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mythology

TOPIC: DID MARCO POLO’S GLORIOUS TRAVELS REALLY HAPPEN?

Marco_Polo_traveling.jpg

Hello there class, here’s the trio back with our blog post, bringing you a post-sequel of Marco Polo’s travels. Previously, we introduced the biography of this brave traveller to you, and today, we’ll be bringing you to another exciting phase of his life. The travels that he has accounted for - did they really happen?

Do a quick search on the internet, and you will realise that even till these days, historians are still carrying out researches to overthrow the “facts” that he has recorded in his book, The Travels of Marco Polo (Il Milione). Reports after reports would claim that he has not been to China and that there were beliefs that he never ventured past the Black Sea, instead cobbled together all his encountered from second-hand accounts, of historical figures who really got there. Many emphasised that he did not include crucial monument and traditions that were practiced by the Chinese during that era, and thus concluding that he has been falsifying his travels. One of the biggest argument is that, Marco Polo mixed up the details of two separate invasions to Japan, which was 7 years apart, 1274 and 1281. Furthermore, Polo also claimed that the Mongol Fleet Ships had 5 masts each, when in fact there were only 3. 

 Kublai Khan meeting Marco Polo (according to the nomination file of

Despite having read all the reports that stands for the opposite school of thought, we as a team felt that he did go to China, and that he did not fabricate all his stories just to sensationalise his travels. 

There were so many substantial reasons to dismiss his claims of the travel but come to think of it, focuses were placed on whether or not he highlighted the foot binding cultures of China, a rich tea appreciation culture and if chopsticks were prevalently used during mealtimes in China.

Firstly, “Il Milione” (The Travels of Marco Polo) was in fact not written by Polo himself, instead it was another prisoner of war in Genoa. Rustichello was a fellow prisoner, he was an Italian romance writer who wrote “Il Milione” which consists of 24 years of Macro Polo’s personal journal and was recorded during Marco Polo’s imprisonment(Parker, 2004).

Prison cell

In accordance to that, there may be a possibility that Rustichello could had exaggerated some of the content, twisted some parts just to spice up the stories and even left out certain details because after all he was writing through the imagination of what Marco Polo was describing. Furthermore, under such unconducive and uncomfortable writing conditions with an intensive volume of information, which was verbally expressed, it is rather impossible to accurately jot down all the details and  portray a perfect identical mental image through a verbal story. Thus, it would be implausible if it was free from mistakes.

 “ll Milione” was passed down through the generations and was translated over and over again through different languages and was also re-named throughout the course of history. We believe that it is possible that during these translations, important information might also be left unrecorded. Sources proof that the translations are inconsistent with the details.

Now, take a moment to imagine that you yourself is a translator that was hired to translate a book. What the future reads would depend on you the individual. It is highly possible that important details from the original copy may not be deemed as important to the current translator. If for example, Polo wrote down his amazement of the use of chopsticks in Singapore, you as the translator, would rethink this particular detail. You wouldn’t take it to heart because  many of us use it on a daily basis and it isn’t worth mentioning or noted with such amazement. Likewise, Polo was said to have misinterpreted common animals as mythical creatures. The same theory applies here, it may not be of amazement to us but it could be for him at that period of time, thus a plethora of details may have simply slipped passed throughout history.  

Virgin and Unicorn (A Virgin with a Unicorn) (depicting Giulia Farnese)

Also, there wasn’t any depiction of The Great Wall of China which puzzled many people. But what if those weren’t the aspects that he placed his focus on during his travels to China? 

Great Wall of China near Jinshanling

Why don’t we looking at things this way - the monumental Great Wall of China only achieved great proportions and recognition during the Ming Dynasty, which was several hundred years after his travels happened. Putting ourselves in his shoes, if it wasn’t something that was worth mentioning at the juncture when you were there, would you have bothered with writing about it?

For example, let’s take Singapore’s context of our brand new Punggol Waterway - it used to be just a normal park connector. But these days, with many developments hyping up the place, Punggol Waterway has received much limelight from the residents of Punggol and other parts of Singapore. It has recently become a new iconic place for the country. Only now, that you start to see blog reviews and instagram posts about this “used-to-be-underdeveloped” place. But does that mean that Punggol Waterway didn’t exist many years back then when it did not receive the tremendous attention? It did exist, just that it wasn’t worth hyping over.

