Near Eastern Influences on Archaic Period Greece

March 22nd, 2015

Walter Burkert, The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age. Trans. Margaret E. Pinder and Walter Burkert. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press. 1992).
Burkert’s book is dedicated to the exploration of oriental influences in Greek culture particularly in the archaic period of the ninth through sixth centuries BCE. Burkert starts with evidence from scraps of Greek literature bolstered by an examination of the artifacts remaining from the period. He considers the period of the Assyrian battles for domination on the coast of Northern Syria in the later Ninth century and again in the later eighth and early seventh centuries BCE, in particular to be seminal in the diversification of Oriental knowledge among the Greeks, with refugee craftsmen relocating to the Greek speaking regions among others (Burkert 11-14).
Specific example Burkert uses for an early immigration is that of a family of goldsmiths and gem cutter in Knossos who reused a Minoan tomb consecrating it with oriental style foundation deposits in approximately 800 BCE known as the “Tomb of the Goldsmiths” (22, 54). He goes into a rather extensive description of the traditions of the “public workers,” or demioergoi (Od. 17.383-385 qtd. in Burkert 23), writing of their ability to move about due to their skills of techne (23). He indicates that immigrant potters, and vase painters came from Egypt, Lydia and Phrygia also, noting that as late as Aristotle craftsmen were as a rule described as immigrant non-citizens, and often slaves (23).
Burkert also describes in some detail the transfer of magical and religious rituals and traditions citing the bronze liver models from Mesopotamia in clay and the very similar Etruscan liver model from Piacenza in the third century BCE and being an example of a clear transfer of systems of belief from the east to the west, in this case hepatoscopy or haruspicina, divination by interpreting sheep livers in particular (46-48). He indicates that there was a very specific Assyrian school with a systemic approach that was somewhat abstracted from nature, also followed in their own system of saecula by the Etruscans (48, 49-50). The Greeks he argues followed a more naturalistic and behavioral model in interpretation with it becoming the preferred form of divination into the classical period as Burkert cites from Plato (49). He considers “the spread of hepatoscopy one of the clearest examples of cultural contact in the orientalizing period” (51). The mobility of seers and healers or “migrant charismatics” as he calls them, is a key part of the spread of oriental wisdom to the west along with the traders and craftsmen.
Burkert spends some time denouncing the “anti-oriental reflex” (3) as something that emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries among German speaking academia, in particular, as an outgrowth of the “ideology of romantic nationalism” of Herder, the separation of philology from religion by Wolf and the new pagan influenced classicism of Winckemann (2). The emergence of national romanticism is seen by the author as part of the grounds in which anti-Semitism gained influence in classical studies. The discovery of the Indo-European linguistic base for most European languages, along with Sanskrit and Persian, furthered what was at the time a Greek-Roman-Germanic view of the world (2). A strong motivation for Burkert is quite evident in his almost crusader like approach to rehabilitating the Oriental and Semitic influence in particular in this study of the Archaic period of Greek history. He notes later in the text that Beloch went out of his way to separate “Rhodian Zeus Atabyrios from Mount Atabyron =Tabor, the mountain in Palestine” claiming this as a clear cut case of anti-Semitism (34).
While I am not an authority on German academic anti-Semitism, it is fairly clear that until recently Semitic roots to many aspects of Greek culture has been limited. A simple scan of the citations from the East in the text book A Brief History of Ancient Greece describes the period after the decline of the Mycenaean Civilization mentions grave goods from Greek tombs, from the Near East that may have been a result of contact with “Near Eastern traders roaming the Aegean Sea” (Pomeroy et. al., 47). They mention the emergence of iron working after 1050 BCE as a result of trade in bronze making raw materials being cut off, rather than being the result of technology learned from the Hittites or other Near Eastern sources where “Iron technology was long known” (43). Mention is made of Hesiod deriving a history of the gods in his Theogony from ancient Mesopotamian stories, but then goes nowhere with that connection (57). Later describing Hesiod’s Works and Days where “Sermonizing poetry, so different from that of the Homeric narrative, was clearly influenced by the Ancient Genre of Near Eastern ‘wisdom literature’” (77). The colonization of the wider Mediterranean word is attributed to Greek traders in partnership with Phoenicians (59) and that the Greeks took up the phonetic writing system in the Eighth century for reasons that are called debatable (60). They do better describing the origins of art in the description of the “Orientalizing style” from the Near East and Egypt in about 720 BCE, but the description takes up a couple of sentences only (62) and their description of the emergence of the classic Greek Temple at that time doesn’t mention outside influences at all (62). This may seem fairly substantial but it seems to allude to rather than explore the influences of the East. Burkert sets about to develop the influences his and others influence can be seen in the text above.
Burkert claims an eastern influence on the construction of large altars for burnt offerings and the large temples which he notes coincided with the period of movement of eastern craftsmen in the eighth century prior to which there had been no examples in Greece (Burkert, 20). The use of composite beasts and other animal motifs in pottery and sculpture are part of what has been known as the Orientalizing period as mentioned above. Creatures such as the Chimera have Hittite links, Triton’s to Mesopotamia, as well as lion motifs. He states that the sight of a lion would have been something unknown in the life of most Greeks (20). He goes on to say that “typically Greek” forms of portrayal of Zeus and Poseidon with the lightning bolt or the trident are derived from Syrio-Hittite statuettes. The same goes for the portrayal of the standing naked female goddess with hands touching breasts as being of Syrian origin (21). He goes on to state that the Hoplite weapons that came into use in the Archaic period were close to Assyrian and Urartian models, suggesting that mercenaries may have picked brought them back with them. Burkert notes the Carian and Ionian mercenaries in Egypt under Psammentichus among others in the seventh and sixth century (25). Burkert, a philologist, has an extensive discourse on the use of loan words from the Near East. He states that the earliest Greek writing shows up shortly before 750 BCE in Naxos, Ischia, Athens, and Euboea intersecting exactly with the time of the “trading connections of Iawones from Syria via Euboea to the West” (26). He says that while the exact location of the transfer may be hard to pinpoint, it occurred rather rapidly form Phrygians to the Etruscans in a matter of a few decades, indicating that the idea of a slow indigenous development of the Greek alphabet had been discredited by Lilian Jeffery’s work (27).
Burkert seems to go so far as to give short shrift to the Egyptian influence on Greek culture and religion. As he describes the possible roots of the Greek tradition of liver augury, describing the priest clan of the Tamiradae at Paphos claiming to have brought the tradition from Cilicia, citing Tacitus and discounting the earlier source Herodotus’ claim for an Egyptian source as being unfounded (49; note 16, 182). Although I understand is desire to accentuate Semitic roots, discounting Egyptian roots seems to be somewhat counterproductive. The distinctions being made by Burkert seemingly have more to do with late twentieth century revisionism than historical fact. Although his speculations on the migration of technology, myth, and religion seem perfectly valid, his emphasis on the Akkadian, Phoenician and Assyrian roots is noteworthy.
Bernal in his extensive review of Burkert, complains of the lack of inclusion of the Egyptians and of the narrow time frame in which Burkert sets the impact on Greek culture of the Near East (Bernal 138). Bernal has bigger fish to fry, he seems to be out to debunk the concept of the Dark Ages in Greece as one of isolation from which the Greeks emerged in the Archaic period stating “Burkert appears to share the Hellenocentric view that … the ‘Dark Ages’ provide a significant barrier between the cosmopolitan society of the palaces and the ‘repurified’ Greek society that emerged in the early eight century” (138). He goes on to argue that the initial Semitic influence goes back to the earliest period of Bronze Age Greece and Minoan Crete to the early second millennium BCE (144). While I agree with Bernal on his assessment on the weakness of the Egyptian influence in Burkert’s argument, I don’t read Burkert as excluding earlier influences so much as focusing on the Archaic period and expanding upon our understanding of the extent of the influence of dispersion of ideas across geographic regions.
Writing of purification rituals, Burkert describes how there is a wide literature available for magic rituals whereas that in Greek is brief, allusive or dependent on later reports Burkert, (56). He discusses the piglet bloodletting rituals in Aeschylus description of the purification of Orestes for murder (57). He mentions one example of ritual purification in the Iliad called lymata or dirty water being disposed of (57), Deciding to look for the citation I found (Il.1.313-314) “while Atreus’ son told his people to wash off their defilement. And they washed it away and threw the washing into the salt sea.” (Trans. Lat. 83). This seems to be related to the offense to Apollo and his priest. Seeking further information about the matter I found this extract on
Arctinus of Miletus, The Aethiopis Fragment 1 (from Proclus, Chrestomathia 2) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th B.C.): “Akhilleus [after slaying Thersites for his insults] sails to Lesbos and after sacrificing to Apollon, Artemis and Leto, is purified by Odysseus from bloodshed.” (Astima, Artemis n.p.).

An Apulian krater in the Louvre shows Apollo himself pouring the blood of the pig over Orestes Burkert affirms, although he does not show this image in the book (Burkert, 57). It is available on line from the web site of the Louvre in Paris. Below is the image described by Burkert with a description from the Louvre Museum in Paris where the krater is located:

‘The purification Orestes in Delphi.’ This exceptionally large bell-krater depicts the beginning of Aeschylus’s tragedy The Eumenides. The scene opens at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, symbolized by an altar surmounted by the Omphalos, the navel of the world. Orestes has taken refuge here, fleeing the Erinyes, the terrible goddesses of vengeance. He is still holding the dagger with which he has killed his mother, Clytemnestra, to avenge his father. Behind him stands Apollo, holding a laurel branch in one hand and, with the other, shaking a piglet above the young man’s head in a gesture of purification. Artemis, the god’s sister, stands by his side.” (Padel-Imbaud, np).
The ritual purification in the Semitic world involved the blood of a pig as Burkert indicates in an excerpt from Babylonian ritual texts of purification (Burkert, 58). There is much evidence of purification rituals in the Near East from which the Greeks could have picked up from traveling seers and healers the specific practices mentioned above He goes on to make the point that even Apollo had to undergo ritual purification after slaying the Python, by going to Crete which Burkert associates along with Cypress as a center for the early Orientalizing period. He also notes that there are indications that the cult of Apollo itself has links to Semitic culture including the rituals around the new moon and the seventh day of the month (61). Although he clearly states that not all coincidental similarities of names and timing of events, are not evidence of Semitic influences, he feels that not enough recognition of the links that are the most likely hypothesis are given credibility by experts in the field and this book goes a long way in rectifying that lack of credit.
With much detail and copious notes, half again as long as the book itself, Burkert packs in a short text of 129 pages plus 90 pages of notes and bibliography an extensive and well- argued case for the continuous and extensive interaction between the Near East and Archaic period Greece. While he doesn’t give much shrift to the continuity of prior connections during the Bronze age, focusing on the period from about 800 – 650 BCE, he does not state that this was the only period of interaction, but the main early period. As I have stated before he leaves Egyptian sources largely neglected, but his effort is primarily aimed at debunking the approach of Orientalists and Hellenists that tries to examine Greece as a pure case of indigenous brilliance as the source of western civilization separate from the Near Eastern cradle in which the Greek baby rocked.

Works Cited
Atsma, Aaron J. “Artemis Goddess.” Theoi Project 2000 - 2011, Accessed Feb. 21, 2015
Lattimore, Richmond, Trans. The Iliad of Homer. Introduction and notes Richard Martin. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 2911.
Pomeroy, Sarah B., Burstein, Stanley M., Donlan, Walter, Roberts, Jennifer Tolbert, and Tandy, David, W. A Brief History of Ancient Greece Politics, Society, and Culture. Third ed. New York: Oxford U. Press. 2014..
Bernal, Martin. “Burkert’s Orientalizing Revolution.” Arion, 4.2 (1996): 137-147.
Mandell, Sara. “The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age.” The Classical World, 87.6 (1994): 517.
Thomas, Carol G. “Walter Burkert. The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age’ (Book Review).” American Historical Review, 99.1 (1994): 202.
Padel-Imbaud, Sophie. “The purification of Orestes in Delphi.” Apulian red-figure bell-krateine 23. Collection Campana, 1861, 1861 Known as the “Eumenides Krater” Cp 710. Louvre, France. Web, accessed 2/22/15.r. Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC) Sully wing 1st floor Galerie Campana V Room 44 Vitr

Betwixt and Between

February 1st, 2015

Betwixt and Between talk with Mihika

I am hovering over a decision whether to drop the pretense of understanding the English language well enough to write it properly. Questions about my willingness to persevere in, the process of dissecting the English language, and attempting to become a better writer via the English Rhetoric program at CSULB have arisen. Dread at another sleepless semester has me halting before the gateway to eternal wisdom.

Dante purportedly originated the phrase: “Abandon all hope ye who enter here,” the warning at the gates of hell

Invested as I have become in attaining a degree in English Rhetoric, I find myself falling into continual despair at my inability to articulate correctly the brick and mortar terminology of the language. I have been reduced to watching ESL videos on YouTube in attempts to prop up my poor understanding of grammatical structure.


