Citanda: Rome and the 17th Century United States

The incipit of an interesting piece at the Smart Set:

The funny thing about Rome is that anyone can invoke it. The whole death-to-Caesar thing is popular. John Wilkes Booth seems like something of a quack, quoting Brutus’ “Sic semper tyrannis” as he jumped to the stage after shooting Lincoln. But Abigail Adams thought the same of George III, and signed her wartime letters to her husband John with the name “Portia” — Brutus’ wife. Everyone also seems to love thinking themselves Rome to their enemies’ Carthage. Washington’s victory over Britain was often compared to Rome’s ultimate victory in the Punic Wars. But back before the war ended, Britain’s Charles Van told Parliament, “Delenda est Carthago” (“Carthage must be destroyed”) in discussing the trouble with the colonies — lines spoken by Cato the Elder when Carthage broke the treaty ending the Second Punic War. Tyrants and Carthage, it seems, are in the eye of the oppressed and those facing a herd of elephants descending the Alps.

more …

via All Symbolic Roads … The appeal of Rome for 17th-century Americans | The Smart Set.

That Crucifixion Nail

After a busy week, I can finally look into some of the things flittering across my twitterfeed and facing me on Facebook and filling my email box. Apparently, a nail believed to be from the crucifixion (not just any crucifixion, of course, although it seems to be mostly the headline writers who make this connection) has been found in a ‘former Templar stronghold’ in Portugal. Here’s an excerpt from the Telegraph coverage:

The four-inch long nail is thought to be one of thousands used in crucifixions across the Roman empire.

Archaeologists believe it dates from either the first or second century AD.

The nail was found last summer in a decorated box in a fort on the tiny isle of Ilheu de Pontinha, just off the coast of Madeira.

Pontinha was thought to have been held by the Knights Templar, the religious order that was part of the Christian forces which occupied Jerusalem during the Crusades in the 12th century.

The knights were part of the plot of Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code.

Bryn Walters, an archaeologist, said the iron nail’s remarkable condition suggested it had been handed with extreme care, as if it was a relic.

“It dates from the first to second centuries,” he told the Daily Mirror.

While one would expect the surface to be “pitted and rough” he said on this nail the surface was smooth.

That suggested that many people had handled it over the centuries, with the acid on their hands giving it a “peculiar finish”.

Four inches is pretty substantial; most of the coverage includes this photo:

from the Telegraph

For comparanda purposes, we should obviously note the Givat Hamivtar nail, which currently resides in the Israel Museum and is (as far as I’m aware) our only genuine evidence of crucifixion using nails. Here’s a photo:

from the Israel Museum

That particular nail is 12 cm (a bit longer than this new find) and strikes me as ‘thicker’ in all its aspects, but that just might be the result of corrosion vel simm.. I think it’s safe to say this likely isn’t “from Christ’s crucifixion”, but it is possible the Templar types who owned it (if they did) probably believed that.

Here’s the coverage so far:

See also the interesting coverage/reactions on other points: