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Book Review

Venus & Aphrodite: history of a goddess by Bettany Hughes

Blurb

Through ancient art, evocative myth, exciting archaeological revelations and philosophical explorations Bettany Hughes shows why this immortal goddess endures through to the twenty-first century, and what her journey through time reveals about what matters to us as humans.

Charting Venus’s origins in powerful ancient deities, Bettany demonstrates that Venus is far more complex than first meets the eye. Beginning in Cyprus, the goddess’s mythical birthplace, Bettany decodes Venus’s relationship to the Greek goddess Aphrodite, and, in turn, Aphrodite’s mixed-up origins both as a Cypriot spirit of fertility and procreation – but also, as a descendant of the prehistoric war goddesses of the Near and Middle East, Ishtar, Inanna and Astarte. On a voyage of discovery to reveal the truth behind Venus, Hughes reveals how this mythological figure is so much more than nudity, romance and sex. It is the both the remarkable story of one of antiquity’s most potent forces, and the story of human desire – how it transforms who we are and how we behave.

All roads lead to death

All formal dogmatic religions are fallacious and must never be accepted by self-respecting persons as final. Hypatia

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Hypatia by Odoardo Tabacchi
1874. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Religious doctrine and practitioners with good intentions, have had their words distorted, manipulated and reinvented to suit the goals of and the ‘end-game’ of people who believe their own teachings or interpretation of ‘god’s word’ is the absolute truth. Violence and fear-mongering was a strategy applied to enforce their beliefs onto others, use of propaganda to create scapegoats, and targeted individuals who refused to bow down to these power-hungry leaders who hid behind religion and declared their abhorrence. All these elements led to Hypatia’s eventual downfall and demise.

Intolerance, hate and religion

‘The more things change, the more they are the same.’ Alphonse Karr [https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/alphonse_karr_125474]

The quote above is apt, even now with the impact of COVID-19 around the world. Change is inevitable, yet in spite of technical advances, progress in medicine, education, engineering etc, one cannot change how people behave or interact with others. The most significant cultural factor is religion, and that of politics, two topics that arouses heated discussions no matter where you live. It is the former that led to Hypatia’s unfortunate demise.

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Painting of Hypatia of Alexandria by Julius Kronberg (1889). Image: Public Domain.

Meeting of the Intellects

Alexandria, since its founding by Alexander the Great in circa 331 BCE, was the centre of learning, attracting intellects, artists, scientists and many other disciplines from around the Mediterranean and beyond. It was a unique and beautiful city, and built on pagan religion. Many of the famous buildings that have echoed through time were commissioned by Ptolemy I, who was Alexander’s general and a Macedonian who adopted the Egyptian way of life, including marrying within the family. Unfortunately, this dynastic family died when Cleopatra committed suicide in 30 BCE.

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Source: https://www.realmofhistory.com/2020/01/07/animation-grandeur-ancient-alexandria-lighthouse/

The importance of education for all

Theon, Hypatia’s father, could be considered a futurist in educating his daughter in Mathematics and Philosophy and encouraging her interest in astronomy. His attitude may have been different if he had a son, who knows, however Hypatia was fortunate to have been educated. This was during a time when women were relegated to the back rooms of the house, wore veils if they ventured out of the home, and usually accompanied by a male relative or a slave. This control over women stemmed for a thousand years in Ancient Greece and across the Mediterranean world.

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Miss Julia Neilson as “Hypatia,” c. 1890. The British Museum, Prints and Drawings. Source: https://www.laphamsquarterly.org/roundtable/killing-hypatia

Book Review

Orders from Berlin by Simon Tolkein

The year is 1940 and the war in Europe is escalating, Germany has annexed France and Hitler is now focussing his attention on Britain and its leader, Winston Churchill. By removing the Prime Minister, Hitler believes Germany will win the war.

Head of the Gestapo and the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the intelligence unit of the SS, develops a plan to thwart the allies, and his target is Great Britain and her stalwart Prime Minister.

Doomed for being a woman

Many of you who have been following my blog will know of my first book Accursed Women, is about the plight of women in the ancient world. Even though the characters in the stories are fictional and based on mythical beings, the issues they faced and the lives they led were a reflection of the times. The stories were told by men who had a sexist view and lamented on the sexuality of women. Hesiod did not think highly of women as expressed in his Theogony and Works and Days.

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The “Pseudo-Seneca,” a bronze portrait head identified for a very long time as the Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger, but now believed to most likely be a fictional representation of Hesiod By Marie-Lan Nguyen (2011), CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16933531

A new book in the pipeline

First, I want to allay readers of the Servant of the Gods series that Book 3 will be finished by the end of the year (fingers crossed and everything else crossed as well!) More on that in future posts, but I wanted to tell you about a new historical novel I am researching. The idea for the story came to me after watching a movie. The film stayed with me for years following its release at the cinema and about 18 months ago I road-tested the story concept.

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Book Review

The Emerald Tablet by Meaghan Wilson Anastasios

What do Indiana Jones and Benedict Hitchens have in common? They are archaeologists who seem to get into a lot of trouble and caught up in the wrong crowd. This is the second book by Meaghan Wilson Anastasios with the character Benedict Hitchens, and I don’t think it will be the last. The Emerald Tablet is a contemporary Historical fiction novel with adventure and political mayhem added to the mix.