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Old Masters of Academia
Compiled by George Knowles
If you have ever done research into ancient history then you will no doubt have seem references to some of the old time masters of academia, the writers, poets and artists whose knowledge, wisdom and foresight have inspired so many. Those whose works live on, collected on shelves in dusty old museums, where they continue to be referenced by academic's, historians and others. But have you ever wondered who these old masters are? Here is my attempt to find out about some of them:
Pliny the Elder (AD. 23-79)
Gaius Plinius Secundus was better known
as “Pliny the Elder” and was a Roman historian and scientific encyclopedist.
Many of his works have been lost to history, but his main work the
“Historia Naturalis” (Natural History) remains almost complete. In
it Pliny states that he has covered 20,000 subjects of importance drawn from
selected writers of his time, to whose observations he added many of his own. Botany, agriculture and horticulture appear to have been of
particular interest to him. To him
the world consisted of four elements: earth,
air, fire and water, he also considered that the lighter substances were
prevented from rising by the weight of the heavier ones, perhaps the earliest
theory of gravity. On astrology he
recorded that seven stars surrounded the earth:
the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
He also considered the Moon to be larger than the Earth since it obscured
the Sun during an eclipse. Of his
other works only a few fragments remain, such as a biography of Pomponius
Secundus, a history of Rome, a study of the Roman campaigns in Germany, and a
book on hurling the lance.
Pliny was born in Como a commune in northern Italy in AD 23. He was descended from a prosperous family and educated, completing his studies in Rome. At the age of 23 he began a military career serving in Germany, rising to the rank of cavalry commander. While there he made the acquaintance of Vespasian who would later become Emperor of Rome, (Titus Flavius Vespasianus - AD 9-79, became the Roman emperor in AD 69-79 as successor to Aulus Vitellius. Vespasian restored order to the empire and set an example for simple living. He built the Coliseum a place where gladiators fought in combat and the arena for Christian martyrdom. It was completed in AD 80. He also founded the Flavian dynasty).
Returning to Rome, Pliny is thought to have
studied law while living in semiretirement, studying and writing until the end
of Nero's reign. In AD 69 when
Vespasian was made emperor, Pliny took up various public offices such as the
procurator of Spain. In AD 79 Pliny
was in command of a fleet of ships in the Bay of Naples, when a volcano on Mt.
Vesuvius erupted. Curious about
this natural phenomenon he went ashore to ascertain its cause and to reassure
the terrified citizens, but was overcome by poisonous fumes and died on August
24 - AD 79.
His “Historia Naturalis” (Natural
History) is divided into 37 books and was probably completed in AD 77. In
the preface to the book, which he dedicated to Titus (most probably Vespasian),
Pliny justifies the title as a study of "the nature of things that is
life". He adopted a plain
writing style and took especial care to name his sources, more than 100 of which
are mentioned. Book I is in fact a summary of the remaining 36 books, listing
the authors and sometimes the titles of the books (many of which are now lost)
from which he derived his material. The
series is devoted to a great variety of subjects such as: cosmology, astronomy, geography, zoology, botany, agriculture,
medicine and mineralogy etc. He
also recorded many of the Latin synonyms of Greek plant names, making most of
the plants mentioned in earlier Greek writings identifiable.
The Natural History properly
begins with Book II, which is devoted to cosmology and astronomy. Here
as elsewhere he demonstrates the extent of his reading, especially of Greek
texts. By the same token however, he was sometimes careless in
translating details with the result that he distorted the meaning of many
technical and mathematical passages. Books
III through VI are on the physical and historical geography of the ancient
world, in which he paid a deal of attention to major cities, some of which no
Books VII through XI are a study of
zoology, beginning with humans (VII), then mammals and reptiles (VIII), fishes
and other marine animals (IX), birds (X), and insects (XI). Pliny derived most of the biological data from
Aristotle, while his own contributions were concerned with legendary animals and
unsupported folklore. In Books XII
through XIX he works on botany, in which he came closest to making a genuine
contribution to science. Although
he drew heavily upon Theophrastus, he reported some independent observations,
particularly those made during his travels in Germany. He
is one of the chief sources of modern knowledge of Roman gardens, early
botanical writings and the introduction into Italy of new horticultural and
The book XVIII is about agriculture and
is especially important for agricultural techniques such as crop rotation, farm
management, and the names of vegetables and other crop plants.
