Adonis Diaries

Author Archive

Patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper? I thought senses degrade by Patience of growing age?

By: Erik Rittenberry

We live in a shallow society which is why so many people are so petty and spiritually depleted.

Complainers, ranters, “success” hounds, mall shoppers, status seekers, political junkies, media consumers, outrage sniffers, money lovers, “hustle and grind” gurus — Christ, the circus of the modern world is endless.

Very few people understand what it means to simply BE. To be aware. To be madly alive with the brief time given to them.

Fear is born out of continuously kneeling at the altar of security. Freedom is sacrificed for comfort which is why so many of us in contemporary society become mere cogs in the machinery of life.

Is there any wonder why more and more people today are suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression?

Our inherent genius and curiosity seemed to be etched out of many of us at a very early age.

And we seem to be proud of it. Our minds are tethered to our conditioning and belief systems and we become chained to the manufactured ideals of culture.

We become like the majority who find their identities in careers and possessions and status—the dominant values of the modern world.

We are people who seem to be solely concerned with “having” and “appearing” a certain way to appease society. It’s an empty mode of existence. (Though the busiest of modes)

American physician and psychotherapist, Dr. Alexander Lowen, observed that “few people in our culture have the courage to be themselves. Most people adopt roles, play games, wear masks, or put up facades. They do not believe that their genuine self is acceptable.” (If the faked Self is compassionate and kind, then it is much better than the original that actuallly is blurred to him)

Lowen believed this mode of being was inevitable in a technological culture where people’s “values are sacrificed for money and power.” (As in all periods and cultures?)

When one abandons authenticity, Lowen points out, they become “tormented by the contradiction between the inner reality and the outer facade.” (They are Not conscious of what ail them because they are confused of who they are)

This is where we’re at.

But friends let me tell you, on your deathbed, the blues skies and the birds and the wind in the trees will be immensely more significant than your retirement account.

Be. Alive. Now.

As the great writer, Llewelyn Powys once said, “We should grow less involved in society and more deeply involved in existence.”

To live in the mode of “BEING” instead of the fruitless manner of “HAVING” is to be active, not in the mindless busy sense, but inner activity, to give expression to one’s own deep-seated yearnings and talents.

To renew yourself daily, to grow, to learn, to be in forever search of the sublime.  

Do dangerous things. Uncivilize a bit. Explore the natural world. Forget about your reputation. Put your bare feet on the earth. Be astonished. Create something.

It was the great Jiddu Krishnamurti who once reminded us:

“It is very important to go out alone, to sit under a tree—not with a book, not with a companion, but by yourself—and observe the falling of a leaf, hear the lapping of the water, the fishermen’s song, watch the flight of a bird, and of your own thoughts as they chase each other across the space of your mind.

If you are able to be alone and watch these things, then you will discover extraordinary riches which no government can tax, no human agency can corrupt, and which can never be destroyed.”

By: William Faulkner

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it.

There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? (Almost every day, there is a shooting in schools)

Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. (If the writer is Not emotionally deficient)

He must learn them again. (Meaning try hard to acquire emotional Intelligence?)

He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.

Until he does so, he labors under a curse.

He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man.

It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

I refuse to accept this. (Too long a sentence to comprehend what he refuses to accept)

I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. (He did prevail at the expense of most other living species and he defeated his survival process)

He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. (Not convincing: Not hungry big beasts care for the babies of other animal species)

The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past.

The poet’s voice needs not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.


Archeological evidence in the Lavant region of the Middle East (Crossroad to cultural mingling) points to a past where Neanderthals and Homo sapiens co-existed, and likely interbred early in our origin story, for over 100,000 years.

By Sara Novak Feb 22, 2022

We’ve long thought that Homo sapiens outlived Neanderthals because we were more intelligent.

Essentially, modern humans entered the scene some 200,000 years ago, then quickly dominated and began our reign at the top of the food chain. Neanderthals were supposedly pushed to extinction by human gumption, and that’s why we survive today.

According to archeologists, this high-handed, simplified version of our human origin is likely untrue.

