Monday, December 28, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
When the map was created Britain would have featured on the first section, which has not survived. All that remains is this tantalizing corner of the south coast of England. From top to bottom the six 'twin towers' represent the present-day towns of Thetford (or Norwich), Richborough, Dover, Canterbury, Lympne and Exeter. A Channel crossing was then necessary to continue the journey to Rome. It is perhaps surprising that 'Camuloduno' (Colchester), which was one of the most important Roman towns in the area, is not accorded 'twin tower' status. Its name is simply written in alongside the road. This may provide a clue to this map's intended purpose. As with today's maps, the features that are chosen for inclusion and those that are omitted are determined by its function. For this reason the lack of significance given to a number of major legionary centres has led to the conclusion that this was not, primarily, a military map.
The tentative state of what was known about this part of North America in the 1600s is clearly illustrated in this extract. Sanson's map is one of the first to name and locate 'Erie Lac' and to show it joined to Lake Ontario, as Lac de St Louis has become known. However, the large lake shown in the mountain range to the south and marked as 'Apalache' has never existed, although the name Appalachian in relation to mountain range has survived. The north-south range shown here is quite accurate but the main range running off to the west and across the centre of the map does not exist. Slowly over the next 200 years an accurate picture of the physical geography of this region would be compiled.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Legends of goatmen have circulated since the time of the ancient Greeks, who told of goat-legged satyrs lurking in their wooded areas. (Troy Therrien)
The mythic image of the goatman has butted heads with reality since the ancient Greeks told of horned, goat-legged satyrs that terrorized their forests. Satyrs were known as enthusiastic party animals that loved to carouse until dawn.
The son of the Greek god Hermes, Pan, looked much like the satyrs and although famous for playing beautiful music on his reed pipes, could pitch a frightening fit when angered. The Roman god of rural land, Faunus, was a sort of a cousin to Pan. His goatman offspring, the fauns or fauni, also resembled satyrs but enjoyed a more wholesome reputation. Their one negative trait was the ability to trigger nightmares by sneaking into a human’s bedroom.
The idea of combining man and beast into a single being does not stop with goats. Ancient legends overfl ow with a bizarre zoo of manimals, or half-and-half creatures. One of the oldest ideas is that of the dog-headed man, or cynocephali. Dating this strain of hybrids back to the jackal-headed death god of the Egyptians, Anubis, author Patricia Dale-Green refers to the culture of humanized canines as “dogmanity.”
As early as the fifth century bce, the Greek doctor Ctésias wrote a book about India in which he described a race of dog-headed people that cooked their prey by sun-baking it. Explorer Marco Polo also claimed around 1300 ce that a region near India’s Bay of Bengal was home to a nation of cynocephali that worshipped oxen.
Old Irish legends include a tribe of dog-headed Celts called the Concheannaich, and as late as the Middle Ages, Greek Orthodox churches portrayed the martyr St. Christopher (circa 300 ce) as a dog-headed man. According to legend, the saint had prayed that God would make him ugly to keep himself from the sin of vanity. Christopher received his wish in the form of a hound’s head. Although he was considered the patron saint of travelers for many years, in 1969 the Roman Catholic Church removed Christopher’s feast day from its calendar due to lack of historical evidence of his existence.
