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Tag Archives: folklore

The Weasel in Antiquity: Pet or Pest?

Hand colored engraving, published in Edinburgh, 1838. (Source: Art Resource)

Least Weasels. Hand colored engraving, published in Edinburgh, 1838. (Source: Art Resource)

It’s a nice time for a light-hearted piece, and I’ve been dying to write this article for a while. It’s about pet weasels in antiquity. A surprising amount of respectable scholarship all the way from 1718 to 1997 has claimed that the Greeks and Romans kept tame weasels as household pets. At the very least, there is good evidence that weasels lived and nested in the houses of ancient Greeks and Romans. But to claim that weasels were kept as tame, domesticated pets requires more evidence from the sources than simply evidence that they wandered around in human houses. This article will examine the evidence for the taming of various members of the weasel family. Remarkably, the marten seems to have been tamed at least once before Aristotle. There is also evidence that the polecat, the ancestor of our ferret, was tamed for hunting purposes by at least the first century AD. But what of the little red creatures we know and love as “weasels”? Were they pets or pests in the eyes of the Greeks and Romans?

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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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