Experts in this field point to a much cloudier view of our evolutionary past based on the rich Stone Age archeology of the Levant, which encompasses the Mediterranean shores of the Middle East today.

It’s likely that this temperate meld of coastal plain and hill country was actually home to a melting pot of Neanderthals and H. sapiens who lived together for more than 100,000 years, according to Erella Hovers, a professor of prehistoric archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“I don’t believe that there was a big barrier separating these two groups in the Levant,” says Hovers. “It’s more likely that small groups of both H. sapiens and Neanderthals were constantly moving in and out of the area, and coexisting peacefully.”

They were both hunting and gathering populations. Neanderthals moved back and forth to Europe, where they originally evolved; H. sapiens moved back and forth to Africa for the same reason. Hovers says that it’s unlikely that when one group moved through, the other would exit.

“It’s not like they were playing musical chairs and when one group came in the other would leave. When they were in the Levant, these groups likely had territories and were separate but they would probably come in contact with each other from time to time,” she says.

She adds that this prehistoric gathering place was no accident. Both groups ended up in the Levant because it was a favorable place to live that linked Africa to Asia. Its mild climate cultivated ample flora and fauna for feasting.

More Alike Than Different

Research does not solidify whether these communities co-existed at a certain moment in time. But, says Hovers, when you compare fossils from Neanderthal archeological dig sites and H. sapiens dig sites, the dating is similar, suggesting it would make sense that the groups lived together contemporaneously.

What’s more, the material culture of each group is indistinguishable — they seemed to use similar tools and burial customs. Both hunted with spear-like weapons and ate foods like deer, gazelles, pigs and wild cows. It’s actually hard to tell which material culture belonged to which group, unless you find a fossil specimen right beside a weapon or tool.

Neanderthals would have looked different from H. sapiens, but not that different. 

Research has shown Neanderthals had a relatively short and stocky build, an arched brow and protruding jawbones. But according to Hovers, the appearance was not so shocking that they never got together with humans. 

Paleo-genetic evidence has suggested that early Neanderthal and H. sapiens interbreeding most likely happened in the Levant. We can’t know whether such sexual encounters were forced or coercive, and it’s impossible to know what the different groups thought of each other.

Hovers says “These were two viable and fertile groups with no reproductive separation between the two populations.”

Why Neanderthals Eventually Went Extinct

H. sapiens and Neanderthals lived together for thousands of years before Neanderthals went extinct. But, according to anthropologist Oren Kolodny, it wasn’t because of brains. “The material cultures were too similar for it to be the result of intelligence,” he says.

Research has shown that diseases were a likely culprit

H. sapiens might have brought diseases up from Africa and spread them to a Neanderthal population that had few defenses. According to 2019 research published in Nature Communications, “an asymmetry of disease burden in the contact zone might have favored modern humans, who arrived there from the tropics.”

Coexistence likely flourished longer in the Levant because Neanderthals and H. sapiens interbred and therefore Neanderthals adopted some of the immune system defenses that would protect them longer than in other parts of the world.

No matter what caused their end, these two analogous populations likely lived alongside each other for 100,000 years or more before they parted ways.

So, the next time you denounce someone for being a Neanderthal, remember they just might be your distant relative’s neighbor. And because they interbred, you yourself are a teeny-tiny bit of a Neanderthal.

Read More: How Humans Survived the Ice Age

Jessica Buxbaum

15 May, 2023

Over 180 Palestinian villages that were destroyed in 1948 are now Israeli recreational sites or national parks, with environmentalism used to conceal the history of the Nakba

In 1967, Israel expelled the residents of Imwas, a Palestinian village northwest of Jerusalem that was captured during the Six-Day War, and demolished the town.

Today its remains — along with three other villages — are buried under non-indigenous eucalyptus and oak trees as part of Ayalon Canada Park, with barely a trace of its former inhabitants’ lives left.

More than 180 Palestinian villages, whose residents (over 800,000) were displaced during the 1947-48 ethnic cleansing of Palestine known as the Nakba or ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic, are now Israeli recreational sites.

After the state of Israel was established in 1948, government agencies and “non-profit organisations” – like the Jewish National Fund (JNF) – began turning depopulated Palestinian villages into green spaces, under the Zionist myth that colonisation was “making the desert bloom”.

“The fact that some of these forests have no names, are not cared for, nor accessible for hiking or any kind of activities, shows that their sole purpose is to actually just take over the land and cover up the remains of the villages [and] to prevent the refugees’ return,Najwan Berekdar, media and advocacy director at Zochrot, an NGO promoting recognition of the Nakba in Israeli society, told The New Arab.

Haider Abu Gosh, who was expelled from Imwas when he was 14 years old, acknowledged how many of the village’s residents-turned-refugees can’t even visit the land that was once theirs.

“This park became a recreation area for the Israeli Jews or anyone who can get there,” Abu Gosh said. “Unfortunately, the people from the village who are still living in the West Bank can’t get there.”

After being displaced, Abu Gosh grew up in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Today he’s only able to access his land because he received Israeli citizenship when he married a Palestinian woman with Israeli citizenship.

The Palestinian village of Lifta, west of Jerusalem, was depopulated by Zionist militias in 1948. [Getty]

The JNF’s role in hiding history

Created in 1901 during the Zionist Congress in Switzerland, the JNF was tasked with buying land in Palestine for Jewish settlement.

The process was typically done through absentee landlords, but when Palestinians became aware of the JNF’s efforts in the 1920s, they refused to sell their land to the organisation. The JNF then turned to more insidious methods of acquiring land, like recruiting Palestinians to buy plots for the fund.

By Israel’s founding, almost 90 per cent of Palestinian land seized during the Nakba was transferred to state and JNF ownership under Israeli military orders and legislation.

“The JNF did not only play a role in the displacement of Palestinians in ’48. They continue to play that role today

Noga Kadman, an Israeli tour guide and author of Erased from Space and Consciousness: Israel and the Depopulated Palestinian Villages of 1948, explained that the JNF initiated its forestation campaign to make Palestine resemble the European nations Zionist settlers arrived from. But after 1948, planting trees became a way to conceal Palestinian history.

“[Parks’ authorities] ignore the villages altogether,” Kadman said, describing how the signs rarely mention the area was once a Palestinian village unless it relates to nature, such as the villages’ orchards being absorbed into the park.

“They present the villages as violent against Jews or Israelis or as a destination for occupation without talking about them also as civil places where families used to live,” Kadman said. “They never describe the real reasons why those places are empty now.”

Kadman explained that the information presented in these parks serves to reinforce the false narrative of a country with a Jewish majority.

“It’s part of the mechanism to shape the Israeli awareness or lack of awareness to the full story of the history and geography in the country,” Kadman said.

Israeli police detain a young woman as Palestinian Bedouins protest in the southern Israeli village of Sawe al-Atrash in the Negev, or Naqab, desert against a forestation project by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), on 12 January 2022. [Getty]

A Nakba never finished

The JNF’s forestation campaign hasn’t ended, Zochrot’s Berekdar emphasised, explaining how erasure through environmentalism is ongoing.

“The JNF did not only play a role in the displacement of Palestinians in ’48,” Berekdar said. “They continue to play that role today.”

The JNF is currently pushing Jewish-only development in Palestinian-heavy areas like the Galilee and the Naqab (or Negev desert, where a village was demolished over 150 times in order to force the “bedouins” to transfer)).  

“In almost every Palestinian locality or in every JNF park that we’ve visited, we can see cactuses. And that tells us that there has been a Palestinian village here”

 “These projects are being built in order to transfer more Palestinians and to take over more land,” Berekdar said.

“The idea is not only to prevent Palestinians from taking this land, or from purchasing land and expanding. The idea is also to take away the land as much as possible from people who might then request to get back the land.”

While many Palestinian refugees are blocked from returning home, Abu Gosh often visits his former village now to explain the land’s history to journalists and tourists, but returning isn’t easy.

“Even after more than 50 years, still I get worried. And sometimes it’s even difficult to stop myself from crying,” Abu Gosh said. “I don’t like it but I have to go just to speak about what happened.”

Despite Israel wiping out Palestinian memories, the land is as resilient as its people and little pockets of Palestine creep through.

“In almost every Palestinian locality or in every JNF park that we’ve visited, we can see cactuses. And that tells us that there has been a Palestinian village here,” Berekdar said. “If you look closely around, there are things that can help you tell it was Palestinian land.”

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist covering Palestine and Israel. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The National, and Gulf News.

Follow her on Twitter: @jess_buxbaum

In Masafer Yatta, the Nakba is ongoing. Jessica Buxbaum

75 years after the Nakba, Palestinians still dream of return. Rami Almeghari

By: Fernando Pessoa

If, after I die, they want to write my biography,
There is nothing more simple.
There are only two dates – the one of my birth and that of my death.
Between the two every day things are mine.

I’m pretty easy to define.
I saw myself as a fool.
I loved things without any sentimentality.
I never had a desire that I couldn’t realise, because I never blinded myself.

Even hearing was never to me but an accompaniment to sight.
I realised that things are real and all are different from each other;
I realised this with my eyes never by thought.
Understanding this by thought finds them all alike.

One day she made me sleep like a child.
I closed my eyes and I was sleeping.
Beyond that, I was the one poet of Nature.

Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935), the Portuguese poet, literary critic, and essayist, is one of the most significant literary figures of the twentieth century.

He wrote not only under his own name but under over a hundred others (including Alexander Search, Alberto Caeiro, Álvaro de Campos, Ricardo Reis, and Bernardo Soares).

You can find this poem in one of my favorite all-time books of poetry— A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe: Selected Poems

By: Albert Camus

Find meaning. 
Distinguish melancholy 
from sadness. 

Go out for a walk. 

It doesn’t have to be a 
romantic walk in the park, 
spring at its most 
spectacular moment, 
flowers and smells 
and outstanding poetical 
imagery smoothly transferring
you into another world. 

It doesn’t have to be a walk 
during which you’ll have 
multiple life epiphanies 
and discover meanings 
no other brain ever managed 
to encounter. 

Do not be afraid of spending 
quality time by yourself. 

Find meaning 
or don’t find meaning 
but 'steal' some time and 
give it freely and exclusively 
to your own self. 

Opt for privacy and solitude. 

That doesn’t make you antisocial 
or cause you to reject the 
rest of the world. 

But you need to breathe. 
And you need to be.

This colonial of self-defence distortion of the historical events of 1948

Partition plan of UN in 1947: The Palestinian population objected to partitioning their homeland and losing 56% of it to a Jewish minority, most of whom arrived as immigrants from abroad..

Note: All Kings and Presidents of “Arab symbolic armies” were appointed by the colonial powers that partitioned the Near East.

Even though, the Palestinians defeated the Zionists army in every battle they waged, until resources in ammunition were stopped and no logistic arrived..

Muhammad Shehada

15 May, 2023

As the 75th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba/‘Catastrophe’ is marked on Monday at the United Nations, pro-Israel advocates have been pushing an alternative version of historical events that positions Israel as the victim and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as self-inflicted.

This Israeli narrative contends that as soon as David Ben-Gurion declared the independence of the Jewish state on 14 May 1948 then 5 major “Arab” armies invaded historic Palestine to wage – along with the Palestinians – a “war of annihilation” against Israel and “push Jews into the sea”.

The narrative goes that outnumbered Israelis defended themselves and won the war, and in the process, Palestinians fled their homes.

“These are foundational narratives for Israeli Jews and also Diaspora Jews – they are taken as obvious truth,” Dr Yair Wallach, historian, and senior lecturer in Israeli studies at SOAS, told The New Arab.

“They connect 1948 (and Israel) with the Jewish memory of persecution; they provide justification for what Israel did to Palestinians as ‘self-defence’; and it informs the understanding that Israel’s very existence is always in danger, and it is force and force only that guarantees the security of Israel.”

Prominent historians, including Israelis, have thoroughly documented how this narrative is inconsistent on multiple levels with what transpired on the ground.

