Did you know…

Assassin is a Persian word?

Dear Reader,
could you believe that so many words came from old Persian language?

This time I will enlighten you about the word Assassin.
Commonly mistaken as an Arabic word, Assassin as we know it comes from old Persian hashashin (حشاشین), originated in the Alamut region of Iran. It has nothing to do with modern ‘hashish’.
The Assassins were a much-feared fighting group in the late 11th century. But what was their origin? And what did their name mean?

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An assassin was a ‘person who was energised to kill’ on the account of the king.

When a king or high hierarchy old man wished to kill someone, he would enlist a young man and promise him a return to Paradise if he entered his service and followed his instructions or even died in his service. The first man to ever do so was Hassan-i Sabbah, founder of Alamut. He trained men to become highly deathly weapons to use against his enemies. Some modern Muslims believed he would drug these young men in order to subject them, but let’s see what happened…

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If you read Hassan-i’s accounts and the many tales of Marco Polo, you can easily understand that Hashash was not a substance used to drug people. Here is why:

The word hashashin was phonetically very close to the Muslim hash-ishiyun, which means “hashish-smokers”; some scholars thought that this was the origin of the word “assassin”, which later became a terrifying word in most European languages…

However, dear Reader, the truth is quite another. According to texts that have come down to us from Alamut, Hassan-i Sabbah liked to call his disciples Asasiyun, which in Persian means ‘people who are faithful to the Asās’, meaning “foundation” of the faith.

This is the word that so often is misunderstood by many foreign travellers as its sound is so similar to “hashish”, the substance that many people enjoy consuming.

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How thick is an ancient column?

Dear Reader,

there are those things that arouse my curiosity and push me to find answers to the most unusual questions, such as: how thick is an ancient Roman or Greek column?

This came after I was face to face with a dissected Greek column in Selinunte, Sicily. I had never seen one before, at least not cut down like that 😀

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Glad the weather permitted it, this is my own favourite photo of Selinunte. Note the sea in the background 🙂
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A perfectly dissected Greek column cut in many roundels. These are the remains of Temple G. In Selinunte, unlike other sites, each temple is identified with the alphabet letters.

The city of Selinunte rises on a hill, not far from the sea, between Marsala and Agrigento. First inhabited by Sicani and then by the Phoenicians, Selinunte was a Greek colony since the end of the sixth century B.C. Now this site is considered as the most imponent in all Europe, quite rightly. Here I found numerous temples, shrines and altars.
All the temples here in Selinunte are all built following to the canons of the Doric order which is the oldest greek architectural style. It is easy to identify as its main features are simplicity and essentiality which give a sense of order and divine immortality, contrasting the fleetingness and frivolous chaotic world.
The Doric order has columns with no base and with a very simple capital. In other words, Doric buildings were the least decorated. Archaeologists believe that Doric architectural buildings, which were built in stone and covered in stucco, evolved from wooden buildings that were very similar.

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Doric style column, this one seemed smaller than the previous Ionic styled. These are the remains of Temple F. 

 

The distance between each column as well as their diameter can vary greatly: some of them are constituted by sixteen grooves with a diameter of 1.72 m (see my first photo with the dissected columns) while others have twenty grooves and a bigger diameter, ranging from 1.84 m to 2.00 m.

 

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This is what’s left of Temple A, a temple dedicated to the dioscuri Castor and Pollux.

 

Below I’m sticking out of Temple G.

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The Underground Napoli

Dear Reader,
Did you know that Napoli or Naples is built on tuff? For the past 2,500 years, residents have made use of this tuff, from the ancient Greeks on up to today, by digging chambers and passageways beneath the city.
Tuff, a soft yellow volcanic stone, preserves the history from the very foundation of Napoli to the WWII bombings.
Today, Naples’ subterranean city, 40 meters below street level, include everything from ancient Greek aqueducts to pagan burial chambers.

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Hollowed out of the volcanic tuff stone by the 4th Century Greeks, they used the stone to build the city’s walls and temples and the excavations as a burial ground. Sometimes simply caves, sometimes barely passable even for one person, the labyrinth leads to big cisterns that were part of the Roman aqueduct system and later used as a WWII air raid shelter, and squeezing through a narrow tunnel guided only by the light of candles.

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to World War II air raid shelters

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More stories of WWII in my next post 🙂

Cyprus, South, North & Why you should go

Dear reader,

Ancient history, beautiful landscapes, remarkable culture, turquoise beaches, and great food. Dear reader, if you ever consider traveling to Cyprus you’ll probably find these elements very agreeable.

It was an 8-days trip, not plenty of time but enough for Stanito to go everywhere she wanted. Unlike many other Mediterranean islands that are mainly regarded as touristic destinations, Cyprus holds features that makes it unique. Continue reading “Cyprus, South, North & Why you should go”