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  • Plato Meets the Meteorite: Solon, Egypt and Atlantis February 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Plato Meets the Meteorite: Solon, Egypt and Atlantis

    ***Dedicated to ANL who sent this in*** The story is well-known and comes in Plato’s Timaeus. Solon, the law-giver, has travelled to Egypt and there, in the city of Sais, he speaks to one old priest, who tell him how 9,000 years before a power named Atlantis had fought against Europe and Asia. These passages […]

    Water Thief Watcher January 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Water Thief Watcher

    In distant days I opened a tag on WCIH, ‘the worst careers in history’ and, before things fizzled out, I made the case for precolumbian sacrificial victims and the Galeotti. Here today is a new one to reopen the series, the Water Thief Watcher. Now for those without a degree in timekeeping the water thief […]

    The Origins of One-Foot September 30, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    The Origins of One-Foot

    ***Dedicated to Leif*** Humanity has the habit of peopling the edges of its maps with unusual creatures: the ‘there-be-dragons’ phenomenon. We have previously on this blog looked at dog-heads, for example, both in relation to India and Ethiopia. Dog-heads can be explained, as perhaps can unicorns and even dragons and cyclops. But how do you […]

    Ancient Laughter, Modern Bewilderment January 28, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Ancient Laughter, Modern Bewilderment

    Humour, it is sometimes said, is the most socially dependent aspect of literature. The gags that set William Shakespeare’s audience laughing now, very often, leave us shivering cold. Sometimes the generational shift is there under our eyes: the jokes in 1930s movies, Will Hay for example, appear fabulous to Beach but leave his students giving […]

    Cyclops Origins June 7, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Cyclops Origins

      Beachcombing has always had a bit of a thing about Cyclops. And who can blame him? After all, the encounter between old Round Eye and that smarty-pants pirate king from Ithica is what most children – genuine or grown – remember about the Odysseus: there is something so Roald Dahlish about the disgusting yet […]

    Bad Ass One-Liners from the Epic Tradition May 21, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Bad Ass One-Liners from the Epic Tradition

    There is, across the world, an epic literature, sometimes in prose more often in poetry, celebrating the deeds of men who lived, in happier times, caught between the gods and the earth. The ‘shapers’ who sang the heroic ages of the world – in pre-Christian Scandinavia, Homeric Greece, prehistoric India… – had none of our […]

    Sink or Swim: Infanticide and ‘Baptism’ on the Ancient Rhine April 25, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Sink or Swim: Infanticide and 'Baptism' on the Ancient Rhine

    Portentous day in the Beachcombing household as Tiny Miss B, the new arrival, was baptised with a select group of friends and in-laws looking on. Unlike Little Miss B – a chip off the Beachcombing block, who screamed her way through her welcoming into the church – the younger Beachcombing, who takes, instead, after her […]

    Human Sacrifice and the Athenians January 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Human Sacrifice and the Athenians

      Human sacrifice does survive in literate cultures – the Aztecs, various medieval Indian states… But in Europe, at least, it melted away at about the time of the first extensive surviving texts. The result is that Greeks or Romans or Gaels or Germanic types rarely end up putting a knife into a sacrificial victim: […]

    Dog-headed Indians November 26, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Dog-headed Indians

    What do Marco Polo, Augustine, Paul the Deacon, Vincent of Beauvais and the Buddhist missionary, Hui-Sheng all have in common? Well, to keep things short – Beachcombing is on bedtime duty tonight for his insomniac daughter – they all described and (with the exception of Augustine) believed in tribes of dog-headed human beings in lands distant […]

    Crow Bombs: Avian Missiles in the Medieval World November 9, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Crow Bombs: Avian Missiles in the Medieval World

    Beachcombing has spent the last few hours enjoying a medieval work named the Book of Fires (Liber Ignium). The author’s alleged name, Mark the Greek is not certain and the text survives in Latin that means we cannot be certain either that it was originally written in Greek: though the structure of the Latin sentences would suggest […]

    Aristotle and the Flatulent Earth October 27, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Aristotle and the Flatulent Earth

    Beachcombing is always loath to give any publicity to the appalling Aristotle – and recently had a piece on Aristotle’s lost work on comedy wrung out of him against all his better judgement. However, after Beachcombing’s first experience of an earthquake last year he found himself grazing in Aristotle’s Metereology where the non-Platonic one gives […]

    In Search of Aristotle’s ‘On Comedy’ August 29, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    In Search of Aristotle's 'On Comedy'

                In 1928 that old grumpystiltskins K.K. Smith wrote that ‘Like many another Lost Atlantis the chapter on comedy which Aristotle may have written to conclude his analysis of Poetics has lured many a searcher into waters beyond his depths.’ And, mindful of the warning, Beachcombing straps on his Little […]

    Review: Off the Beaten Track in the Classics August 14, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Review: Off the Beaten Track in the Classics

    Beachcombing has to go and prepare a birthday surprise for a beloved niece and so decided that, today, he would limit himself to a quick write up of one of his favourite ancient history books: Carl Kaeppel’s Off the Beaten Track in the Classics (Melbourne 1936). If the name does not excite you then the […]

    Elephants and Burning Pigs July 26, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Elephants and Burning Pigs

                    A challenge. Your army is spread across the plain when rumbling into sight come not only two hundred enemy cavalry and a thousand hoplites but, unexpectedly, thirty mounted elephants that seem very, very angry – they have been made drunk before battle according to custom. As your horse […]