Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Strange And Lively Adventures In The Apocryphal 2nd-Century 'Acts of John'

From Resurrections To Commanding Bugs And A Tale Of Necrophilia
(St John the Evangelist, by El Greco (1541–1614), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

The Acts of John
According to Christian teachings, after the crucifixion of their Savior, many of the apostles of Jesus dispersed into the known world to spread their religion to the masses. They traveled in all directions from Jerusalem, venturing downward toward Ethiopia, northwest to Turkey and Greece, and west through North Africa, Rome and Spain. The adventures of the apostles were immortalized in Christian texts featuring mystical healings, exorcisms and all sorts of miracles. One of the most dramatic accounts of one such apostle, however, is less well known. Despite its unique story and its vivid descriptions of miracles, the Acts of John was left out of the New Testament cannon for its hints of Docetism, which described Jesus as more divine and less human than the proto-orthodox (pre-Catholic) church could condone. Though the Docetic elements in the text were mainly at the end of the work, those latter passages tarnished the entirety of the Acts of John in the eyes of the church.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Loki Almost Caused The Loss Of The Goddess Freyja, The Sun And The Moon To The Giants, But Saved The Day With His Thorough Shape-Shifting Abilities

(Loki transformed as a bird, by W.G. Collingwood (1854 - 1932), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Troublesome Loki
In most Norse legends, Loki was often the culprit behind the dangerous or embarrassing situations that plagued the gods. He, however, usually set things right with the gods and fixed the problems he created (with the exception of the myth where he caused the death of the god, Baldr). This is one such myth—Loki nearly ushered the world to destruction, but eventually saved the day, ending with Loki giving Odin a great gift, the eight-legged horse, Sleipnir.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Battles of Boudica

Camulodunum, Londinium, Verulamium And The Battle Of Watling Street

 (Boudica and her rebels, by Joseph Martin Kronheim (1810–1896), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Before reading about Boudica's sieges and battles against the forces of Rome in ancient Britain, take some time to look at Irina Yakubin's biographical article about Queen Boudica, her motivations for fighting, and her legacy, HERE. The article below will reference why Boudica began her rebellion, but the military struggle between Boudica and Governor Suetonius is the primary focus of this piece.

Gathering the Angry
When Roman occupiers publicly flogged the Iceni queen Boudica, and raped her two daughters, they unknowingly provided a horde of angry and vengeful Britons with a leader who would become legendary. Though the Iceni (before the floggings and rapes) had been willing to work with Rome, many other tribes had been hostile to Rome, in both thought and action, ever since Emperor Claudius invaded and occupied the British Isles in 43 CE. When Boudica called out for vengeance after her and her daughters’ terrible ordeal, multiple tribes (Trinovantes, Dumnonii and stragglers from the Caturvellauni) joined the Iceni in rebellion.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Boudica- The Avenging Queen

(Illustration of Boudica, courtesy of Irina Yakubin)

Boudica (also spelled Boudicca and Boadicea) was a tall, fierce woman, with long reddish hair, who ruled the Iceni tribe of East Anglia along with her husband, Prasutagus, during the Roman occupation of England. In what he must have considered an astute political gesture, Prasutagus named the Roman Emperor Nero co-heir to his lands, along with his two teenage daughters. Unfortunately, the Romans were not known for sharing, nor were they particularly advanced on the matter of gender equality.

When Prasutagus died, the Roman Governor of the region, Suetonius Paulinus, raided the land. When Boudica protested, she was flogged and forced to watch the rape of her two daughters.  Understandably angry, Boudica rallied the neighboring tribes into an all-out rebellion against Roman rule. The ancient Brits have had women in power for generations, and the Romans had abused many of the locals in the area. So when Boudica set out to raise a following, she amassed an army. The rebels razed several cities, including modern day London and Colchester, in an attempt to expel the Romans from Britannia.

Governor Suetonius led several unsuccessful campaigns against Boudica, whose army was so fierce that one Roman legion turned and ran from battle. After multiple defeats, the Romans retreated to the safety of the Roman military zone, where a final battle saw many casualties on both sides and resulted in a Roman victory.

It is important to note the accounts of the battle do come from Roman sources, which held quite a bit of bias against the Iceni Queen. However, it is known that Boudica and her daughters actively rallied the men to battle and that Boudica was a skilled warrior and commander. After her army was defeated, Boudica took poison to avoid being captured.

A National Hero?
Some scholars regard Boudica as a British national hero because she fought for the freedom of Britons from Roman occupation. Others, however, condemn the warrior queen for killing innocent people who were under Roman rule. It is important to remember, however, that Boudica lived in a time when such casualties of war were regrettable, but also acceptable and expected. Regardless of whether or not Boudica was a hero, she was certainly one tough warrior queen.

Written by Irina Yakubin

  • Boudica: Iron Age Warrior Queen by Richard Hingley and Christina Unwin.  

Monday, January 2, 2017

Emperor Valerian—The Stepping Stool Of Persia

This unfortunate emperor suffered an imaginative death in 260 CE

Throughout the long history of the Roman Empire, it seems as if enough blood was spilt to replace the earth’s oceans. Assassinations, massacres, persecutions, executions, gladiatorial games and wars fill almost every century of the Roman Empire’s lengthy existence. Even with the over-abundance of morbid and macabre killings, the execution of Emperor Valerian (r. 253-260) was so shocking that it remains vividly unique, even when compared to other bloody events that are abundant in Roman history.

(Radiate of Valerian, photographed by the Yorkshire Museum, via Creative Commons (CC 4.0))

When he came to power, Emperor Valerian was no stranger to government and administration. He had already been a senator and a governor, and had refused to take the powerful position of censor. He was also no amateur to imperial politics or war. He helped Emperor Gordian I gain favor with the Senate, and Valerian was also a trusted aid to the emperors, Decius and Gallus. When a rebellion broke out against Emperor Gallus in 253, Valerian gathered his troops to reinforce the emperor, but he was too late—Gallus was assassinated. When news of the emperor’s death spread throughout the empire, the legions that were marching to aid Gallus proclaimed Valerian as the new emperor. Compared to other imperial successions, Valerian’s transition to power was unnaturally smooth. The Senate accepted him, and Aemilianus, the rebel who had been warring with the late Emperor Gallus, was assassinated by soldiers defecting to Valerian’s side.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Mythology Madness—The Norse Gods And The Giant, Skrymir

The humorous talent contest in the land of giants.

Norse religion and mythology has some intriguing differences from Rome and Greece. The Norse gods (or Æsir) are arguably the most human of the old gods. They were described as not inherently immortal—they had to eat magical apples to live their long lives. Many of them were not born with their powers, but rather gained their abilities through the weapons they wielded and attire they wore. Also, while most religions claim their gods reign supreme, and will continue to do so forever, many of the most powerful Norse gods were prophesied to die in Ragnorak.

Stories of Norse mythology often emphasize the mortality of the Æsir, or at least recount ways the divine can be thwarted, fooled or embarrassed. This is one such story where three of the Norse gods find themselves in an embarrassing situation in the land of giants.

Thor Meets His Match

("I am the giant Skrymir" by Elmer Boyd Smith. Thor, with his hammer Mjolnir, confronts the jötunn Skrymir, c. 1902, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)