Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Martia Dementia 2021


As 2021 marches on, it’s time for the madness to start anew: the seventh annual Bolchazy-Carducci Martia Dementia is now upon us! In 2020, various military figures from across the ancient world rose up to combat a miscellany of mythological monsters. While the monsters were strong contenders, Alexander the Great proved himself difficult to defeat. Now, the famed generals, rebels, and strategists are back and ready to take on whatever stands in their way, even if they must face . . . . birds. Birds, really? Yes, really! Martia Dementia 2021—inspired by Emma Vanderpool’s two Latin language immersive readers Explore Latin: Aves and Augury Is for the Birds—will pit some cacophonous, clamorous, riotous birds against the greatest military minds of ancient times. 

Some winged creatures of myth will be making a return—sirens, griffins, and harpies are back! Some new faces (or should I say beaks?) are also in the mix. Aethon, the infamous eagle that repeatedly devoured Prometheus’s liver, may prove a daunting adversary. The Crocodile Bird (possibly an Egyptian plover?) shows no fear when approaching the mouth of the frightening Nilotic reptile. Its fearlessness will surely be of benefit now. The Poisonous Ducks of Mithridates fed on hemlock and other toxic plants, rendering their flesh deadly and destructive. Will they prove to be lethal to their opponents? 
 
To the victor—whoever finishes with the best bracket—belong the spoils. Before getting to the prizes, here is the way the competition will work. Please read through the process carefully: this year we will continue to use an online bracket and voting system. 

The Bracket

Starting today, complete and submit a bracket to be eligible for wondrous prizes. Please access and submit your bracket online via the following link: Martia Dementia 2021 Bracket
 
When you access the online Martia Dementia bracket, click the “Submit your bracket!” button to start making your selections. You will be prompted to enter your name and email address; we need this information so that we can track and notify the winners of the competition once Martia Dementia is completed. After signing up, you will be asked to predict a winner for each game in the bracket. 

 

You will be asked to select a winner for each match-up
in the bracket.

At the bottom of this post, you will find a link to a PDF showing short descriptions of each of this year’s Martia Dementia participants. You can access the same descriptions by clicking on the photo of a given figure in the bracket.

Click on the image of a Martia Dementia competitor in
the online bracket to pull up a full description.

Once you have completed all of your selections and have submitted your bracket, you will receive a notice thanking you for your submission:
 
If you would like to view your prediction bracket, simply click on the link to “View My Prediction.” We recommend saving a copy of your bracket at this point so that you can keep track of how you are doing as the competition progresses. With our online submission system, you can also easily share your prediction bracket via email or social media—a great way to show off how you’re doing, or earn some pity points if your bracket is going poorly. 
 
We are also providing a PDF copy of the bracket here (for reference only) in case you would like to print a copy and fill one in with your class. However, we are not accepting scanned brackets this year, so make sure that you also submit the bracket online.

Brackets will be accepted through March 16.

 

The Survey

A voting survey will be made available on March 17, where you can vote for your picks. Whichever figures have the most votes by the time the survey closes will advance through the round. Actively participating in the survey betters your chances at winning. 
 
Beginning March 17, simply access the voting survey bracket via this blog post, which will be updated with the link (the voting survey has a black background). We will announce on social media when voting for each round has opened; note that during each round, you will vote using the voting bracket rather than the forms used in previous years.
 
We cannot stress enough the importance of voting early and voting often. When the survey goes live, cast your votes! Get your friends to vote for your picks. Teachers, get your students to stuff the survey with favorable votes!

Victori Spolia

This competition is not solely for bringing glory to your favorite ancient figure or bird. Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers is offering book prizes for the brackets that most closely resemble the final results: a $100 book credit will be awarded to the first-place participant, a $50 credit to the second-place participant, and a $25 credit to the third-place participant. Feeling like you no longer stand a chance? Do not give up! There will also be a $25 credit for having the most abysmal bracket! 


Stay Connected

Be sure to bookmark this post and check back here to access the link to the voting bracket. Also, follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates as the competition progresses.

