Blondes vs. Brunettes - the First 24 Hours

I’ve temporarily taken down my profile picture. It's a long story. In several installments. There might be a new one tomorrow.
I'm a natural [dark] blonde. For years I've had some highlights put in. At the end of 2007 my colorist retired. Replacement Colorist, ignoring my wishes, made my hair lighter and lighter. It superficially makes good business sense for the salon - the more you color hair, the more often you need to re-color it – but was not what I wanted.
The Barbie-fication of beauty standards has been irritating me for a while. It’s Paris Hilton changing her hair, eye and skin color. Young women thinking they need fake breasts, and to look like Playboy bunnies.
My nose is ‘aquiline’ but I'm happy with it. Sometimes random women ask why I haven’t had a nose job. Last time I went to a Metropolitan Museum party in New York, nobody was looking at the art, but three women offered me their diet doctors. Strangely, these women’s men didn’t seem to mind my size: two of their husbands made passes at me [I declined]. My BMI is at the lower end of the ‘normal weight’ category, but I don’t have the ‘just got out of Auschwitz’ size zero look that’s in fashion, so women suggest diet pills.
Some women seem to constantly be offering ‘helpful’ ‘advice’ to ‘improve’ my looks … I should be thinner, taller, shorter, have larger breasts, a flatter stomach, smaller nose, larger lips, browner skin* … and blonder hair. I should look more like a WASPy Barbie doll.
Luckily I don’t care what most people think. But the truth, I realized, is that we have all been subconsciously increasingly conforming to the Barbie Standards [henceforth abbreviated as 'BS'].
Natural blondes are quite rare – but it seems that half the women walking down the street in London are now blonde. Same in New York, Florence, Athens, many large cities around the world.
A few weeks ago was the Day of Atonement. I went to a new hairdresser and she a-toned-down the blonde. It was better, but I was still very much a blonde.
Yesterday several British papers covered a [not terribly scientific PR] 'study' by a hair care company which claimed that men believe Blondes make good girlfriends but brunettes are better wives.
It’s the cliché on which Anita Loos based two novels: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes. Not sure what happens to redheads.
On an impulse that I shall now try to pass off as a Serious Scientific Experiment in Anthropology, I went back to the new hairdresser and asked for my hair to be dyed brown. **
An hour later I walked out a brunette.
So how did men react?
Within seconds of walking out of the salon a man came up to me and tried to ‘hit’ on me. I'd walked less than three feet as a brunette and scored. This was not something I had experienced as a blonde. Admittedly it might have had more to do with my broad grin than my new hair color.
Last night I went to a political drinks party, then dinner. Men I already knew seem to find my new hair color amusing, with one slightly fascinated by the change. Strangers – men I met for the first time – treated me differently. Much less flirty, far more serious. Women are friendlier. I seem to have become more approachable, now that I’m no longer an icy Hitchcock Blonde.
Today, in a shop that normally quibbles over returns, I was immediately given a refund – without the usual questions asked. But the lady who runs the grocer on the corner, didn't recognize me.
The reason for this post is that I realized that changing hair color really can be an anthropological experiment. Some girlfriends are quite shocked by how differently people react to me as a brunette. This ‘study' has barely lasted longer than 24 hours, but I can already see a marked change in attitudes.
The real question is: Do Gentlemen Marry Brunettes? So put your marriage proposals in an email addressed to my father – “For Mr. King” in the subject bar, adding any information that you feel might strengthen your case – and we can really put the study to the test! ;-)
* - obviously the 'browner skin' bit only applies to women the color of milk [like me]; if I were naturally brown, society would ironically be telling me that paler is better.
** - lots of people confuse Archaeologist [me] and Anthropologist [not really me], though the two fields are often studied together, so please hang in there.


Lee Smith on Sunni and Shia

Interesting article on The Great Divide - Standpoint. Lee Smith is quite solid on the Middle East, and this is a brief history of how Islam split into different strands.

How it all started:
Because Muhammad never named an heir, the death of the Prophet led to highly charged factional infighting to decide the future of the umma. One camp comprised the members of noble Arabian families, many of whom came to Islam late, and they became known as the ahl al-Sunna, or the people of law or tradition. The other group believed that Muhammad's successor should come from the prophet's own house, starting with the messenger of God's son-in-law and cousin, Ali. They were known as the faction of Ali, shi'at Ali.
When the Caliphate finally fell to Ali, disaster soon followed. Mu'awiya, the governor of Syria, outwitted Ali in a famous battle at Siffin (657) by having his men hoist copies of the Quran on their spears causing Ali's forces to stop in their tracks. Ali agreed to mediation and the man who would become known as the first of the Shiite imams was assassinated shortly after by disenchanted former associates.
Mu'awiya moved the Caliphate to Damascus where he founded the Umayyad dynasty (661-750). He was succeeded by his son Yazid, who cut down Ali's second son Hussein at Kerbala in 680, a seminal event in Shia history, and commemorated each year with self-lacerating enthusiasm during the Ashura festival. Thus, the Shiites, celebrating their suffering, sacrifice and martyrdom, became the perpetual also-rans of Islamic history.


