Anonymous asks:

Something that’s been on my mind for a bit that your professional word may be able to help with. Would you happen to know how ethnically diverse the Greek and Roman empires were?


next question please

…what, you want more?  Oh, fine, but for the record this is not the sort of thing people just “happen to know.”

Okay so I’m assuming by “Greek empire” (remember, kids: there was never a politically autonomous and unified state called “Greece” or “Hellas” until 1822) you mean Alexander’s empire (320s BC) and the Hellenistic successor kingdoms (323 BC – 31 BC), and by “Roman empire” you mean Rome starting from the time it becomes a major interregional power (say, following the second Punic War, which ended in 201 BC) rather than just Rome in the time of the Emperors.  You could spend like most of a book on each of these just corralling the data that might let us answer this question, but whatevs. Continue reading “Anonymous asks:”

Anonymous asks:

What can you tell us about the Batrachomyomachia, and how hilarious/awesome/hilariously awesome is it?

To be honest, not a whole lot.  The Batrachomyomachia is one of those texts that tends not to be taught or studied very much, because it’s quite short and is not traditionally regarded as a piece of high literature, and honestly there is more interesting ancient comedy/satire out there (the Frogs, the Apocolocyntosis, the Satyricon…).  You can read it in English here if you’re interested.  But I’ll see what I can do.

Continue reading “Anonymous asks:”

Anonymous asks:

How reliable was Herodotus’s account of the Greco-Persian Wars, especially considering that he was Greek?

well I mean it’s not like he isn’t not unreliable

Okay, so disclaimer number 1: people have literally spent their entire careers writing whole books that fail to give a definitive answer to this question.  It is impossible for any answer I give here to be anything but a ludicrous oversimplification.

Disclaimer number 2: reliable or not, he is the best we’ve got.  There just aren’t any surviving contemporary Persian sources that talk about the war in the kind of detail that Herodotus does, and Herodotus was literally the only person in the world writing something we would think of as “history” in his time. Continue reading “Anonymous asks:”

VikingBoyBilly asks:

I’ve seen the god set described as a “typhonian animal.” So, is Typhlosion named after Typhos?

Well, I’m not sure what Set has to do with it, but it seems plausible to me.  Typhlosion’s name seems like it ought to come from “typhoon” and “explosion,” which makes some sense because typhoons are violent and destructive, like explosions and fire, but is also a weird choice given that typhoons are primarily calamities of wind and water, and don’t really fit with Typhlosion’s fire-related abilities.  The monster Typhon (or Typhos, or Typhoeus, or Typhaon, or however you want to spell it) was also violent and destructive and also had wind and storm powers, but is more appropriate to a Fire-type because he’s buried under Mount Aetna and is the cause of the volcano’s eruptions.  And hey, Typhlosion is one of only five Pokémon that can learn Eruption.  Typhon is supposed to have had a hundred different bestial heads and voices, so I’m sure one of the bloody things resembles Typhlosion’s.  What I’m slightly uncomfortable about is reaching to something from Greek mythology so early in Pokémon’s history, since Game Freak’s designers have explicitly said in the past that they don’t usually look to classical myth for design ideas.  The long u-sound in the Japanese name, Bakufūn (or Bakphoon), also seems to point more strongly to “typhoon,” and this is the etymology offered by the Japanese Pokémon wiki.  I suppose it could simply be a reference to both Typhon and typhoons.  The etymologies are unrelated – typhoon derives from a Chinese word – but Pokémon wouldn’t be the first to notice the fortuitous similarity (Wikipedia cites a book that suggests the Chinese word ultimately comes from the Greek, via Arabic and Persian, but I am deeply sceptical).

Anonymous asks:

Why are foxes across different cultures always portrayed as being sly and cunning tricksters? From Western and Northern Europe to East Asia to South America to West Africa, what’s the deal with foxes getting such a rap?

I’m very much not a comparative mythology person so I don’t know if I can help you with that one, but I would guess because they’re stealth hunters, quite intelligent, and despite being similar to dogs and wolves, are much less social.

Anonymous asks:

What’s your position on euhemerism in mythograhy?

(Euhemerism, for the uninitiated, is the idea that mythology derives from retellings and exaggerations of real events)

I’m not super in touch with current trends in the theory of interpreting mythology, and maybe if I were, I would have a favourite theoretical approach, but as it stands, I’m inclined to regard theories like euhemerism and structuralism and myth-and-ritual as a set of tools, which can be more or less appropriate for different jobs.  Some myths make sense through a euhemerist lens and some don’t.  Most myths can be explained using several different theoretical perspectives, and it’s probably a bad idea to expect any one theory to explain every myth.  I think it’s been quite a long time (like 100+ years) since anyone with a real stake in the field seriously believed that euhemerism is sufficient to explain every myth.