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Research To Investigate Links Between Ancient Greeks And Modern Science Fiction
Science Daily ^ | 2005-06-08

Posted on 06/08/2005 11:28:49 PM PDT by nickcarraway

New research into the Ancient Greeks shows their knowledge of travel inspired early forms of fantasy and science fiction writing.

There is a long tradition of fantasy in Greek literature that begins with Odysseus' fantastic travels in Homer's Odyssey. Dr Karen Ni-Mheallaigh, at the University of Liverpool's School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, is exploring fantasy in ancient literature, examining theories of modern science fiction writing and how these can be applied to texts from the ancient world.

Dr Ni-Mheallaigh is looking at the work of 2nd century AD writer, Lucian of Samosata, who wrote True Histories, a travel narrative that includes an account of a trip to the moon and interstellar warfare. Antihanes of Berge - who wrote about his travels in the far north of Europe, where it was so cold that conversations 'froze in the air,' - will also be examined, as well as the writer Herodotus who wrote about 'flying snakes; and 'giant gold-digging ants' in India.

Dr Ni-Mheallaigh explains: "Fantasy writing in the ancient world is still relatively unexplored from a literary perspective. What is so interesting about these fantastical journeys is that many of them are written in the form of truthful travel logs and historical texts. The Greeks had a fascination with the exotic and other worlds and some writers travelled to the north and Far East to satisfy their intrigue. The cultures they found there were so different from their own that they were inspired to fantasize and speculate about even more remote and exotic worlds.

"The Greeks seemed to have had an anxiety about writing pure fiction, and so writers who were notorious for their 'tall' tales -- such as Ctesias, Antiphanes and Megathenes - would write about their adventures in the form of travel logs, or back up their findings with pseudo-documentary evidence, such as 'rediscovered' texts or invented inscriptions.

"It was Lucian who was the first to admit that everything he wrote was untrue and could never occur. His writing-style is however calculated to convince his reader that all his adventures are in fact true. His writing plays a very clever game with the reader's mind, and, like all science fiction and fantasy writing today, allows the reader to ponder, what if ... ?


TOPICS: Astronomy; Books/Literature; History; Miscellaneous; Music/Entertainment; Science; Society; TV/Movies; UFO's
KEYWORDS: adriennemayor; archaeology; ggg; godsgravesglyphs; herodotus; history; trojanwar

A meal on the moon, from Lucian's True Histories. (Image courtesy of University of Liverpool)

1 posted on 06/08/2005 11:28:49 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway; blam; FairOpinion; Ernest_at_the_Beach; StayAt HomeMother; 24Karet; 3AngelaD; ...
Thanks Nick.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on, off, or alter the "Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list --
Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
The GGG Digest
-- Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)

2 posted on 06/09/2005 9:38:10 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (FR profiled updated Tuesday, May 10, 2005. Fewer graphics, faster loading.)
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To: nickcarraway

What about the Ancient's writing about Ultima Thule. The descriptions of theis mythic land were a fixture of Western thought for centuries.

and what about Atlantis? That should bring some SF fans out of the woodwork about the nexus of ancient texts and modern archeology.


3 posted on 06/09/2005 9:47:59 AM PDT by wildbill
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The Faerie Queene
4.15.2003 by Julian, every Tuesday
http://www.tangmonkey.com/columns/105046449275155.php

The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser, is one of the most ambitious works of literature in the English language. Spenser set out to write a great epic poem, following in the footsteps of Virgil. He wanted to write the Great British Epic, and so he chose Arthur as his subject... Book Five stars Sir Arthegall, the true-love of Britomart. He is the knight of Justice. His side-kick is an iron robot-man called Talus, who is a kick-ass fighting machine...


4 posted on 06/09/2005 10:07:01 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (FR profiled updated Tuesday, May 10, 2005. Fewer graphics, faster loading.)
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To: SunkenCiv
Re #2

When it comes to tall tales, do not leave out Indians. They are the ones to weave tall tales with deadly straight face. Some truly outlandish stories in their religious texts.

5 posted on 06/09/2005 10:13:57 AM PDT by TigerLikesRooster
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To: nickcarraway
"The Greeks seemed to have had an anxiety about writing pure fiction, and so writers who were notorious for their 'tall' tales -- such as Ctesias, Antiphanes and Megathenes - would write about their adventures in the form of travel logs, or back up their findings with pseudo-documentary evidence, such as 'rediscovered' texts or invented inscriptions.

