Speaking of Pompey’s Murder …

As part of our ‘Grand Tour’ this summer, our relatives took us to the Chateau  de Modave, which is in the province of Liege in Belgium and is a fine example of what the ‘second’ and ‘third’ tier nobility of the Renaissance would have enjoyed as a country house. Amongst several items of Classical interest (which we’ll return to, as time allows), is a rather large tapestry depicting the presentation of Pompey’s head to Julius Caesar:


photo D. Meadows

Interesting how ‘Renaissance’ the Romans look and how ‘eastern’ Pompey’s head seems to look … notice the bundle of fasces in the crowd at the back … the city in the background looks like Liege (the twin towers of St Bart’s)  … and is that a ‘pygmy’ delivering the goods? So much going on in this one ……

This Day in Ancient History ~ ante diem iv kalendas octobres

English: Pompey the Great, Ny Carlsberg Glypto...

English: Pompey the Great, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (inv. 733). Nederlands: Gnaius Pompeius Magnus, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (inv. 733). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ante diem iv kalendas octobres

48 B.C. — Pompeius Magnus, in the wake of his defeat at Pharsalus, is murdered as he steps ashore in Egypt

Reptitiationes ~ 09/27/15

About Our Header Image: Sirens vs Muses

One of my favourite images from antiquity that I’ve come across long ago became the ‘official’ header image of rogueclassicism (scroll to the top of the page if you’ve never seen it). It comes from a sarcophagus currently in the Metrolpolitan Museum and depicts an incident mentioned in Pausanias (via Perseus):

On the market-place of Coroneia I found two remarkable things, an altar of Hermes Epimelius (Keeper of flocks) and an altar of the winds. A little lower down is a sanctuary of Hera with an ancient image, the work of Pythodorus of Thebes; in her hand she carries Sirens. For the story goes that the daughters of Achelous were persuaded by Hera to compete with the Muses in singing. The Muses won, plucked out the Sirens’ feathers (so they say) and made crowns for themselves out of them.

The official description of the Met piece doesn’t mention the story, alas:

On the front, the deities Athena, Zeus, and Hera, assembled at the far left, preside over a musical contest between the Muses and Sirens. The Muses, associated with man’s highest intellectual and artistic aspirations, are defeating the Sirens, creatures that are half woman and half bird who lured men to destruction with their song. […]

… especially the detail about the Muses actually winning and plucking feathers out to make their crowns.

Whatever the case, I can think of few images that better encapsulate the ‘struggle’ of using the Internet for one’s research. Does one heed the inspiration of the Muses and prevail or succumb to the song of the Sirens and get plucked?

Sixth Century B.C. Domus on the Quirinal

This story is actually a week or so old, but I had to do some investigating … the source for most of the coverage appears to be a report in ANSA; an excerpt:

[…] The sixth-century BC abode had a rectangular layout most likely divided into two rooms, on a tufa stone base and with an entrance possibly preceded by a portico opening onto one of the long sides, with wooden walls covered in clay under a tile roof.

The discovery was made this summer during preliminary archaeological excavations conducted by the superintendent’s office on the historic building and is considered one of the most important of recent years, as it redesigns the map of Rome between the sixth and the fifth centuries BC.

It is also remarkable for the good state of conservation of the structure and since it had previously been thought that the area in which it was found was used as a necropolis and not as a residential area. Since 2003, Palazzo Canevari – which is now owned by the Italian savings and loans bank, which took charge of the excavations when it purchased the property – has been surveyed to see whether ancient relics were on the premises. Following a period of extensive excavations, in 2013 an enormous fifth-century temple was found. And now this latest find, dating back to the time of the Servian Walls, has been considered revolutionary.

