Deus Ex Machina: Depicting Cranes and Pulleys in the Ancient World

Within ancient theater, the phrase ‘deus ex machina‘ actually referred to a crane called a μηχανή (the Greek term from whence we get our “machine”) used to suspend and then lower individuals onto the stage during performances of tragic plays, particularly those written by Sophocles and Euripides. In nine of his plays, an epiphanic deus was loweredContinue reading “Deus Ex Machina: Depicting Cranes and Pulleys in the Ancient World”

‘Pie Zeses’: Toasting To A New Year

Another year of blogging is almost in the proverbial books and I must say that while 2016 was a wretched year socio-politically, it was professionally quite satisfying. My first book, Trade and Taboo was published and I even began writing for Forbes regularly. There is no doubt that I have much to be thankful for asContinue reading “‘Pie Zeses’: Toasting To A New Year”

The (Evil) Eyes Have It: Welcoming and Warning Ancient Visitors

Doorways and thresholds were an important locus of power in Greco-Roman antiquity–but we might also think of them as an epigraphic opportunity. Inscriptions often preceded ancient doorways, just as tabulae (inscribed tablets) could demarcate the sacred boundaries of temples. Writing was and is a means of delineating and mapping space. Additionally, certain words could serve to set the tone for guests entering a household,Continue reading “The (Evil) Eyes Have It: Welcoming and Warning Ancient Visitors”

Third Eye Blind: The Cyclops in Late Antiquity

Born around the year 490 CE in the city of Philadelphia, John the Lydian had a lot to say about Roman corruption and civil servants. His book, On the Magistracies of the Roman State, provides insight into the sausage factory that was late antique bureaucracy. Though living in Constantinople at the time, he addressed a story from his hometown (3.59):Continue reading “Third Eye Blind: The Cyclops in Late Antiquity”