One Bible-related legend contends that the unicorn was too high-spirited to ride on Noah’s ark with the other animals and that is how it became extinct. “The Unicorn,” a popular 1967 song by the Irish Rovers with lyrics by Shel Silverstein, insisted the unicorns were too busy playing to make it onto the ark. Some scholars think that the word unicorn in verses such as Psalm 92:10: (“But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of the unicorn; I shall be anointed with fresh oil”), was a mistranslation. The original Hebrew word re’em actually meant some type of unknown animal, but was mistakenly read as “one-horned.” Inspired by no fewer than seven verses about unicorns in the Old Testament, medieval Christians began to portray it in their tapestries and paintings. The unicorn came to signify Jesus Christ. Artists usually showed it as a pure white horse or goat with a long, straight spiraling horn projecting straight out from the forehead, similar to today’s standard version. But there is a reason that the unicorn’s horn, once always shown as thick and curved like a rhino’s, became long, straight, and spiraled.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
In Revelation 16:16, the battlefield designated where blasphemers, unclean spirits, and devils join forces for the final great battle of the ages between their evil hordes and Christ and his faithful angelic army is Armageddon, “the mound of Megiddo.” The inspiration for such a choice of battlegrounds was quite likely an obvious one for John the Revelator, for it has been said that more blood has been shed around the hill of Megiddo than any other single spot on Earth. Located 10 miles southwest of Nazareth at the entrance to a pass across the Carmel mountain range, it stands on the main highway between Asia and Africa and in a key position between the Euphrates and the Nile rivers, thus providing a traditional meeting place of armies from the East and from the West. For thousands of years, the Valley of Mageddon, now known as the Jezreel Valley, had been the site where great battles had been waged and the fate of empires decided. Thothmes III, whose military strategies made Egypt a world empire, proclaimed the taking of Megiddo to be worth the conquering of a thousand cities. During World War I in 1918, the British general Allenby broke the power of the Turkish army at Megiddo.
Most scholars agree that the word “Armageddon” is a Greek corruption of the Hebrew Har-Megiddo, “the mound of Megiddo,” but they debate exactly when the designation of Armageddon was first used. The city of Megiddo was abandoned sometime during the Persian period (539 B.C.E.–332 B.C.E.), and the small villages established to the south were known by other names. It could well have been that John the Revelator, writing in the Jewish apocalyptic tradition of a final conflict between the forces of light and darkness, was well aware of the bloody tradition of the hill of Megiddo and was inspired by the ruins of the city on its edge; but by the Middle Ages, theologians appeared to employ Armageddon as a spiritual concept without any conscious association with the Valley of Megiddo. Armageddon simply stood for the promised time when the returning Christ and his legions of angels would gather to defeat the assembled armies of darkness. During that same period, those church scholars who persisted in naming an actual geographical location for the final battle between good and evil theorized that it might occur at places in the Holy Land as widely separated as Mount Tabor, Mount Zion, Mount Carmel, or Mount Hermon.
In the fourteenth century, the Jewish geographer Estori Ha-Farchi suggested that the roadside village of Lejjun might be the location of the biblical Megiddo. Ha-Farchi pointed out that Lejjun was the Arabic form of Legio, the old Roman name for the place. In the early nineteenth century, American biblical scholar Edwin Robinson traveled to the area of Palestine that was held at that time by the Ottoman Empire and became convinced that Ha-Farchi was correct in his designation of the site as the biblical Megiddo. Later explorers and archaeologists determined that the ruins of the ancient city lay about a mile north of Lejjun at what had been renamed by the Ottoman government as the mound of Tell el-Mutasellim, “the hill of the governor.”
Today, tourists visit Tel Megiddo in great numbers, attracted by the site’s apocalyptic mystique and the old battleground’s significance as the place where the fate of ancient empires was decided with the might of sword and spear. The Israel National Parks Authority works in close coordination with the Megiddo Expedition and the Ename Center for Public Archaeology of Belgium in offering visitors a dramatic perspective of the history of Armageddon.
Bloomfield, Arthur E. Before the Last Battle—Armageddon. Minneapolis: Dimension Books, Bethany Fellowship, 1971.
Goetz, William R. Apocalypse Next. Camp Hill, Penn.: Horizon Books, 1996.
Shaw, Eva. Eve of Destruction: Prophecies, Theories and Preparations for the End of the World. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1995.
Silberman, Neil Asher, Israel Finkelstein, David Ussishkin, and Baruch Halpern. “Digging at Armageddon.” Archaeology, November/December 1999, pp. 32–39.
Unterman, Alan. Dictionary of Jewish Lore and Legend. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1991.