Posted in book review

‘Hittites: A History From Beginning to End’ by Hourly History – book review

Hittites: A History From Beginning to End by Hourly History
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The name Uriah always fascinated me from British Rock band Uriah Heep to the biblical Uriah, whose beautiful wife led him ultimately to death, willy-nilly, by King David infatuated with her sensuousness. When I learned that the ancestor of Uriahs was the founder of the Hittites race, being the great-grandson of Noah, the biblical patriarch, I had a Eureka moment. Consequently, I picked up this concise but comprehensive book on the Hittites to know a little more about the people whose founder had the great name.

Before the splendor of ancient Greek contributions to our human cultural progress as a collective enterprise, there was the forgotten but enduring legacy of the Hittites, the mysterious Indo-European trailblazers of civilizations at the crossroads of the East and the West in the vast plain of modern-day Turkey. The Hittites were an integral people to solve the mystery of mythological and biblical events anchored in the real world, thus dissolving fact and legend into one another like a genie from an empire that vanished into the dunes of time and comes alive in the calling. The calling of these mysteriously vanished people came first from British Reverends Archibald Henry Sayce and William Wright in the early 19th century. They discovered the artifacts and sites of the Hittites. Their discovery led to more remarkable discoveries. During the middle Bronze age and Iron age, the Hittites were the first to utilize iron from the region of present Armenia to craft tools and weapons. Also, the Hittites were deft at commerce, developing the city of Carchemish as an ancient mercantile hubbub in which they imported products from Phoenicia and exported them to Assyria (the North) and Babylon (the South) in Mesopotamia. In this fabulous ancient city, Israelites of the Old Testament acted as intermediaries in trade between Egyptians for exporting horses and chariots and the Hittites for importing them.

Like all those famous entertainers who sparkled then lost the lusters, the Hittites as a collective empire fell from splendor gradually by outside forces: some pointed the fingers at the Sea People, while the others blamed a certain barbarous Kaska people. But, perhaps, such clandestine ending of the Hittites is what makes them formidably alluring and mysteriously fascinating, blurring the boundary of fact and legend. Suppose you are keen on the history of ancient civilizations other than Greece and Egypt. In that case, this elegant primer for the history of the Hittites will equip you with fundamental knowledge enough to whet your craving for more and more profound knowledge about the Hittites.



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Posted in book review, Miscellany

Philosopher, Poet, and Doctor

Edgar Allan Poe’s tribute of “To the glory that was Greece” sprang from my mind when I received this month’s subscription to a British history magazine BBC History Revealed. It came in the magnificent package of ancient Greece Special, ranging from the Archaic to Hellenistic periods, from slaves to Socrates, and from Auspices to trepanation. I feel dutiful that writing about my thoughts from the reading serves a purpose of writing to achieve experiential value to gain refreshing knowledge about the famously glorious ancient Greece and creative value to record my thoughts about following impressive findings.

Surprising Opponent of Democracy
Socrates was the one who called upon Philosophy from celestial paradise into the world, took her to the villas and huts of mortals, and persuaded her to stay among them. He was indubitably the father of philosophy as Herodotus was of western narrative history. His submission to drinking fatal poison as execution for corrupting the Athenian youth by saying “Bad law is still law” is immortalized in works of art from painting to engraves, poems and plays. Woe betides anyone who would disbelieve that the most democratic thinker opposed democracy in his time. Yet don’t let sorrow turn into disappointment in betrayal because democracy in Socrates’s time was different from our modern concept and practice of republican democracy. Athenian democracy directly involved people of all classes in politics without representations for constituents. Any Athenian citizen- excluding women, slaves, and foreigners- could voice out and execute their wills however uncouth and unreasonable. This form of mob-style demagoguery without desires being reined by the judgment is what Socrates criticized, not freedom of human spirits. Naturally, having seen his venerable teacher killed by the will of demagogues, Plato was an even stronger opponent of Athenian democracy that ceased to reign in the early 4th century BC following the Greeks’ unsuccessful revolt against Macedonia rule.

