In Defense of Gorgo, Queen of Sparta

 

Related image

Bitches get stitches

In 2016, when Civilization 6 was announcing leaders that would be present in the game, there was a vocal uproar from the video game community over the selection of Gorgo as a leader of Sparta/the Greek civilization. And though she was accompanied with other Greek historical darling Pericles, her announcement was met with anger for being chosen over her husband Leoniades and for, well, being a woman. While that particular complaint has arisen, transparently, along with any female leader announced for the game (I see you, haters), I’d like to offer a polite reminder that though a large portion of boys suffering from an inferiority complex (and who’ve been collectively creaming themselves over Leoniades’ painted abdomen since the release of 300 in 2006) might be remiss in knowing, Queen Gorgo of Sparta was a badass in her own right too, k thx.

Gorgo Hate

YouTube being YouTube

It’s no surprise that the Spartans have a particular sheen of cultural mythos surrounding them, holding a torch of fascination since pretty much the inception of obsessive interest. Laconophilia, love/admiration of Sparta, began as a cultural phenomenon as far back as the Persian Wars–when Spartans were still readily punting dignitaries–and carried on through much of history, re-surging along with other movements of Classical reclamation as during the Renaissance (or through the assholery of Heinrich Schliemann). And much of that famous Spartan toughness comes from their culture of Exemplum, a concept I do have plans to cover while on my Greek kick. (Yes, I do actually have an outline/plan for posts, don’t quote me on this). Keeping all this in mind, Gorgo of Sparta emerged in the annals of western history (one in which, at this time primarily written by Greek scholars, tended to exclude women) as a legendary figure who exemplified the sassy rough-edges of the perfect Spartan and fostered intrigue amongst their frenemy Athens.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Best History Things of 2018

Kylian Mbappe of France celebrates with the World Cup trophy following the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Moscow, Russia

Favorite historical photo of the year is my bae Mbappe’ with the France World Cup win!

Happy New Year, dear Histastrophe followers! I wanted to take the time before aggressively drowning the rest of my night away in whiskey and Yahtzee to give you my personal favorites of History Things from this past year. Sure, this is just my opinion alone, but I think you’ll find that I have great taste regardless and that you’ll be fairly familiar with some of the below or, if not, will go out and make it so! Without further ado–the Best History Things of 2018:

Book: Circe by Madeline Miller

Image result for circe book cover

Madeline Miller has been making a name for herself over the years by writing beautiful narrative works on Ancient/Classical Greece history particularly ground in mythology! Circe follows the tale of the famous witch who became entangled with Odysseus in The Odyssey and intertwines many other well known Greek Mythological tales into the story. It’s wonderfully written and fun to read–you’ll catch yourself guessing or picking up on all of the little Greek Mythology references!

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world. – Summary from the Publisher Little, Brown and Company

 

Video Game: Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

This one is a no brainer, but Ubisoft has since shifted their action series into full on Open World/RPG experiences with extensive world maps and quests which have kept me busy for a few months now with no end in sight. AC: Odyssey follows Kassandra on a quest to learn more about her family and topple a mysterious influence over the Hellenic world while navigating the war torn political and military landscapes of The Peloponnesian War. Along the way, you’ll run into famous Classical Greek figures like Socrates, Pericles, and Herodotus. Yes, please.

 

TV Show: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

A disturbing and yet intriguing mini-series, Ryan Murphy follows up with another American Crime Story focusing on the string of murders perpetrated by Andrew Cunanan in the mid-to-late 90’s which ultimately ended in the cold blooded murder of famous Fashion Designer Gianni Versace. The series mostly follows the life and crimes of Cunanan with an intoxicatingly twisted portrayal by Darren Criss, which he won an Emmy for this year.

 

Movie: The Favourite

Watch. This. Movie. Director Yargos Lanthimos isn’t everybody’s cup of tea–The Lobster and Killing of A Sacred Deer being divisive among many circles despite being personally loved by me. But The Favourite is compelling enough to be pleasing to almost anyone as long as they don’t have any problems watching three ladies on-screen connive and manipulate one another in depraved, sexual and political games. Set in the court of England’s Queen Anne with the feuding Sarah Churchill (Yes, that family of Churchill) and Abigail Masham, the script is packed with witticisms and the anachronisms are clever–yet, in case you’re having too much fun laughing at the absurdities showcased in the film, Yargos is quick to slap the audience with a much needed reality check when appropriate.

Note: I had a really hard time picking a fave for Historical movie of 2018, there has been a lot of great movies that have come out this year. Other contenders are Vice, Operation Finale, Mary Queen of Scots, First Man, Colette, Outlaw King, BlacKKKlansmen, and Green Book to name a small few.

 

Podcast: You Must Remember This

Image result for you must remember this podcast

Though this podcast debuted by Slate in 2014, everyone is looking for a podcast recommendation, right? Host and writer Karina Longworth delves into Hollywood and Film History of the Silver Screen Era with some modern takes and comparisons with today’s world. Narrated and told as if you were gossiping together at an Oscar’s Viewing Party, listen to this if you want to get the dish on all of the scandals and drama of Hollywood’s past.

http://www.youmustrememberthispodcast.com/

 

News: 8-Year Old Girl Pulls Sword From Lake of King Arthur’s Excalibur

Saga Vanecek standing in lake Vidöstern in Tånnö, southern Sweden

ALL HAIL QUEEN SAGA!

 

Histastrophe Post: The Nose Goes: When Octavian Meets Alexander the Great

My most popular and visited post of this year goes to When Octavian Meets Alexander the Great. Apparently, folks are super interested in both the whereabouts and fate of Alexander’s corpse in 2018!

The Nose Goes: When Octavian Meets Alexander the Great

It starts like any whimsical joke, so Octavian meets Alexander the Great. And, naturally, the end of it is marked with a well-placed punch. Not least of all, the humor in it accented by the fact that Alexander is, well, super dead. To bring us back to this moment in time, Octavian who is soon…

And with that, thank god 2018 is over. Happy New Year!

A Touch of Classical Wisdom XII

“Always be the Best, my boy, the bravest,

and hold your head high above the others.”

Homer II VI 247, Glaucus tells Diomedes his father’s words of advice.

These words inspired Cicero and, were said, to have motivated Alexander the Great. An ancient lofty quote such as this would have probably been tattooed on calves, penciled on to school notebooks, or stickered on the bumper of a car if it were to remain as popular today. #BringBackGlaucus

 

Fact Check it, yo!

[1] Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician, Anthony Everitt.

[2] Harries, Byron. “’Strange Meeting’: Diomedes and Glaucus in ‘Iliad’ 6.” Greece & Rome, vol. 40, no. 2, 1993, pp. 133–146. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/643154.

Midas Touch – When Archaeology and Myth Craft a Delicious Beer

Image result for midas touch beer dogfish

Liquid gold

History being a life long passion of mine, I often inform people of this fact when dancing through the usual small-talk ‘get to know you’ questions. This is something that usually doesn’t inspire much interest and most of the responses I receive are something along the lines of, “Ah, that’s cool–always found it boring in school though.” History is more than just memorizing dates, I’d exclaim! It’s insanely dramatic and fun, filled with stories so crazy half the thrill of it is knowing it happened for real–and sometimes, it even uncovers ancient recipes for booze that can be reproduced for us modern day plebeians to try! How are you not entertained?!

Almost 50 years ago, Penn University excavated a tomb found at the ancient site of Gordion, Turkey. Gordion was famous for being where the impossibly legendary Gordian Knot was tied and prophesied to be undone only by someone destined to rule all of Asia. That someone turned out to be Alexander the Great because if there was ever a prophecy, it certainly applied to him most conveniently. Geez, Alexander, leave some table scraps for the rest of us! Gordion was also famous for being the seat of the kingdom of Phrygia which was home to a famous ruler you may have also heard tales of. That being King Midas of poorly chosen wishes. Though the tomb hasn’t been definitively proven to be that of Midas [1] (the other assumption is that it may instead belong to his father Gordius), Archaeologists are sure that the tomb certainly belonged to a beloved Phyrgian king from the Iron Age because they discovered the body of a 60-65 year old male adjourned in purple and surrounded by over 150+ bronze drinking vessels left over from a celebratory farewell feast held outside of his tomb.  The collection was whisked away and sent off to the Penn Museum for safe keeping and forgotten about until Dr. Patrick McGovern, basically the Indiana Jones of ancient alcohols & beverages became bored one day and decided to take a closer look at the contents. [2]

Phrygian jug

Sexy drinking vessel

Using an array of micro-chemical analysis including, but not limited to, infrared spectrometry, gas and liquid chromatography, and mass spectrometry (I don’t know what any of this means but I wanted to include it so I could make any of the science nerds in the audience warm and fuzzy), he was able to isolate the marker compounds of specific natural products that were contained in these vessels by studying the sticky residue found in the remains. And what he found was shocking–besides the completely normal consumption of spicy, barbecued lamb and lentil stew, he found evidence to suggest that the drink of choice among these funeral revelries was a booze concoction hinting of grape wine, honey mead, and barley beer together. A mixture that made him blanch at the thought!

That doesn’t even sound good, right? Ever curious, however, Dr. Patrick McGovern issued a challenge to micro-brewers while speaking at a convention, and invited any one of them to join him in the labs the next morning to see if they could reverse engineer the drink found in Midas’ tomb. At least 20 micro-brewers took him up on the offer, but only one came out the victor–Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery. Together, they created Midas Touch–a craft brew you can actually purchase and drink today! It’s completely based off of the components found in the drinking vessels making it the oldest ancient ale recipe. It’s made with white muscat grapes, honey, and barley–actually a pretty delicious combination having tried it. It falls more on the line of mead in my opinion. It also contains the addition of saffron–it’s a bit of conjecture, but since the bittering agent hops wasn’t introduced to Europe until around 700 AD, they went with this extremely valuable spice which was found prominently in Turkey during antiquity and which is possible to have been the component responsible for the yellowish color found in the residue in the drinking vessel remains. The beer isn’t the cheapest in the world, thanks to the saffron, but it’s an insanely yummy drink and I personally love it not being much of a beer drinker myself. Makes for a fun immersive history experience too, now you have a taste for what ancient peoples drank! [3]

Now, if you’re a bit hazy on the details of Midas and why you remember his name, I got you–there are a few mythological traditions that his story comes from thanks in part to Aristotle and the diligent re-tellings of Ovid in his Metamorphoses XI. 

Image result for king midas painting

What Gordian Knot?

There are a few variations, but one of the more well known ones has Dionysus, the god of wine and other wild pleasures making him the favorite of Dude-Bros everywhere, hanging out with his gang of satyrs and the like. One of the satyrs, Silenos, gets super drunk and finds himself kidnapped by a bunch of filthy peasants and brought to King Midas. One variation has Midas actually lacing a drinking fountain with wine because apparently Silenos, when drunk, spouts all kinds of useful wisdom and quips and lashed out a positively delightful one upon being abducted to court:

The best thing for man is not to be born at all, and the second best thing is to die as soon as possible. [4]

Yikes. Either way, King Midas recognizes Silenos and pays extra attention to his comforts, lavishing him with entertainments for 10 days before returning him to Dionysus who is surprised and exceedingly grateful. Dionysus tells Midas that he’ll grant him one wish in thanks for not raping or murdering the hell out of Silenos which most ancient men are want to do in these days and Midas takes next to no time in deliberating on what his true desires are. Clearly lacking in the gift of hindsight, which he should have wished for instead if you ask me, he requested that everything he touched be turned instantly to gold.

Wish granted, Midas was pleased to see that he could turn all matter into glittering gold, most likely singing the line from Smash Mouth’s All Star as he did so. He was delighted when twigs and leaves shifted to aurum with the slightest touch and skipped on back to his court excited for a future filled with endless wealth. He began to regret his wish pretty quick, however, when he realized his new golden touch also applied to anything he tried to drink or eat–apparently not being a dickish enough king to demand being hand-fed to by his servants. He soon became so inconsolably hungry and thirsty, that he went crying back to Dionysus asking for the wish to be taken back. Dionysus told him to stop being such a whiny baby and go wash off the wish in the river Paktolos which could be found near Sardis. Doing as he was told, Midas washed away his golden touch in the river which is said to be why the sands of the river are forever golden. [4]

