Mary Wollstonecraft: Emancipation From Domesticity

In 1792, with the publication of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft fired a powerful early salvo in the battle for female emancipation from domesticity. She wrote her feminist polemic in response to 18th-century Enlightenment thinkers, such as the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who did not extend their ideas of liberalism to women. She criticizes the injustice and inconsistency of such men calling for freedom yet still subjugating women. She also rejects the contemporary perception that women were less rational.

“Who made man the exclusive judge?” she demands. Women, she writes, might be weaker physically, but are just as capable of rational thought as men.

Wollstonecraft maintains that women remained inferior because they were kept in the domestic sphere, forced to be men’s “toys and playthings.” Society taught them that looks, male opinion, and marriage were more important than intellectual and personal fulfilment. Sculpted by a gender stereotype that their mothers reinforced, girls were brought up to exploit their looks in order to find a man who would support and protect them.

Wollstonecraft was the first feminist to describe “marriage for support” as a form of prostitution— a shocking assertion for the time. A lack of means often compelled women to marry. Degraded by their dependency on male approval, they effectively became men’s slaves. She felt that such a restricted life, limited by domestic trivia, could also wreak psychological damage.

To restore women’s dignity, Wollstonecraft recommends “a revolution in female manners.” She believed women and men should be educated equally, even suggesting a coeducational system. Women, she believed, should be in the public sphere and should be trained for work outside the home, in areas such as medicine, midwifery, and business. She urges an end to the social distinction between the sexes and calls for equal rights for women to enable them to take control of their lives.
Mixed reactions

Vindication was well received, particularly in intellectual circles. A hostile press, however, described Wollstonecraft as a “hyena in petticoats” for both her book and her unorthodox lifestyle. The book was not reprinted until the mid-19th century, when it was admired by figures such as British suffragist Millicent Fawcett and American activist Lucretia Mott. Wollstonecraft’s advanced ideas would be echoed in the works of feminists from Barbara Bodichon to Simone de Beauvoir”

Sources: The Feminism Book (DK)

A Soldier’s Life: Escoffier & The Brigade de Cuisine

The art of cuisine is perhaps one of the most useful forms of diplomacy.”
~ Auguste Escoffier

On October 28, 1846 one of the most important French chefs the world has ever known was born Georges Auguste Escoffier. He modernized and simplified the French culinary system. Among his achievements was codifying the five mother sauces of French cuisine. He also instituted a military hierarchy into the kitchen, a system that is followed to this day worldwide with few changes. This brigade de cuisine is a structured team system which delegates different responsibilities to different team members who specialize in certain tasks.

Escoffier began his apprenticeship aged 12 at his uncle’s restaurant in Nice, France. At 19 he moved to Paris and continued his apprenticeship. He was the first great chef that worked his entire career in the public sphere, as opposed to working for royalty. Among his customers were kings, heads of state, and stars on the London and Paris opera. He became known as, “the chef of kings and King of chefs”.

His belief, “above all, keep it simple,” led to him revolutionizing cuisine and a gastronomic philosophy of highly refined simplicity. Escoffier established sanitation standards that up until that point had been unheard of in the kitchen. He was an expert in food science of the time as well as preservation. He was one of the first to develop bottled sauces for the homemaker. Escoffier was dedicated to the belief that food service professionals should improve their skills through education. He wrote multiple books to this effect including Le Guide Culinaire.

The brigade system was instituted in the 19th century at London’s Savoy Hotel. The size and scope will vary according to the size of the kitchen and the establishment. In a large hotel kitchen, especially during Escoffier’s age, a brigade would consist of the following:

Executive Chef – An administrator in charge of all kitchen operations including menu planing, costing and scheduling.
Chef de Cuisine – A active cook who works in the kitchen during preparation periods as well as service. Also responsible for ordering and other administrative duties.
Sous Chef – Second in command under the chef de cuisine. Supervises all the cooks. Oversees the preparation of food and service in the chef de cuisine’s absence.
Chef de Partie – In charge of a specific station.
Commis – Assistants to the chef de partie.
Apprentice – Assists the commis. Common in Europe.

Stations:
Saucier – Responsible for the preparation of all stocks and sauces.
Rotisseur – Responsible for all roasts. Oversaw next two positions.
Grillardin – Responsible for all grilled meats.
Friturier – Responsible for frying everything from French fries to oysters and tempura.
Poissonier – Responsible for the cleaning and preparation of all fish.
Entremetier – Responsible for the “entrance” to the meal, a small lighter first course. Oversaw next two positions.
Potager – Responsible for making soups.
Legumier – Responsible for all vegetable hot dishes and sides.
Garde Manger – Responsible for the preparation of all cold dishes including hors d’oeuvres, terrines, pates, etc.
Patissier – Pastry chef. Responsible for the creation and presentation of all desserts.
Boulanger – Baker. Responsible for all bread and breakfast pastries.

