Temple of Isis Found at Florence?

Brief item from ANSA:

Workmen inside Florence’s courthouse have stumbled across a spiral column and hundreds of multicoloured fragments that experts believe may have belonged to a Roman temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis.

Dating to the second century AD, the remains were discovered as the men dug a five by three metre hole, barely four metres deep, for a new water cistern for the courthouse’s anti-incendiary system.

”These finds are of extraordinary importance,” said Alessandro Palchetti, the archaeologist charged with overseeing the works in the courthouse by Florence’s archaeology superintendency, who suspected something interesting might be uncovered because of the area’s historic relevance.

Palchetti said the remains were ”comparable” to others found over the last three centuries in the immediate area that have also been attributed to the temple of Isis, the Egyptian goddess of motherhood and fertility who was later adopted by the Greeks and Romans.

The location of the temple is unknown, Palchetti said, but it is believed to have been built just outside the Roman part of the city, near the current courthouse building.

Meanwhile, Florence’s Culture Councillor Eugenio Giani said ongoing excavations of an ancient Roman theatre under the city’s Palazzo Vecchio will mean members of the public will be able to visit the site in two years’ time.

Archaeologists have already uncovered the area where spectators sat and a portion of the orchestra as well as revealed the story of the theatre and its fall into disuse.

Constructed at the end of the first century AD, it was in use until the end of the fourth century before remaining structures were used as a burial place, stalls for animals and a prison during Medieval times.

”We’ll continue to work on the central corridor which will give us a direct link with the Cortile della Dogana of Palazzo Vecchio from where people will be able to make the descent,” said Giani.

… I see more of this sort of thing in the Italian press; I might have more this weekend.

LIMC ‘Complete’

From a UBristol press release:

A scholarly project to document and analyse all known images of mythology from the Greek, Roman and Etruscan civilisations, has reached it culmination with the appearance of the last two volumes of the 20-volume series. The project, known as LIMC (Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae), was begun in the early 1970s.

The two volumes (‘Supplementum 2009’) picture many new and hitherto-unpublished representations of myths, and bring up to date the entire forty-year project – which has been described as the boldest venture in classical scholarship in the past 70 years.  The non-profit-making LIMC Foundation is based in Basel, with branches in Athens, Heidelberg, Paris and Würzburg; the Council which administers it is drawn from more than 30 countries in five continents.  At the head of LIMC is Richard Buxton, Professor of Greek Language and Literature at Bristol who has been one of the editors of LIMC since 2003, and since 2006, its President. 

The work of the LIMC Foundation is far from over.  It has two major ongoing projects.  The first, ‘ThesCRA’ (‘Thesaurus Cultus et Rituum Antiquorum’), documents ancient cults and rites; five volumes are out so far (published by the J. Paul Getty Museum), with more on the way.  The second project involves digitizing the whole LIMC archive, so as to put it online – and free to the user.

“This can’t be done overnight,” explains Professor Buxton, “because before putting the images on the web we need to gain the explicit permission of the hundreds of museums and private collections which house the objects illustrated.”

In spite of this, and in spite of the increasingly challenging task of raising funds, Professor Buxton estimates that both ThesCRA and the digitization will be completed within three years.

All this proves, if proof were needed, that classical myths are alive and well, and as meaningful and vibrant now as at any time in their rich and complex history.

… interesting; I was just mentioning LIMC on Facebook t’other day. Of course, a work like this really isn’t ever complete. I’m sure we’ll have another supplement in a decade or so …

Financial Scandals at Vindolanda? Probably Not …

The News Post Journal provides a fine example of journalists trying to make extremely tenuous connections to modern political events, in this case, the assorted financial adventures of assorted Members of Parliament. The item is brief, so:

ANCIENT Roman writing tablets found near Hadrian’s Wall, suggest public officials were on the take 1,900 years ago.

No floating duck ponds, second homes allowances or bath plugs in sight -but sinew, ears of grain, high priced leatherware and lavish entertainment.

Writing tablets, dating from the Second Century, uncovered at Vindolanda – the Roman encampment
near Hadrian’s Wall – detail hundreds of expenses claims and receipts concerning the soldiers stationed there and lavish parties thrown by their Commanding Officer.

Five of the tablets – translated by Professor Tony Birley – contain 111 lines detailing entertainment claims at the camp.

Among the items detailed are a hundred pounds of sinew, hobnails for boots, bread, cereals, hides, and pigs.

One official or merchant makes an urgent plea for funds: "As to the 100 pounds of sinew from Marinus-I will settle up. From when you wrote about this he has not even mentioned it to me.

"I have written to you several times that I have bought ears of grain, about 5,000 modii, on account of which I need denarii-unless you send me something, at least 500 denarii, I will lose what I have given as a down payment, about 300 denarii, and will be embarrassed, so I ask you: send me some denarii as soon as possible."

More than 400 tablets were discovered at the site and are the earliest example of the written word in Britain.

The implication of this seems to be that this sinew etc. was to be used in some "lavish party", but that seems to be quite a stretch. The letter in question is Vindolanda Tablet 343 and is readily available — with commentary — online. Here’s an excerpt thereof (go to the page for more):

The whole letter is replete with signs of entrepreneurial initiative. The sums of money and goods involved are very considerable: Candidus is asked for 500 denarii and Octavius has laid out 300 (a year’s pay for a miles gregariusmodii of cereal and hides numbering in the hundreds can hardly be intended for any other market. Octavius (wherever he was) presumably purchased the cereal from local sources. The hides will have come from the military sector since it is surely inconceivable that tanneries operating on this scale can have existed outside it. The reference to the presence of hides at Cataractonium (Catterick, lines ii.15-6) is of great interest and well fits the archaeological evidence for a large tannery there in the period between c. AD 85 and 120 (see Butler (1971), 170, Burnham and Wacher (1990), 111-7). The reference to credit arrangements with a certain Tertius, albeit for a small sum, is also of interest. The evidence for the operation of a cash economy on this scale and for the sophistication of the financial dealings in this region is in general supported by the evidence of the accounts from Vindolanda. in this period). The natural conclusion is that Octavius and Candidus are involved in the supply of goods in a military context on a large scale.

How one can leap from that sort of thing to a headline screaming "Ancient Roman "MPs" were first for expenses scandal" is beyond me.

From the Mailbag: New Classics Blog – Pop Classics

Juliette Harrisson — a PhD candidate at UBirmingham — scripsit:

I’m e-mailing to inform you of a new Classics blog which I have just started. It is called Pop Classics and posts informal reviews of Classics in popular culture; everything from The Life of Brian to a brief mention of The Aeneid in Red Dwarf. The url is www.popclassicsjg.blogspot.com.

… looks interesting so far. We’ll be adding it to our blogosphere …