I think that it is a leap to try to draw this conclusion from the evidence presented. It's akin to saying that Tolkien had anxiety about LOTR, because of the depth of detail he provided about middle earth.

6 posted on 06/09/2005 10:46:34 AM PDT by GoLightly
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Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths? by Paul Veyne (Overstock)
7 posted on 07/04/2005 8:20:35 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (last updated by FR profile on Tuesday, May 10, 2005.)
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The First Fossil Hunters
by Adrienne Mayor
foreword by Peter Dodson
Did Fossils Inspire Mythology? by Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery.com News -- April 12, 2000 -- The legendary beasts of classical mythology may have been inspired by fossil remains of prehistoric species, according to a recent study. In her book, Mayor uncovers the roots of several myths. The story of Polypheme -- an enormous giant, a Cyclops with only one eye in the middle of his forehead -- may have been inspired by the remains of dwarf elephants, whose skulls display a hole in the place where the trunk is attached. And gold-guarding griffins could have originated from the skeletons of Protoceratops dinosaurs found in the Gobi desert in central Asia, an area of alluvial gold deposits. As for the battle between the gods and the giants, a dense concentration of large fossil bones found in lignite deposits around Megalopolis in the central Peloponnese might have inspired the belief that entire armies of giants were blasted by Zeus's thunderbolts. (thanks Val)
Greek Myths: Not Necessarily Mythical
by John Noble Wilford
Adrienne Mayor research challenge the widely held view that natural historians in classical Greece and Rome lacked the knowledge to interpret large vertebrate fossils as organic remains of the past. That conceptual breakthrough, representing the start of the modern science of paleontology, was supposedly made by the French naturalist Georges Cuvier in 1806. (NYTimes req. free registration for access)
Cyclops Myth Spurred by "One-Eyed" Fossils?
by Hillary Mayell
National Geographic News
February 5, 2003
The tusk, several teeth, and some bones of a Deinotherium giganteum, which, loosely translated means really huge terrible beast, have been found on the Greek island Crete. A distant relative to today's elephants, the giant mammal stood 15 feet (4.6 meters) tall at the shoulder, and had tusks that were 4.5 feet (1.3 meters) long. It was one of the largest mammals ever to walk the face of the Earth... To paleontologists today, the large hole in the center of the skull suggests a pronounced trunk. To the ancient Greeks, Deinotherium skulls could well be the foundation for their tales of the fearsome one-eyed Cyclops... A cousin to the elephant, deinotheres roamed Europe, Asia, and Africa during the Miocene (23 to 5 million years ago) and Pliocene (5 to 1.8 million years ago) eras before becoming extinct. Finding the remains on Crete suggests the mammal moved around larger areas of Europe than previously believed, Fassoulas said... He suggests that the animals reached Crete from Turkey, swimming and island hopping across the southern Aegean Sea during periods when sea levels were lower. Many herbivores, including the elephants of today, are exceptionally strong swimmers.
The Histories (Book II)
by Herodotus
tr by G Rawlinson
"I went once to a certain place in Arabia, almost exactly opposite the city of Buto, to make inquiries concerning the winged serpents. On my arrival I saw the back-bones and ribs of serpents in such numbers as it is impossible to describe: of the ribs there were a multitude of heaps, some great, some small, some middle-sized. The place where the bones lie is at the entrance of a narrow gorge between steep mountains, which there open upon a spacious plain communicating with the great plain of Egypt. The story goes that with the spring the winged snakes come flying from Arabia towards Egypt, but are met in this gorge by the birds called ibises, who forbid their entrance and destroy them all. The Arabians assert, and the Egyptians also admit, that it is on account of the service thus rendered that the Egyptians hold the ibis in so much reverence."
In the Selincourt translation, the note for this passage is that no one has any idea what Herodotus describes.

8 posted on 07/21/2005 10:46:48 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (Down with Dhimmicrats! I last updated by FR profile on Tuesday, May 10, 2005.)
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The First Fossil Hunters The First Fossil Hunters
by Adrienne Mayor
foreword by Peter Dodson


9 posted on 07/22/2005 7:51:14 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (Down with Dhimmicrats! I last updated by FR profile on Tuesday, May 10, 2005.)
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