Ever since the the Villa dei Papiri and its cache of at least 800 papyrus scrolls was discovered in Herculaneum in 1752, this potential treasure trove of information and insight into the classical world has fascinated scholars with what it could possibly contain. The difficulty has been in how to read them without destroying them. As John Seabrook describes for The New Yorker: "One scroll was peeled apart into many fragments; the other dried up and then, like a disaster in slow motion, split apart into more than three hundred pieces." Now, thanks to new imaging techniques, the contents of the scrolls could—slowly—be revealed.
Eating implement, folding, with three-pronged fork, spatula, pick, spike and knife. A.D. 201 — A.D. 300
In 2000, Luciano Faggiano wanted to open a trattoria in Lecce, in the "boot-heel" of Italy. He bought what looked to be a modern building, but he had to open the floors in 2001 to find a leaking sewer pipes that were causing continuous humidity problems. He didn't find pipes, but a subterranean world tracing back before the birth of Jesus: a Messapian tomb, a Roman granary, a Franciscan chapel and even etchings from the Knights Templar. Instead of opening a restaurant, his family has a museum, which is also available to virtually tour on Google Maps.
"The lack of female genitals on statues seems thoughtless until you see it repeated."--Syreeta McFadden, noticing that Greek and Roman statues of women don't have genitalia.
Lauren Davis rounds up webcomics to give you thrills and chills on io9, calling out 18 specifically, then listing additional titles in some of the descriptions. [more inside]
Sixteen-year-old Agnes Quill has inherited an ancient family curse, brought about by the loss of her parents. Several of our key scholars have accounted for and confirmed that she has the ability to see and communicate with spirits trapped between worlds. In several confidential journal entries, Agnes describes the events of her parents’ funeral, where the ghost of her Grandfather, Ages Quill, visited her. It was then that he explained the nature of specters and how he used his connections with them to great advantage throughout his career. Ms. Quill's stories are written by Astronaut Academy creator Dave Roman, and illustrated by a growing collection of artists. (via io9)
In seven minutes, you can see the evolution of London, as seen in its road network, from the Roman port city of Londonium through the Anglo-Saxon, Tudor, Stuart, Early Georgian and Late Georgian, Early Victorian and Late Victorian, Early 20th Century and Postwar London, set to the scale of the 600 square miles of modern London, though the original city core is a very dense square mile. [more inside]
Conflicting roles for old lead
The use of old lead for shielding increases the sensitivity of our most delicate experiments by orders of magnitude, an increase that is crucial when looking for a reaction that sheds light on new physics. Lead recovered from roofs, old plumbing, and even stained glass windows has been used, but Roman lead from a shipwreck is the best you can find.
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.[more inside]
This 1,600-Year-Old Goblet Shows that the Romans Were Nanotechnology Pioneers. The Lycurgus Cup appears opaque green under normal light, but the ancient dichroic glass vessel transforms to a translucent red color when lit from behind. Roman artisans achieved this by impregnating the glass with particles of silver and gold as small as 50 nanometers in diameter. Inspired by the cup, modern researchers have created the world's most sensitive plasmon resonance sensor. [Via]
Geoff Carter's radical view of building in the ancient world, especially the archaeology of the lost timber built environment of Southern England. It is new research into of prehistory of architectureWith the ultimate conclusion that Stonehenge is the remains of a roofed shelter. [more inside]
An archaeological excavation led by the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) has been quietly uncovering a site on the now-lost Walbrook River which they have dubbed the Pompeii of the north. [more inside]
The Corpus Juris Civilis, also called the Code of Justinian, is a foundational document in (continental) Western law. Perhaps because of its limited impact on the common law, no English translation existed until the 1930s. The best English translation of the two main parts of the CJC, the Codex Justinianus and the Novels, was the life's work of a single Wyoming Supreme Court Justice, Fred H. Blume. [more inside]
Spanning one-ninth of the earth's circumference across three continents, the Roman Empire ruled a quarter of humanity through complex networks of political power, military domination and economic exchange. These extensive connections were sustained by premodern transportation and communication technologies that relied on energy generated by human and animal bodies, winds, and currents. Conventional maps that represent this world as it appears from space signally fail to capture the severe environmental constraints that governed the flows of people, goods and information. Cost, rather than distance, is the principal determinant of connectivity. For the first time, ORBIS allows us to express Roman communication costs in terms of both time and expense. By simulating movement along the principal routes of the Roman road network, the main navigable rivers, and hundreds of sea routes in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and coastal Atlantic, this interactive model reconstructs the duration and financial cost of travel in antiquity.
