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Category Archives: Weird and Wonderful

The five strangest deaths of the philosophers

The greatest philosophers of the ancient world were celebrated not just for their voluminous writings on arcane topics, but also for their eccentric lives and witty sayings. They were geniuses, and yet were also remembered as charismatic oddballs. Perhaps, then, it’s not surprising that there were so many bizarre tales about the means of their deaths.  Below I’ve selected what seemed to be the five most incredible tales of the deaths of the philosophers, all dutifully recorded by the gossiper and historian Diogenes Laertius in his Lives of the Philosophers.

5. Empedocles, 484-424 BC
Jumped into a volcanic crater.

When-Lava-Meets-Ocean-by-Tom-Kualii-2

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Romans paint better perspective than Renaissance artists

Fresco from the Villa of Publius Fannius Synistor, second-style wall painting, preserved by ash in 79 AD

Fresco from the Villa of Publius Fannius Synistor, second-style wall painting, preserved by ash in 79 AD

Visitors who see this fresco at the Met museum are often amazed at what seems to be a pre-Renaissance understanding of perspective. One visitor wrote that this “looks like an entire city–perspectivally rendered! The Middle Ages lost those lessons on perspective for sure.”

The statement picks up on a very common triumphalist attitude towards perspective. Perspective is a lesson to be learned by all good art students, it is the golden standard of realism, and the Renaissance Masters either discovered it or rescued it, after the utter ignorance of the Middle Ages.

But what do we mean by “perspective”? Did the Romans use linear perspective? And is the linear model really the best anyone could come up with?

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Bird feeds chicks her own blood

So I was flicking over a manuscript in a digital collection, and saw a scene of Adam and Eve in Paradise. I looked up and saw birds in the trees.

'Holkham Bible Picture Book,' British Library, Add MS 47682, Folio 3v

‘Holkham Bible Picture Book,’ British Library, Add MS 47682, Folio 3v

And I thought, that’s beautiful. I love birds.

But then I saw blood…

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