Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews ~ 08/20/14

 

  • 2014.08.35:  Rachel Zelnick-Abramovitz, Taxing Freedom in Thessalian Manumission Inscriptions. Mnemosyne supplements. History and archaeology of classical antiquity, 361.
    2014.08.34:  Thomas F. Tartaron, Maritime Networks in the Mycenaean World.
    2014.08.33:  Rosaria Vignolo Munson, Herodotus: Volume 2, Herodotus and the World. Oxford readings in classical studies.
    2014.08.32:  Ilenia Achilli, Le ali di Clio. Massimo di Tiro e il pensiero storico classico. Biblioteca di Sileno, 5.
    2014.08.31:  Michele Alessandrelli, Il problema del λεκτόν nello stoicismo antico: origine e statuto di una nozione controversa. Lessico Intellettuale Europeo, 121
  • 2014.08.30:  Leonid Zhmud, Pythagoras and the Early Pythagoreans. (Translated from Russian by Kevin Windle and Rosh Ireland; first published 1994).

 

In Case You’re Wondering About Amphipolis

Although I intend to write later something about an aspect of the Amphipolis tomb which I find interesting (the sphinxes), I thought folks might be interested to hear ‘the latest’. The find really isn’t getting as much press in English as it is in Greek (perhaps understandably) but while scanning the latest editions of online Greek newspapers, I came across an English source called GRReporter which seems to be writing excellent summaries of what the Greek press is saying (certainly better than Google Translate), without wasting time speculating heavily on who might be in the tomb. So here’s a taste of GR Reporter from yesterday:

Over the past few days the region around the excavations of the tomb in Amphipolis has become the subject of increased interest on the part of tourists who had chosen North Greece for their summer holiday. They arrived at the fenced and heavily guarded site by bus and car, trying to see the entrance with the two sphinxes that the archaeological team has discovered.

Although the work was interrupted during the three days from 15-18 August the tourist inflow to the region of the gulf of the River Strouma was continuous, as reported by local sources.

Hundreds of tourists visited the museum in Amphipolis to see the ancient artefacts exhibited there. Some of them came equipped with special telescopic lenses to capture the details of the covered tomb entrance.

The excavations were resumed on Monday morning and the composition of the team was expanded with the addition of several archaeologists in order for the mystery hidden by the tomb to be revealed as soon as possible. Archaeologist Michalis Lefantzis, a close collaborator of head of the excavations Catherine Peristeri, is at the site as well.

“Whatever happens, you will learn about it very soon,” he told the Greek news agency AMNA, adding that the information on the course of the archaeological excavations will only be provided by the Ministry of Culture.

The tomb of unique size and its so far secret occupant have provoked huge media interest. Television stations both from West European and from Greece’s neighbouring countries have sent crews to the site as well. According to mayor of the local municipality Athanasios Zournatzis “the region was visited by a TV crew from Bulgaria and many tourist groups arriving by bus.”

It is already clear that both the sphinxes and marble slabs at the entrance of the tomb will be removed to facilitate the access of archaeologists to its interior.

According to them, behind the wall of the entrance, the floor is tessellated with diamond-shaped pieces and it probably goes behind the door and its poles. The geophysical survey that was conducted last year showed that the interior of the tomb is divided into three rooms. When the soil in this part is removed, which may take place along with the excavations, archaeologists will dismantle part of the wall that was built after the deceased person was laid in the grave in order to protect the building. The dismantling will take place stone by stone, and each piece will be described, numbered and documented. If there is no second building behind the first wall archaeologists may find themselves in front of the grave that will be opened as described.

They do not exclude the possibility of demolition in some of the three inside rooms. In this case, the soil will be carefully collected and transported because it could contain valuable finds.

If this worst-case scenario is not confirmed and the three rooms are empty, archaeologists will take pictures of them and will establish whether the tomb has remained intact over the centuries or if it has been already opened. If the latter proves to be true then the probability of it being deprived of important elements is great. In this case, archaeologists will have to base their assumptions on any things that they may find. However, if the grave was not the target of attacks in the past, the identification of the deceased person(s) will be easier, based on the skeleton, sex, age, height, and the burial gifts around him or her, or them.

