Ancient World Now: Athens I

2011 265This once in a lifetime trip is dedicated to my writing partner of so many years, Achilles, who died four weeks ago. Named after the great Greek warrior, Achilles was my constant companion and bestie. Hail to thee, great warrior, Achilles!

After decades of writing and thinking about it, I finally made it to Greece! This once in a lifetime trip is being led by Stanford professor Patrick Hunt, who is a National Geographic fellow and the world expert on Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps. Hunt frequently appears on National Geographic, the Discovery channel, and the History channel. Every quarter I enroll in night classes at Stanford where they have amazing world-renowned classics scholars. I just finished a class on Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War and another on Ten Great Battles of Antiquity. I traveled through eight time zones yesterday, so I spent today resting up for the fast-paced tour that begins tomorrow (Saturday, here in Greece) and only ventured out for a taxi ride to Mt. Lycabettus with a 360-degree view of Athens, a quick look in the National Archaeological Museum, and a leisurely bookstore visit where I bought a dozen great ancient world books for the classroom. This famous statue, the Artimesion Jockey, which dates to around 150-140 B.C.  was found in 1926 in an ancient shipwreck. The boy appears to be nine or ten, and reminds me of the story I told Room 5 of how twelve-year old Alexander the Great tamed Bucephalus, the wild-spirited horse, who was HIS constant companion and bestie for many years!jockeyofartemision

HELLO ROOM 5! This section is addressed to you!

Trip Notes: This trip fits in perfectly with our Social Studies unit theme Then and Now. And in May, when our school hosts it’s own Olympic games, I will give a presentation at an assembly on my visit to Olympia next week, which was where the first Olympic games were held! I have planned this trip for a year now, and am extremely excited to finally be here. However….I do miss you all! Be good!

Food I Ate Today: an egg scramble with Greek Feta cheese atop a delicious bread slice. Scrumptious, but my body may take some getting used to these new foods. I also drank a glass of carrot juice, which I love!

I Wonder: I wonder if they had carrots in ancient Greece!

Lesson and Activity: Daylight comes at different times to different communities around the world. Time Zones were invented a little over a hundred years ago to help people when they wanted to travel by train, which was a new invention at the time. Here is a map of the world that shows the time zones. Have you ever traveled to a different time zone? Ask your family if they know anyone who lives in a different time zone.Standard_World_Time_Zones

 

Ancient World Now: Philopoemen, Part II

Click here for direct link to audio podcast Episode #56.

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Imagine the enemy is at the city gates and the residents of a Greek city sow corn in the streets to stay alive during the siege. And imagine the Roman ascendancy finding a broken Sparta (compliments of Philopoemen), only to turn it into a sort of theme-park complete with the trappings and discipline of better days.

Learn the details of Philopoemen’s leadership from Plutarch’s Lives for Boys & Girls, retold by W.H. Weston, and illustrated by W. Rainey, published in London & Edinburgh in the early 1900′s.

Sorry to have been so out-of-touch, but that is the life of a junior high schoolteacher! Those of you who are following my work will be excited to know that I am on my way to London to research a children’s book I am working on set in Roman Britain. I hope to return with plenty of cool stories to share with you about my discoveries. See you soon!

Ancient World Now: Philopoemen, Part I

Click here for direct link to audio podcast Episode #55.

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Imagine during battle a javelin pierces both your thighs completely through so that you cannot move. And imagine you have the guts and the strength of will to snap the javelin in half to get yourself free. That’s what happened to this famous Greek, Philopoemen, in the twilight of empire.

Learn the details of Philopoemen’s leadership from Plutarch’s Lives for Boys & Girls, retold by W.H. Weston, and illustrated by W. Rainey, published in London & Edinburgh in the early 1900′s.

Ancient World Now: Alexander the Great, Part III

Click here for direct link to audio podcast Episode #54.

