~ This Day in Ancient History
- ludi Plebeii (day 2) -- the big festival in honour of Jupiter continues
- 251 A.D. -- martyrdom of Galation
::Friday, November 05, 2004 5:50:03 AM::
~ Classical Words of the Day
Today's Word of the Day from travlang.com is the rather dull "arrival", which in Latin is adventus, of course. Other Word of the Day sites:
corinthian @ Wordsmith
obsequious @ Dictionary.com
phantasmagoria @ Merriam-Webster
disclaimer: if you are accessing this on a date that isn't November 5, 2004, the above links won't necessarily take you where they claim they will ...
::Friday, November 05, 2004 5:45:14 AM::
~ Pothetic Alexander
From the October issue of Smithsonian Magazine:
No conqueror ever dreamed so exhaustively as Alexander the Great. In the fourth century B.C., the Macedonian warrior-king attacked the Persian Empire, the most powerful realm in the world, with almost 50,000 soldiers—then ranged across three continents for more than a decade, subduing tens of millions of people. By the time Alexander died in June 323 B.C., six weeks shy of his 33rd birthday, his empire stretched from the Balkans to the Himalayas—an unprecedented kingdom that spanned what is now Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of India, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Yet despite his imperialist accomplishments, Alexander has always seemed a melancholy figure, possessed by what the ancient Greeks called pothos, a passionate yearning. Once, when court philosopher Anaxarchus described the infinite number of worlds in the universe to him, Alexander broke down crying. "There are so many worlds," he lamented, "and I have not yet conquered even one."
It was this pothos, as much as his military genius, that would make him a romantic hero—to the 17th-century English poet John Dryden, to Sigmund Freud, to world leaders from Julius Caesar and Napoleon to Dwight David Eisenhower. Others, such as St. Augustine and Dante, reviled him as a murdering, plundering bandit. [more]
::Friday, November 05, 2004 5:35:15 AM::
~ Go Tell the Spartans
Miltary History Quarterly has a piece by Barry Strauss about Thermopylae ... here's the incipit:
Stripped of its helmet, Leonidas' head is framed by his long hair. The lean skin of the warrior's face, its color gone, stands out all the more against a short and pointed beard. The dirt of battle is probably still upon Leonidas, and there is a dark purple bruise on his chin from the pooling of what little blood is left. Ragged bits of tissue and bone hang from his severed neck, and flies and beetles have landed on his skin. If the dead Spartan king's eyes could see, they might look 140 miles to the south -- all the way to Athens, the road to which now lies open for Persia.
The time is August 480 b.c.; the place, Thermopylae, Greece; the occasion, the aftermath of a great battle. A vast army of Persians was on the march to conquer Greece. A small force of Greeks had been all that stood in their way. And yet, in a pass that narrows to a space smaller than a baseball diamond, the impossible almost happened. For three days, just over seventy-one hundred Greeks, spearheaded by an elite unit of three hundred Spartans, gave a savage beating to a Persian army that outnumbered them by perhaps 20-to-1. About 150,000 men willing to die for the glory of Xerxes, the Persian Great King, came up against the most efficient killing machine in history. [more]
::Friday, November 05, 2004 5:33:28 AM::
~ Searching for Lars Porsena
The Economist has an interesting piece on a possible dig I hope we'll hear more about (I think we have had hints of this one before):
REAL archaeology bears about as much resemblance to an Indiana Jones movie as real spying bears to James Bond. Excavation—at least if it is to be meaningfully different from grave robbing—is a matter of painstaking trowel work, not gung-ho gold-grabbing. But there is still a glimmer of the grave robber in many archaeologists, and the search for a juicy royal tomb can stimulate more than just rational, scientific instincts.
Few tombs would be juicier than that of Lars Porsena, an Etruscan king who ruled in central Italy around 500BC. Porsena's tomb has been sought for centuries in the rubble under the Tuscan city of Chiusi, which is believed by most authorities to stand on the site of Porsena's capital, Clusium. No sign of it, however, has ever been found. And that, according to Giuseppe Centauro, of the University of Florence, is because everybody is looking in the wrong place.
