Protaras Tomb Addendum

We mentioned the burials from Protaras a few days ago … the Reuters coverage on same provides a very interesting contrast with reports of digs going on in other parts of the Mediterranean … a couple of excerpts:

Locals say it could be the final resting place of Ajax’s niece, contain a golden chariot and will unleash a horrible curse.

But whether a tomb recently uncovered on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus contains the bones and booty of a close relative of a Trojan war hero straight from the pages of Homer or will just yield better evidence for understanding the rituals and lives of ancient Greeks is yet to be revealed.


Local press on the east Mediterranean island have carried wild claims that the tomb belongs to an ancient princess, the daughter of King Teukros of Salamis. Salamis was once the capital of Cyprus’s ten city kingdoms.

Legend has it that the king — whose brother was Ajax and uncle was the Trojan King Priam — ordered that his daughter be buried along with her golden throne and chariot at the point where the sun meets the sea.

But Cypriot experts do not share the local speculation on the tomb’s relationship with the figures of Greek mythology.

“It is impossible to connect the content of this tomb with ancient sources,” Hadjicosti said.

According to Evangelou, it is likely that this is not the only burial site in the area.

via Untouched tomb to unravel secrets of Cyprus’s past | Lifestyle | Reuters.

I’m assuming Teukros is Teucer … I’m not familiar with this golden throne and chariot story …

Roman Altar from Ashkelon

Readers of my Explorator newsletter will be familiar with the ongoing dispute in Ashkelon, where hospital expansion has uncovered a number of burials. The Israel Antiquities Authority has said for quite a while that it was a ‘pagan’ cemetery, and a recently-discovered altar seems to back up the claim. Here’s the IAA link (tip o’ the pileus to Joseph Lauer):

The development work for the construction of a fortified emergency room at Barzilai Hospital, which is being conducted by a contractor carefully supervised by the Israel Antiquities Authority, has unearthed a new and impressive find: a magnificent pagan altar dating to the Roman period (first-second centuries CE) made of granite and adorned with bulls’ heads and a laurel wreaths. The altar stood in the middle of the ancient burial field.

According to Dr. Yigal Israel, Ashkelon District Archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The discovery further corroborates the assertion that we are dealing with a pagan cemetery. It is an impressive find that has survived 2,000 years. The altar is c. 60 centimeters tall and it is decorated with bulls’ heads, from which dangle laurels wreaths. There is a strap in the middle of each floral wreath and bull’s head. The laurel wreaths are decorated with grape clusters and leaves. This kind of altar is known as an “incense altar”. Such altars usually stood in Roman temples and visitors to the temple used to burn incense in them, particularly myrrh and frankincense, while praying to their idols. We can still see the burnt marks on the altar that remain from the fire. The altar was probably donated by one of the families who brought it to the cemetery from the city of Ashkelon”.

Dr. Israel adds that during the archaeological supervision of the development work burial structures were discovered, which served as family tombs, and cist tombs that were used for interring individuals. In addition a large limestone sarcophagus (stone coffin) with a decorated lid was also found. The sarcophagus stands 80 centimeters high is 60 centimeters wide and is 2 meters long. Part of the stone in the sarcophagus was left rather high in the spot where the head of the deceased was placed and resembles a kind of pillow.

via Pagan Altar was Exposed while the IAA was Overseeing Development Work at the Barzilai Hospital. [article will move in the near future]

Here’s an image of the altar itself (provided by the IAA:

Israel Antiquities Authority

Interesting that it’s round … I’ve never seen a round Roman altar before; Ferrell’s Travel Blog provides some comparanda:

Useful comments on the dispute at Jim West’s blog:

Citanda: Spartacus: Blood and Sand and Quibbles

Intertitle from the television program Spartac...
Image via Wikipedia

Tip o’ the pileus to Lyndsay Powell for this one (via Twitter) … an appropriate excerpt on the Spartacus: Blood and Sand series … should tide y’all over until I can write my own review(s) thereof (numerous ‘marathons’ are planned for the summer):

Classical scholars and internet anoraks doubtless will find many quibbles, but the historical background of Spartacus is actually plausible. The geopolitics is good. It is sometime before 73BC. Barbarian tribes, here the Getae, threaten in the Balkans, and the enemy in the east is King Mithridates of Pontus. The dilemmas of a Roman general are deftly drawn; duty to the Res publica (the state) or personal glory, his family pressing for the latter. At home politicians have to weigh up the different demands of the Senate and the plebs.

For most in the modern world, Spartacus is Kirk Douglas in the 1960 film; all muscles and dimpled decency, an iconic swords-and-sandals action hero. The real Spartacus of history led a breakout from the gladiatorial school in Capua. Slaves and the oppressed rural poor flocked to his standards. For three years his rebellion raged across Italy, defeating Roman army after army. At last, in 71BC, he was defeated by the future Triumvir Crassus. Spartacus’s body was never found.

via Spartacus: swords, sandals and illicit sex – Telegraph.

Ancient Roman Football/Soccer

We’ve dealt with claims of ‘ancient soccer’ before, but his one is new to me:

Ancient Roman football games with players kitted out in authentic period costume have been organised for 29 May Trilj, inland Dalmatia as part of celebrations for the 800th anniversary of the town.

Delmati and Romans will battle it out on the pitch as referees – the emperor Diocletian and his wife Prisca – preside and Roman centurions provide security.

The traditional games organised by the sport association GAZ, have been going on since 2005.

In 1968 in a small village near Gardun Trilj, a Roman tomb with a picture of a boy holding a ball was discovered. The International Football Association FIFA acknowledged this to be the first artifact of the game in the world.

via Trilj hosts Ancient Rome football games – Panorama News – Croatian Times Online News – English Newspaper.

Can’t find an image, alas … or any other reference to this on the web in English, but perhaps folks have seen this one (which is apparently in the National Museum in Athens):

… that and more useful images from the Roman Ball Games page. Outside of that, with the goings-on in South Africa looming, teachers might want some Soccer/Football vocabulary … the Vatican Dictionary had pilae coriaceae lusor added to it a while ago … perhaps folks will add others in the comments.