“This building is basically absent in archaic Rome, and there are only traces in the Forum area. The home was probably used for about 50-60 years prior to when the temple was built that was discovered in 2013,” Mirella Serlorenzi said during a press visit, who directed the excavations on behalf of the superintendent’s office. “The position of the house near the temple hints at it being a sacred area, and that whoever lived there was watching over what happened therein. But it is even more important that we can now retro-date the urbanization of the Quirinal zone. The Servian Walls encircled an area that was already inhabited and not a necropolis.” “This means that Rome at the beginning of the sixth century was much larger than what we expected and not closed in around the Forum,” she added, stressing that “the excavations will continue for months more. But everything depends on what we find.” […]

The Telegraph adds some useful detail, inter alia:

The hill was thought to have become a part of the city of Rome during the reign of Rome’s sixth king, Servius Tullius. It was previously believed to have been used as a sacred area, with temples and a necropolis, while the city’s residential area was believed to be further south where the Roman Forum is located. […]

… and some nice commentary by amicus noster Darius Arya:

“Many grand projects of restoration going on now are focused on the monuments we know, like the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain, but there is much of Rome’s history that is not so well preserved,” Darius Arya, an American archaeologist currently excavating Ostia Antica, told The Telegraph.

“What is so amazing is that this discovery dates back to Archaic Rome, a crucial period – the regal period – that made Rome so great.”

Folks wanting to track down coverage of the temple find back in 2013 will need to resort to the Italian press:

… which also mentioned a potentially interesting infant burial (was it part of the foundation?).  What I was trying to figure out (and still can’t, really) is whether this is the same site (I get confused by all the Palazzi)  which found a statue of a Maenad which some were suggesting might be a link to a Temple of Quirinus (but later that suggestion was changed … Maybe the Temple of Quirinus Is Somewhere Else?). What became of that?

More coverage (mostly based on AP):

This Day in Ancient History ~ ante diem xiv kalendas octobres

ante diem xiv kalendas octobres

ludi Romani (day 14)

Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. http://www.cngcoins.com

Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. http://www.cngcoins.com

31 A.D. — execution of Sejanus (still not sure about that one

53 A.D. (?) — birth of the future emperor Trajan

96 A.D. — murder of the emperor Domitian; dies imperii of the emperor Nerva

1709 — Birth of Samuel Johnson

Repititiationes ~ 09/17/15

Roman Vicus at Gernsheim

A Goethe-Universitat press release:

Dennis Braks foto

Dennis Braks foto

FRANKFURT/GERNSHEIM. During their first Gernsheim dig last year, Frankfurt University archaeologists suspected that a small Roman settlement must have also existed here in the Hessian Ried. Now they have discovered clear relics of a Roman village, built in part on the foundations of the fort after the soldiers left. This probably occurred around 120 AD. At the time the cohort (about 500 soldiers) was transferred from the Rhine to the Limes, and a period of peace lasting until about 260 AD began for the Roman village (which was part of the Roman province of Germania Superior) with the “Pax Romana”.

Until a year ago, little was known about Roman Gernsheim even though Roman finds have repeatedly been made here since the 19th century. “We now know that from the 1st to the 3rd century an important village-like settlement or ‘vicus’ must have existed here, comparable to similar villages already proven to have existed in Groß-Gerau, Dieburg or Ladenburg”, explains dig leader Dr. Thomas Maurer from the Goethe University, who has been going from Frankfurt to Southern Hesse for years in search of traces. He has published his findings in a major journal about the North Hessian Ried during the Roman imperial period.

Thomas Maurer foto

Thomas Maurer foto

During the second excavation campaign running from 3 August to early October, the 20 students of the “Archaeology and History of the Roman Provinces” course under the direction of Maurer have already uncovered the well-preserved foundation of a stone building, fire pits, at least two wells and some cellar pits. They also filled boxes with shards of fine, coarse and transport ceramics, which will undergo scientific examination in order to allow more accurate dating of the fort and the village. “We’ve also found real treasures such as rare garment clasps, several pearls, parts of a board game (dice, playing pieces) and a hairpin made from bone and crowned with a female bust”, explains a delighted Maurer.

