The uppercase form of the second letter of the Greek alphabet; pronounced “vetta” when reciting the Greek alphabet.


Babylon was the most magnificent and richest city of the ancient world.

The spectacular city straddled the Euphrates River and dominated western Asia from circa 2000-1000 BCE; as the capitol of an ancient empire, this city had no equal in size or material wealth; it was the pinnacle of culture and technical knowledge during the empire’s peak and was noted as the site of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, i.e. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

The historian, Herodotus, is thought to have visited Babylon but the details he gave as to the city’s size are thought to be exaggerated; Herodotus said that the walls of Babylon were over 300 feet (91 meters) in height, 85 feet (26 meters) in thickness and were made of bricks bound with asphalt; the city was in the shape of a square approximately 6 miles (10 kilometers) on each side which encompassed an area of 36 square miles (93 square kilometers).

Babylon was divided in half by the Euphrates River which provided for the various necessities required to sustain the enormous population; the city was virtually unassailable and, due to its reputation or its army, had never been captured by an aggressor; when threatened by an enemy, the Babylonians would retreat within their walls with enough supplies to withstand a siege lasting several years; this strategy worked until circa 535 BCE when the city was finally captured by the Persian king, Kyrus (Cyrus) the Great.

Kyrus stationed part of his army at the walls of the city where the Euphrates River penetrated the walls and took the remainder of his army upstream to divert the waters of the river so that the level of the water that flowed into the city would be lowered; when the water level was low enough, his army entered the city by means of the dried-up river bed; it was later reported by Aristotle, over a century after Herodotus, that the city was so large that it took two days for many of the Babylonian citizens to realize that the city had been captured.

After this first occupation by a foreign power, Babylon never again regained its independence and was thereafter doomed to be a mere “prize” as opposed to the most spectacular city ever realized in the ancient world.

Approximate east longitude 44.24 and north latitude 32.33.


Palioxis; the Spirit of Flight or Backrush, i.e. as in retreat in battle.


The eunuchs who served the Asiatic goddess, Kybele (Cybele).


An ancient prophet from Boeotia whose name became synonymous with male seers and prophets.

Bakkhae (1)

The priestesses or female attendants of Bakkhus (Bacchus) or the women who took part in the Bakkhanalia, i.e. a festival in honor of the god of Wine, Bakkhus.

Bakkhae (2)

A play by Euripides; produced posthumously, i.e. circa 406 BCE.

We do not have the complete text of this play and fifty or so lines have been added by various translators.

The play is a tragedy and dramatizes the return of the god of wine, Bakkhus (Bacchus) to the city of Thebes; the play begins with an optimistic mood but soon devolves into a bloody debacle of revenge and banishment.

Tragedies are supposed to be sad but this play seems to go beyond the bounds of human misery and tread on the borders of perverse wretchedness; during the course of the play, the god Bakkhus changes from a displaced and melancholy wanderer into a specter from the darkest reaches of the human soul; to satisfy Bakkhus, the founder of Thebes, Kadmus (Cadmus) and his wife Harmonia are turned into serpents and Kadmus’ daughter, Agave is banished because Bakkhus induced her to murder her son; all in all a very strange play.

I personally recommend the translations compiled by Richmond Lattimore and David Grene, Euripides V (ISBN 0226307840); you can find this and other plays by Euripides in the 882 section of your local library or you can order them from the Book Shop on this site which is linked to


A festival in honor of Bakkhus (Bacchus) that was fueled by wine which incited frenzy in the participants.

The Bakkhanalia was banned by the Romans in the second century BCE because of the depraved and wanton nature of the festivities.


The god of Wine; Bakkhus was originally called Dionysus.

Bakkhus gave grapes to mortals and is always in the company of nymphs.

Bakkhus was the son of Zeus and Semele; he was born prematurely and sewn into the thigh of Zeus and then reborn on the mountain of Nysa which is (according to the Homeric Hymn) in Phoenicia, near the streams of Aegyptus but Herodotus is more specific in saying that Nysa is in Ethiopia in Upper Egypt, i.e. the southern portion of Egypt


An ancient country in southwestern Asia in the area now known as Balkh in northern Afghanistan.

Baktria was conquered by Alexander the Great and ruled after his death as part of the Seleukid (Seleucid) Empire; the area was agriculturally prosperous and extensively developed as a Greek enclave in an otherwise Asian environment; circa 130 BCE the area was overrun by invaders from Iran and all Greek influence ended.


Balios and his brother, Xanthos (Xanthus), are the famed sons of Podarge and were the immortal horses of Akhilleus (Achilles).

