Arsinoe as Pharaoh?

Interesting thesis by Maria Nilsson out of the University of Gothenburg. Here’s the abstract:

Nilsson, M., The crown of Arsinoë II. The creation and development of an imagery of authority. 760 pp. 158 pls. Written in English.

This study deals with a unique crown that was created for Queen Arsinoë II. The aim is to identify and understand the symbolism that is embedded in each pictorial detail that together form the crown and how this reflects the wearer’s socio-political and religious positions. The study focuses on the crown and its details, while also including all contextual aspects of the relief scenes in order to understand the general meaning. This crown was later developed and usurped by other female figures; the material includes 158 Egyptian relief scenes dating from Arsinoë’s lifetime to Emperor Trajan, c. 400 years. In order to show the development of the crown’s symbolism, this work includes a large number of later scenes depicting the Egyptian goddess Hathor wearing a crown almost identical to Arsinoë’s.
The results of this study suggest that the crown of Arsinoë was created for the living queen and reflected three main cultural positions: her royal position as King of Lower Egypt, her cultic role as high priestess, and her religious aspect as thea Philadelphos. It indicates that she was proclaimed female pharaoh during her lifetime, and that she was regarded the female founder of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. The results of the study of the later material suggest that the later Hathoric crown was created in a time of political instability, when Ptolemy IV needed to emphasise his ancestry – underlining his lineage from Arsinoë II and Ptolemy II. The comprehensive study of the contextual pictorial setting indicates that this is a plausible explanation: the crown of Arsinoë became a symbol of authority worthy of continuation.

… and here’s how Science Daily covers the story:

A unique queen’s crown with ancient symbols combined with a new method of studying status in Egyptian reliefs forms the basis for a re-interpretation of historical developments in Egypt in the period following the death of Alexander the Great. A thesis from the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) argues that Queen Arsinoë II ruled ancient Egypt as a female pharaoh, predating Cleopatra by 200 years.

Researchers are largely agreed on Queen Arsinoë II’s importance from the day that she was deified. She was put on a level with the ancient goddesses Isis and Hathor, and was still respected and honoured 200 years after her death when her better-known descendant Cleopatra wore the same crown. But the reasons behind Arsinoë’s huge influence have been interpreted in many different ways.

Maria Nilsson has studied her historical importance by interpreting her personal crown and its ancient symbols. The crown, which has never been found but is depicted on statues and Egyptian reliefs, was created with the help of the powerful Egyptian priesthood to symbolise the qualities of the queen. The thesis questions the traditional royal line which excludes female regents, and defies some researchers’ attempts to minimise Arsinoë’s importance while she was still alive.

“My conclusion instead is that Arsinoë was a female pharaoh and high priestess who was equal to and ruled jointly with her brother and husband, and that she was deified during her actual lifetime,” says Nilsson. “It was this combination of religion and politics that was behind her long-lived influence.”

But it was not only Cleopatra who wanted to re-use Arsinoë’s important and symbolic crown. Male descendants — all named Ptolemy — used her crown as a template when creating a new crown which they gave to the goddess Hathor to honour the domestic priesthood and so win its support when Egypt was gripped by civil war.

The thesis is clearly structured around the crown and includes its wider context in the reliefs. Nilsson paints an all-round picture of the queen, how she dressed, the gods she was depicted with, the titles she was given, and so on.

The source material comes from Egypt and can be used as a basis for understanding the country’s political and religious development. At the same time, Nilsson paves the way for future studies of Egyptian crowns as symbols of power and status, and of the development of art in a more general sense.

“The creation of Queen Arsinoë’s crown was just the beginning,” she says.

The abstract and thesis (both in pdf)  are available at:

… definitely worth a look …



Latest Collapse at Pompeii D=<

Man … we’re pretty close to being able to play insula-collapse-bingo … from NPR:

A stretch of garden wall ringing an ancient house in Pompeii gave way Tuesday after days of torrential rain, the latest structure to collapse at the popular archaeological site.

Pompeii officials said an inspection found that a 40-foot (12-meter)-long section of wall forming part of the perimeter of a garden area near the House of the Moralist gave way in several points. They said the extreme sogginess of the soil brought down the wall in an area that hasn’t been excavated near the house.

Italy’s is struggling to preserve its immense archaeological wealth for future generations.

A few weeks ago, Italy was embarrassed when a frescoed house, the Schola Armaturarum, where gladiators prepared for combat, was reduced to a pile of stones and dust in seconds. Less than a year ago, another building, the House of the Chaste Lovers, collapsed in Pompeii.

The House of the Moralist wasn’t affected by the wall’s demise “and isn’t at risk for collapse,” Pompeii excavations director Antonio Varone said.