The Two Great Seeds

The Two Great Seeds

*** This writing comes after a two hour meditation on the trinity of Prajna (Sanskrit) which means wisdom, Shila (Sanskrit) which means morality, and Samadhi (Sanskrit) which means mental discipline or concentration. This is the path that has opened up in my life through deep consideration, meditation and internal debate. This in no way is supposed to be a critique of your personal beliefs or faith, although I am sure some will take it that way. I hope you’ll understand if you read it fully with an open heart that I mean no disrespect only an expression of my journey. ***

I am not vain enough to claim there is one way to truth, but this is a record of my intimate experience. Each of us is born with two great seeds: the seed of spiritual contemplation and the seed of doubt. Which of these, if either, takes root determines the path, the trajectory of your spiritual path. I was born into a Christian family, mostly Presbyterian and for many years, as with most people, all my answers were written in the text I was raised with though as with most I never read it cover to cover. The turning point where the seed of doubt overwhelmed me was when I was sixteen, the year of my great trauma. The details of that trauma do not matter, what matters is the seed of spiritual contemplation took root at that moment.

I took the challenge of reading the Bible cover to cover for the first of four times in my life in search of an intimate truth, in search of the answers only my heart could question, questions I couldn’t fathom asking out loud. The solace I sought was not to be forthcoming, instead more questions were germinated in my heart. I did not have the words to put it in at the time, but I had already given up on the notion of moral relativism that is so prevalent to this day especially in academic circles and liberalism. For example ethnic cleansing, genocide, infanticide, filicide, etc. are always on the wrong side of morality. Always. What I found reading the Bible was a God that embraced all those things.

I was living in a spiritual void, if I could not believe in the faith of my fathers where did I have to turn? For several years I embraced the quote, “Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned.” Logically I started in the Western tradition with Socrates and Plato. I devoured them reading them much too fast for their arguments fully to be realized. Through my high school years I systematically worked my way through to Nietzsche and Marx. While there were concepts I could incorporate into my own life, there was not a philosophical system that answered all the questions which plagued my heart.

Beginning my freshman year in college I decided to slowly expand my search to other religious traditions. I had taken a class on Indian Philosophy my first semester and the obvious became clear I had ignored the eastern traditions. I recognized the serenity my Christian friends found in their faith. I felt I owed the faith of my fathers one more investigation again reading the Bible cover to cover, medieval commentaries such as those of the Christian mystics such as Saint Catherine of Siena, Hildegard von Bingen, St. Teresa of Avila, etc. I was finally able to vocalize my question that could not be answered, what is the meaning of our existence? Is it to simply move from one pleasure to the next: birth, food, wealth, sex, marriage, family, etc.?

The answers I sought must be elsewhere, after all I was not the first to ask these questions. I burned through the Talmud, the Koran, the Vedic religions of India, the Bhagavad-Gita, Hinduism, and finally to Buddhism. Here I found a man 2500 years ago asking the exact same questions that plagued me. It brought me back to the central crux I have of all faiths, oral tradition. The Buddha was not written about for nearly the first 500 years after his death. The gospels of Jesus some 70, 80, or 90 years after the death of Jesus. Our human history is dotted with sages who after their passing go through the process of their lives becoming legend, then, myth, and finally faith inflating their words and deeds. We don’t need to go back to the time of Jesus or the Buddha to see this in action we can look at the case of Mother Teresa. To become a catholic saint you must perform two miracles, her first was to cure a Bengali woman of a stomach tumor when she gazed at a picture of Mother Teresa. This miracle has come under great scrutiny as doctors have come forward who treated her and claim that it was not a tumor at all, but a cyst that was cured through a drug treatment she underwent. For most this first miracle is already legendary and not questioned and the further we pass from the actual events the more legendary it will become. Had her canonization not been expedited, a process which on average takes 181 years, who knows what evidence would have come forward. My intent is not to denigrate Mother Teresa, but to illustrate the legend to myth to faith process occurs to this very day.

My introduction to Buddhism came through reading “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind.” It spoke to me in ways that no other tradition had in the past. The answers were not outward in some ancient text, but could only be realized by turning inward. There are innumerable Buddhist texts to help you along your path, point you in the right direction. Two new questions plagued me could I believe in the concepts of rebirth and karma that are so integrated into Buddhist tradition? Could I believe in an orthodoxy of one of the Buddhist traditions steeped in ritual, legend, myth, and faith. Did the Buddha really live? It was the same question I had about Christianity and Jesus. The answer I came to in meditation that unlike Christianity it did not matter. Christianity falls apart without the actual act of Jesus dying for your sins, but the Buddha whether simply legend or real man it does not matter. The Buddha showed the path to enlightenment, to the answer to the question that had plagued me since I was a teenager, was this all there is to life.