Despite the increased speculation that the body of Alexander the Great could have been laid in the tomb, the head of the excavations continues to believe that a senior general of his army was buried there. So far, however, there is insufficient data to exactly determine his identity.

… and this morning they have a nice profile of archaeologist Katherine Peristeri (whose name Google Translate really mangles):

Over the past 10 days Greece has again found itself at the epicentre of global interest. This time the reason is not the economic crisis but a kind of an archaeological thriller. It is expected that its end will reveal the secret of the tomb in Amphipolis where the excavations are being intensively conducted and are already in the final phase. They are led by head of the 28th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities Catherine Peristeri.

She has been the head of the service since 2009 but her connection with the tomb goes back a long way to the time when she was a research associate of famous archaeologist Dimitris Lazaridis, who began the excavations in the region in 1965. From her work with him, she keeps many memories that are associated with some of the greatest discoveries. For example, after the discovery of the tomb of Philip of Macedonia in Vergina by Manolis Andronikos, Lazaridis bitterly stated, “I could not find Roxana.”

In 2009 Catherine Peristeri became the head of the group that began to work intensively to uncover the tomb in Amphipolis. The people who know her define her as an archaeologist with rich knowledge and experience, with a strong motivation to achieve her goal and reveal the identity of the deceased person who was laid in the tomb.

Until 2012, the excavations were limited to the first level, without giving interesting results. In 2012, however, Peristeri began to explore the lower layers to establish the size of the tomb.

The excavations in the first two areas within the perimeter of the Kasta hill did not yield the desired result. However, while exploring the third zone, the archaeologist uncovered a significant finding, namely the impressive yard of the tomb. At the beginning of the excavations, the mound was 23 metres high and archaeologists had to “go down” another 12 metres to reach their find, as stated by Peristeri.

In this phase of the excavations, which is of the key ones, she found a stone ring. This finding led to the discovery of a 3 metres high wall that was exceptionally impressive as a structure and of the 60 metres long built yard of the tomb, which was fully preserved. The remaining part with a perimeter of 500 metres was destroyed in antiquity.

At this stage of her work, Peristeri sought assistance from architect Michalis Lefantzis who has experience from his work on the projects for the restoration of the Acropolis in Athens and happened to be in the region at that time. From that moment Lefantzis became a permanent member of the team led by Peristeri. They both tried to reconstruct the funerary complex and after a long study, they concluded that the Lion of Amphipolis was directly connected to the eponymous tomb.

Moreover, the digital scanning that was carried out last year showed that the yard of the tomb formed a perfect circle, and that the lion, which today is located at a distance of five kilometres from it, was placed on top.

It is said that the meeting between Catharine Peristeri and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras that took place 10 days ago was just one of the many conversations held between them over the past two years. Their acquaintance dates back to the time when Samaras was Minister of Culture from 2007 to 2009 According to sources, he had assisted her ​​many times to solve various problems encountered during the excavation works in order for them to continue unhindered.

One of Catherine Peristeri’s most characteristic features is that she is very concise in her statements. The reason for this is her desire to prevent her words from being misinterpreted. Her decision is justified by the fact that she and her team members are often forced to refute various rumours about the identity of the deceased in the tomb, the most common of them being that Alexander the Great himself was laid there.

In order to interrupt the flow of false rumours, the Greek Ministry has announced that it will issue continuous information bulletins on the progress of the excavations. The same message refutes the reports that the two sphinxes that are at the entrance of the tomb are to be removed in order to facilitate the access of archaeologists to its interior.

We look forward to the ‘continuous information bulletins’ … perhaps they’ll update their website (which seems stuck in April 2014 or thereabouts; still haven’t seen anything on this at their site … unless they have a different one?).

TL;DR:  they’ve resumed excavations, found a mosaic floor near the entrance, are removing the big stones in front of it, but leaving the sphinxes.

[why are TL;DR things at the end of things; shouldn't they be at the start?]