Remember, brackets close March 16, and the first round of voting will begin March 17.                                                                                        


Bracket and Other Resources

Access the online bracket 

Access a printable bracket (for reference only) 

Access a description of all Martia Dementia 2021 figures 


Voting Schedule:

Round 1: March 17–18
Round 2: March 19–22
Round 3 (Sweet 16): March 24–25
Quarterfinals (Elite 8): March 26–29
Semifinals (Final 4): March 31–April 2
Final (Championship): April 5–7

The voting bracket has not been posted yet; a link will be added to this blog post and shared on social media beginning March 17, 2021. Note that each round of voting will open at 7:30 a.m. central time and close at 4:00 p.m. central time on the designated days. 

 

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Create Your Own 3D-Printed Ancient Inscription Cookie Stamp

The intersection of classics and 3D printing has resulted in some quirky-clever mashups, most notably the famed Julius Caesar pen holder. We’ve gone into the history of this object over on our Twitter account, which reveals how internet collaboration and creativity can build on the work of museums and other institutions that have made 3D models of artworks available online (in this case, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which uploaded a 3D scan of their Renaissance-era Caesar bust as part of MiniFactory’s “Scan the World” initiative).


3D-printed Julius Caesar pen holder
The famed 3D-printed Julius Caesar pen holder,
adapted from a 3D scan of a Renaissance-era bust.
The famed 3D-printed Julius Caesar pen holder, originally adapted from a 3D scan of a Renaissance-era bust. Unable to resist the allure of 3D printing—and inspired by the edible archaeology posts of Tavola Mediterranea, the CREWS project, and many other classicist bakers—I tried my hand at creating a 3D-printed Phaistos Disc cookie stamp. The files for printing this stamp are available at Thingiverse (a treasure trove of 3D print files that you can use and remix to your heart’s content—or perhaps, your 3D printer capacity’s content). While I certainly recommend exploring what’s already out there on Thingiverse and other 3D printing sites, what do you do if you absolutely must have a cookie stamp (or merely a 3D model) of that obscure inscription you love beyond all others?


Well, you’re in luck, provided you have a line drawing of your desired object. In selecting an inscription, think about size and how easy it will be to render the information into a new format. The Phaistos Disc is a little under six inches in diameter, which originally seemed to me like the perfect size to recreate in PLA plastic on a home 3D printer—and, incidentally, the perfect size for a cookie! Note that the disc has over 200 signs impressed on its surface, which is quite a lot of data compressed into a small space. Additionally, my final design also ended up being smaller than the original disc by about half, which further compressed the rather extensive amount of detail on the disc.  


Once you’ve selected your line drawing, it’s time to clean it up using a photo editing program: clean up entails eliminating excess shading or other “noise” that you do not want reproduced in a 3D print. You may also want to heighten contrast as well in order to create a cleaner vector file. As noted above, it’s important to think about how you are translating details from one medium to another. Particularly if you intend to create a cookie stamp, reducing detail will help when you actually attempt to make cookies. (As I quickly learned, cookie dough easily became trapped in the smaller crevices of my Phaistos, necessitating some impromptu archaeological work in brushing my artifact clean between uses.)


Before you can create your 3D model, you have one final step: you need to ensure that your line art is in the proper format. The online program you will be using to create the 3D print files requires an image in scalable vector graphics (SVG) format. There are many free online tools available to convert your file to SVG format; to find one, simply perform a search for “SVG file converter.”


Phaistos Disc cookie stamp design (with optional stamp handle).

With your SVG image file (digitally) in hand, it's now time to create your 3D design with Tinkercad, an easy-to-use free online tool. While creating in Tinkercad is fairly intuitive, the program also offers various tutorials and plenty of support to help you make your 3D inscription–related dreams a reality. If you are intending to print a cookie stamp, I would suggest focusing on a few elements of 3D design. What shape will your stamp be? Consider the shape of the original inscription and use that to inform your choices. Do you want the inscription on your printed object to be raised or to appear “inscribed”? Because I was planning to stamp my Phaistos Disc into dough, I raised the details on my design (which means that my stamp is the inverse of the original disc, which has the symbols pressed into it)—be sure to keep your final goals in mind as you design!

