Category: history


Another Bit Of Archaeology

Apollo Discovery Tells a New Story

ScienceDaily (Sep. 20, 2010) — A rare bronze signet ring with the impression of the face of the Greek sun god, Apollo, has been discovered at Tel Dor, in northern Israel, by University of Haifa diggers.

“A piece of high-quality art such as this, doubtlessly created by a top-of-the-line artist, indicates that local elites developing a taste for fine art and the ability to afford it were also living in provincial towns, and not only in the capital cities of the Hellenistic kingdoms,” explains Dr. Ayelet Gilboa, Head of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, who headed the excavations at Dor along with Dr. Ilan Sharon of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

When the ring was recovered from a waste pit near Hellenistic structures, it was covered with layers of earth and corrosion, and the archaeologists had no indication whatsoever that it would reveal the shape of a legendary figure. Only after the ring was cleaned up at the Restoration and Conservation laboratory at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, was the profile of a beardless young male with long hair, clean shaven and adorned with a laurel wreath, revealed. The ring was examined by Dr. Jessica Nitschke, professor of classical archaeology at Georgetown University in Washington DC, and by Dr. Rebecca Martin, assistant professor of art at Southeast Missouri State University, both of whom are partners in the Tel Dor excavations. Both confirmed that the image is that of Apollo — one of the most important of the Olympian gods in Greek mythology, god of the sun, of light, music and song.

Read the rest of the story (including a picture of the ring!) here.

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Ancient Hymns

I’ve had a few things that I wanted to write about, but for various reasons have not gotten much computer time aside from the time spent job searching since my last post. I may very well just give myself a break from job applications for today.

Last night, in a fit of being unable to sleep, I spent a brief few minutes poking around forums for something to do for a short bit that didn’t require a lot of thought on my part. I found a post over at Hellenistai forums where someone was inquiring about the Delphic hymns, the second of which was composed for the Pythian games,  which are dated 138 and 128 BC

I remember hearing about these hymns a couple of years ago, and at the time, spending a night at work googling them, hoping to find a translation of the text into English. At the time, I found a Wikipedia article, complete with photos of the stone containing the surviving fragments and a um, translation, of the music of the first Delphic hymn into modern musical notation…but no translation of the text.

So last night, I decided to give it another quick whirl and within a minute or two, I found this page of a musician promoting his CD of ancient lyre music played on a modern replica of a ten-stringed Lyre of the Ancient Hebrews. The musician, Michael Levy, also has his official website here- looks like an interesting resource for anyone interested in all things having to do with the lyre, including building your own and some online lessons. (Note: I don’t know anything about the guy, I’m getting nothing for promoting his site, I just thought that since I was mentioning the other page, and because the lyre is Apollo’s instrument, that it was relevant and possibly of interest to some of my readers.  speaking of interest to some of my readers, some of his recordings are of ancient Egyptian and Syrian songs, you can see more about them on the linked pages. )

Anyway…this was particularly cool because he provides an English translation of the text of the first hymn. (He does not indicate who the translator is)

“Hear me, you who posses deep-wooded Helicon,
fair-armed daughters of Zeus the magnificent!
Fly to beguile with your accents your brother,
golden-tressed Phoebus who, on the twin peak of this rock of Parnassus,
escorted by illustrious maidens of Delphi,
sets out for the limpid streams of Castalia, traversing,
on the Delphic promontory, the prophetic pinnacle.
Behold glorious Attica, nation of the great city which,
thanks to the prayers of the Tritonid warrior,
occupies a hillside sheltered from all harm.
On the holy alters Hephaestos consumes the thighs of young bullocks,
mingled with the flames, the Arabian vapor rises towards Olympos.
The shrill rustling lotus murmurs its swelling song, and the golden kithara,
the sweet-sounding kithara, answers the voice of men.
And all the host of poets, dwellers in Attica, sing your glory, God,
famed for playing the kithara, son of great Zeus,
beside this snow-crowned peak, oh you who reveal to all mortals
the eternal and infallible oracles.
They sing how you conquered the prophetic tripod
guarded by a fierce dragon when, with your darts
you pierced the gaudy, tortuously coiling monster,
so that, uttering many fearful hisses, the beast expired.
They sing too, . . . .”

He also provides a translation of the text of another surviving fragment of a hymn (titled here as Hymn to the Muse)

‘Sing for me, dear Muse, begin my tuneful strain; a breeze blow from your groves to stir my listless brain…Skillful Calliope, leader of the delightful Muses, and you, skillful priest of our rites, son of Leto, Paean of Delos, be at my side’. (translation by J. G. Landels).

There is a lot of information on these historical hymns within this page- the Delphic hymns and the Hymn to the Muse, of course, are the most interesting to me- and relevant to this blog- and so I will not go into detail about the other pieces but anyone interested should certainly go and check out the sites linked.

As his tracks are available for purchase online on several sites, I think I might have to acquire the ones I mentioned here.