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92 votes
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Did the ancient Greeks ever climb Mt. Olympus?

The answer is probably Yes, some Greeks had visited the peak around 2900 meters above the sea level. Average people who are fit can easily do it, at least from one side. But it's important to realize ...
Luboš Motl's user avatar
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78 votes
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Cultural understanding of Penelope's suitors

Xenia is a concept that represented the relationship between guests and hosts in Ancient Greece, and is a recurring theme in the Odyssey, Iliad, and other Greek works. Essentially, Penelope was ...
Giter's user avatar
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65 votes
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Why do the horses on this vase have too many legs?

The number of legs is correct. It's the number of heads that is wrong. The chariot depicted is an Olympic quadriga which was driven by four horses. The artist probably found it difficult to make a ...
Tyler Durden's user avatar
  • 37.9k
60 votes

How would a Spartan have held his shield?

SHORT ANSWER Most battles were short and thus the shield did not have to be held for long in combat. Also, Spartans who survived the training which began in early childhood were extremely tough both ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
59 votes
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Was it known in ancient Rome and Greece that boiling water made it safe to drink and if so, what was the theory behind this?

The Greeks and Romans did not have germ theory as we know, but they did know that boiling water purified it. The best attestation for this is found in Hippocrates, as mentioned in the Wikipedia ...
cmw's user avatar
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55 votes
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Were Alexander the Great and Hephaestion lovers?

The author of that particular claim appears to have been Diogenes the Cynic. This is the same man who was said to carry around a lantern in broad daylight, claiming to be (futilely) looking for an ...
T.E.D.'s user avatar
  • 120k
50 votes

How would a Spartan have held his shield?

Lars' answer has addressed the fact that the shields (know as a hoplon) often didn't need to be held for long; I'd like to address the actual mechanics. Image showing the shield held close in to the ...
walrus's user avatar
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48 votes
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What did people in 13th century England know about Greek mythology?

Quite a bit, actually. Graeco-Roman mythology was a significant part of the education curriculum. Much of the educated elite would have been broadly familiar with ancient Greek mythologies through its ...
Semaphore's user avatar
  • 97.5k
48 votes

How serious was Fermat's statement about the ancients?

There is a difference between abstract knowledge and "inventions". In the 17th century it was still widely believed that the ancient Greeks had discovered and formulated pretty much the sum total of ...
fdb's user avatar
  • 9,780
46 votes

What is the difference between the Ancient Greek religion and the Ancient Roman religion?

The biggest difference that I'm aware of is that the Classical Greek religion was much more the religion of myths that we all know, while the Classical Roman religion had fewer personifications and ...
Mark Olson's user avatar
  • 7,683
40 votes

Did the ancient Greeks ever climb Mt. Olympus?

It is impossible to ascertain for sure. Eleven gods of the Greek major pantheon all lived in various named corners of the mountain. Even Zeus resided on only the second-highest of the many peaks, ...
Pieter Geerkens's user avatar
39 votes
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How were books published in Ancient Greece?

There were no publishers, no royalties, and no copyright. All these things were invented after the spread of the printer press. If you are a scientist/philosopher, you would write your book yourself, ...
Alex's user avatar
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38 votes
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Did germophobia exist in classical antiquity?

What is germaphobia? It's an obsession, it "is a pathological fear of contamination and germs. " If we look for something similar in antiquity we just need to turn that onto its feet: this ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
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36 votes
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Couldn't an army of archers easily defeat Macedonian style phalanxes?

The Macedonian phalanx had limited protection from missiles in the form of their long spears, but it's true that it was vulnerable to missile fire. For example, during the Battle of Ipsus (fought ...
congusbongus's user avatar
  • 14.5k
36 votes

Who governed while Alexander the Great was away conquering Asia?

Alexander left Antipater in charge in Macedonia/Greece while he was off conquering. Antipater had previously served Alexander's father, Phillip II, and had also previously served as regent for ...
Kirk Andersen's user avatar
34 votes
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Did the Persian Immortals instill fear in their Greek adversaries?