Once you’re satisfied with your 3D design in Tinkercad, you are ready to print. 3D printing is becoming more accessible than ever: printers are now fairly affordable for home use, but if you just want to dabble, look into whether your local library has a printer for patron use. If you are a teacher, your school may also have a 3D printer that you can use. If you’re wary of engaging in the actual mechanics of 3D printing, you can also use one of the many services that will print and mail you your 3D design.


While the Phaistos Disc cookies that resulted from my efforts may not have lived up to the high standards of internet critics, I greatly enjoyed combining my love of classics with crafts, both in terms of 3D design and baking. Of course, my failures in fully and accurately reproducing the intricate details of the Phaistos Disc in its ultimate cookie form suggests a lot about how size and material impacts an object’s appearance—as well as how easily information is lost and distorted as it is repeatedly translated from one format to another. In the future, I may investigate further by trying out different cookie recipes. The one I used was delicious, but had a very stiff dough. Comment below or send a message if you have any recipe recommendations!


The Phaistos Disc in its most perfect form: a lightly spiced, 
brown butter–based cookie. 

In a classroom setting, I could see a similar project raising important questions about how various inscriptions were originally created. Those that were carved into stone invariably look different from those stamped into clay. How did the materials used influence the original creators’ efforts? What is lost, gained, or preserved by translating the ancient inscription into a 3D model? What is lost, gained, or preserved in the resulting 3D plastic print?


You may also wish to explore 3D-printed models of ancient objects more broadly within the classics classroom. After all, physical models can often better bring the past to life, making the intangible tangible. If you’d like to explore this option, there are a multitude of existing designs available on Thingiverse that you (or your students) could print for classroom use. Many museums have uploaded 3D scans of their objects that you can freely print: try exploring the files uploaded by the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Art Institute of Chicago. Here are a few other select objects that would make a fantastic addition to any Latin classroom:

 

        –Amelia Wallace, Editor

Monday, April 13, 2020

Alexander the Great Wins: Martia Dementia 2020 Recap

A Roman copy of a third-century Greek bust of Alexander the Great, with
characteristic "leonine mane." (© Creative Commons 
Attribution 2.0 Generic/Richard Mortel)
In this year’s Martia Dementia face-off between mythological monsters and military leaders of the ancient world, the monsters gained an edge early in the contest—suggesting that supernatural powers might always trump a talent for battle formations and ingenuity in warfare. However, Alexander the Great proved an early contender, handily beating the taraxippoi, or horse ghosts, which were no match for Alexander’s trusty steed Bucephalus. Another general with some early successes, Constantine the Great, struggled against the Erinyes, who hoped to gain vengeance for all of the family members that the emperor slaughtered in his rise to power. Constantine was triumphant, though, continuing all the way to the Elite Eight, when he was unable to hold out against the Hydra. 

Most contests, nonetheless, reinforced the utter dominance of mythological creatures. Nessus, bearing Heracles’s poison-dipped arrow, overcame the defenses of Mithridates, the so-called Poison King, whose famed resistance to potent potions was poor protection in this instance. Creatures from the likes of the Minotaur to the harpies to Scylla and Charbydis all moved past the first round without difficulties. Medusa proved most powerful of all, her stony glare defeating opponent after opponent. 

The final showdown between Medusa and Alexander the Great was, quite literally, a battle of epic proportions. Medusa had already demonstrated that in a contest of coiffures, she reigned supreme: in the first round, her magnificent serpentine mane bested Rhodogune of Parthia and her tangled tresses (Rhodogune, who even quelled a rebellion with her vow to leave her hair unbrushed until she achieved victory!). But in the end, Medusa had to face another figure with almost godly hair—Alexander the Great and his luxuriant, leonine waves. Medusa succumbed, leaving Alexander as the victor. As in life, Alexander the Great remained undefeated in battle in Martia Dementia 2020.