Taken at Waterway Point, with Xperia Z3

Back to square one, to clear Marco Polo’s name and his mistakes in his personal accounts. We should use another example to address this issue. Zooming in to another great man, Christopher Columbus, whom died thinking that he found a new route to Asia instead of America. If we do not insistently call Columbus’s a liar and highlight his mistakes that he instead found the new continent, then wouldn’t it be a little unfair and unjust to accuse Marco Polo simply because he made a couple of mistakes as well?  Instead let’s just embrace the benefits from what we have gained from these apparent mistakes made by them.

Portrait of a Man, Said to be Christopher Columbus

What do you think? Do share your thoughts with us!

EROTIC, CHAOTIC, DRAMATIC

We bet you’ve all heard of Zeus, even if you may not know exactly who he is. Well, if you already knew who Zeus is, you’re still in for a treat because the number of people he slept with and the measures he took to achieve his amorous desires will serve as an eye-opener for you!

WHO ON EARTH IS ZEUS?

Well, technically, he isn’t on earth because he is the Greek god of sky! Not only that, he also ruled as the King of the Olympus gods after disposing his father, Cronus. Zeus was seen as unfaithful as he was notorious for sleeping around. However, most of his romantic pursuits weren’t consensual. He had the habit of transforming himself into animals to rape the women he was attracted to!

Statue of Zeus. By Riccardo Botta / EyeEm via Getty Images

THE SEVEN OFFICIAL MARRIAGES

Zeus’ official wife and queen was his sister, Hera, the goddess of marriage. He succeeded in bestowing that title upon her when he violated her in his real form after disguising himself as an injured cuckoo to receive Hera’s pity. Truly embarrassed by this incident, Hera had no choice but to wed Zeus to mask her shame.

Hera was notorious for her jealous and vengeful nature (also known as Hera’s wrath). She was always seen meddling in Zeus’ countless affairs and exacting revenge on her love rivals. In fact, Hephaestus, one of Hera's offspring, was her virgin-born child whom she bore in a fit of anger as she could not stand watching Zeus sleep around with other women!

Greek Gods Zeus and Hera were the rulers of Olympus. Their roman equivalents are Jupiter and Juno, By Cristian Baitg via Getty Images

Zeus’ first wife, Metis, the goddess of wisdom did not share a long union with him. Threatened by the knowledge of being overthrown by a second child, Zeus tricked Metis into turning herself into a fly and swallowed her before the birth of their firstborn, Athena. Nine months after swallowing Metis, Zeus had a terrible headache and ordered to have his forehead split open with an axe, from which Athena sprang out. (“The Goddess Athena”, loc. 16-19) Fun fact: Zeus became wiser after swallowing Metis and it was said that the goddess of wisdom was giving him advice from his tummy!

After Zeus’ marriage with Metis ended with her in his stomach, he married Themis and they had several children. Zeus also fathered the Three Graces with his third wife, Eurynome.

Zeus wanted it all, family or not. In fact, before Zeus wedded Hera, the sister he was first attracted to was Demeter! Despite Demeter’s resistance, Zeus successfully violated her by disguising himself as a bull. Zeus’ next wife was his aunt, Mnemosyne, who gave birth to the nine Muses after she slept with him for nine solid nights.

Zeus wedded Hera while his sixth wife, Leto, was pregnant with his child. Hera was incredibly jealous of Leto hence she gave Leto an incredibly hard time during her pregnancy. Thankfully, Leto managed to birth two children who grew up fast and protected their mother.

THE AFFAIRS

Aside from his marriages, Zeus had numerous affairs as well. In fact, he also slept with our Mother Earth, Gaia! Gaia was his grandmother and they bore two children together.

Zeus’ taste in women was far from exclusive. Divine or mortal, Zeus was unstoppable (imagine Hera’s rage). Zeus had an affair with a mortal woman, Semele, and when Hera came to know of this affair, she disguised herself before Semele and convinced her to ask Zeus to present himself in the same grandeur that he would before Hera. Zeus granted Semele’s wish although it meant her death as she was a mortal incapable of withstanding the grandeur in which Zeus appeared. 