I am at another Rubicon, and sit here on my writing bed Hamletizing over whether to wrestle with my travails and misfortunes or to throw in the literary towel. And yes, I did consciously use Hamletize, that literary no-no. As my old girlfriend Nadine would famously say “fuck em’ if they can’t take a joke.” I am becoming much too aware of my phrasing for my native heart to take. Hesitating and bemoaning my lack of clarity, denigrating the artless expression of raw content, and thus forfeiting immediacy, for fear of clunky exhortations.

From: The Vault at Pfaff’s - Biographies - Search

Arguments over passive voice and active voice, transitive and intransitive verbs, proper pronouns and the lot have me quivering in fear over the next word, whether or not this sentence will falter and die a thousand deaths, or land in some version of literary limbo.

Aldous Huxley with “Limbo” From:

I can envision Dante, led by his faithful Roman guide Vergil, observing myself same words, enduring the slings and arrows of abuse from Chiron’s centaur horde. I can reference with the best of them, but only with the help of a well-worn Google search. Only the fragments of memory from the days when I could roam over the literary fields with some felicity have aided in my hunt and pecking in these more dour times.

Chiron Descending From:

So should I continue to abuse myself, lacking sleep, deferring literary projects, following the dubious path of academic acknowledgement, into my doddering last days, or eschew the trappings of academia and strike forth upon my own, hacking a path in the primordial-chthonic stew? I suppose, imagine, conjure, that to be the question dear reader.

I singe the body eclectic!

From: Scientists Are Cracking the Primordial Soup Mystery | Motherboard

Flora of Stoney Point Park, California

January 10th, 2015


Stoney Point rock formation and city park, in the western San Fernando Valley. A Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument located near Chatsworth Park North, in Chatsworth, Los Angeles, California From:

Flora of Eight Transects at Stoney Point: Significance Indications of Transition from CSS to Chaparral at Intersecting WTR and SCo region of California Floristic Province

Samantha Antu, Justin Chong, Gary Crethers, and Natalie Espinoza
Report written by Crethers. Data collected by Antu, Chong, Crethers and Espinoza.
Photos and tables as credited.


The flora data from eight transects taken in the southwest region of the Stony Point Park, Chatsworth area of Los Angeles County, was used to determine the vegetation type community according to the University of California Natural Reserve System and the Jepson Manual, Hierarchical Outline of Geographic Subdivisions. The data compared with data from three other groups examining other locations in the SW region of CA-FP, using Chi data analysis initially and then using Alpha, Beta and Gamma Biodiversity analysis. The determination that the vegetation in the Stony Point region was so divergent from that of the other regions, all of which were in the CSS, led to the tentative conclusions that this was a hard Chaparral plant community with some aspects of valley and foothill woodland vegetation. The plants in the region were suffering from prolonged drought conditions making plant species identification problematic. The constant use of the area by rock climbers also affected the vegetation. The authors recommend further study, including historical plant data correlated with climatic conditions and disturbance factors.


The Stony Point Park is a seventy-six acre complex of trails around a rocky outcrop located in the western region of the Valley in Los Angeles near the intersection of the 118 Highway and Route 27 Topanga Canyon Road, approximately 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean. This is an area where the California Floristic province or CA-FP, SW region (southwest region), WTR (western transverse region) intersects with the SCo (south coast) (Hickman; 1993, 44-45). The plant communities of this area are described in the NCR (University of California Natural Reserve System) as “Chaparral (Hard Chaparral) same in Muntz” and the “Valley and Foothill Woodland (includes Northern, Southern Oak Woodland; and Foothill Woodland)” (Ornduff, Faber and Keeler-Wolf; 2003, 115-118). The area is part of the Chatsworth Formation the oldest geological formation in the Simi Valley region, forming in the Upper Cretaceous period 75 to 70 million years ago. Sandstone is the major component of this formation originally part of deposits left by turbidity currents in a submarine canyon creating deposits 6000 feet thick. The transverse zone created by the end of subduction 30 million years ago with the beginning of the transverse slippage process by which the Pacific plate is moving in a northwesterly direction relative to the North American plate represented by the San Andreas fault has created the current geological conditions. Layers of grayish rock when exposed to weathering appear brown to reddish brown in layers of thick sandstone interleafed with thin layers of mudstone (Squires; 1997a, 294-296), figure 1.


Figure 1 us geological survey paper 1515 san andreas]fault 1990-1991. Map shows elevations.

The region fragmented in terms of urban development in relationship to natural ecosystems. Stoney Point itself is a popular rock climbing and hiking area. The area transected could be qualified as disturbed with many hikers seen tramping around the sites. There is a horse stable directly adjacent to the south of the region we selected. Datura Wrightii, the first species examined seemed to prefer the disturbed area with a lot of human activity. Stoney Point is part of the Mediterranean climate zone (mild, wet winters and hot dry summers), which has recently been undergoing drought conditions which may be a reflection of climate change. Recent studies of Brassica rapa have indicated that evolutionary change is occurring in species as well as natural plant plasticity (Franks, and Weis; 2008). Drought in the region cannot be specifically determined to be a result of warming in the SST due to the contradictory effects of the high abnormality over the eastern Pacific and the increased atmospheric humidity (Wang and Schubert; 2014). The vegetation is dispersed with clumps of denser vegetation near the dry water channel and at the edge of the horse stable and homes where there may be some runoff creating the potential for an oasis like microclimate, although no water flow was observed. These species included Centaurea melitensis, Quercus agrifolia, Rhus ovata, and Eucalyptus globulus. The rocky southern slope of the hill studded with large boulders that provide some shelter for vegetation. Stipa coronata especially seemed adapted to this environment. Santa Ana winds are particularly strong in the region, with the author experiencing gusty winds on a second visit to the site.

Materials and Methods

The group used a tape measure to divide each transect into segments of 1 meter over a 10 meter length for 11 identifications each. GPS data gathered at the beginning and end of each transect using GPS Status data available as an app for cell phones. The closeness to the rock wall of the hillside and some of the larger boulders made readings less than 100 percent reliable. Data was recorded manually on transect forms with pen and pencil with the tasks being shared by all participants. Eight transects were taken, sampling two on the trail entering the site from the Topanga Canyon Road. There was one transect taken among the rocks on the south side ridge of Stoney Point. One transect taken in a grove of trees among sheltering boulders. Another three transects were done along the dry watercourse and a final transect was made among trees that were on the edge of the park paralleling a housing development to the south. The choices made sampling different terrains and vegetation in a random manner as we moved in an easterly direction, and then doubled back for the last transects. Antu, Chong, Crethers, and Espinoza took data sampling on November 8, 2014. Crethers did a follow up on November 16,, 2014.

Plant identification was done with a combination of photographic images taken on the spot and cuttings from species observed at the transect points. The images checked against Calflora, Google images, the NPIN: Native Plant Database at, Wiki articles, Jepson Manual of Higher Plants and Introduction to California Plant Life as well as consulting with Professor Rodrigue who initiated the research site and methodology proposal. The plant data analyzed by Gary Crethers and Justin Chong; Chong then created an excel spreadsheet with the data. This data further modified by Crethers and Professor Rodrigue and reviewed by Antu and Espinoza. The data gathered was subject to a Chi-square test by Samantha Antu, and then Antu performed a comparison analysis with alpha, beta and gamma diversity tests against the data gathered by three other groups for the Southern California region. These included data from transects taken from the Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Palos Verdes at the Portuguese Bend Reserve, and Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve.


The identifications hampered by the extremely dry conditions of the drought. (Swain et. al., 2014, S3; Wang and Schubert, 2014, S7). See figure 2.


Figure 2 California Precipitation over long historical periods. From:

Plant images for identification purposes were almost universally from when the plants are flowering. There were large areas with no visible plant life or unidentifiable plant debris. Of the 88 separate identification locations, 38 were bare ground or rock face or 43 percent of the area. This indicates the discontinuous nature of the vegetation. Species tended to clump together. Only twelve species identified in transects with dirt being the most common. Only twelve species identified in transects with dirt being the most common. See Table 1 below.


Chi-Square results showed the region to be anomalous in relationship to the other groups. Bolsa Chica Reserve and Portuguese Bend Reserve are both CSS environments directly on the Pacific coast. Sepulveda Basin Reserve has riparian CSS, with indications of a transition to the chaparral of the WTR, as the SepulvedaF14 data shows. Species Salix goodingii, or Gooding’s willow, Baccharis salicifoila, or mule fat, and Baccharis pilularis, or coyote brush, predominant in the groups transects, indigenous species. Whereas Datura wrightii, jimsom weed, Ambrosia psilostachya, or ragweed, and Hirshfeldia incana or Mediterranean Mustard predominated in StonyPointF14 data, with ragweed and mustard both invasive species, according to the results posted by Rodrigue (Geog.442, 2014).

The Alpha Beta diversity comparison below indicates the degree of diversity of the other sites. We have twelve different species at Stoney Point indicating the least diversity among the sites. But then when compared to the other sites on the Beta diversity Stoney Point has the least divergence with Sepulveda and the greatest with Bolsa Chica. The Gamma diversity of the region is 52.


Figure 3 Alpha Beta Diversity comparing Stony Point Data to the other three sites (Samantha Antu 2014).
That would indicate that geographical distance maybe significant as a factor, as Bolsa Chica is the furthest away from Stoney Point at approximately 50 miles. Palos Verdes is next at 38 miles and Sepulveda is closest at 10 miles, but physical distance is not necessarily significant in and of itself, if the climatic conditions are the same over the entire regional environment. A more important factor would be the distance from the maritime influence of the ocean. As has been stated, Stoney Point is 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean. It is almost due north from the mouth of Topanga Canyon. Bolsa Chica and Palos Verdes sites are both less than a mile from the Pacific Ocean. Sepulveda site is approximately 10 miles from the ocean, almost exactly half the distance that Stoney Point is from the Ocean. Looking at the topography, the Palos Verdes site has a rapid increase of altitude from near sea level at about 50 meters to 280 meters or almost 1000 feet. Bolsa Chica has elevations that are all very near sea level all less than 5 meters, 15 feet or less elevation. Sepulveda is on the other side of the Mulholland Pass. It is a riparian site with the LA River running through it and as figure above indicates it is in the 205 to 220 meters altitude range about 600 feet. Whereas the Stoney Point readings were at about the 310-340 meter level over 1000 feet. Elevation in itself clearly is not the distinguishing factor. A combination of elevation, distance from the ocean, wind currents affecting rainfall, whether or not the microclimate is within a rain shadow or not all are factors. Stoney Point partially blocked by the higher Simi Hills to the west and the Santa Monica Mountains to the south does not benefit as directly from the coastal CSS climate as the other areas.


Figure 4 California Floristic Province Map from the Jepson Herbarium From:

The constant influx of visiting humans and the proximity to residential areas, provide many opportunities for invasive species to infiltrate the park that is isolated from the larger, more natural ecosystems of the Simi Hills. The species along the dry watercourses were a mixture of introduced species such as the Eucalyptus globulus, brought from Australia to provide drought resistant timber in the nineteenth century, Rhus Ovata or sugar bush, and Quercus agrifolia, or coast live oak. The last two are native and the coast live oak used by Native Americans for the acorns to produce one of their dietary staples. This expected as the climatic conditions change from SCo with its milder temperature range due to the mitigating effects of the maritime ecosystem along the coast inland. In addition, the coastal fog in the summers mitigates the transfers a greater degree of moisture to coastal plants spared some of the effects of the hotter and dryer conditions as one moves inland. The hot, dry summers and cool wet winters reflect a Mediterranean climate, which transits to a montane environment moving inland and upland, with its Chaparral, Valley, and Foothill ecosystem.


The results would tend to indicate with the lack of shared species, that the Stoney Point data is from a different plant community, than that directly on the Pacific coast, in this case identified as Chaparral and Valley and Foothill Woodland. Dirt appearing as the most common identifier indicates the lack of foliage density. This seems to be the result of human use of trail areas and the severe drought conditions have caused many species to die back and subsequently become hard to identify. Still we concluded the species reflect those found in Inland Scrub or Chaparral zone. Twenty miles from the ocean, species in Stoney Point have more of the characteristics of species found in the inland scrub rather than CSS, although identification was somewhat problematic. The group bolstered fieldwork by checking the Jepson Manual of Higher Plants and Introduction to California Plant Life area maps to confirm this conclusion. See Figure 4 above.

Further research:

Prepare a historical study of introduction of invasive species and the advisability of removing them from such a small ecological island.
 Pre-Colonial Indigenous influence on species and habitat has been profound and needs further research, see Appendix 1.
 Effects of Climate change and extended drought on whether the CSS area is reduced and replaced by Chaparral species or if the opposite occurs or some more complex adaptation.
 The Urbanization effect on habitat and species resilience, including the effects of pollution, small versus large ecological islands and the possible linking of the park with other areas to provide corridors for native fauna and flora is another area for further study.

Appendix 1: Notes on Native American Land Use and Datura Wrightii

Datura Wrightii used by the indigenous people of the region for a variety of purposes. According to Edward D. Castillo in his article on California Native Americans, Datura or Jimsonweed was used male puberty rituals due to its hallucinogenic properties (Castillo 1998). The area around Stony Point was a traditional site for the local Tataviam tribal people called Momonga and was a mortuary area according to the tribal web site of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians. They also claim the use of jimson weed in the making of baskets. “The historical Tataviam ate acorns, yucca, juniper berries, sage seeds and islay, and they hunted small game. Jimsonweed, native tobacco, and other plants found along the local rivers and streams provided raw materials for baskets, cordage, and netting” (Fernandeño Tataviam Band, History).


“Momoy (Chumash) – Datura wrightii

Also called California Jimson Weed or in Spanish, toloache, this small bush is common in disturbed areas and often considered one of the most sacred plants in the Chumash world. According to Cecilia, Momoy protects and tickles the soul, brings you back to earth. Ingestion of the root mixture would initiate young boys or girls into adulthood and can induce sacred dreams or hallucinations. Unfortunately, the dreaming-dose can inhibit breathing, become poisonous, or induce blindness. It can be dangerous or deadly, and not recommended outside of sacred, not psychedelic, Chumash ceremonies. In small amounts it can help a patient breathe as aromatherapy mixed with yerba santa leaves (Eriotdictyon crassifolium) or destress as a foot soak” From:

The issue of how First Nation Californians managed their ecosystems largely through controlled burns and the introduction and removal of species makes the issue of what is native, even more complex. The example of the fox population on the Channel Islands has become an issue as Sharon Levy points out that there are strong indications that the fox was introduced by Chumash or other early human arrivals (Levy 333), which has become controversial in determining how far back one should go in restoring original ecosystems. It also brings up the question as to whether there is such a thing as an original ecosystem since the complex nature of the environment is constantly adapting and changing, at what point is restoration simply advocacy for an ideological position? Standards seemingly based on some aesthetic of diversity as an aspect of beauty, rather than a vain attempt to recreate a frozen moment in time because of some purported scientific reason, or perhaps based on the best pragmatic determination as to what will enhance our own survivability. Self-interest ecology seems like it might appeal to the rightward shift in Congress for continued funding.

Jan Timbrook points out that before the arrival of Europeans the local Chumash and Tongva peoples used controlled burns to modify the natural environment. The practice ended by the Spanish missionaries causing the ecosystem to change and gradually lose much of the character it had at the time of the arrival of Europeans (Timbrook, 244). This has led some such as Kat Anderson and Michael Moratto to suggest that the Native American land use practices led to much healthier forests in the Sierra Nevada and bringing Naïve practices back into use. The claim is that protection of supposedly pristine eco-islands is not even historically an accurate view of pre-invasion California, particularly in the Sierra Nevada Mountains (Anderson and Moratto, 187-188).

Certainly a deeper look at what is the natural environment to be preserved needs to take into account thousands of years of Native American husbandry practices as well as the world wide phenomena going back perhaps hundreds of thousands of years in Africa in particular.

If you would like to see the original paper in full color you can contact me at “” and will gladly email you the article.

Works Cited
Anderson, M. Kat, and Michael J. Moratto. 1996. “Native American land-use practices and ecological impacts.” In Sierra Nevada ecosystem project: final report to congress, 2: 187-206 (accessed December 12, 2014).
Calflora: Information on California plants data contributed by institutions and individuals, including the Consortium of California Herbaria. [web application]. 2014. Berkeley, CA: The Calflora Database [a non-profit organization]. Available:, (accessed: Nov. 14, 2014).
Castillo, Edward D. 1998. “Short Overview of California Indian History.” California Native American Heritage Commission., (accessed December 12, 2014).
Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians. 2014. “History.” Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians. villages/tribal-citizens-ancestral-villages, (accessed December 12, 2014).
Hickman, J.D. (ed.) 1993. The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.
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NPIN: Native Plant Database, (accessed November 14, 2014).
Ornduff, Robert. Phyllis M Faber, and Todd Keeler-Wolf. Introduction to California Plant Life. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Rodrigue, Christine M. 2014. Geography 442 Transect Data Spread Sheet. (accessed December 3, 2014).
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Swain, Daniel L., Michael Tsiang, Matz Haugen, Deepti Singh, Allison Charland, Bala Rajaratnam, and Noah S. Diffenbaugh. 2014. “2. The Extraordinary California Drought of 2013/2014: Character, Context, and the Role of Climate Change.” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society S3-S7. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed December 7, 2014).
Flora of Eight Transects at Stoney Point 10
Timbrook, Jan. 1990. Ethnobotany of Chumash Indians, California, Based on Collections by John P. Harrington. Economic Botany. 44, no. 2: 236-253 (accessed Dec. 12, 2014).
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New Year

January 1st, 2015

A Tale of Two Hoodies

It is a new year a dawning. I hear fireworks, shouting and pan clanging around me as I write. Out with the old, and in with the new.

We have begun to see the resistant remnants of ugly racism fall before the angry critique of the aroused brown and black peoples. It is my firm belief that the US will be able to face at last the lingering distasteful odor of race based discrimination and cleanse itself, from this bloody relic of slavery and colonial imperialism. Good luck and well wishes to us all.


May 2015 be the year we finally make it to a world where there is only one race, the human race.


See you around the block folks, and may we all grow in tolerance, empathy and understanding.

British Imperialism in Ireland: Harbinger of Things to Come

January 1st, 2015

Sir Henry Sidney, Lord-Deputy, accompanied by an armed force, sets out from Dublin Castle for a progress through Ireland. Detail from a plate in The Image of Irelande, by John Derrick (London, 1581).
From: John Derrick -

Coercing the Native Speaker: English Language Consolidation in the British Isles

The intent of the Scots to become Englishmen was certainly not predetermined at the time of the attempted union by King James. This was voted down in Parliament and Shakespeare’s commentaries in Macbeth notwithstanding, there was a propaganda war occurring. This war was fought between those who advocated a Standard English and those who wanted a Scottish standard of English. The victims of this battle for control of the language were the common dialect speakers who were forced to choose between these narrowing poles as the contest for the hearts and minds of the Scots and English developed over the next two centuries. As Adam Beach notes by the time of Adam Smith there had emerged a semi anthropological view of civilized and savage language in which those who did not speak in the dominant paradigm were increasingly regulated to lower class status.
Lynda Mugglestone relates how class was determined by accent, emphasizing the opportunity offered by language standardization in the work of 18th century writers like Thomas Sheridan. Sheridan spoke disparagingly about the ‘disgrace’ of dialect, uniformity of language would provide opportunity for the Scots, Irish and Welshmen. The shifting emphasis on accent and speaking properly became a focus in English culture. Mugglestone describes language becoming a key determinant of class status by the late 18th century.

Britain is depicted in its feminine aspect as the Athena-like Britannia disciplining the naughty Irish child

Taking another approach Amy Devitt sees the movement to uniformity as part of a natural process and not one of prescriptivism or institutional enforcement. Describing the gradual standardization of English in Scotland around the initial union through King James, the process is simply seen as a normal outcome of history. The emergence of a dominant language is not always benign as the example of the Irish would show during this same period. Patricia Palmer wrote about the dislocation felt by the Irish who as described in John Derrike’s The Image of Irelande, a not so rosy picture arises, “Dumb / bloodied, the severed / head now chokes to / speak another tongue”. Severed heads present a literal finality. Choking to speak the oppressors tongue, transition from one language to another in Elizabethan times displays the interrelationship between conquest and language. Perhaps the Irish model from the Elizabethan England’s bloody conquest of Ireland with the subsequent pushing aside of the Irish language could be seen as the mother of all English imperialism, in fact the model for subsequent rendering of savages unto civilization as was done so well with Native Americans by the colonists.

White and Black Slaves in the Sugar Plantations of Barbados. None of the Irish victims ever made it back to their homeland to describe their ordeal. These are the lost slaves; the ones that time and biased history books conveniently forgot.

As the British embarked on the earliest phase of its dabbling in colonialism, Shakespeare weighed in against such foreign ventures. Leah Marcus describes Shakespeare’s anglicizing of names in his version of “Thomas Lodge’s prose romance Rosalynde (1590),” As You Like It, where the Ardennes forest is replaced with the British Arden forest. Marcus shows Shakespeare subtly anglicizing many original French terms and denigrating foreign adventures, Jacques for example becomes Jaques a potential victim of the French disease (as syphilis was known), with his sores, the representation of what would happen if the locals went abroad. Shakespeare was critical of British foreign adventurism by anglicizing Lodge’s story, according to Marcus. England was embroiled in its war of Irish conquest at the time As You Like It was first staged possibly at the opening of the Globe Theatre in 1599. Shakespeare in my modest view was constrained to follow the way the winds were blowing rather than staking is reputation on an anti-colonialist position.

Cromwellian army’s campaign in Ireland immediately after the English Civil War. Cromwell was short of cash to pay his troops at the end of the war, and confiscated 80% of the land (coloured orange above) for his troops in lieu of money. The dispossessed landowners were offered poor quality land in Connaught in exchange.

Bloody Ireland was a test, which way would the English go, to empire or fraternal relations? Patricia Palmer wrote, “`Elizabethan’ Ireland is the last moment when a confident Irish-speaking world confronts its English nemesis” The wordsmiths of freeholder independence vs the consolidation of empire in the language is part of a process of defining legitimatization according to Jim Milroy. Milroy’s criticism of “internal linguistic analysis” presented by advocates such as Saussure, who believed studying internal linguistic structural forms, creates “objective, non-ideological, and reliable,” analysis. Linguistic standardization excluding variants contradicting the norm inherently involves bias. Miloy says the claim “the history of standard English is the legitimate history of English” exhibits bias limiting the discourse, setting standards ignoring geography, history, and culture. The standardizing tendency, determines much English origins discourse focusing on corruption of a supposed model, Miloy considers illusory. Miloy credits the influence of Victorian enthusiasts enamored the language of Shakespeare, exploring dialects as vulgarizations of the mother tongue, denying historicity to deviations.

The fact is the term “Black Irish” is an ambiguous term!Traditionalist maintain the term to be in accordance with a dark-haired phenotype of Irish descent.

Writing of Ireland Palmer claims that the imperial and linguistic project went hand in hand as early as the sixteenth century. “The fact that so many of the leading translators of the age - Bryskett, Fenton, Googe, Harington - were also players in the conquest of Ireland confirms the uncanny congruity between pushing back the frontiers of English and expanding the geopolitical boundaries within which it operated.” The steps taken to establish empire were essential to the process creating English predominance, leading to the destruction of competing cultures by rooting out linguistic variance. Thus the creation of legitimate and illegitimate language is according to Wiley a projection of elite culture going back to the sixteenth century, defining social status by accent much earlier than the eighteenth century where Mugglestone places much of the written literature devoted to uplifting the linguistically deprived. While Mugglestone and Wiley are associating the distinction to class, Palmer focuses on the imperial project as dependent or co-equally requiring the destruction of the native tongue.

From the website: The Image of Irelande, by John Derrick (London, 1581) - Plates

The English solders return in triumph with ‘liberated’ livestock and Irish prisoners, carrying severed Irish heads and leading a captive by a halter. Note the adoption of Irish practice in the taking of enemy heads.

The Scottish then become subject to a different type of linguistic deconstruction. The new king of England in 1603, James, was the king of Scotland and England combined, already King of Scotland when he accepted the crown of England upon Elisabeth I’s death. For Devitt this was a natural process of integration. The power balance between England and Scotland was as that of Ireland prior to the conquest, still to be determined. Neil MacGregor points out that James attempted to solidify his union of Scotland and England in a political alliance, which neither the British nor the Scots would abide by. The Scots demanded equality and the English superiority. King James could only get out of Shakespeare a Macbeth, with the English coming to the aid of the legitimate rulers of Scotland, Edward, an ancestor of James. Yet Macbeth, as Greenblatt points out, would be reassuring in the sense that the usurper lost his head, just as the Gun Powder plotter, as Shakespeare obliquely refers to a Jesuit writer of equivocations, one whose head landed on a pike outside the Tower of London.
(To Be Continued).

Gunpowder Plotters heads on poles.

Works Cited For end notes contact

Beach, Adam R. 2001. The Creation of a Classical Language in the Eighteenth Century: Standardizing English, Cultural Imperialism, and the Future of the Literary Canon. Texas Studies in Literature and Language. 43, no. 2: 117-141, (accessed October 21, 2014).

Devitt, Amy J. Standardizing Written English: Diffusion in the Case of Scotland, 1520-1659. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1989.

Greenblatt, Stephen. Will and the World. New York: Norton. 2004

MacGregor, Neil. Shakespeare’s Restless World A Portrait of An Era in Twenty Objects. New York: Viking 2012.

Maloy, Jim, “The legitimate language Giving a history to English.” Alternative Histories of English. Ed. Richard Watts and Peter Trudgill. London: Routledge, 2002. 7-26.

Marcus, Leah S., and Furness, Horace Howard Oliver. 2014. “Anti-Conquest and As You Like It.” Shakespeare Studies 42, 170. MAS Ultra - School Edition, EBSCOhost, (accessed October 21, 2014).

Mugglestone, Lynda. ‘Talking Proper’ The Rise of Accent as Social Symbol. Oxford: Clarendon Press.1995

Palmer, Patricia, Ann. Language and Conquest in Early Modern Ireland: English Renaissance Literature and Elizabethan Imperial Expansion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2001.