I needed guidance of some sort in my spiritual awakening and living in Montana at the time there were not a lot of options. I desired a teacher to posit my questions to, to guide me right when I was veering left. I found my teacher in modern texts of the Zen masters, YouTube, audio books, etc. I was embarking on what I term DIY Zen Buddhism. It was not the choice I wanted to make, it was the option that was forced upon me. I still very much rely on DIY Zen Buddhism, although I have had several teachers from such places as Seattle, Paris, and Jacksonville Florida as I’ve moved around. Over the years I have practiced both Soto and Rinzai Zen. Am I any closer to enlightenment than I was when I was sixteen and only knew of Buddhism by name I’m not sure. I do know I see the compassion and comfort in the answers to their spiritual contemplation in the dharma talks and writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, John Daido Loori, and other Zen practitioners. The questions still plague me and the seed of doubt is strong in the notions of rebirth and karma. I do not know if I will ever be completely satisfied with my spiritual contemplation. I know that in my life I have learned deeply from asking the same questions a simple man asked 2500 years ago. He found comfort in the answers he discovered and it is my hope to eventually do the same. I find more comfort in the life of a mere human than I have been able to find in the dictates of the innumerable gods humans have worshipped throughout our history.

Three Great Minds

It’s interesting that approximately 2500 years ago three men were born who would change the world, in three distinct parts of the world that would have no interaction with each other. Confucius, The Buddha, and Socrates were born within 100 years of each other whose lives would overlap:

Confucius 551-479 B.C.
The sagacious Confucius, Kongzi, or Master Kung (551-479 B.C.) was a social philosopher whose values became dominant in China only after he died. Advocating living virtuously, he put emphasis on socially appropriate behavior.

Buddha c. 563-483 B.C.
Siddhartha Gautama was a spiritual teacher of enlightenment who acquired hundreds of followers in India and founded Buddhism. His teachings were preserved orally for centuries before they were transcribed on palm-leaf scrolls. Siddhartha may have been born c. 563 B.C. to Queen Maya and King Suddhodana of the Shakya in ancient Nepal. By the third century B.C. Buddhism appears to have spread to China.

Socrates c. 470-399 B.C.
Socrates, an Athenian contemporary of Pericles (c. 470 – 399 B.C.), is a central figure in Greek philosophy. Socrates is known for the Socratic method (elenchus), Socratic irony, and the pursuit of knowledge. Socrates is famous for saying that he knows nothing and that the unexamined life is not worth living. He is also well known for stirring up sufficient controversy to be sentenced to a death that he had to carry out by drinking a cup of hemlock. Socrates had important students, including the philosopher Plato.

#Confucius #Buddha #Socrates

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

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GREAT PYRAMID AT GIZA

The Great Pyramid at Giza was constructed between 2584 and 2561 BCE for the Egyptian Pharoah Khufu (known in Greek as `Cheops’) and was the tallest man-made structure in the world for almost 4,000 years. Excavations of the interior of the pyramid were only initiated in earnest in the late 18th and early 19th centuries CE and so the intricacies of the interior which so intrigue modern people were unknown to the ancient writers. It was the structure itself with its perfect symmetry and imposing height which impressed ancient visitors.

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HANGING GARDENS OF BABYLON

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, if they existed as described, were built by Nebuchadnezzar II between 605-562 BCE as a gift to his wife. They are described by the ancient writer Diodorus Siculus as being self-watering planes of exotic flora and fauna reaching a height of over 75 feet (23 metres) through a series of climbing terraces. Diodorus wrote that Nebuchadnezzar’s wife, Amtis of Media, missed the mountains and flowers of her homeland and so the king commanded that a mountain be created for her in Babylon. The controversy over whether the gardens existed comes from the fact that they are nowhere mentioned in Babylonian history and that Herodotus, makes no mention of them in his descriptions of Babylon. Diodorus, Philo, and the historian Strabo all claim the gardens existed. They were destroyed by an earthquake sometime after the 1st century CE.

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STATUE OF ZEUS AT OLYMPIA

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was created by the great Greek sculptor Phidias (known as the finest sculptor of the ancient world in the 5th century BCE, he also worked on the Parthenon and the statue of Athena there in Athens). The statue depicted the god Zeus seated on his throne, his skin of ivory and robes of hammered gold, and was 40 feet tall, designed to inspire awe in the worshippers who came to the Temple of Zeus at Olympia.  He has shown Zeus seated, but with the head almost touching the ceiling, so that we have the impression that if Zeus moved to stand up he would unroof the temple.” With the rise of Christianity the statue was carried off to Constantinople where it was later destroyed, sometime in either the 5th or 6th centuries CE, by an earthquake.

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TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS AT EPHESUS

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, a Greek colony in Asia Minor, took over 120 years to build and only one night to destroy. Completed in 550 BCE, the temple was 425 feet high, 225 feet wide, supported by 127 60 foot high columns. Sponsored by the wealthy King Croesus of Lydia, who spared no expense in anything he did the temple was so magnificent that every account of it is written with the same tone of awe and each agrees with the other that this was among the most amazing structures ever raised by humans. On July 21, 356 BCE a man named Herostratus set fire to the temple in order to achieve lasting fame by forever being associated with the destruction of something so beautiful. The Ephesians decreed that his name should never be recorded nor remembered but Strabo set it down as a point of interest in the history of the temple. On the same night the temple burned, Alexander the Great was born and, later, offered to rebuild the ruined temple but the Ephesians refused his generosity. It was rebuilt on a less grand scale after Alexander’s death but was destroyed by the invasion of the Goths. Rebuilt again, it was finally destroyed utterly by a Christian mob lead by Saint John Chrysostom in 401 CE.

