Simcha’s Supposed Smoking Templar Firearms

As many longtime rogueclassicism and Explorator readers know, when Easter comes around we usually get one or two claims of varying degrees of credulity having to do with the crucifixion and/or resurrection of Jesus (Explorator readers, e.g., will be getting the latest Shroud of Turin news this weekend). A frequent forayer in this particular milieu is Professor Simcha Jacobovici of Huntington University fame. This year, however, Professor Jacobovici took a somewhat odd turn by riffing on a documentary which appeared on the History Channel relating to assorted (familiar) claims relating to the Templars (Tracking the Templars). He latched onto the image of a coin of some King John and linked it to the first set of Talpiot tombs … ecce:

via SimchajTV

To make a short story even shorter, Professor Jacobovici is now taking his stories into Holy-Blood-Holy-Grail-land and is suggesting a link between his Talpiot tomb and the Templars. You can read about it in more detail here: Smoking Templar Gun. James Tabor has added a bit of detail as well here: John of Brienne, Templar “King of Jerusalem” and the Talpiot “Jesus” Tomb, although he is a bit more conservative in terms of conclusions.

In case you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about, that little circle in the triangle on John’s crown and on the Talpiot tomb are supposedly a ‘connection’. One very detailed bit of criticism worth reading is Jason Colavito’s spin, which looks at various medieval crowns:What Was Scott Wolter’s “Templar” Coin?.

Quibus rebus cognitis, for what it’s worth, I didn’t intend to blog about this at all — it seems clearly outside of our purview there didn’t seem to be a Classical connection. But then I was stuck in the car this past weekend, on a long road trip back from visiting the protoclassicist, and it struck me that what James Tabor ended his piece with almost/unintentionally hit the point:

There is a much earlier coin of William I “The Conquerer” (1066-1087), minted around 1070 that seems to show the King wearing some kind of crown but with a “temple” like facade behind his head that has some similarities to the Chevron and circle imagery.

Why do we call this ‘chevron and circle’ when even those who see ‘chevron and circle’ can connect it to a temple? Why aren’t we — instead of trying to leap twelve centuries to make a link — looking at some of the coinage from the first couple centuries A.D.? Check this 2nd century coin (one of several) from Pseudo-Autonomous:

via the coinproject

We can list other coins with a circle-in-pediment design (sometimes called a shield rather than a circle) with less ‘pseudo’ images: Alexander Severus, Caracalla, Augustus, and Maxentius (the latter used the image a LOT).

So let’s take the next logical step and suggest that the circle-and-chevron is actually some sort of shorthand for the facade of a temple. Would it be used in a tomb situation? We can point to the 4th century B.C./B.C.E. rock-cut tombs at Kaunos, perhaps, although they technically have a ‘square’ in the pediment:

via Wikipedia

… but the general idea is there. So what, then,  would be a more logical progression: using a tomb facade on a rock cut tomb in imitation of generic temples (even if they might be pagan) seen in coins and probably in countless necropoleis in the Eastern Mediterranean, or make it a specifically-crypto-Christian symbol that the Templars were aware of and passed on (of course) to the Priory of Zion yadda yadda yadda. It’s a generic temple facade, not a ‘templar’ facade. I think we need to start emphasizing a ‘Hellenized Jew’ spin in opposition to Professor Jacobovici’s claims.

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Roman Temple at Sudeley Castle?

From the Echo:

ARCHAEOLOGISTS believe there could be an undiscovered Roman temple and villa in the grounds of Sudeley Castle.

A Roman column which was found propping open a door inside the castle has sparked hopes there are historic ruins beneath the grounds.

Professor Martin Henig believes the column, which would have been around 40cm high, would most likely have stood on the dwarf wall of a portico in a temple or private house.

He said the small columns were unusual in this region, and indicated the existence of a building of unusual sophistication in or around Sudeley.

Archaeologists are now calling for a full-scale investigation at Stancombe Wood in Winchcombe.

It follows the find of a stone relief of a Cotswolds Roman god, called Cunomaglos or the Hound Prince.

The sculpture was first discovered at Stancombe Wood in 1875 and was catalogued by Sudeley chatelaine Emma Dent in her book The Annals of Winchcombe and Sudeley.

But all trace of the sculpture was lost until it was rediscovered last month.

It was rediscovered by Sudeley archivist Jean Bray in the bottom of a cupboard at the castle, but its identity remained unknown until archaeologist Dr Patricia Witts solved the mystery.

Prof Henig, an expert on the Romans in the Cotswolds, believes that the statue, which dates from 150AD to 300AD, points to a further undiscovered temple at Stancombe Wood.

“It is the sort of relief that one would expect to find in a temple, probably dedicated by a worshipper there,” he said.

“We are finding that villas quite often included temples on the estate and our Apollo Cunomaglos suggests that there may be more to be discovered at Stancombe.”

Dr Witts says there is evidence that when an oil pipeline was installed in the area in 1985 it cut through two Roman buildings. The site would lie between Stancombe Wood and Spoonley Wood.

“We can imagine the area around what is now Sudeley Castle dotted with prestigious Roman dwellings,” she said.