 

… more to come later; if you missed our initial coverage:

News from Pompeii: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Catching up with what’s been happening at Pompeii … first, from ANSA, we read of 10 ‘new’ houses being opened to the public:

From the sumptuous frescoes of the Hunting Lodge (Casa della Caccia) to the exquisite decorations of the House of Apollo (Casa di Apollo) and vivid reliefs of the Trojan War, Pompeii is seducing visitors this summer with 10 newly restored houses, some of which had never been open to the public before. After long controversy regarding the lack of personnel at Pompeii, the ministry of culture has dispatched 30 new keepers for the holiday season, a State exam to select new janitors is in the works, and extended opening hours on Friday mean the public can stroll through the ruins after sundown. Tourists are enjoying the new sites: more than 13,000 visitors flocked to Pompeii on the August 15 national religious holiday, bringing proceeds in excess of 114,000 euros, while 122 people decided to explore the city preserved in lava during night visiting hours.

The 10 new houses include the Thermopolium (Latin for restaurant) of Vetutius Placidus, where people could buy cooked food to go. It boasts shrines to Mercury and Dionysus (the gods of commerce and wine, respectively), a dining hall, and an adjoining mansion with a vestibule, a garden, and a dining room.

The Ancient Hunting Lodge (Casa della Caccia Antica) is another must-see at Pompeii. According to experts, it had just undergone renovation when it was buried under meters of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. An extensive hunting scene is still visible on one of its garden walls, and its interiors are luxuriously decorated with beautiful paintings and marble-like coverings.

Also noteworthy are the Domus Cornelia and its exquisite sculptures, the House of Apollo adorned with images of the god to which it owes its name, and the House of Achilles with its impressive reliefs of the Trojan war.

… but then we hear of a French tourist being caught trying to take some tiles home as a souvenir (this is the Bad) … from the Local:

A French tourist was arrested on Tuesday after stealing a relic from the ancient ruins of Pompeii. It is the latest in a string of thefts from the site which one tour guide told The Local “is all too easy to steal from”.

The 51-year-old was arrested for theft while trying to escape from the site in southern Italy, Articolo Tre reported.

He had taken pieces of red plaster and fragments from an amphora handle as a “souvenir”.

The latest theft comes just a few months after a tourist from Georgia was caught trying to steal tiles from a mosaic at the site, also to take home as a keepsake.

Giorgio Melani, from Guide Pompei, told The Local that the vast site is easy to steal from because there are few custodians guarding the relics.

But Giuseppe Galano, a tour guide at Visit Pompeii, believes some tourists visit the site specifically to leave with some of its “treasure”.

“I question whether they would do the same thing at home. They know Pompeii is famous and they want a piece of it,” he said, adding that the summer is peak season for theft.

“Especially on the first Sunday of each month when the entrance is free. About 14,000 people passed through the gates last Sunday; how can you control that?”

While the relics from the latest thefts are now back in safe hands, others from Pompeii have made it as far as eBay.

Just last week an Australian auction advertised a mosaic from the site, but the advert was quickly removed after it caught the attention of the Italian police

In January, a brick supposedly taken from the ruins in 1958 was also put up for sale on the online retail site for just $99, or a little over €70. The listing, which included four photos of the brick, soon caught the attention of online surfers and, eventually, the police.

As for the Ugly (in the sense it’s probably something you don’t want to see), here’s the Telegraph coverage of a story that’s been making the rounds over the past week:

Among the most popular attractions in the ancient city of Pompeii are the colourful frescoes which depict the lurid sexual fantasies of those who lived there 2,000 years ago.

Inspired by the images, a French tourist and two Italian women decided to make their personal fantasy a reality. They were caught climbing the walls of the UNESCO World Heritage site late on Tuesday night, heading for the city’s Suburban Baths.

The communal baths were once a lively meeting place for wealthy merchants and political leaders before the city was wiped out in the devastating volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD.

The bath walls were vividly decorated with explicit sex scenes, including group sex, for patrons who were looking to visit the prostitutes nearby.

The trio – a 32-year-old French man from Lyon and his companions – were seeking to bring those images to life when they were caught by custodians in a Pompeii piazza and handed over to police.

One Italian report said they were semi-naked and confessed to police that they were looking for the baths to fulfil their desires.

Pompeii officials said the three had neither damaged nor stolen anything from the historic site and police said they were only charged with trespassing.

But their escapade has provoked plenty of debate in an Italian press more accustomed to writing about tourists stealing souvenirs or etching their names in the walls of the country’s ancient treasures.