Hera’s wrath also extended to another mortal whom Zeus had an affair with — Io, who was well-known for her long persecution by Hera. Zeus seduced Io under a cloud to prevent Hera from finding out. Fun fact: Io was a priestess at one of Hera’s temples so if Zeus and Io were caught red-handed in bed, Io would be damned! Zeus turned Io into a cow before Hera confronted him about the two of them. However, he was outsmarted by Hera as she knew that the cow was Io and demanded Zeus to gift it to her. When Zeus asked for Io to be delivered back to him, Hera sent a gadfly (no, not Socrates!) to chase after Io who was still in her cow form. Io ultimately escaped the clutches of Hera and the gadfly at Nile, where she transformed back to human form and gave birth to Zeus’ son.

The famous Helen of Troy was also fathered by Zeus when he visited Leda in the form of a swan which resulted in Leda giving birth to an egg from which came Helen and her twin, Clytemnestra. However, the exact paternity of Helen and Clytemnestra was questionable as Leda slept with a mortal man shortly after she was visited by Zeus. Leda also had another pair of twins who were supposedly fathered by the mortal man. Well, they didn't have the technology to run a DNA test back then!

 

THE MALE LOVER

Homosexuality wasn’t uncommon among the Greeks as we’ve discussed in class. Zeus’ erotic escapades certainly weren’t restricted to the female gender only! He was attracted to Ganymede, a Troy Prince and had him abducted to Olympus to serve as a cupbearer to the gods. Although not many cultures today approve of such behaviour, the Greeks practiced pederastyAs such, even though Zeus was perceived as being lustful and lecherous by raping women repeatedly, he assumed a more mature and responsible role of a mentor when he introduced an innocent boy into the ways of adult society. *Click here for more information on pederasty!

Zeus’ amorous escapades were difficult to track. Apart from his numerous erotic and incestuous relationships, he also had many children whose mothers were unknown, hence the genealogy of the gods could be really confusing and baffling! Oh well, guess we just have to . . .

via GIPHY

MYTHICAL TWINS!

Hey guys! So! To make our last blog post relatable and memorable to us, we decided on the topic of twins in mythology (Hurrayyyy!). Even though we are twins ourselves, we still find it fascinating when we come across another set of twins but perhaps, not as much a non-twin individual would (we might be wrong here). Anyway, back to the topic, we really wanted to do something fun and something that was particularly closer to us both so we thought why not twins? and here we are. In class, we already learnt about the story of the orphaned twins Romulus and Remus, who were raised in the wilderness and discovered the magnificent city of Rome. So for today, we will be exploring more on other twins in ancient mythology and what essentially made their story so interesting and famous. There are many different versions of every story so keep that in mind!

Heracles and Iphicles (Hercules and Iphecules)

Heracles (or Hercules) and Iphicles were twin brothers. Heracles was believed to be the son of Greek god, Zeus and thus, his superpowers. Iphicles on the other hand, was the son of Amphitryon and Alcmene (their mom) who were both mortals so he did not have any of his brother’s superpowers. This may perhaps explained why Heracles was more famous and why many of you did not know that he had a twin brother (AM I RIGHT?!). What essentially made people believe that Heracles was the son of Zeus is the story of when the twin brothers were infants. Apparently, when Hera, third lawful wife of Zeus, knew that he cheated on her and heard about the twins, she got jealous and sent two serpents down to kill them. While Iphicles screamed and cried when he saw the serpents, Heracles on the other hand, choked the serpents by their throats and killed them.

While we do not know much about Iphicles, what we do know is that he joined his brother on many adventures and eventually died battling the Moliones (another pair of twins, Eurytus and Cteatus, sons of Poseidon and Molione) with Heracles. In Greek mythology, Heracles was described as a demigod who grew up to become a strong warrior and a hero. He was famous for accomplishing the “twelve labors” that made him immortal. Additionally, he also played a big role in the victory of the Olympians against the Giants.(Read more about that here: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Herakles/giants.html)

Apollo and Artemis

In Greek mythology, Apollo was the God of the sun, music and prophecy, and Artemis was the Virgin Goddess of the moon, childbirth, hunt, and nature.

