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All about ancient history...



Ancient Worlds - BBC Two 

Episode 1 “Come Together”

Clay tablets, History built to last.

In the Ancient Near East, clay tablets were used as a writing medium, especially for writing in cuneiform, throughout the Bronze Age and well into the Iron Age. Cuneiform characters were imprinted on a wet clay tablet with ink pens or styluses with sharp triangular tips. Once written upon, unfired tablets were dried and later could be soaked in water and recycled into new clean tablets. Other tablets were fired in kilns (or inadvertently, when buildings were burnt down or during conflict) making them hard and durable. Collections of these clay documents made up the very first archives. They were at the root of first libraries.

Scribes used clay tablets as a record of what was happening during their time.

Syria / Iraq

(via massarrah)

9 Touching Epitaphs Ancient Greeks And Romans Wrote For Their Deceased Dogs


Aside from the general SADFACE EMOTICON and I NEVER WANT TO THINK ABOUT THIS EVER feelings this article inspired, I will note that the best epitaph is clearly “[Myia] never barked without reason, but now he is silent." This is because, in addition to being a moving epitaph, it also reads like an extremely passive-aggressive note to the neighbors. 

(via classicsmatters)


Decree approving Kallikrates designs for the Parthenon (ca. 448 BC), cast.

On face A, a decree ordering that a temple to Athena Nike be built on the Acropolis in accordance with the designs of the architect Kallikrates.

Courtesy of & currently located at the Cycladic Art Museum, Athens, Greece. Photo taken by Tilemahos Efthimiadis.

(via c-aesarion)

Labouring the part - Hercules in cinema

Those of you who have read my previous pieces on myth in the cinema know that I’m keen to check out anything relating to myth or ancient history released on the big screen. After seeing the latest Hercules movie I sat and thought “what sort of Hercules films were there pre-Rock?”. Turns out there were plenty

Hercules (1958)

The preference for a more physically developed actor in place of one who had studied at RADA might now seem obvious but when Steve Reeves donned the loincloth in this Italian production it was a bit of a gamble. The gamble worked and the film took $5 million and went some way to set a trend which we’ll see in the following films.

 all of that and a perfect beard.

As for Reeves, well , perhaps the success went to his head as apparently he turned down the role of James Bond in Dr No (1962) and the lead in Fistful of Dollars (1964). Reeves continued to work playing other large types, such as Goliath, the fabulously named Randus (Spartacus’ son) and a giant in more sword’n’sandal type Italian films.

Hercules in the Haunted World (1961)

Three interesting points mark this Italian film out. The first is that it features Reg Park, he of British bodybuilding fame (and later mentor to Arnold Schwarzenegger when he took up the sport). The second is that the baddie is played by Christopher Lee (though they dub his voice for some reason). The third is that it features zombies.


Less pecs, more Lee.

Yes, zombies – a full seven years before Romero’s seminal Night of the Living Dead (in fairness zombies had featured in films prior to Romero and this one). The inclusion of zombies does make some sense as Hercules descends to Hades, though there are an absence of croaking frogs which will disappoint Aristophanes’ fans.  Unlike the Hercules films which followed this one seems quite well produced and with scenery that actually looks like it wasn’t stolen from a Dr Who prop bin.

The Three Stooges Meets Hercules (1962)

As mentioned above the sword’n’sandal genre was in full swing, little surprise that this was the most lucrative of the Three Stooges films. The chap playing Hercules was the aptly named Samson Burke, a, yes you guessed it, bodybuilder, wrestler and Olympic swimmer from Canada.

Hercules - crazy body, crazy guy.

Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

One of my favourite films ever and the first I remember seeing Hercules in. Not a central role by any means though worth it for the discus throw and for managing to get several crew mates squashed when he awakens Talos.


more a pub Hercules, the sort you could just talk to, he would listen and not judge

The casting was as normal, though the actor in this instance, Nigel Green, was more actor than strongman and chosen because he was an actor who happened to be big. This film didn’t seem to do him much harm as he was cast the following year as Colonel Frank Bourne in Zulu.

Hercules against the Moon Men (1964)

Really. This really happened.

You get the sense that the Italian film Industry was finally running out of vehicles for Hercules, though, as we’ll see later, this isn’t the most baffling Hercules film. In short men from the Moon invade and Hercules faces a weird monkey type creature, a Batman-esque spike trap and Redolphis, a baddie who looks like a metallic Aztec sex toy.


Redolphis comes with three different speed settings

The man in the loincloth was Sergio Ciani an Italian bodybuilder who had doubled for Steve Reeves and who changed his name to Alan Steel, presumably for marketing reasons (no offence but ‘Alan’ really?).


100% pure Steel, well, actually no.

Hercules in New York (1969)

As mentioned earlier Reg Park was a big name in bodybuilding and he suggested to one chap he was mentoring that he should give acting a go. The chap in question was a 22 year old Arnold Schwarzenegger and the rest is history.

The film is utterly bizarre, kitsch and tongue-in-cheek only works if you get across that you know this is the case and are in on it. Sequences which involve riding a chariot in Central Park, wrestling the least convincing bear in film history and scaring a woman on a plane by appearing on the other side of the window require watching as words cannot frame it (it’s all on Youtube).

No real bears were harmed in the making of this film. Some careers were

In much later interview Arnie admitted he regretted being in this film. Think on that.

Hercules (1983)

Presumably in an attempt to wipe the minds of Arnie’s outing the Italians decided to reclaim the Hercules franchise with a little help from Lou Ferrigno (Incredible Hulk). Who also starred in the 1985 sequel, The Adventures of Hercules.



Ferrigno was Arnie’s upcoming rival in the bodybuilding world (something covered in the documentary Pumping Iron which has several unintentionally hilarious moments). Perhaps he wanted to score one on his old rival and thus we have a bear-fighting scene which is marginally better and can be seen here (around the 2 minute mark). At least it has a shot of a real bear in it.

It was critically received and won awards, namely the Razzie for Worst New Star (Ferrigno) and Worst Supporting Actress (Sybil Danning).

Hercules (2014)

Chances are you’ve seen this one in which Hercules faces the mammoth task of deciding whether he’s a myth or real, or a myth, or a legend, or a legend of a real myth. It’s fun and if nothing is worth the price to watch Ian McShane channel Frankie Howerd from Up Pompeii and Joseph Fiennes steal the scenes as a sneaky Eurystheus.


if he could only get some Nemean shoes….

In fairness the film does try and place or at least deal with concepts of truth and legend, a notable example being how centaurs may have been inspired by horseback archers. There’s also an interesting angle on PTSD and how it may be something not exclusive to modern generations (I did an article on this some time ago). I get the sense that this more cerebral aspect owes more to the film being based on a comic book than anything else but still it’s nice to have something between The Rock flexing and throwing people around.




Ever wondered where Hercules’ famous Labours took him? Here’s a nice attempt (link here) to place them on a map.


Nemean Lion




Cerynitian Hind


Erymanthian Boar


Augeian Stables


Stymphalian Birds


Cretan Bull


Mares of Diomedes









by Edward Steichen

Isadora Duncan at the Parthenon, Athens, 1920

(via horrorlordd)