Thank you to all who participated this year in Martia Dementia, and many congratulations to our bracket winners! First prize goes to Jeremy Ho, a student at William Allen Middle School (Moorestown, NJ). With forty-nine correct picks, Jeremy closely edged out his classmate, Noah Keene, who won second prize with forty-seven correct picks. Third place was hotly contested: while several participants correctly selected forty-six game winners, only two had chosen figures that made it all the way to the Final Four. Congratulations to Lauren Nash, student at New Trier High School (Winnetka, IL) and Evelyn Beckman, upper school Latin teacher at Bullis School (Potomac, MD)! The most abysmal bracket was awarded to another student at New Trier High School, who not only made a mere eight correct predictions, but also failed to select any figures that progressed past the second round.

Hoping to win big in next year’s Martia Dementia contest? Third place winner Evelyn Beckman has some words of wisdom for participants: 
I didn't think that I would win and honestly didn't stress too much over my picks for each round. Therefore, I will offer this from Ovid's Amores 3.4: "cui peccare licet, peccat minus" (she who is permitted to make mistakes, makes fewer mistakes).
There you have it—your Martia Dementia 2020 winners! Once again, thank you to all participants, who helped make this year’s contest a resounding success. Have strong feelings about this year’s winners? Hope to see a particular ancient figure featured in next year’s contest? Tweet @BCPublishers what and who you would like to see and include the hashtag #MartiaDementia or give feedback in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!

Amelia Wallace
Editor


Thursday, March 05, 2020

3 Martia Dementia In-Class Activities (+ Free Printables and More!)



In Martia Dementia 2020, the mythological monsters have returned—all thirty-two of them! If you'd like some materials to use with your students to provide background information on these ancient figures, look no further. Bolchazy-Carducci has created blog posts addressing the artistic, literary, and historical significance of six of these creatures. These posts are an excellent starting point for completing research or acquiring basic knowledge. We are also providing very short summaries of the mythological figures, all contained within a printable PDF. Find the links to these resources below.

Need some ideas for covering this year's Martia Dementia field in class? One simple, quick activity for ensuring a basic familiarity is the game Two Truths and a Lie. Simply print out the mythological monster biography sheet linked below. Cut the sheet into strips so that you can individually assign each figure to a student (or a group of students). After learning a little about their assigned figure, each student then presents two truths and one lie about the monster to the class, which has to guess which is fact and which is fiction.

For a more complex activity, ask students to use the Bolchazy-Carducci materials as a starting point to complete additional research on an assigned monster. Using what they have learned, they then craft a persuasive presentation on why their monster should win all of Martia Dementia. After students have sufficiently debated each figure's merits, they can then vote on which figure "deserves" to win. (In fact, this activity can be used to determine a full-class bracket, though you may want to also incorporate the ancient military leaders into this activity; we will be posting biographies for these figures as well at the bottom of the page.)

Looking for other ideas? This year, we are also pleased to provide some free printables and online activities: we have created all of the pieces for a mythological monster Guess Who?–inspired game, Quis Est? If you have the boards at hand, all you will need to do is print out two sets of small cards to insert in the boards and one set of larger cards. We have also provided colorful backings reminiscent of the color scheme of the original game—print these on the back of your cards if you'd really like to have that 1980s-feel. (If you want a simpler set-up, we can confirm that simply printing the small cards on regular paper and then slipping the paper in front of the game's original cardboard pieces works as well.) Regular Guess Who? rules apply, but with this unusual cast of characters, game play is quite challenging. Students will need to know a lot about these monsters to be able to ask incisive questions (and then, understand the answers and accurately flip down the incorrect monsters). To assist with game play, we are also providing a worksheet that students can complete to assess their knowledge.

As an added bonus, we have a short online activity that students can play to practice what they have learned about the mythological monsters before or after playing Quis Est? This activity, which we are making freely accessible, is built on our Lumina platform. Note that the crossword puzzle is replayable: merely hit "re-start," and a new configuration (with varying sets of words) becomes available. Click here or see the link below to play these online games.

Do you use any class or Latin club activities that incorporate Martia Dementia? Let us know in the comments!