Piazza Armerina Mosaics Restored

Actually, this is just an excuse to (again) post an image of the bikini babes from the villa to cheer up a friend. In the second image (from Wiki), you can see that someone has tried to 'clean up' the face before taking a photo.

Tornano a splendere i mosaici della Villa del Casale - Adnkronos


How Not to Re-enact a Battle ...

Clue - don't use bullets.

[Obviously this wouldn't be a problem with re-enacting one of Marius' battles, since he didn't use bullets ... now if only someone would lend me an army ...]

Civil War re-enactor's injury shakes die-hards - AP:


RICHMOND, Va. – In the passionate world of Civil War re-enactors, authenticity is everything — from uniforms with historically correct stitching to hardtack made from scratch

A battle re-enactment last month pushed realism to the limits: a retired New York City police officer portraying a Union soldier for a documentary film was shot in the shoulder, possibly by a Confederate re-enactor. [continue reading]

Marcus Nonius Macrinus - the Inscription

Having wrestled with these two* photos of the Marcus Nonius Macrinus inscription found recently by his tomb for whole minutes.
Then having spent a lot longer chatting on the phone to Adrian Murdoch - possibly ten minutes - about his post on the inscription (here - and yes, he did take me up on the offer of corrections! and a credit would be nice, hint hint) .... I am proud to be able to come up with what I feel is the definitive PhDiva version of the tomb inscription of the man that was a great general even though he wasn't the real-life Gladiator ....


* - the first photo is a detail of the third photo, so there are only two images - I may have the 'flu, but I can still count, so please don't email to point that out!


Boethius - The Last Roman

Today is the feast of St. Severinus, born Anicius Manlius Torquatus Severinus but better known as Boethius.

Boethius was a well-connected patrician Roman, the son of a consul, related to at least two emperors, and more popes. Boethius' father, Flavius Narius Manlius Boethius, can be seen on the left in this ivory diptych

Boethius wrote philosophy in that classical tradition, the last great man to do so in the Western Empire. In 510 he was appointed consul by Theodoric; in 520 he was promoted magister officiorurn. Both the king and his master of offices were Christian, but the Ostrogoth was Arian and the Roman catholic. As a result Boethius put in prison in 523, where he wrote De Consolatione Philosophiae ('The Consolation of Philosophy'), partly a compendium of earlier pagan philosophies. In 524 or 525 he was executed for conspiring with the Byzantines; since he died for his faith, he is considered a martyr saint.

Boethius' Latin is quite different from the Republican form we are used to, but equally beautiful and worth reading.

Benedict XVI spoke earlier in the year about Boethius and Cassiodorus:

... Boethius, born in Rome in about 480 from the noble Anicius lineage, entered public life when he was still young and by age 25 was already a senator. Faithful to his family's tradition, he devoted himself to politics, convinced that it would be possible to temper the fundamental structure of Roman society with the values of the new peoples. And in this new time of cultural encounter he considered it his role to reconcile and bring together these two cultures, the classical Roman and the nascent Ostrogoth culture. Thus, he was also politically active under Theodoric, who at the outset held him in high esteem. In spite of this public activity, Boethius did not neglect his studies and dedicated himself in particular to acquiring a deep knowledge of philosophical and religious subjects. However, he also wrote manuals on arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy, all with the intention of passing on the great Greco-Roman culture to the new generations, to the new times. In this context, in his commitment to fostering the encounter of cultures, he used the categories of Greek philosophy to present the Christian faith, here too seeking a synthesis between the Hellenistic-Roman heritage and the Gospel message. For this very reason Boethius was described as the last representative of ancient Roman culture and the first of the Medieval intellectuals.

His most famous work is undoubtedly De Consolatione Philosophiae, which he wrote in prison to help explain his unjust detention. In fact, he had been accused of plotting against King Theodoric for having taken the side of his friend Senator Albinus in a court case. But this was a pretext. Actually, Theodoric, an Arian and a barbarian, suspected that Boethius was sympathizing with the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Boethius was tried and sentenced to death. He was executed on 23 October 524, when he was only 44 years old. It is precisely because of his tragic end that he can also speak from the heart of his own experience to contemporary man, and especially to the multitudes who suffer the same fate because of the injustice inherent in so much of "human justice". Through this work, De Consolatione Philosophiae, he sought consolation, enlightenment and wisdom in prison. And he said that precisely in this situation he knew how to distinguish between apparent goods, which disappear in prison, and true goods such as genuine friendship, which even in prison do not disappear. The loftiest good is God: Boethius - and he teaches us this - learned not to sink into a fatalism that extinguishes hope. He teaches us that it is not the event but Providence that governs and Providence has a face. It is possible to speak to Providence because Providence is God. Thus, even in prison, he was left with the possibility of prayer, of dialogue with the One who saves us. At the same time, even in this situation he retained his sense of the beauty of culture and remembered the teaching of the great ancient Greek and Roman philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle - he had begun to translate these Greeks into Latin - Cicero, Seneca, and also poets such as Tibullus and Virgil.

