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Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times
Griffins, Cyclopes, Monsters, and Giants--these fabulous creatures of classical mythology continue to live in the modern imagination through the vivid accounts that have come down to us from the ancient Greeks and Romans. But what if these beings were more than merely fictions? What if monstrous creatures once roamed the earth in the very places where their legends first arose? This is the arresting and original thesis that Adrienne Mayor explores in The First Fossil Hunters. Through careful research and meticulous documentation, she convincingly shows that many of the giants and monsters of myth did have a basis in fact--in the enormous bones of long-extinct species that were once abundant in the lands of the Greeks and Romans.
As Mayor shows, the Greeks and Romans were well aware that a different breed of creatures once inhabited their lands. They frequently encountered the fossilized bones of these primeval beings, and they developed sophisticated concepts to explain the fossil evidence, concepts that were expressed in mythological stories. The legend of the gold-guarding griffin, for example, sprang from tales first told by Scythian gold-miners, who, passing through the Gobi Desert at the foot of the Altai Mountains, encountered the skeletons of Protoceratops and other dinosaurs that littered the ground.
Like their modern counterparts, the ancient fossil hunters collected and measured impressive petrified remains and displayed them in temples and museums; they attempted to reconstruct the appearance of these prehistoric creatures and to explain their extinction. Long thought to be fantasy, the remarkably detailed and perceptive Greek and Roman accounts of giant bone finds were actually based on solid paleontological facts. By reading these neglected narratives for the first time in the light of modern scientific discoveries, Adrienne Mayor illuminates a lost world of ancient paleontology.
While the remains of its massive aqueducts serve as tangible reminders of Rome’s efforts to control its supply of drinking water, there are scant physical reminders that other waters sometimes raged out of control. In fact, floods were simply a part of life in ancient Rome, where proximity to the Tiber left a substantial part of the city vulnerable to the river's occasional transgressions. Here, in the first book-length treatment of the impact of floods on an ancient city, Gregory S. Aldrete draws upon a diverse range of scientific and cultural data to develop a rich and detailed account of flooding in Rome throughout the classical period. Aldrete explores in detail the overflowing river’s destructive effects, drawing from ancient and modern written records and literary accounts, analyses of the topography and hydrology of the Tiber drainage basin, visible evidence on surviving structures, and the known engineering methods devised to limit the reach of rising water. He discusses the strategies the Romans employed to alleviate or prevent flooding, their social and religious attitudes toward floods, and how the threat of inundation influenced the development of the city's physical and economic landscapes.
Conquest and Culture Myths from Antiquity to Islam
From the dawn of writing in Sumer to the sunset of the Islamic empire, Founding Gods, Inventing Nations traces four thousand years of speculation on the origins of civilization. Investigating a vast range of primary sources, some of which are translated here for the first time, and focusing on the dynamic influence of the Greek, Roman, and Arab conquests of the Near East, William McCants looks at the ways the conquerors and those they conquered reshaped their myths of civilization's origins in response to the social and political consequences of empire.
The Greek and Roman conquests brought with them a learned culture that competed with that of native elites. The conquering Arabs, in contrast, had no learned culture, which led to three hundred years of Muslim competition over the cultural orientation of Islam, a contest reflected in the culture myths of that time. What we know today as Islamic culture is the product of this contest, whose protagonists drew heavily on the lore of non-Arab and pagan antiquity.
McCants argues that authors in all three periods did not write about civilization's origins solely out of pure antiquarian interest--they also sought to address the social and political tensions of the day. The strategies they employed and the postcolonial dilemmas they confronted provide invaluable context for understanding how authors today use myth and history to locate themselves in the confusing aftermath of empire.
Scholars have long recognized the relevance to Christianity of the many stories surrounding the life of Alexander the Great, who claimed to be the son of Zeus. But until now, no comprehensive effort has been made to connect the mythic life and career of Alexander to the stories about Jesus and to the earliest theology of the nascent Christian churches. Ory Amitay delves into a wide range of primary texts in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew to trace Alexander as a mythological figure, from his relationship to his ancestor and rival, Herakles, to the idea of his divinity as the son of a god. In compelling detail, Amitay illuminates both Alexander’s links to Herakles and to two important and enduring ideas: that of divine sonship and that of reconciliation among peoples.
The Black Experience of Ancient Egypt
In From Slave to Pharaoh, noted Egyptologist Donald B. Redford examines over two millennia of complex social and cultural interactions between Egypt and the Nubian and Sudanese civilizations that lay to the south of Egypt. These interactions resulted in the expulsion of the black Kushite pharaohs of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty in 671 B.C. by an invading Assyrian army. Redford traces the development of Egyptian perceptions of race as their dominance over the darker-skinned peoples of Nubia and the Sudan grew, exploring the cultural construction of spatial and spiritual boundaries between Egypt and other African peoples. Redford focuses on the role of racial identity in the formulation of imperial power in Egypt and the legitimization of its sphere of influence, and he highlights the dichotomy between the Egyptians' treatment of the black Africans it deemed enemies and of those living within Egyptian society. He also describes the range of responses—from resistance to assimilation—of subjugated Nubians and Sudanese to their loss of self-determination. Indeed, by the time of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, the culture of the Kushite kings who conquered Egypt in the late eighth century B.C. was thoroughly Egyptian itself. Moving beyond recent debates between Afrocentrists and their critics over the racial characteristics of Egyptian civilization, From Slave to Pharaoh reveals the true complexity of race, identity, and power in Egypt as documented through surviving texts and artifacts, while at the same time providing a compelling account of war, conquest, and culture in the ancient world.
