ancient Egypt

All posts tagged ancient Egypt

Book Report: The Story of Egypt

Published June 20, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

Well, it’s been a very long time since my last Book Report, hasn’t it?  That’s because my choice for Challenge #11 “Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location,” was this:

(Oddly, according to Goodreads, this is the paperback cover, but it’s the image on the cover of my hardback copy.)  So, before I get to the book, let me give a little backstory on why I had this sitting around waiting to be read.  In my family, everyone writes Christmas lists every year, so that gift-giving isn’t a pain in the backside.  Because a list of nothing but DVDs/Blu-rays would be excessively dull, I always make sure to put some books on there, specifically ones that feel appropriate (the one about the mistresses of Charles II, for example, did not seem holiday-appropriate) and usually hardbacks, typically new releases that I find browsing idly at Barnes & Noble.  Last year’s list had a paucity of books at first, but after another browsing, I spotted this one and figured “may as well add it” even though it didn’t particularly scream out that I needed to read it.  So naturally this is the one my mother decided to give me. (Should I have ever expected anything else?)  I chose to read it at this time because the other Christmas gift waiting to be read (which would also have worked for this challenge) is a book about Mycenae that’s about the size of a coffee table.  Not really convenient to read unless you do all your reading at a table, which I don’t.  Aaaanyway, that’s all somewhat irrelevant, so I’m not sure why I’m going into it.

Now, you may be wondering if it would normally take me a month and a half to read a 368 page book.  (The page numbers go up a lot higher than that, of course, but that’s due to the notes and bibliography and such.  The text stops on page 368.)  And the answer is “absolutely not.”  The reasons it’s taken me that long are multi-part.  One, I haven’t had as much time to just sit around reading, due to one thing and another.  Two, because I’m swimming again, I’m not taking baths very often, and I usually read in the bath.  (Why waste water bathing when I take a full shower after getting out of the pool?)  Three, this book was very frustrating to read.

Number three, of course, is the big one.  This is a very heavily researched book, but the author tried her hardest to obscure that fact.  Not only are there no in-text citations or endnote markers, the endnotes themselves are horrible.  Basically, only quotations are cited, and they’re done in the most infuriating way I’ve ever seen.  If you see a quote, you have to turn the back, where you’ll find a list (in order, thank goodness!) of all the quotations, listed by chapter but without any reference back to which page they were quoted on, which then gives you a source, by author’s last name and year of publication only, so you have to flip still further back to find the author’s works in the bibliography to see where it actually came from.  And if you want to know where some of her non-quoted information comes from?  You’re just plain out of luck.  There were many times when I wanted to know what her sources were on things that weren’t quotes, but she didn’t cite them, so for all the evidence she provided, she could have outright made those things up.  (I doubt that she did make them up, of course, but any teacher on the planet would fail her for such miserable citations.)  And when I say there are no in-text citations, I mean it.  Any time she wants to admit she’s quoting someone, she’ll just say “an historian said” or “according to one ancient source”, sometimes being as “specific” as Greek or Roman…but she never gives the historian’s name.  As if anyone would be reading a nearly 400 page book on ancient history who’d be put off at seeing the name Herodotus in the text?  Not giving the names of modern historians I can understand, but avoiding naming the ancient sources is not just annoying, but downright misleading;  knowing something came from Herodotus is very different than it coming from Plutarch, Diodorus, or whoever else.  And given the way these citations were handled, I wasn’t about to sort through them to look up which ancient source said every thing she quoted.  Some of the translations she chose for the ancient historians were entirely inappropriate for modern works, particularly the one for which I’ll present the entire citation:

‘a thieving effeminate ballet boy in curlers’, Cicero in Graves  1968, p. 96.

Seriously?  “Ballet boy”?  Ballet didn’t exist for another 1500 years!  How is such an anachronistic translation appropriate to a scholarly work?  And as to “Graves 1968″…it is not in the selected bibliography.  So what book is it?  Assuming that “Graves” means the classical scholar (and novelist) Robert Graves, one can go to Goodreads and see what he wrote in 1968…and find nothing.  According to Goodreads’ sort by original publication year, Robert Graves had things first published in ’67 and ’69, but not ’68.  So is it a reprint?  Is it someone else named Graves?  Fletcher doesn’t tell us.  (Admittedly, given the decidedly old-fashioned manner of dealing with an ancient Roman insult to a man’s masculinity, it’s almost certainly Robert Graves, and undoubtedly simply something that was reprinted/re-edited in 1968, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that she quotes and cites something without providing the most basic information on the work.  And in this case, she ought to have stated which of Cicero’s works it came from, so the reader could have sought out a more accurate translation if desired.)

