Month: October 2012

Macquarie Ancient Language School

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For all my Australian and New Zealand readers: In January 2013, a number of academics including myself will be teaching at the Macquarie Ancient Language School. If anyone is interested please read the information below and I recommend my Beginner’s Koine Greek Class 😛

This is an excellent opportunity and is fun and educational. Before starting teaching at MALS (Macquarie Ancient Language School), I took six courses over the course of my undergraduate and loved everyone of them. Hope to see some of you there.

Information below is taken from the Macquarie University Page for MALS. 

Macquarie Ancient Languages School
(within the Ancient Cultures Research Centre)
Short intensive sessions are held in a variety of ancient languages in January and July each year.

The 2013 Summer School will be held from 7 to 18 January (excluding weekend)

About the Macquarie Ancient Languages School
The Macquarie Ancient Languages School, an initiative of the Ancient History Documentary Research Centre, has been running since 1981, offering courses in a wide variety of languages associated with Ancient History and Biblical Studies. Held over two weeks in January and one week in July, the School has branched out from its beginnings in Classical Greek to include classes in Koine Greek, Latin, Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Classical Hebrew, Coptic, Akkadian, Sanskrit and a range of other ancient languages. Some are offered at each school, others on a rotational basis, for example, Aramaic, Hittite and Hieratic.

There are also opportunities to participate in hands-on courses, working with papyri, inscriptions and coins from the collections in the Museum of Ancient Cultures. New courses are incorporated into the programme on a regular basis. Recent additions include the Linear B Tablets, Latin Inscriptions, the Vindolanda Tablets, and Latin Psalms. There are also introductory courses on various topics – for example, Etruscan, Old Norse, Cuneiform and Celtic Languages.

Are you looking for a challenge in 2013?
Perhaps you are considering enrolling in a degree programme and would like to include an ancient language?
Taking part in a Macquarie Ancient Languages School is a great way to ‘test the water’, prior to enrolling in an accredited unit.
Classes in Classical Greek, Koine/New Testament Greek, Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Hebrew are offered at three levels, ranging from Beginners (requiring no prior knowledge) to Advanced level, reading from selected texts.

Classes in other ancient languages are conducted at the Beginners level in January, with follow-on classes in July, subject to student demand. Examples of languages offered in the past include Coptic, Akkadian, Aramaic, Sanskrit, Syriac, Hittite and Sumerian, and more recently, Demotic and Hieratic.

Classes are open to people of all ages (from 16 years) and are suitable for:

intending students of Greek and other ancient languages in tertiary institutions and theological colleges, and those interested in learning to read the New Testament in Greek
secondary teachers and students of Ancient History
those interested in learning more about their heritage, for example, those with Celtic, Greek or Italian ancestry
those with a general interest in language
those interested in English literature, in European civilisation, in drama, philosophy, theology, in the ancient world generally, and in the many fields in which ancient literature and thought have been for centuries a powerful influence.
Teaching is in small tutorial groups meeting either in the mornings or afternoons. The timetable is planned to allow students to enrol in more than one subject – for example, a morning class in Koine Greek might be followed by a practical session on Greek Papyri in the afternoon. The timing of both Summer and Winter Schools is designed around the Macquarie University calendar, making it possible for currently enrolled students to attend. For those considering an ancient language as part of their degree, such a course is an ideal introduction to the subject, prior to enrolling in an accredited unit. Similarly, both Schools take place in NSW school holidays, so that secondary school students and teachers may attend.

Many of our students come back year after year, not only to enjoy the contact with other like-minded students, but also to brush up on their Greek or other ancient languages, and to continue their fascination with the worlds opened up by the language and literature of these ancient cultures. Their continued attendance is testimony to the enthusiasm generated by the Macquarie Ancient Languages School over the past three decades.

For the 2013 Summer School programme, click here.

For an application form, click here.

For enquiries please contact:
Jon Dalrymple
Ancient Cultures Research Centre
Department of Ancient History
Macquarie University NSW 2109
Telephone: (02) 9850 9962
Fax: (02) 9850 9001

GraecoMuse Turns One

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The Bases of Zanes at Olympia, Greece. Statues...
The Bases of Zanes at Olympia, Greece. Statues of Zeus were erected on these bases, paid for by fines imposed on those who were found to be cheating at the Olympic Games. The names of the athletes were inscribed on the base of each statue to serve as a warning to all.

Hello Everyone! This month this website turns one year old. Thank you everyone for reading and continuing to do so! GraecoMuse has now had over 40,000 views and has 528 subscribers. 🙂

So incase you missed some of the entries and are interested in having a read, here are all the entries for the last year. Hope you all enjoy, keep reading, and most of all learn new things.

Also remember that there is now a facebook page for archaeology and history news and comments. At

Simple Musings – 26/10/11

Review: Betz, H.D., The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation (Chicago, 1986) – 26/10/11

Confessions of an Archaeologist: Live Free and Dig Hard! – 27/10/11

The (not so) True History – Lucian of Samosata – 29/10/11

Kepler’s Somnium (The Dream) – 30/10/11

Survivor PhD: Close Encounters of the First Kind – 01/11/11

Lost in Translation: It’s all Greek to Us – 07/11/11

Recommended Reading: Blum and Blum, Health and Healing in Rural Greece – 11/11/11

Back to the Future: The Significance of Studying Ancient History – 14/11/11

Relic Hunter: Common Misconceptions of Archaeology – 22/11/11

To Pass Knowledge on to the Younger Generations – 08/12/11

Wilde/Chase Books 1-4: Andy McDermott – 22/12/11

Santa Claus Before Coca Cola – 25/12/11

Felix sit annus novus! Happy New Year! – 31/12/11

Important Rules to Remember When Learning Ancient Greek Part 1 – 11/01/12

English: Ancient Greek helmets.
Ancient Greek helmets

Important Rules to Remember When Learning Ancient Greek Part 2 – 20/01/12

War Minus the Shooting: Ideals behind the Ancient Olympic Games – 28/01/12

Traditional and Historical Origins of Certain Supernatural Ideologies – 29/01/12

Female Heroism in Ancient Greek Literature – 04/02/12

A Shaky Beginning: Parkinson’s Disease in Ancient History – 09/02/12

The Fall of the Ancient Olympics: The Theodosian Code – 17/02/12

Basic Numismatics: A Quick Guide to the Study of Ancient Coinage – 23/02/12

Ancient Scripts of Egypt: An Introduction – 02/03/12

Poetic License: An Introduction to Greek (and Latin) Meter – 08/03/12

Tools of the Trade: Archaeology – 18/03/12

Ammianus Marcellinus: Biographical Record in the Res Gestae – 23/03/12

The Language of Trees: Ogham (Archaic Irish Script) – 26/03/12

Holey Cranium Batman! The Archaeology of Trephination – 10/04/12

In the Beginning: Biblical Creation Myths vs. Others Around the Mediterranean – 14/04/12

Cuneiform: An Introduction to One of the Earliest Scripts – 28/04/12

Ancient Sites of Cilicia, Anatolia: Part 1 – 08/05/12

Ancient Sites of Cilicia, Anatolia: Part 2 – 08/05/12

Isthmia: Roman Baths and Muscular Men – 16/05/12

Runic Scripts – Elder and Younger Futhark – 19/05/12Piracy in the Ancient Mediterranean – 01/06/12

Important Rules to Remember When Learning Ancient Greek Part 3! – 10/06/12

The Cave of Letters – 20/06/12

From Pole to Pole: The History of Pole Dancing and Fitness – 23/06/12

Hoplitodromos (armoured race); on the right so...
Hoplitodromos (armoured race); on the right some tripods as winning prizes. Side A of an Attic black-figure neck-amphora, ca. 550 BC. From Vulci.

Graecomuse and Parkinson’s Disease – 01/07/12

The Valley of the Dawn – Made-up religion of 32,000 years? – 08/07/12

Important Rules to Remember When Learning Ancient Greek Part 4 – 09/07/12

Archaeology Travel Blog: Istanbul pt. 1 – 18/07/12

Archaeological Travel Blog: Istanbul Part 2 – 27/07/12

Archaeology Travel Blog: Selinus and Antiochia ad Cragum! – 03/08/12

Archaeology Travel Blog: Ancient Side – 04/08/12

I Have My Eye On You: The Evil Eye in Antiquity – 29/08/12

Curses and Fines on Greek Grave Stele – 06/09/12

Theodora of Justinian: The Protectress of the Poor! – 28/09/12

Neodamodeis – The Freed Helots of Sparta – 07/10/12

A Source-Critical Analysis of the Parable of the Mustard Seed – 08/10/12

A Source-Critical Analysis of the Parable of the Mustard Seed

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I don’t write about the New Testament often so here is something a bit different. Apparently when a historian like myself gets bored they form a source-critical analysis of Mark 4:30-32, Luke 13:18-19, Matthew 13:31b-32 and the Gospel of Thomas 20:1-2 AKA the parable of the mustard seed. On first comparison we see that all three synoptic texts agree on the essence of the parable but none are identical.  All three texts discuss the kingdom of God in likeness to a mustard seed which could be a proverbial metaphor for something large that comes from very little.

