Have you ever wondered whether our existence is cyclical or linear? It’s an interesting question that our ancestors have also pondered, with answers coming from all over the world and from all cultures. This article is about a couple of well-known cultures that have perceived existence as cyclical.
Pegasus, the winged horse from Greek mythology, is still a popular mythological creature today, appearing in logos, movies, video games and books.
Tales of mermaids have been spoken about since humanity learned how to write. But how and when did their stories and the possibility of their existence spring up? Where did they originate? Did they come from sailors’ tales of sightings, or were they known even before that?
Hypatia (born c. 350–370 CE; died 415 CE) taught mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy at the Museum of Alexandria, eventually succeeding her father as its head. Although she was an esteemed Neo-Platonist intellectual and the first notable female mathematician, it was her martyrdom that ensured her fame.
According to tradition, Confucius was born in 551 BCE in Qufu, in the state of Lu, China. His name was originally Kong Qiu, and only later did he earn the title Kong Fuzi, or “Master Kong.” Little is known about his life, except that he was from a well-to-do family, and that as a young man he worked as a servant to support his family after his father died.
Almost all we know of Siddhartha Gautama’s life comes from biographies written by his followers centuries after his death, and which differ widely in many details. What is certain is that he was born in Lumbini, modern-day Nepal, some time around 560 BCE. His father was an official, possibly the leader of a clan, and Siddhartha led a privileged life of luxury and high status. Dissatisfied with this, Siddhartha left his wife and son to find a spiritual path, and discovered the “middle way” between sensual indulgence and asceticism.
So little is known for certain about the author of the Daode jing, who is traditionally assumed to be Laozi (Lao Tzu). He has become an almost mythical figure; it has even been suggested that the book was not by Laozi, but is in fact a compilation of sayings by a number of scholars.
Despite the large proportion of writings attributed to Plato that have survived, little is known about his life. He was born into a noble family in Athens in around 427 BCE and named Aristocles, but acquired the nickname “Plato” (meaning “broad”). Although probably destined for a life in politics, he became a pupil of Socrates.
Born in Athens in 469 BCE, Socrates was the son of a stonemason and a midwife. It is likely that he pursued his father’s profession, and had the opportunity to study philosophy, before he was called up for military service. After distinguishing himself during the Peloponnesian War, he returned to Athens, and for a while involved himself in politics. However, when his father died he inherited enough money to live with his wife Xanthippe without having to work.