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According to Plutarch, King Porus at the Battle of Hydaspes rode atop an enormous war elephant, who: “gave many singular proofs of sagacity and of particular care of the king, whom as long as he was strong and in a condition to fight, he defended with great courage, repelling those who set upon him; and as soon as he perceived him overpowered with his numerous wounds and the multitude of darts that were thrown at him, to prevent his falling off, he softly knelt down and began to draw out the darts with his proboscis (trunk).”

Enjoy our last episode on Alexander the Great from Plutarch’s Lives for Boys & Girls, retold by W.H. Weston, and illustrated by W. Rainey, published in London & Edinburgh in the early 1900′s.

Ancient World Now: Alexander the Great, Part II

Click here for direct link to audio podcast Episode #53.

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The burning of the palace at Persepolis by Alexander the Great and his entourage is one of the world’s great losses. Many would give their eye-tooth for a mere glimpse of this ancient wonder. A woman named Thais is said to have started the inferno. I’ve heard it said by a Stanford professor that the streets ran with the molten gold from the palace. Was this revenge for the Persian destruction of Athens?

Listen to this week’s podcast for details on Alexander’s march across Asia from Plutarch’s Lives for Boys & Girls, retold by W.H. Weston, and illustrated by W. Rainey, published in London & Edinburgh in the early 1900′s.

Ancient World Now: Alexander the Great, Part I

Click here for direct link to audio podcast Episode #52.

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Congratulations to Ken Perkins from Belmont for being the first to send me a shout out about our 50th episode! I’ll be signing and sending Ken a real old-fashioned (not PDF) version of my Scholastic book Read Aloud Plays: The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid. Thanks for listening, Ken!

Aaahhh, yes. I took us all the way back to the dawn of time to understand the path that led to the unforgettable people and events in Mediterranean Europe and Asia Minor. And chief of those unforgettable people, of course, is Alexander the Great. Brilliant, courageous, literary, and gosh-darned handsome, his is one of those few extraordinary life stories that never cease to instruct and amaze. He declared himself the son of a god, defeated the Persian King Darius and his empire, marched his faithful army to Egypt through Persia and into India, and married the Bactrian princess, Roxanna. When Alexander died, his empire was divided amongst his top generals. His body was to be entombed in Macedonia, but in transit the funeral bier was commandeered by Ptolemy (another superb leader) and taken to Egypt. There, Alexander’s body was lain in a royal tomb at Alexandria and became a place of pilgrimage up through the 4th century CE, when it was lost to history. Perhaps one child in our midst will succeed in locating the famed tomb and sarcophagus of Alexander the Great. Fingers crossed!

One of my favorite stories is of the junior-high aged Alexander astonishing his father and some courtiers by taking control of the wild and spirited Bucephalus. This great horse, whose name means “ox-headed,” in reference to its enormous head, conquered half the known world with his master. Covering thousands of miles and riding into battle on a regular basis, Bucephalus was truly the original “War Horse.” He reportedly died at 30 years old after suffering wounds in the Battle of Hydaspes in June of 326 BCE. Alexander was stricken with grief and honored his old friend by naming a city after him, Bucephala.

To honor this lovely book, here is a statue of Alexander and Bucephalus in Edinburgh itself. How did I miss this statue when I was there? I hope I lead you to investigate this most famous of historical personages. Enjoy the first in this series of readings from Plutarch’s Lives for Boys & Girls, retold by W.H. Weston, and illustrated by W. Rainey, published in London & Edinburgh in the early 1900′s.

Ancient World Now: Timoleon, Part II

Click here for direct link to audio podcast Episode #51.

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Setting: Ancient Syracuse in Sicily. Sacked and desolate. Deserted of Greek colonists. Streets overrun with deer and wild boar.

Enter: Timoleon, ready to restore the Greek colonies of Sicily to their former glory, sans tyrants.