Boethius held that philosophy, in the sense of the quest for true wisdom, was the true medicine of the soul (Bk I). On the other hand, man can only experience authentic happiness within his own interiority (Bk II). Boethius thus succeeded in finding meaning by thinking of his own personal tragedy in the light of a sapiential text of the Old Testament (Wis 7: 30-8: 1) which he cites: "Against wisdom evil does not prevail. She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and she orders all things well" (Bk III, 12: PL 63, col. 780). The so-called prosperity of the wicked is therefore proven to be false (Bk IV), and the providential nature of adversa fortuna is highlighted. Life's difficulties not only reveal how transient and short-lived life is, but are even shown to serve for identifying and preserving authentic relations among human beings. Adversa fortuna, in fact, makes it possible to discern false friends from true and makes one realize that nothing is more precious to the human being than a true friendship. The fatalistic acceptance of a condition of suffering is nothing short of perilous, the believer Boethius added, because "it eliminates at its roots the very possibility of prayer and of theological hope, which form the basis of man's relationship with God" (Bk V, 3: PL 63, col. 842).

The final peroration of De Consolatione Philosophiae can be considered a synthesis of the entire teaching that Boethius addressed to himself and all who might find themselves in his same conditions. Thus, in prison he wrote: "So combat vices, dedicate yourselves to a virtuous life oriented by hope, which draws the heart upwards until it reaches Heaven with prayers nourished by humility. Should you refuse to lie, the imposition you have suffered can change into the enormous advantage of always having before your eyes the supreme Judge, who sees and knows how things truly are" (Bk V, 6: PL 63, col. 862). Every prisoner, regardless of the reason why he ended up in prison, senses how burdensome this particular human condition is, especially when it is brutalized, as it was for Boethius, by recourse to torture. Then particularly absurd is the condition of those like Boethius - whom the city of Pavia recognizes and celebrates in the liturgy as a martyr of the faith - who are tortured to death for no other reason than their own ideals and political and religious convictions. Boethius, the symbol of an immense number of people unjustly imprisoned in all ages and on all latitudes, is in fact an objective entrance way that gives access to contemplation of the mysterious Crucified One of Golgotha.


The Rosetta Stone, Egypt and Cultural Property

I don't know enough about Egypt to be sure about all the facts in this article ... but it strikes me that if Egypt has two other slabs with the same or a similar decree, but they are not displaying them, surely this weakens their moral claim for the 'return' of the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum?

[I had problems loading this site, so will post the article in full below]

For your information, there’s more than one Rosetta Stone, says Egyptologist - Daily News Egypt:

By Ahmed Maged
October 13, 2008

CAIRO: An Egyptology researcher has called for the display of another original version of the Rosetta Stone at the entrance of the Egyptian Antiquities Museum, dismissing the official request by Egypt to repatriate the stone from the UK as mere propaganda.
Researcher Bassam El Shammaa, who also works as a tour guide, told Daily News Egypt that there are different versions of the stone, which was discovered in Rashid in 1799. The two similar stelae discovered in Kom El Hesn in the Western Delta are currently exhibited in the Greco-Roman section of the museum.
“They have never been promoted as exact copies of the Rosetta Stone despite the fact that, besides being in better condition than their counterpart, on exhibit at the British Museum since 1802, they display the same royal text,” El Shammaa said.
The diorite bulky dubbed the Rosetta Stone derives its importance from the fact that it helped Thomas Young and Francois Champollion, pioneers of the modern science of Egyptology, to decipher the ancient Egyptian language by comparing the hieroglyphic text to its counterparts in classical Greek and Demotic, another ancient Egyptian script also inscribed on the stone.
Regrettably, says the researcher, only a modern replica of the Rosetta Stone is currently on display at the museum’s entrance although one of the two original stelae could easily replace it.
“They are known as the Canopy Stones because they were found at an archaeological site near Canopy, the extinct estuary of the Nile located 100 km from Rashid.
“Each is 220 cm high, unlike the Rosetta Stone, which currently measures 114cm after part of it was lost. Upon its discovery, the Rosetta Stone was 149 cm high.”
El Shammaa also insists that a search be carried out to find similar stones that probably still remain buried beneath the different ancient Egyptian temples.
“Other original versions of the stone could also be lying under the bulky stones of the temples at Edfu, Dandara and Phaela — you never know,” he argued.
The explained that the text on the stone, which stipulates that temples and priests are exempt from taxation during the reign of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, was a traditional honorary religious decree distributed across all temples in Egypt each time a Ptolemaic sovereign ascended the throne.
“I demand a sonar search be applied to all the ancient temples, especially the chamber of the ‘The Holy of the Holiest’ in each temple, where such stones are believed to have been preserved,” he said.
This way, El Shammaa believes, Egypt will probably obtain scores of originals and bring an end the futile propaganda relating to the Rosetta Stone.
“Why should we ask for it back when we have several others?”
He also questioned why the authorities are content with exhibiting a replica at the museum’s gate when one of the two Canopy Stones could go on display in a glass case equipped with a humidity regulator.
“The Canopy Stones are even older as they date back to King Ptolemy III, whereas the Rosetta Stone marked the ascension of King Ptolemy V to the throne of Egypt.”
When the Canopy Stones were discovered in Kom El Hesn, we found out that the hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek texts were the same as the ones carved on the Rosetta Stone, but with the only difference that the Canopy Stones were intact, said El Shammaa.
“Comparing the versions, we also detected a spelling mistake in the last line of the Greek text, a fact that could probably prove that the texts on the Rosetta Stone were inscribed by Egyptians.”
Part of the text was tell-tale, according to Shammaa.
He explained: “It is inscribed that: ‘this decree will be carved on stones and displayed at all the temples beside the sovereign’s eternal figure.’ Shouldn’t that tell you that scores of original Rosetta stones could be buried under the heavy rocks of these temples?”

