Discussion:
Alexander the Great & the pitfalls of ancient sources
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JTEM
2011-01-06 20:21:44 UTC
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Here's an interesting tidbit that highlights the importance
of evidence, and the near utter uselessness of tradition...

: In the courtyard of the mosque that had once been the church
: of St. Athanasius, standing inside a small open building, was
: a handsome, heavy sarcophagus carved from a single block of
: rare, beautiful, dark green breccia. It was decorated, inside
: and out, with Egyptian hieroglyphics. Although it was being
: used as a cistern for worshipers' ablutions before prayers,
: locals referred to it as "the tomb of Alexander."

So the popular belief, what was handed down by "Tradition"
was that this sarcophagus was the very tomb of Alexander
the Great...

: French troops removed it and transported it to the hold of a
: French hospital ship. It was said that they intended to bring
: it to Paris, where a monument to Napoleon would be built
: around it, thus associating the latter with Alexander the Great
: in much the same way rulers had done since Ptolemy first
: hijacked the funeral cortege in southern Turkey.

The French bought into "Tradition," believed it belonged to
Alexander the Great, and wanted to ship it back to France...

: But in 1801, the British invaded Egypt and expelled the
: French. Antiquaries attached to the British forces knew
: about the so-called "Alexander sarcophagus" from travelers'
: writings. They searched for it specifically, removed it from
: the French ship, and today the sarcophagus is not in Paris,
: but in London, on display in the British Museum.

The British believed the stories too, and stole it for themselves...

" ....made it obvious that it had been carved for the last native
: Egyptian pharaoh, Nectanebo II, who had ruled from 360 to
: 343 BC. Historians and archeologists concluded that this
: sarcophagus had never contained the body of Alexander; that
: it came to be called "Alexander's tomb" is an example of the
: great flourishing of legend and false attribution about the
: conqueror that began even during his lifetime.
http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/200103/alexander-the.great.mystery.htm

Human sources -- eyewitness accounts, ancient traditions --
are always inaccurate. Always. In fact, the King James version
of the bible contains just over 12 thousand words, yet is so
devoid of accuracy that people get excited over the most
feeble of archaeological "proofs."

Something to chew on....
Martin Edwards
2011-01-07 14:07:25 UTC
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Post by JTEM
Something to chew on....
As recently as the 1980s, a Greek barman told me that the cyclopes were
real because skeletons had been found with one hole in the face. My
Greek was not good enough to explain that this was simply damage.
sigge
2011-01-11 12:58:15 UTC
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Post by Martin Edwards
Post by JTEM
Something to chew on....
As recently as the 1980s, a Greek barman told me that the cyclopes were
real because
skeletons had been found with one hole in the face.  
Basically correct! Gigantic fossils with one hole in the front of the
head have really been found!
In Samos there is a "forest" (the term used by the locals) of
fossils.
They belonged to dinosaurs. The ancients humanised them into cyclops.
Fossils are the basis of many creatures appearing in the Greek myths.

A Greek palaeontologist, Solunias, has done excellent work on these
fossils, (he is a native of Samos)
and his work has been put into a prehistorical context by Adrienne
Mayor in her book "The first fossil hunters" (?).
Post by Martin Edwards
My Greek was not good enough to explain that this was simply damage.
Most likely the bartender's English was not better than your Greek
or
an Englishman drinking with a Greek bartender barely make the
constituent persons of a Symposion.

Funny you honour the guinea pig with a three-line(!!) contribution.

