Friday, March 29, 2013

This site has been transfered

Dear Reader,

this site has been transfered to http://www.romanarcheology.com/

You will find all past and present news from Roman Archeology.

See you soon there!

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Massilia -- Ancient History Encyclopedia

Along the north-western coast of the Mediterranean Sea between Spain and Italy lies the ancient city of Massilia (modern Marseilles). Originally founded in 600 BCE by Ionian Greeks from Phocaea...

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

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Monday, February 04, 2013

Getting the Measure of Ancient Rome


A new online resource opens up possibilities for interpreting the infrastructure of the Roman world, says Jasmine Pui.

Sea routes in July AD 200, with coastal routes in blue and overseas routes in greenA recently launched online interactive research source, ORBIS, the Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World, has made it possible to analyse data about the Roman Empire in new ways that reveal the fragility of Roman communication and freight systems. Conventional maps are often unable to capture the environmental constraints that govern the flows of people, goods and information. Museum and ancient sites usually include titbits of information about the wide-ranging origins of artefacts, hinting at the relative cost of goods and labour in the Roman era, but factors such as sailing times and inland routes for freight cannot be precisely revealed through archaeological finds, Roman coins, taxation records or riot reports.

The first resource of its kind, ORBIS offers comprehensive graphic tools to portray the transport and communication infrastructure that underpinned the Roman Empire's existence. By typing in a starting point, destination, an imagined weight of goods to transport and the time of year, the site shows whether such a movement would have been feasible and at what cost. Studying movement during the course of the empire's existence suggests it was far more difficult to hold an empire together than to expand one. There are few scenarios where marching and conquering is not easier and less costly than moving goods and slaves between regions. Cost, rather than distance, was the principal determinant of connectivity in the Roman world.

ORBIS is based on a simplified version of the giant network of cities, roads, rivers and sea lanes that framed movement across the Roman Empire. The Stanford team has relied on data such as historical tide and weather information, size and grade of road surfaces and an average walking distance of 30 kilometres per day. Hundreds of cities, ports and routes, vehicle speeds for ships, ox carts and horses, as well as the variable cost of transport have been logged. The data mainly focuses on the period around AD 200, when Septimius Severus expanded control of Africa and Roman power was at one of its peaks.

By simulating movement along the principal Roman road routes, the main navigable rivers and sea routes in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and coastal Atlantic, ORBIS reconstructs the possible duration and financial cost for a wide range of modes of travel and trade in antiquity. Drawing on print resources, such as the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World and the Pleiades project, which maps the latitude and longitude of ancient sites, ORBIS models how people and goods were constrained in their movement depending on times of year and choice of fastest or cheapest routes. An ORBIS visitor can traverse over 84,631 kilometres of road, including desert tracks, and 28,272 kilometres of rivers and canals, using 14 modes of road travel from camel caravan to military march and accurate, normative sailing times.

Tullus Hostilius

English: Tulius-Hostilius was the third of the...
Tulius-Hostilius 
By Tiffany Parks, published originally on The Pines of Rome

If I never become known for anything else, at least I can claim the honor of having written the most blog posts about Rome's second king, Numa Pompilius, than any other blogger in the world. (Not that I've ever checked that. I just can't imagine anyone else––save an actual scholar––coming up with so much to say about him). Now, whether anyone reads these posts is another story. Here's hoping.

I started my [ahem] weekly history posts a good two years ago, with the legendary founding of Rome byRomulus. Two years later and I'm only up to Rome's third king. Not very impressive. But it's quality, not quantity, that matters, am I right?

Tullus Hostilius. Let's see if we can dissect this guy's reign with just one post (don't count on it).

If our old––and by now very close––friend Numa Pompilius was the most religious of all Rome's kings, and the most peaceful, then Tullus Hostilius was the most aggressive. The most bloodthirsty. The most hostile. Hostile Hostilius! Could that be where the word comes from? Oh, goodness, etymology gets me so excited! With but a moment's worth of Google-powered research, I see that hostile comes from the Latin hostilis (of an enemy), which in turn comes from hostis (enemy). What do you think, was the word hostile derived from this king's antagonistic behavior, or did he earn the name because of his behavior?

Roman-era cannons? Really?