And even more amazing than his many successes was that by the end of his long life he had managed to avoid “the insatiable pursuit of glory and power which has wrecked so many great men.” Plutarch, like so many thinkers before him and since, tried to identify the qualities that make a great leader. Plato, Aristotle, Homer, and the epics Gilgamesh, Beowulf, and the Persian Shahnameh, all address the question of how to deal with the incompetent, malevolent, or unworthy leader. In today’s world, it sometimes seems to be an old-fashioned expectation: ethical, just, and informed leadership with a focus on the long-term. We are living in revolutionary times, and we can only hope that our world leaders have read and learned from history. Where are those leaders of old? It’s time they step out of the shadows and give us all something to hope for.

Find out how Timoleon stacks up in today’s podcast reading from Plutarch’s Lives for Boys & Girls, retold by W.H. Weston, and illustrated by W. Rainey, published in London & Edinburgh in the early 1900′s. Enjoy!

Ancient World Now: Timoleon, Part I

Click here for direct link to audio podcast Episode #50.

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Friends, Romans, countrymen! This podcast marks our 50th episode! To celebrate, I’ll send a copy of my book to the first person who writes me at: gwen@gwenminor.com! Good luck! And thanks for making me love this!

Fratricide, intrigue, privation, and assassins. Timoleon and Dionysius II face off in today’s podcast.

Sicily has such an interesting history, and the court of Dionysius II was especially so. The story of the sword of Damocles comes from this court, and Plato hung out there a lot! Dionysius II was fascinated with Plato’s idea of the philosopher-king, and so invited Plato to Sicily to try to make him the ideal ruler. Amazing! And what happened after that was even more astounding. It didn’t work so well and Plato ended up wishing he hadn’t got involved in all the drama. He gives his account of his Sicilian adventures in his Seventh Letter. But I digress! As usual, the bad guys get more attention than the good guys. As Mark Antony said in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:”The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”

What was Plutarch trying to teach us about Timoleon, the hero responsible for the revival of Greek Sicily? Find out in today’s podcast reading from Plutarch’s Lives for Boys & Girls, retold by W.H. Weston, and illustrated by W. Rainey, published in London & Edinburgh in the early 1900′s. Enjoy!

Ancient World Now: Pelopidas, Part II

Click here for direct link to audio podcast Episode #49.

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The Sacred Band was an elite fighting unit of 300 men from the Greek city-state of Thebes. They were famous throughout the ancient world for their invincibility on the battlefield; their success attributed to the fact that the Sacred Band of Thebes was a unit of 150 couples described by Plutarch thus:

“a band cemented by friendship grounded upon love is never to be broken, and invincible; since the lovers, ashamed to be base in sight of their beloved, and the beloved before their lovers, willingly rush into danger for the relief of one another.” ~from Plutarch’s Lives

In today’s podcast, this band is led by Pelopidas against the Spartans. The Sacred Band was undefeated until the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BCE, where Philip of Macedon annihilated them. After this all-important historical battle, Philip wept and paid homage to the courageous fallen. A tomb was erected, and in the 19th century, excavations discovered 254 bodies arranged in 7 rows.

Listen to today’s podcast to find out how Pelopidas led them to victory against the Spartans in 375 BCE.

A minor surgery has laid me up for a bit, and set us back a couple of weeks. Sorry about that, faithful listeners, including Amanda in Virginia, who used our podcasts to help her understand The Odyssey this past semester. One good thing about this surgery, it got me reading lots about ancient medicine, wounds, surgery, and healing. Did you know that honey was packed into the wounds of men on the battlefield to stop bloodflow and start healing? I have lots more to share with you, but first we must get through Plutarch’s Lives for Boys and Girls.

Ancient World Now:Pelopidas, Part I

Click here for direct link to audio podcast Episode #48.

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So glad to be back!

Athens, Sparta, Thebes…Famous rivals, all. Today we hear of the Spartan hegemony over Thebes and what a small band of rebels decided to do about it. Again, I read from Plutarch’s Lives for Boys & Girls, retold by W.H. Weston, and illustrated by W. Rainey, this book was published in London & Edinburgh in the early 1900’s.

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