""Each bathtub was carved in Italy from a single block of Carrara Marble. Three bathtubs were shipped from Genoa, Italy in July, 1859 and reached Baltimore in November of that year. The other three were shipped from Leghorn, Italy in September of 1859, and arrived in New York in January of 1860. The precise dates of the bathtubs' arrival and installation at the Capitol are uncertain, but the Senate Bathing Room is known to have been in operation as of February 23rd, 1860."Roman Mars's 99% Invisible design podcast [previously] explores the once-luxurious Senate bathtubs hidden among the boiler rooms in the basement of the U.S. Capitol. [more inside]
If you’ve spent much time in museums—or even leafing through art books—you’ve probably come across something that leaves you scratching your head. You’re not alone. The very funny, if occasionally puerile blog WTF Art History was created, according to the anonymous art historian who writes it, for “everyone who loves art history but has a sense of humor to know that even great masters create things that leave us asking, WTF?” [via] [prev]
Photographs and more photographs of the ancient city of Palmyra, seat of the Palmyrene Empire and home to Queen Zenobia.
Take oysters, parboile hem in her owne broth, make a lyour of crustes of brede & drawe it up wiþ the broth and vynegur mynce oynouns & do þerto with erbes. & cast the oysters þerinne. boile it. & do þerto powdour fort & salt. & messe it forth.
Three European 14th Century cookbooks: [more inside]
Three European 14th Century cookbooks: [more inside]
Genetic testing of villagers in a remote part of China has shown that nearly two thirds of their DNA is of Caucasian origin, lending support to the theory that they may be descended from a 'lost legion' of Roman soldiers.
Bull-Killer, Sun Lord. "Foreign religions grew rapidly in the 1st-century A.D. Roman Empire, including worship of Jesus Christ, the Egyptian goddess Isis, and an eastern sun god, Mithras."
AD 79: Destruction and Re-discovery is full of information about the Roman cities wiped out by Vesuvius in Titus' reign.
We see it every day on signs, billboards, packaging, in books and magazines; in fact, you are looking at it now — the Latin or Roman alphabet, the world’s most prolific, most widespread abc. Typography is a relatively recent invention, but to unearth the origins of alphabets, we will need to travel much farther back in time, to an era contemporaneous with the emergence of civilisation itself. The origins of abc.
Could any of you in the US please check your attics?
The Roman dodecahedron is a mystery. With its beautifully symmetrical twelve pentagonal faces, the Greeks held the dodecahedron with a certain reverance. But the Roman fascination is less clear. Were they used for water pipes? Were they astronomic measuring instrumens? Were they candle stands? It's a mystery.
Film director Roman Polanski, who won numerous awards for films like Chinatown and The Pianist, has been detained for extradition to the US, whilst travelling to Switzerland to collect a lifetime achievement award at the Zürich Film Festival. [more inside]
The Sunday Times have published the 2008 edition of their annual Rich List. The full list of the 1000 wealthiest people in Britain is not online yet but they have published a list of the top 150 (pdf). So now you're richer than Croesus what do you spend your wealth on? [more inside]
"Curse Tablets are small sheets of lead, inscribed with messages from individuals seeking to make gods and spirits act on their behalf and influence the behaviour of others against their will. The motives are usually malign and their expression violent, for example to wreck an opponent’s chariot in the circus, to compel a person to submit to sex or to take revenge on a thief. Letters and lines written back to front, magical ‘gibberish’ and arcane words and symbols often lend the texts additional power to persuade. In places where supernatural agents could be contacted, thrown into sacred pools at temples, interred with the dead or hidden by the turning post at the circus, these tablets have survived to be found by archaeologists."
Libya is a desert, yes, but if you trace your fingers through the moonlit sand and listen, carefully, you may hear ancient whispers: of Apollo's love of Cyrene; of prehistoric hunters making Rock Art [1, 2, 3], back when the Sahara was wet; of Phoenicians subdued by Greeks, of Romans followed by Byzantines, all leaving ruins that Libya is famous for [Cyrene, Leptis Magna, Sabratha, et cetera]; of desert soldiers in World War II, remembered in Graves and Memorials; of the occupying Italians, who responded to Omar Mukhtar's resistance of the Fascists by rounding Libyans into concentration camps; of the camps' prisoners, one of whom wrote this famous poem: "My only illness is the torturing of our young women, with their bodies exposed ... how my speech has become subdued, the humiliation of our noble and leading men and the loss of my gazelle-like horse..."; of more culture, more memories from this land that witnessed the wrenching passion of all man's history—whispering in the very dust that made his soul.