The New Independents

This is what George Washington said in 1796 of political parties:

They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
Wise words. Like many people, I no longer understand the Republican Party - but I also uncomfortable embracing the Democrats. I am Independent. So are a lot of people these days.

What Independent Voters Want - WSJ

What's fascinating is that many of these new Independents are fiscally conservative, socially progressive, strong on security ... all values that a generation ago were associated with the Republicans.


Indiana Jones Denied Tenure

I know I've posted this in the past, but the fourth Indiana Jones is just out on DVD. It's so bad ... that I'm not surprised he was denied tenure.

From McSweeny's ...

- - - -
January 22, 1939
Assistant Professor Henry "Indiana" Jones Jr.
Department of Anthropology
Chapman Hall 227B
Marshall College

Dr. Jones:

As chairman of the Committee on Promotion and Tenure, I regret to inform you that your recent application for tenure has been denied by a vote of 6 to 1. Following past policies and procedures, proceedings from the committee's deliberations that were pertinent to our decision have been summarized below according to the assessment criteria.

Demonstrates suitable experience and expertise in chosen field:

The committee concurred that Dr. Jones does seem to possess a nearly superhuman breadth of linguistic knowledge and an uncanny familiarity with the history and material culture of the occult. However, his understanding and practice of archaeology gave the committee the greatest cause for alarm. Criticisms of Dr. Jones ranged from "possessing a perceptible methodological deficiency" to "practicing archaeology with a complete lack of, disregard for, and colossal ignorance of current methodology, theory, and ethics" to "unabashed grave-robbing." Given such appraisals, perhaps it isn't surprising to learn that several Central and South American countries recently assembled to enact legislation aimed at permanently prohibiting his entry.

Moreover, no one on the committee can identify who or what instilled Dr. Jones with the belief that an archaeologist's tool kit should consist solely of a bullwhip and a revolver. [continue reading]


High Res Images of The Tomb of General Marcus Nonius Macrinus

The tomb is so interesting I've posted the high resolution photos from the Italian Ministry of Culture (the Italians are getting to be almost as good as the Israeli archaeologists). [sorry - removed the video as it was spamming - and added nothing really].

The Tomb of General Marcus Nonius Macrinus

Lots of coverage of the 'real life Gladiator' angle yesterday. Today photos are coming out, and the tomb is certainly impressive. I'm not quite clear exactly where it was, but it seems to be along the Via Flaminia, north of Rome and close to the Tiber, since it was flooded by the river, preserving much of the structure. This area seems to be an important one, with a few great ancient generals buried north of Rome and near the Tiber according to literary sources.

Adrian Murdoch at Bread and Circuses has a great post about the previously known inscription concerning Nonius Macrinus - What do we know about Marcus Nonius Macrinus?

Adrian says the main inscription comes from a statue base in Ephesus - here - and whilst I'm tempted to write off many of the press claims (the most extensive article can be found here) .... A few more, very brief, inscriptions come from the area around Brescia, which suggests that he owned lands there.

Despite press reports, we know little about this great general - but the tomb inscription should provide us with plenty of information, being essentially an ancient CV.