In essence, all three synoptic versions recount the same parable, referring to the kingdom as ‘like a grain of mustard seed.’ This seed when sown grew into a great plant in which the ‘birds of the air’ could make nests.  Each version though differs in its details and even parallels contain variations in the Greek language between accounts.  Matthew, Mark and Thomas make the claim that the mustard seed is ‘the smallest of all seeds’ with slight differentiation to the Greek sentence structure. This is a claim not made in Luke’s shorter version of the parable.

There are some considerable differences between and within the synoptic and Thomas’ versions. Mark’s account is clearly the longest in Greek while Luke’s and Thomas’ are the shortest.  In turn, the introduction to Luke’s is longer that Matthews. The forms of the accounts also differ in relation to the introductions. Luke and Mark both begin with a pair of rhetorical questions.  While Matthew does not follow suit he does, like Luke and Mark, place the introduction of the parable in the mouth of Jesus unlike Thomas who has the disciplines initiate the parable by asking Jesus to ‘Tell us what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.’

What appears the most obvious difference though is the variation in the details of the texts. The nature of the seed’s growth and form is described differently by all form versions. Mark chooses to describe it as a great shrub, which is the most realistic outcome concerning a mustard seed. Luke and Matthew choose to describe it as a tree, but Matthew also calls it the greatest of all shrubs which parallels Mark’s wording.  Thomas creates a more general image, describing it as a ‘great plant.’ Thomas’ description also holds some realism as it recounts the birds sheltering under the plant which would occur in the case of a mustard plant.  In this way, among others, Thomas’ account most closely parallels Mark’s version.

While all versions allude to the birds of the air making use of the plant, the way that this occurs differs between accounts.  Matthew and Luke, alluding to their conclusion that the seed becomes a tree, state that the birds come and made nests in its branches. Thomas and Mark place emphasis rather on the shelter which the ‘shrub’ provides for the birds, though Mark does use the term branches in describing the growth of the shrub.

Mark again proves the closest parallel to Thomas in reference to the sowing of the mustard seed. Mark makes little comment of the sowing action and refers only to the seed as ‘when sown upon the ground’ which is the closest parallel to Thomas’ ‘when it falls on tilled soil.’ Luke and Matthew place a greater emphasis on the sowing action by adding a human element which could act as a catalyst by which the ‘tree’ is grown. Matthew tells of a man who took and sowed it in his field. Luke tells of a man who took and sowed the seed in his garden. Mark places a greater emphasis on the state of the seed shown in his excessive use of adjectives and superlatives.  In this point we see a parallel between Matthew and Luke which cannot be paralleled by either Thomas or Mark. This is implicit of another source being used by Luke and Matthew.

It is interesting to note that Mark and Luke both share details with Matthew but not with each other. For instance, the contrast between the seed and the shrub emphasised in Mark and Matthew, is not seen in Luke. The growth of the tree is seen in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark. Luke is independent from the other versions also because it presents the parable in a narrative context. This is seen clearly in the use of the past tense where Mark, Matthew and Thomas use the present.

Considering the similarities and differences that occur throughout the four versions of the Parable of the Mustard Seed, an explanation is necessary. It appears that the parable is an example of the two-source hypothesis which promotes the use of Mark and Q plus unique sources by Luke and Matthew. Matthew and Luke both have parallels in Mark but they also contain similarities that allude to access to at least one separate source.  Thomas shows a Markan priority and does not appear to have access to the Q source in relation to the mustard seed parable. Luke presents an almost entirely Q version of the parable while Matthew attempts to merge the Markan and Q versions.