Lars Porsena's place in history was ensured by his interference in the revolution that made Rome a republic. The last Roman king, Lucius Tarquinius, nicknamed “Superbus” because of his arrogance, was Etruscan. When he was deposed by the revolutionaries, he appealed to Porsena for help. There are conflicting accounts of whether Porsena succeeded in capturing and ruling Rome, or was forced to make peace with the revolutionaries. Either way, most of those accounts agree that he was eventually buried in a fabulous tomb near his home city of Camars, or Clusium as the Romans called it.
The Etruscans were big on tombs—constructing entire cities for the dead to inhabit—but Porsena's was supposedly the biggest of the lot. It was, according to one ancient source, a monument of rectangular masonry with a square base whose sides were 90 metres (about 300 feet) long and 15 metres high. On this base stood five pyramids, four at the corners and one in the centre, and the points of these pyramids supported a ring from which hung bells whose sound reached for miles when stirred by the wind. From this level rose five more pyramids, and from these another five.
Chiusi was clearly once an Etruscan city, but the evidence that it was actually Clusium boils down to the fact that the two names mean the same thing (“closed”). Such nominative determinism is hardly conclusive. Dr Centauro prefers his evidence to be wrought in stone, and he thinks the most persuasive pile of masonry around is actually on a mountainside near Florence.
At the moment, he is awaiting permission from the authorities to start digging there. But the above-ground remains convince him that he has found the real site of Clusium. He believes he has identified two concentric walls 17km (about ten miles) in circumference—certainly big enough to qualify as the biggest city in Italy before the rise of Rome, which is the reputation that Clusium had.
Such a site has not, of course, completely escaped archaeological attention in the past. A dig in an outlying part of it known as Gonfienti has been under way since 1998. Gabriella Poggesi, the archaeologist in charge of the Gonfienti dig, has unearthed the foundations of what was evidently a wealthy settlement on the banks of the Bisenzio river. She has also found evidence of great damage, probably from a flood that swept through in 480BC, after which the houses were abandoned.
This, Dr Centauro believes, is all grist to his theory. In his view, this riverside settlement was an affluent suburb situated on reclaimed land outside the city walls. He thinks it was built to cope with later expansion, and is younger than the site he now calls Clusium.
The outer walls of the main site are three metres thick, several metres high, uncemented and regular in construction. From the style of the masonry, Dr Centauro is convinced the remains are Etruscan. At corners where they have collapsed, small rooms are visible. These, he thinks, would have accommodated the sentries who manned the watchtowers.
So where is the tomb? And is it unlooted? Sadly for goldbugs, its riches are probably gone. In 89BC Cornelius Sulla, a Roman general, sacked Clusium and razed it to the ground. But if the ancient descriptions of the tomb are even a pale reflection of the truth, that amount of masonry is unlikely to have wandered far. So if Dr Centauro's hunch is right, and this is Clusium, the old king's secret may soon be dug up.
::Friday, November 05, 2004 4:56:56 AM::
~ Over 100,000 Served!
As anticipated yesterday, some time after I turned the laptop off for the evening rogueclassicism passed the 100,000 visitor mark! Thanks for coming out!
::Friday, November 05, 2004 4:48:55 AM::
~ AWOTV: On TV Today
8.00 p.m. |HISTU| Julius Caesar
Profile of one of the world's greatest military minds, ancient Rome's Julius Caesar, who romanced Cleopatra, invented the 12-month calendar, and expanded the boundaries of the empire, before being assassinated by senators fearful of his growing power.
9.00 p.m. |HISTU| Caligula: Reign of Madness
Caligula ruled the Roman Empire fewer than four years, and was only 28 when assassinated by officers of his guard in 41 AD. His reign was a legendary frenzy of lunacy, murder, and lust. Between executions, he staged spectacular orgies, made love to his sister, and declared himself a living god. Join us for a look at this devoted son, murderer, pervert, and loving father whose anguished life was far more bizarre than the myth that surrounds him.
11.00 p.m. |HISTU| The Real Attila the Hun
No ruler in history represents the unbridled rage and brutality of the barbarian as much as Attila the Hun. In the 5th century, Attila swept through Europe, effectively extinguishing the classical Roman Empire. And for a time, he held the destiny of all of Western Europe firmly in his grasp. But in the end, it was Attila who unwittingly secured the future of the civilized world and Christian Europe. After his death, the Hun Empire began to break up, and the marauding Huns "scattered to the winds."
HISTU = History Channel
::Friday, November 05, 2004 4:46:35 AM::