The pair Apollo and Artemis was the son and daughter of Zeus (the King of the Gods) and his favorite lover, Leto (a Titan goddess). The birth story of the twins was not an easy one because Heta (the legitimate wife of Zeus) was envious and hated Leto despite the fact that the pregnancy happened before her marriage with Zeus. When Heta heard about the pregnancy, she made sure to stir up all sorts of trouble for Leto and even chased her out of Olympus. Heta also prohibited everyone in Greece from providing help and refuge to Leto. She went as far as to prevent her own daughter Eileithyia (the goddess of childbirth) from aiding Leto during childbirth. Even more outrageous, she had a large serpent called Python hunt down Leto WHILE SHE WAS PREGNANT!!! What a cruel woman!!

Leto eventually settled on an island called Delos. Leto was miserable and was in immense pain for nine days before finally giving birth to Artemis on the tenth day at a nearby pond. Soon after, Artemis assisted her mother in the delivery of her twin brother, Apollo. Hence, Artemis also became known as the new goddess of childbirth. AND! After only FOUR DAYS following their birth, the young and strong Apollo avenged his mother’s pain by killing Python. (YASSSSS!)

Yama and Yami

All direct quotes came from only one source linked in the above heading

Yama and Yami were the son and daughter of Surya (the Sun God) and Sanjna (meaning Conscience). The story goes that Yama and Yami were the first mortals on Earth. Like the story of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis, they were also “born into a garden of earthly delights.” Their love for one another prospered as they grew. While Yama’s love for Yami was always platonic and brotherly, Yami wanted more. Yami was devastated by her brother’s rejection and distanced herself away from him.

When she came back later on, she found Yama lying motionless underneath a tree. She called out his name and shook him but he never woke up. The understanding that she was now the only human left on this world made her absolutely heartbroken and miserable. She cried so much that her tears became “a river (the Yamuna), which began to flood the earth.”

The gods wanted to help her but she would continuously say: “But Yama just died today! Yama died today!” The gods then realized that Yami’s nonstop grief and mourning was due to the fact that she lived in “a perpetual interval of time.” There was no yesterday or tomorrow. Hence, this was how night was created as the gods combined their powers to make the sun set below the western horizon and rise above the eastern horizon.

Then, Yami slept through the night for the first time ever and woke up and said: “Why, Yama must have died yesterday!” Therefore, as time passed, her sadness slowly diminished and she became prudent from her acknowledgment of her hardship and her understanding of what it means to be a human.

For Yama, because he was the first human to die and to “discover the ineffable secrets of life, death, and the cosmic laws that govern existence.” There, he became the God of Death, with a secondary title of Dharmaraja, which means “the ‘King of Dharma’ or righteousness.”

Hunahpu and Xbalanque (The Hero Twins)

The Hero Twins, known as Hunahpu and Xbalanque, are popular Mayan demigods. Their story came from Mayan ancient sacred text, the Popol Vuh otherwise known as “The Book of Council”.

To tell the birth story of the Hero Twins, we must first look at their father, One Hunahpu who happened to also have a twin brother, Seven Hunahpu. They were described as knowledgeable and good by nature. One thing that they most enjoyed doing was playing ball and this somehow angered the Death Lords of Xibalba (Mayan underworld). They were thus, summoned to Xibalba, where they were put to many trials and was eventually deceived by the lords and they died in sacrifice. The head of One Hunahpu magically appeared on a tree, which was then touched by Xquic, a goddess of Xibalba and she was pregnant with the Hero twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque.

Just like their father, the Hero Twins also enjoyed playing ball and they were great players. However, they made a lot of noise and this angered the Lords of Xibalba who called them to the Underworld to play a ball game. The Twins similarly went through the trials and they passed them all because they knew the story of their father and uncle. The Death Lords again tried to trick them but they did not fall into the trap. However, they did let the Death Lords kill them because they knew they had to die to essentially become divine. After they returned, the Hero Twins possessed a supernatural power that allows them to bring any living thing back to life when they wish to do so.  Upon hearing this news, the Death Lords eagerly asked the boys to kill them and bring them back to life but unfortunately for them, the Hero Twins knew better and they did not resurrect the Death Lords. Ultimately, the sky gods made the Hero Twins become the rulers of the Earth; they turned into the Sun and the Moon.