The Whiteness Disease: Symptoms and Remedies

December 4th, 2014

The Privilege that Keeps on Giving

You know it is true. We try, we of the pale persuasion, to be Hip Hop. When I was a kid it was the Blues we emulated, and the whiter and richer, like the Rolling Stones, the more we wanted to be bad and black. Or as Lou Reed that famous English Major from suburban New York, may he rest in Jewish heavenly peace, says “I Wanna Be Black” because blacks have natural rhythm and they don’t have to be college nerdy college students, or some such thing as Lou’s parody of the white blackophile, states. Any smart white person with a modicum of awareness knows that being white is not where it is at. It is a moral and cultural dead end. Not that white people haven’t done some decent stuff, but white identity… forget it. It is about as hip as Wonder Bread and just as good for you.

A contingent of Seattle Black Panther Party (led by Lt. Elmer Dixon) on the Capitol steps in Olympia, WA, on 29 February, 1969.


In my own teenage years I rode on the coat tails of the Black Panthers, distributing their newspaper in my local suburban Connecticut high schools, getting my taste of martyrdom being jumped and beat up by local greaser thugs and having beer bottle thrown at me by passing truck drivers…. It was considered to be a badge of honor to be the hippie-commie-nigger lover. But those days are long gone, and the dreams of social justice, ‘da revolution man’ and all that faded into the realities of Reaganomics that even my attempts to cling to respectable alienation as a punk-rocker anarchist and eventually problematic druggie, could not maintain.

After several false starts in politics (losing two mayoral races and an attempt to become Lt. Governor), Maddox became infamous when he was photographed on 3 July 1964 wielding an axe handle at negroes attempting to enter his whites-only Pickrick cafeteria.


I was and still am white and yet whiteness is nothing but a concept in peoples minds. I passed though the court system with barley a scratch. Judges looked at me amidst the dark brown and black masses in the line up and would say, we must have made a mistake, that white man must go free. And don’t believe I didn’t accept the pass. Jail is no place for a human being. And yet millions of our brothers and sisters on this planet are imprisoned and worse, simply because of the color of their skin forced to endure humiliations and early death.

So true


White people simply will never be able to be black, not unless they become black, or golden, or whatever and become what they are not, the oppressed, the obviously identifiable objects of scorn, discrimination and physical violence. It is no joke that black male teenagers are 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by police than whites. The Propublica report ( has identified this shocking fact. In my Biogeography class the teacher pointed out that those who stand out distinguished by color or other easy identification are subject to predation. This is to my mind more a refection of the white state of mind, that imposes an order that places whiteness as the norm and all shades deviating from that as aberrant and deserving of culling.

As an ethnic group, Americans of African descent have had to endure extreme mental attacks in the forms of racism, oppression, systemic discrimination and it still continues.

Obviously this has to stop. Perhaps it will take a localized reduction of whiteness to its true status, as a minority position, before the idea will get across that humanity is truly a rainbow, and that there is no such thing as race within humanity when it comes to biology. We are all of the species Homo Sapiens with a little Neanderthal thrown in. Perhaps it is because White people have more Neanderthal in us than other races, that makes us a little slow on the uptake. With a memory of being less viable than the other true humans out of Africa, not a bastard race like the Neanderthal-Sapiens mix that the Euro-humans became in their isolated Ice Age Europe, living in caves and wearing dead animal skins, lacking sunlight and healthy vegetables and fruits, forced to live on the dead bodies of animals. No wonder whites became a depraved variation on the sunny golden humanity, The white maggoty substance found living on decaying matter.

Neanderthal 2-5% of European genetic makeup.


Ok, I made my point. It is easy to turn racism on its head. The so-called achievements of western civilization, capitalist rape of the planet and enslavement of masses of fellow humans for the sake of greed, well I could go on but I don’t want too. My point is that the protests against police shootings of persons of color are necessary and must bring attention to the need for immediate change in the legal system. A legal system that is biased not in favor of defendants, as the Media seems to want to say as a way of rationalizing the continuous failure of grand juries to indite police for murder, but one that systematically is biased in favor of the representatives of state power against those who are the objects of its repressive apparatus, is both logical and obvious. What is needed is a recognition of the bias, of the racism and hierarchy of power inherent in the system set up by white slave owners and the merchant classes of the fledgling American Republic. Inheriting the system developed by English aristocrats in the middle ages to insure that their clique retained power over the unwashed rabble of England. In that time, the Magna Carta forced upon King John of England, from one perspective, to retain the right to maintain dominance over the masses, and insuring that the King did not go to far in disrupting their power by bad policy decisions. What ever the roots of the English system of jurisprudence that the USA has inherited from Roman and medieval English law, it is not designed with the interests of the people, but for the interests of the status quo elites who have been and still are for the most part white or whitish.

Prison Industrial complex part of Business As Usual


“No Justice, No Peace: is an entirely appropriate response to such an oppressive system and anyone on the receiving end of the American justice system understands its inherent unfairness, all the justice for the elite and their friends that money and position can buy/appropriate is the law of the land. It is the justice of the conqueror, ask any native American, of the master, ask any slave or former slave, of the capitalist, ask any worker struggling for simple livable wages and I could go on. But I think you get the point. Rioting and disrupting traffic, all business as usual is appropriate and necessary to bring about change.

Half white, half black. Source: CBS


Embarrassing the nominally black president into standing for the people is a tough business, he has to face his masters every day behind closed doors, giving the world his best black face for public consumption. Perhaps there is a soul in that man somewhere, he is not truly white, I can see his awkwardness at being forced to face his black side. and it is good. We all need to bring out our inner blackness, code in reality for inner humanity. We are not machines and it is not our fate if we do not allow it to be eaten by Moloch in a descent into soulless whiteness. White bread… says it all, it has to have vitamins artificially added.

I liked that you could roll it into little balls; you could smash it flat and toast it against a light bulb.


And the answer is direct action….

Protesters march outside Ferguson police station Sept. 25, 2014.


While I am not going to say Obama is totally ineffectual in this area, I will say that the efforts of Attorney General Holder, are perhaps as far as Obama is willing to stick his neck out to confront the security establishment. The withholding of funds to Homeland Security by Congress may be more beneficial than not if it cripples some of its efforts in militarizing local police forces. Let us hope libertarians and left leaning liberals in Congress manage to do something about shipping military hardware to local police departments because the president has said he will not end the policy.


Although there has been a lot of media noise on the issue, it will take grass roots activism to keep pressure on. Unfortunately, knowing how media news cycles work, the window of opportunity on this issue is about to end. Only more police violence and an appropriate response by communities will keep the attention on the issues in the media. The President, being a lame duck, at least can use the bully pulpit, and procedural changes, just like he did with immigration to bring attention to the issue. Federal funding to local police agencies should be contingent upon a real display of a reduction of police violence against communities of color an very strong policies that constrain unnecessary use of force, deadly force in particular. I personally believe the Andy Griffith policy of giving the cops only one bullet, that must be kept separate from the weapon might be the way to go. Police with loaded guns, a bad idea.

Photo of Don Knotts as Barney Fife from The Andy Griffith Show. Barney is seen here loading his pistol with the only bullet he was allowed to have. It was kept in his uniform short pocket in case it was needed. Whenever Barney loaded his gun, it would either go off while holstered, fire into the ceiling, etc


Tiberius, Elections and Popular Violence

November 28th, 2014

Imperial Roman fresco, ca. 59 - 79 AD, from House I, 3, 23 at Pompeii. Riot and brawl between Pompeians and Nucerians in and around the amphitheater.


Popular Protest, Political Wrangling, Tiberius and the Augustan Succession
By Gary Crethers

The right to vote, according to Fergus Millar, in the sovereign body of the Republican constitution was the populus Romanus, as represented by the various forms of the voting assembly. The three bodies of the ancient Roman Comitia: the centuriata, an assembly by centuriae established by Servius Tullius, the curiata, assembly of the curiae, (which rarely met in the later times of the Republic), and the tributa, assembly of the tribes of Rome. The right to participate in major decisions, such as going to war or to make other major changes was a right the Roman plebian populace had fought to attain over centuries. Yet by the time of the ascendency of Tiberius in 14 AD, Tacitus claims that elections transferred to the Senate, but as noted by B. M. Levick this did not necessarily need to lead to the demise of the electoral process. Levick interprets the statement in Tacitus as Tiberius limiting his own power, because of an understanding of the consequences of commendati, or written recommendation, by suggesting only four candidates to the tribunate. Tacitus writes:

Tum primum e campo comitia ad patres translata sunt: nam ad eam diem, etsi potissima arbitrio principis, quaedam tamen studiis tribuum fiebant. neque populus ademptum ius questus est nisi inani rumore, et senatus largitionibus ac precibus sordidis exsolutus libens tenuit, moderante Tiberio ne plures quam quattuor candidatos commendaret sine repulsa et ambitu designandos.

It was then for the first time that the elections were transferred from the Campus Martius to the Senate. For up to that day, though the most important rested with the emperor’s choice, some were settled by the partialities of the tribes. Nor did the people complain of having the right taken from them, except in mere idle talk, and the Senate, being now released from the necessity of bribery and of degrading solicitations, gladly upheld the change, Tiberius confining himself to the recommendation of only four candidates who were to be nominated without rejection or canvass.

(Ann. 1-15)

The intent of this short paper is to examine aspects of democratic survival by electoral and non-electoral means in the early Imperium, with a focus on the transition from Augustus to Tiberius.

It seems that Tiberius had hopes of restoring the old Republican system if a reasonable chance of success was determined to exist and acted to expand the power of the Senate as Olive Kunz saw the removal of electoral power to the Senate. He did not want the office claiming the job to be too difficult for one man and wished to be just one among many. Augustus himself claimed in his summary of his deeds in the AD 14 Res Gestae Divi Augusti:

Ín consulátú sexto et septimo, b(ella ubi civil)ia exstinxeram | per consénsum úniversórum (potitus rerum omn)ium, rem publicam || ex meá potestáte (§) in senát(us populique Romani a)rbitrium transtulí.

In my sixth and seventh consulships, when I had extinguished the flames of civil war, after receiving by universal consent the absolute control of affairs, I transferred the republic from my own control to the will of the senate and the Roman people.

(Res Gestae VI 34)

The restoration could have been a dream on the part of Augustus, yet in a technically legal sense, it was true. Shipley indicates that Augustus did begin divesting himself of extraordinary powers in 28 and 27 BCE, but that he maintained the “ordinary offices in an extraordinary way, such as the tribunica potestas and the imperium.” Much has been made of this statement; Augustus himself quotes from the authorization to the imperium given to him by the senate, ordering him “to see that the republic suffered no harm.” Clifford Ando states that the entire binary division between imperium and auctoritas is a false one, that “the coexistence of the Republic and monarchy is everywhere attested, both explicitly and implicitly, both in documentary and in literary texts.”

Statue of Tiberius from Privernum. Marble. Ca. 20—30 A.D. Rome, Vatican Museums, Chiaramonti, XXI.3. Credits: © Photo, text: N. N. Britova, N. M. Loseva, N. A. Sidorova. RIMSKII SKUL’PTURNYI PORTRET. M., “Iskusstvo”, 1975, s. 34, ill. 49.


There are some issues to clarify regarding Tacitus, who has been a major source on the reign of Tiberius; he presents a notably one-sided view of Tiberius. As the venerable historian, Sir Ronald Styme, wrote “It is mainly for his treatment of Tiberius that Tacitus comes under censure.” Tacitus shows Tiberius a man whose truly evil nature came out in degrees as the mitigating factors of the presence of parties such as Germanicus, Drusus, his mother and even Sejanus were removed, after which his depravity knew no bounds. Styme believes that Tacitus went back to original sources, and cites the accounts of Suetonius and Cassius Dio who to a degree corroborate Tacitus. Kuntz considers Tacitus to be poisoning the well, exhibiting undue influence on Suetonius and Dio. Reading some of the supportive sources on the reign of Tiberius, Velleius comes to mind, presents a different picture, one of peace and prosperity, and a Princeps beset by undeserved personal misfortunes. Velleius wrote just before the fall of Sejanus, and, perhaps due to writing in the reign of Tiberius, was prejudiced in his favor.

Republican coin, issued by the moneyer P. Licinius Nerva, showing voting in an assembly. Two voters are casting their ballots: the voter on the left receives his tablet from an attendant below, while the other, after crossing the bridge, places his tablet in the voting urn. Below, a drawing of the image. (VRoma: National Museums, Rome: Barbara McManus)

From :

The contention that the voting rights of the populace disappeared at that time seems premature as to the actual state of affairs. Josiah Ober, in his research on the testament of Augustus that is supposed to have guided Tiberius, can find nothing that implies Augustus had anything more in mind than a list of suggested candidates for office. It seems that there was no conspiracy on the part of Tiberius, or the intent of Augustus to end the popular vote, only to secure the Senate as functioning body. Tiberius brought all manner of matters before the Senate, great and small, in what Suetonius called “a certain show of liberty, by preserving to the senate and magistrates their former majesty and power.” Suetonius, who may have read Tacitus, although Styme thinks it unlikely, implies the liberty was a sham. Turning that around it could simply be the failure of the Senate to act in a manner in accordance with its power, or as has been noted, the view of Tacitus, who had survived the trials at the end of Domitian’s reign, may have colored the perspective of subsequent historians.

Tiberius claimed only the Tribunican authority given to him by the Senate, to call the Senate to session upon the death of Augustus, as even his detractor Tacitus states. Evidence of a continued electoral process at least in the provinces, seen in Pliny the Younger’s references to a “marriageable gentleman,” who, happens to have stayed out of the hustle and bustle of the political life, was a sure indication that such a life still was important even during the empire. In his article on the survival of the demos in Greece during the imperial period Arjan Zuiderhoek wrote, “Greek cities in the Roman east continue to use the formula ‘the council (boule) and people (demos) decide/honour’ well into the third century.” The idea that Imperial dictates replaced elections seems not to hold up. It also would be absurdly cumbersome for the imperial apparatus to have to pick the members of every city council. Given the technology of the time, even the good Roman roads would leave cities waiting for years for executive decisions from the Roman imperial bureaucracy. As Clifford Ando notes, there was no clear distinction between imperial and republican structures, elections continued at least until the end of the third century AD. The populus Romanus remained an integral part of the imperial ideology.

Reading the commentary in Velleius, who was there, on the supposed suppression of the plebeians voting rights commanded by the letter of Augustus, all he says is:

Post redditum caelo patrem et corpus eius humanis honoribus, numen
divinis honoratum, primum principalium eius (Tiberii) operum fuit
ordinatio comitiorum, quam manu sua scriptam divus Augustus reliquerat.

(Compendium II.124.3)

The Loeb translation of ordinatio comitiorum is “the regulation of the comitia, instructions for which Augustus had left in his own handwriting.” Looking in Cassell’s Latin Dictionary the term ordinatio is translated as “a setting in order, arrangement” and comitiorum is “the assembly of the Roman people for the election of magistrates, etc.; hence the elections.” What was interesting upon looking further was the root of ordination, in ordo, ordinaries, cited from Livy as being in the ordinary manner, as in elections, as opposed to suffecti, or substitute. These words all have significance in the political realms. It would seem that the translation is that of a return to normalcy or even an ending of irregular substitutions of the elected authorities. Ober sees no claim to a secret memorandum to Tiberius as Cassius Dio contends, citing “Suetonius held the positions of a studiis, a bibliothecis, and ab epistulis under Trajan and Hadrian and presumably had access to the imperial archives.” This in making the point that Suetonius never mentions a book of recommendations for Tiberius as Cassius Dio claims in his history.

There are problems with this argument. Going back to Tacitus, he clearly states that in time after Augustus’s death, elections transferred from the Assembly to the senate and that up until that time the tribes had been able to elect officials, albeit in Tacitus’ words only unimportant elections. Moreover, according to Tacitus, “the public, except in trivial talk, made no objection to their deprival of this right.” Yet we find Velleius gushing over being the candidatis Caesaris of both Augustus and Tiberius, along with his brother for the praetorship, which would imply that there were non-Caesarian candidates, which the previous quote from Tacitus Tiberius’ recommendations, were limited to four. Where were the voting masses? Tacitus claims they simply did not care about the vote. Senators were relieved not to have to canvas the electorate.

Reed: Plebeians Checking vote lists.


Something is missing. Relief over the end of the civil wars would have been decades prior to 14 AD. The average life span according to Shelton was 27 years. Augustus ruled for more than two generations of Romans. Tiberius was born during the Triumvirate and was 55 when he became Princeps. The Republican traditions that most of the populace knew were those of the reformed Republic. Augustus had done his job integrating the imperium and his auctoritas into the new order, a masterful political strategist he carefully prepared the opportunity for his replacement. Tiberius, by contrast was a soldier, came from a gens the Claudii, proud and sticklers for their privileges. His tastes in literature were of traditions from the past and held no truck with the Augustan poets. Augustus reputedly called him a “slow devourer,” a dour fellow who was not one of Augustus’ favorite party guests. Tiberius seems old fashioned in his moderatio, a bit behind the times, resisting the power offered, as Suetonius records a member of the Senate saying “others are slack in performing what they promise, but you are slack in promising what you perform.” How would the people adapt to Tiberius?

W. Erder claims Augustus was building a link between old forms of the Republic and the Republic, sans the violent discord from bad old days. Augustus was attempting to build a consensus of support for the next princeps, who would have the concensus universorum that granted him sole possession of power. It was his auctoritas, according to Erder, that granted him the right invest a successor with the roles to take his place. Acquiesce of the public would be perceived as the res publica accepting this choice. Hence the statement by Tacitus that the consuls, senate, equites, and the people swore allegiance to Tiberius upon his accession, although as I read it, there was nothing but bile in Tacitus’ statement for he saw Tiberius as putting the final nails in the coffin of the Republic. An indication of things to come was the way Tiberius handled the funeral of Augustus. Troops guarded the site, justified by the disruptions at the time of the funeral of Julius Caesar. Tiberius anticipated popular disruption, as Tacitus writes there were jibes at the fearful new rulers afraid of a few citizens.

Map of the Capitoline Hill, indicating the probable location of the Gemonian Stairs at the time of the Roman Empire.


Yet the process of alienation of political rights, initially justified perhaps as an echoed response to the troubled times of the last years of the Republic, became problematic leaving the masses without certain aspects of legal political expression, the public areas of the city remained an arena in which the populace expressed political opinions. One of these locations was the Scalae Gemoniae, steps built by Augustus during his rebuilding of Rome, the place of choice for public strangling of opposition figures according to William Barry. The displays of power did not dissuade the populace from expressing its views, and the steps became contested where riots occurred in AD 20 during Cn. Calpurnius Piso’s trial, and again at the time of the downfall of Sejanus. Executing the more notable opposition, such as the children of Sejanus who were, as Tacitus writes in his rather gruesome chapters on the reign of Tiberius, “both were strangled, and their young bodies were thrown on the Gemonian Steps.” This became the place for both demonstration and execution of the more notable defendants in the time of Tiberius.

Roman Plebeians


Roman elites were suspect of all associations among the plebs. They degraded the significance of their associations, calling the informal gatherings of small groups known as circuli, with the presence of a circulator, a person who facilitated these meetings as the equivalent of a type of low entertainment put on by hucksters. The example of the snake charmers drugging snakes by Celsus, indicates the type of entertainer that the upper classes considered the circulatores to be as Peter O’Neill pointed out in his study on class and popular speech.

UW-Green Bay’s Dinner Lecture: When in Rome… Experiencing a Roman Feast


Tacitus, as noted above claims that the people were indifferent to their loss of political power. Rather, popular assemblies became ciruli. The suffragatores, political party whips, becoming cirulatores, mere circus barkers, in an elite view. Yet the populace was not passively sitting around telling tales.

There were curious events, riots related to the pantomimes. The first occurred at the Sodales Augustalus, games honoring the deified Augustus in September 14 A.D. Tacitus says a conflict between rival ballet dancers caused a disturbance. The next year Tacitus relates that there were casualties, including a company captain as well as civilians. The Senate moved to have actors flogged. A tribune blocked the proposal, and Tiberius remained silent. Tacitus, noting that Augustus had said actors would be exempt from corporal punishment, claims loyalty to Augustan precedent rather than respect for the law that motivated Tiberius. He did lower the wages of actors according to Suetonius, but it is unclear if that was the cause of the rioting or a punishment after.

Pantomime- The dancers relied on gesture and odd movement to delineate a story, usually a Greek mythology. Performances were long, with grand costume and mask changes. Jumps, leaps, freezes, and gymnastics were exact, athletic, and formally choreographed. Performers’ hand movements were extremely important, and this “talking with the hands” was called “cheironomy”. Ancient Roman Dance: Pantomime-Reagan Noelle Kowert


Suetonius reports, it was a fight in the audience that broke out, leading to the parties involved and the actors’ exile. Public protest over the exiling of the popular actor Actius, resulting from the riots apparently irritated Tiberius, who had to release Actius, according to Suetonius. Tacitus, not naming the actor, mentions that charges against a certain Falanius due to “admitting among the worshipers of Augustus an actor in musical comedies who was a male prostitute.” Tiberius released the offenders stating his mother the Augusta, had not instituted the games to entrap Roman citizens, and that the actor had been a performer in the games. I find the passions aroused by these incidents in the early days of the regime to indicate that politics played on many levels and the public was not indifferent or immune. The issue, as seemingly trivial as whether a group of actors could stay in Rome, masked some deeper issues of the changes that had occurred in Rome.

Roman costumes would depend on the type of play they were doing but became more and more realistic as time progressed.


The populace transformed by the influx of foreigners, slaves, freedmen, merchants, and country people seeking better lives. The populace was up to ninety percent of foreign birth according to John Wesley Heaton in his study of mob violence in the Republic. The lustrum a sacrifice after the census, which Augustus uses synonymously, taken by Augustus reported in the Res Gestae indicated growth from 4,063,000 citizens in 28 B.C., a second in 8 B.C. with 4,233,000, to that in his third lustrum in 14 AD., showing a citizenship of military age of 4,937,000. This was a radical increase over the last previous census of 60 B.C. with a citizenry of 450,000. The difference probably attributed to a more accurate accounting of citizens across the empire, not just within the environs of Rome.

W.J. Slater calls the incidents, Pantomime riots, with the “first great riots of 14 and 15 A.D. in Rome.” It is amazing, how much detail exists about this incident, considering this was a dispute among the less than reputable actors. As Slater points out Greek professionals called themselves “actor of tragic rhythmic movement,” implying they were superior to the generic Latin histro. As Tacitus describes it, Augustus introduced pantomime in 22, B. C. to gratify his ally Maecenas, who was infatuated with the actor Bathyllus. Augustus also liked the theater, making him seem more a man of the people. However, Tiberius had no time for theater and rarely attended. This goes to the differences in style between the two. Tiberius portrayed as reserved, cunning, superstitious, and cruel. He was efficient, economical, fair, a good manager of the provinces, and did not like flattery or extravagance. Tiberius was a private man, who seemed to prefer his own company in Rhodes and Capri than the center in Rome. Augustus has more of a flair for the extravagant, rebuilding Rome, sponsoring poets and the arts. One could say Augustus presented himself as a main of the people and Tiberius a man who was not one to suffer fools. However, in two long reigns they managed to solidify the Imperium as the family affair it became for a century.

Family tree of Julio-Claudian Dynasty producing 5 emperors at the start of the Roman Empire (27 BCE - 68 CE). Remade from start using Image:JulioClaudian.png as a template.

Protests in the theater where the public gathered in one place offered opportunity for complaints. During a period high grain prices, the crowd protested loudly, nearly rioting. Tiberius blamed the authorities for not controlling the mob. Tacitus says nothing of the steps taken to ameliorate the condition. Velleius mentions rioting in the theaters suppressed, and low grain prices, as laudatory practices of Tiberius, evidently claiming the problem solved. This indicates further the balancing act the Roman authorities had to play, if they were to deny the plebeians the right to participate, because the authorities were taking care of them, when the authorities let the people down, there could be hell to pay. Later Emperor Claudius attacked by a crowd, during a famine when he was in the law courts, only escaped with the aid of soldiers. Massacring citizens was not the order of the day.

There remained a legacy of political action. After the murder of Gaius or Caligula as we know him, there was an attempt to restore the Republic, in 41 A. D. that failed because the Praetorian Guard remained loyal to Claudius. Sam Wilkinson records various attempts to restore the Republic, which was not simply personal attempts at gain, but part of an ideological desire, at least among the elite for a return to the Republic. The lack of popular support was a major factor in their failure. Suetonius notes that a mob surrounded the senate house demanding one-man rule and Claudius bribed the gathered troops to support him, the first time that had been done. Later during the rule of Vespasian, after the civil wars at the end of Nero’s rule, there was a movement by the philosophers to agitate among the masses. Helvidius Priscus “banded various men together, as if it were the function of philosophy to insult those in power, to stir up the multitudes, to overthrow the order of things, and to bring about a revolution.” This was in 70 AD and the Republic had been supposedly dead for over a century. Political activity did not end nor was it strictly an affair among the elite. As Plutarch wrote in his essay, Whether an old man should engage in public affairs, “we must remind them that being a politician consists not only of holding office, being ambassador, vociferating in the assembly, and ranting round the speakers’ platform proposing laws and motions.”

Ancient Greek Speech making.

From: ZumaFactoid.

In conclusion, Tiberius inherited an Imperium built upon limited legal authority and the great personal authority of his predecessor Augustus. He managed to maintain his position by a careful negotiation that although similar to what Augustus did in substance, was perceived very differently due to his less open and public persona. The people seemingly shut out of one aspect of the polity, maintained an ability to influence the policies of the government through direct action in the streets and public theaters.

The masses saw efforts to restore the Republic as elite attempts to remove their great sponsor, the emperor. The mostly wealthy members of the opposition failed to galvanize popular support and attempts to reach the plebes failed due to governmental reaction to the potential threat. There were probably few alive at the time of Tiberius’ ascent to the Imperium who could remember anything of the Triumvirate, and none who would remember the functioning Republic prior to the Caesarian revolution. There had remained enough institutional memory of those times, colored by Augustan propaganda to allow Tiberius to assume authority yet not without some resistance and commentary.