Sigge
Martin Edwards
2011-01-11 14:02:57 UTC
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Post by sigge
Post by Martin Edwards
Post by JTEM
Something to chew on....
As recently as the 1980s, a Greek barman told me that the cyclopes were
real because
skeletons had been found with one hole in the face.
Basically correct! Gigantic fossils with one hole in the front of the
head have really been found!
In Samos there is a "forest" (the term used by the locals) of
fossils.
They belonged to dinosaurs. The ancients humanised them into cyclops.
Fossils are the basis of many creatures appearing in the Greek myths.
A Greek palaeontologist, Solunias, has done excellent work on these
fossils, (he is a native of Samos)
and his work has been put into a prehistorical context by Adrienne
Mayor in her book "The first fossil hunters" (?).
Post by Martin Edwards
My Greek was not good enough to explain that this was simply damage.
Most likely the bartender's English was not better than your Greek
or
an Englishman drinking with a Greek bartender barely make the
constituent persons of a Symposion.
Funny you honour the guinea pig with a three-line(!!) contribution.
Sigge
Thanks for the update. I didn't know that.
Yusuf B Gursey
2011-01-11 21:23:19 UTC
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Post by sigge
Post by Martin Edwards
Post by JTEM
Something to chew on....
As recently as the 1980s, a Greek barman told me that the cyclopes were
real because
skeletons had been found with one hole in the face.  
Basically correct! Gigantic fossils with one hole in the front of the
head have really been found!
they are mastadon fossils. the one hole is the nasal cavity holding
the trunk.
Post by sigge
In Samos there is a "forest" (the term used by the locals) of
fossils.
They belonged to dinosaurs. The ancients humanised them into cyclops.
to mastadons, which were mammals.
Post by sigge
Fossils are  the basis of many creatures appearing in the Greek myths.
A Greek palaeontologist, Solunias, has done excellent work on these
fossils, (he is a native of Samos)
and his work has been put into a prehistorical context by Adrienne
Mayor in her book "The first fossil hunters" (?).
Post by Martin Edwards
My Greek was not good enough to explain that this was simply damage.
Most likely the bartender's English was not better than your Greek
or
an Englishman  drinking with a Greek bartender barely make the
constituent persons of a Symposion.
Funny you honour the guinea pig with a three-line(!!) contribution.
Sigge
Christopher Ingham
2011-01-12 01:32:59 UTC
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Post by Yusuf B Gursey
Post by sigge
Post by Martin Edwards
Post by JTEM
Something to chew on....
As recently as the 1980s, a Greek barman told me that the cyclopes were
real because
skeletons had been found with one hole in the face.  
Basically correct! Gigantic fossils with one hole in the front of the
head have really been found!
they are mastadon fossils. the one hole is the nasal cavity holding
the trunk.
Post by sigge
In Samos there is a "forest" (the term used by the locals) of
fossils.
They belonged to dinosaurs. The ancients humanised them into cyclops.
to mastadons, which were mammals.
I think Adrienne Mayor was the first to make that hypothesis, in_The
first fossil hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman
times_(Princeton, 2000):
http://books.google.com/books?id=MXCQKJwLGS4C&pg=PA54

She also proposes that the invention of the griffin was based on
observations of Protoceratops fossils.

Christopher Ingham
Yusuf B Gursey
2011-01-20 21:29:55 UTC
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Post by Christopher Ingham
Post by Yusuf B Gursey
Post by sigge
Post by Martin Edwards
Post by JTEM
Something to chew on....
As recently as the 1980s, a Greek barman told me that the cyclopes were
real because
skeletons had been found with one hole in the face.  
Basically correct! Gigantic fossils with one hole in the front of the
head have really been found!
they are mastadon fossils. the one hole is the nasal cavity holding
the trunk.
Post by sigge
In Samos there is a "forest" (the term used by the locals) of
fossils.
They belonged to dinosaurs. The ancients humanised them into cyclops.
to mastadons, which were mammals.
I think Adrienne Mayor was the first to make that hypothesis, in_The
first fossil hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman
times_(Princeton, 2000):http://books.google.com/books?id=MXCQKJwLGS4C&pg=PA54
She also proposes that the invention of the griffin was based on
observations of Protoceratops fossils.
yes, that is the book that I had in mind.
Post by Christopher Ingham
Christopher Ingham
JTEM
2011-01-12 05:26:16 UTC
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Post by Yusuf B Gursey
they are mastadon fossils. the one hole is the nasal
cavity holding the trunk.
Using fossils to explain Greek myth is no different than
using tidal waves to explain "The parting of the Red Sea."