Balkan Peninsula

The peninsula of southeastern Europe which culminates in the Greek mainland and the Peloponnesian Peninsula; bounded by the Adriatic and Ionian seas on the west, the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas on the south and the Euxine (Black Sea) on the east.


A cleft in the rock face behind the Akropolis (Acropolis) at Athens into which convicted criminals were thrown to their death.


The root of our word Barbarian; it literally means, “not Greek.”

The Greeks used the term to denote all foreigners but later writers used it exclusively to refer to the Persians.

It is humorous to note that in the tragedy, the Persians by Aeskhylus (Aeschylus), the Persians depicted in the play referred to themselves as barbarians.


A multi-stringed musical instrument similar to the lyre.


An ancient, inland city in Libya west of the city of Kyrene (Cyrene); near the site of modern Al Marj.


A city on the western-central Peloponnesian Peninsula 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of the city of Olympia.

Approximate east longitude 21.85 and north latitude 37.41.


Worshipers of Dionysus; the name is derived from the word for Fox; whether this term referred to the dress or the nature of the worshipers is not clear.


Omados or Homados; the Spirit of Tumult or Battle-Noise.

Battle of Frogs and Mice

A comic poem usually ascribed to Hesiod or Homer and is usually included in the classification of Homerica; the poem consists of 333 lines and assumed to date from the seventh century BCE.

The Battle of Frogs and Mice is a delightful parody of the epic battle scenes of The Iliad, complete with speeches and posturing.

After a misunderstanding, the Frogs and Mice don their battle-gear and fight until the Immortals intervene and stop the war; when Zeus asked Athene (Athena) to stop the war she replied that she most certainly would not because during her travels the Mice ruined her clothes by nibbling at them and the Frogs kept her awake all night with their croaking.

The poem is brilliant in its simplicity and truly does comic justice to the epic style; the Battle of Frogs and Mice is included in the Loeb Classical Library volume 57 (ISBN 0674990633); you can sometimes find this book at your local library or you can order it through the Book Shop on this site which is linked to


Hysminai; the children of Eris (Discord).

Baukis (1)

An aged Phrygian peasant woman who, with her husband Philemon, offered hospitality to Zeus and Hermes as they wandered the countryside disguised as mortals; as a reward for their good deed they were saved from a flood and turned into trees.

Baukis (2)

The subject of a lost poem by a young woman named Erinna from the small island of Telos.

Erinna loved a young man named Baukis but he either married someone else or died before he and Erinna could consummate their love.

Bay of Pylos
Bay of Pilos

The body of water which lies off the southwestern coast of the Peloponnesian Peninsula near the city of Pylos; the site of an important victory by the Athenians over the Spartans in 425 BCE during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BCE).

Bear Island

Although not really an island, the peninsula of Kyzikos is often called Mount of Bears as well as Bear Mountain.

Kyzikos is a peninsula which juts into the Propontis (Sea of Marmara) from the Phrygian mainland north of the Aisepos river; a six-handed race called the Earthborn dwell on Bear Island; the Earthborn were the aboriginal descendants of Poseidon (lord of the Sea).

Also, the Doliones live on Bear Island and were ruled by king Kyzikos (Cyzicos); the Argonauts were guests of the Doliones but, after they left Bear Island, they lost their way in the darkness and were blown off course; when they accidentally returned to Bear Island the Doliones mistakenly thought that the Earthborn warriors were attacking them and gave battle; during the confusion of the night-fight, Iason (Jason) killed king Kyzikos.


In The Iliad, Homer tells the tale of Bellerophontes in a battlefield dialogue between the Greek hero, Diomedes, and the Trojan ally, Glaukos (Glaucus).

Glaukos was the grandson of Bellerophontes and the namesake of Bellerophontes’ father; Bellerophontes was blessed by the Immortals with beauty and manly stature but, while he was in the city of Argos, he offended the king’s wife, Anteia, when he refused her seductive advances; Anteia lied and told Proetus, her husband and the king of Argos, that Bellerophontes had tried to force himself on her; Proetus was furious but was too scrupulous to kill Bellerophontes; he sent Bellerophontes from Argos with a message to the ruler of Lykia (Lycia); the message said simply, Kill this messenger.

For nine days, the lord of Lykia entertained Bellerophontes; on the tenth day after Bellerophontes’ arrival he read the message and devised a plan for killing Bellerophontes without having to murder him; he sent Bellerophontes to kill a fire breathing she-beast called the Khimera (Chimera); Bellerophontes, with the flying horse, Pegasos (Pegasus), killed the Khimera.