The modern American political scene seems to echo much of what was current in Roman politics. Conflict between Congress and the President is part of the classical legacy that makes Roman history relevant today. The founding fathers of the American Republic steeped in Latin literature and their caution in forming a government informed by their readings of the past. The average citizenry is just as alienated from the Congress as the Roman plebes were with their Senate. Many find that feeling unrepresented, they take to the streets in protest, sometimes rioting. In that respect perhaps, nothing much has changed over the millennia.

Ferguson, MO. ‘I will kill you’: Watch terrifying moment policeman at US protest threatens to shoot crowd August 2014.


The footnotes do not transfer over unfortunately. For full article with footnotes you can contact author at

Partial Bibliography.

Ando, Clifford. 2000.Imperial Ideology and Provincial Loyalty in the Roman Empire. Berkeley. University of California Press.

Barry, William D. 2008. Exposure, Mutilation, and Riot: Violence at the Scalae Gemoniae in Early Imperial Rome. Greece and Rome. 55, no. 2: 222-246. (accessed November 12, 2014)

Erder, W. 1990. Augustus and the Power of Tradition: The Augustan Principate as Binding Link. Between Republic and Empire Interpretations of Augustus and His Principate. ed. Kurt A. Raaflaub and Mark Toher. Berkeley: University of California Press

Heaton, Wesey. 1939.Mob Violence in the Late Roman Republic. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Kuntz, Olive. 1922. Tiberius Caesar and the Roman Constitution. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Levick, B. M. 1967. Imperial Control of the Elections Under the Early Principate: Commendatio, Suffragatio, and “Nominatio”. Historia: Zeitschrift Für Alte Geschichte. 16, no. 2: 207-230. (accessed November 14, 2014).

Millar, Fergus. 1998. The Crowd in Rome in the Late Republic. U. of Michigan.

Ober, Josiah. 1982. Tiberius and the Political Testament of Augustus. Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte 31 no 3: 306-328. (accessed November 14, 2014).

O’Neill, Peter. 2003. Going Round in Circles: Popular Speech in Ancient Rome. Classical Antiquity. 22, no. 1: 135-176. (accessed November 12, 2014)

Shelton, Jo-Anne. 1998. As the Romans Did. New York: Oxford University Press

Shipley, Frederick W. trans. 1924. Res Gestae Divi Augusti. Loeb Classical Library 152 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press)

Simpson, D.P. 1968.Cassell’s Standard Latin Dictionary. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Slater, W J. 1994. Pantomime Riots. Classical Antiquity. 13, no. 1: 120. (accessed November 12, 2014)

Styme, Ronald. 1958. Tacitus. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Wilkinson, Sam. 2012.Republicanism During the Early Roman Empire. London: Continuum Publishing Group.

Zuiderhoek, Arjan. 2008. On the Political Sociology of the Imperial Greek City. Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies. 48. 417-445.

Classical Sources

Augustus, Caesar. Res Gestae

Dio, Cassius. Roman History Reign of Augustus.

Suetonius. Lives of the Twelve Caesars.

Tacitus. Annals of Imperial Rome.

Velleius, Paterculus. Compendium of Roman History.

Castor and Pollux Cult In Ancient Rome & Greece

October 25th, 2014
Castor and Pollux Statues - Rome City Hall

Castor and Pollux Cult in Greco-Roman Culture: Flamininus at the Temple of the Dioscuri
Roman and Spartan Virtue

Roman general and Proconsul Titus Quinctius Flamininus, after his victory at Cynoscephalae (Dogs head) against Phillip V of Macedon in 197 BCE, liberating Greece with the aid of his Aetolian allies, went to Delphi, to the temple of the Tyndaridae. There, according to Plutarch, he dedicated silver bucklers and his own war shield, having the inscription made stating “O ye sons of Zeus, whose joy is in swift horsemanship, O ye Tyndaridae, princes of Sparta, Titus, a descendant of Aeneas, has brought you a most excellent gift, he who for the sons of the Greeks wrought freedom.” Why would he upon this great victory honor the twins, Castor and Pollux or the Dioscuri as they were called collectively, not part of the major Greek or Roman big twelves pantheon, gods who according to myth traded places between Olympus with the Gods and in the Underworld with Hades? It is my intention to explore some of the significance of the Cult of Castor and Pollux in Roman and Greek culture. I shall be focusing one the period when Greece became part of the emerging Roman Republican Empire in the second and third centuries BCE.

Flamininus’s Roman and allied Greek forces vs Phillip V of Macedon and his allies at Cynoscephalae.

The example of Flamininus, celebrating the Tyndairdae (sons of Tyndareus) and the reference to Sparta is because that is the particularly Spartan name for the Greek Dioscuri (sons of Zeus) or in Latin Castores, has much to do with the politics of the time and that place, in which they symbolized more than other deities. There was nothing unusual about that mixing of religion and state among the Romans or the Greeks. Delphi was the center of the oracle of Apollo, and visitors from around the ancient world would go there for advice. This had great propaganda value for the Romans in promoting their role as the champions of liberty and peace as well as touting Flaminius’s own horn. The golden wreath placed at the temple of Apollo attests to this. “This will fitly lie on thine ambrosial locks, O son of Leto, this wreath with sheen of gold; it is the gift of the great leader of the children of Aeneas. Therefore, O Far-darter, bestow upon the god-like Titus the glory due to his prowess.”

Copyright : emicristea

The temple of Apollo at Delphi, Greece

Why though the Tyndairdae or Dioscuri? There is a dual meaning to the Dioscuri as they were both the guardian spirits of Sparta who were embodied in the form of the dual kings of the city state, and they were also heroic representatives of the victory of the Republican Rome over its last kings. An examination of the role of the Dioscuri in Sparta shows that in mythology Castor and Pollux or Polydeuces as he was known to the Greeks, were both sons of Leda wife of Tyndareus ruler of Sparta before the Trojan War, hence the name Tyndairdae. Castor is traditionally the human son of Tyndareus and the Pollux the son of Zeus when he came to Leda as a swan. Sometimes their sisters including Helen were suspected as being children of Zeus and Leda.

Wikimedia Commons. ‘Leda and the Swan’ after Leonardo da Vinci

One egg contained the Dioscuri, Polydeuces being the immortal son of Zeus and Castor the mortal son of Tyndareus. From the other hatched Helen, and her sister Clytemnestra was the daughter of Tyndareus.

There are interesting symbols and myths associated with the twins. The caps, they are frequently shown wearing, called piloi, represent the cosmic egg from which they hatched, symbol of the heavens and the earth. Their alternation of heaven and earth, day and night, became identified as the personifications of eternity or the “everlastingness of the renovatio temporum” They were worshiped as savior gods in Ptolemaic Egypt where they shared a temple with the royal family’s divinities Philadelphus and Euergetes. These were the defied kings of Ptolemaic Egypt, and Theocritus a royally sponsored poet, wrote about the Dioscuri in his poetic “Idylls (eidyllia ‘little pictures’)” with a sophisticated court audience in mind, playing on their nostalgia for a more bucolic time, a term that is attributed to him boukolikos, meaning ‘about cowherds’. He was in Alexandria during this period of very deliberate syncretism on the part of the Ptolemy’s. Theocritus wrote his Idyll on the Dioscuri describing Castor’s death as being avenged by his father, Zeus crying “Ah! ‘tis no child’s-play to fight with the sons of Tyndareus; they prevail even as he that begat them prevaileth” This indicates that a cult of salvation may be associated with the Dioscuri. Perhaps this is a syncretic Egyptian practice attached to the Greek heroes. Kennell writes that the association with the Dioscuri goes back to the ancient Indo-European tradition of the Divine Twins, a tradition that he feels the conservative Spartans maintained in their tripartite distinction of the three social classes of “priest and kings, warrior and herder-cultivators” This ancient traditional division appears to have also been the basis of the caste system of the Aryan invaders of India.

ASHVINS or Ashwins, are the divine twin Vedic gods of the morning. They are horsemen who are known for their goodwill towards humans

This conservatism of the Spartans would have been very attractive and familiar to traditional Romans. If one follows the logic of the ancient traditions of the twins, the Romans may not have been adopting the Dioscuri so much as interpreting their own twin myths, reflected in the story of Romulus and Remus and associating the Greek twins with their own proto-Latin version from the time before the Indo-Europeans split. In the Indo-Iranian tradition the Divine Twins are often represented as horses. The Dioscuri in Quintilian’s version of the Simonides story, see below, were on “horseback (equis advecti).” As great horsemen it would seem strange that the hoplite Spartans, who had had little or no cavalry for centuries, would be so fond of hippes (cavalry) such as the Dioscuri represented. Roman knights or equites also may have seemed to be irrelevant in a world where the phalanx and the legion dominated, they also held the Dioscuri to be special protectors. Cavalry was the domain of the wealthy who could afford the upkeep of horses, but in the sense that they reflect ancient traditions from the steppe cultural past, which for the Romans and Spartans would have survived in the myths of the horse riding twins Castor and Pollux. In reality the Spartans had ended the use of cavalry at the time of the Second Messenian War about 630 BCE. At that time they “enacted egalitarian reforms eliminating obvious signs of wealth and establishing compulsory training for males as hoplites including the elimination of cavalry.” There seems to be an element of the early class divisions on the part of those who held the Dioscuri special.

Rider BM B1

A Laconian black-figured cup by Rider Painter featuring a member of the hippeus.
Rider with birds and a winged figure, perhaps Nike (Victory). Lakonian black-figured kylix, ca. 550–530 BC.

Pindar captures much of the qualities admired in the Spartans and the divine mirror of their self-image in the Nemean Odes [odes that would celebrate athletes in the Nemean Games], “For Theaeus of Argos Wrestling (?)444 B. C.” captures in these verses much of the essential knowledge we have about the cult of the Dioscuri:

But since Castor and his brother Polydeuces came to Pamphaës to receive a hospitable welcome, it is no wonder that it is innate in their race to be good athletes; since the Dioscuri, guardians of spacious Sparta, along with Hermes and Heracles, administer the flourishing institution of the games, and they care very much for just men. Indeed, the race of the gods is trustworthy.

There are several critical things mentioned in this poem, one they are masters of games where in Sparta as the guardians and favorite sons born just outside of town in Therapne, which according to archeological evidence is one of the oldest Bronze Age ruins, older than any on the site of Sparta proper. It was there that, as Michael Grant notes, “a sanctuary on three platforms, the Menelaion, from c.725: here the old Mycenaean nature goddess was resuscitated in the form of Helen, while the helpers of the goddess reappeared in the guise of her divine brothers the Dioscuri.” This harkens back to the idea of the original divine twins of the Indo-Europeans. They also represented the domination of the natural order of things, that of the just men.

Detail of one of the Dioskouroi twins battling a Gigante in a painting of the Gigantomakhia (War of the Giants). The demi-god is depicted as a horseman wearing a petasos (traveller’s cap). His brother is also shown in the same painting (see image below).

Museum Collection: Musée du Louvre, Paris, France Attributed to the the Suessula Painter ca 400 - 390 BC

These heroes engaged in adventures like Hercules. In one tale they captured Athens, with the aid of the Lacedaemonians and Arcadians, in order to bring back their sister Helen when she was kidnapped by Theseus. The tradition of defending familial and Spartan rights would provide some of the background justification for Spartan self-image as upholding the old traditions of virtue, similar to that of the Romans. The Dioscuri are seen as the equals of Hermes and Heracles which may say something of their importance as personal interveners for humans between the Earth and the heavens. This relationship is built in their mythology as Pindar continues in the next verse:
Changing places in alternation, the Dioscuri spend one day beside their dear father Zeus, and the other beneath the depths of the earth in the hollows of Therapne, each fulfilling an equal destiny, since Polydeuces [Greek version of Pollux] preferred this life to being wholly a god and living in heaven, when Castor was killed in battle. [60]

Spartan Girls Challenging Boys 1862 by Edgar Degas

Among the Spartans the Dioscuri were major divinities. The youth who were undergoing the famously rigorous training called the agōgē. This was referred to above, as the compulsory military training, but it was more than that, it was a way of life for the elite youth of Sparta, supported by slaves and peasantry, they focused on the traditional role of huntsman and warrior. It was a tradition that had gone back to the beginning of Sparta periodically had been ended by reformers and then brought back as a return to the ways of Lycurgus the mythical reformer who established the traditions of Sparta. Kennell says “Castor and Pollux epitomized young manhood in Spartan eyes.” They were great hunters with Castor being attributed to having been the Spartan hound the Castorian. They were the inventors of the armed dances the youth would perform in their ritual training and they were the enforcers of fair play and were the great warriors to whose tune the “kastoreian melos,” the Spartans would march off to war. Youth would sacrifice puppies to the war god at the temple of the Dioscuri in Sparta even into the Roman period. This was observed by Pausanius who describes the quaint customs of the noble Spartans. He was a Roman tourist of the Second Century CE.