Monster of the Month Blog Posts


Printable Materials





Monday, February 17, 2020

Martia Dementia 2020 (Updated with Voting Survey Link)



Ancient bracketologists, prepare yourself: the sixth annual Bolchazy-Carducci Martia Dementia is now upon us! Last year, mythological monsters battled against a range of ancient authors, politicians, and gods to see who reigned supreme. Nike, goddess of victory, lived up to her name and domain, vanquishing all others. This year, the monsters are back, looking for vengeance. They have some worthy opponents, however: famous military commanders of the ancient world! Will Alexander the Great, a general who never lost a battle in his own time, be a match for the taraxippoi? Or will these horse ghosts spook his trusty steed Bucephalus, forcing Alexander out of the competition? Will Mithridates, famous for his resistance to poison, prevail—or will Nessus, a centaur known for poisoning Heracles, get the best of him? We will only find out with your help!

To the victor—whoever finishes with the best bracket—belong the spoils. Before getting to the prizes, here is the way the competition will work. Please read through the process carefully: this year we are changing how bracket submissions and voting will work.

The Bracket
Starting today, complete and submit a bracket to be eligible for wondrous prizes. Please access and submit your bracket online via the following link: Martia Dementia 2020 bracket.

When you access the online Martia Dementia bracket, click the “Submit your bracket!” button to start making your selections. You will be prompted to enter your name and email address; we need this information so that we can track and notify the winners of the competition once Martia Dementia is completed. After signing up, you will be asked to predict a winner for each game in the bracket.

You will be asked to select a winner for each match-up in the bracket.

Once you have completed all of your selections and have submitted your bracket, you will receive a notice thanking you for your submission:

Once you have completed all selections and submitted your prediction bracket,
you are given the option to view your selections.

If you would like to view your prediction bracket, simply click on the link to “View My Prediction.” We recommend saving a copy of your bracket at this point so that you can keep track of how you are doing as the competition progresses. With our new online submission system, you can also easily share your prediction bracket via email or social media—a great way to show off how you’re doing, or earn some pity points if your bracket is going poorly.

We are also providing a PDF copy of the bracket here (for reference only) in case you would like to print a copy of the bracket and fill one in with your class. However, we are not accepting scanned brackets this year, so make sure that you also submit the bracket online.

Brackets will be accepted through Wednesday, March 18.

The Survey
A voting survey will be made available on Thursday, March 19, where you can vote for your picks. Whichever ancient figures have the most votes by the time the survey closes will advance through the round. Actively participating in the survey betters your chances at winning.

This year, voting surveys will look a little different than in previous years. When it is time to vote for each round, simply access the voting survey bracket (the voting survey has a black background). We will announce via social media when voting for each round has opened; note that during each round, you will vote using the voting bracket rather than the forms used in previous years.
 
We cannot stress enough the importance of voting early and voting often. When the survey goes live, cast your votes! Get your friends to vote for your picks. Teachers, get your students to stuff the survey with favorable votes!

Victori Spolia
This competition is not solely for bringing glory to your favorite ancient figure. Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers is offering book prizes for the brackets that most closely resemble the final results; a $100 book credit will be awarded to the first-place participant, a $50 credit to the second-place participant, and a $25 credit to the third-place participant. Feeling like you no longer stand a chance? Do not give up! There will also be a $25 credit for having the most abysmal bracket! 

Stay Connected
Be sure to bookmark this post and check back starting March 19 to access the link to the voting bracket. Also, follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates as the competition progresses.

Remember, brackets close Wednesday, March 18, and the first round of voting will begin Thursday, March 19.
                                                                                        
Bracket 
Access the online bracket here 
Access a printable bracket (for reference only) here 

Survey Link—NOW POSTED
Access the survey link here


Voting Schedule:
  • Round 1: March 19 & 20
  • Round 2: March 21 & 22
  • Round 3 (Sweet 16): March 26 & 27
  • Quarterfinals (Elite 8): March 28 & 29
  • Semifinals (Final 4): April 4 & 5
  • Final (Championship): April 6–8

Note that each round of voting will open at 7:30 am central time and close at 4:00 pm central time on the designated days. 



Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Mythological Monster of the Month: Hydra


February’s Roman Calendar Feature

The 2019–2020 Roman Calendar features twelve mythical monsters from the 2019 edition of Martia Dementia, Bolchazy-Carducci’s annual spring bracket tournament. Visit us on social media (FacebookTwitter, and our blog) for announcements regarding the 2020 Martia Dementia—starting later this month!

