This Day in Ancient History: ante diem iv kalendas sextilias

ante diem iv kalendas sextilias

  • ludi Victoriae Caesaris (day 10)
  • 67 A.D./C.E. — fighting in Jerusalem between pro-surrender-to-the-Romans groups and their counterparts; the former set fire to some food supplies which apparently contributed to the fall of the city three years later (!) (need to track this one down)
  • ca. 260 — martyrdom of Lucilla and companions

Catching Up With Robert Ballard

An item in the Connecticut newspaper The Day: To boldly go where no one has gone before led me to a very interesting site to follow Robert Ballard’s latest endeavours. He’s currently doing the sidescan sonar thing off Turkey looking for potential sites etc., and it’s all being streamed live … there isn’t a heckuva lot to see, but set the live video to ‘quad’ for the most experience. You can listen to the crew’s chatter and possibly begin to appreciate how stunningly dull things can be until a discovery is made. People are asking questions (probably kids through the events mentioned in the article mentioned above). Anyway, check it out at:

York “Gladiators” On Display

The BBC is on the story:

The 1,800-year-old human remains were exhumed in the city over the past decade and will be displayed in an empty shop throughout the summer.

Archaeologists say the discovery suggested the site was only well-preserved Roman gladiator cemetery in the world.

The exhibition will feature the skeletons and objects which were unearthed alongside them.

Kurt Hunter-Mann, a field officer at York Archaeological Trust, said the exhibition features six of the 80 skeletons they unearthed on Driffield Terrace in York.

“People will be able to see all the background to the excavations we carried out and what they can tell us about Roman life and death in York,” he said.

Bite mark

The theory the men might have been gladiators is a popular one but Mr Hunter-Mann admitted they were still not certain.

He said: “We are still a long way from being absolutely sure. One argument supporting the idea they were gladiators is these burials were mostly of adult males which is of course unusual.”

The most persuasive argument for the gladiator theory is a large carnivore bite mark, made by a lion, tiger or bear, an injury which Mr Hunter-Mann said was “unique”.

Bite marks made by a carnivore on one bone is one argument the men might have been gladiators

The skeletons also showed evidence they had experienced a great deal of brutality during their lives.

Other theories archaeologists are examining include suggestions the site might have been a cemetery for specialist soldiers or a place of execution.

Sarah Maltby, director of attractions at York Archaeological Trust, said: “I hope they are gladiators because it is such a great story and leads us on to other questions, such as where the arena they fought in might have been.”

She added: “We want everyone to really enjoy this exhibition, to learn something and to go way and think about it and contribute their own ideas to the debate about who these men might have been.”

Kudos to the organizers and/or the BBC, who clearly are trying to scale back the sensationalism which accompanied the original announcement of this discovery. Here is our previous coverage/criticism from last summer:

Again, lots of ‘running away’ wounds lead me to think of execution in an arena situation …

UPDATE (a few hours later): after a conversation with Dorothy King and Sarah Bond on Twitter, it is clear that some questions I had in our previous coverage do refer to this same site, so here are a couple more links to follow the progress of the dig and the development of the theory of what it represents:

… and from February, 2005, see also:

Circumundique July 25-28

Around the Classical blogosphere the past few days …

Catching Up with Cleo

Cleopatra is suddenly popping up all over the place again, so it’s probably time for a cranky post to bring folks up to speed thereon. But by way of captatio benevolentiae, however,  I’ll mention again my trip to the Royal Ontario Museum last month and one of their ‘iconic pieces’ which (again) I’ve managed to miss on several visits there.  It is what they believe is an image of Cleopatra … ecce:

At the ROM, there is a little screen where you can listen to Roberta Shaw give the details of where this is from and why they believe it to be an image of Cleopatra:

In case you’re wondering about the ‘pillar’ they mention:

I was somewhat disappointed that they didn’t have a photo of the ‘companion piece’ that went with this for comparison purposes (although it is possible that I missed it). To my untrained-in-Egyptian/Ptolemaic-art eye, however, this does seem similar to the  statue in the British Museum which is usually acknowledged as being Cleopatra (see our previous post: Statues of Cleopatra).

Now on to more critical business. In the July issue of National Geographic, Cleopatra is the cover girl and there’s a major feature on her which also happens to be online (it does seem to match the print version as far as I can tell). The purpose of this piece seems to be to give some legitimacy/credence to Kathleen Martinez and Zahi Hawass’ claims in regards to Taposiris Magna, which we’ve dealt with ad nauseam in these cyberpages. Here’s an excerpt from near the end just to refresh your memories:

During the 2006-07 season the Egyptian-Dominican team found three small foundation deposits in the northwest corner of the Osiris temple, just inches from where the Hungarian expedition had stopped digging. The deposits conclusively linked the Osiris temple to the reign of Ptolemy IV, who ruled a century and a half before Cleopatra. In 2007, further supporting the view that the site was very important to the Greeks of ancient Egypt, the excavators found a skeleton of a pregnant woman who had died in childbirth. The tiny bones of the unborn baby lay between the skeleton’s hips. Her jaw was distended, suggesting her agony, and her right hand was clutching a small white marble bust of Alexander the Great. “She is a mystery,” said Martinez, who had a coffin built for the remains of the mother.

In six years Taposiris Magna has become one of Egypt’s most active archaeology sites. More than a thousand objects have been recovered, 200 of them considered significant: pottery, coins, gold jewelry, the broken heads of statues (probably smashed by early Christians). An important discovery was a large cemetery outside the temple walls, suggesting that the subjects of a monarch wished to be buried near royal remains.

Yet the tomb of Cleopatra still hovers out of reach, like a tantalizing mirage, and the theory of who is buried at Taposiris Magna still rests more on educated speculation than on facts. Might not Cleopatra’s reign have unraveled too quickly for her to build such a secret tomb? A fantastic story, like a horse with wings, flies in the face of the principle of parsimony. But it’s a long hard haul from not-yet-proved to disproved.

Critics of Martinez’s theory point out that it is rare in archaeology for someone to announce they are going to find something and then actually find it. “There is no evidence that Cleopatra tried to hide her grave, or would have wanted to,” says Duane Roller, a respected Cleopatra scholar. “It would have been hard to hide it from Octavian, the very person who buried her. All the evidence is that she was buried with her ancestors. The material associated with her at Taposiris Magna is not meaningful because material associated with her can be found in many places in Egypt.”

“I agree that Octavian knew and authorized the place where she was buried,” Martinez says. “But what I believe—and it is only a theory—is that after the mummification process was complete, the priests at Taposiris Magna buried the bodies of Cleopatra and Mark Antony in a different place without the approval of the Romans, a hidden place beneath the courtyard of the temple.”

As might be expected, that the NG made this their cover story is big news back in the Dominican where Martinez is from: Cleopatra hunter Martinez makes Nat-Geo’s cover. Sadly, however, there is nothing new in this article and it’s really uncharacteristic that National Geographic has actually given this any attention (feelings mirrored by Martin R. over at Aarvarchaeology) … That said, a few weeks ago while killing time in a bookstore, I was looking at the book which was spawned by the Cleopatra exhibition (which is soon heading to Milwaukee) and read similar sentiments therein. Of course, National Geographic is a sponsor of that exhibition and it strikes me that they are using their otherwise excellent magazine with an incredible history and reputation to hype the exhibition, albeit indirectly. Whatever the case, I am growing increasingly impatient with National Geographic, which seems increasingly to be going the way of its television channel (which is mostly owned by Fox) and choosing sensational over factual.

What makes it worse, however, is that National Geographic’s attention and reputation in this seems to have led astray a writer at the otherwise excellent Past Horizons blog: The search for Cleopatra continues. As presented, that item makes it sound like digging is actually going on right now at Taposiris Magna and — apparently relying on a ‘press release’ from Zahi Hawass’ site (someone please tell me if I err in this regard) — talks about such novelties as ground penetrating radar surveys being done by Richard Vickers and identifying three places of interest. Sadly, however, it has to be pointed out that the press release actually comes from April 2009 (we mentioned it in a previous post, of course: Cleopatra’s Tomb Again!!) and once again we might wonder why Dr Hawass never bothered to put dates on items. Even if we forgive that, however, we wonder why Past Horizons didn’t notice the November 2009 date of the Heritage Key video (via youtube) which they also link to … This is clearly not news. We might also mention in passing that they link to Kathleen Martinez’s “blog” which is little more than a business card website.

Why this bothers me is that the Past Horizons blog is a rather reputable source — I sometimes link to its items in my Explorator newsletter — and it seems to have the bona fides for people to believe what it says. Indeed, there are already blogs (e.g. Being Cleopatra) which are linking to this piece as if it represents the current state of affairs. For what it’s worth, the last we heard (in February), the dig had been suspended until it was ‘safer’ … the National Geographic piece closes with Martinez’s hopes to return in the Fall. There is nothing new here …

Apollo and the Muses Mosaic Found on the Oppian

Tip o’ the pileus to Martin Conde for alerting us to this find being reported in Corriere della Sera … here’s the important bit:

Colle Oppio delle meraviglie. Un nuovo Apollo emerge dalle viscere del colle. Per Roma è un evento, un nuovo eccezionale ritrovamento a due passi dalla Domus Aurea, dal Colosseo e dall’area archeologica centrale. Un mosaico di grandi dimensioni. Ecco che cosa è appena riaffiorato non lontano dall’affresco della «Città ideale» ritrovato nel criptoportico traianeo nel febbraio del 1998.

SOTTO LA GRANDE ESEDRA – L’area è ancora quella del fortunato tunnel traianeo, il mosaico ha al centro le figure di Apollo e delle muse. E proprio Apollo era il dio raffigurato in grande evidenza con una statua nell’affresco della città ideale grande una decina di metri quadri. Siamo sotto la grande esedra del complesso termale ideato per Traiano nel 109 dell’era volgare dal geniale architetto Apollodoro di Damasco, la nuova scoperta riguarda con tutta probabilità un edificio precedente l’impianto traianeo.
E’ toccato agli archeologi della sovrintendenza comunale guidati da Rita Volpe, che hanno in carico questa zone del sottosuolo traianeo adiacente alla Domus Aurea, scoprire il gioiello del criptoportico che ora il Campidoglio sta per rendere pubblico. Il mosaico, proprio com il celebre affresco di «Apollo e le muse Clio e Euterpe» (I sec.) conservato a Pompei, o l’antico frontone del tempio di Luni conservato a Firenze, ritrarrebbe il dio della poesia e del Sole. [...]

The upshot is the find of a twelve square metre mosaic on the Oppian Hill, beneath Trajan’s baths, depicting Apollo and muses. The article goes on with details of items found in the area in the past couple decades (and plans to open them to the public).

Martin Conde has an image of the page (in case the above expires) … there are photos in the Corriere piece, but they don’t appear to be of this discovery.

Tomb of St Philip?

From Zee News … it’s a bit vague and doesn’t say why they think it’s Philip’s, other than it happens to be a tomb in Heirapolis:

The tomb of Saint Philip, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ, has been discovered in Turkey, the Anatolia news agency reported Wednesday.

The discovery was made in Hierapolis at the ancient excavation site in the southwestern province of Denizli, said Francesco D’Andria, the head of the excavation team.

People believed the tomb of Saint Philip was in the “hill of the dead” in Hierapolis, but the team found a new church ruins near the hill where the tomb actually lies.

“The discovery of the tomb of St Philip, who is a very important figure in Christianity, will make a tremendous impression in the world,” D’Andria said.

Archaeologists had been working for years to look for the tomb of the Biblical figure.

Hierapolis is an ancient city and also a Unesco World Heritage Site. The city, famous for its historical hot springs, comprises a mixture of Pagan, Roman, Jewish and early Christian influences.

Saint Philip is believed to have died in Hierapolis around 80 A.D.

Legend says Saint Philip was crucified upside-down or martyred by beheading.

After his death, an octagonal tomb named “The Martryium” was erected for him.

Presumably, then, they’ve found an octagonal tomb with a beheaded or crucifixion victim inside — according to another, similarly vague, version, the tomb hasn’t even been opened, but “One day it will be,” … need more details!

Roman Village Near Corby?

From the Evening Telegraph:

An ancient Roman village dating back almost 2,000 years has been uncovered in the north of the county.

The farmstead was unearthed in Higham Road, Burton Latimer, and archaeologists believe it would have been fully functional in the second century AD.

Artefacts including coins and jars have been found at the site and the skeletons of 30 Romans were excavated from the settlement’s cemetery.

Simon Mortimer, director of CGMS Consulting, the company in charge of the dig, said: “In 1954 someone found some Roman coins here so we knew there would be something here.

“The ironwork and bronzework we’ve found suggests these were wealthy people living here – we are certainly not talking about peasants.

“This would have been a sophisticated society and that shows because we’ve found some pottery imported from France.

“We’ve found absolutely everything we could find and more.”

More than 40kg of pottery was found at the site, along with bronze work including a foot thought to be from a statuette of a Roman god.

The oldest artefacts found on the site actually come from long before the Romans settled – neolithic flint spears thought to be about 4,000 years old.

They would have been used by people for hunting.

Mr Mortimer said: “It’s bizarre to think that there was more time between the neolithic period and the Romans than there was between the Romans and us.”

The site will soon be home to 248 new houses, with building set to start imminently.

Hopefully we’ll hear more about this … CGMS doesn’t seem to have any details at its website.

Archimedes: You Streaker

Okay … this is officially the first thing that has come to my attention via Google+ … the Sun seems to have something called ‘Hold Ye Front Page’ which are front pages of the Sun for historical things, I guess. Archimedes jumping out of his bath is the subject of this one:

Google+ actually took me to this page at the Sun (and I followed a link) … the video is of indeterminate date and seems to be about the Archimedes Palimpsest …

d.m. Simon Price

From the Telegraph (tip o’ the pileus to Tim Parkin):

Simon Price, who has died aged 56, was among our era’s most innovative and versatile historians of the Greco-Roman world.

Price was a central contributor to the remarkable recent revival of academic interest in ancient Roman religion, but his interests were much broader. He wrote the best short book on Greek religion, Religions of the Ancient Greeks (1999), as well as articles on such diverse topics as ancient and modern theories of dream-interpretation (From Freud to Artemidorus); the role of terracing in Greek agriculture; and early Christian apologetic literature.

He also threw himself with enthusiasm into the comprehensive archaeological survey of the Sphakia region of south-west Crete: in a forthcoming two-volume publication, he treats the history of the region in not only the Greco-Roman but also the Venetian and Turkish periods.

Price’s breadth of vision, and his talent for addressing a wider audience, are shown in The Birth of Classical Europe. A History from Troy to Augustine. This work is remarkable not just for its chronological scope (1700BC to 425AD) but also for its insistence on setting the Greeks and Romans within a geographical frame including, for instance, Denmark and China.

When it became clear, in 2007, that the rare form of cancer (GIST) with which he had been diagnosed was recurrent, he recruited a co-author (his pupil Peter Thonemann) for this long-cherished project; it was published to great acclaim in 2010.

He was born in London on September 27 1954, and grew up in Manchester, where his father, later Bishop of Ripon, was attached to the cathedral. The preface to his first book begins: “Growing up in an Anglican cathedral house, I naturally acquired an interest in the significance of established religion.”

After Manchester Grammar School, Simon went on to read Classics at Queen’s College, Oxford, graduating with a First in 1976; at Queen’s he was among the last undergraduate pupils of a great Roman historian, Fergus Millar.

Going on to graduate work, Price was fortunate too in his supervisor, John North, who was already engaged in radical rethinking of early Roman religious history. A spell at Cambridge as a research Fellow at Christ’s brought him into contact with David Cannadine (with whom he co-edited a volume on Rituals of Royalty), with his future collaborator, Mary Beard, and with his future wife, the archaeologist Lucia Nixon.

In 1981 he became Fellow and Tutor in Ancient History at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, a post in which he remained until taking early retirement on health grounds in 2008.

The book of his thesis, Rituals and Power. The Roman Imperial cult in Asia Minor, was published in 1984 and caused a sensation. It was on the one hand a meticulous scholarly study of the extremely abundant evidence for the “who, when, where?” of the cults of Roman emperors in Asia Minor; but it also sought, with considerable success, to overturn previous understanding of this centrally important aspect of Roman rule.

Emperor worship had generally been understood as a form of flattery, more politely expressed as a “loyalty cult”, of no religious significance. Price argued, however, that it gave something in religious terms to those who practised it: treating the emperors as quasi-gods was a way of coming to terms with the godlike power that these individuals wielded from a distance over their subjects. It helped them to make sense of their world.

To the objection that nobody could really have believed the emperor, a mortal, to be a god, Price replied that ancient religion was not about belief but about ritual; to insist on belief was to treat pagan religion as though it were Christian. He remained a vigilant scourge of what he called “Christianising assumptions” throughout his career.

In 1990 he co-edited, with Oswyn Murray, a highly influential collection on The Greek City; his own paper in it (co-authored with Lucia Nixon) was considered a brilliant and innovative approach to the economic history of the Athenian empire.

His next major work, written with Mary Beard and John North, was the two-volume Religions of Rome (1998) . The plural “Religions” of the title was designed not only to stress the diversity of pagan cults but also to include Judaism and early Christianity.

“Beard-North-Price” immediately established itself on syllabuses everywhere as the essential work on the subject. Volume One, A History, posed real historians’ questions about the social role of these religions. Volume Two, A Sourcebook, contained a rich selection of visual images and translated texts accompanied by a concise but learned linking commentary. An Oxford Reader in Roman Religion, also co-edited with John North, appeared two weeks before Price’s death.

Open, adaptable and uncompetitive, Price was a natural collaborator; few scholars in the humanities have worked with others so willingly and so often. He was also a model colleague in faculty and college, patient and far-thinking. He was committed to education at all levels: characteristically, he served long spells as editor not only of the prestigious Journal of Roman Studies but also of Omnibus, the classics magazine for sixth formers.

An undergraduate who nervously questioned one of his views in an essay received the marginal comment “No offence is possible. Independence of judgment is all.” With graduates, he was superb; his maieutic skills in classes were matchless, and a string of distinguished monographs by supervisees pay tribute to his care and kindness. In Oxford he secured the admission of Religions of the Greek and Roman World to the undergraduate syllabus .

Simon Price and his family were intensely, without being brashly, sociable; their house was a place of relaxed and frequent hospitality to innumerable guests. He died on June 14 and is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Chariot Relief from Stratonikeia/Mugla

From Hurriyet:

A relief depicting a 2,000-year-old chariot race scene and new gladiator names has been discovered at an archeological dig in Muğla, proving the area was an important center for sporting events.

“We have found a block with a relief of a chariot race scene,” said Professor Bilal Söğüt, head of the excavation from Pamukkale University. “The chariot race scene provides us information on cultural and sporting activities. The chariot race relief also gives us considerable characteristic details of the carts and harness of that period.”

Ongoing excavations in the ancient city of Stratonikeia located in the Aegean province of Muğla are producing many interesting chariot race scenes. The city was established in the third century B.C., and later became part of ancient Greece and Rome.

An excavation team of 45 students and academics from seven universities, as well as 30 workers, found other blocks with reliefs of chariot race scenes in 2009.

“The one we found now and the former blocks must belong to different structures in size and location,” said Söğüt. “Chariot races organized in funeral ceremonies and sporting events were very important in the ancient period. We come across such figures on ceramics and structures often.”

“We also found new gladiator names in the recent excavations. We know that gladiators lived in this area and their graves are here,” he said. “A group of gladiators’ tombs are exhibited at the Muğla Museum. We believe Stratonikeia was an important area for gladiators. We believe we will find a structure where gladiators performed shows. But we don’t know yet where it is.”

Meanwhile, a research and development project team from the Education Ministry has also initiated a project called “Who Doesn’t Know the Past, Won’t Have a Future; So Teach Through History.”

