Alexander’s Descendents Part …

We haven’t had a story about a claim in regards to some Asian people being descendents of Alexander’s army in quite a while … here’s one from the Independent (Ireland):

A road being built in a remote part of the Himalayas is putting researchers on course to study descendants of Alexander the Great’s army.

According to legend, the fair-haired and blue-eyed inhabitants of Malana are descended from Alexander’s soldiers.

A team of anthropologists has set out to unravel a mystery that has fascinated historians for centuries. Scientists from Sweden and India have joined forces to establish the origins of the culture and language.


The village boasts what is believed to be the oldest experiment in democracy. Its people operate their own republic, with an elected upper and lower house. The village has a judicial system with a court to resolve disputes among 200 families.

According to the legend, Alexander stopped in Malana, part of Himachal Pradesh, in 326BC when he defeated King Porus. The battle sapped his army’s confidence and some settled with local women.

Professor PK Vaid, of the Institute of Tribal Studies, Shimla, said DNA testing could determine any links to people in Macedonia.

“Their features appear to be European,” he said. “They have blue eyes and fair hair. Their democratic system could have its roots in Greece. It’s unique.”

For the ‘ancient connection’ an excerpt from Pierre Herman Leonard Eggermont, Alexander’s campaigns in Sind and Baluchistan is useful …

… for a ‘response’ of sorts:

Bronze Age Warrior

from the Telegraph
from the Telegraph

Another one I’ve been sitting on and a bit out of our period of purview, but I like this sort of thing (and I find it interesting that the pottery looks ‘Halstatt’ to me, but that’s very likely not even close) … At the beach at Nettuno, south of Rome, a ‘warrior burial’ has been found, and the skeleton (intact, save for his feet) has been dubbed “Nello”.

Raffaelle Mancini in the Telegraph:

“It was fascinating to see the skeleton of Nello emerge from the ground and at first we thought it was that of a Roman solider, but then the experts identified it as dating back to the third millennium B.C. The skeleton is just below 1.7 metres in length and was found intact apart from the feet which were probably washed away by the sea and the grave was 85cm wide and oval in shape.”

The AP coverage adds:

“We will check the area to see whether this tomb is isolated and the warrior was buried here because this was the battlefield where he died … Or maybe there is a bigger necropolis, as we indeed believe.”

Marina Sapelli Ragni noted:

“It is a fascinating discovery and one which has excited colleagues and myself immensely. It is also interesting as the skeleton was found with an arrow in the ribs suggesting he may have been killed maybe in combat or murdered but he was also found with six ceramic vases. Usually this would be associated with some form of official funeral ceremony but to be honest we just don’t know and extensive tests will be carried out on the bones and we hope to build up a picture of what Nello’s life was like 4,500 years ago.”

There doesn’t appear to be much on the web in regards to the Bronze Age around Nettuno … all I’ve found of interest is A.J. Nijboer et al, Fabric analysis on CERAMICS FROM A LATE BRONZE AGE SALTERN ON THE COAST NEAR NETTUNO (ROME, ITALY)

[interesting how that ‘solider’ misspelling is repeated in much of the coverage below]

Hic Vespasianus Dormiebat?

I initially was sitting on this one because I was hoping to get some really good coverage … then things came up and it’s sort of old news, but there is much conflicting opinion involved with it. The ‘bottom line’ which all media reports seem to agree with is that Italian archaeologists have excavated a very large villa which obviously belonged to a very wealthy person near Cittareale (Rieti). It boasts elaborate marble floors, colonnades, mosaics, and all the sorts of things we’d expect in a rich person’s dwelling. What is bigger ‘news’, however, is the speculation that it belonged to the emperor Vespasian — presumably because he was born in the vicinity (at Falacrina) or died in the vicinity (at Aqua Cutiliae), but the media coverage (especially in headlines) seems to be expressing it as a certainty. Despite that, these seem to be the important opinions:

Helen Patterson (of the BSR) dixit in the Telegraph:

“We’ve found a monumental villa with elaborate floors made of marble brought from quarries in Greece and North Africa … There’s also a very extensive bath complex which is just beginning to emerge. It’s the only large villa in the area, and the size and dating fits in perfectly with Vespasian. Until we find a stone or marble inscription saying ‘Vespasian lived here’, we can’t be 100 per cent certain, but it seems very likely. It’s in a perfect position, overlooking a river and the old Via Salaria trade route.”

FIlipo Coarelli told La Stampa (and this seems to have been translated in much of the English coverage):

Non abbiamo trovato alcuna iscrizione – dice – e quindi non c’è certezza. Ma l’epoca, la qualità degli ambienti, il luogo, e poi l’unicità di questa villa, il fatto che non ce ne siano altre nei dintorni… insomma, tutto lascia pensare a una residenza della dinastia dei Flavi

Coarelli went a bit further with Discovery News:

We are talking of a unique, 15,000-square-meter (161,459-square-foot) villa. We found no inscription that says it belonged to the emperor, but the location, dating, size and quality of the building leave little doubt about its owner.

So it seems possible that this villa did perhaps belong to Vespasian, but that’s about it. At this point it certainly does not warrant hyping it as his birthplace (so CBC, New York Times, BBC (the latter citing an unnamed archaeologist), AP) or his place of death (as the La Stampa coverage seems to suggest), this being the bimillennium of his birth notwithstanding. See further Mary Beard’s post on this (and some of the useful comments of her followers).

Some English coverage:


This Day in Ancient History: pridie idus sextiles

pridie idus sextiles

rites in honour of Hercules Invictus in the Circus Maximus

rites in honour of Venus Victrix, Honos, Virtus, and Felicitas in Pompey’s theatre

3 A.D. — conjunction of Jupiter and Venus (one suggestion for the ‘Star of Bethlehem’)

305 A.D. — martyrdom of Anicetus and companions at Nicomedia

1867 — birth of Edith Hamilton (The Greek Way)