The video below tells another version of the story with beautiful artworks. Do check it out if you have time :)

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jb5GKmEcJcw[/embed]

 

Thank you for reading and we hope you've enjoyed reading about twins! Farewell!!! :D

 

Gro-man Mythology?

Have you heard of Groman Mythology? We are pretty certain you have not. Read to find out more! :) Here's the link, if you cannot view the document below. Blog Post Final

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By: Anastasia, Renuka, Sherilyn

Greeks: The Fossil Hunters

Greek Gods and Goddesses

Greek Mythology - the source of epic tales of Zeus, the King of Kings, or Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love. Greek Mythology gave rise to unfathomable creatures, such as the Centaur, half man half horse, or Pegasus, the flying horse. The question is, how - or where exactly, did the Greeks find their inspirations for these?

The Griffin

Impact of Greek Mythology

The Griffin, a half eagle half lion, is no doubt at all the most well known mythological creature that has transcended into contemporary culture. It is seen in the Harry Potter series (We are hoping that we have fans in UGC111!), displayed as the frontal piece of Albus Dumbledore’s Office Entrance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OJE5eMoUjo

It also inspired one of the most remarkable creatures, Buckbeak, the Hippogriff, half eagle half horse, of the Harry Potter series. There are strikingly similar traits between both creatures (Griffin and Hippogriff), characterized as wise creatures who commanded deep respect.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKbr3o36IpY

The First Fossil Hunters

So what exactly does pop culture references to Harry Potter tell us about the Greeks?

Ancient Greeks might have been the first few fossil hunters.

Evidence strongly suggested that the Greeks have excavated fossils and put them on display for the public (like modern day history museums). The Greeks were living in a mostly pre-scientific world, where they did not possess the skill for interpretation of the fossils using scientific reasoning. However, such fossils might have been one of the primary sources of inspirations of myths - their way of creating folklores to reason and explain the finding of the bones. Adrienne Mayor proved it, for perhaps Greek myths might not be necessarily mythical at all.

In Adrienne Mayor’s book, The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times, she talks about how the Greeks and the Romans were very much aware of the other inhabitants of the Earth. They frequently came across the fossilized bones of other animals and developed their own school of thought - expressing them through mythical stories. These most probably gave rise to all the mythological creatures - such as the Giants.

Cyclopes

As we mentioned, the Greeks were possibly one of the first few archeologists on planet Earth. During their excavations, one of the fossils they discovered in their ancient civilization inspired the “One-Eyed” giant called the Cyclopes of the Greek myths. The Cyclopes were known not to have any governance and they lack social skills nor fear for the gods. They possessed a very powerful and violent character and were usually stirred by emotions. Scholars suggested that the Greeks might have found the fossil on the island of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. This was home to enormous and fossilized skulls of ancient elephants which might explain the misunderstanding of the large central hole where the trunk was attached to as the massive single eye socket for the Cyclopes.

Ancient elephant skull

Woolly Rhinoceros

A second example of Greek’s legends of the strange and giant creatures is the woolly rhinoceros that might have inspired more Greek fabled creatures. The Greeks learned of the fossilized thigh bone of a giant mammal that has been roaming Europe and Asia over two thousand years ago which is also known as the Nichoria Bone. If you do want to spectate this extraordinary find, we would highly advise you to fly to Oxford, United Kingdom. It was decided that it’s final resting place will be at the Ashmolean Museum, where it is displayed in the Greek and Roman Antiquities Gallery.

Woolly Rhinoceros

These are just a tiny glimpse of what the Greeks had to offer with their imaginations. There are plenty of other creatures that were, “discovered” in fossils. So, what do you think about the Greeks now? Are they intelligent and logical, or maybe, just exceptionally creative and imaginative people? Actually, does it even matter now? We for one, are thankful, for their minds as they created such fantastic mythical creatures which have now become a basis for many fictional stories and movies. Regardless of how concrete the creatures were. It is evident that the Greeks were able to leave a part of their culture that had an undeniably impressionable to the world, even until today (which is many, many, many years later). Just judging by this, aren’t you a tiny bit jealous of the Greeks for being able come up with (or tell us, depending on what you choose to believe) these marvelous mythical creatures? Even if you are not, I sure am.