On the Immortals specifically, we do not have enough information from ancient sources to get a clear picture of what the Greeks thought of this elite Persian infantry unit. Further, the available ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
34 votes
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How true is this observation concerning battle?

As Mark C. Wallace noted in his comment, this is from the Spartan poet Tyrtaeus whose verse became an integral part of the Spartan military ethos and propaganda. His exhortations to fight bravely were ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
31 votes

What did people in 13th century England know about Greek mythology?

The Nun's Priest's Tale from Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales: Lo heere Andromacha, Ectores wyf, That day that Ector sholde lese his lyf, She dremed on the same nyght biforn […] He wente for to ...
Graham Lee's user avatar
30 votes

Why did the Spartans learn to read and write if they weren't allowed to keep records?

SHORT ANSWER There are many documented examples of Spartans using writing, including the recording of laws and oracles, and the literacy rate amongst women may well have been higher than in any other ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
29 votes

What ships did pirates use in ancient Greece and Rome?

I don't think that it is possible to generalise. I don't doubt that ancient pirates did re-purpose civilian ships in most cases. Indeed, it is said that even sailors on merchant ships which had been ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
  • 77.3k
28 votes
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What prevented slaves in Classical Greece from running off?

INTRO First, it is important to note that Greek (and other) slaves performed many kinds of jobs and this fact alone could influence the likelihood of a slave running away: The status of slaves, and ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
28 votes
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How did the Greeks keep a prytaneum alight in storms?

I'm not quite sure why you think this would be a problem. A Prytaneum was a building, with a roof, and presumably doors that could be closed and windows that could be shuttered. While modern ...
John Dallman's user avatar
  • 31.5k
27 votes
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Did the Spartans really taunt Philip II of Macedon with a single word?

Plutarch, in De garrulitate , writes this concerning the brief, concise language used by the Laconians: The Lacedaemonians to Philip; Dionysius in Corinth. And when Philip wrote thus to the ...
justCal's user avatar
  • 40.4k
26 votes

What were the ethnic backgrounds of the slaves in Ancient Greece?

SHORT ANSWER For most of the classical period, non-Greek slaves came primarily from Thrace and Anatolia. There is also evidence of slaves from Syria, Illyria, Macedon and Ethiopia. Slaves of Greek ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
25 votes
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Was Plato sold into slavery?

One source of the story of Plato being sold into slavery is Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius. An English translation is available online on Project Perseus. You can find ...
yannis's user avatar
  • 14.9k
25 votes

Why do people say, "Alexander the Great conquered the world?"

Wikipedia tells us that Alexander did indeed set out to conquer the whole world. His empire consisted of most of the world known to the ancient Greeks of his time, so for his compatriots, yes, he ...
DevSolar's user avatar
  • 14k
25 votes
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Why did Ancient Greek religious monument (herms) have genitalia?

Sex and nudity weren't as taboo then as they are now - particularly since the puritan Victorian days. Olympic athletes, for instance, raced naked. Homosexuality was pervasive enough to have been ...
Denis de Bernardy's user avatar
24 votes
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How do we know this bust is Aristotle?

The identification was originally made by Franz Studniczka in his 1908 Das Bildnis des Aristoteles. The basis of his argument is a miniature bust, discovered by the Italian antiquary, Fulvio Orsini, ...
Semaphore's user avatar
  • 97.5k
22 votes

Did the Persian Immortals instill fear in their Greek adversaries?

We have no way to be sure, but probably not. The way I'm reading the question is, did the illusion of immortality cause any fear in the Greeks? Well, no source attests to the existence of the ...
Semaphore's user avatar
  • 97.5k
22 votes
Accepted

How serious was Fermat's statement about the ancients?

Other answers are good but I would like to add a bit of context. The OP states that it should have been clear by 1600 that some advance had been made since Roman times. However, the idea that by then ...
Pere's user avatar
  • 3,871

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