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Lion from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

MAUSOLEUM AT HALICARNASSUS

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was the tomb of the Persian Satrap Mausolus, built in c. 351 BCE. Mausolus chose Halicarnassus as his capital city, and he and his beloved wife Artemisia went to great lengths to create a city whose beauty would be unmatched in the world. Mausolus died in 353 BCE and Artemisia wished to create a final resting place worthy of such a great king. Artemisia died two years after Mausolus and her ashes were entombed with his in the mausoleum. The tomb was 135 feet tall and ornately decorated with fine sculpture. It was destroyed by a series of earthquakes and lay in ruin for hundreds of years until, in 1494 CE, it was completely dismantled and used by the Knights of St. John of Malta in the building of their castle at Bodrum. It is from the tomb of Mausolus that the English word `mausoleum’ is derived.

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COLOSSUS OF RHODES

The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the god Helios (the patron god of the island of Rhodes) constructed between 292 and 280 BCE. It stood over 110 feet high overlooking the harbor of Rhodes and, despite fanciful depictions to the contrary, stood with its legs together on a base and did not straddle the harbour. The statue was commissioned after the defeat of the invading army of Demetrius in 304 BCE. Demetrius left behind much of his siege equipment and weaponry and this was sold by the Rhodians for 300 talents (approximately the equivalent of 360 million U.S. dollars) which money they used to build the Colossus. The statue stood for only 56 years before it was destroyed by an earthquake in 226 BCE. It lay in impressive ruin for over 800 years, according to Strabo, and was still a tourist attraction. According to the historian Theophanes the bronze ruins were eventually sold to “a Jewish merchant of Edessa” around 654 CE who carried them away on 900 camels to be melted down.

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LIGHTHOUSE OF ALEXANDRIA

The Lighthouse at Alexandria, built on the island of Pharos, stood close to 440 feet in height and was commissioned by Ptolemy I Soter. Construction was completed sometime around 280 BCE. The lighthouse was the third tallest human-made structure in the world (after the pyramids) and its light (a mirror which reflected the sun’s rays by day and a fire by night) could be seen as far as 35 miles out to sea. The structure rose from a square base to a middle octagonal section up to a circular top and those who saw it in its glory reported that words were inadequate to describe its beauty. The lighthouse was badly damaged in an earthquake in 956 CE, again in 1303 CE and 1323 CE and, by the year 1480 CE, it was gone. The Egyptian fort Quaitbey now stands on the site of the Pharos, built with some of the stones from the ruins of the lighthouse.

Myth Busting Classical History

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The Giza Pyramid Complex
MYTH: The pyramids were built using slave labor.

TRUTH: It’s unlikely that the Egyptians made wide use of slaves to construct the pyramids. Hieroglyphs and archeological sites suggest that it was actually a potentially society-wide network of skilled ancient workers who were paid relatively well.

#Myths #AncientEgypt #Pyramids

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The Infamous Trojan Horse (Replica)
MYTH: The Greeks used a Trojan horse to sack the city of Troy.

TRUTH: The only places that the Trojan horse is mentioned in antiquity is in the Aeneid, an epic poem written by Virgil hundreds of years after the supposed events; and The Odyssey, an epic poem written by Homer. Likely, this infamous subterfuge never actually happened.

#TrojanHorse #Troy #Homer #Virgil

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The Spartans
Myth: Just 300 Spartans held off the Persian at Thermopylae for three days.

Truth: Indeed, there were only 300 Spartan soldiers guarding the pass at Thermopylae, but they had support from neighboring allies numbering over 5,000 soldiers. It is true however, that the Persian army was tens of thousands strong, perhaps even 100,000 in number. So a three day stand with less than 6,000 soldiers is still impressive.

#Spartans #Thermopylae

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The Collosus of Rhodes
Myth: The Colossus of Rhodes straddled the Greek harbor of Rhodes.

Truth: The Colossus of Rhodes was an authentic statue, but it did not straddle the harbor of the Greek isle of Rhodes. The 100-foot high statue of Helios was erected adjacent to the harbor in 280 BC. Artistic recreations showing the statue straddling the harbor are simply wrong. The giant statue toppled over during an earthquake in 226 BC, and its legend remains today.

#ColossusOfRhodes #ArtistRepresentations

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The Viking Warrior
Myth: Viking warriors wore horned helmets

Truth: It’s difficult to tackle this because the image of the Viking warrior with his ax, dragon-headed boat, and horned helmet is one of the most iconic in European history. Almost every popular representation of a Viking has the horns. Unfortunately, there’s a problem… there were no horns!

