"So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."
Shakespeare, Sonnet XVIII (via mediumaevum)
★. mythological figures // pt. i: christianity;
↳ Hierarchy of Angels:02. Cherubim: angels of the second highest order in the ninefold celestial hierarchy, they are said to guard the way to the tree of life in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24) and the throne of God (Ezekiel 28:14;16) in the Abrahamic biblical tradition. Cherubim have four faces: one of a man, an ox, a lion, and an eagle. They have four conjoined wings covered with eyes, a lion’s body figure, and ox’s feet. Modern English usage has blurred the distinction between cherubim and putti. Putti are the winged human baby/toddler-like beings traditionally used in figurative art.
Gilliflower, wild orchid, carnation, columbine, milk thistle, and Madonna lily (details) in The Unicorn in Captivity, c.1495-1505, Southern Netherlands.
Aspesi | EG
Camoshita | Gitman
Esemplare | Ovadia
Arpenteur | Esemplare
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Ancient post-it notes!
How often do you reach for a Post-It note? Maybe you’re making that to do list, or figuring out your groceries. But you know, what if you lived BEFORE Post-It notes or scrap paper? What would you use then?
In Thebes, where these examples are from, and across the Roman Empire, scraps of used and broken pottery would be used to scribble quick notes. These examples are called ostraka. Most of the ostraka that our conservators and curators are studying right now contain notes on taxes and granary receipts from the second century AD.
The notes are written in Greek script. Kay Sunahara, ROM archaeologist studying these pieces, described the Greek langage at the time as, “the lingua franca of the Mediterranean”. Greek was the most frequently used written language, used to help bridge the gap between speakers of different languages, much like English today.
The majority of these pieces we’re found and acquired in the early 1900’s by none other than ROM founder Charles T. Currelly.
So how are these scrap pieces of pottery useful to archaeology today? Are grocery lists really that vaulabe? For archaeologists, ostraka provide them with a great deal of information about the people who left these notes in the first place. Information such as what people were eating, trading for, in trouble for, and the prices of things, give us a unique look into those who lived far before us, in this case well over a thousand years ago.
Interestingly enough, it also shows us just how similar we are to those who lived long before. Everyone needs groceries, and a reminder letter, maybe from their mom, or from their husband, of what to get from the store.
National Archaeology Day takes place on October 20th at the ROM and many other museums around the world!
The Myth of the Flat Earth:
I thought that I’d take the time to correct a popular misconception. I’ve often heard it claimed that the Medieval Church taught that the earth was flat, or that people throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance could be persecuted for believing that the earth was round.
The trouble with this is that it isn’t even true. The only reason people think that it is true is because it’s been referenced so many times in popular culture that people start to believe it is factual.
The idea of a spherical earth was first suggested by Pythagoras. In the words of Diogenes Laertius: “[Pythagoras ] was the first [Greek] who called the earth round; though Theophrastus attributes this to Parmenides, and Zeno to Hesiod.” Plato also taught that the earth was round: “My conviction is that the earth is a round body in the centre of the heavens, and therefore has no need of air or of any similar force to be a support”.
By the time of the Middle Ages it was no different. The monk Bede describes “the roundness of the Earth, for not without reason is it called ‘the orb of the world’ on the pages of Holy Scripture and of ordinary literature. It is, in fact, set like a sphere in the middle of the whole universe.” That the earth was a sphere was known by Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, Chaucer, Dante, and many others. In the words of historian Jeffrey Burton Russell: “with extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat”. And according to historians David Lindberg and Ronald Numbers: “there was scarcely a Christian scholar of the Middle Ages who did not acknowledge [Earth’s] sphericity and even know its approximate circumference”.
The prevailing view of the cosmos in those days was the Ptolemaic system, which has the spherical earth surrounded by various heavens in which the planets revolve, then finally the stars, and beyond that the Empyrean Heaven where God dwells beyond space and time. This system can be seen in Medieval maps of the cosmos, such as the one above. There are plenty more examples that can be found just by Googling ‘Medieval cosmos’.