Dog Sacrifices in Ancient Greece. From Attalus Museum

Spartan greatness intertwined with the Dioscuri is shown in a poem fragment attributed to Simonides in which he calls writes an elegy to the Spartan victors in the battle of Plataea against the Persians in 479 BCE. When one thinks of the Dioscuri the association with Sparta seems to have been common in the Greco-Roman world:

…Muse, as an ally to me, (if indeed) you do care for men who are praying.
(Deck out) also this (ornament, sweet to the mind, of my song), so that some-
one (may remember) . . . (of men), who (for) Sparta . . . the day of slavery . . .
(nor did they forget excellence) . . . high-as-heaven . . . (and the fame of ) these
men (will be) immortal . . . having left (the Eurotas) and the city (of Sparta) . . .
with the horse-taming sons of Zeus, (the Tyndarid) heroes and with wide-rul-
ing Menelaus . . . leaders of the city (of their fathers) . .

The Dioscuri were protectors not only of horsemen and warrior, they has a special regard for poets as well. Cicero in De Oratore describes a banquet where Simonides chants a lyric poem long on praises for Castor and Pollux. The host, a certain Scopas ridiculed the length of the panegyric to those patrons of poetry by only paying Simonides half of what he was due, telling him to claim the rest from the Dioscuri. Moments later Simonides was called outside where there were two young men waiting. Once outside nobody was found. The house collapsed burying all within. Simonides used his memory of where they sat, to identify the dead. He was called father of mnemonics after that as he used the experience to develop memory techniques.

Castor and Pollux saving Simonides from the collapsing building

Flamininus had multiple reasons to be worshiping at the temple of the Dioscuri. He was about to embark on a war with Nabis, described by Plutarch as the “most pernicious and lawless tyrant of Sparta,” . The special aid of the Dioscuri was important to the Romans as well as the Spartans. Rome also had a relationship with the Castores or Dioscuri, who according to legend saved the Romans at the battle of Lake Regillus, Aulus Postumius Albus Regillensis, then dictator of Rome, vowed to the Dioscuri that if they aided him against the Latin forces lead by the aging Tarquin former king of Rome, he would build a temple to them. Remnants of the temple which was built in approximately 495 BCE, and rebuilt several times since, exist to this day in the Roman forum. The temple was the site of the meetings of the Senate and speeches were given outside on its portico. Under the emperors it became a treasury.

Titus Quinctius Flamininus, 196 BC.

The Dioscuri were to both warrior peoples the Romans and the Spartans models of behavior and it was because of the affinity to these Gods that perhaps Flamininus’s dedication to the temple of the Delphi was not the cynical action of a politician, at least not exclusively and may go a ways in explaining why he let Nabis make peace with Rome in 195 BCE instead of destroying the Spartans as the Achaean League desired. Flamininus announced at the Nemean Games given by Argos what amounted to an amnesty for the Spartans. .

The Romans admired the Spartan traditions and part of that was a mutual admiration of those “horse taming sons of Zeus,” the Dioscuri, who appeared to support Flamininus’s victory over Philip dedicating the shields to their temple in Delphi as a form of sympathetic magic connecting to their support in the Battle of Lake Regillus. Later, in the 160’s BCE, Lucius Aemilus Paullus in his celebration of victory over the Macedonian king Perseus at Pydna had the story spread that the Dioscuri had shown up at the fountain of Jutturna to announce his victory in Rome just as they had for the victory over the ancient kings of Rome centuries before to announce the victory of liberty over tyranny. The Dioscuri were not just protectors of the elite horsemen, warriors and elite poets against insults, but also protectors of freedoms and rights. The Phygian cap has long been associated with liberty, as the egg shell origins of the cap was the result of the mixing of man and god. The cap symbol represents that liberty a natural right of man, and the cult of the Dioscuri was in itself perhaps a reminder of man’s natural liberty.
Image by John Leech, from: The Comic History of Rome by Gilbert Abbott A Beckett. Bradbury, Evans & Co, London, 1850s Flaminius restoring Liberty to Greece at the Isthmian Games

Unfortunately Wordpress does not pick up footnotes and this was written using that system. If you want to read the paper with footnotes you can contact: and I will gladly email you a pdf of the original paper.

Roman Republican Coins, T. Quinctius Flaminius, Denarius 126 BC, VF

Ebola, Colonialism, & Scientific Imperialism

October 12th, 2014

Crews in Liberia removing the victims of Ebola to crematoriums.

Ebola is everywhere in the news, replacing Israel and Palestine, replacing Russia and the Ukraine, or typhoons in the Philippines, even IS beheading of westerners has had to play second fiddle to the prospect of the Walking Dead in our daily lives. I wrote a short introduction to the literature on Western Medical interventions in the rest of the world, as sort of intro to Medicine and Science of imperialism if you will. I am posting it for your pleasure below, as I have been so swamped with school and work that my ability to blog has been severely curtailed.

Health workers suit up in for work in Ebola contamination zones.

“Historical Legacy of Colonial Medicine and Science: Some Implications of Consequences of Eurocentric Science a Literature Review”

The imposition of a model of scientific experimentation by the powerful developed nations in medicine and science has led to a debate about the nature of the western derived research oriented science that may not take into account the interests of the subjects of these studies. The model of bioethics and its universality when the discourse has been dominated by imperial, colonial and post-colonial powers since the rise of modern scientific medicine in the nineteenth century taints the science and medicine as it impacts vulnerable and less politically powerful constituencies. This dominance has come under scrutiny as the underlying motivations, of the so called scientific and humanitarian efforts of the western powers, is increasingly being questioned as a more holistic, human rights approach may be the path to social reform.
Image courtesy of Wellcome Trust

Colonial Medical Practice

Looking at European practitioners of tropical medicine, Neill documents how the research and development of treatments for diseases in the tropics were driven by the assumed superiority of these representatives of the imperial powers and how their ethical systems based on an ideal of laboratory research resulted in the discovery of pathogens but limited in their approach to treatment. The researchers and practitioners ultimately served the interests of the colonial powers. Examples from the French colonial practices in West Africa established patterns that during an epidemic of Sleeping Sickness in French controlled Guinea and British controlled Serra Leone the health experts advocated and established concentration camps to isolate and treat victims with largely ineffective arsenic based medications. I think the study seems especially pertinent as it explains some of the background to resistance to medical practitioners in the current Ebola epidemic.

Dutch Colonial Images

The Sleeping Sickness epidemic of the turn of the 20th century is speculated to have been the result of disruptions of the local ecology by the colonial enterprises were enough to set off an epidemic. Neill states “Even at the time, most people agreed that there was a relationship between the rapidity of the disease’s spread and large-scale colonial development projects, economic activities, and military conquest.” The medical culture and the political and economic system of colonialism conflicted as the needs of the commercial interests would thwart the best medical practices this created an us versus them conflict in which the medical practitioners ended up deferring to other interests.

French African Policy

The development of an ideology of “pure science” by J.C. Koningsberger and others in the in the Dutch East Indies in the early part of the 20th century is shown by Goss to be another means by which the cultural imperialism of the west was used to dominate indigenous peoples. When, Indonesia was a Dutch colony, the administration and political elites utilized science, although real and useful, as a propaganda tool to justify maintaining its control of the region, especially in the post-World War One era. Nationalist sentiments among the aspiring classes of the native Indonesians who demanded research hospitals of their own to assume some of the responsibly and status of western science were thwarted by the colonial authority until just before the Japanese occupation in World War Two in Goss’s research. The Dutch system turned objective science into a tool for exploitation. It is ironic in my view that the lack of willingness to recognize the abilities of the Indonesian intelligentsia in part resulted in the independence movement. Instead of inviting the local people racist and cultural attitudes of western superiority fueled the resentment of those whom the imperial westerners were supposedly bringing into the enlightenment of the west as Said has so clearly expounded.

Blatant Racist Imperialism of the 19th Century

Science and imperialism are linked in the development of western science. Arnold shows that India had its own well developed medical traditions when the British gained ascendancy over the subcontinent. The Indian science has been considered to be degenerate by Orientalist writers as a result of Muslim occupation and the chaos after the breakup of the Mogul Empire. The mythology being that western intervention came to rescue a formerly advanced scientific tradition that had succumbed decadence, and needed to be saved from the vicissitudes of fate.
The introduction of the British colonial administration actually disrupted the development of Indian science and medicine which, Arnold shows, has until recently been seen as the introduction of British advanced scientific methods into a stagnant Indian landscape. Arnold states “The idea of a simple diffusion of a monolithic and progressive Western science into passively recipient extra-European lands has been challenged from several standpoints.” Diffusionist views, often held to be the model, considered science to be neutral and not culturally biased, now seems to be somewhat naïve. The idea of a passive indigenous population receiving dollops of western scientific medicine was and is not practical. The interaction between colonial administrations and indigenous subjects had to be mediated by the local practitioners and accumulated field knowledge on the ground. This can clearly be seen in the evidence of people in West Africa running from medical practitioners dressed like aliens, or even attacking aid workers if there is not a proper communication and cooperation.

Last edited by Blackleaf; May 11th, 2014 at 11:40

British Empire Personified. Rule Britannia.

It is the hierarchical dominance of the British science establishment over the local colonial science and the increasingly marginalized indigenous science in India that is a hallmark of the dominant Eurocentric scientific paradigm that has pervaded science since the 18th century and led to the biases in medical practice to this day. This is reflected in the faith in the civilizing mission of western science and its breakthroughs in technology in the industrial revolution. Indian nationalists often accepted this model of following the western lead to modernity but others rejected it as leaving India always subservient to the West.
Photograph from “The Decline and Fall of the British Empire” (Corbis)

Members of a British army polo team in Hyderabad, India.

This model of development has had repercussions in modern attempts to fight out breaks of disease as well as the imposition of European based testing models on developing countries. Garrafa and Lorenzo point out that the US and other developed countries perform clinical trials in involving poor third world subjects and the use of double standards in research are a form of moral imperialism. The WMA General Assembly rejection of attempts by the USA to modify the Helsinki Declaration to allow this type of research has led to the American abandonment of the Declaration and developing regional seminars to train local practitioners to spread the model preferred by the US. This is a case of “Indirect Moral Imperialism.”

Scientific Racism.

Case studies such as that of clinical trials studying “the prevention of vertical transmission of HIV between pregnant women and their babies” used placebos in the control group, which was denounced as unethical. Other examples including the infamous case of the Tuskegee Syphilis study where patients were denied access to penicillin as Smolen writes among many others condemning these actions. The scientists doing the research did not inform the patients of the availability of the drug. Also the director of the program, one Dr. John C. Cutler, ran a program for the Public Health Service and the National Institutes of Health, in Guatemala where patients were deliberately infected with sexually transmitted diseases. This is a case of racist and imperialist medical practice. While there have been efforts to curb such blatantly unethical practices, as noted in the “Belmont Report,” it does not address the basic inequity of a system that pits powerful corporations and medical-governmental-industrial complexes against poor peoples around the world with little institutional support.

Doctors with ‘patients’ in Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

Research done by Hewitt and Amola on the local cultural response to an Ebola outbreak in 2000 – 2001 in which surveys were done of students, adults and survivors of the outbreak among the Acholi people of northern Uganda has shown that practices of traditional healers have a sound basis. These include isolation of those suffering from an outbreak. Care giving is limited to survivors of an epidemic, or to the elderly, if survivors are not available. Placement of clear identifiers outside the house where the victims are located, and maintaining quarantine for a month after recovery of survivors are among these ongoing practices. This is thought to be a tradition that has preceded the colonial period and mirrors modern medical practice in many respects. Others such as refraining from sex and promoting harmony within the family were also recommended by traditional healers. The research found that other practices related to burial had a negative effect but that with communication between the local traditional healers and the health workers, the local people modified their practices. The ill ran away from ambulance’s sent to take them to the hospital largely because of the practice of not informing relatives of the death of the patient and a fear that westerners would sell body parts. Recommendations suggest a greater sensitivity to cultural practices and working with traditional healers rather than stigmatizing them. The study indicates that unlike the common belief among international health care workers that traditional practices are a hindrance to healing, that they can be helpful as local people have developed their own methods to deal with epidemics.

Toumi takes the position that the UNESCO Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights argues for the medical education system to teach redistributive justice in global health care with an emphasis on the interconnected nature of the world and its heath. Instilling a bioethics that reflects the universal rights of man, there will come a generation of doctors who focus on the needs of the populace of the world as a whole. The need for this holistic approach is an argument that is hard to deny in the face of current world epidemics in which the neglected developing nation health care systems have become the breeding grounds of biological disease. In this there is a basis for hope that a genuinely redistributive allocation of resources will finally compensate for the imbalances caused by the scientific exploitation of the rest of the world by the western powers over the last couple centuries. The medical necessity of insuring global health security may point the way once it is clearly shown that western science has, while helping develop cures for diseases, also is implicated the generations of human misery.

Looks like my footnotes don’t transfer from word to my blog. If anyone has an idea as to how that works let me know. I am not really up to reformatting everything into MLA style at least not tonight. I will post the bibliography from a previous version, it is not comprehensive but at least it does list the sources I quote. I will have to go back in at some point and put in MLA in text citations, but as a blog, and not an academic paper this should be adequate.