New Finds in Meroe Before Cultural Genocide in the Sudan

Some rescue excavations have been going on in Meroe before construction of a dam. Actually you could say 'damm' too, as the flooding of this area is seen by many as an attempt by the Sudanese Arabs in power to displace the local black African Sudanese population. Attention has been focused on the Darfur region, but things have been pretty bad in Meroe too - it's cultural genocide. Meroe produced the Dynasty of Black Pharaohs.

Having read through the article fully again, I'd like to make a few points:
i) This quote seems odd, as everyone in archaeology knows how rich the area is, and so Dr. Welsby didn't (which is bad), or he's pushing a British Museum PR line (which is sad):

Dr Derek Welsby, of the British Museum, said: "We had no idea how rich the area was."
ii) I'm all for 'partage' in excavations, but this makes it sound as if Sudan bribed Neil MacGregor and the British Museum to overlook what most people see as cultural genocide:

The team was able to excavate hundreds of heavy items, including large blocks adorned with rock art and 390 stones that comprised the pyramid, with the help of trucks and cranes lent by Iveco and New Holland.

The Sudanese authorities gave 20 such blocks and musical 'rock gongs', plus pottery and jewellery to the British Museum. A selection will be put on display early next year.

I know that Mr. MacGregor likes to position the BM as the cultural arm of the British Foreign Office, and he's being very very pro Africa these days, but ...

Ancient Egypt had powerful Sudan rival, British Museum dig shows - The Telegraph:
New evidence about the power of a Sudanese civilisation that once dominated ancient Egypt has come to light thanks to a British Museum expedition.

By Stephen Adams, Arts Correspondent

The Second Kushite Kingdom controlled the whole Nile valley from Khartoum to the Mediterranean from 720BC to 660BC.
Now archaeologists have discovered that a region of northern Sudan once considered a forgotten backwater once actually "a real power-base".
They discovered a ruined pyramid containing fine gold jewellery dating from about 700BC on a remote un-navigable 100-mile stretch of the Nile known as the Fourth Cataract, plus pottery from as far away as Turkey.
Other finds included numerous examples of ancient rock art and 'musical' rocks that were tapped to create a melodic sound. [continue reading]

Tomb of Marcus Nonius Macrinus Found

For non-Classicists, I will point out that though Marcus Nonius Macrinus may well have 'inspired' Ridley Scott's movie ... Emperors didn't have the power to turn free-born Roman Consuls into slaves. All that 'Gladiator Maximus' would have had to have done is tell someone in authority that he was a citizen, and the mess should have been sorted out. Though of course then he would probably have been assassinated, and the movie would have been a lot shorter.

Tomb of the real 'Gladiator' discovered in Italy - The Times:

Richard Owen in Rome

Italian archeologists have discovered the tomb of the ancient Roman hero said to have inspired the character played by Russell Crowe in the film 'Gladiator'.

Daniela Rossi, a Rome archeologist, said the discovery of the monumental marble tomb of Marcus Nonius Macrinus, including a large inscription bearing his name, was "an exceptional find". She said it was "the most important ancient Roman monument to come to light for twenty or thirty years".

The tomb is on the banks of the Tiber near the via Flaminia, north of Rome. Cristiano Ranieri, who led the archeological team at the site, said the tomb had long ago collapsed into the mud but its columns, roof and decorations were intact. Some parts of the tomb had slipped into the river, but had been recovered.

Marcus Nonius Macrinus, born in Brescia in northern Italy, was a general and consul who led military campaigns for Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor from 161 AD to 180 AD. He became part of the Emperor's inner circle and one of his favourites, serving as proconsul in Asia. [continue reading]


Amazon Queens At Edessa

A Byzantine palace, dating from the fifth to sixth centuries, has been excavated at Edessa in Turkey. What makes this palace particularly interesting is its quite fine mosaics, and for its "wall pictures depicting the Amazonian queens Hippolyte, Antiope, Melanippe and Penthesileia hunting in the forest." The caption to this photo of a mosaic suggests that it too depicted an Amazon, wearing royal purple, though I can't see the name as it's too small. The text says that the mosaic of Penthesilea has her riding a horse, which suggests a different panel. Also of interest is that the technique suggests links to Constantinople and the Imperial Court, the iconography suggests links to the Holy Land.

Amazonian queen excavations reveal ancient palace in Şanlıurfa - Today's Zaman


CPAC New Member: Brent R. Benjamin

I've been slightly repulsed by some of the reaction to the appointment of Brent R. Benjamin, Director of the St. Louis Art Museum, to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC).

I was going to write surprised, but the whole issue of cultural property has become so nutty, that I'm really not all that surprised - (see, for example, the 'answer' to this post, which was in itself an answer to the anonymous bile to this post ... yes, the field really has degenerated into throwing mud at anyone who does not disagree with the silly mantra of 'collecting bad' / 'US military = army of satan' or who does not have psychic powers).