The lord of Lykia then sent Bellerophontes to fight the Solymoi who Bellerophontes said were the most fierce fighters he had ever faced; Bellerophontes defeated the Solymoi and returned to Lykia.

Next the lord of Lykia sent Bellerophontes to slaughter the Amazons; upon his return from the slaughter of the Amazons, Bellerophontes was ambushed by the bravest fighters in Lykia; Bellerophontes killed all the soldiers that were sent against him and when he returned to Lykia, the lord was so impressed by this strong and god-like man that he gave up his desire to kill Bellerophontes and offered him his daughter in marriage.

The children of Bellerophontes were: Isandros, Laodameia and Hippolokhos (Hippolochos); Hippolokhos was the mother of the Trojan warrior, Glaukos; Bellerophontes lost the favor of the Immortals and spent his last days as a wanderer; later versions of this story say that Anteia was named Stheneboea and the lord of Lykia was named Iobates.


A descendant of the heifer-maiden, Io, and the father of Aegyptus and Danaus.

Before he died Belus gave Aegyptus all the land of the Nile Valley; to his son Danaus, Belus gave all the land of northern Africa west of Egypt which was known as Libya.


The name of Artemis in ancient Thrake (Thrace).


The ancient Greek personification of Force; the daughter of Pallas and the Okeanid, Styx; sister of Kratos (Cratos), i.e. Strength, Nike, i.e. Victory and Zelos, i.e. Rivalry.


The brother of Melampous (Melampus) and the father of the Argonauts: Areios, Leodokos (Leodocos) and Talaos.

Bias of Priene

(fl. 570 BCE) A widely respected Greek philosopher; born in the city of Priene in Ionia; he was always included as one of the Seven Sages.

Bion of Smyrna

A Greek pastoral poet (fl. 100 BCE); a resident of the island of Sicily where he died of poisoning; he is usually referred to as “a pastoral poet” but it is not certain if any of his work survives.

Bion the Borysthenite

A Greek philosopher and orator (circa 325-246 BCE); his sharp wit and popularity earned him an income and a reputation that allowed him to travel and lecture; he is credited with the style of speaking called the diatribe, i.e. spoken address; his name comes from his place of birth, Olbia, near the Borysthenes River (now called the Dnieper).


A comic play by Aristophanes produced in 414 BCE at the Great Dionysia at the city of Athens; Aristophanes won second prize for this masterwork of comic indulgence; like most of Aristophanes’ comedies, this play is silly, dramatic and bitingly satirical.

The play revolves around the adventures of two Athenian men who left Athens in search of a bird-utopia where there were no corrupt politicians or wars; they both bought birds hoping that they would lead them to the abode of Tereus (the man who was turned into a hoopoe for the ill treatment of his wife, Prokne (Procne)).

The main character of this play is a clever man named Pisthetairos; he found Tereus in a state of severe feather loss and proceeded to convince the molting bird-man that if the birds would only unite, they could create their own dominion and rule over mortals and Immortals alike; a congregation of birds accepted Pisthetairos bizarre proposal and, using the talents of the various birds, built a walled city in the sky that would not allow commerce between heaven and earth, therefore denying the rule of the gods over the people of earth.

A variety of self appointed representatives from the earthbound people came to the bird city and demanded wings so that they might make the nation of birds as much like human civilization as possible; poets, prophets, priests, informers, politicians and a delinquent son all approached Pisthetairos and demand wings; he soundly beat and thrashed all of them while he explained their utter uselessness.

The chorus of the play is, of course, comprised of the Birds; they alternately accuse and praise the audience while they present rational arguments as to why the birds are in all ways superior to the human race; the goddess Iris arrived and was denounced by Pisthetairos; also, the great Immortal benefactor of the people of the earth, Prometheus, arrived to give Pisthetairos advice as to how he might successfully negotiate with the Olympian gods; a delegation arrived from Mount Olympos (Olympus) to sue for peace with the birds; the delegation is comprised of Poseidon, Herakles (Heracles) and a primitive god (who has recently come to reside on Mount Olympos because he is worshiped by the more base and stone-age minded politicians of Athens); Pisthetairos brokers a peace with the Immortals and the earth is saved from foolishness and folly (even though the play is itself a delightful exercise in foolishness and folly).