Roman descendants found in China? DNA tests will be done in a remote Gobi village to see if the blond-haired Chinese residents are related to Crassus' lost legion of c. 53 BC, as suggested by historian Homer Dubbs in 1957 and debated since.
Iraqi peacekeepers sent to the Scottish border... 1600 years ago. The Notitia Dignitatum, the Roman equivalent of an organisation chart for the imperial bureaucracy in the fifth century, contains a reference to soldiers from the Tigris stationed at Hadrian's Wall. More on the Notitia here; more on Hadrian's Wall here, including a 3D tour of a fort near the Wall, and tablets discovered at another fort (including a request by a commanding officer for "more beer").
The Works of Giovanni Battista Piranesi: high-resolution scans of all of Piranesi’s etchings. Also, the plates from Les Ruines De Pompei by François Mazois (1812-38), and, the complete 9-volume Le Antichità di Ercolano Esposte (The Antiquities discovered in Herculaneum) published in Naples from 1755-62. Also, at the same site (UT-PICURE: the Center for Research on Pictorial Cultural Resources, at The University of Tokyo), images from the Stibbert Collection of Japanese costume.
All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us? Brought peace? Oh. Peace? Shut up!
Roman ball games and Roman board games. Complete with literary references, ancient artwork, and instructions for playing the games yourself. So let's all sing: Aufer me ad arenam (to the tune of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame").
The real Vatican is in Kansas. "On July 16, 1990 the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church elected David Bawden as Pope Michael, ending an almost 32 year long interegnum."
Teach Yourself the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 24 Hours. "our desires and our possessions are the strongest fetters of despotism." Is a pithy Gibbon a more palatable one?
Vitrum: Glass Between Art and Science in the Roman World, an exhibition hosted by the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence, describes the use of glass in different areas of Roman life: technology, daily life, architecture, and science. Each of the items in the themed galleries is linked to a large, high-resolution image; some beautiful examples of 2000-year-old glass include: a decorative glass hexagon, a blue glass cup from pompeii, and a striped mosaic glass cup.
"The story of the Passion is the story of a human sacrifice, done unknowingly, and yet according to Roman ritual sacrifice structure."
Boudicca (also known as Boadicea) was the queen of the Celtic Iceni tribe in eastern Britain in 60 AD. As recorded by Tacitus and Cassius Dio, she led a brutal revolt against the Romans and razed London and Southwark. There's a famous statue of her at Westminster Bridge, and Masterpiece Theatre has produced a new historical drama about her, Warrior Queen.
Today is the Ides of March. What is the Ides of March? It is March 15th in the ancient Roman calender, the first day of the Roman New Year and the first day of spring. The Roman calender refered to days by names not numbers, thus each month has an Ide day, although not always on the 15th. The Ides of March is best known as the day Julius Caesar was assasinated in the Senate (44 BC) and made famous by the Shakespeare line "Beware the Ides of March". It modern times it has come to symbolize foreboding and bad luck. Iggy Pop sang about it prophetically with todays current events, and in Rome where it all started it's a good day to Toga Party.
Modeling the Roman Army. The author of this site uses CAD software to examine the mechanics and problems of manuevering large masses of men in ancient warfare. Good stuff for people interested in the subject.
The Ideal Prepuce. Enter the posthe and the akroposthion.
Is this the last days of the Empire, or just the beginning? America the most powerful country since Roman Empire. I for sure hope that the good old US of A don´t meet the same destiny as the Roman Empire...But!? Has there been any country (empire) that survived being the biggest and best(?). Usually i read a lot about Swedens time of glory some couple of hundred years ago, now hoping that my grandchildren won´t read the same about the States. Should we be worried about what the history tells us?
2,000 year old Roman "Titanic" found in the sands 10 yards from the Sicilian shore. The vessel - up to 150ft long and equipped with ancient luxuries including candelabras, a hot tub and religious shrine - is thought to have ferried the Roman super-rich along the Mediterranean coast to various ports en route.
Ancient Roman erotica to be unveiled, "once thought too scandalous for mere mortals to view."