Strange Roman Ritual?

I keep coming across mention of matters Classical in ancient Jewish texts — in this case, the Talmud — which don’t sound quite ‘right’. Here’s one mentioned in the Jewish Journal:

The ancient Romans were known for their wild and weird rituals, but one of them, recorded in the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 11b), is of special interest to us. It is said that once every 70 years, Romans would have a healthy man, wearing the legendary garments of Adam, ride on the back of a limping man, who wore the mask of a Jew as he walked through the streets of Rome. At the head of the parade an announcer would repeatedly say: “Our master’s brother is a forger. Whomever sees this parade let him enjoy, because there will not be another for 70 more years. Forgery has not benefited the forger nor deceit benefited the deceiver!”

via Epitome of Truth: Parashat Toledot (Genesis 25:19-28:9) | Torah Portion | Jewish Journal.

“Legendary garments of Adam”? Was he naked? A ritual held once every 70 years? Mask of a Jew? What would that look like? Sorry … this doesn’t sound  Roman at all …

House of the Gladiators Collapses

There was a pile of Italian coverage of this a few hours ago … now the English coverage is trickling in. So far Reuters seems to have the fullest coverage:

The 2,000-year-old “House of the Gladiators” in the ruins of ancient Pompeii collapsed on Saturday, officials said.

They said the stone house, on the main street of the world-famous archaeological site and measuring several hundred square meters (yards), collapsed just after dawn while the site was closed. Custodians discovered the collapse when they opened the site.

The structure was believed to be where gladiators gathered and trained and used as a club house before going to battle in a nearby amphitheatre in the city that was destroyed by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Known officially by its Latin name “Schola Armaturarum Juventus Pompeiani,” the structure was not open to visitors but was visible from the outside as tourists walked along one of the ancient city’s main streets.

Its walls were decorated with frescoes of military themes.

Officials speculated that the collapse may have been caused by heavy rains.

Art historians and residents for years have complained that the archaeological sites at Pompeii, among the world’s most important, were in a state of decay and needed better maintenance.

See also Blogging Pompeii’s coverage: Collapse in the House of the Gladiators




Anti-Foxy Alexander?

A claim in an item in the Telegraph:

Alexander the Great is known to have enjoyed fox-hunting, as did the Persians and the Romans.

via The rise and fall of Mr Fox – Telegraph.

… which possibly comes from Wikipedia:

The earliest historical records of fox hunting come from the 4th century BC ; Alexander the Great is known to have hunted foxes and a seal dated from 350 BC depicts a Persian horseman in the process of spearing a fox. Xenophon, who viewed hunting as part of a cultured man’s education, advocated the killing of foxes as pests, as they distracted hounds from hares. The Romans were hunting foxes by 80 AD.

via Red Fox | Wikipedia

… which possibly comes from:

Macdonald, David (1987). Running with the Fox.

… which, alas, represents a dead end for me (I don’t have access to it). Whatever the case, I’d be very interested in knowing the source for Alexander’s fox hunting; I was also under the impression that Xenophon only suggested not allowing your hounds to hunt foxes (e.g. Cynegeticus 6).  I’m also not sure why it appears to have taken the Romans so long to  be fox hunting …

Digging the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates at Alonia tou Episkopou

From a press release:

The Ministry of Communications and Works, Department of Antiquities, announces that from the 12th to the 31st August 2010 the French Archaeological Expedition at Pafos (dir. Dr Claire Balandier) and the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus (Dr E. Raptou), worked together at the so-called sanctuary of Apollo Hylates of Nea Pafos at the locality of Alonia tou Episkopou (Yeroskipou). The whole monument was cleared from the debris (corridor, first and second underground rooms and rocky surface), the site was studied archaeologically and precise drawings (plan and sections) were made. This monument is known for the two Cypro-syllabic inscriptions carved on its walls.

The cleaning of the monument revealed that the underground circular chamber (5m. diameter) has a rocky bench around it. At the centre of this room a semi-circular hollow was excavated which could have been used for libation. No archaeological artifacts were unearthed, but it could be supposed that this hollow was cut at the same time the chamber was created, since the northern extremity of its diameter is exactly under the highest part of the vault, the point where it starts to be carved. In the first room the remains of an alphabetic inscription were found: an alpha with a broken line can easily be read. The tool marks of the ancient workers can be seen in both rooms.

Only modern artifacts were found during the excavation, as well as a rock crystal carefully hidden in the eastern rocky wall of the dromos. The place was still respected when it became a quarry, probably sometime in antiquity. The survey of the surrounding ancient quarry noted the traces of ancient extraction of columns and blocks. It seems that in the Early Christian period the first room became a chapel and it was later used as a shelter for shepherds and their livestock.

In Search of Nemea’s Hippodrome

The inicipit of a piece from the East Bay Express:

UC Berkeley classics professor Kim Shelton and her largely student crew are back from a summer spent excavating, researching, and conserving at Nemea, Greece.

Ever since the Nemea Center for Classical Archaeology was founded within UCB’s Classics department six years ago, UCB has maintained the Nemea Archaeological Center on land that in ancient times held a temple to Zeus and a sports stadium — and to which Cal holds scientific rights .

“How thrilling it is to be ‘back from the trenches,'” wrote Shelton, NCCA’s director, in her first report after returning from another summer abroad.

“There were several points when we were certain that our planned efforts would be dashed by the global economic crisis and the resulting political and bureaucratic rollercoaster, not to mention striking Greek transportation workers.” But thanks to generous donors, avid volunteers, and cutting-edge equipment, “we had a great summer,” Shelton wrote.

“Excavation is a costly and time-consuming business. It is a good idea to find out as much as we can about ‘what’s down there’ without digging, so we can learn as much as possible about the site before we decide where to excavate. Subsurface, non- invasive investigation of the natural or man-made layers or features is thus an important weapon in our excavation armory. This summer, we made a geophysical (i.e., sub- surface) survey of much of the archaeological site.

“‘Remote sensing,’ as it is called, uses magnetometry and ground penetrating radar to provide data about what is ‘down there.’ In addition, a process called Electrical Resistivity Tomography is applied which produces a map of the stratigraphy of an area. …

“As a result of the survey, the area around the temple seems to have a number of features that may be of interest, especially to the south and southwest. East of the temple and the altar, the GPR identified strong reflections in a couple of areas that may be related to architectural remains. Very surprisingly, similar architectural features were identified under the site parking lot from a depth of about 70-80cm and extending to at least 180cm below the surface. The survey also discovered evidence of a possible road leading away from the Sanctuary to the east, but different from the road to the Stadium.”

Efforts continued to locate the site of an ancient hippodrome where horse-drawn chariots raced. [more … mostly about upkeep of the site]

via UCB Archeologists Hunt for Hippodrome | East Bay Express.