Roman Finds from Manisa

A pair of painfully brief items, but if we post both, the picture isn’t too vaguae. First, from Turkish Press:

A number of historical artifacts believed to date back to the Roman period have been unearthed by a backhoe operator in the Sarigol district of the western province of Manisa.

Salih Sari was digging in a field when he hit something. He stopped the backhoe and searched the area with a shovel and found numerous artifacts that are believed to belong to the Roman period.

The artifacts were taken to the Manisa Museum.

… and from Sanliurfa:

3 marble tombs of children along with a vat, a pot, and a bowl of Roman era were discovered in a field near Afsar village of Manisa province’s Sarigol district in western Turkey during a routine work in the field.

A gendarmerie unit was informed about the discovery, and the historical artefacts were delivered to Manisa Museum.

The latter includes a really bad photo of what are apparently the finds. FWIW …

Spartacus’ Wife

Barry Strauss comments on a detail from the Spartacus television series in a blogpost sort of thing in the WSJ about Spartacus’ wife:

That a gladiator like Spartacus should have a wife to help his rebellion catch fire seems like a Hollywood touch but, in fact, it’s true. She was a Thracian like him, from the same tribe. Neither her name nor the name of their tribe survives. Only one ancient source mentions her existence, but he is Plutarch, who relied on the (now largely missing) contemporary account by Sallust. In his “Life of Crassus,” Plutarch writes:

It is said that when he [Spartacus] was first brought to Rome to be sold, a serpent was seen coiled about his face as he slept, and his wife, who was of the same tribe as Spartacus, a prophetess, and subject to visitations of the Dionysiac frenzy, declared it the sign of a great and formidable power which would attend him to a fortunate issue. This woman shared in his escape and was then living with him. (Plutarch, Crassus 9.3)[1]

If it seems odd that a gladiator had a wife, it shouldn’t. Roman slaves often had wives, and children too, although such marriages were not valid in Roman law.

Spartacus’s wife was religious, vocal, and hardy enough to endure the life of an escaped slave battling the Roman army. As a Thracian woman she probably had tattooed arms. As a worshipper of Dionysus, she was used to rural places, especially mountainsides. Another thing about the cult of Dionysus: She probably handled snakes, the god’s symbol.

Dionysus was the god not only of wine but also of liberation. Various peoples considered him their national god, from Thracians to Greeks in southern Italy. Several enemies of Rome chose Dionysus as their rallying cry, including rebel slaves in second-century B.C. Sicily and the Anatolian King Mithradates of Pontus, whose long war against Rome was still on at the outbreak of Spartacus’s revolt in 73 B.C. Hence, Dionysus made a good symbol for Spartacus.

Thracians valued the religious authority of women and they set great store by prophecy, making it likely that Spartacus’s wife was a respected figure. Slave owners may well have feared her, having learned from the Sicilian rebellions that prophets and witches were troublemakers.

As for the story of a snake coiled around Spartacus’s face, herpetologists discount the possibility, but that may be why it seemed like a miracle at the time. Imagine Spartacus’s wife announcing, perhaps after a vision in a trance that Dionysus had sent a snake as a sign of Spartacus’s great power. Did she actually inspire Spartacus’s revolt? To say that would be going beyond the evidence, but she certainly added to his mystique. In short, behind the macho figure of Spartacus there was a woman.

We do not know what happened to the Thracian woman but she probably shared the same unhappy fate as most of Spartacus’s followers.

… and as long as we’re talking Spartacus and the WSJ,  Adrian Goldsworthy also reviewed Schiavone: He Was Spartacus

Riace Bronzes Update

Brief item from ANSA:

In spite of being a major tourist draw, the so-called Riace Bronzes are still being housed in temporary quarters, three years after they were moved for museum renovations. An estimated 100,000 people have visited the two famous full-size Greek nude bearded warriors from 460-450 BC since they were moved to regional council headquarters.

Placed in reclining positions, the warriors await renovations of the city’s National Archeological Museum, where they used to live. The contract has gone out to bid, and the job should be done by the end of the year of the beginning of the next, officials said.

”I know it’s not nice seeing them horizontal, but we can’t stand them up again until they’re in their final placement in the museum”, Calabria archeology superintendent Simonetta Bonomi told ANSA. ”Restoration of the statues ended in 2011.

They are now being kept in optimal conditions, in a micro-climatized hall”.

In case you’ve forgotten, back in October we were told the museum would be reopening in December, although not many folks believed that (Whither the Riace Bronzes?). I guess we’ll just continue shaking our heads …