Thomas Maurer foto

Thomas Maurer foto

The people who settled in the village around the fort were primarily family members of the soldiers and tradespeople who benefited from the purchasing power of the military. “A temporary downturn probably resulted when the troops left – this is something we know from sites which have been studied more thoroughly”, Maurer adds. However, stone buildings were already erected in the “Gernsheim Roman village” during the 2nd century, which suggests that the settlement was prospering. The population probably had mainly Gallic-Germanic origins, with perhaps a few “true” Romans – persons with Roman citizenship who moved here from faraway provinces. This is illustrated by specific archaeological finds; most notably pieces of traditional dress but also coins. One of the historic finds from Gernsheim is a coin from Bithynia (Northwest Anatolia), which was certainly not among the coins in circulation in Germania Superior but would instead have been a form of souvenir.

A troop unit with about 500 soldiers (cohort) was stationed in this area between 70/80 and 110/120 AD. Evidence of two V-shaped ditches typical of this kind of fort as well as other finds dating from the time after the fort was abandoned have been discovered here over the past year. An unusually large number of finds have been made. This is because when the Romans left they dismantled the fort and filled in the ditches. A lot of waste was disposed of in the process, especially in the inner ditch. “A stroke of luck for us,” comments Prof. Dr. Hans-Markus von Kaenel from the Institute for Archaeological Sciences at Goethe University, who has been retired since 2014. Together with his colleagues and students, von Kaenel studied the Roman Southern Hesse for almost 20 years, carrying out surveys and digs as well as preparing and evaluating material. The results have been published in over 50 papers.

The fort with the settlement was erected in order to take possession of large areas to the east of the Rhine around the seventh decade of the 1st century AD, and to expand the traffic infrastructure from and to the centre Mainz-Mogontiacum. The significance of Gernsheim am Rhein during Roman times is supported by its easily accessible l

Thomas Maurer Foto

Thomas Maurer Foto

ocation, with a road to Mainlimes branching from the main Mainz – Ladenburg – Augsburg road. A Rhine harbour is suspected to exist as well, but this couldn’t be confirmed during the course of this dig – “and that wasn’t really expected from this particular site”, Maurer says. The continued expansion of Gernsheim throughout the 20th century threatened to obliterate the archaeological traces more and more. In August of this past year, the first educational dig of the Institute for Archaeology at Goethe University began here on one of the few as yet undeveloped properties, a double lot at Nibelungenstraße 10-12.

During this year’s excavation campaign, covering an area of 600 square meters on the property and thus twice as large as last year, the 20 students ensured that the soil was carefully removed, findings surveyed and documented, and objects recovered and packaged carefully. The work has been supported by the Frankfurt archaeologists from the Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Hessen (hessenARCHÄOLOGIE, Darmstadt branch) as well as the Cultural and History Association of Schöfferstadt Gernsheim. Some members of this association, which also operates the Heimatmuseum, provide help and advice to the dig team on a daily basis. The documentation and finds from this excavation campaign form the basis for further scientific work, including in the form of university theses, which will be completed at the Goethe University in the near future.



Originally posted on Classics for All Reviews:

By Rex Winsbury

Bloomsbury (2015) p/b 246pp £21.99 (ISBN 9781474237123)

At the beginning of this book W., a veteran journalist and historian, puts Pliny in the dock. He acknowledges that his letters give us a unique insight into the social, literary and domestic conventions of upper class life in first century AD Rome, so that we seem to know their author, a genial and bumbling lawyer, almost better than any other Roman writer, but records too that others have seen him as a fraud and hypocrite, one who wittingly falsified the details of his career to his own advantage, and as a staggering bore with a hugely inflated view of his own abilities, both literary and political. Is Gaius Plinius Secundus innocent of these offences, asks W., or is he guilty as charged?

To answer the question he embarks on a cross-examination of Pliny’s life, at pains to point out…

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