#Vikings #HornedHelmets

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Droit de Seigneur
Myth: Droit de Seigneur

Truth: Did lords really have the right to spirit newly married women away on their weddings nights, as Braveheart would have you believe? Well, no, not at all. This was a lie designed to slander your neighbors, and most probably didn’t exist at all, let alone in the way the film shows.

#DroitDeSeigneur #Slander

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Nero Throwing Christians to the Lions
Myth: Nero Threw Christians to the lions.

Truth: There were a lot of crazy shows Romans saw at the Colosseum. The ones best remembered today are the gladiator fights and Christians being thrown to the lions. However, there is no reliable evidence to suggest that Christians were ever executed in the Colosseum, by lions or otherwise. The idea was spread mostly by Renaissance artists and writers.

Just to be clear, there have been Christians sentenced to damnatio ad bestias(condemnation to beasts). There have also been people who were killed by animals in the Colosseum. There just is no reliable proof that the two overlapped.

We know for a fact that Nero never did this for a simple reason: The Colosseum didn’t exist when he was emperor. Nero reigned until AD 68, and construction of the Colosseum didn’t start until four years later under Vespasian. Nero is often the emperor most associated with the act because, according to contemporary historians, he was the first Roman emperor to persecute Christians. Tacitus said that Nero blamed Christians for the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD. However, Tacitus wrote that Nero had Christians killed by burning, crucifixion, or being mauled by dogs. He makes no mention of lions.

#Christians #Nero #Colosseum

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Gladiators
Myth: All gladiators were slaves

Truth: While it’s true that most gladiators were captives who’d been forced into this dangerous occupation, the lifestyle attracted plenty of freeborn citizens as well—including women. The appeal was plain to see: Like modern wrestlers, successful gladiators frequently became celebrities. A few of them even amassed small fortunes, since winning a big fight could mean taking home a cash prize.

Those who willingly became gladiators were usually impoverished people who sought the financial security that the profession offered. A good number of ex-Roman soldiers signed up as well. To receive training, they’d join what was known as a ludus—gladiator troupes that doubled as rigorous combat schools. The typical ludus was owned by a wealthy politician or former gladiator, who’d rent out his fighters for use in organized shows. Julius Caesar himself once ran a troupe which may have contained up to 1000 gladiators.

Eventually, the government cracked down on freeborn combatants. To help keep young aristocrats out of the fighting pits, the Senate issued an age requirementin 11 CE. This made it illegal for free men who were younger than 25 and free women who hadn’t yet turned 20 from joining a ludus. A subsequent ruling enacted in 19 CE barred all upper-class ladies from becoming gladiators. Then, in 200 CE, Emperor Septimus Severus officially turned this into an all-male sport.

#Gladiators #NotAlwaysSlaves #Women

Myth 2: Gladiator fights were to the death.

Truth: Historian Georges Ville has calculated that during the first century CE, out of 100 fights (and 200 gladiators), 19 gladiators died, giving a death rate of around 10 percent (approximately 20 percent for the loser). By the year 300 CE, however, these confrontations became deadlier. In Ville’s estimation, half of all the man-to-man gladiator fights around that time ended with the loser’s demise.

Even so, those odds still might seem low to contemporary movie fans—after all, in “sword and sandal” flicks, gladiator fights almost always result in at least one fatality. However, Ville’s numbers make a lot more sense when you consider the real-life economics involved. Gladiators were expensive, and if one died in combat or was permanently disabled, the venue paid a steep fine to the owner of his ludus. To help keep the body count down, fighters might receive first-rate medical attention after leaving the arena.

But with that said, the crowd often demanded death. Throughout Roman history, most gladiator duels concluded when one party was rendered too weak or injured to keep fighting. Defeated athletes could surrender by throwing down their weapon or shield, or the loser would extend one arm and point upward. At that point, the bested fighter’s fate would be decided by the presiding event chairman, or editor. Generally, his verdict could be expected to appease the audience, whose cheers and jeers helped determine if the fallen warrior lived to fight another day.

#Gladiators #MedicalAttention #SurvivalRate

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Roman Galleons
Myth: The romans made slaves row their war vessels.

Truth: In an iconic sequence from BenHur, we see a group of slaves being forced to row a Roman galley ship at increasingly demanding speeds. While a war beating drum sets the relentless tempo, wandering soldiers mercilessly flog those poor souls who collapse from fatigue. Though the scene is definitely compelling, it’s also inaccurate. Roman galleys were actually powered by paid and well-trained freemen unless absolutely necessary. Frankly, handing this job over to slaves would have been foolish—if a ship were captured, enslaved oarsmen might well side with the enemy and attack their masters.