Read the rest of this entry →

Advertisements

The Trojan Horse

Published June 9, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

So, you may have noticed it’s been quite some time since my last Book Report.  That’s because I’m working on the challenge to read a book set more than 5000 miles from your location, and it’s been slow going for various reasons.  The book is The Story of Egypt, by Joann Fletcher, and I’ll talk about the book at length when I finish it.  (Obviously.)  But right now I want to quote you a passage I read about a week ago:

Having learned that the prince of Joppa wished to see ‘the great mace of King Tuthmosis’, Djehuti [Overseer of the Northern Foreign Lands] had invited him to his camp outside the town [which Djehuti had been besieging for some time], where he suddenly pulled out the mace, shouting ‘Look at me, Prince of Joppa!  This is the mace of King Tuthmosis the fierce lion, son of Sekhmet, and Amen his father has given him strength to wield it’.  Then he used it himself, to ‘smite the forehead of the Prince of Joppa, and he fell stretched out before him’.  Djehuti then put the rest of his plan into action.  He hid 200 of his soldiers, Ali-Baba-style, inside baskets, which he sent into Joppa on donkey-back with the claim that they contained tribute. The folk of Joppa, clearly as gullible as their prince, took in the baskets, from which the Egyptian troops emerged to capture their town, anticipating the Greek tale of the Trojan Horse by several centuries. [187-7]

Tuthmosis III reigned from 1479 BC to 1425 BC, so that didn’t just pre-date the story of the Trojan Horse:  it pre-dated any historical conflict that might have given rise to the myth of the Trojan War in the first place!  Now, I am, personally, disposed to think that the myth was, in fact, loosely inspired by a Mycenaean invasion of Troy that was in some way particularly noteworthy (if only for being the last major military undertaking before the end of the palatial era), which has always made me wonder where such a fanciful finale came from.

Despite the occasional divine intervention, most of the events of the Trojan War are very down-to-earth and realistic.  There are no monsters, and even most of the divine interventions took on the form of things we would now call “acts of God” like plagues and floods.  Well, that and wrapping people in a mist to spirit them away from danger, but…point is, the gods are much more subtle during the Trojan War than they are in the other myths.  But that just makes the giant wooden horse story all the weirder.

I’ve often (well, maybe not often, but certainly many times) sat around pondering the idea of just where the myth of the Trojan Horse comes from.  I came up with all sorts of possible explanations, from Odysseus-like clinging to the underside of horses to outright lying by returning warriors.  I think a gate marked with a horse has been a common device to explain away the myth, too.  (That one I’m pretty sure isn’t one of mine, though.  I don’t usually think that way.)

But so now let’s look at this Egyptian story from about two hundred years before the Trojan War’s likely date.  (Possibly three hundred years, depending on when you think it took place.  The traditional date of 1154 seems a bit late to me, personally.)  Unfortunately, the book doesn’t tell us where modern scholars learned the story from; the notes direct one to a 1925 article in a journal my university library doesn’t have access to, so I can’t find out the source, but the title of the article does specifically refer to it as a “legend,” so it probably is something that was passed down through oral culture for centuries, rather than something painted on the walls of Djehuti’s tomb.  (Okay, just looked around online, and it seems to come from a papyrus.  So it’s unclear just how well the story had spread in antiquity, but it sounds like the papyrus was a literary text so probably it had spread pretty well.)

First things first, is it possible this could have happened?  Well, actually, yes, I think it is.  It doesn’t seem improbable to me that a prince going to the enemy camp after a long siege could result in a peace treaty, and in the case of such treaties, the trading of goods wouldn’t be uncommon, particularly if the siege had been cutting off the flow of food into the city.  Take out the word “tribute” and replace it with “trade” or “provisions” and it becomes quite believable.  This would have been in the days of guest-friendship all throughout the Mediterranean region, so a peace treaty would surely have included quite an exchange of goods, so it’s not inconceivable that the people of Joppa would have let those baskets into the town.  200 warriors taking a fortified city by themselves doesn’t seem terribly probable, but they could have opened the gates to let in the rest of the army.