“It is exciting to think what might be found.

“The famous Chedworth Roman villa lies only a few miles to the south of Sudeley and it is known that there was a temple nearby, as well as other villas in the vicinity. Perhaps Sudeley was similar.”

This story actually broke a couple of weeks ago on the BBC (when I had limited internet access, alas): Roman artefact discovered in Sudeley Castle cupboard … there’s a brief discussion of the Apollo Cunomaglos name at one of the entries in the Curse Tablets of Roman Britain site …

CJ Online Review: Alcock, et al., Highways, Byways, and Road Systems

posted with permission:

Highways, Byways, and Road Systems in the Pre-Modern World. Edited by Susan E. Alcock, John Bodel, and Richard J. A. Talbert. The Ancient World: Comparative Histories. Malden Mass., Oxford and Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. Pp. xx + 289. Hardcover, £85.00/$140.95. ISBN 978-0-470-67425-3.

Reviewed by Cornelis van Tilburg, Leiden University

This volume contains 14 contributions concerning roads in pre-modern societies all over the world, dating from the second millennium bc until the 19th century ad, thus covering a period of ca. 4000 years. In the Introduction, the editors state that they were forced to make a selection; it was impossible to include all contributions concerning pre-modern road systems. There are two contributions concerning the Chinese road system and even three concerning the Roman network, but contributions discussing, e.g., Russia, Crete, the Carolingian and Aztec Empires are lacking.

At first sight, the order of the articles is unclear. They seem to be placed neither chronologically, nor geographically. The majority of the contributors are working at American universities and for some reasons they have chosen to start exactly on the other side of the world: India. The journey around the world goes eastward from here: via China and Japan to Meso-America and South America, crossing the Atlantic Ocean and, then in order, the Sahara Desert, the Persian Empire, Egypt, the Roman Empire and, finally, the Holy Land. The sequence of the last contributions especially—8 to 14—is strange. The other part of this volume suggests a journey from west to east—so why not at first the Sahara Desert, and then Europe, Egypt, the Holy Land and, finally, the Persian Empire, to the boundaries of India, the theme of the current first article? In that case, the circle of the earth might have been closed.

Starting at the first article and travelling through the entire volume, the reader meets many types of road systems. Empires with a central capital—the Persian, Roman, Chinese and Japanese Empires—have an extended road system of well-built roads, staging posts and lodges. Civilizations where a central capital is absent are not equipped with a long-distance road system: India, the Maya area and the Southwestern part of (nowadays) the United States. Some articles do not discuss roads at all, but routes, like the article on Masonen: the theme of this contribution is the caravan route system in the Sahara Desert. The last article (by Silverstein) does not discuss roads or routes, but Jewish social networks. In the present volume, only inter-urban and inter-regional road systems are discussed; roads and streets inside cities are not mentioned at all.

Not only do the different articles show different types of roads, but the scientific approach of the articles also differs. On the one hand, some articles discuss the routes, the histories and the archaeology of the roads widely; the article by Vaporis contains a large number of beautiful pictures of the Japanese road system. On the other hand, the information in some other articles concerning the roads themselves is scarce, but they focus on the interaction of the roads and their landscapes (Julien) and on even more abstract aspects like Hinduism (Neelis) and the road gods in China (Nylan). In some articles, roads are even mentioned as metaphors. The main goal of this book is to compare not only different road types but also the backgrounds and functions of roads.

Talbert points out rightly that we have to be careful not to consider, study and research roads too much from our modern point of view, i.e., considering roads as concentrated means of communication. Road maps, for example, were unknown in any pre-modern society, as far as we know. Moreover, traffic in former times cannot be compared with traffic nowadays (see, e.g., my Traffic and Congestion in the Roman Empire (London: Routledge, 2007)).

Because of the divergent points of view in the articles included, a comparison between different road systems is almost impossible. In some articles (Nylan on China, p. 35 and Vaporis on Japan, p. 91), the road systems are actually compared with the Roman road systems, but it is difficult to compare, e.g. the Chinese and Maya road systems. All articles, however, are equipped with sufficient bibliographies.

The volume would have profited from an overview—or appendix—providing all measures (linear, cubic etc.). On p. 15 (Neelis), it is said that “every eight kos I have had wells excavated.” What is a kos? Another example: p. 36 (Nylan) speaks about “30 zhong of grain.” How much is a zhong? Even in the endnotes of these articles an explanation concerning the different measures is lacking.

The layout of the volume is well done; the number of typographical errors is low (e.g., Neelis, p. 15, mentions Hultszch but in the bibliography it is Hultzsch). A useful index with many cross-references is added. The title, however, Highways, Byways and Road Systems, suggests that byways are also discussed, but according to the index, there are only three references to “byways,” all in India. A subtitle like Constructions, Functions and Metaphors would have given a more accurate indication of the book; as it is, the reader first encountering the book’s cover might expect a merely archaeological and historical approach.

In short, the articles offer good starting-points for further research, and they provide as well good and elaborate bibliographies, but more uniformity would have been helpful.

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