That’s the most famous story of King Midas but there were others. Another one has Midas’s bad judgment continuing when he foolishly insists Pan to be a better musician than Apollo, which results in the god furiously cursing him with donkey ears for being such an ass. Then there is the supposed bastard son of Midas, Lityerses, who is some kind of proto-Dexter serial killer who tricks travelers into competing against him in an unwinnable contest and then ceremoniously whipping, beheading them, and then stuffing up his victims into a corn stack while singing a playful tune (probably also All Star by Smash Mouth). Herakles came across him and was like nah brah and gave him a piece of his own medicine. [4]

Image result for king midas

In a much later version, Midas’ daughter becomes the victim of his golden touch.

 

But whether or not you believe in Greek Mythology being in any way factual (no judgments from me), there really was a King Midas of Phrygia which is why Archaeologists assume he could be the occupant of the tomb they found and the owner of the vast amount of residue-y drinking vessels. The Midas most likely featuring in these tales reigned around the 8th century BC during the time of Sargon II. He showed up a few times in correspondences and was known as an aggressive and powerful ruler who allied himself with Hittite kings (basically Troy, ya’ll) against the Assyrians. He also cooperated in coordinated military campaigns with the Greeks, which might explain why they adored him enough to feature him in stories (whether or not they were much for flattery). Sources also suggest that he had dedicated his throne to Apollo in Delphi (perhaps as an apology in hopes of getting his old human ears back, no?) and that he had married a Greek princess and daughter of King Agememnon of Kyme (Not that Agememnon). Her name was Hermodike II and she’s credited with inventing Greek coinage which might explain the whole gold thing, who knows. [5]

Oh and also, this was secretly a Kingslayers post all along (Hah! Got you!) According to sources, which include Herodotus, this King Midas committed suicide by drinking bull’s blood. [5]

Because why in the gods names would you do such a thing.

 

Cause of Death: Drinking the blood of bovines when he should have been drinking Dogfish Craft Beer, clearly.

 

Fact Check it, yo!

 

[1] Krill, Richard M. “Midas: Fact and Fiction.” International Social Science Review, vol. 59, no. 1, 1984, pp. 31–34. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41881501.

[2] McGovern, Patrick. Midas Touch, www.penn.museum/sites/biomoleculararchaeology/?page_id=143.

[3] Johnson, Marilyn. Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble. Harper, 2014. Ch. Extreme Beverages

[4] March, Jennifer R. The Penguin Book of Classical Myths. Penguin, 2010. Pgs. 532-534

[5] Berndt-Ersöz, Susanne. “The Chronology and Historical Context of Midas.” Historia: Zeitschrift Für Alte Geschichte, vol. 57, no. 1, 2008, pp. 1–37. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25598415.

 

 

It’s All Greek to Me!

 

Image result for greek ruins

Physical representation of my writing discipline.

 

Gather around the hearth, my friends. I have a story to tell!

There was once a proud blogger who panicked when she realized that she was about to reach 100 published posts. This was a crowning achievement, she thought, and so she wanted to do something special to celebrate this momentous occasion. Perhaps I should do an extensive essay on my blog’s tagline and prove it do-able — 

Because even monkeys can write a paper on Misogyny, Aristotle, and Middle Age Europe.

Oops, yeah. That blogger is me.

I have a tendency to buckle under pressure, especially when it is self-imposed. I envisioned this research being something akin to an amateur thesis, the scope of it so grand! I was ramping up to it with my posts such as Illuminating the Dark Ages, and had another planned to cover the contentious Great Man Theory, and then to round out with a state of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages before I hit you with my epic take.

But, alas, I have failed to do so. Not because I can’t write it–but because I can’t commit to doing it. I don’t feel like it. History for me is a muse and he takes me through various phases of interest and right now, I must admit, my headspace is about nearly 2,000 years in the past from where I need to be in order to successfully pull off this ‘golden post’.

Yeah, I’m talking about Classical Greece.

assassins-creed-odyssey-fps-fix

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey came out and if you’ve been following my blog all these years (Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!) you know already that I’m versed primarily in Classical Antiquity. So for a role-playing video game with an open world concept functioning like a sandbox where the developers researched every painstaking detail to fill their map with as close to accurate representations of historical locations as it is possible for any of us to know–I’m all over that in a heartbeat.