#RomanGalleons #Slaves #PaidFreemen

Baruch Spinoza: The God Of Spinoza

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) born Benedito de Espinosa was a Jewish-Dutch philosopher of Portuguese Sephardi origin. By laying the groundwork for the Enlightenmentand modern biblical criticism,including modern conceptions of the self and the universe, he came to be considered one of the great rationalists of 17th-century philosophy. Along with René Descartes, Spinoza was a leading philosophical figure of the Dutch Golden Age. Spinoza’s given name, which means “Blessed”, varies among different languages. In Hebrew, it is written ברוך שפינוזה. His Portuguese name is Benedito “Bento” de Espinosa or d’Espinosa. In his Latin works, he used Latin: Benedictus de Spinoza.

“As to the view of certain people that I identify god with nature (taken as a kind of mass or corporeal matter), they are quite mistaken”

~ Baruch Spinoza

When Spinoza wrote “Deus sive Natura” (“God or Nature”) Spinoza meant God was Natura naturans not Natura naturata, that is, “a dynamic nature in action, growing and changing, not a passive or static thing.”  One might best understand Spinoza by examining Bertrand Russell’s commentary of his beliefs from 1910:

“Spinoza, more than any other modern philosopher, writes always with a strong sense of the importance of philosophy in the conduct of life, and with a firm belief in the power of reason to improve men’s conduct and purify their desires. Like many men of great independence of mind, he feels the need of something great enough to justify him in submitting to its authority. Like all who contemplate human life without sharing its baser passions, he is oppressed by the endless strife produced by conflicting aims and unrestrained ambitions. Believing, as he does, that self-preservation is the very essence of everything that exists, he sees no end to strife except by persuading men to choose as their ends things which all may enjoy in common. Contempt and moral condemnation stand in the way of toleration; he therefore sets out to prove that what men do they do from a necessity of their nature. As well might one condemn a triangle for not having made the effort to increase its angles beyond two right angles as condemn men for being what their nature makes them. His theory of the emotions, in which, by his geometrical method, he demonstrates that men must act in ways which it is common to condemn, contains much admirable psychology; but it was not this that made him value his theory: what he valued was the conclusion that moral condemnation is foolish. It is for this reason partly that Spinoza inveighs against free-will and finds pleasure in showing the necessity of everything. But there is also another reason: what is transitory, though it may be tolerated, cannot be worshipped; but the proof of its necessity connects it with the Divine nature, and thereby removes its pitifulness. To a certain type of mind there is something sublime about necessity: it seems that in the knowledge of what is necessary we place ourselves in harmony with what is greatest in the universe. This constitutes, to those who feel it, a great part of the value of mathematical demonstration; even Spinoza’s geometrical method, which has been almost universally condemned, will be held appropriate by those who know the “intellectual love of God.”

“He who loves God,” Spinoza says, “cannot strive that God should love him in return.” Goethe, in a passage of characteristic sentimentality, misquotes this proposition in singling it out for special praise; he quotes it as, “Who loves God truly must not expect God to love him in return,” and regards it as an example of “Entsagen sollst du, sollst entsagen.” If Goethe had understood Spinoza’s religion, he would not have made this mistake. Spinoza, here and elsewhere, is not inculcating resignation; he himself loved what he judged to be best, and lived, so far as one can discover, without effort in the way which he held to be conformable to reason. There seems to have been in him, what his philosophy was intended to produce in others, an absence of bad desires; hence, his nature is harmonious and gentle, free from the cruelty of asceticism, or the monkishness of the cloister, or the moralistic priggery of Goethe’s praises. “He who clearly and distinctly understands himself and his emotions,” Spinoza says, “loves God, and loves Him better the better he understands himself and his emotions.” It is through the love of God that we are freed from bondage to the passions, and that our minds become in some degree eternal. “God loves Himself with an infinite, intellectual love,” and “the intellectual love of the mind towards God is the very love with which He loves Himself.” Hence, though immortality in the ordinary sense is an error, the mind is nevertheless eternal in so far as it consists in the intellectual love of God. To represent such a philosophy as one of renunciation is surely to miss the whole of the mystic joy which it is intended to produce, and to misunderstand the reconciliation of the individual with the whole, which is the purpose of so much elaborate argument.

Spinoza’s ethical views are inextricably intertwined with his metaphysics, and it may be doubted whether his metaphysics is as good as is supposed by followers of Hegel. But the general attitude towards life and the world which he inculcates does not depend for its validity upon a system of metaphysics. He believes that all human ills are to be cured by knowledge and understanding; that only ignorance of what is best makes men think their interests conflicting, since the highest good is knowledge, which can be shared by all. But knowledge, as he conceives it, is not mere knowledge as it comes to most people; it is “intellectual love,” something coloured by emotion through and through. This conception is the key to all his valuations.”

~ Bertrand Russell

The concept of a personal relationship with God comes from the position that one is a part of an infinite interdependent “organism.” Spinoza argued that everything is a derivative of God, interconnected with all of existence. Although humans experience only thought and extension, what happens to one aspect of existence will affect others. Thus, Spinozism teaches a form of determinism and ecology, and uses these as a basis for morality.

A core doctrine of Spinozism is that the universe is essentially deterministic. All that happens or will happen could not have unfolded in any other way. Spinoza claimed that the third kind of knowledge, intuition, is the highest kind. More specifically, he defined intuition as the ability of the human intellect to intuit knowledge based upon its accumulated understanding of the world.  Spinoza’s metaphysics consists of one thing, Substance, and its modifications (modes). Early in The Ethics Spinoza argues that there is only one Substance, which is absolutely infinite, self-caused, and eternal. Substance causes an infinite number of attributes and modes.  He calls this Substance “God”, or “Nature”. In fact, he takes these two terms to be synonymous (in the Latin the phrase he uses is “Deus sive Natura”), but readers often disregard his neutral monism. During his time, this statement was seen as literally equating the existing world with God – for which he was accused of atheism. Spinoza asserted that the whole of the natural universe is made of one Substance – God or Nature – and its modifications.

Spinoza’s doctrine was considered radical at the time he published, and he was widely seen as the most infamous atheist-heretic of Europe. His philosophy was part of the philosophic debate in Europe during the Enlightenment, along with Cartesianism. Specifically, Spinoza disagreed with Descartes on substance duality, Descartes’ views on the will and the intellect, and the subject of free will.

“It cannot be overemphasized how the rest of Spinoza’s philosophy, his philosophy of mind, epistemology, psychology, moral philosophy, political philosophy, and philosophy of religion – flows more or less directly from the metaphysical underpinnings in Part I of the Ethics.”

~  Michael Della Rocca

Sources: Wikipedia.org. Della Rocca, Michael. (2008). “Spinoza”Russell, Bertrand. “Spinoza,” The Nation (London), 8 (Nov 12 1910).  “Essential Judaism” Robinson, George. 2016. Myjewishlearning.com. Chabad.org. jewfaq.org.

The Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone:

The 1.12m (3ft 6in) high Rosetta Stone in the British Museum is originally from Egypt and is made out of granodiorite stele, which is a coarse-grained rock.

It is a broken part of a bigger slab with text carved on to it that has helped researchers learn how to read Egyptian hieroglyphs – a form of writing that used pictures as signs.

It features three columns of the same inscription in three languages: Greek, hieroglyphs and demotic Egyptian – and is the text of a decree written by priests in 196 BC, during the reign of pharaoh Ptolemy V.

It is unclear how the stone was discovered in July 1799, but there’s a general belief that it was found by soldiers fighting with the French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte as they were building an extension to a fort near the town of Rashid – also known as Rosetta – in the Nile Delta.

When Napoleon was defeated, the British took possession of the stone under the terms of the Treaty of Alexandria in 1801.

It was then transported to England, arriving in Portsmouth in February 1802. George III offered it to the British Museum a few months later.

#RosettaStone

Hieroglyphics and Cartouches Simplified

Hieroglyphics and Cartouches

Hieroglyphics was a system, an alphabet, which Ancient Egyptians used to express their thoughts in written form. Composed of over 1000 distinct and illustrious characters, cursive hieroglyphics were used for religious and historic literature – recorded on papyrus which was resourceful in Ancient Egypt. Hieroglyphics can be found at many locations – from pyramids to catacombs to Pharaoh’s tomb writings (which helped identifying them).

The major discovery, which lead to the deciphering of hieroglyphics, was made by Napoleon’s army in 1799 – the Rosetta Stone! It took over 20 years, after the discovery, to fully comprehend Ancient Egyptian scripture. The Rosetta Stone involved the same text written in 3 different languages: Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, Demotic, and Ancient Greek.

Cartouches were carved tablets, mostly made of stone, which contained a message written in Hieroglyphic script. Cartouches were sometimes used as ornaments and, at other times, as titles for pharaohs and priests. the ancient Egyptians called them “shenu”.

The deciphering of hieroglyphics and discoveries of cartouches have, together, lead us to a much better understanding of the Ancient Egypt civilization. Ancient Egypt carries a rich history and it will take much more time – a year, a decade, a century, before we can have a complete and clear vision of its society… #AncientEgypt #Hieroglyphics

An Introduction To Egyptian Hieroglyphs

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“The main purpose of writing was not decorative, and it was not originally intended for literary or commercial use. Its most important function was to provide a means by which certain concepts or events could be brought into existence. The Egyptians believed that if something were committed to writing it could be repeatedly “made to happen” by means of magic.”

~ Egyptologist Ann Rosalie David (1946 – present)

The best known Ancient Egyptian writing is known as hieroglyphics “sacred carvings” and developed at some point prior to the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150 -2613 BCE). The designation “hieroglyphics” is a Greek word; the Egyptians referred to their writing as medu-netjer, “the god’s words,” as they believed writing had been given to them by the great god Thoth. Thoth has been depicted in many ways depending on the era and on the aspect the artist wished to convey. Usually, he is depicted in his human form with the head of an ibis. Thoth was born with an immense knowledge and most importantly the knowledge of the power of words. He was also considered to have been the scribe of the underworld. Thoth was universally worshipped by ancient Egyptian scribes. Many scribes had a painting or a picture of Thoth in their “office”. Likewise, one of the symbols for scribes was that of the ibis. Thoth has played a prominent role in many of the Egyptian myths. Displaying his role as arbitrator, he had overseen the three epic battles between good and evil making sure neither had a decisive victory over the other.

