Pan, god of the mountains, protector of hunters and fishermen, son of Hermes and the nymph Dryopi had α goat’s horn on his head as well as goat’s hoofs instead of feet. When he was born, his mother horrified from the look of the hairy child smiling at her, deserted him. His father, Hermes wrapped him in a hare’s skin and took him to mount Olympus. All gods were enchanted by his charm and playful demeanor, so Dionysus named him Pan (“All” in Greek) since all gods adored him. Pan was cheerful, amorous, always in love with a nymph and played his flute in such a melodic way that sounded like the song of a nightingale. His favorite place was the caves of Arcadia where he lived dancing and scaring away the goat herds, with his shrieks. The word “panic” is derived from Pan and the sudden flight from the dreadful situations he brought about. Continue reading →
Philosophy began in the small Greek cities of Ionia on the west coast of Asia Minor around 600bc. There some men first had the freedom and audacity to ask fundamental questions about the universe. Their answers, if sometimes inaccurate, were never absurd. However most of our knowledge of them comes only through Aristotle, writing 200 years later.
One of them, Thales from Miletus (c.625-547bc) is considered the first known philosopher and natural scientist. He predicted the solar eclipse of the 28th of May, 585bc which stopped a battle between the Lydians and Medes, both being superstitiously terrified. He also regarded the earth as spherical, a truly radical idea, reaching this conclusion not through divine revelation or Scripture but by observing and thinking. Extract taken from “the Ancient Greek World-People and places” by Nigel RodgersContinue reading →
Hercules was actually the offspring of Alcmene and Zeus who took the form of her husband in order to deceive her, when Amfitrion was away in battle. When the child was born, Hera, Zeus’ wife who hated Alcmene would not allow it to live. She sent two huge snakes to kill the baby in its crib. Little Hercules woke up from the hissing sound, grabbed the snakes and killed them by just squeezing them with his palms. This was the first sign of his divine power. When Alcmene and Amfitrion realized what had happened, called for prophet Tiresias to foretell the baby’s future. Tiresias predicted that Hercules would become immortal after having accomplished brave deeds and majestic labours. Continue reading →
Archestratos of Gela, a Sicilian poet and gastronome, around 330BC through his didactic comic-epic poem “Hedupatheia” (love of pleasure and specifically of food pleasure) parodies everything about the ‘cuisine’ of this period. It is a complete gastronomic guide regarding where to find the freshest produce, the techniques for cooking them, alternative ingredients that contribute to different tastes and the culinary expertise of various chefs. A true ‘Master chef’ was firstly an expert in slaughtering sacrificial animal wherefrom derived his ability in expertly treating meat and fish that were the main ingredients in all banquets. He should also be an expert in astrological cosmology, architecture, geometry, natural history, military strategy and medicine. There were no female cooks but women could be special artisans when it came to preparing desserts and cakes. Continue reading →
Ancient Greeks are the world’s earliest people to seriously delve into the origin of things, their roots and all the subjects of their time and their daily lives, so besides the oral myths they started writing history, whether as mythologists, geographers, poets or even comic writers. The order of the cosmos, every aspect of nature and the human functioning within it, became a major study. They have been obsessed with analysis and rational order in every aspect of nature and the way it coheres with humans, thus there is plenty of literature concerning their sustenance from their primitive tribal existence to the classical era (5th-4th century bc) as well as the Hellenistic age following the conquests of Alexander the Great.
They developed a true gastronomic tradition which flourished in the agricultural colonies of the western Greek world, in Sicily and southern Italy as well as, during Ptolemaic and Roman times, in Alexandria, the capital of Egypt, at that time. We have information about glorious meals hosted by the Mycenaean kings to plethoric banquets of the last sovereigns of the Hellenistic era. Continue reading →