Odysseus in Ancient Thought
Praise for Silvia Montiglio "[A] brilliant and important book. . . . " ---Journal of Religion, on Silence in the Land of Logos "[A]n invigorating reevaluation of both the ancient symbolic landscape and our preconceptions of it." ---American Journal of Philology, on Wandering in Ancient Greek Culture Best known for his adventures during his homeward journey as narrated in Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus remained a major figure and a source of inspiration in later literature, from Greek tragedy to Dante's Inferno to Joyce's Ulysses. Less commonly known, but equally interesting, are Odysseus' "wanderings" in ancient philosophy: Odysseus becomes a model of wisdom for Socrates and his followers, Cynics and Stoics, as well as for later Platonic thinkers. From Villain to Hero: Odysseus in Ancient Thought follows these wanderings in the world of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, retracing the steps that led the cunning hero of Homeric epic and the villain of Attic tragedy to become a paradigm of the wise man. From Villain to Hero explores the reception of Odysseus in philosophy, a subject that so far has been treated only in tangential or limited ways. Diverging from previous studies, Montiglio outlines the philosophers' Odysseus across the spectrum, from the Socratics to the Middle Platonists. By the early centuries CE, Odysseus' credentials as a wise man are firmly established, and the start of Odysseus' rehabilitation by philosophers challenges current perceptions of him as a villain. More than merely a study in ancient philosophy, From Villain to Hero seeks to understand the articulations between philosophical readings of Odysseus and nonphilosophical ones, with an eye to the larger cultural contexts of both. While this book is the work of a classicist, it will also be of interest to students of philosophy, comparative literature, and reception studies.
Galen is the most important physician of the Roman imperial era. Many of his theories and practices were the basis for medical knowledge for centuries after his death and some practices—like checking a patient’s pulse—are still used today. He also left a vast corpus of writings which makes up a full one-eighth of all surviving ancient Greek literature. Through her readings of hundreds of Galen’s case histories, Susan P. Mattern presents the first systematic investigation of Galen’s clinical practice. Galen’s patient narratives illuminate fascinating interplay among the craft of healing, social class, professional competition, ethnicity, and gender. Mattern describes the public, competitive, and masculine nature of medicine among the urban elite and analyzes the relationship between clinical practice and power in the Roman household. She also finds that although Galen is usually perceived as self-absorbed and self-promoting, his writings reveal him as sensitive to the patient’s history, symptoms, perceptions, and even words. Examining his professional interactions in the context of the world in which he lived and practiced, Galen and the Rhetoric of Healing provides a fresh perspective on a foundational figure in medicine and valuable insight into how doctors thought about their patients and their practice in the ancient world.
Private Water Rights in Roman Italy
Gardens and Neighbors will provide an important building block in the growing body of literature on the ways that Roman law, Roman society, and the economic concerns of the Romans jointly functioned in the real world. ---Michael Peachin, New York University As is increasingly true today, fresh water in ancient Italy was a limited resource, made all the more precious by the Roman world's reliance on agriculture as its primary source of wealth. From estate to estate, the availability of water varied, in many cases forcing farmers in need of access to resort to the law. In Gardens and Neighbors: Private Water Rights in Roman Italy, Cynthia Bannon explores the uses of the law in controlling local water supplies. She investigates numerous issues critical to rural communities and the Roman economy. Her examination of the relationship between farmers and the land helps draw out an understanding of Roman attitudes toward the exploitation and conservation of natural resources and builds an understanding of law in daily Roman life. An editor of the series Law and Society in the Ancient World, Cynthia Jordan Bannon is also Associate Professor of Classical Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. Her previous book was The Brothers of Romulus: Fraternal Pietas in Roman Law, Literature, and Society (1997). Visit the author's website: http://www.iub.edu/~classics/faculty/bannon.shtml. Jacket illustration: Barren Tuscan Fields in Winter © 2009 Scott Gilchrist. Image from stock.archivision.com.
The Genesis of East Asia examines in a comprehensive and novel way the critically formative period when a culturally coherent geopolitical region identifiable as East Asia first took shape. By sifting through an impressive array of both primary material and modern interpretations, Charles Holcombe unravels what “East Asia” means, and why. He brings to bear archaeological, textual, and linguistic evidence to elucidate how the region developed through mutual stimulation and consolidation from its highly plural origins into what we now think of as the nation-states of China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Beginning with the Qin dynasty conquest of 221 B.C. which brought large portions of what are now Korea and Vietnam within China’s frontiers, the book goes on to examine the period of intense interaction that followed with the many scattered local tribal cultures then under China’s imperial sway as well as across its borders. Even the distant Japanese islands could not escape being profoundly transformed by developments on the mainland. Eventually, under the looming shadow of the Chinese empire, independent native states and civilizations matured for the first time in both Japan and Korea, and one frontier region, later known as Vietnam, moved toward independence. Exhaustively researched and engagingly written, this study of state formation in East Asia will be required reading for students and scholars of ancient and medieval East Asian history. It will be invaluable as well to anyone interested in the problems of ethno-nationalism in the post-Cold War era.