Topic for Discussion

Summer for the ancient Greeks

It’s summer in the northern hemisphere, and for many regions there have been severe heatwaves. Even the Acropolis in Athens had to be closed to visitors in the hottest part of the day. And with the wildfires raging in many places we hope everyone is staying safe. So we wondered what we could find in the ancient Greek texts about summer. The ancient Greeks tried to explain the seasons; for… Read more

Women in Theophrastus’ Characters

In April 2023 the Kosmos Society Book Club read Theophrastus’ Characters[1]. Wikipedia says that Theophrastus lived in Athens from 371–280 BCE, and was a pupil of Aristotle. Diogenes Laertius[2] gives us a description of Theophrastus’ life, and also a copy of his will. There is also a bibliography of his writings, although very little has survived. One of the surviving texts is Characters, which consists of thirty descriptions of behaviours… Read more

Father’s Advice

The latest Kosmos Book Club Discussion included a passage about a father giving advice to his son. An experienced father was lending his knowledge to his child. Ovid’s story of Phoebus and Phaethon inspired us to look at other passages from antiquity with father figures advising their children. In the production of children both [parents] share alike; but each makes a different contribution to their upbringing. It is the mother… Read more

Sceptered Kings

A few weeks ago I watched the coronation of a king. At one point I noticed the king holding in his hands not one but two scepters. The mental image of Agamemnon holding his scepter involuntarily jumped into my thoughts and disturbed me briefly. Although there is probably no direct link, I decided to explore certain symbols of royalty in Homeric and Hesiodic poetry. Scepters were used in the ancient… Read more

Beware of Birds in Homeric Poetry

Heroes in Homeric poetry need to make contact with gods and goddesses. They like to be reassured by them or they fear them and beg. In the following passage, Pallas Athena sends an encouraging message to Odysseus before he goes as a spy to the night ambush. She sends a heron and when Odysseus hears its cry, he prays. It’s a moving scene. When the pair [=Diomedes and Odysseus] had… Read more