They argue that the Arab armies sent to Palestine were outnumbered by the Israeli army and that the Arab armies’ goal was limited to preventing a Palestinian defeat and full ethnic cleansing, stopping refugee floods into their territories, and annexing some parts of historic Palestine to their states.

“It is clear that the Arab military effort was primarily directed at a failed attempt to save Palestinians,” Dr Wallach told The New Arab. “To be sure, there was also a rejection of partition and [an] attempt to prevent it, but the talk of ‘genocide’ has no basis whatsoever.”

Jordan, which had the strongest Arab army in the 1948 war, had actually accepted the 1947 UN partition plan of historic Palestine in secret meetings in 1947 with Golda Meir, then head of the Jewish Agency’s political department. In return, Jordan’s King Abdullah wanted to annex the Arab part to Jordan, according to the Israeli historian Benny Morris.

However, in the 45 days leading up to the 1948 war, Zionist militias in mandate Palestine carried out 13 offensive military operations including eight outside the borders of the area allotted to the Jewish state in the partition plan.

Zionist aggression included the infamous Deir Yassin massacre on 9 April, which played a central role in spreading fear and terror among Palestinians.

After this massacre, Jordan’s king came under pressure to act. But even then, he secretly met with Golda Meir again and offered full Jewish autonomy under his rule after he annexed historic Palestine, which she rejected. “He is going to this business [that is, war] not out of joy or confidence, but as a person who is in a trap and can’t get out,” Golda Meir later stated.

Even when the Jordanian army entered Palestine, the King’s goal was only to fight in the Arab part of partitioned Palestine “while trying to avoid war with the Yishuv and refraining from attacking the territory of the UN-defined Jewish state”, according to Morris.

A Palestinian woman walks past a mural in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on 15 May 2016 on the 68th anniversary of the Nakba. [Getty]

The Egyptians, who had the largest Arab army in the 1948 war, weren’t much different. The Egyptian prime minister was hesitant to go to war, and British agents intervened to convince the Egyptian king to send troops to Palestine.

King Farouk’s main motives were to prevent the Jordanian king from claiming leadership of the Arab struggle and potentially capture southern Palestine for Egypt, according to the Israeli historian Efraim Karsh.

The Egyptian troops he sent into Palestine were relatively symbolic, and their first communiqué from Cairo described their mission as “merely a punitive expedition against the Zionist ‘gangs’” as later recounted by the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Furthermore, the Lebanese army decided not to take part in the war at the very last minute because of Maronite objections after they reached a secret agreement with David Ben-Gurion who offered them financial bribes, according to the Israeli historian Yoav Gelber.

Syria was primarily interested in capturing northern Palestine, while Iraq’s leaders were eager to bring the Fertile Crescent region under its leadership, according to Karsh.

Iraqi troops that crossed into the northern West Bank quickly became “stationary” in the triangle of Jenin, Tulkarem, and Nablus.  Karsh argued the Iraqis were “notorious for their idleness before the truce”.

The Palestinian population objected to partitioning their homeland and losing 56% of it to a Jewish minority, most of whom arrived as immigrants from abroad. Palestinians argued that the UN partition plan violated the principle of self-determination, and Arab leaders rhetorically echoed this call. But opposing partition didn’t mean opposing all Jewish presence in Palestine.

Dr Wallach told The New Arab that “the official Palestinian position (in 1946-7) was that recent migrants (about a third of the Jews) would have to leave Palestine”. He argues that, nonetheless, this opposition to recent Jewish migrants fed into an “existential” fear amongst Israelis.

However, Prof. Gelber asserts that the Arab regimes’ goal “was not and could not be ‘pushing Jews into the sea’,” and argues that their “propagandist slogans” and rhetoric were aimed at “mobilizing domestic support for lame politicians”.

How Israel is erasing the Nakba through nature. Jessica Buxbaum

By: Theodore Roethke

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood--
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks--is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is--
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

The Romantic period was one of the most innovative in music history, characterised by lyrical melodies, rich harmonies, and emotive expression.