Behold, the Lernaean Hydra! According to Hesiod, this many-headed serpentine creature was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna, prolific parents of some of Greek mythology’s most famous monsters. An inhabitant of the liminal lake Lerna, the Hydra breathed out poisonous vapors that made the environs nearly impossible for mortals to even approach. Heracles, during his twelve labors, was tasked with slaying the Hydra—no easy feat, especially because as Heracles severed one Hydra head, two more grew in its place. Unable to defeat the Hydra on his own, Heracles asked his nephew Iolaus for help. While Heracles sliced away each head, Iolaus used a firebrand to cauterize the wounds, preventing the Hydra from regenerating.


Hydra, sixth-century bce Caeretan hydria (water vessel) 
(Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program)

A victorious Heracles dipped his arrows in the Hydra’s poisonous blood, creating a potent weapon that helped him accomplish several of his other labors—but would ultimately be his own downfall. The body of the Hydra was placed in the sky as the constellation Hydra, which has a shape resembling a twisting snake. This constellation is the largest of the eighty-eight modern constellations.

The Hydra depicted among eleven other constellations, 
nineteenth-century star chart card from a set known as Urania’s Mirror 
(Public Domain, restored by Adam Cuerden)

Today, the term “hydra” is often used to refer to an intractable problem that is not easily solved; as when Heracles attempted to slay the mythical Hydra, an attempt to find a solution results in new problems cropping up. King Henry IV of France chose to portray himself as Hercules (the Roman name for Heracles) standing over a vanquished Hydra after he brought an end to France’s internecine religious wars at the end of the sixteenth century. In the painting, Henry—sporting a rather self-satisfied facial expression—casually stands over the beheaded monster, representing his recent political enemy, the Catholic League.

Portrait of Henry IV as Hercules Slaying the Lernaean Hydra by Toussaint Dubreuil (1561–1600) (Public Domain)

Another more modern application of the ancient Hydra occurs in the field of biology: Hydra refers to the genus of fresh-water organisms (related to jellyfish) that have a tubular body featuring a mouth at one end surrounded by an array of tentacles. Like its mythological namesake, a Hydra can regenerate damaged tissue: when cut in half, each half can grow into a whole, complete Hydra. Similarly, like the Lernaean Hydra, these creatures may be quasi-immortal. The same biological factors that allow Hydra to regenerate tissue mean that they do not senesce, or grow old. 

Hydra attached to a substrate (© Creative Commons 
Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported/Stephen Friedt)

The Hydra, with its symbolic and scientific iterations, illustrates how Greek and Roman myth continues to live on in new, often unexpected ways. Students may enjoy discussing other mythological figures that have taken on new meanings in the modern world. 

Still curious about how the ancients described the Hydra? In Ovid’s Metamorphoses (9.67–72) Hercules competes with the river god Achelous for Deianira’s hand in marriage. Taunting the god, he boasts about his victory over the Hydra, a feat that he claims was much more difficult than the one he is about to perform. Here, Hercules claims that the Hydra he vanquished had one-hundred heads!

“cunarum labor est angues superare mearum,”
dixit “et ut vincas alios, Acheloe, dracones,
pars quota Lernaeae serpens eris unus echidnae?
Vulneribus fecunda suis erat illa, nec ullum
de centum numero caput est inpune recisum,
quin gemino cervix herede valentior esset.
Hanc ego ramosam natis e caede colubris
crescentemque malo domui domitamque reclusi.”

“It was the pastime of my cradle days
to strangle better snakes than you—and though
your great length may excel all of your kind,
how small a part of that Lernaean snake
would you—one serpent be? It grew from wounds
I gave (at first it had one-hundred heads)
and every time I severed one head from
its neck two grew there in the place of one,
by which its strength increased. This creature then
outbranching with strong serpents, sprung from death
and thriving on destruction, I destroyed.”