In one article he describes an old ox-driven grain harvester
in Gaul, which was long regarded by scholars as imaginary, however it was
confirmed by the discovery in southern Belgium in 1958 of a 2nd-century stone
relief depicting such an implement.
Books XX through XXXII focus on medicine
and drugs. His random comments on
diet and on the commercial sources and prices of the ingredients of costly
drugs, provides valuable evidence relevant to contemporary Roman life during his
time. The subjects of Books XXXIII
through XXXVII include minerals, the precious stones and the metals used by
Roman craftsmen. In describing
their uses he referred to famous artists and their creations, also to Roman
architectural styles and technology.
Pliny's influence on academia is based
on his ability to assemble in a methodical fashion a number of previously
unrelated facts, his perceptiveness in recognizing details ignored by others,
and his readable stories with which he linked together both factual and
fictional data. Along with his
unsupported claims, fables and exaggerations, his belief in magic and
superstition never the less helped to shape scientific and medical theory
through future centuries. Perhaps
the most important of the methods advocated by him was his doctrine of
signatures. The resemblance between the external appearance of a plant,
animal or mineral and the outward symptoms of a disease, were thought to
indicate the therapeutic usefulness of the plant.
With the decline of the ancient world
and the loss of many Greek texts on which he had so heavily depended, his
Natural History became a substitute for general education. In the European Middle Ages many of the larger libraries
possessed copies of the work; these and many abridged versions ensured Pliny's
place in the history of literature. At
the time his authority was unchallenged partly due to a lack of more reliable
information and partly because his assertions were not and in many cases could
not be tested.
It wasn’t until 1492 in Ferrara, Italy, that his theories were brought into question when Niccolò Leoniceno published a treatise on the errors of Pliny. Thereafter his influence diminished, as more writers questioned his statements. By the end of the 17th century his Natural History had been rejected by many of the leading scientists. Up to that time however, his influence especially on non-scientific writers was undiminished, he was for example almost certainly known to William Shakespeare and John Milton. Although his work was never again accepted as an authority in science, his “Historia Naturalis” remains as one of the greatest literary monuments of classical antiquity. Today it is still of value and referenced by those who wish an honest résumé of 1st-century Rome.
Yet to be posted.
Best Wishes and Blessed Be.
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Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) / Esbats & Full Moons / Links to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft Resources / What's a spell? / Circle Casting and Sacred Space / Pentagram - Pentacle / Marks of a Witch / The Witches Power / The Witches Hat / An esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism / Pow-wow / The Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / A history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope Innocent VIII / The papal Bull / The Malleus Maleficarum / An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum / The letter of approbation / Johann Nider’s Formicarius / Jacob Sprenger / Heinrich Kramer / Stefano Infessura / Montague Summers / The Waldenses / The Albigenses / The Hussites / The Native American Sun Dance / Shielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Festivals:
The Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Rituals contributed by Crone:
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar and Totem Animals) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Unicorn / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat / Rats / Unicorn
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder
Rocks and Stones:
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:
Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Wisdom and Inspiration:
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murdered by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Pioneers: Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A Kelly / Albertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda Metteyya / Allan Kardec (Spiritism) / Alphonsus de Spina / Amber K / Ann Moura / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Balthasar Bekker / Biddy Early / Barbara Vickers / Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christopher Penczak / Christina Oakley Harrington / Cornelius Loos / Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Donald Michael Kraig / Doreen Valiente / Dorothy Morrison / Dr. John Dee & Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Edain McCoy / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake / Fiona Horne / Frederick McLaren Adams - Feraferia / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater - Horrible Herman / Heinrich Kramer / Isaac Bonewits / Israel Regardie / Ivo Domínguez Jr. / Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick / James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches / Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone / Jean Bodin / Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johann Weyer / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" / Johann Georg Fuchs von Dornheim - the “Hexenbrenner” (witch burner) / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred / John Michael Greer / John Score / Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Lady Gwen Thompson - and "The Rede of the Wiccae" / Laurie Cabot - "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Lodovico Maria Sinistrari / Ludwig Lavater / Madeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Michael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" / Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” / Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Martin Antoine Del Rio / Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" / Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set / Monique Wilson / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellars / Mrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Olivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Paul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school / Peter Binsfeld / Philip Heselton / Raven Grimassi / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Richard Baxter / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" / Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Rossell Hope Robbins / Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) / Rudolf Steiner / Sabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough" / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - (includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) / Thomas Ady / T. Thorn Coyle / Vera Chapman / Victor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / Walter Ernest Butler / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest /
Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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