Here’s our beginner’s guide to the greatest composers of the Romantic period

Hector Berlioz (1803-69)

Hector Berlioz’s life was all you’d expect – by turn turbulent and passionate, ecstatic and melancholic.

Key recording:

Les Troyens 

Sols incl DiDonato, Spyres, Lemieux; Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra / John Nelson (Gramophone‘s 2018 Recording of the Year) Read the review

Explore Berlioz:

Hector Berlioz: music’s great revolutionary – Tim Ashley is joined by four great advocates of the composer to celebrate the self-taught, revolutionary musician whose eccentric genius is only now being fully recognised.

Fryderyck Chopin (1810-49)

Few composers command such universal love as Fryderyck Chopin; even fewer still have such a high proportion of all their music in the active repertoire.

Yet he is the only great composer who wrote No symphonies, operas, ballets or choral works. His chief claim to immortality relies not on large scale works but on miniature forms.

Key recording:

Piano Concertos No 1 & 2 

Martha Argerich pf Montreal Symphony Orchestra / Charles Dutoit (winner of the Gramophone Concerto Award in 1999) Read the review

Explore Chopin:

The 10 greatest Chopin pianists – Stephen Plaistow recalls the illustrious recorded history of Chopin’s oeuvre and offers a personal view of great Chopin interpreters.

Robert Schumann (1810-56)

Robert Schumann is a key figure in the Romantic movement; none investigated the Romantic’s obsession with feeling and passion quite so thoroughly as him. Schumann died insane, but then some psychologists argue that madness is a necessary attribute of genius.

Key recording:

Symphonies Nos 1-4 

Chamber Orchestra of Europe / Yannick Nézet‑Séguin (Editor’s Choice, May 2014) Read the review

Explore Schumann:

Schumann’s symphonies: building a fantasy world – Philip Clark explores why Simon Rattle, Heinz Holliger, Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Robin Ticciati are immersing themselves in Schumann’s highly individual sound world.

Franz Liszt (1811-86)

Composer, teacher, Abbé, Casanova, writer, sage, pioneer and champion of new music, philanthropist, philosopher and one of the greatest pianists in history, Franz Liszt was the very embodiment of the Romantic spirit.

He worked in every field of music except ballet and opera and to each field he contributed a significant development.

Key recording:

‘Transcendental: Daniil Trifonov plays Franz Liszt’

Daniil Trifonov pf (Recording of the Month, October 2016; shortlisted for Instrumental Award 2017) Read the review

Explore Liszt:

Podcast: Benjamin Grosvenor on the piano music of Liszt – the young British pianist talks about his programme and how he came to the music of this piano Titan.

Richard Wagner (1813-83)

No composer has had so deep an influence on the course of his art, before or since.

Entrepreneur, philosopher, poet, conductor, one of the key composers in history and most remarkable men of the 19th century, Richard Wagner knew he was a genius. He was also an unpleasant, egocentric and unscrupulous human being.

Key recording:


Sols incl Jess Thomas, George London, Hans Hotter; Bayreuth Festival Chorus & Orchestra / Hans Knappertsbusch Read the review

Explore Wagner:

The Gramophone Collection: Wagner’s Ring – Mike Ashman visits the musical immortals and the younger gods of today to deliver his verdict on the complete Ring on record.

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

Giuseppe Verdi was never a theoretician or academic, though he was quite able to write a perfectly poised fugue if he felt inclined. What makes him, with Puccini, the most popular of all opera composers is the ability to dream up glorious melodies with an innate understanding of the human voice, to express himself directly, to understand how the theatre works, and to score with technical brilliance, colour and originality.

Key recording:


Sols incl Anja Harteros, Jonas Kaufmann, Ekaterina Semenchuk; Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia / Antonio Pappano (winner of the 2016 Gramophone Opera Award; Recording of the Month, Awards issue 2015) Read the review

Explore Verdi:

Verdi’s Otello: a guide to the best recordings – Richard Lawrence finds at least three very special Otellos, and some electric conducting.

Anton Bruckner (1824-96)

Anton Bruckner’s reputation rests almost entirely with his symphonies – the symphonies, someone said, that Wagner never wrote.

Key recording:

Symphony No 9

Lucerne Festival Orchestra / Claudio Abbado (Gramophone‘s 2015 Recording of the Year) Read the review

Explore Bruckner:

Top 10 Bruckner recordings – A beginner’s guide to the music of one of the great symphonic composers.

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)

Whatever the atmosphere he wanted to create, Giacomo Puccini’s sound world is unique and unmistakable with its opulent yet clear-cut orchestration and a miraculous fund of melodies with their bittersweet, tender lyricism.

His masterly writing for the voice guarantees the survival of his music for many years to come.

Key recording:


Sols incl Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Tito Gobbi; Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala Milan / Victor de Sabata Read the review

Explore Puccini:

Maria Callas: the Tosca sessions – Maria Callas’s famous 1953 Tosca, as Christopher Cook reveals for the first time, was riven by tension and driven by a relentless quest for perfection.

Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky (1840-93)

Tchaikovsky is the most popular of all Russian composers, his music combining some nationalist elements with a more cosmopolitan view, but it is music that could only have been written by a Russian.

In every genre he shows himself to be one of the greatest melodic fountains who ever lived.

Key recording:

Symphony No 6, Pathétique

MusicAeterna / Teodor Currentzis (Recording of the Month, January 2018) Read the review

Explore Tchaikovsky:

Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture: the complete guide – How audiences, performers and the composer himself have responded to this iconic and surprisingly controversial work, by Geoffrey Norris.

Johannes Brahms (1833-97)

One of the giants of classical music, Johannes Brahms appeared to arrive fully armed, found a style in which he was comfortable – traditional structures and tonality in the German idiom – and stuck to it throughout his life.

He was no innovator, preferring the logic of the symphony, sonata, fugue and variation forms.

Key recording:

Symphonies (Complete)

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The remains of more than 300 ancient warrior women have been unearthed over the years and more to be uncovered. Why scholars chose to ignore their history for decades?

By Joshua Rapp Learn Jul 23, 2021

Penthesilea was an epic warrior, the prodigy of none other than Otrera, the first queen of the Amazons, and Ares, the Greek god of violence and war.

Her battle skills were legendary, leading her to side with King Priam in the Trojan war, but she eventually came up against a larger force. Achilles defeated her after a very equally match struggle, according to Homeric tradition.

“As she’s dying, he takes off her helmet and falls in love with her,” says Adrienne Mayor, author of the book The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World.

Penthesilea was described as powerful Amazon queen — a group of fierce women warriors that matched men in strength and skills. They fought on horseback, were excellent with a bow and were great hunters.

Whether Penthesilea was a real, historical figure or not, the ancient Greeks were fascinated with the idea of strong female warriors. Heroes like Hercules and Theseus also fought Amazons — the latter even married Hippolyta, another Amazon queen and a sister of Penthesilea, and went with him to Athens. Amazons often figure on vases and other Greek crafts and artwork.

“Maybe it was a way for the Greeks, who had a very male-dominated society, to imagine what it would be like to have a society ruled by women,” Mayor says.

But no written testimony survived from the Amazons themselves, leading many to discount their existence — possibly due to a sexist belief that women couldn’t have fought and hunted like men. “For a long time historians and classical stories thought that the myths of amazon were just pure stories,” Mayor says.

At least until archaeological techniques began to advance starting in the 1970s, when a number of female warrior graves were identified in Central Asia that might well correspond to the legendary Amazonians.


Scythia-Parthia 100 BC

(Credit: DBachmann/CC-by-3.0/Wikimedia Commons)

The Greeks believed the fierce, horse-loving women came from exotic lands to the northeast of Greece, an area that many researchers now believe corresponded to Scythia — a vast territory stretching roughly from north of the Black Sea in the west to Mongolia in the east.

The Scythians weren’t a unified culture as such — the nomadic steppe tribes that lived in Scythia probably spoke a variety of different languages from roughly the 8th century B.C. to the end of the 5th century A.D, Mayor says.

A lot of graves had been discovered by archaeologists dating to this time in this huge region, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that archaeologists began to discover that some Scythians buried with weapons and horses were women.

Some had clear battle injuries, and some women were even buried together — one case in western Russia even seemed to display three generations in a shared tomb.

“[Women] were buried with the same honors as men, and with the same battle scars,” Mayor says.

She says that many of the early images the Greeks made of Amazons often portrayed them more like Greek women. But as time went on, the images began to portray Amazons that looked more like Scythians on horseback with bows, probably as the Greeks began to come into contact with the nomadic cultures of Scythia.

“They are dressed like the women we find in the graves,” Mayor says.

Conflicting Narratives

The Greeks weren’t the only ones who wrote about these women. Amazons were mentioned in texts from the Persians, Egyptians and Chinese, but their accounts differed a little.

The Scythians didn’t have their own writing system, so most of what we know of them comes from the other cultures that surrounded them. While some of these accounts may have some truth in them, most reflect more about the culture that wrote the account than the Scythian women themselves.

The narrative the Greeks used typically involved a male hero overcoming an Amazon, for example. “They couldn’t really imagine anything other than a zero sum game,” Mayor says. “The battles are always depicted as very suspenseful,” she adds. “Of course you’re not going to tell stories in Greece about foreign women beating your heroes.”

Persian, Chinese and Egyptian accounts told of conflicts and trade with Amazons but the stories are a little more realistic, with more evenly-matched fights that eventually resulted in alliances.

The Great Wall of China was built to keep nomadic tribes from the step. While the word “Amazon” itself first appears in Greek accounts, it’s not a Greek word, and some linguists believe the word may be linked to the Persian “Hamazon,” which means “warrior.”

Egyptian papyrus fragments tell a tale of an Egyptian king, Pedikhons, who fought an Amazon queen Serpot for three days before they become so exhausted they form an alliance.

“It’s very different from the ancient Greek society,” Mayor says.

These myths would persist for centuries — the Amazon River’s name even came from reports heard by European colonial explorers about egalitarian tribes in South America.

Ignoring History

Some Greek accounts were more believable than others — one myth holds that the women would cut off one of their breasts to facilitate spear throwing and drawing bowstrings. Some Amazon statues and other depictions still show one-breasted Amazons, but even ancient Greek historians disputed this idea as ridiculous, Mayor says.

The Greeks, as a predominantly male-dominated society, were fascinated by the concept of an egalitarian society, or even a female-ruled society. We haven’t yet necessarily found evidence that Scythians were all-female or female-ruled, but Mayor says that given the nature of Scythians, it’s possible some tribes had lost many men to battle, and may have been mostly female, at least temporarily.

For a long time, archaeologists wanted to ignore the Greek stories, writing them off as nothing more than fantasy. “I think male historians and classicists may well have discounted any kernels of truth in ancient Greek tales of Amazons due to sexism,” Mayor says.

Despite leading Greek historians and philosophers like Herodotus and Plato mentioning women in the Black Sea and Caucasus region living similarly to the mythical Amazons, Mayor wrote in a follow up email that some modern scholars “prefer to claim that Amazons were invented by Greeks to be defeated by male heroes, or that the Amazons were merely symbols of ‘others’ — ‘monstrous women who refuse to marry.’”

But Mayor says that more than 300 ancient warrior women have been unearthed dating to Scythian times in the past few decades. And more discoveries are likely.

“It is baffling to me that some scholars still hold this outdated opinion that Amazons were purely symbolic despite the archaeological discoveries of armed females across the steppes,” she says.

It’s unclear why the Scythians disappeared, if they ever really did—nomadic horse culture continued in parts of the region, just in different names—the Mongols are just one example.

“There were strong women among the steppe nomads during the time of Genghis Khan,” Mayor says.

The spread of Islam in many parts of what used to be Scythia starting in the 7th century may have affected the status of women in nomadic tribes in the area, but relics of egalitarianism persist even today in areas of Tajikistan and Kazakhstan,

Who Were the Ancient Scythians?




June 2023

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