“The project aims to introduce the environment to teachers and students and create historical consciousness,” Söğüt said, noting that the project had received funding of 49,550 euros as part of a learning program.

Excavations at Stratonikeia are continuing throughout the summer.

The original article has a photo which really isn’t very good but possibly worth a look. Last year, this dig found a gladiator necropolis: Where Gladiators Went to … Retire?

Also Seen: The Comic History of Rome

My spiders have clearly been wandering down interesting sideroads on the information super highway … they brought back an image from Wikicommons, and it turns out the whole mid-19th century book is online at the Posner Library. There is lots of text, but the ‘comics’ are really interesting and could spice up a lecture or two, I suspect:

Also Seen: A Foulis Homer

My spiders brought back this interesting blog post about the Foulis brothers’ mid-eighteenth century edition of Homer’s works. Here’s a bit of a tease in medias res:

“Robert Foulis (1707-1776) and Andrew Foulis (1712-1775) were at the forefront of the print trade in 18th century Glasgow and they contributed greatly to the development of Enlightenment print culture in the city…The editions of the classics produced by the Foulis brothers were renowned for their textual accuracy and the beauty of their type. Their greatest publication achievement is said to be that of a folio edition of Homer (1756-58) which contemporaries recognised as a masterpiece of literary and typographical accuracy” (Young, John R. The Glasgow Story).

“The partnership of the Foulis brothers marked the most significant period for Glasgow in publishing and printing during the eighteenth century. They printed some 586 editions together during their active partnership, 1744–75, producing books at a rate which varied from nine in 1764 to forty-three in 1751, an average of almost seventeen a year. Their connections with the university formed the basis of their success, with works written or edited by Glasgow professors such as Francis Hutcheson, George Muirhead, James Moor, and William Leechman dominating the British authors, and classical texts required for studies in the college such as Cicero, Xenophon, Epictetus, and the poets of the Anacreonta, frequently reprinted or re-edited by the brothers…

Podcast: Carthage – And Where is it Now?

Interesting that hot on the heels of the Carthage podcast we posted yesterday (scroll down a bit), that we get another one from ABC (Australia) Radio. In this case, they’re talking with Richard Miles, who is an ancient historian from the University of Sydney, and who has recently wordprocessed a tome called Carthage Must Be Destroyed. Here’s the official description:

Carthage was one of the great cities of the ancient world. It’s now a residential suburb of Tunis. but in its day it was a hugely important place, a great centre of trade comprehensively destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC. But what was it like to live in Carthage and how did urban life there compare with what was happening in its Italian rival city?

You can download or listen online here:

Podcast: The Rise and Fall of Carthage

One of my many summer resolutions is to be better keeping on top of podcasts (to which end I bought some nice Skullcandy speakers for my iPod with my BestBuy dollars).  This one’s actually kind of interesting because ages ago I found the Stuff You Missed in History Class’ hosts’ voices incredibly irritating. They’ve either changed hosts or learned to become less Valley Girlish. In any event, Here’s the official description:

Carthage was a trading hub of the ancient world, challenging the budding Roman Republic. In 264 B.C., Rome and Carthage began the Punic Wars, which continued for more than  a century. Tune in to learn more about the rise — and fall — of Carthage.

… and it’s a pretty good overview of matters Carthaginian, with the bonus that they don’t fall for the sowing the fields with salt thing.

[incidentally, if folks know of podcasts I should be following (I've been out of the loop for a while), feel free to drop me a line]

Circumundique July 22-24

Around the Classical blogosphere …

A Theme Park for Pompeii?

Author Caroline Lawrence was suggesting same on BBC Radio this a.m.:

Wallace-Hadrill isn’t a fan of the idea but seems to have had most of the segment; Lawrence expands on her reasons a bit in a blog post: Should Pompeii have a Theme Park?

It’s probably an idea worth considering, if nothing else, but hopefully it would not be anything like that thing next to the Villa del Casale at Piazza Armerina … the potential for, er, ne’er-do-wells messing with the cash flow is also something that would have to be considered.

Some Recent Drama Reviews

In case you missed them … from our Twitter feed: