Of History and Calendars (05-13)
The Timetable (14)
Before the Common Era (15-41)
00 Common Era Begins (42-43)
Defense for Anachronism (44-45)
Yesterday's trash could be today's treasure!
Introduction Xenites love to prattle off cheeky phrases about how Xena: Warrior Princess (XWP) conveniently ignores history while weaving several plot lines in and around historical events. The term "anachronism" gets tossed in for extra flare, and it is an accurate word. The show is wildly anachronistic. It does not attempt to maintain a consistent chronology, nor, sometimes, does it even come within a millennium of that which is possible. It has placed historical figures together who lived as much as 500 years apart. Examples include Hippocrates and Galen, Homer and Euripides, and Caesar and Boudicca.
 This article is the first in a series of examinations, a multi-month journey through the "real" history broached by the show. Over the next year or so, I will introduce you (or re-introduce you, as the case may be) to various aspects of Classical history that we have glimpsed through Xena.
 The ancient Greeks were a remarkable people. Many facets of our current cultures can be traced back to their initial, ground-breaking contributions: democracy, philosophy, history, education, medicine, monetary systems, drama, and astronomy, just to name a few.
 All of these achievements took time to unfold. Suffice it to say that if Xena and Gabrielle had lived to see all of the major points of interest we have been privy to in the first three years of the series, they would have lived long lives. Really long lives. In the neighborhood of 2000 years.
Of History and Calendars There are two important points to note before we trudge back a couple thousand years and start poking around. First, the ancient Greeks did not exactly have a failsafe method of recording history and events back then. Sometimes we do not know what is fact and what is fiction. Second, they did not have a single functioning calendar, so dates are to be taken with a grain of salt.
 Detouring into a short history of the calendar, cultures developed various ways to measure time, with no method in exact synchronization with any another. As a traveler moved from China to Babylon to Greece, she encountered completely different systems of recording dates. Even the way the days are counted has gone through several changes. We now use midnight as the point the next day begins, but many civilizations counted days from dawn or noon. The Greeks used sunset to sunset. The month was calculated by the cycles of the moon, the Greeks using a 30-day cycle, adopted from the Egyptians.
 These early calendars, moderated by the moon or by some regular number of days in a month, did not precisely agree with a true year. Every now and then adjustments had to be made by inserting extra days. Our friend, Caesar, Julius Caesar, employed an astronomer to design a new calendar, known as the Julian Calendar. To make it work, Caesar added 67 days to the year 46 BCE. The additions were made in two spurts: 23 days were inserted after February 23 and two months were added between November and December.
 The Chinese had a remarkably sophisticated calendar in the 14th century BCE, which established the solar year as 365 1/4 days, even accounting for leap year. In the 3rd century, they adopted a different calendar with 24 points, instead of 12 months. These points had wonderfully evocative names such as the Rain Water, the White Dew, the Hoar Frost Descends, and the Excited Insects.
 The Julian Calendar remained in use for over 1600 years. In 1582, the Gregorian calendar was adopted for the Roman Catholic Church, and most of the western world followed. In that year, we lost 10 days to adjustments. Even as recently as the early 20th Century, world powers followed different calendars. The Chinese adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1912. Soviet Russia was still on the Julian Calendar until 1918, when February 1 suddenly became February 14 to synchronize with the rest of the world.
 And now back to the ancient Greeks. They had a very early written language, but then it seems to have been "lost" around 1100 or 1200 BCE, and then "found" once again about 800 BCE, when the Greeks adapted the Phoenician alphabet to their needs. What that means for us is that much of very early history was passed on through the oral tradition and not written down. Long, epic poems were memorized and handed down from generation to generation as a means of preserving history, culture, and stories. Bards like Homer and Hesiod are most often cited as fine examples of this tradition.
 It is quite likely that as each bard learned a poem and then spent a lifetime singing it, the various events portrayed would have taken on slightly different spins, been padded with some embellishments, and been modified to fit the style of the poet. That means we do not have much "accurate" information until the Fifth Century BCE, when Herodotus and then Thucydides recorded the first histories.
 So, now that you know that the "truth" I will reveal through this article series is not necessarily true, we can turn to our task at hand. For this first article, I will give you an overview of the history that has been dramatized on XWP, and construct a timetable.
 As a reminder to those of you who have not been spending much time thinking about dates BCE (that's Before Common Era), the numbers run backwards. Thousand BCE is longer ago than 500 BCE. Confused yet? Also the word "circa" (often noted as 'c.') means "approximately". It is used in citing dates that historians think are close, but cannot pinpoint with perfect certainty. You might see, for example, someone's dates listed as c.1200-1242 (or if they lived BCE, c.1242-1200).
The Timetable I have taken the liberty of including some people whose names have been borrowed for XWP characters. It is interesting to note that although the historical people are not necessarily represented by their XWP characters, often (as in the case of Draco and Solan), their general characteristics do shine through.
Before the Common Era c. 2000 BCE
Abraham, born in Ur, Mesopotamia, receives a calling from God to go to Canaan. His son, Isaac is to be sacrificed to his God, but at the last moment, he is spared. This is not an event recorded in Greek history, nonetheless a permutation of it found its way into XWP in ALTARED STATES (19/119).
 c. 1550
Cecrops founded Athens and became its first King, though this is more likely myth than history. [LOST MARINER (45/221)]
 1192 - 1183
These are the generally accepted dates of the Trojan War. There was a real city of Troy. Archaeologists have uncovered several layers of settlements which means the city grew and withered several times. The earliest settlements are from 4000 BCE. While archaeologists have not dug up remains of the Trojan horse, there has been no evidence to refute the occurrence of the Trojan War. [BEWARE GREEKS BEARING GIFTS (12/112)]
 c. 1150 - 800
Here Greece entered a period of relative silence. Not much is known about the events in those 350 years, and the block of time has come to be known as the Dark Age (not to be confused with the more well-known Dark Ages of the early medieval period of western European history). Perhaps the Greeks lost their written language during this time. Some scholars say that was so. It is a big black hole in history, slowly being filled in as archaeologists continue their work.
 c. 1000
David, second King of the Israelites, meets and slays the Philistine giant, Goliath. Again, this is not an event recorded in Greek history, but it has been portrayed on XWP in GIANT KILLER (27/203).
 c. 800
Homer. Well, maybe there was a Homer, maybe Homer was actually several bards. But, that is a story for a later article. Suffice it to say, in the 800s BCE, The Iliad and The Odyssey are told and retold, and attributed to Homer. [ATHENS CITY ACADEMY OF THE PERFORMING BARDS (13/113)]
The First Olympic Games were held in Olympia (Note: not on Mount Olympus, a mountain across the gulf from Poteidaia) and for many years, this was the earliest accepted date in Greek history. It was not until about 100 years ago that archaeologists unearthed ruins dating back to at least 2800 BCE. Pindar, a Greek lyric poet from the 5th century, wrote that Herakles founded the Olympic Games. (Note: Hercules is the Roman name, Herakles the Greek.)
Draco feels the love in A COMEDY OF EROS. c. 650 - 500
Draco, an Athenian lawgiver, imposed Athens' first comprehensive legal code in 621 BCE. It was quite harsh, hence the term "draconian". Most crimes, even trivial crimes, were punishable by death. [Xena's Draco appeared in SINS OF THE PAST (01/101) and A COMEDY OF EROS (46/222).]
 c. 630 - 560
Solon, an Athenian lawgiver, was referred to as one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece. In 594 BCE, he repealed Draco's code, abolished slavery for debt, allowed appeals to a popular court of law, admitted the lowest economic class to the assembly, and forged the beginnings of democracy. He was also a fine poet. [Solan appeared in ORPHAN OF WAR (25/201), MATERNAL INSTINCTS (57/311) and THE BITTER SUITE (58/312).]
 c. 610 - 580
Although Sappho, one of Greece's greatest poets, has not yet made it to an episode of Xena, she has been lurking around at Renaissance Pictures for some time now, so I include her dates in this timetable.
Poteidaia was founded as a port on the narrow isthmus on the Chalcidice Peninsula, in the northwest corner of the Aegean Sea. It was ruled by Corinth.
Lao-tzu, first philosopher of Chinese Taoism, known as writer of the Tao Te Ching. A later article will be dedicated to early Asian history. [THE DEBT, pt. 1 & 2 (52,53/306,307)]
The Battle of Marathon was fought between the Greeks and the Persians. Legend records that Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens (about 25 miles), announced the Persian defeat, then died of exhaustion. [ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313)]
 c. 484 - 420
Herodotus authored the first great narrative history. Though he has not made his way into a XWP episode, the sleuthful Xenite knows Herodotus to be the name of Gabrielle's father.
 c. 484 - 406
Euripides, playwright and one of the three great tragedians (with Sophocles and Aeschylus), is known for his psychological insight into his characters. Nineteen of his 92 plays have survived. [ATHENS CITY ACADEMY OF THE PERFORMING BARDS (13/113)]
 460 - 377
Hippocrates, the "father" of medicine, was believed to be born on the Island of Cos. He died in Thessaly. A collection of writings on medicine was attributed to him, and though he wrote some of the manuscripts in the collection, he did not write all of them. The Hippocratic oath, still in use today in some medical schools, was named in his honor. A later article will explore early medicine and science. [IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? (24/124)]
Athens colonizes Amphipolis, a city three miles up the Strymon River from the Aegean Sea. It was a strategic spot, for its bridge over the Strymon was on the main overland route from northern Greece to the Hellespont. Before taking on the name Amphipolis, it was known as Ennea Hodoi, meaning "nine roads", and was considered a part of Thrace.
 c. 450 - 413
Perdiccas II, Macedonian King and son of Alexander I (not Alexander the Great), united the Greek cities of Chalcidice in a federation centering on the city of Olynthus, Poteidaia's neighbor a few miles to the north. [Xena's Perdicas appeared in SINS OF THE PAST (01/101), BEWARE GREEKS BEARING GIFTS (12/112) and RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205).]
 431 - 405
The years of the great Peloponnesian War. One of the triggers for this massive war was a revolt in Poteidaia against Athens' heavy taxation. In 421, a peace was forged following the Battle of Amphipolis, and though it held for seven years, ultimately it did not alleviate the tension between Athens and Sparta (in the Peloponnese). The war continued until Athens was defeated.
Amphipolis was occupied by Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great).
 357 - 56
Poteidaia was destroyed by Philip II of Macedon.
 349 - 347
During the Olynthian War, Poteidaia was rebuilt and renamed Kassandra. It was inhabited primarily by cattle and sheep farmers.
Rome frees Amphipolis from Macedonian control. The Romans made it a free city and also the seat of Roman governor of Macedonia.
Crassus' past finally catches up with him in WHEN IN ROME. 115 - 53
Marcus Licinius Crassus was a member of the First Triumvirate of Rome (with Pompey and Caesar). He was killed in battle at Carrhae. [Crassus appeared in WHEN IN ROME... (62/316).]
 106 - 48
Pompey, whose full name is Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, was also a member of the First Triumvirate. He married Caesar's daughter Julia. When she died in 54 BCE, the Triumvirate faltered, later leading to civil war between Caesar's and Pompey's troops. Pompey was killed in the Battle of Pharsalus, when betrayed by Ptolemy XIII (Cleopatra's brother) who had decided to side with Caesar. [Pompey also appeared in WHEN IN ROME...... (62/316).]
 100 - 44
Caesar, Julius Caesar. His life and times will be covered in a later article. [DESTINY (36/212), THE DELIVERER (50/304), THE BITTER SUITE (58/312) and WHEN IN ROME... (62/316)]
 69 - 30
Cleopatra was the last ruler of Egypt before it fell to Rome. At one time, she and Caesar tried to woo each other for political gain. She tried the same thing again with Mark Antony, whom many had pegged as the heir-apparent to Caesar, but when Octavian took command of the Roman forces, Antony and Cleopatra each met with tragic deaths by their own hands. [Cleopatra appeared in THE KING OF ASSASSINS (54/308).]
00 Common Era Begins
The part of Boadicea was originally written for the actress Pat Tallman of B5 fame. 60
Boudicca (or Boadicea) British Queen of Iceni, dies of an apparent suicide. She led a revolt against the Romans which included burning Camulodunum (Colchester), Verulanium (St Albans), and Londinium (London). Her forces massacred some 70,000 Romans troops before Roman General Paulinus reversed her fortunes and regained the province for Rome. [Boadicea appeared in THE DELIVERER (50/304).]
 129 - 199
Galen, a ground-breaking physician, is born in Greece and works for the Roman Empire. His teachings guided medical practice until as late as 1650. [IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? (24/124)]
Defense for Anachronism As you can see, Xena and Gabrielle would have been quite busy and very, very old to have affected all of these events and people. But the carefree attitude prevalent in the shows works as a solid defense for the anachronistic plot lines. At least it does for me. (see Whimpers, Murmurs, And A Love Gone Too Far in the Whoosh Episode Guide for ATHENS CITY ACADEMY OF THE PERFORMING BARDS (13/113) for another spin on "fooling around" with historical characters.
 The second article in this series, due next month, will visit the intersection of myth and history. I will examine current theories on the identity of Homer, explore ritual and celebration in ancient Greece, and ponder where fact and fiction part concerning the Amazons and the Oracle at Delphi.
BibliographyBlundell, Sue. Women In Ancient Greece. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995.
Boardman, Griffin, and Murray ed. Greece And The Hellenistic World. Oxford: Oxford University Press 1986.
Fine, John. The Ancient Greeks: A Critical History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
Grant, Michael. Atlas Of Classical History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. New York: Penguin Books, 1940.
Thucydides. History Of The Peloponnesian War. Trans. Rex Warner. London: Penguin Books 1954.
Zaidman, Louise Bruit and Pantel, Pauline Schmitt Pantel. Religion In The Ancient Greek City. trans. Paul Cartledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Encyclopedia Britannica Online (www.eb.com)
A Guide To The Ancient World, New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1997.
Classical Mythology, New Lanark: Geddes and Grosset, 1997.
Carolyn Bremer is a composer of issue-oriented, experimental and political music, and head of the composition program at the University of Oklahoma.
Favorite episode: A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215)
Favorite line: Picking just one out of the plethora of deserving candidates is utterly impossible.
First episode seen: A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215)
Least favorite episode: FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216) And I'm really hoping that doesn't get bumped out of the bottom spot by a fourth season Joxer bumble.