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At its deepest core, Greek civilization was profoundly humanist, valuing free enquiry into the cause of events, the meaning and purpose of life, with humanity at the center of the moral universe. The Renaissance discovery of Classical Antiquity is a book by Roberto Weiss on how the Renaissance was partly caused by the rediscovery of classic antiquity.

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This included a confidence in human ability to decipher the mysteries of the universe, as well as a revival of classical art and medicine and science which itself resulted in the Enlightenment. The Art of the Renaissance, like that of the ancient world, celebrated the human form and threw off some of the constraints that Christianity had placed on art, regarding nudity as immoral.

The term "Classical antiquity" can be understood as how ancient Greek and Roman culture is viewed by their admirers from the more recent past. It remains a vision that many people in the twenty-first century continue to find compelling. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries reverence for classical antiquity was much greater in Western Europe and the United States than it is today.

Respect for the ancients of Greece and Rome affected politics, philosophy , sculpture , literature, theatre, education , and even architecture and sexuality. The study of classics at leading Universities was considered an elite subject. Classics in the academy today is a less prestigious subject, while classicism generally is less influential.

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However, the philosophy of Socrates , Plato and of others and the literary works of Homer and Virgil , the Histories of Herodotus continue to be respected, studied and analyzed and few students of philosophy or of literature would ignore the value of the legacy of the ancients to their discipline. In politics, the presence of a Roman Emperor was felt to be desirable long after the empire fell. This tendency reached its peak when Charlemagne was crowned "Roman Emperor" in the year , an act which led to the formation of the Holy Roman Empire.

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The notion that an emperor is a monarch who outranks a mere king dates from this period. In this political ideal, there would always be a Roman Empire, a state whose jurisdiction extended to the entire civilized western world. However, Athenian democracy would provide the model for the emergence of constitutional, parliamentary government although in Athens citizens represented themselves in the Assembly, while parliamentary government is representative—citizens elect delegates as their representatives in the legislature.

Epic poetry in Latin continued to be written and circulated well into the nineteenth century. John Milton and even Arthur Rimbaud got their first poetic education in Latin. Genres like epic poetry, pastoral verse, and the endless use of characters and themes from Greek mythology left a deep mark on Western literature. Large temple sanctuaries and cemeteries also attest to the growth of the city during the latter half of the 5th century BCE. During the 4th century BCE Tarentum government was dominated by Pythagorean thought Pythagoras had established his school further down the coast and one man, in particular, Archytas c.

The celebrated mathematician, Pythagorean and statesman was elected general seven times and probably forged an alliance with Syracuse , the powerful city-state in Sicily , which allowed Tarentum to expand further at a time when Dionysius I, the tyrant of Syracuse, was busy sacking cities in southern Italy. In the latter half of the 4th century BCE Tarentum fought to maintain its position of regional dominance and face the ever-rising threat of the Messapians and Lucanians by hiring mercenary armies, often led by generals from Sparta and Epirus.

Fortunately for Tarentum a powerful ally was on hand to save them from Roman occupation. The great general and king of Epirus, Pyrrhus, responded to a call for help from the city when it was under imminent Roman attack in BCE. Pyrrhus crossed the Adriatic with his army of 25, infantry and, employing 20 war elephants and a superior cavalry force of 3,, he won battles against Roman armies at Heraclea in BCE and Ausculum in BCE. More importantly for Tarentum, Pyrrhus was soon forced to leave the region and meet the increasing threat from Carthage to his interests in Sicily.

Tarentum, like most of the southern Italian cities, sided with Carthage but the acropolis and harbour of Tarentum were, nevertheless, occupied by Rome. Hannibal desperately sought a port from which his army could be resupplied from Africa but he could not take Tarentum and managed only to occupy the outer town. It was a short-lived rebellion and the city once again came fully under Roman control in BCE when it was captured by Quintus Fabius Maximus.

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Tarentum was left at the mercy of Rome. With its lands greatly reduced and governed directly by a Roman praetor, the city eventually regained its former status as a formal ally c. With the extension of the via Appia to Brundisium further to the south-east, Tarentum lost its position as the primary port in southern Italy. The city still produced products for export such as wool, textiles, Tyrian purple dye, and foodstuffs.

Epigraphic evidence, the density of private housing and presence of several large villas demonstrate that the city remained economically active and relatively prosperous well into the imperial period with Emperor Nero r. Both Jews and Christians were a strong presence in Tarentum from the 1st century CE onwards with a bishopric established by the 4th century CE or earlier. During the Gothic invasions the town was, notwithstanding its new fortifications, occupied by Totila , king of the Ostrogoths r.

In CE Tarentum, still, as ever, a strategically useful acquisition for invaders, entered the medieval period with a bang when the Lombard duke Romauld sacked the city. Tarentum once had large sacred complexes with impressive temples but due to the fact that the city has been continuously occupied since antiquity most of the large scale ancient architecture has long since been dismantled and reused elsewhere in more modern buildings.

An exception are the two massive columns once belonging to an archaic temple dedicated to Poseidon. These columns now stand in the corner of the municipal square not their original location and their massive size hints at the enormity of this now lost temple. What Tarentum may lack in architecture is more than compensated for in the richness of the artefacts excavated at the site, the surrounding countryside, and the harbour itself. Many of the artefacts are from tombs and none is more interesting than the Tomb of the Athlete, a tomb of a Tarentum victor at the Olympic Games complete with his discus, weights, and javelin heads and, touchingly, the prize he famously won in life, the black-figure amphora given to all winners.

Special mention should be made of the many fine floor mosaics from the city's grander Roman residences.


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The largest and best preserved is a late-2nd or early 3rd century CE mosaic with four main panels depicting an abduction of a nymph and additional scenes of a leopard, lion and tiger hunting. Smaller side panels show birds and fruit. Please consider donating to help us maintain and grow it! Any contribution, large or small, is appreciated!

Renaissance humanism and the rediscovery of classical

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