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The ancient Egyptians regarded Thoth as One, self-begotten, and self-produced. He was the master of both physical and moral (i.e. divine) law. He is said to direct the motions of the heavenly bodies. Without his words, the Egyptians believed, the gods would not exist. His power was unlimited in the Underworld and rivaled that of Ra and Osiris. The Egyptians credited him as the author of all works of science, religion, philosophy, and magic. The Greeks further declared him the inventor of astronomy, astrology, the science of numbers, mathematics, geometry, surveying, medicine, botany, theology, civilized government, the alphabet, reading, writing, and oratory. They further claimed he was the true author of every work of every branch of knowledge, human and divine.

Thoth gave human beings this knowledge freely, but it was a responsibility he expected them to take seriously. Words could hurt, heal, elevate, destroy, condemn, and even raise someone from death to life. Sometime in the Predynastic Period in Egypt (c. 6000 – c. 3150 BCE), they began to use symbols to represent basic concepts. Egyptologist Miriam Lichtheim writes, “[the script] was limited to the briefest notations designed to identify a person or a place, an event or a possession.” The earliest writings purpose was most likely in trade, to convey information about goods, prices, and purchases. However the first actual extant evidence of Egyptian writing comes from tombs in the form of offering lists in the Early Dynastic Period.

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Death was not the end of life for the ancient Egyptians; it was only a transition from one state to another. An Offering List was an inventory of the gifts due to a particular person and inscribed on the wall of their tomb. Someone who had performed great deeds, held a high position of authority, or led troops to victory in battle were due greater offerings than another who had done relatively little with their lives. The autobiography and the prayer became the first forms of literature in Egypt and were created using the hieroglyphic script.

“The Offering List grew to enormous length till the day on which an inventive mind realized that a short Prayer for Offerings would be an effective substitute for the unwieldy list. Once the prayer, which may already have existed in spoken form, was put into writing, it became the basic element around which tomb-texts and representations were organized. Similarly, the ever lengthening lists of an official’s ranks and titles were infused with life when the imagination began to flesh them out with narration, and the Autobiography was born.”

~ Egyptologist Miriam Lichtheim (1914 – 2004)

Hieroglyphics developed out of the early pictographs. People used symbols, pictures to represent concepts such as a person or event.

“A modern-day example of how hieroglyphics were written would be a text message in which an emoji of an angry face is placed after an image of a school. Without having to use any words one could convey the concept of “I hate school” or “I am angry about school.” If one wanted to make one’s problem clearer, one could place an image of a teacher or fellow student before the angry-face-ideogram or a series of pictures telling a story of a problem one had with a teacher. Determinatives were important in the script, especially because hieroglyphics could be written left-to-right or right-to-left or down-to-up or up-to-down. Inscriptions over temple doors, palace gates, and tombs go in whatever direction was best served for that message. The beauty of the final work was the only consideration in which direction the script was to be read.”

~ Joshua J. Mark, Professor of Philosophy at Marist College

“The placement of hieroglyphs in relation to one another was governed by aesthetic rules. The Egyptians always tried to group signs in balanced rectangles. For example, the word for “health” was written with the three consonants s-n-b. These would not be written [in a linear fashion] by an Egyptian because the group would look ugly, it would be considered “incorrect”. The “correct” writing would be the grouping of the signs into a rectangle…The labor of construction was lightened somewhat by the fact that individual hieroglyphs could be enlarged or shrunk as the grouping required and that some signs could be placed either horizontally or vertically. Scribes would even reverse the order of signs if it seemed that a more balanced rectangle could be obtained by writing them in the wrong order.”

~ Egyptologist Karl-Theodor Zauzich

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Hieroglyphics were comprised of an ‘alphabet’ of 24 basic consonants which would convey meaning but over 800 different symbols to express that meaning precisely which all had to be memorized and used correctly.

“It may well be asked why the Egyptians developed a complicated writing system that used several hundred signs when they could have used their alphabet of some thirty signs and made their language much easier to read and write. This puzzling fact probably has a historical explanation: the one-consonant signs were not “discovered” until after the other signs were in use. Since by that time the entire writing system was established, it could not be discarded, for specific religious reasons. Hieroglyphics were regarded as a precious gift of Thoth, the god of wisdom. To stop using many of these signs and to change the entire system of writing would have been considered both a sacrilege and an immense loss, not to mention the fact that such a change would make all the older texts meaningless at a single blow.”

~ Egyptologist Karl-Theodor Zauzich

Hieroglyphics were obviously quite labor-intensive for a scribe and so another faster script was developed shortly after known as hieratic (‘sacred writing’). Hieratic script used characters which were simplified versions of hieroglyphic symbols. Hieratic appeared in the Early Dynastic Period in Egypt after hieroglyphic writing was already firmly developed.

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