The Schola and the House of the Moralist are only a few steps away from each other along one of Pompeii’s main streets, which are usually thronged with some of the 3 million tourists who traipse the paths each year.

The House of the Moralist includes the remains of the homes of two families in the ancient city that was buried by the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. It is one of many structures in Pompeii that are off-limits to tourists, and no one was injured in the wall’s collapse, which was discovered early in the morning before opening hours.

Made of tufa rock, the garden wall was heavily damaged during the U.S. bombing of the Naples area in World War II. It was rebuilt after the war using a mix of the ancient stones and modern material, said Daniela Leone, an official of the state Naples and Pompeii Archaeological Superintendency.

Earlier this year the wall was reinforced, but the reinforcement work was “swept away by the violence” of the storms, the Pompeii archaeology office said in a statement.

Coincidentally, Carabinieri police were in the ruins when the garden wall came down. The officers were inspecting the gladiators house as part of efforts to pinpoint the cause of that collapse and decide if that structure can be reconstructed.

Culture Minister Sandro Bondi instructed ministry officials to keep monitoring Pompeii but warned against “useless alarmism.”

A no-confidence motion against Bondi, proposed by opposition parties after the gladiator house collapsed, had been scheduled to be voted on in Parliament on Monday, but work on legislation caused the vote to be put off until a date to be determined.

Other Coverage:

Rethinking the Capitolium of Terracina

This one likely won’t make it to the English press, but Il Tempo is reporting that remains of a massive temple platform that came to light during WWII bombing is not actually that of the Capitoline Triad as has been believed for at least a generation. The recent discovery of some statue podiums near the Cathedral of S. Cesareo suggest the temple actually lies under that church:

Il Capitolium non abita più qui. Incredibile ma vero: il Campidoglio terracinese, sacrario numero uno della colonia romana, ha cambiato location. Una fresca scoperta archeologica lo trasferisce all’interno della cattedrale dedicata a S. Cesareo, diventato, con l’epopea cristiana del medioevo, il luogo sacro del nuovo culto. Ora non rimane altro che riscrivere libri e guide, compito molto più facile rispetto a quello di modificare la memoria collettiva. I lavori di restauro della cattedrale intitolata al patrono della città si stanno rivelando una miniera di ritrovamenti. L’ultimo ha la suggestione della novità rispetto a qualcosa che era solidificato nella nominazione e nella mente di tutti, da quando nel periodo bellico le bombe avevano portato alla luce dietro Palazzo Venditti un basamento con una colonna isolata, unica restante del fronte composto da 4 ìgemelle”. Non ci fu bisogno di una folgorazione. Quella costruzione divenne sic et simpliciter, agli occhi di studiosi e non, il Capitolium dell’antica città romana. D’altronde si sapeva che la fondazione delle colonie ad opera dei Romani avveniva sempre con la contestuale realizzazione di una struttura dedicata alla triade capitolina (Giunone, Giove, Minerva). Erano le divinità ufficiali, rappresentative di uno Stato, che manifestava in questo modo il suo potere. Per la città era un onore essere insignita di un tale privilegio. La versione ha retto per più di mezzo secolo. A dire il vero in tutto questo tempo c’è stato chi (Filippo Coarelli) ha sostenuto in una sua guida del Lazio che il Capitolium era da localizzare all’interno del Tempio maggiore, ma la sua affermazione ha assunto l’aspetto di un’eresia archeologica, per cui è rimasta relegata come un’ipotesi inattendibile, fino a quando fortuna e bravura non si sono coalizzate a rivelare qualcosa di clamorosamente inaspettato. E’ successo che si stava risistemando un locale posto sul lato destro della Cattedrale prima delle cappelle quando l’occhio attento dell’esperto è andato ad una strana struttura a ìT”, nella quale si poteva individuare i resti del podio di una statua. Di un altro podio, nel passato, erano state scoperte tracce proprio nelle vicinanze dell’altare cristiano. A questo punto, l’intuizione: a quell’altezza, per tutta la larghezza del tempio, correvano le tre colonne, dedicate ad ospitare, a partire dal I secolo dopo Cristo, le statue dei maggiori della romanità quali Giunone, Giove e Minerva. Ora il puzzle archeologico, per essere completato, avrebbe bisogno solo del ritrovamento della terza base, ma il teorema trova conferma anche in una specifica circostanza: era abitudine dei Romani costruire il loro Campidoglio o su un’acropoli o a ridosso del foro per il significato ideologico che quella presenza si portava appresso. Ma, se il Capitolium terracinese non è più il Capitolium, cosa rappresenta quella piattaforma che si trova dietro l’Appia antica? Per una verità che si scopre, un giallo che nasce.

La sede del Capitolium è un’altra | Il Tempo.