Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Friday, February 23, 2018

Playing practical jokes in antiquity

Isn’t it strange that we believe that people in antiquity were always serious? Well, nothing is less true for recent discoveries reveal that our ancestors had a great sense of humor indeed!

I remember that the Getty Museum had this terracotta goblet with a thick rim that contained a small pebble. Consequently, each time the guest brought this goblet to his lips the pebble started rolling making a distinctive noise. Your drinking habit did not go unnoticed, of course.

Just recently a funny drinking cup was excavated in Vinkovci, eastern Croatia, which belongs to a series of so-called Tantalus cups. The inner center of the cup is occupied by Tantalus, a Greek mythological figure who was doomed to stay in sight but out of reach of food and water. The Tantalus figure of this cup has holes hidden in its design and as soon as the cup is tipped, the liquid leaks onto the tunic of the unsuspecting guest. The following picture from the Daily Mail clarifies the system.


The example found in Croatia dates from the 4th century AD and could have belonged to Emperor Valentinian I and/or his brother Valens who were born in Vinkovci.

Another trick is played by the Pythagorean cup which allegedly was invented by Pythagoras of Samos. The principle here is that when the cup is filled beyond a certain level, a siphoning system causes the fluid to be drained through its base. The silver vessel has a central column through which the wine “leaks” from the cup and spills over the unsuspecting drinking guest. This drawing from Wikipedia says more than any description would.


The siphon principle is in fact the granddad of our modern flushing toilets!

Fun is ageless and timeless, and it is pretty reassuring that our ancestors appreciated practical jokes just as much as we do. Keep smiling! 

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