Plutarch‘s essay On Having Many Friends (Περὶ πολυφιλίας) may possibly have been offered on some occasion as a lecture, but there is nothing to prove or disprove this assumption. From what we know of Plutarch’s relations to his friends we can well believe that he was singularly happy in his friendships, and hence well fitted to speak on the subject. He was familiar, too, with the literature dealing with friendship, and the result is an essay well worth reading. Cicero’s essay De amicitia may profitably be compared with Plutarch’s.
Several other texts from Plutarch’s Moralia were added to LacusCurtius:
- On Virtue and Vice (or, if you prefer the original Greek text: Περὶ ἀρετῆς καὶ κακίας)
- On Fortune (Περὶ τύχης)
- Advice to Bride and Groom (Coniugalia praecepta)
As the editor of the third text dryly notes, “The modern bride will undoubtedly turn up her nose and shake her independent head in disapproval of Plutarch’s suggestions about subordinating herself to her husband”. Having seen that Sex and the City movie recently, I’m not so certain about the modern bride: the girls’ only aims appear to be finding & keeping a man. So much for independence, these days. Maybe uncle Plutarch was right, after all.
Halicarnassus, modern Bodrum in southwestern Turkey, is probably best known for one man and one building: the Greek researcher Herodotus (c.480-c.429) was born in this city and the Mausoleum was built there. The town (satellite photo) is still worth a visit: it has a nice theater, parts of the ancient walls are still standing, there is a splendid museum, but the Mausoleum is a bit of a disappointment: most stones were reused to build the castle and most sculptures of this Wonder of the Ancient World are now in the British Museum.
It is impossible to call the period of the Nubian pharaohs an unknown chapter from Egyptian history; I guess every three years, a book is written about them (e.g., R.G. Morkot, The Black Pharaohs. Egypt’s Nubian Rulers ), and I have seen two major exhibitions about them in my small country.
Perhaps, the importance of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty is overestimated. By the mid-eighth century, it seemed that divided Egypt was slowly reuniting again, although it was unclear who was to do this. In the north, Tefnakht of Sais (Twenty-fourth Dynasty) was increasingly powerful, and from the south, king Kashta seized control over Thebes. The collision between the two powers is documented on Piye’s Victory Stela: when Tefnakht started to gain control of Upper Egypt, Piye of Nubia defeated Tefnakht’s armies, captured Memphis, and subdued the princes of Lower Egypt.
His successors, Shabaqo, Shebitqo, and Taharqo (photo), ruled over both kingdoms, and found themselves entangled in the conflict between Assyria and the city states of Palestina. In 701, Egyptian armies were defeated, but they prevented the Assyrian king Sennacherib from seizing all of Palestine; as is well-known, Jerusalem kept its independence.
Thirty years later, Sennacherib’s successor Esarhaddon invaded Egypt and expelled the Nubians in 671. King Taharqo managed to get back, but was defeated again by Esarhaddon’s successor Aššurbanipal. When he found himself caught in a civil war, he recalled his troops from Egypt, and the country was reunited by Psamettichus, a descendant of Tefnakht, who founded the Twenty-sixth Dynasty.
This famous text is now online at LacusCurtius, with an excellent introduction that shows that the text contains all traditional motifs that were supposed to be in a text of this kind, and that Plutarch was able to treat these ideas with great freedom. It is this mastery that makes the text a classic.
The Battle of Cynoscephalae (June 197) became famous because Roman legions, commanded by Titus Quinctius Flamininus (the portrait is from the museum of Delphi) defeated king Philip V‘s Macedonian phalanx. The army that had once been the best in the world and had defeated Persian kings, Indian raja’s, and Sogdian nomads, now had to recognize that the legions were better. The key to the Roman victory, however, was that the site of the battle was extremely hilly, hardly the place where a phalanx could be employed.
The site was identified by the famous military historian N.G.L. Hammond, who published his theory in 1988. I visited the place some fifteen years ago and made several slides. A kind Albanian shepherd helped me find the well near the remains of one of the Roman camps, and kept the dogs away. Your satellite photo is here and Polybius’ famous analysis of the battle – a military classic – is here.