So, let’s just suppose that it did happen as told in the quote above.  It probably would have become quite the famous maneuver, at least for a while.  And the book has mentioned repeatedly that the Egyptians not only traded with the Mycenaeans (and one pharaoh had claimed Mycenaean Greece as tributary to him), but also that they hired Mycenaean mercenaries to serve in their armies.  That being the case, it would be very likely that the story of the siege of Joppa would spread to Mycenaean Greece.

Of course, that doesn’t tell us much.  The real question is how and when that affected the Trojan War.  Did it have an impact on the real conflict between Mycenaean Greeks and the people of Troy; did they attempt to emulate the tactic?  Or was it just brought in when the war was being mythologized, to give it a spectacular climax, perhaps because the actual war ended in a lackluster treaty in which the city never fell?  And either way, where did the giant wooden horse idea come from?

That last part is the one I can’t provide a decent answer for, of course.

It does seem like Troy was strongly associated with horses:  many of the epithets applied to Hector and the other Trojan warriors involved horse-taming and related skills, and of course there were the fabulous horses given to the King of Troy by Zeus in apology for carrying off his son Ganymede.  I don’t recall reading anything about any particularly significant horse-related objects being found in the excavations at Troy, though, so it’s unclear how much of that actually dated back to the Bronze Age, and how much of it was after the fact.

I feel like there’s a logical answer that’s dancing around just outside my reach.  Very frustrating.

There’s one other thing about this Egyptian tale that I feel like could be significant, though I’m not sure exactly how.  And that’d the fact that the city which fell was Joppa.  Joppa, as you may recall, was a Phoenician city, and the homeland of Andromeda, wife of Perseus.  And Perseus was the mythical founder of Mycenae.

I don’t know.  Maybe that’s totally irrelevant/coincidental.

But what if it isn’t, and I’m just too dumb to see what the connection is?

(This particular fall of Joppa would have been about two hundred years after Perseus and Andromeda’s time, btw.  In case anyone was wondering.)

MatthewMeyer.net

paintings, illustrations, and blog

Arwen's Butterflies and Things

My BJD creation blog. Here's where my sewing creations and projects are showcased. Some outfits are for sale. Please use the tags & catagories to navigate this blog. I love comments and reviews!

History From Below

Musings on Daily Life in the Ancient and Early Medieval Mediterranean By Sarah E. Bond

Yureya

Breath of moments

Rose B. Fischer

Author. Artist. Evil Genius.

My Tiny Joy

Where little things matter!

Klein's Other Toys

Comics, Funko Pops and Anime figures oh my!

BINARYTHIS

EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT GENDER BUT WERE TOO AFRAID TO ASK

Creating Herstory

Celebrating the women who create history

Kicky Resin

BJDs et al

Lala Land

(>°~°)><(°~°<)

A'Cloth the World

Where Textiles, Fashion, Culture, Communication and Art Come Together.

starshiphedgehog

Occasionally my brain spurts out ideas and this is where I put them

Rose B. Fischer

Author. Artist. Evil Genius.

The Social Historian

Adventures in the world of history

medievalbooks

Erik Kwakkel blogging about medieval manuscripts

Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

Poet and speculative fiction writer for teens and adults

Zounds, Alack, and By My Troth

A tragical-comical-historical-pastoral webcomic by Ben Sawyer

Project Doll House

never too old to play with dolls

knotted things

All about the things that I'm all about.

Eclectic Alli

A bit of this, a bit of that, the meandering thoughts of a dreamer.

Omocha Crush

Secret Confessions of a Toy Addict

C.G.Coppola

Fantasy & Science-Fiction romance Writer

WordDreams...

Jacqui Murray's

Onomastics Outside the Box

Names beyond the Top 100, from many nations and eras

Hannah Reads Books

"To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." -Neil Gaiman

Memoirs of a Time Here-After

the writings, musings, and photography of a dream smith

Taking a Walk Through History

Walking back in time to discover the origins of every historical route on earth

SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

ΕΥΔΟΞΑ ΑΓΝΩΣΤΑ ΚΑΤΑΓΕΛΑΣΤΑ

Pullips and Junk

We're all mad about Pullips here!

mycupofteaminiatures

Handmade miniatures

Dutch Fashion Doll World

A Dutch Barbie collector in Holland

Confessions of a Doll Collectors Daughter

Reviews and News From the Doll World

It's a Britta Bottle!

Small Stories of a Twenty-Something Adventuring Through Life

DataTater

It's all small stuff.

The Photographicalist

Preserving the photographical perspective

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.