I think that Brent R. Benjamin was a good appointment, and based on the little I know of him I have great hopes that he will work in the interests of museums, as he was appointed to do. Benjamin is a 'museum' appointee to the committee, which is made up of a broad spectrum of interests, as mandated by law. Some people are angry that the committee is not entirely made up of archaeologists, but it cannot be, nor should it be - that would be like having a Committee devoted to finding peace in the Middle East made up only of Syrians.

I believe that looted and stolen items should be returned. But I also believe that the term 'stolen' is bandied about too freely and over-used. Benjamin refused to 'return' a piece to Egypt because he was not offered proof that it had been stolen; had he returned it without proof, he would have been in dereliction of his duty as the Director of the St. Louis Art Museum.

For further comment, I recommend:
Sour Grapes by Wayne G. Sayles at Ancient Coin Collecting
Brent R. Benjamin of Saint Louis Art Museum Named to CPAC Museum Seat and SAFE "Campaign" Against the Appointment of Brent R. Benjamin to CPAC by Peter Tompa at Cultural Property Observer

I am delighted with Brent R. Benjamin's appointment, and wish him all the best for his term on the CPAC.

Oh, and I think his name has been dragged through the mud enough, so will be deleting any slanderous comments about him.


Cedrat - Not Just For Sukkot

It makes great jam too (this one comes from Corsica, and we love it).

Though obviously it's prime importance is as one on the Four Species of the Sukkot ceremonies, where it is better known as Etrog. The Feast of Tabernacles starts at sunset, and commemorates the wandering through the desert after the Exodus.


Attila's Huns at Bulgarian Villa?

A late Roman or Byzantine villa was excavated in Bulgaria, and it's destruction is linked to Attila the Hun's destructive sweep through the area in the fifth century.

The mosaics are also interesting as they included the names of the owners of the house in cartouches (see photo): Diofanes and Diogenia.

Unique Byzantine Mosaics Unearthed in Bulgaria's Kyustendil - Novinite.

The Son of the High Priest II

I've already mentioned this very exciting find, of part of a sarcophagus lid indicating that it belonged to the son of a High Priest from the Second Temple period. The press release has now made it to the IAA web site, from whence cometh these fabulous photos (the site; the fragment; detail of the inscription).

The Jerusalem Post also has video of the site here.


The Dangers of Polling ....

I've been looking for this clip from 'Yes, Prime Minister' for a while -
it shows how easy it is to get the answer one wants in an opinion poll, entirely based on the questions one asks. The discussion in this one is about mandatory military service, but it holds true on a number of topics. 'Yes, Minister' and 'Yes, Prime Minister' was a great BBC series, that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in politics.

Yes, Minister/Yes, Prime Minister 2-Pak - Amazon.com
Yes Minister & Yes Prime Minister: Complete BBC Box Set - Amazon.co.uk


The Battle of Tours 732

The 10th October is the anniversary of the Battle of Tours.

Charles Martel, leader of the French forces, won a great victory near Tours which stopped the advance of Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi and his armies from Muslim Spain. The Umayyad made another attempt to invade France in 735, but it was to be their last. Thanks to Martel Islam spread no further than Spain, and the rest of Western Europe remained Christian.

The Umayyad were themselves rather astonishing, and there is much to admire about Al-Andalus, the state they created in Spain between 711 and 1492 - it was one of the most tolerant countries in the world, which produced remarkable scholarship and architecture. In fact, it was one of the most interesting periods of Spanish history. Muslims today would do well to emulate it.


Beckham as Belvedere ...

Via the brilliant Eternally Cool blog comes this comparison between soccer player David Beckham's pose in an ad and the Belvedere Torso in the Vatican. Did the photographer choose to copy the famous sculpture, is the pose an obvious one, or has it become so iconic that the photographer used the pose subconsciously ...? The sculpture was found in the early Renaissance, and was highly influential during both on sculptors and painter, for example Michelangelo.

Armani Goes Ancient - Eternally Cool


Just How Nuts Cultural Property is Getting as a Field.

I love the following response to my post earlier today - "The US Army and Cultural Property" - where I pointed out that most US soldiers behave well, and that it was official Pentagon policy NOT to loot, and that it says so in the official military field manual:

rosebudrmm said ...

Seriously? I am actually quite appalled by what you are saying. Yes, these men are putting their lives at risk but that gives them the right to steal? It is nonsensical - the two are completely unrelated.

When people cannot grasp a basic fact [Pentagon = against destroying cultural property and against looting], the field is in serious trouble. I have no idea who rosebudrmm is, but it pretty much reflects a great deal of the comments I have heard from academics. Army in Iraq = army must be looting, because well soldiers just have to be barbarians - and if you repeat that lie enough times, people will believe it.

The US Army and Cultural Property

I get fed up with people who blame soldiers for looting / destroying cultural property / accuse them of smuggling. Basically, they are good men putting their lives on the line for their country and are doing the best job they can. The new field manual is just out, and available here. Soldiers have been briefed since the start of the Afghan and Iraqi wars to avoid damaging archaeological sites, to not buy or steal antiquities, etc.

This is still official policy, and the relevant sections can be found in the manual, for example:
Shrines and Art
5-52. Except in cases where military operations or military necessity prevents it, the force protects and preserves all historical and cultural monuments and works, religious shrines and objects of art, and any other national collections of artifacts or art.

The Tomb of the Son of the High Priest

Israeli archaeologists yesterday announced an exciting find - part of a sarcophagus lid with the end of an inscription indicating that it belonged to the son of a High Priest: "Ben HaCohen HaGadol".

The IAA release is below - I love the way they have made the find's relevance to Yom Kippur clear.

Excavations north of Jerusalem reveal sarcophagus fragment inscribed "Son of the High Priest" - IAA:

6 Oct 2008

The fragment, made of hard limestone, is engraved with an inscription in square Hebrew script, characteristic of the Second Temple period that reads: "Ben HaCohen HaGadol" - "Son of the High Priest."

A unique discovery was revealed in excavations that were conducted north of Jerusalem: a fragment of a sarcophagus cover was found that is engraved with square Hebrew script, characteristic of the Second Temple period. The fragment (length 0.60 m, width 0.48 m) is made of hard limestone, is meticulously fashioned and bears a carved inscription that reads: "…Ben HaCohen HaGadol…" - "Son of the High Priest."

Numerous high priests served in the temple during the latter part of the Second Temple period and there is no way of knowing which of the priests the inscription refers to. However, it should probably be identified with one of the priests that officiated there between the years 30 and 70 CE. Among the high priests we know of from the end of the Second Temple period were Caiaphas the priest, Theophilus (Yedidiya) Ben Hanan, Simon Ben Boethus, Hanan Ben Hanan and others.

The excavations were conducted by the Unit of the Archaeological Staff Officer of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, under the direction of Naftali Aizik and Benyamin Hareven, within the framework of the salvage excavations that are currently being carried out along the route of the security fence and underwritten by the Ministry of Defense.
During the course of the excavation public and residential buildings, agricultural installations, pools and cisterns were discovered which range in date from the end of the Second Temple period to the Early Islamic period.

The Land of Benjamin is known in scientific literature as the place where the priests resided during the Second Temple period. This region is analogous to the peripheral settlements of modern Jerusalem where an affluent population dwelled that was active and earned its living in the central city of Jerusalem. The site that was exposed is an estate of one of the high priests who served in the temple in Jerusalem. One can assume that the son of the high priest passed away for some unknown reason at the time when his father still officiated as the high priest in Jerusalem. It can further be assumed that this high priest, as well as the rest of his family, was interred at the same estate located north of Jerusalem; however, no other artifacts have been found yet that verify this theory.

It should be noted that the fragment of the sarcophagus cover was not discovered in the estate itself, rather it was recovered from the debris of the later remains. It seems that the fragment was plundered from its original location approximately one thousand years ago and was used in the construction of a later Moslem building that was erected atop the ruins of the houses from the Second Temple period.

The high priest was first and foremost among the priests in the temple, but his greatest importance was the role he played on Yom Kippur. This was the only day of the year when the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies. In the Yoma Tractate (Yom Kippur) of the Mishnah the process which the high priest underwent seven days prior to Yom Kippur, before he entered the Holy of Holies, is described in detail. He would walk between the ornamental curtains that separated the hall of the temple and the inner sanctum of the Holy of Holies. Here he would burn the incense about which it was said "…the entire temple filled with the smoke of incense."

Until the Hellenistic period (the time of Antiochus Epiphanes IV) the high priesthood was a position that was passed on hereditarily; however after this period the high priest was appointed by the ruling authorities. During Herod’s reign individuals who were not Jerusalemites were appointed as high priests and it reached the point whereby the priesthood became an office which was purchased with money.


The Battle of Arausio 105 BC

One of the interesting things about ancient history is that although the years of battles and great events are often preserved, and we sometimes roughly know that month in which they took place, we rarely know the actual date for sure. The exceptions are a few truly stunning victories - and some terrible defeats.

The Battle of Arausio is one of those defeats - it was fought between the Cimbri and the Teutones against the Roman armies of the consul Gnaeus Mallius Maximus and the proconsul Quintus Servilius Caepio. The Romans were annihilated in a defeat worse than Cannae, and the losses considered so great that the anniversary of the battle - the 6th of October - was declared to be a 'black day' in the Roman calender.

Interestingly, although I have previously discussed how Cannae forced the Romans into changing the structure of command - the army would be led by one consul not both, to prevent confusion - the same mistake was repeated at Arausio. Caepio was in theory subordinate as proconsul, but seems to have ignored the orders of the consul, and this is one of many reasons that led to the defeat and heavy losses.