Matthew is indicative of Markan priority though Matthew converts Mark’s comparison to a story form while retaining Mark’s botanical addition. Markan priority throughout the gospel is witnessed in his omission of a mere fifty-five Markan verses. There is also a marked use of Q which is emphasised in the use of narrative.  In turn, there is an amalgamation of source material and form in Matthew of Mark and Q.  Matthew is an incomplete narrative because he maintains the narrative of the man sowing the seed attributed to Q but ends in a Markan general statement. Luke is independent in this respect as he does not conclude with a general statement regarding Jesus’ use of parables.

The Jewish character in Matthew’s text is seen throughout the gospel as Matthew sees no need for explanations of Jewish customs.  Matthew’s gospel presents itself like a teaching tool, a manual. It is interesting to note that, despite independent motives, Matthew retains an addition in Mark to explain the significance of the seed to the Gentile audience, ‘the smallest of all seeds.’

Luke uses Mark and the Q source.  In turn, Luke appears to reproduce a version more true to the Q source. The mustard seed parable lands within a chunk of the Lukan gospel which is specifically taken from Q (9:51-18:14). Thomas on the other hand reflects the Markan source almost entirely. Luke’s introduction expresses a wish to present an orderly narrative which would benefit those who have some knowledge already about the Christian faith.  He attempts to narrate the story of Jesus as historical.  Luke also has a considerable amount of further information from unknown sources.

The use of the Q source is seen in the mention of the man in Matthew and Luke which does not appear in Mark. The Q source mentions άνθρωπος towards the beginning of the parable before ignoring him and changing the focus to directly lie on the mustard seed. In fact at this point of the text in Matthew and Luke, both appear to take their Greek account straight from Q which would account for the same Greek, …κόκκω σινάπεως, ‘όν λαβών άνθρωπος…(Matt. 13:31; Luke 13:19).

The use of a separate source by Matthew and Luke is also seen in the parallels concerning the tree (δένδρον) and κατασκηνοῦ εν τοῖς κλάδοις αυτοῦ (Matt.13:32)/κατεσκήνωσεν εν τοῖς κλάδοις αυτοῦ (Luke 13:19). The choice between ‘shrub’ and ‘tree’ is implicit of sources chosen by the gospel authors. The Markan version clearly states that the seed became a shrub which is directly paralleled in Thomas.  This is exemplar of Thomas’ use of Mark.  Luke’s decision to use ‘tree’ reiterates that Luke is usually believed to reproduce a Q form of the parable. This point is an example of the Mark-Q overlap because Matthew represents a mix of Markan and Q forms with the extension of the shrub idea into that of the tree; this is a classic trait in Matthew.  The addition of the tree found in Matthew and Luke alludes to Old Testament roots. The tree in Daniel 4:10-4:27 refers similarly to a kingdom. Mark’s uses of Old Testament allusions are fairly few which is implicit of a Roman audience.

It is difficult to assert the sources which Mark used to compose any of his gospel let alone the Mustard seed parable.  Form-critics have postulated that the existence of comparatively small tradition cycles, oral traditions that date prior to the written gospel.  There are also theories pertaining to the idea that Mark’s gospel was formed from preaching.

The different tenses are indicative of separate sources as well as the differing motives of the authors.  From the use of the narrative form in Luke we can surmise that Q was presented in the past tense while Mark is expressed in the present. The contrast involved in the line ‘smaller than all the seeds on the earth’ also makes a case for use of Q by Matthew and Luke.  Mark explicitly states the contrast whereas Q leaves it implicit.  This would account for the contrast not appearing in the Lukan version.  Luke saw himself as a historical writer which may account for him not needing the explanation; he wrote for those with some prior knowledge so he could make his versions shorter and sharper.

The Gospel of Thomas appears dependent on Mark as it shows many of the Markan features.  It does not appear to have any influence from Q like Luke or Matthew though it may have dealt with an independent source and its choice of words sometimes differs.  For instance, ‘birds of the air’ becomes ‘birds of the sky’ and ‘the greatest of all shrubs’ becomes ‘a great plant.’ This may exhibit though Thomas’ choice of audience and way of writing rather than his choice of sources. Thomas like Mark engages in a more realistic description of the plant and how the birds shelter under it. The omission of the farmer is indicative of the lack of the Q source.

