Sounds like the latest Apple technology, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s my secret way of taking over people’s brains.
OK, OK. I thought that would be a good way to draw my reader in. Can I trust you with a secret?
Iconography is the ancient (and medieval, and modern) way of showing who people are through symbols. For instance, if you see a person with a spear, it is Athena, the Goddess of War. This method started in the good ol’ days when most people were illiterate. It is still used in mythology and religion.
In Greek mythology, as I said before, Athena is always carrying a spear. If you can’t read (well, I suppose nobody reading this article can’t read), then you can look at the pictures and figure out who did what.
The bible is another example. Many people in the early days of Christianity couldn’t read, so they wrote the book in pictures. St. Nicholas is always holding three gold balls, for example. And if you see someone fighting a dragon, it can be no one other than St. George.
Here is a list of some iconography symbols that I haven’t mentioned:
Hercules: holding a club.
St. Sebastian: shot full of arrows.
Jesus: beard, halo, holes in hands and feet. Front and center.
St. Bernard: this one’s easy. He’s a dog.
If you want to impress your friends when visiting a church or historical site, notice a symbol that you know and point to it. Tell them who it is, and when they doubt it then ask somebody, they’ll be amazed! If they ask you how you knew, make up a ridiculous lie that makes you sound like a genius. Either that, or just tell them it’s iconography and make a mysterious escape.