Aristophanes’ plays are sometimes difficult to appreciate because he was a very contemporary poet, i.e. he was writing for the Athenian audience of his day; he would use puns, parody regional accents and speak directly to the audience in ways that force modern translators to seek out the contextual meaning rather than the literal meaning of the poet’s words; for that reason, I suggest that if you find a translation that is difficult to enjoy, please don’t blame Aristophanes, simply look for a translation that you can enjoy; you may find this play at your local library in the 882 section or you can find a copy at which is linked to the Book Shop on this site.


The ancient name for the Khalkedon (Chalcedon) Peninsula which is located on the Asiatic side of the Bosporus strait.

Black-Figure Vase

A style of vase painting dating from the seventh century BCE where the silhouette figure (a scene from myths or of animals) was painted on an unfired vase with the details incised with a sharp tool so that after the vase was fired they would remain the color of the clay; red and white paints were sometimes used for details; this style was supplanted by the Red Figure vase style circa 530 BCE.

Black Sea

A body of water that was originally called Axenos (or Axine) by the ancient Greeks and then later called Euxine or Pontos Euxinus or simply Pontos; the word Axenos literally means, “an inhospitable place” but the name Euxine means, “kind to strangers.”

Approximately 178,000 square miles (461,018 square kilometers) in area.


The foul and evil accomplice of wretched mortals.


The goddess Ate; one of the daughters of Eris (Discord).

Ate is an ancient Greek goddess personifying the crimes caused by human recklessness and the divine punishment that surely follows; in The Iliad, Ate and the Litai, i.e. Prayers, are linked together; the Litai are described as old and feeble but Ate is strong and swift; the Litai follow Ate and, if called upon, heal the wounds that she inflicts; but if a person denies the Litai, they go to Zeus, their father, and insist that Ate be summoned to hurt and punish the unbeliever.

Ate is sometimes defined as the personification of Ruin but her name literally means Blindness.


In the city of Thebes, a magistrate akin to the office of polemarch.


A district in ancient Greece northwest of Athens; the capital was the city of Thebes.


A son of Arne and Poseidon (lord of the Sea); the progenitor of the inhabitants of Boeotia.


The constellation by the same name, which represents “a plowman;” from the Greek word Bootein, i.e. to plow.


The ancient Greek personification of the North Wind (perhaps more accurately, the North East Wind).

Boreas is one of the sons of Eos (Dawn) and Astraios; his brothers are: Zephyros (West Wind) and Notos (South Wind); the Athenians believed that Boreas married Oreithyia, the daughter of king Erekhtheus (Erechtheus); when the Persians invaded Greece in 480 BCE, the Athenians, in accordance with a prophecy they had been given, sacrificed to Boreas and Oreithyia so that the god and his wife would intervene and send a storm to stop the Persian navy; a supernatural storm assailed the Persians off the coast of Sepias and four hundred ships were lost; as thanks for his help, the Athenians built a shrine to Boreas on the river Ilissus.

There are two types of winds: 1) the divinely created winds, i.e. Boreas (North Wind), Notos (South Wind), Zephyros (West Wind) and the Etesian winds, and 2) the ill-favored winds that were created by the monster, Typhoeus, when Zeus imprisoned him under the earth; the divinely created winds nourish and bless the earth but the winds of Typhoeus are wild and destructive.


A river in Skythia (Scythia) now called the Dnieper; approximately 1,400 miles (2,253 kilometers) in length, it flows into the northern-most portion of the Euxine (Black Sea).


The narrow water passage, 18 miles (29 kilometers) long, connecting the Euxine (Black Sea) and the Propontis, i.e. Sea of Marmara, and separating European Turkey from Asian Turkey.

Also called the Dardanelles Strait which was named after Dardanos (Dardanus), the ancestor of the Trojans.


The eldest son of Laomedon; consort of the water nymph, Abarbare; the father of the twins, Pedasos and Aisepos; the half-brother of Hesione, Priam and Tithonos.

His name may also be rendered as Bukolion or Bucolion.


He and his brother, Erybotes, were the sons of Teleon and both brothers became Argonauts.

After the Argonauts had successfully captured the Golden Fleece and were making their perilous voyage home, Boutes and Erybotes could not resist the call of the Sirens as the Argo sailed past the island of Anthemoessa; the two heroes jumped overboard and would have died on the rocky shore if Aphrodite (goddess of Love) had not plucked them from the sea and transported them safely to Libya.


A city on the coast of Attika (Attica) east and slightly south of Athens; site of the festival for Artemis held every four years.

Approximate east longitude 24.02 and north latitude 37.92.


Briareos and his brothers, Kottos (Cottos) and Gyes, are three of the most terrible creatures ever to be produced by Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos (the Heavens).

