archaeological sites dated to about 5500–5200 bc in the Mediterranean and Temperate Europe. The cultivated plants identified were cereals (wheat and barley), oleaginous plant (flax), and pulses (peas, lentils, and chickpeas). This crop package originated in the Fertile Crescent, where it was clearly established around 7500 bc (final Pre-Pottery Neolithic B), after a long, polycentric domestication process. From the middle of the 7th millennium bc, via the Balkan Peninsula, the pioneer Neolithic populations, with their specific economies, rapidly dispersed from east to west, following two main pathways. One was the maritime route over the northwestern basin of the Mediterranean (6200–5300 bc), and the other was the terrestrial and fluvial route in central and northwestern continental Europe (5500–4900 bc). On their trajectory, the agropastoral societies adapted the Neolithic founder crops from the Middle East to new environmental conditions encountered in Western Europe. The Neolithic pioneers settled in an area that had experienced a long tradition of hunting and gathering. The Neolithization of Europe followed a colonization model. The Mesolithic groups, although exploiting plant resources such as hazelnut more or less intensively, did not significantly change the landscape. The impact of their settlements and their activities are hardly noticeable through palynology, for example. The control of the mode of reproduction of plants has certainly increased the prevalence of Homo sapiens, involving, among others, a demographic increase and the ability to settle down in areas that were not well adapted to year-round occupation up to that point. The characterization of past agricultural systems, such as crop plants, technical processes, and the impact of anthropogenic activities on the landscape, is essential for understanding the interrelation of human societies and the plant environment. This interrelation has undoubtedly changed deeply with the Neolithic Revolution.

Article

Sanctuaries and ritual traditions commonly gained prestige through claims of antiquity; conversely, novelty was an accusation occasionally leveled against groups such as the Christians. Yet ritual geography and practices were, in practice, always liable to revision, and it is evident that certain gods, holy places, and rituals had precise historical origins. How was change introduced, managed, and understood in the ancient Mediterranean world? Several varieties of innovation can be differentiated: (1) Many city-states had defined procedures for introducing new gods and initiating new collective rituals: those procedures were often envisaged as involving the active participation of the gods, as instigators or approvers of change. As in all religious systems balances were to be struck between existing religious authority, wherever vested, and the prophets, priests, and others who gained from the change; (2) Another variety of innovation represented homeostatic reactions to other changes, such as the foundations of cities, disasters survived, the fall or rise of monarchies, and the like; (3) Potentially most disruptive were those innovations brought by migration and/or the transfer of ideas and rituals across the connected Mediterranean world. The spread of mystery religions, of astrology, and of new gods provide examples of this. Certain societies were more receptive than others to this kind of novelty. Religious innovations of the first two kinds were often assimilated into the loosely bounded ritual systems of antiquity, but other changes had a cumulative effect that changes the religious geography permanently.

Article

Genetic analyses of southern African livestock have been limited and primarily focused on agricultural production rather than the reconstruction of prehistory. Attempts to sequence DNA preserved in archaeological remains of domestic stock have been hampered by the discovery of high error rates in the morphological identification of fauna. As such, much DNA sequencing effort that was directed at sequencing southern Africa’s domestic livestock has been expended sequencing wild forms. The few genetic data that are available from both modern and archaeological domestic stock show relatively low genetic diversity in maternally inherited mitochondrial lineages in both sheep and cattle. Analyses of modern stock show, in contrast, that the bi-parentally inherited nuclear genome is relatively diverse. This pattern is perhaps indicative of historic cross-breeding with stock introduced from outside Africa. Critically important to moving forward in our understanding of the prehistory of domesticates in southern Africa is attention to the high error rates in faunal analyses that have been documented both genetically and through ZooMS.

Article

Parmenides of Elea is one of the most profound and challenging of the early Greek philosophers. He wrote a didactic poem treating metaphysical and cosmological themes presented in the form of a mystical revelation. It comprised a proem describing his journey to the Halls of Night, where a goddess greets him and presents this revelation in two main parts, which have come to be known as the Way of Truth and the Way of Opinion. The Way of Truth presents a tightly structured sequence of arguments that What Is must be “ungenerated and deathless, | whole and uniform, and still and perfect” (28B8.3–4 DK). The Way of Opinion comprised a cosmology based on the elemental principles Light and Night that contained numerous innovations, including identification of the sun as the source of the moon’s light. Parmenides’ thought inspired diverse reactions and appropriations in antiquity, and both its details and ultimate significance have continued to be intensely controversial. Modern interpretations divide into three main types: those that view Parmenides as a strict monist who denied the existence of the sensible world, those that view him as providing a higher-order characterization of the principles of any acceptable cosmology, and those that understand him as pursuing the distinctions between necessary being, necessary non-being or impossibility, and mutable or contingent being.

Article

Jakob Fortunat Stagl

The institutional scheme of Roman law was developed primarily by Gaius on the basis of a preceding tradition of law manuals. The scheme consists of dividing the law into a General Part, Family Law, Property Law, Law of Succession, Law of Obligations, and Civil Procedure. This scheme is apparent not only in Gaius’s Institutes but also in the whole of his didactic scheme, which can be discerned from descriptions of the curriculum in his time. Gaius’s larger didactic scheme is indebted to contemporary philosophical, rhetorical, and didactic currents, which made it possible for him to organise the law of Rome in such a solid and plausible way that the emperor Justinian adopted this scheme for his compilation, comprising the Institutes, the Digest, and the Codex.

Article

Reception in historical novels set in ancient Greece and Rome differs fundamentally between the 19th and the 20th/21st centuries. In the 19th century, reception was governed heavily by imperial attitudes and religious controversies, particularly in regard to claims about the true Christian faith under the Roman Empire. Hence, novels set in Rome or the Roman Empire dominated the field. In the 20th century, attitudes to empire and religion were drastically revised in the wake of World War I. The growing authority of academic history in an age of scientific progress was another factor which helped to produce a decline in the reputation of historical fiction. Other changes, however, were more stimulating in nature, including the use of ancient Greece as a setting, more impressive source analysis, the rise of female novelists, different subjects and perspectives, and new social and sexual attitudes. These and other developments lifted the reputation of historical fiction once more.

Article

Launched in 1997, FAMSI.org established itself as the leading digital platform for the promotion and dissemination of Mesoamerican scholarship to the widest possible audience. The online arm of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc., a nonprofit pledged to foster increased understanding of ancient Mesoamerican cultures, FAMSI.org crosscut disciplinary divisions and facilitated communication between scholars in the United States and those in Latin America. The eight-member Board of Directors and its advisory committee ensured that the foundation would harness the spirit of generosity and creativity that characterized the early days of the Internet for the benefit of a likewise emergent discipline. As the Website developed, FAMSI sought partnerships with and contributions from institutions around the world in order to make educational resources publicly available. The Website hosts a remarkable amount of primary research material, including image databases, contemporary and historical indigenous-language dictionaries, ethnographic videos, maps, and an up-to-date, searchable subject-specific bibliography, all of which are available in both English and Spanish and accessible at no cost to visitors. Between 1997 and 2006, the Website grew exponentially, but like many of its early counterparts, the site’s utility and navigability ultimately suffered as a result of the rapid development of new software and the obsolescence of existing digital platforms; searches became sluggish and unwieldy. While visitorship remained high for an academic site—over a million unique visitors a year—a 2012 survey indicated that scholars frequented only known parts of the site while novice users spent as little as a few minutes on the site. The global economic crisis of 2008 destabilized FAMSI’s funding, and in 2010 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) assumed stewardship of the foundation as well as the Website. The museum began to maintain and review FAMSI.org, ultimately deciding to update and transform the Website into a new platform, AncientAmericas.org, which broadens the scope beyond that of Mesoamerica. FAMSI, with its dedication to research and online collaboration, became the principal resource for the research of ancient American cultures for both a scholarly and general audience beginning in the mid-1990s. Its enduring legacy is the spirit of interdisciplinary and international cooperation and generosity that it fostered.

Article

Oskar Kaelin

The ancient Egyptians were surrounded by various manifestations of their many gods. Though their gods usually lived in heaven or in the netherworlds, they were permanently represented on earth by monuments, statues, symbols, animals, and plants, as well as by social concepts. The Egyptians described their gods by various names and images, always aware that in the end their true personalities and characters remained elusive. The ancient Egyptian universe comprised heaven, earth, and netherworld, all part of creation and surrounded by eternal darkness. Though separate areas, they were permeable for the gods and the dead. The universe ran smoothly as long as there was respect and cooperation between them and the living. This formed an ideological, social, and economic cohesion. The gods were powerful but benevolent, and approachable in many ways. The divine king was the hub between the world of the gods and the human sphere. He was the main entity responsible for organizing the supply and welfare of the humans, and for keeping order. During official festivals, the living, the gods, and the dead celebrated together, but there were also a number of more personal ways to approach deities. The various sites of interaction between gods and men formed a vast network connecting all the players: the gods were responsible for creation and abundance, the kings and elites were primarily responsible for ensuring that the system ran according to Maat (“Order”), and the people were responsible for living and working throughout the country. The system of ancient Egyptian gods structured Egyptian ideas, policies, and everyday life from the end of the 4th millennium bce to the rise of Christianity and beyond. The ancient Egyptians’ beliefs were polytheistic, acknowledging the existence of thousands of gods and endless deceased humans. At times, the ancient Egyptians appeared to be henotheistic and would exalt a deity in his or her uniqueness. Moreover, with Akhenaten, they were the first to experiment with monotheism, though that did not last much longer than a decade. The ideas and images created for the Egyptian gods and religion had an impact on many contemporaneous cultures, as well as on later religions.

Article

Korshi Dosoo

While ancient Egyptians had no conception of religion as a distinct sphere of life, modern scholars have identified a wide range of Egyptian beliefs and practices relating to the divine. Egyptian religion can be traced back to predynastic times, and it developed continuously until the decline of temple religion in the Roman Period. Three mythic cycles are key to its understanding: the creation of the world, and the related solar cycle, which describe the origin and maintenance of the world, and the Osiris cycle, which provides a justification for the human institutions of kingship and funerary rites. Egyptian religion may be seen as being centered on its temples, which functioned both as sites for the worship of the resident gods and the elaboration of their theologies and as important economic and political centers. In addition to gods, three other categories of divine beings played important roles in Egyptian religious practice: kings, sacred and divine animals, and the dead. The king was intimately involved in the temple religion, as the mediator between the divine and human spheres, the patron of the temples, and the beneficiary of his own rituals, while divine and sacred animals seem to have been likewise understood as living embodiments of divine power. Death was understood through a range of metaphors, to which the ritual response was to link the deceased to one or more of the cosmic cycles through practices aimed at translating them into the divine sphere and thus ensuring their continued existence. As with all aspects of the religion, these rituals changed over time but show remarkable consistency throughout recorded history. Alongside these rituals centered on temple, royal, and funerary cults, a number of personal religious practices have been reconstructed as well as one major break in continuity, the “Amarna Revolution,” in which the ruling king seems to have briefly instituted a form of monotheism.

Article

Concepts of religion and humanity form an integral component of Mesopotamian narrative literature, and these ideas are evidenced in the frequent exploration of themes involving mortality and immortality, power and authority, and creation and destruction. Through the use of plot, characterization, literary themes and techniques, and also structure, Mesopotamian myths and epics transmit religious ideas and beliefs, as well as informing on cultural identity and meaning. In both oral and written transmission, storytelling is a powerful medium for exploring ancient theology. Religious ideas are expressed in a wide array of Mesopotamian literary works, and while some features, such as the polytheistic view of the divine hierarchy, remain generally constant, different texts and “genres” show changes in focus and in the perception of the divine and the human. While deities and supernatural creatures have a prominent role in literature, Mesopotamian myth is not only concerned with theistic matters, but also with what it means to be human. It is often observed in modern scholarly works that humans, in the Babylonian Flood narrative of Atrahasis, and the creation myth of Enuma Elish, were born to serve the gods and perform their menial tasks. This is undoubtedly an important observation for the analysis of humanity and religion, yet the presentation of human/divine relations as one of simple subjection gives a misleading and superficial impression of the interaction between the mortal and divine spheres, one that is at odds with the subject’s complexity, variety, and subtlety. Myths and epics provide a multifaceted picture of a number of different types of relationships between gods and humans: even in the narrative of Atrahasis, individual deities interact with humans in different ways; there is no “one size fits all” divine connection in Mesopotamian literature. Despite a rigid hierarchy in favor of the divine, these relationships are frequently close, involving strong emotional bonds. The human/divine connection is not solely beneficial to either party, but reciprocal and often mutually rewarding. At the same time, the relations between humans and deities can be destructive and damaging—with the harm most often depicted to occur on the human side, possibly because of the vulnerability offered by mortality and the lack of supernatural abilities. Humanity is reflected in the anthropomorphic representations of deities and also the sociomorphism of their family-oriented community structure. For heroes of epic literature, the divine connection can be perilous, but also rewarding. The success of heroes in accessing divine support is frequently (but not exclusively) linked to the morality of their actions. Religion and humanity in literature concern not only deities’ interactions with humans, but also how the authors of literature conceptualized and gave meaning to the human condition. It is clear from Mesopotamian literature that close, positive relationships with the divine were important for survival and success during the human lifespan (and even beyond), yet at the same time, the answer to questions of finding meaning in mortal existence is at times presented in very human terms. Love, alongside shared human achievements and experiences, is presented in several literary sources as essential for giving meaning to the human condition.