Translation in Ovid’s Metamorphoses by Brookes Moore


–Amelia Wallace, Editor

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Mythological Monster of the Month: Griffin


January’s Roman Calendar Feature
The 2019–2020 Roman Calendar features twelve mythical monsters from the 2019 edition of Martia Dementia, Bolchazy-Carducci’s annual spring bracket tournament. Visit us on social media (FacebookTwitter, and our blog) for announcements regarding the 2020 Martia Dementia.

January’s monster of the month is the majestic griffin, which according to legend had the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. The January image in the 2020 Roman Calendar shows a detail of a griffin taken from a fourth-century BCE tomb painting found in Paestum, Italy. In the full fresco, two griffins—note the leonine hindquarters and tail, massive feathered wings, and curved beaks—attack a panther, poised to pounce.

Two griffins and a panther, Lucanian fresco in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale
(© Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported/Sailko)
The griffin’s mythical origins lie in the ancient near east and Egypt, with depictions of the creature first appearing around 3,000 BCE. By the fifteenth century BCE, griffin imagery had made its way to the Greek world: the hybrid beast was vibrantly portrayed in a fresco found in the “Throne Room” in the Palace of Knossos on Crete. The griffin remained a popular artistic motif in much of the ancient Mediterranean world, and its prominence continued into the medieval era, when the griffin became a common symbol in heraldry. Griffins were not only used in medieval Christian art, but also in Islamic art of the same time period. The Pisa Griffin, a massive bronze sculpture created in eleventh-century Al-Andalus (modern-day Spain), incorporates Arabic text and patterns associated with textile designs.

 Griffin fresco in the “Throne Room,” Palace of Knossos, Crete
(© Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported/Paginazero)

The Pisa Griffin, an eleventh-century bronze now in the Pisa Cathedral, was originally
 a fountain spout (© Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported/Memorato)

While there are few early written accounts of the griffin, several Greek and Roman writers described griffins as the guardians of gold deposits located in Anatolia, Central Asia, or India. Various authors, including Pliny the Elder (see excerpt below), have detailed the enmity between the griffins and the Arimaspians, a neighboring tribe of one-eyed men who perpetually tried to steal the griffins’ gold. These legends of the griffin continued into the middle ages, and griffins were frequently featured in medieval bestiaries. The griffin still captures the imagination of writers today: the griffin makes an appearance in The Sons of Neptune by Rick Riordan. In the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Harry and his friends are sorted into the Hogwarts house of Gryffindor, a name that evokes the bravery, strength—and even the ferocity—of the mythical griffin. The hippogriff, a related creature that is half-lion, half-horse, plays an important role in Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

When discussing with students, ask where else they have seen the griffin. Answers may include other stories or literature, as well as architectural motifs, coats of arms, and logos.

Pliny’s Account

In the passage excerpted below from Natural History 7.10, Pliny describes the battles between the Arimaspians and the monstrous griffins, citing Herodotus and Aristeas of Proconnesus as his sources:
 
sed iuxta eos, qui sunt ad septentrionem versi, haut procul ab ipso aquilonis exortu specuque eius dicto, quem locum Gesclithron appellant, produntur Arimaspi, quos diximus, uno oculo in fronte media insignes. quibus adsidue bellum esse circa metalla cum Grypis, ferarum volucri genere, quale vulgo traditur, eruente ex cuniculis aurum, mira cupiditate et feris custodientibus et Arimaspis rapientibus, multi, sed maxime inlustres Herodotus et Aristeas Proconnesius scribunt.
In the vicinity also of those who dwell in the northern regions, and not far from the spot from which the north wind arises, and the place which is called its cave, and is known by the name of Geskleithron, the Arimaspians are said to exist, whom I have previously mentioned, a nation remarkable for having but one eye, and that placed in the middle of the forehead. This race is said to carry on a perpetual warfare with the Griffins, a kind of monster, with wings, as they are commonly represented, for the gold which they dig out of the mines, and which these wild beasts retain and keep watch over with a singular degree of cupidity, while the Arimaspians are equally desirous to get possession of it. Many authors have stated to this effect, among the most illustrious of whom are Herodotus and Aristeas of Proconnesus.
translation in The Natural History of Pliny the Elder by John Bostock


—Amelia Wallace, Editor


Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Mythological Monster of the Month: Chimera


December’s Roman Calendar Feature

The 2019–2020 Roman Calendar features twelve mythical monsters from the 2019 edition of Martia Dementia, Bolchazy-Carducci’s annual spring bracket tournament. Visit us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and our blog) for announcements regarding the 2020 Martia Dementia.