“There is fornication and fornication,” said commentator Pietro Treccagrioli from the daily, Il Mattino. “If it is done for art, it deserves applause.”

Experts say six frescoes in the apodyterium or changing room of the Pompeii bath house offer an “erotic catalogue” of the era and many of the villas in Pompeii also display the remnants of erotic images and statues.

Augustus Bimillennium Filmfest

To mark the bimillennium of Augustus’ death, here’s a little filmfest to help you remember why he’s so darned important (as if you needed it):

We’ll start with Adrian Murdoch’s Emperors of Rome podcast on Augustus to get a quick overview:

The fine folks at AIRC have just put up a nice little video which showcases a lot of the buildings (still around) which are associated with Augustus in the city of Rome:

A couple of podcasty type things about the Ara Pacis … the first from the Khan Academy:

… and the Ancient Art Podcast:

The Open University has a nice thing on Augustus’ house and the mythology tied to it:

For some reason, I’ve always loved this little excerpt when Octavian takes on the purple (from the Rome series):

… and Augustus’ death scene from I, Claudius (with commentary from the actors):

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem xiv kalendas septembres

ante diem xiv kalendas septembres

  • Vinalia — the second major wine festival of this name celebrated by the Romans
  • 43 B.C. — the future emperor Octavian enters his first consulship; Octavian’s adoption by Julius Caesar formally recognized
  • 14 A.D. — Augustus dies at Nola
  • 232 A.D. — birth of the future emperor Probus
  • 304 A.D. — martyrdom of Thecla at Caesarea
  • c. 306 A.D. — martyrdom of Agapius at Caesarea

Catching Up with Cambyses’ Lost Army

Longtime readers of rogueclassicism will recall a short series of posts dealing with claims about Cambyses’ army which supposedly disappeared in the Egyptian desert lo those many years ago:

As such, a press release from Leiden University (from a month or so ago) offering an alternative explanation is of obvious interest:

It is one of the greatest archaeological mysteries of all times: the disappearance of a Persian army of 50,000 men in the Egyptian desert around 524 BC. Leiden Professor Olaf Kaper unearthed a cover-up affair and solved the riddle.

Herodotus
It must have been a sand storm, writes the Greek historian Herodotus. He tells the story of the Persian King Cambyses, who entered the Egyptian desert near Luxor (then Thebes) with 50,000 men. The troops supposedly never returned; they were swallowed by a sand dune. A fantastic tale that was long the subject of many debates.

Long quest

Egyptologist Olaf Kaper never believed it: ‘Since the 19th century, people have been looking for this army: amateurs, as well as professional archaeologists. Some expect to find somewhere under the ground an entire army, fully equipped. However, experience has long shown that you cannot die from a sandstorm, let alone have an entire army disappear.’

Petoebastis III

Kaper is now putting forward an entirely different explanation. He argues that the army did not disappear, but was defeated. ‘My research shows that the army was not simply passing through the desert; its final destination was the Dachla Oasis. This was the location of the troops of the Egyptian rebel leader Petubastis III. He ultimately ambushed the army of Cambyses, and in this way managed from his base in the oasis to reconquer a large part of Egypt, after which he had himself crowned Pharaoh in the capital, Memphis.’

Spin doctor

The fact that the fate of the army of Cambyses remained unclear for such a long time is probably due to the Persian King Darius I, who ended the Egyptian revolt with much bloodshed two years after Cambyses’ defeat. Like a true spin doctor, he attributed the shameful defeat of his predecessor to natural elements. Thanks to this effective manipulation, 75 years after the events, all Herodotus could do was take note of the sandstorm story.

Pieces of the puzzle

Kaper made this discovery accidentally; he was not looking for it actively. In collaboration with New York University and the University of Lecce, he was involved for the last ten years in excavations in Amheida, in the Dachla Oasis. Earlier this year, he deciphered the full list of titles of Petubastis III on ancient temple blocks. ‘That’s when the puzzle pieces fell into place’, says the Egyptologist. ‘The temple blocks indicate that this must have been a stronghold at the start of the Persian period. Once we combined this with the limited information we had about Petubastis III, the excavation site and the story of Herodotus, we were able to reconstruct what happened.’

See also:

Seems like a reasonable explanation; I doubt it will stop folks from speculating, though …