Commentarii de Bello Gallico, an account writt...
Commentarii de Bello Gallico
By Roman History Made Easy

You've probably heard of Archimedes 'super weapons' - there's the ever present 'Solar Heat Ray' that 'Mythbusters' keep trying to perfect, the troublesome 'Claw' or 'ship-shaker', which did exist but no one has a clue how it worked, and then there's the 'steam cannon'. All of these were supposedly used by the Sicilians against Roman invaders in 212BC, but with the death of the inventor during this campaign - and no doubt many of those who'd built and operated these machines - their use or effectiveness was largely forgotten. Even the Romans who had been confronted by these 'super weapons' appear to have been quick to eschew them - perhaps more concerned with the designs falling into Carthaginian hands than any advantages they might bring to Classical-era warfare. But the question is, what if some of these weapon designs were perpetuated? Is it possible?

Well, it's by no means conclusive proof, but during the siege of Massilia (April 19th-September 6th 49BC) Julius Caesar makes mention of a weapon that may have come from Archimedes arsenal. First of all, who were the Massilians? In 49BC, Massilia - now modern day Marseilles - was the largest independent Greek city state left in the world. Around 400,000 Ionian Greeks and Gauls lived within the walls of the largest city west of Rome and despite nearly one hundred years of conquests in both Gaul and Greece, various Roman generals - including Julius Caesar - had left this place well alone. Massilia wasn't necessarily a military city, it was an economic hub - a Gallic Hong Kong - through which much of Gaul's export and imports had been funnelled for some 400-years. But this had made the city rich, which meant it could afford the best in defensive weapons from its fellow Greeks - weapons that remained untested on Roman armies until Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon. As the civil war expanded, Massilia sided with the Pompeians, which made it a serious thorn in Caesar's supply lines between Northern Italy and Spain.


The First Emperor of Rome. Today we look at a common...

English: A statue of the first Roman Emperor A...
A statue of the first Roman
Emperor Augustus 
By Ancient Peoples

Today we look at a common misconception of Roman history, namely who was the first Emperor of Rome. Now, the error most make is to assume that Gaius Julius Caesar was the first Emperor. This is simply flat out untrue. Even at the peak of his power, after the ending of the war in Africa, Caesar only held the position of Dictator. Before we move further into this you will have to forget the social ideas that we hold around the terms Dictator and Emperor and begin to consider the Roman perspective. Just as the label Tyrant did not necessarily have negative connotations in the Ancient Greek world, the position of Dictator was one of duty and trust. A Dictator could be appointed by the senate to rescue the Republic from imminent danger, and importantly for this discussion was to be given up/ renewed after a single year. 

The concept of Dictator was useful to the Republic especially during its early forays into Italy. A Dictator could focus the power of the senate into decisive actions, with the ultimate goal of preserving the Republic of Rome. While the rule of a single man could get things done efficiently without the infighting and discussion of the senate; Romans were still conscious to prevent complete power coming down to one man and therefore imposed a limited time for the individual to complete the task. There are a plethora of examples, especially from the early history of Rome (consult Livy if you're interested).

Anyway, the reason that I understand how people confuse Caesar as an Emperor is that his Dictatorship was voted to him for life. I will point out that (if there are any lingering supporters of Pompey out there) the senate by this point was not only made up Caesar's supporters (owing to many of his detractors fleeing for their lives), but for any remaining doubters they were coerced by Caesars veteran legions who occupied Italy. Say what you want about having a bigger stick, if your opponent has several armies on your doorstep you still do what he says. The other event this misunderstanding looks at is the offering of the crown to Caesar by Mark Antony during the Saturnalia (yeah the one with naked men with wolf skin, whatever floats your boat). 

In any case rather than this being a serious attempt to place himself above all others as king, this action aimed to do the complete opposite. It was a political stunt to persuade the citizens of Rome that Caesar would never accept such a position, a point made very clear in during this event with his continual refusal of a mock crown. So Caesar had amassed a great deal of power and would hold it if not for life then for the foreseeable future. But still his political power was still understood through the prism of the Republic and its institutions and technically he had not broken any tenants of Roman law, as the position was voted to him by the senate.

More to read and original Article: http://ancientpeoples.tumblr.com/post/41279574819

Entombing the Tomb of the Gladiator: Who Will Save the Roman Ruins?

Cover of
Cover of Gladiator (Widescreen Edition)
When archaeologists announced the discovery of the tomb of Marcus Nonius Macrinus in Rome in 2008, the find was heralded as the most important in decades. Built in the shape of a temple, with tall fluted columns and an intricately carved sarcophagus, it was the final resting place for the Roman general who served as inspiration for Russell Crowe's character in the movie Gladiator, unearthed a the site of a planned housing project some 1,800 years after its construction.

In contrast, the December 2012 announcement regarding the tomb was much more muted. Italy's cash-strapped ministry of culture declared it was unable to find the several million euros that would be required to protect the ruins and turn them into a tourist attraction. Instead, the Gladiator's Tomb, as the site has come to be known, would likely have to be buried once again.