Nothing is better than the simple.
Anyte of Tegea was a very popular poet of circa 3rd century BC. Anyte is considered one of the first poets to focus on the simplicity of beauty found in nature and life, which is different from most ancient Greek poetry eulogizing the mighty achievements of heroes and the majestic powers of gods. Her eloquently crafted poetry with comprehensively accessible use of simple language gorgeously manifests richly delicate emotional sensitivity that collapses the millenniums between her writing and our reading them. Although her popularity earned her the sobriquet of “Female Homer,” a comparison to nineteen-century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is deemed more apposite and understandable for both poets sublimated the ordinary to the sublime with the feeling of beauty and love for nature and life.

A hole into the skull
Trepanation was a medical technique that Hippocrates, the father of medicines and doctors, codified in circa 5th century BC. He believed that there were four humors in the human body: Blood – Air, Yellow bile – Fire, Black bile – Earth, and Phlegm – Water. The idea of humourism consisted of thus: if one of them was redundant or deficient, ailments of spiritual and physical kinds arose. Therefore, drilling a hole into the skull of the affected suffering from depression, headache, fractures, or other symptoms of a mystical condition, would relieve the patient of malady. The Inca civilization was indeed famous for successful cases of trepanation, more favorably effectuated than those of 19th century American Civil War experience. However, it was Hippocrates who contextualized the procedural and impacts of the prehistoric operation. Trepanation is still performed today in the name of craniotomy.

The mists of the past seem strangely distant due to our conditioned sense of evolutionary scale in the continuum of prehistoric and modern times. However, history shows us in today’s world that the people who lived before us millenniums ago had emotions and concerns similar to ours and that human cultural progress is a collective enterprise without fully recognizing it within the circumferences of time and space. Just as Herodotus was gobsmacked by the sight of great pyramids built centuries before him, our descendants will be awe-struck to see the ancient ruins of the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building and the tires of the New York City or of Los Angeles. Time and culture are ephemeral, but cultural heritage and artifacts in the treasure of works of art and humanities passed down to posterity are eternal as long as the human race exists.

Posted in book review

‘Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World’, by Philip Matyszak

Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World by Philip Matyszak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Forty years on our evolutionary scale amounts to a microsecond on our twenty-four biological clock. The millennium years, even Before Christ, feel so alienly anachronistic from our modern sensibility. The sense of time builds upon a fundamental element of consciousness as molded into a collective emotional experience as contemporary citizens of the world, just as the peoples of the misty pasts we tend to overlook felt the same for the civilizations before them. They were the titans of the pre-ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures. They, like the evening sun in its full declination, vanished in the hazy horizons of the time, still dazzling with its scarlet hues of radiating halo lingering on the remnants of human civilization to this date.

Forgotten peoples of the Ancient World is an anthology of the peoples whose feeling of permanence and importance in their time of the world betrayed their fates buried in the tires of cities beneath the earth and returned to the dust in the winds. To illustrate, Akkadians were the first builders of the empire who elevated the Akkadian language to the cultural and political lingua franca of the late Bronze Age. The Hyksos were outstanding charioteers, and their military prowess benefitted their Egyptian subjects. The Bactrian culture was a delightful mixture of Greek and Indian heritages, while the Vandals gave a final, fatal blow to the already destabilized Roman Empire. These peoples affected the celebrity civilizations we are automatically associated with the ancient civilizations. As to why the forgotten peoples became peripheral in our realm of ancient history, it is a question of the immanence of the supreme being in the universe. However, what is certain is that they were the torch-bearers of the first civilizations passing the torch of society they had ignited and encouraged to the next in a relay run of collective humanity.

The book is an excellent anthology of these ancient peoples in chronological order from east to west, showing how civilizations expanded from the cradle across the plains, mountains, deserts, and seas to the Isles of Britons. Divided into the eras marking the epochal changes of history, Matyszak succinctly elucidates the peoples of the misty past with his trademark witty ways of describing historical contexts. Moreover, the exciting historical trivia resurrects the eras in a phantasmagorical display of faces and places.

To conclude, the stories about the forgotten peoples attest to the objectivity of truth applicable to any time of history that that which is here was there, has been, and will be. All things must pass, and there is nothing new under the sun. Our sense of time and culture is a likeness of truth, a matrix-like reality, because our facility is rather instinctive than reasoning, rather physical than metaphysical. Who would have known that people 100 years later now would think our time and us in this time anachronistic and antediluvian? Herodotus felt the same when he arrived in Egypt and saw the wondrous pyramids in awe that the people before his generations had built. So did the Babylonian king, who dug and discovered artifacts from centuries ago. We have seen the hungry ocean gain advantage of the kingdom of the shore, and the firm soil win of the watery main, increase with loss and loss with increase. The forgotten peoples and we are time’s subjects, and time bids are gone.