As I could write in this blog several days ago, LacusCurtius’ Bill Thayer recently added The Education of Children to his website. Since then, he has added three more essays by the Sage of Chaeronea:
- On Listening to Lectures (De Auditu)
- Can Virtue be Taught? (An virtus doceri possit)
- Λακαινῶν Ἀποφθέγματα
The English translation of the third text, Sayings of Spartan Women, was already available. I must confess that I think it is not the greatest text Plutarch ever wrote, and many classicists believe that his collections of “sayings of…” were not meant for publication. The two first texts, on the other hand, are certainly worth a brief look.
One of the most impressive texts from the Bible is the book of Daniel, which contains several visions, usually concentrating on the persecution of the Jews by Antiochus IV Epiphanes (picture). The most famous vision is that of the four animals in Daniel 7, representing the world empires, culminating in the coming of the Son of Man.
Daniel 11, however, is equally interesting. It contains an accurate description of the wars between two rulers, the King of the South and the King of the North, who can be identified with the Ptolemies and Seleucids. The wars described are the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Syrian Wars; the last one culminated in the near-capture of Alexandria by Antiochus IV, his humiliation by the Romans, and the beginning of the persecution of the Jews.
The prophecy is accurate until the year 166; after that it becomes a real prediction – and goes astray, enabling us to date this part of Daniel to the second half of the 160s. It is interesting to note that the author opposes the Maccabaean Revolt. The text and explanation are online here.
The brief treatise On the Education of Children (De liberis educandis) is the very first text in the collected works of the Greek author Plutarch (photo), but it was probably not written by the Sage of Chaeronea. Nevertheless, it is interesting -albeit slightly disorganized- and humane. The author offers some commonsensical advise, and a lot of it is in fact, quite appropriately, about educating fathers:
Fathers ought above all, by not misbehaving and by doing as they ought to do, to make themselves a manifest example to their children, so that the latter, by looking at their fathers’ lives as at a mirror, may be deterred from disgraceful deeds and words.
In our age, we might add the mothers as well, but let’s face it: what else is there to be said about education?
A place called Nysa is mentioned by Homer, and when he recited his poem, everybody knew where it was. Later generations, however, did not, and there were all kinds of speculations: it might have been a town in Boeotia, or a peak in the Caucasus, or a place in Libya. None of this was really convincing. When Alexander the Great visited the Punjab, he saw the mountain that was known to the Indians as the world mountain and visited a town called Nysa, and he immediately concluded that he had found the legendary place where the great god Dionysus had been born.
As I already announced, I am moving several pages of my website. Here are four pages that have new URLs: the battle of Chaeronea, the naval battle of Artemisium (photo), photos of the Roman bridge at Adana (southern Turkey), and two photos of the Mycenaean fortress at Gla (Boeotia). Only 309 pages to move and I can proceed to the next phase of the migration to a CMS…
There is also some new stuff about the Altar of the Philaeni in Libya. Meanwhile, LacusCurtius‘ Bill Thayer has made available a weird document from the Ku Klux Klan, that shows how knowledge of the ancient world can get distorted.
Harran, or Carrhae as the Romans called it, is one of the oldest cities in the world. The city in northern Mesopotamia was already important in the third millennium BCE, when it played a role in the Assyrian trade on Anatolia. It was also famous for a temple of the Moon god, Sin, who was venerated by -among many others- the Babylonian king Nabonidus (r.550-539). On a Roman monument in Ephesus, commemorating Lucius Verus‘ Parthian victory (photo), Harran is shown with a banner with a moon on it.
In the Bible, it is mentioned as one of the towns where Abraham stayed on his voyage from Ur to the promised land (Genesis, 11.31). The well where a servant of Abraham met Rebecca, who was to become the wife of Isaac (Genesis, 24), is still shown today.
In Roman history, Harran/Carrhae (satellite photo) became notorious because general Crassus was defeated here by the Parthians, in 53 BCE. It is often said that the desert land played a role, but Harran is in fact situated in the valley of the river Balikh. The story is told in Plutarch‘s Life of Crassus, ch.16ff.