Further Reading

Guthrie, D., Motyer, J.A., Stibbs, A.M., and Wiseman, D.J. (eds.) New Bible Commentary (Leicester, 1992)

Lockyer, H., Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Cambridge, 1986)

Drane, J., Introducing The New Testament (Oxford, 1993)

Goodrick, E.W. and Kohlenberger III, J.R., The NIV Handy Concordance (London, 1982)

Neodamodeis – The Freed Helots of Sparta

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6th Century Spartan Hoplite Figurine

I have been looking back into Spartan history lately and so I thought I’d share with you some of the more interesting less known parts of Spartan society. A huge part of the Spartan population was made up by those who were not actually Spartan, the helots; a cause of great concern to the Spartans throughout their history. These helots were slaves that were usually captives of the Spartans forced into the service of their captors. But some of these slaves were awarded their freedom after spending time in the service of the hoplites of the Spartan Army. These freed helots of military service were known as the ‘Neodamodeis’.

Neodamodeis (νεοδαμώδεις) literally means those who are new to the people; ‘lately made one of the people’. This comes from the Greek words νέος meaning ‘new’ and δῆμος meaning ‘people’ or ‘community’. A simple use of terminology to describe a simple concept. While the study of helots has been a topic of great interest in modern scholarship there is little to be said on the helot who was freed or became a part of the wider Spartan society.

The first available apparition of the term Neodamodeis comes from Thucydides who uses it in passing without explaining the term or its origin. Ducat does attempt to place an approximate date on the origin of the term and the idea. Ducat’s book Les Hoplites (1990) asserts that the term originated in line with the episode concerning the Brasidians where the Helots were freed after taking part in the expedition of Brasidas in 424 BC. Neodamodeis are certainly attested after 424BC from at least 396 BC in relation to the part of the Spartan army in Agesilaus II’s campaign in Ionia.

Image from the Chigi Vase showing Spartan hoplites in battle

Lazenby explains that the neodamodeis could still serve in the Spartan army but were distinct from the helot soldiers they had once been. This assertion is made in relation to Brasidas again when they are first mentioned in connection with his soldiers return from Thrace in 421BC. This is recorded in Thucydides who explains that these neodamodeis were not in fact free at the time of returning but were earmarked for freedom and hence distinguished from the remaining helots. Thucydides tells us that these men were given their freedom shortly after the event and were then settled with the neodamodeis already settled at Lepreon on the border of Spartan territory. This tells us that neodamodeis were named so before actually being freed on the understanding that they would soon be freed. That they were given extra status on that understanding alone, and then that when freed they were kept in close association with Sparta still. The episodes at Lepreon in Thucydides also shows that neodamodeis likely stayed under the direction of the Spartan army though no longer slaves and served as non-citizen hoplites. Hesychius of Alexandria explains that the neodamodeis, while freed from the helot status, never acquired full citizenship.

There are few other references to neodamodeis in the ancient texts in comparison to those for helots (Εἵλωτες).

Athenaeus makes mention of them in his Deipnosophists, 6.102:

Μύρων δὲ ὁ Πριηνεὺς ἐν δευτέρῳ Μεσσηνιακῶν ‘ πολλάκις, φησίν,ἠλευθέρωσαν Λακεδαιμόνιοι δούλους καὶ οὓς μὲν ἀφέτας ἐκάλεσαν, οὓς δὲἀδεσπότους, οὓς δὲ ἐρυκτῆρας., δεσποσιοναύτας δ᾽ ἄλλους, οὓς εἰς τοὺςστόλους κατέτασσον, ἄλλους δὲ νεοδαμώδεις, ἑτέρους ὄντας τῶν εἱλώτων.

And Xenophon and Plutarch make a few mentions of them in relation to their analysis of Spartan society and history. Not much can be said for the freed slaves of the Spartan world. But the Neodamodeis give us a brief glance into the lives of those without voice.

Further Reading:

Athenaeus, The Deipnosophists

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War

Xenophon, Hellenica

Xenophon, Minor Works

Plutarch, Agesilaus

Lazenby, J.F., The Spartan Army (2012)

Sabin, P.,, The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare: Volume 1 (2007)

Hanson, V., Hoplites: The Classical Greek Battle Experience (1993)

Atkinson, K., Ancient Sparta: A Re-Examination of the Evidence (1949)

Hunt, P., Slaves, Warfare, and Ideology in the Greek Historians (2002)

Cartledge, P., Sparta and Lakonia: a regional history, 1300-362 BC (2002)

Cartledge, P., Sparta and Lakonia & Hellenistic and Roman Sparta (2001)