This month’s creature is the Chimera, a deadly beast composed of parts of other animals. Descriptions of the Chimera vary, but it is often described as having the head of a lion, the tail of a snake, and extending from its back the head of a goat. The term “chimera” has come to mean figuratively something illusory, or a hybrid animal or other organism.


Chimera by Pintoricchio (Bernardino di Betto, 1454–1513)
(© Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported/Sailko)
 As noted in September’s feature on Argus, Pintoricchio (1454–1513), whose name means “little painter” in Italian, was a Renaissance painter known for his frescoes. Though his real name was Bernardino di Betto, he acquired the nickname Pintoricchio due to his short stature. This image is taken from the Ceiling of the Demigods in the Palazzo dei Penitenzieri in Rome. The ceiling features 63 mythological figures.



Bellerophon killing the Chimera (fourth-century BCE Roman mosaic)
(Public Domain)

This Roman mosaic, now in the collection of the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes, features the hero Bellerophon astride Pegasus as he kills the Chimera. Homer describes the monster thus (Iliad 6.180–183):

180      ... ἣ δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἔην θεῖον γένος οὐδ᾽ ἀνθρώπων,
            πρόσθε λέων, ὄπιθεν δὲ δράκων, μέσση δὲ χίμαιρα,
            δεινὸν ἀποπνείουσα πυρὸς μένος αἰθομένοιο,
            καὶ τὴν μὲν κατέπεφνε θεῶν τεράεσσι πιθήσας.

She was of divine stock, not of men, in the fore part a lion, in the hinder a serpent, and in the midst a goat, breathing forth in terrible wise the might of blazing fire. And Bellerophon slew her, trusting in the signs of the gods.
translation in Homer: The Iliad with an English Translation by A. T. Murray


The Chimera of Arezzo (ca. 400 BCE) (© Creative Commons 2.0/Carole Raddato)

The Chimera of Arezzo, located in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Florence, is a famous Etruscan bronze sculpture that corresponds to Homer’s description of the Chimera. It may have belonged to a sculpture group depicting Bellerophon slaying the Chimera.
                                                    
The Epicurean philosopher Lucretius (a favorite of B-C founder Lou Bolchazy) includes the Chimera in a list of mythological monsters whose supposed attributes make their existence impossible (De Rerum Natura 5.901–6):

            flamma quidem vero cum corpora fulva leonum
            tam soleat torrere atque urere quam genus omne
            visceris in terris quod cumque et sanguinis extet,
            qui fieri potuit, triplici cum corpore ut una,
905      prima leo, postrema draco, media ipsa, Chimaera
            ore foras acrem flaret de corpore flammam?

And how could there be the chimaera—a creature that has three different bodies combined in one (a lion up front, a goat in the middle, and a snake behind) and breathes hot flames from its belly—since any animal that is made up of flesh and blood, including the yellow lion, will be consumed by fire?
translation in Lucretius: The Nature of the Universe by G. B. Cobbold

The Chimera presents several opportunities for classroom discussion in Latin:
  • Introduce or review the Latin terms for animals and body parts. Ask students to draw and label the body parts of animals, or provide pictures. Depending on the level of the class, the teacher may supply a word bank or ask students to list the words that they remember in groups or as a class.
  •  Describe the Chimera as a picture talk, or begin with a drawing dictation after review of some key vocabulary. Narration can be quite simple: “Pingite monstrum, quod habet tria corpora. Prima pars monstri est leo ferocissimus! Id est, hoc monstrum habet caput leonis. . . .” After students have drawn their monsters, they can share their drawings in pairs and point out the different body parts and components (tantum Latine). Then, the teacher can reveal the different artistic representations, and students can compare with their drawings of the Chimera.
  • Preview or review the genitive of possession. As appropriate for the class, provide the genitive forms of various animals and remind students of the genitive endings of each declension.

—Laurel Draper, Editor