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‘Ancient Magic’, by Philip Matyszak – book review

Ancient Magic: A Practitioner’s Guide to the Supernatural in Greece and Rome by Philip Matyszak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Magic in ancient Greece and Rome was an art of crafting natural force with a bit of help from the world of gods and spirits wonderous to the user without fully knowing them. Contrary to traditional orthodox Christian teachings, magic was not associated by default with sorcery privileged to an esoteric spiritual elitist often dark and sinister. To the ancient Greeks and Romans, magic was their belief system, part of their modus vivendi in everyday life from slaves to emperors in the sense that we go to doctors or counselors. In a word, magic, as we understand now, was not so much deviltry as a variety of rituals of individual petitions pleaded for the fulfillment, which even the tremendous ancient minds regarded worthwhile to record.

Before the era of Christianity, the concept of magic was often interchangeably used with the knowledge of natural and supernatural worlds, which the ancients saw as not impossible to cross in between and thus believed the ghosts and the afterlife. Plato and Pliny, the Elder, advised no mortals go to graves alone after dark because there the restless souls of the dead not crossing the Styx, wandered. The most significant of the ghost story is Pliny the Younger’s letter to his friend Licinius Sura. He tells of the philosopher Athenodorus, a stoic astronomer and tutor to Octavian, the future emperor, witnessing a ghost of an old man in shackles showing his improper burial site.

Magic encompasses auguries and omens by the flights of birds, spells, and potions to charm the figures of desires, and the astrological signs in the ascendant at births and the sun, all of which to make uncertain futures known as guides to walk the paths of life to arrive at the fates. Matyszak tells the reader in the capacity of a Virgil leading Dante to the Underworld that seers at Delphi and Cumae were relatively easy to foretell the futures, which were unchangeable. Their acute intuition took a dreamy leap to poetically versed oracle pronouncement in the background of ethylene atmosphere and told what the petitioners could do at their best to deal with what laid ahead of them because there was no more than one fixed future.

The book invites the reader into the world of magic like never before because knowledge is a composite of Herodotus, Plutarch, Pliny the Younger, Socrates, and Plato. They took the extraordinary subject seriously because it was part of their daily lives bordering on a thin line of the spiritual world that was as real as they were. The book is written in a language accessible to all spectrums of education and walks of life. It is philosophy, religion, and history magically mixed in the author’s magic potion of erudition that significantly produces learning charmed in natural wits.



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Posted in Miscellany, Novellas, Poetry

New Possum’s Book of the Curious Cat

 

There’s once a cat name Romp Pomp Bunter, aka the Curious Cat,
who liked to romp with pomp and bunt his head against
his guardian, the woman with the beautiful but lonely heart.
She named him in rapt contemplation of the thought, of the thought
of his name; his ineffable, effable name, debonair and extraordinary.

The Romp Pomp Bunter has a secret that no one knows it:
The Romp Pomp Bunter once saw a grand statue of Bastet
In a book on the history of cats originating in ancient Egypt
And was so impressed with the splendid grace of the goddess
That he wanted to emulate the mysteriously beguiling poise
Even if he was a Californian moggie tomcat of Los Angeles.

But the Romp Pomp Bunter, ever the Curious and Adventurous,
An orphan kitten whose parents nobody knew or cared even,
Felt that he was originally from the Ancient World with a reason
That he looked nothing like the ordinary domestic short-haired,
The insignificant, the common, the trite, the obsequiously tamed
Breed of Cats that contrasted the Egyptian Mau, the First of Firsts
Endeared to Pharaohs, Queens, Priests, Soldiers, Farmers, and Artists.

So, the Romp Pomp Bunter believed that he was the Royal Descendant,
The indolently elegant, adoringly capricious, the inscrutably alluring
Egyptian Mau, the paragon of the goddess Bastet, divinely beguiling.
You see, that is why his name is the Romp Pomp Bunter, the Curious Cat.