The consequence being, however, that this is pretty much all I feel like writing about right now. Which brings me to the problem with this ‘Golden 100 Post’. I haven’t updated my blog in the past month, despite an interest in doing so (just not on the purposed topic I had planned!) because I’m literally 2 posts away from hitting 100. Well, now 1 away with this one. With my proposed celebratory essay, this didn’t leave room for me to dabble and post about anything else! So, to allow myself the freedom to again write about anything in History that I find fascinating (or humorous) enough to share with you–I’m going to let myself off the hook on the celebration post. I’ll get to it when I’m good and ready! I can certainly still clap for myself on reaching 100 with or without the sweating over a research essay I’m not earning a letter grade for!

So in the meantime, you can expect some Ancient/Classical Greek inspired posts from me as I continue to gallivant around in a video game and am reminded of things I’ve always wanted to touch on our look into deeper for myself. And the good news is, I’ll get to introduce you to Aristotle a bit more too before I start retroactively blaming him for a bunch of bullshit.

Thanks for sticking around with my general assholery and lack of a coherent update schedule–I’m about to get a little Greeky with it.

 

 

Illuminating the Dark Ages

Image result for middle ages

Depiction of King Valdemar IV of Denmark in 1361. Painting by Carl Gustaf Hellqvist 1851-1890.

There are two ways people generally look upon the past, either with fondness and nostalgia or with scrutiny and disdain. That’s why we can never all quite agree on whether or not high school is the worst or best years of your life or if the 90’s really were all that and a bag of chips. Historically, it’s no different–was the Classical era a time of heightened scholarship and monuments or was it a barbaric time lacking of spiritual sense and with an inclination towards bloodshed? Many scholars during the Renaissance would certainly argue that point. So it was then, during The Enlightenment era of the 18th century in particular, that it seemed only fitting to look upon the time between history bookended by the fall of the Western Roman Empire to Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the Americas as a period of considerable dimness. Both metaphorically and intellectually. A time in between two eras commonly thought of as periods of prosperity and culture. We know it as The Dark Ages and I’m calling bullshit on that conception.

What do you think of when your brain mulls over The Dark Ages? I’m sure squalor and peasantry comes immediately to mind, probably with a healthy dose of Bubonic plague coupled with high infant mortality rates for the helluva it. Not to mention self-flagellation, the burning of suspected practitioners of devil worship and witchcraft, and The Crusades. You’re probably picturing monks with tube-ring hairdos, Norsemen with burly beards and a fondness for pillaging monasteries, and a whole lot of chainmail. It’s easy to imagine this time being one of darkness since all of that does sound pretty bleak, I know, but is it a fair assessment to have? Is it not incorrect to view history through the lens of progress? After all, what will future civilizations think of us when they look back at our historical era?

Continue reading

To Be or Not To Be Hanged, Drawn, & Quartered

Image result for hung drawn and quartered

Er, do I have to?

Warning in advance, it’s about to get all morbid up in here! I’ve been reading The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones, a narrative romp in British History imploding into a shower of blood and political upheaval only to settle into a charred semblance of stability that George R.R. Martin saw and was like, you know, this would be a fun inspiration for a thing where I slaughter all of my characters for sheer entertainment.

One thing that struck me more than how often power changed hands like the casting of the doctor in Doctor Who was how frequently someone wound up Hanged, Drawn, and Quartered throughout this mess. Leading me to ask, DEAR GOD WHY? When I was young, this phrase came up often when associated with Ye Olde Medieval Times (“Ye Olde” is nonsense by the way, we here at Histastrophe use it ironically because we’re shallow and pedantic like that, ya dig?) and I never quite knew what it meant. The “hanged” part is pretty transparent, so I went on my merry little life assuming it was just a spiffy alternative take on the usual ritual execution on the scaffold. It wasn’t until I was old enough to watch R-rated Mel Gibson films did the horrific reality become a bit more clear.

Image result for braveheart hanged drawn and quartered

{Insert Mel Gibson joke about still being given a job and critical acclaim somehow here}

Continue reading