Small minds need literal truths. The sad fact is, humans
are quite capable of imagining things that never existed.
Matt Giwer
2011-01-12 06:48:09 UTC
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Post by JTEM
Post by Yusuf B Gursey
they are mastadon fossils. the one hole is the nasal
cavity holding the trunk.
Using fossils to explain Greek myth is no different than
using tidal waves to explain "The parting of the Red Sea."
Small minds need literal truths. The sad fact is, humans
are quite capable of imagining things that never existed.
No question about that. Anyone who can go from a narwhal tusk to a unicorn
really doesn't need the tusk to invent the unicorn. And if Herodotus can write
of ants hoarding gold... to be fair it was a story told to him.

This does show our obsession with finding causality among a people in a time
which had no interest in causality at all or or a need for a factual basis for
much of anything. In a world run by whimsical gods anthropomorphic
explanations are always credible and have the virtue of not needing to go
further.
--
With regard to human rights there is a decisive difference between what a
government does to its own citizens and what a country's military does to an
occupied people.
-- The Iron Webmaster, 4278
http://www.giwersworld.org/israel/is-seg.phtml a14
Wed Jan 12 01:19:37 EST 2011
Martin Edwards
2011-01-12 13:22:56 UTC
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Post by Matt Giwer
Post by JTEM
Post by Yusuf B Gursey
they are mastadon fossils. the one hole is the nasal
cavity holding the trunk.
Using fossils to explain Greek myth is no different than
using tidal waves to explain "The parting of the Red Sea."
Small minds need literal truths. The sad fact is, humans
are quite capable of imagining things that never existed.
No question about that. Anyone who can go from a narwhal tusk to a unicorn
really doesn't need the tusk to invent the unicorn. And if Herodotus can write
of ants hoarding gold... to be fair it was a story told to him.
This does show our obsession with finding causality among a people in a time
which had no interest in causality at all or or a need for a factual basis for
much of anything. In a world run by whimsical gods anthropomorphic
explanations are always credible and have the virtue of not needing to go
further.
Nonetheless the quote from the barman is authentic, though I'll have to
ask you to take it on authority.
Matt Giwer
2011-01-13 07:43:51 UTC
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Post by Matt Giwer
Post by JTEM
Post by Yusuf B Gursey
they are mastadon fossils. the one hole is the nasal
cavity holding the trunk.
Using fossils to explain Greek myth is no different than
using tidal waves to explain "The parting of the Red Sea."
Small minds need literal truths. The sad fact is, humans
are quite capable of imagining things that never existed.
No question about that. Anyone who can go from a narwhal tusk to a unicorn
really doesn't need the tusk to invent the unicorn. And if Herodotus can write
of ants hoarding gold... to be fair it was a story told to him.
This does show our obsession with finding causality among a people in a time
which had no interest in causality at all or or a need for a factual basis for
much of anything. In a world run by whimsical gods anthropomorphic
explanations are always credible and have the virtue of not needing to go
further.
Nonetheless the quote from the barman is authentic, though I'll have to ask
you to take it on authority.
As an unreconstructed hippie I have no use for authority.

I do have use for physical evidence which is what you get from a hippie
physicist.

Not to pick on authorities per se but one usually finds them much more
cautious in their professional publications than in off hand remarks and
infinitely more cautious than journalism major reports of what they say and
write.

I am confident you have seen documentaries on the removal of fossil bones
from the surrounding rock. Some ancient Greek did that no knowing what he
would find nor that it was more than a waste of time doing it? If Greece or
any place half way close to it were a fossil hunter's paradise it would a bit
more plausible. But of all the fossils to find this one with a big nose hole
is what is found AND they never saw an elephant skull?

Sure you can push back the inspiration for the story way back into history to
pre-elephant knowing times but that makes the process of extraction from
surrounding stone even less likely.

And then single eye birth defects are not uncommon and the closer to incest
the marriage the more likely such defects.

On top of that if we assume the Greeks needed an inspiration for strange
creatures then how do we explain that today we have no such need as a perusal
of Hollywood Sci-Fi monsters demonstrates. The ancients would invent monsters
for the same reason we do, to tell entertaining stories.
--
The religion of the priests is not
the religion of the people.
-- The Iron Webmaster, 4296
http://www.giwersworld.org/holo/ a8
Thu Jan 13 02:21:03 EST 2011
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