Arnold, David. Science, Technology and Medicine in Colonial India. Port Chester, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press, 2000. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 5 October 2014.
Garrafa, Volnei, and Lorenzo, Claudio. “Moral Imperialism and Multi-centric Clinical Trials in Peripheral Countries.” Cadernos De Saúde Pública, 24.10 (2008): 2219-2226.
Goss, Andrew. “Decent Colonialism? Pure Science and Colonial Ideology in the Netherlands East Indies, 1910–1929.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 40.1 (2009): 187-214.
Hewlett, Barry S. and Amola, Richard P. “Cultural Contexts of Ebola in Northern Uganda.” Emerging Infectious Diseases. 9.10 (2003) 124–1248.
Neill, Deborah. Networks in Tropical Medicine: Internationalism, Colonialism, and the Rise of a Medical Specialty, 1890–1930. Palo Alto, CA, USA: Stanford University Press, 2012. Print.
Smolin, David M. “The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, Social Change, And The Future Of Bioethics.” Faulkner Law Review 3.2 (2012): 229-251. Academic Search Complete .Web. 30 Sept. 2014
Toumi, Rabee. “Globalization and Health Care: Global Justice and the Role of Physicians.” Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 17.1 (2014): 71-80.

War Rhetoric, Bush, Obama, Hannibal, Rome, Hercules Myth & Abrahamic Cult

September 14th, 2014

Here we go again. The US seems to have become implacably wedded to war, policing the world and using foreign policy distractions to bolster sagging domestic political fortunes. After 9/11 there was some reasonable justification for going into Afghanistan, to get a little payback although it probably would have been best treated as a police action. below are a couple of speeches by Bush and Obama respectively. They are thirteen years apart. Like empires before and would be imperial powers, the rhetoric needs to be designed to reflect the public willingness to be pulled into a conflict that may or may not be justified. In thinking about this I am reminded of some past efforts to convince others to join in the cause of a more or less just war. Hannibal and his use of the Hercules Myth in his struggle against Rome, is critical to an analysis of the fate of Carthage and its struggle with Rome.

“Seigel and Shuster created Superman from existing material already to hand: the myths of Samson, Hercules…”
From A Shared, Faithless, Modern Mythology: Superheroes as Modern Legends…By Darren April 22, 2012

My thesis more than the simple statement that nearness to the point of contention, sharpens one’s real politick, there is this interesting issue of manipulation of underlying myths for the sake of propaganda both current and ancient. Hercules was a heroic figure, an intermediary between man and the gods. He often represented the position of people facing the impossible demands of fate, despite his flawed nature, coming through victoriously and in the process thwarting the interests of the bad gods and their minions. Where is this Herculean character in the modern political discourse, certainly in the theatrical production of Marvel and DC super heroes this is the case. Where in the discourse on the level of believed mythologies, on the level of religions of the states involved. This goes to the meta-belief systems which in this case are embedded in the monotheism of the modern world. The patina of the heroic Babylonian-Greco-Roman world is faint and growing fainter as the past is blown up before our eyes in Iraq and Syria. But the monotheistic world, of the Crusader vs the infidel narrative and the relatively insecure position of the Jews plays out now. I shall concentrate on the Herculean myth; refer to modern rhetoric with a brief analysis of the use of the myth of Hercules in the Punic wars and the later Roman absorption of the myth in their own victorious narrative. Thus the issue becomes one of what significance do these meta-stories have in the development of the narrative and the real political issues the narrative deals with.

Bush declaration of attack on Afghanistan and Al Qaeda.

Obama declaration of attack on ISIL in Syria and Iraq.

To go into Syria because of the beheading of a couple of journalists seems to be playing right into the hands of IS. They seem to be getting some strategic benefit from drawing the US into these costly limited wars. Wars that ultimately cannot be won without a serious deployment of boots on the ground to occupy space as well as the enforcement of a political agenda that may mean ramming terms down the throats of unwilling Middle Eastern states, through political, military and economic pressure. I am not sure the USA has the means or the will to pursue such a course and the IS planners like their counterparts in Al Qaeda know that.

“This cartoon, by David Axe and Matt Bors highlights some of the key developments in U.S. drone warfare”
The war of attrition by taking out the heads of the leadership via assassination and drone strikes, has been of limited success, as one head is chopped off, Hydra like two more arise to take its place. The implication, if one takes the example of Hercules is that you need assistance on the ground, an ally who is there to cauterize the wound to prevent a new set of heads from emerging.

Hercules battles the multi-headed beast of terror in ancient world.
“The Hydra fighting Heracles | Paestan black figure hydra C6th B.C. | J. Paul Getty”

From Hesiod, Theogony:

And third again she [Ekhidna] bore
the grisly-minded Hydra of Lerna, whom the goddess
white-armed Hera nourished
because of her quenchless grudge
against the strong Herakles.
Yet he, Herakles, son of Zeus,
of the line of Amphitryon,
by design of Athene the spoiler,
and with help form warlike
Iolaos, killed this beast
with the pitiless bronze sword.

(Hesiod 316-321)

A lot can be learned from that ancient Greek myth. Hercules was the hero of the ancient world. He is given a more human and tragic by the Greeks with his rage and murder of his family, being thus forced to perform his penance in the 12 labors, one of which was killing the Hydra. This Hydra could not be tamed alone. An ally had to be sought. Herakles, as strong as he was could not fight the beast himself.

High tech warfare in the 3rd century BCE

The struggle for control of the public image of the heroic is an ancient one. In the context of the Punic Wars Carthage Must Be Destroyed by Richard Miles who has an interesting interpretation of Hannibal’s propaganda wars against the Romans, pitting Hercules/Melqart as the ally of Carthage and her friends as opposed to Rome who had its own myth of Heracles. For the Romans, as described by Dionysius of Halicarnassus a Greek rhetorician in the 1st century BC, Heracles becomes a great liberator of man. During his tenth labor, the restoration of the cattle of Geryon, he descends into Italy freeing the people from the despotism of tyrants such as Cacus (Miles 248-249).

Hercules killing Cacus By Beham, Hans Sebald 1545 in Iconotheca Valvasoriana” Wikimedia.

From Virgil we have the tale of Cacus’s defeat by Hercules in the Aeneid:

Then Hercules
burst wide the doorway of the sooty den,
and unto Heaven and all the people showed
the stolen cattle and the robber’s crimes,
and dragged forth by the feet the shapeless corpse
of the foul monster slain.

(Vergil. 8.262)
Hercules slaying the monster oppressing the local people thus becomes in Virgil, who is citing a tale that had been part of Roman lore. notes the worship of Hercules as preceding the founding of Rome:

our Pinarian house is vowed to guard
the rites of Hercules. An altar fair
within this wood they raised; ‘t is called ‘the Great,’
and Ara Maxima its name shall be.

(Vergil, 8. 262)

This has been noted in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome in the article on “Hercules in Roman Religion” by William Dominik, that Ara Maxima was a very ancient site of worship of Hercules in the forum Boarium and that Hercules who as founder of Gades in Spain under the Phoenician name Melquart had become part of the pantheon of Roman protector gods. Hercules was sent on his labor to retrieve, i.e. raid and steal, the cattle of Geryon, the ancient oil from the other end of the world. On his trip back from the cattle raid, Hercules managed to participate in Roman prehistory becoming the model for Romulus and many other heroic figures in Roman lore and history (Dominik 405).

“Geryon - goodnight argent - In Roman versions of the narrative, on the Aventine hill in Italy, Cacus stole some of the cattle as Heracles slept”

Returning to our narrative of the ancient and the modern, as Miles claims, Hannibal aware of the need to win the propaganda war, and understanding the universal appeal of Hercules in Greek, Roman and Phoenician culture and in that of many peoples across the Mediterranean world, decided to appropriate the symbol of Heracles for his own and had a Greek historian in his train write to this purpose:

“Silenus’s portrayal of Heracles-Melqart as Hannibal’s divine companion was thus designed to send out a message to the western Greeks that it was the Carthaginian commander who represented their last opportunity to restore their diminished freedoms [vs a vie the Romans]” (Miles 247-248).

“Limoges enamel depicting Hercules carrying the two columns, by Couly Nouailher, mid-16th century (Walters Art Museum). The columns of the Melqart temple at Tyre were also of religious significance” (

Coins were struck of the young Hannibal in Nova Carthago, the headquarters of the Barcid dominated colony in Spain as he aspired to the role of a new Hercules Melquart. This coin with the image of the war elephant on the back is, as Miles indicates, associated the Barcid family, as well as being a symbol of continuity with the rule of his predecessors in Spain (Miles 226-227).

“Hannibal AR Tridrachm. 221-218 BC, Carthago Nova, Spain, Laureate bust of young Melqarth-Hercules left, heavy knotted club behind neck / Elephant walking” below (

Just as Vergil was attempting to create a mythos to justify the new imperial project of his dominating friend Octavian, in the modern world the USA must do the same. The need to promote the heroic value of the invader as the legitimate force for liberation can be seen again in the modern Middle East as the Obama administration struggles to come up with a narrative that will be convincing to the young fighters in Syria and Iraq whom the US hopes to use as proxies in the war against ISIS. There have been videos made from ISIS originals highlighting the horror of the ISIS practices intended to deter potential recruits and to persuade fighters to join or at least not leave the so called moderate Islamic groups in Syria in particular.

State Department video battling ISIS propaganda.

The need to battle ISIS propaganda and to win over the allegiance of the people will be predicated, as with Hannibal, upon the victory of the American backed forces. There is nothing like success to gain recruits. ISIS with its string of successes rapidly gained backing. Hannibal gained early support from the Gauls of Cis-Alpine Gaul with early victories over the initial Roman forces at Trebia. A result of which wavering Gauls became more pliant supporters. Later victories including the massacre at Cannae led to Capua giving support to Hannibal, although limited, not to include a troop levy which may seem somewhat familiar to Kerry as he attempts to hammer together an alliance against ISIS. Southern Greek cities that did go over to Hannibal soon regretted the choice as Rome recaptured them one by one. As the Arab countries now must weigh the long term consequences of supporting the US. Turkey, with a border directly adjacent to ISIS controlled territory and 49 diplomats in ISIS custody, did not even sign onto the statement Kerry hammered together.

John Kerry, wearing suit, speaks with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, right, at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah on Thursday. Reuters

As the Wall Street Journal article “Allies Pledge to Help U.S. Fight Islamic State Extent of Cooperation in Military Operations Still Unclear” by Maria Abi-Habib and Jay Solomon from 9/11/14 indicates, the alliance has very limited and conditional support. Germany has said it would not join air strikes. Russia concerned about the legality of US air strikes over Syria without Syrian government approval would create an barrier to UN support unless the US is willing to ally itself with the Assad regime, something the US claims to be loathe to do. Yet the US has no problem allowing Iranian troops on the ground in Iraq and PPK fighters, on the US terrorist list to work with the US in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. Strange times indeed, Hannibal would be a worthy adviser as Obama wades back into these perilous waters.

“The painting Hercules Firing Arrows at His Children, by Italian artist Antonio Canova was painted in 1799 using oil on paper and glued to canvas. It is 42 X 66 cm. The painting features the infamous madness of Hercules. After being driven mad by the goddess Hera and by drink, he murders his whole family in blind furry. When finally sober, Hercules is surprised and heartbroken by his actions. He agrees to twelve labors in order to partially atone for his sins” Phin Upham

Where is the modern Hercules? Is there a universal figure like Hercules? It can’t be Jesus, Jews don’t recognize him and Muslims give little significance the the figure. It can’t be Mohammed for the same reasons. Who is it, we have to go back to Abraham and Issac. Who is the good servant of god? This is a myth that is concurrent with that of Melquart-Hercules. But this is not a self evident narrative in the modern rhetoric. What is, is the question asked of Abraham. What are you willing to do to impose the will of your god? Hercules, was asking a different question, what do I have to do to get these gods off my back? What unifies them is the fact that they both are engaged as intermediaries between the helpless humanity and the gods/fates/demonic forces. Thus the rhetoric reflects a justification of the position vs a vie these powerful cosmic forces and much effort goes into the justification of these efforts. How strange, how typically human and how sad that the dilemma of both Hercules and Abraham still exist today.

“Fresco with image of Abraham to sacrifice his son, Ishmael (Islamic version) on a Haft Tanan museum wall in Shiraz”
Evgenia Kononova (Wikicommons)

The gods make Hercules crazy, a very modern figure, could be a warrior suffering from PTSD. Abraham is tempted to craziness by the Abrahamic god and then is stopped by his better angels. The Romans and Carthaginians fought until one was destroyed utterly. In the modern ethos there is the opportunity to arrest the path to war. Are our better angels going to stop us from war madness?

Selected Works Cited.

Dominik, William J. “Hercules in Roman Religion.” Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2009. Google Scholar. 404-406. Web. 9/14/14.

Hesiod, Theogony. The Works of Hesiod.trans. Richard Latimore. Ann Arbor: U of Mich. P. 1959. Print.

Miles, Richard. Carthage Must Be Destroyed. New York: Viking Penguin. 2011. Print.

Vergil, Aeneid. Perseus Digital Library. U. of Chicago. Web. 9/14/14.

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