Briareos and his brothers have fifty heads and fifty arms sprouting from their massive shoulders.

The Immortals use the name Briareos to name him but mere mortals call him Aigaios’ son.

When Briareos and his brothers were in the womb of Gaia, Ouranos would not let them be born; when they attempted to come out, Ouranos would push them back inside; it wasn’t until the Titan, Kronos (Cronos), attacked and wounded his father, Ouranos, that the brothers were allowed to be free; Gaia made a sickle of flint and begged for one of her Titan children to attack Ouranos but only Kronos came to her aid; Kronos laid in ambush for his father and struck him down with the flint sickle; the three fifty-headed brothers were allowed to escape Gaia’s womb and the blood of Ouranos created the Furies, the Giants, the Nymphs of the Ash Trees and the goddess of Love, Aphrodite.

Kronos had helped his mother, Gaia, free Briareos and his monstrous brothers but he feared their strength and was jealous of their beauty so he imprisoned them under the earth where they remained until the war between the Titans and the Olympians began.

Zeus, the son of Kronos, brought Briareos and his brothers back into the light and gave them nektar (nectar) and ambrosia to renew their vitality; Briareos, Kottos and Gyes joined the Olympians in the war against the Titans.

After ten years of war, Zeus let loose all his fury and the earth and heavens trembled under his thunderbolts; at that moment, Briareos, Kottos and Gyes bombarded the rebel Titans with three-hundred boulders that buried them, thus ending the war.

Long after the war with the Titans, Thetis summoned Briareos to Mount Olympos (Olympus) to keep Hera, Poseidon (lord of the Sea) and Pallas Athene (Athena) from binding Zeus; when Briareos ascended Mount Olympos he simply sat beside Zeus and his fierce presence deflected all thoughts of aggression.

Briareos was wedded to the daughter of Poseidon, Kymopolea (Cymopolea).

Briareos is also referred to as Obriareos.


A queen among the dead.

During the adventures of Iason (Jason) and the Argonauts, the priestess of the goddess Hekate (Hecate), Medea, mixed a potion from the blood-like ikhor (ichor) that Prometheus had shed while he was chained to the Caucasus Mountains; she called upon “Brimo of the underworld, queen among the dead, night-wandering Brimo” to make the potion effective.


The daughter of Briseus; a young girl who was taken as a slave by the Greeks during the ninth year of the siege of the city of Troy.

Briseis was awarded to Akhilleus (Achilles) as a “prize” but when the leader of the army, Agamemnon, took her from Akhilleus, the two men began a long and bitter feud; Akhilleus swore that he and his troops would not fight for Agamemnon and that no apology or act of contrition could end the dispute.

Finally, when the Greeks were being overwhelmed by the Trojans, Agamemnon offered to return Briseis to Akhilleus with many other gifts including one of his daughters and a part of his kingdom; Akhilleus refused these offers until his life-long friend, Patroklos (Patroclus), was killed by the Trojans; at that point, he accepted Briseis and the other gifts that Agamemnon offered, although they meant nothing to him, donned his armor and entered the battle.


One of the cyclops; one of the sons of Gaia (Earth); he and his brothers, Steropes and Arges, forge the thunderbolts for Zeus; his name means, Thunderer.


The Iliad and The Odyssey took place at the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age; the use of bronze came to different parts of the world at different times but, in Greece, the Bronze Age is considered to be roughly 3000-1200 BCE.

Bronze was a quantum leap in metallurgy because it required very hot furnaces and the combination of copper (which was relatively easy to obtain) and tin (which was not native to Greece or anywhere nearby); metals such as gold, silver and copper can be found in a relatively pure state and can be easily molded and cast whereas bronze is a combination of eighty percent copper and twenty percent tin and requires a great deal of preparation and forethought; the tin used for the production of Greek bronze was obtained from either the British Isles or from islands in the Indian Ocean.


The Egyptian goddess who was known as Artemis by the Greeks.


One of the six tribes that comprised the original Medes; the other five tribes were: Arizanti, Busae, Magi, Paratakeni (Parataceni) and Strukhates (Struchates).


The horse of Alexander the Great; the word generally means Bull-Headed and was the common epithet for the horses of Thessaly.


One of the six tribes that comprised the original Medes; the other five tribes were: Arizanti, Budii, Magi, Paratakeni (Parataceni) and Strukhates (Struchates).


A city on the European side of the Bosporus Strait; founded in 657 BCE by colonists from Megara at the advice of the oracle at Delphi.


A son of Poseidon (lord of the Sea) and the eponymous founder of Byzantium.



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