The fate of Macrinus' monument illustrated the challenges faced by even the most spectacular bits of Italy's past, as historical preservation falls prey toausterity. Funding for the maintenance of the country's archaeological riches has been slashed by 20% since 2010. In the ancient city of Pompeii, the ruins are literally crumbling from neglect, and sites like the Coliseum in Rome and the Rialto Bridge in Venice have been forced to find corporate saviors to prevent the same from happening to them.


Further excavations are just about out of the question. The Gladiator's Tomb is one of four monumental burial sites discovered during the excavation, part of what was once a necropolis predominantly dedicated to military men. The site includes a 70-meter stretch of perfectly preserved paving stones—lined in places with the disused tombstones of imperial bodyguards—that disappears tantalizingly into the earth on either side of the dig. "It's like discovering a vein of gold and not being able to follow it," says Giacomo Restante, the architect who is overseeing the technical aspects of the excavation.

Of the uncovered burial sites, Macrinus' is by far the largest, and the only one shaped like a temple. Where Crowe's fictional character in Gladiator fell into disgrace and was sold into slavery, the real-life general enjoyed a flourishing career, served as a close adviser to the emperor, Marcus Aurelius, and led campaigns in Spain and Asia. Dedicated to him by his son, his tomb was elaborately carved and built entirely of marble; even the roof is made from slabs of white stone. "Other tombs in Rome were made with a marble facade and the rest in brick," says Federica Chiocci, the archaeologist overseeing the dig. "Macrinus wanted to build himself a real and proper temple."

By the time the site was buried by the flooding of the nearby Tiber River, it had already begun to crumble. The ruins are preserved as they were in the 12th century A.D., some 1,000 years after the tomb's construction, when medieval diggers had begun to pull it apart, recycling the general's marble ruins for building materials. Most of the walls and the foundation have long been carried away. What remain are the bits that were hardest to recycle, those most elaborately carved. The entire left side of the facade, including—miraculously—the block containing the inscription that bears the general's name, lies to one side of the burial site. Just beyond it, lies a neighboring tomb that the medieval diggers converted into a lime kiln. Inside it, Chiocci and her colleagues found partially burnt bits of Macrinus' sarcophagus.


For the moment, the plan to bury the site has been put on hold. An online petition to save the Gladiator's Tomb, organized by American Institute for Roman Culture, a group dedicated to the preservation of city's ancient remains, has gathered some 3,700 signatures. "This should be a high profile site, if only because it's associated with Gladiator." says Darius Arya, the group's CEO. "When you think about archeology, you think about ancient Rome, and then you think about that movie." Russell Crowe has voiced his support, retweeting links to the petition and telling Italy's La Repubblica newspaper that, "Of all the great nations of the world, Italy in particular should be a leader in promoting the importance of exploring and conserving the ancient past."

In the coming months, the city of Rome, Italy's culture ministry and the developers who own the site will be discussing its future. The American Institute for Roman Culture has proposed raising a mix of public and private money for its preservation. Long centuries spent under a slightly acidic soil has weakened the marble. Exposed to the elements, its brilliant white has faded. Some pieces have begun to fragment and chip.Many of the marble blocks have been covered by cloth, in a stopgap effort to protect them. "We need to get together and find some sort of agreement and funding," says Daniela Rossi, the archaeologist in charge of the site. "Otherwise, the only thing is to bury it. It will go back to being a tomb."

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pompeii Aerial Survey Project

Pompeii - Bird's eye view of the large and sma...
Pompeii - Bird's eye view of the large and small theatres, Pompeii. (Photo credit: Brooklyn Museum)
In September 2012 the Pompeii Aerial Survey Project conducted a successful aerial photogrammetric survey of the insula, utilising remote-controlled drones, in support of the EPUH project and the Pistrina: les boulangeries de l'Italie romaine project of the École française de Rome (that has been conducting a study of the bakery in the southwest corner of the insula). The aim of the project was to test the application of aerial drone technology in the documentation and survey of built structures in an archaeological context (Pompeii) against traditional methods of architectural investigation. This was the first time that aerial drones had been successfully employed at Pompeii for aerial photography; indeed, previous aerial photography had traditionally used balloons! 

Our approach was twofold: first, to use the aerial drones to take geo-referenced HD geo-referenced digital photographs in order to develop a 3D photogrammetric point cloud model of the insula. Second, we also employed a laser scanner in order to provide a framework for the digital model but also to allow us to compare the merits of the two methodologies.

The drones and their pilots, who have great expertise and experience in flying them, were generously loaned to us by Landinspektørfirmaet LE34 (see acknowledgements below). The drones offer a previously unparalleled opportunity to remotely and quickly survey standing structures. The drone typically flies for 12-30 minutes at a time and can follow a pre-programmed set route or altitude; it will come back to you at the press of a button, while its flight can be followed by a small inbuilt camera. The attached camera can take HD photographs or films including 360 degree recordings. The drone has several on-board gyroscopes and GPS devices that allow it to maintain a safe and consistent position even in windy conditions! These features enable the drone to take geo-referenced HD photographs, which are accurate down to 0.01m. This is simply impossible from traditional balloon-based cameras or even other highly sophisticated aerial survey methods. Furthermore, the drone can take many hundreds of photographs in a single flight so our method also allows us to complete the photogrammetric survey far more rapidly than by a traditional hand-held method on the ground, which can be highly time-consuming and is often problematic given the importance of camera position in photographing high walls or features. However, it was necessary to supplement the drone photographs with a number taken with a hand held camera. This was necessary given the high number of very small spaces in the insula that were simply too small or narrow for the drone to adequately photograph.

For detailed specifications on the drones click here: LE34

Gaul's forgotten cities - Bibracte

By Roman History Made Easy

Well, yesterday we had a look at why Gallic cities like Bibracte existed, but today we're going to take a closer look at the city itself. Traditionally, historians have looked upon Gallic cites like Bibracte as fortified hilltop Oppida - small, well-defended redoubts to which the surrounding communities could evacuate during a time of crisis. They may have covered a few acres, the harvest may have been stored there and the local king or aristocrat may have maintained a residence there. However, by the time Bibracte was founded in the 3rd-century BC, international trade was overtaking farming in importance in Celtic Gaul, and large scale trading needed cities rather than scattered villages.

What did this mean for Bibracte? Well, it means Bibracte was built on a large scale right from the outset. The earliest walls enclosed an area of 500 acres, they stood 17-ft high, were punctuated by fifteen gates and were surrounded by a 13-ft deep ditch that was 33-ft wide. At this stage the city was part of the Arvernian Kingdom which stretched across most of central Gaul. However during the 2nd-century BC the Arvernians were weakened by losing much of their southern territories to Rome (to form parts of Transalpine Gaul) and then the catastrophic invasions of the Cimbri. The great German invasions during the last decade of the 2nd-century coincides with Aedui independence (by default) and the building of a second inner wall at Bibracte. This wall was some 3.1-miles long, and consumed 30,000-cubic ft of timber, 60,000-cubic ft of earth and 30-tons of iron. The wall was built hurriedly and carved through much of the outer suburbs - so it was most likely erected during the Cimbri invasions between 109 BC and 102 BC.

Bibracte was not just the home of the local chief and a few grain silos, rather it was a city of at least 20,000 people and was larger than most of the Roman provincial cities built afterwards. Many of the houses in the Aeduan capital were built of timber - rectangular cottages inhabited by the thousands of artisans, metal workers and merchants who drove the Aeduan urban economy. However at the centre of Bibracte was a town square known as the 'Horse Park' surrounded by much larger Roman influenced stone villas that included hypocausts and sewers. One of these villas covered some 12,000sq-ft. The city also featured large urban fountains that may have had civic or religious purposes - or both. 

Graffiti Art in the Colosseum Stands at Attention

By The Ancient Standard

Although it has taken quite some time to get to this point, the Colosseum in Rome is finally undergoing restoration… and yielding some interesting tidbits about ancient history in Rome along the way. Recently, excavators and restoration experts discovered trades of ancient frescoes in red, black, green, and blue—but that's not the most interesting part. Even better?

Apparently visitors to the Colosseum engaged in some tagging, Ancient Rome style—everyone's favorite gladiatorial arena holds graffiti art of phallic symbols. Would you expect anything else?

The officials who unveiled the discoveries between the second and third levels of the Colosseum say that particular passageway won't be open to the public until sometime during Summer 2013, as there is plenty of work to do to ensure the graffiti doesn't fade or become damaged now that it's exposed.

The images were hidden beneath decades and decades of calcified grime and rock, and the colorful traces of the discovered frescoes confirm the historical understanding of the Colosseum as a richly decorated, vibrantly colored stadium during its heyday. Currently, the belief is that less than 1 perfect of the Colosseum's original painted surfaces remain—and despite the fact that the arena's exposed seating was white marble, it was the inside that came alive with color.

Colosseum director Rosella Rea says that "the insides, the galleries, all the corridors and transverse hallways were completely colored. We need to imagine a building with extreme contrasts of color." And many of the colored areas now discovered are covered with more recent graffiti art—including some drawings from dates as wide-ranging as 1620 and 1943.

But older still, officials have found graffiti that they believe dates from the 3rd century—a red palm frond and crown are believed to be the work of a gladiator fan as the individual traveled the hallway, and another area under restoration contains graffiti art of phalluses, which were often drawn as good luck charms.

Continued at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/TheAncientStandard/~3/H-gA_D7ntJ0/

Toothy Tumor Found in 1,600-Year-Old Roman Corpse

In a necropolis in Spain, archaeologists have found the remains of a Roman woman who died in her 30s with a calcified tumor in her pelvis, a bone and four deformed teeth embedded within it.

Two of the teeth are still attached to the wall of the tumor researchers say.

The woman, who died some 1,600 years ago, had a condition known today as an ovarian teratoma which, as its name indicates, occurs in the ovaries . The word Teratoma comes from the Greek words "teras" and "onkoma" which translate to "monster" and "swelling," respectively. The tumor is about 1.7 inches (44 millimeters) in diameter at its largest point.

"Ovarian teratomas are bizarre, but benign tumors," writes lead researcher Núria Armentano, of the ANTROPÒLEGS.LAB company and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, in an email to LiveScience.

The tumors come from germ cells, which form human eggs and can create hair, teeth and bone, among other structures. [See Images of Bizarre Tumor & Remains]

This is the first time scientists have found this type of teratoma in the ancient world.

"[T]his is an extraordinary case, not only for its antiquity, but also its identification in the archeological record," writes the research team in a paper published recently in the International Journal of Paleopathology.

The woman lived at a time of decline for the Roman Empire, with new groups (popularly known as the "barbarians") moving into Roman territory, eventually taking over Spain and other areas.

Who was she?

Archaeologists found the woman buried in a necropolis near Lleida in the Catalonia region of Spain. They only found a few artefacts buried with her: tiles known as tegulae that had been put over her body to form a gabled roof.

"Tegulae graves were the most common Roman burials. She was not an important or rich person. She had a low socio-economic status," Armentano explained.

The researchers note in their paper that while it's possible the woman never experienced symptoms, it's also possible that, despite the tumor being benign, it ultimately killed her.

"This ovarian teratoma could have been the cause of this woman's death, because sometimes the development of teratomas results in displacement and functional disturbances of adjacent organs," the researchers write. They note that infection, hemolytic anemia and pregnancy complications can also occur with an ovarian teratoma, events that could also have caused the woman's death.

The tumor would not have changed her outward appearance, and researchers can't tell for certain what affect it had on her, Armentano explained.

Continued at  http://www.livescience.com/26446-toothy-tumor-ancient-roman-corpse.html

Under Turkish Mud, Well-Preserved Byzantine Chapel - NYTimes.com

DEMRE, Turkey — In the fourth century A.D., a bishop named Nicholas transformed the city of Myra, on the Mediterranean coast of what is now Turkey, into a Christian capital.

Nicholas was later canonized, becoming the St. Nicholas of Christmas fame. Myra had a much unhappier fate.

After some 800 years as an important pilgrimage site in the Byzantine Empire it vanished — buried under 18 feet of mud from the rampaging Myros River. All that remained was the Church of St. Nicholas, parts of a Roman amphitheater and tombs cut into the rocky hills.

But now, 700 years later, Myra is reappearing.

Archaeologists first detected the ancient city in 2009 using ground-penetrating radar that revealed anomalies whose shape and size suggested walls and buildings. Over the next two years they excavated a small, stunning 13th-century chapel sealed in an uncanny state of preservation. Carved out of one wall is a cross that, when sunlit, beams its shape onto the altar. Inside is a vibrant fresco that is highly unusual for Turkey.

The chapel's structural integrity suggests that Myra may be largely intact underground. "This means we can find the original city, like Pompeii," said Nevzat Cevik, an archaeologist at Akdeniz University who is director of the excavations at Myra, beneath the modern town of Demre.

Mark Jackson, a Byzantine archaeologist at Newcastle University in England, who was not involved in the research, called the site "fantastic," and added,"This level of preservation under such deep layers of mud suggests an extremely well-preserved archive of information."

Occupied since at least the fourth century B.C., Myra was one of the most powerful cities in Lycia, with a native culture that had roots in the Bronze Age. It was invaded by Persians, Hellenized by Greeks, and eventually controlled by Romans.

Until the chapel was unearthed, the sole remnant of Myra's Byzantine era was the Church of St. Nicholas. (The bishop, also known as Nicholas the Wondermaker, was a native Lycian of Greek descent.) First built in the fifth century A.D. and reconstructed repeatedly, it was believed to house his remains and drew pilgrims from across the Mediterranean. Today, Cyrillic signs outside souvenir shops cater to the Russian Orthodox faithful.

But Myra attracted invaders, too. Arabs attacked in the seventh and ninth centuries. In the 11th, Seljuk Turks seized the city, and the bones thought to be those of Nicholas were stolen away to Bari, in southern Italy, by merchants who claimed to have been sent by the pope.

By the 13th century, Myra was largely abandoned. Yet someone built the small chapel using stones recycled from buildings and tombs.

Decades later, several seasons of heavy rain appear to have sealed Myra's fate. The chapel provides evidence of Myra's swift entombment. If the sediment had built up gradually, the upper portions should show more damage; instead, except for the roof's dome, at the surface, its preservation is consistent from bottom to top.

"It seems incredible," said Engin Akyurek, a Byzantine archaeologist with Istanbul University who is excavating the site. He and his team dug down 18 feet to the base of chapel, where they discovered a few artifacts from the early 14th century. (At the time, Turks were gaining control of Anatolia, and after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 the Ottomans ruled for nearly five centuries.)

In the layers of mud between the 14th-century ground level and the late-Ottoman level — which is just shy of the modern surface — they discovered nothing at all.

Ceramics unearthed at the chapel and at St. Nicholas Church indicate that Myra remained unoccupied until the 18th century. And while a sunken city "may sound romantic," said Dr. Jackson, the British scholar, "this mud promises to have preserved a treasure trove of information on the city during an important period of change."

How classical cities transformed into Byzantine cities during the Christian era, especially between 650 and 1300, is a subject of much scholarly debate.

"Each city was different," Dr. Jackson said, "and so we need high-quality, well-excavated evidence in order to contribute to the debate about the nature of urban change in this period."

The fresco in the excavated chapel is especially striking. Six feet tall, it depicts the deesis ("prayer" or "supplication" in Greek). This is a common theme in Byzantine and Eastern Orthodox iconography, but the Myra fresco is different.

Where typically these depictions show Christ Pantocrator (Christ the Almighty) enthroned, holding a book and flanked by his mother, Mary, and John the Baptist, whose empty hands are held palms up in supplication, at Myra both John and Mary hold scrolls with Greek text.


The Gauls - the forgotten city builders

By Roman History Made Easy

A map of Gaul in the 1st century BC, showing t...
A map of Gaul in the 1st century BC, showing the relative position of the Helvetii and the Sequani (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It's one of those strange paradoxes of archaeology - an ancient authority on Gaul describes Gallic cities 2000-years ago but his descriptions are often ignored by modern historians. The 19th and 20th century produced the idea of Gauls as the 'Noble Savage' and clearly, noble savages couldn't go around living in cities. As a result many of us - if we've ever heard of Gauls at all - will conjure up images of Asterix and Obelix living in thatched roundhouses rather than a sophisticated western civilisation that was rapidly catching up with Rome and Greece. Julius Caesar embraced this latter concept when he foresaw Gaul in its ascendancy - his reaction was to control the economic powerhouse Gaul could become through diplomatic and military force. If he hadn't, then it's likely just a few unified states from modern day central France would have had the economic means and resources to make Rome a client rather than the master.

Celtic Gaul was dotted with several large commercial hubs by the 1st-century BC - many, such as Cenabum (modern day Orleans) and Lutetia (modern day Paris) had built their power on river trade. Cenabum's position on the Loire allowed it to control almost all commodity trading between the Atlantic Coast and the Mediterranean Basin, likewise Lutetia controlled the Seine, the gateway to the North Sea and the Baltic lands. But for both of these shipping corridors to prosper, short land routes between the southwards flowing Saone and, the northwards flowing Loire and Seine was an unavoidable necessity - making the area between Chalon-S-Saone (Cavillonum) and Nevers (Noviodunum) the place where the real money was to be made. This 100-mile land corridor was the bridge for all north-south trade across Celtic and Belgic Gaul. For all intents and purposes, every wine amphora moving north and every talent of iron heading south had to be taken off ships and road hauled. So whoever controlled this land bridge stood to make a lot of money - and it they did so by collecting tolls. Think about it - imagine a single freeway linking northern and southern Europe over which every pedestrian, pack animal and wagon had to pay for the pleasure. It was a cash cow and it was critically important - and it drove Gallic politics before and after Julius Caesar arrived in 58BC. The money this region was producing was almost certainly the reason for the continual warring between the Arverni and Aeduans in the early 1st-century BC and why Julius Caesar moved to eject Ariovistus and his German mercenaries from the same region as soon as the Romans arrived. That Caesar elected to maintain close relations with the Aeduans rather than the more powerful Arverni also suggests he was much more interested in where the Aedui were - rather than who they were.

Continued at http://calvusguy.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-gauls-forgotten-city-builders.html

Under the ruins – Pompeii

House of the Faun in Pompeii, Italy
House of the Faun in Pompeii, Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Near the Napoli Bay, the Vesuvius volcano is standing about to erupt, with its crater widely opened towards the sky. Many visitors coming here climb the 1277 meters high all the way up, until the irregular border of the crater and then look down from there. There is no knowledge regarding when will the volcano will erupt; but until then, millions of people that live in Napoli and millions of visitors eager to see the unknown, carry on with their normal lives, with their holidays, as if it is impossible that someone will ruin their happy lives and the natural beauty of this area.

However, between Napoli and Amalfi Coast, the most picturesque and known coast area of Italy are the town of Erculano and Pompeii. Pompeii is the proof that nature does not listen to our thoughts and desires but goes on with its course. This is how in Pompeii one can see how nature surpassed the human being and the malign forces of it have made out of this city an archaeological site. Once being a very wealthy commercial center, nowadays, Pompeii stands as one of the most important archaeological site from Europe and Italy's most visited tourist attraction.

It was in 1748 when the first diggings here started to get out in the open, the street that once sued to be here, the gardens, the bathrooms, the frescoes, the money, the bodies, the beds. Nowadays, the archaeologists have discovered 44 hectares, from the total of 60 hectares that once used to signify Pompeii. They have tried to put the pieces they found altogether and understand everyday life that went on in those days. These artifacts can be seen at the Archaeology National Museum from Napoli.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Completed excavation of a 900-seat auditorium in Rome

By Archaeology Briefs

The Piazza Venezia, as seen from the Monument ...
The Piazza Venezia, as seen from the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II with the Palazzo Venezia to the left. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Archaeologists have presented the completed excavation of a 900-seat auditorium under Rome's Piazza Venezia, which they are hailing as the city's most significant discovery since the Roman Forum was unearthed 80 years ago.

The ancient arts complex or "Athenaeum", which lies 5.5m underground, dates to 123 AD. It comprises three halls whose 13m-high arched ceilings and terraced marble seating once provided space for Rome's noblemen to listen to poetry and philosophy. Its construction is believed to have been funded by Emperor Hadrian, who was a keen patron of the arts.

After the fall of the Roman empire, archaeologists believe that the complex was used to smelt ingots and mint coins during the Byzantine era, while from the 16th- to the 19th centuries one of the halls served as a hospital cellar. An earthquake in 848 AD led to a large part of the structure's roof collapsing onto the floor of one of the halls, where it still remains.

The archaeologists' discovery follows five years of excavations and came about as a result of digging for the capital's third underground line, the troubled Metro C, part of whose route was designed to run from the Colosseum to St Peter's.

More to read and original article: http://archaeologybriefs.blogspot.com/2013/01/major-archaeological-discovery-in-rome.html

Ethnic Engineering

By Mac Congail

Philip V silver tetradrachm
The strategy of Ethnic Engineering – the mass deportation of certain ethnic groups as part of a wider political or military plan – was common in the Ancient World, reaching its peak in the Roman Imperial period.

The first major example in southeastern Europe is recorded at the end of the 4th c. BC, when it was implemented by the Macedonian leader Kassander in an attempt to halt the southwards advance of the Celtic tribes in the Balkans. As part of this strategy, 20,000 of the Illyrian Autariatae tribe, who had fled into Macedonia in the face of the Celtic advance, were resettled in the Orbelos area (on the modern Greek/Bulgarian border) as military settlers in order to establish a buffer zone protecting Macedonia's northern border from Celtic expansion (Diodorus Siculus Bibliotheca historica XX. 19.1; see also 'Flight of the Ravens' and 'The Thunderbolt' articles).

A variation of the same policy was implemented by the Macedonian King Philip V in 179 BC. In order to neutralize the Dardanii tribes, traditional Macedonian enemies, Philip struck a deal with the Celtic Scordisci and the Bastarnae, whereby the latter would be resettled in Dardania, thus eliminating the Dardanii threat, and ensuring Bastarnae help for Macedonia's planned war with Rome (Livy 40:57, 41:19).

  Most examples of this strategy, however, date from the Roman Imperial period. For example, in 26 AD a plan was formulated by Rome for the mass deportation of the troublesome Celtic Artacoi tribe in the Haemus (Balkan) mountains (see 'Artacoi' article), and in the 2nd / 3rd c. AD mass transfers of the aforementioned Bastarnae to the south of the Danube were carried out by the Roman emperors Probus and Diocletian (Historia Augusta Probus 18; Eutropius IX.25; see below).

More to read and original article: http://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/ethnic-engineering/

PBP: B is for Bona Dea

By Lucus Antiquus

Temple of Faunus on a map of ancient Rome arou...
Temple of Faunus on a map of
ancient Rome around 300 AD 
Bona Dea is one of those deities of whom we know very little; this is because she was the major deity for a women-only mystery cult, and while people wrote down many speculations, we have no insider stories, as it were.

One of the things that we do not know is her true name. That's right – Bona Dea is not a name: it's actually a title, meaning "The Good Goddess". Plenty of other Roman deities are known by titles instead of names, including Bonus Eventus (Good Fortune/Outcome), and Bonus/Bona is often used as an epithet for, well, pretty much all deities.

Anyway. One of the more popular theories as to her identity is that she is Fauna, the wife (and daughter!) of the seer-deity Faunus. Another couple of theories put out by ancient authors is that she is the wife and sister of Faunus, or that her name is not Fauna but instead Fenta Fatua, with Fatua for foretelling women their fates, as Faunus did for men.

In any case, it is speculated that her true name was forbidden for men to speak, and since the women of her cult didn't write it down, we don't know what it is.

We do, however, know some things about the cult and mysteries of Bona Dea.

It was apparently similar in nature to the Orphic Mysteries, thought what that means, exactly, I don't know.

No myrtle was allowed in her cult areas, and there's a little myth that goes along with the reason: taking the perspective that Bona Dea is Fauna, wife of Faunus. Faunus found out that she had been drinking wine in secret – a huge taboo in ancient Roman society – and, in a rage, he beat her to death with sticks of myrtle. This is also why wine, although used in rituals in her honor, was called "milk".

It seems that wine or mead and cakes were the most popular offering to Bona Dea, and purple – unsurprisingly – was her sacred color. We know that her sacred groves were decorated with purple ribbons and garlands, and apparently her priestesses wore purple ribbons in their hair.

Sacrifices in honor of Bona Dea were called damium, which comes from a Greek word meaning "public". Obviously, however, those sacrifices were private, so there's an interesting use of word there. Along with that, a priestess of Bona Dea was called a damiatrix.

Another myth of this goddess says that she is merely the daughter (not wife) of Faunus, and that she refused to be in the company of men due to her "great chastity". That, the myth says, is why men aren't allowed to participate in her mysteries.

However.

Just because men didn't participate in her mysteries, didn't mean that they didn't worship the goddess.

We actually have a ton of evidence, mostly in the form of dedicated altars, that men were devotees of Bona Dea. And they were men of different statuses, too, from freedmen to high-ranking Romans.

And speaking of men involved in some way with Bona Dea…

brings me to the great "Bona Dea Scandal" of 62 BCE. There were a couple of festivals each year in honor of Bona Dea, but the one that concerns us here is the Winter rite. The festival of this particular year was held by Pompeia, the wife of Julius Caesar.

As I've said before, but will re-emphasize here: MEN WERE NOT ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE MYSTERIES OF BONA DEA. They weren't even able to be in the same residence that a mystery festival was taking place in. It was said that she would blind the man who looked upon her sacred rites.

But on this particular day, a young cad by the name of Publius Clodius Pulcher (Clodius the Beautiful, lol) dressed up as a woman and intruded upon the rites, fully intending to seduce Pompeia.

Needless to say, things didn't end well.

Clodius was caught red-handed and charged with desecration of religious rites. His sentence was execution. Julius Caesar divorced Pompeia, famously remarking that "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion".

Now, moving on.

In iconography, Bona Dea is depicted as holding a cornucopia in her left hand and an offering dish in her right. Oftentimes a snake accompanies her, and it is shown drinking out of the dish.

She is also associated with a good amount of other deities: Silvanus, Hercules, Sabazius, Caelestis, Vesta, Mercurius, Panthaeus, Diana, Juno, and Fortuna Conservatrix.

More to read and original Article: http://romanpolytheist.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/pbp-b-is-for-bona-dea