Recent Posts

Keris: Stories of the Wavy Daggers

The keris, a dagger from Southeast Asia, was named a Masterpiece of Humanity’s Oral and Intangible Heritage by UNESCO in 2005. The keris is a dagger with an unusual blade shape made possible by switching between iron and pamor (nickelous iron laminations). A number of the most well-known representations of the keris may be seen on the bas-reliefs of the Borobudur and Prambanan temples. Through maritime trade links and the growing influence of the Majapahit Empire in Java around the year 1492, keris culture spread throughout the Indonesian archipelago as far as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.  

Samurai and the Politics of the Feudal Caste System

In the 1600s in Japan, the samurai went through a bad time that led to a lot of changes. It was also a time when it was painfully clear that because of their place in society, samurais were not only the first people to go into battle, but they also had to take the most damage when the government changed. Ironically, the hardest time in a samurai’s life wasn’t when he was fighting, but when he was at home in peace.

Herodotus, Josephus, and Being a Historian in the Ancient World

As a historian, the truth is that no matter how hard we try, there will always be differences between what one historian says happened and what another historian says. We are constantly reminded that a person’s views, background, and environment have a big impact on how they see history and life in general. Ancient historians can also see that this is true. In fact, the stories of their own lives are almost as interesting as the stories they have written.

Diotima and the Philosophy of Love

Symposium, a philosophical work by Plato written between 385 and 370 BC, is about a friendly competition between speeches given by famous men at a banquet. During the talk, Socrates says that a priestess from Mantinea named Diotima taught him “the philosophy of love” when he was young. Socrates also says that Diotima slowed down the spread of the Plague of Athens, which destroyed the ancient Greek city-state of Athens in the second year of the Peloponnesian War (430 BC). Aside from these few details, we don’t know much about Diotima as a person, until now.