Granius Licinianus 33 [11-12]:

The consul Mallius was alarmed by this victory of the Cimbri, and sent a letter begging Caepio to join forces with him and confront the Gauls with a large combined army; but Caepio refused. Caepio crossed the Rhone and boasted to his soldiers that he would bring help to the frightened consul; but he did not even want to discuss with him [12] how to conduct the war, and he disdained to listen to the envoys whom the senate sent, asking the generals to co-operate and jointly to protect the state. The Cimbri sent envoys to arrange a peace and to ask for land and for corn to sow, but he dismissed them so brusquely that they attacked the next day. His camp was situated not far away from Mallius' camp, 10 but he could not be persuaded, though he was so close, to join together their armies.

The greater part of the army was destroyed ... ... [the battle was fought] on the day before the nones of October. Rutilius Rufus says that at least 70,000 regular troops and light-armed troops perished on this one day ....

The Periochae of Livy, 67:
After the defeat of his army, Marcus Aurelius Scaurus, a deputy of the consul, was captured by the Cimbrians and called to their council, where he deterred them from crossing the Alps and going to Italy, saying that the Romans were unconquerable. He was killed by a savage young man, Boiorix. Defeated by the same enemies, consul Gnaeus Manlius and proconsul Quintus Servilius Caepio were stripped of both their camps; according to Valerius Antias, 80,000 soldiers and 40,000 servants and camp followers were killed near Arausio. Caepio, who had caused the defeat by his rashness, was convicted; his possessions were confiscated (for the first time since king Tarquinius) and his powers abrogated.

The problems with the command structure are probably the main reason that Marius was repeatedly re-elected to the consulship year after year in such an unusual manner - the norm would have been for his command to have been extended as a proconsular one. He was however the leading general of his day - having defeated first the brigands in Spain, then Jugurtha in North Africa - and the Romans wanted to keep him in charge. Had he had to fight alongside a serving consul whilst holding the rank of proconsul, the consul would theoretically have been in charge and this might have led to problems.

So Marius' historic career and unprecedented run of consulships are all a direct result of the Battle of Arausio.

The Google satellite photo of Orange, ancient Arausio, can be found here.


Ancient Sources Relating to Marius

The great joy of the internet is how many ancient sources are now available online, so one doesn't have to run to the library to check every single reference ... It also means that I managed to have a bit of a clear out of books.

Grouped sources:

Perseus - I personally it not particularly user friendly, but some people love it and it is in theory the 'best' site for Greek and Roman literary sources ...

Lacus Curtius is the site I love best - Billy Thayer has added the Loeb versions of many of the major Greek and Roman texts.

Attalus has a very useful list of many of the ancient sources.

The Latin Library is the place for Latin texts (without English translations).

Corpus Scriptorum Latinorum has many sources in both in the original and in translation - it tends to be the place I find things that I never thought I would ...

Roger Pearse's Early Church Fathers gathers many of the early Christian sources.

Remacle has gathered some of the sources relating to Marius' life until his exile; in the original with French translations.

Individual sources:

Pseudo-Aurelius Victor, viri ill / Les Hommes Illustres de la Ville de Rome - in French.

Asconius - various in Latin.

Paulus Orosius, Historiae Adversum Paganos - in Latin.

PACE has both Polybius' Histories in Greek and in English, and Walbank's Commentary here (the page also have Josephus).

And for academic articles ...

I know that many of us get frustrated with JSTOR access rules, so I wanted to draw people's attention to Persee, the French version - it's free, and easy to use.


Mycenean Imported Sword

This story is interesting and shows much greater trade links that I would have assumed, quite early on.

A 12th century BC sword made in Italy was found in a Mycenean tomb in western Greece.

Grèce: découverte d'une tombe mycénienne contenant une épée venant d'Italie - AFP.

Mycenaean warrior used 'imported sword' - Howrah (English summary of the above)

The Battle of Philippi 42 B

Philippi can be found on Google Earth here.

The First Battle took place on the 3rd of October, the Second Battle on the 23rd - and it was a decisive victory for Octavian and Mark Anthony against Cassius and Brutus, the assassins of Julius Caesar. Cassius committed suicide after the first Battle, Brutus after the second.

Many dates are claimed by historians to mark the 'real' end of the Republic, and this is one of them - although the Republic limped on in theory, after the battle Rome was divided between and rule by Anthony and Augustus.

The third member of the Second Triumvirate was Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. His maternal grand-father was Lucius Appuleius Saturninus, who was murdered in 100 BC, whilst Tribune for the second time.

Marcus Livius Drusus Claudianus also killed himself after the battle - he was the son of the Drusus who was murdered when Tribune in 91 BC, and the father of Livia. His family had to flee Rome because of Augustus' proscriptions, which makes it all the more ironic that Livia became Augustus' third wife.

I'm making the points about family connections because of something in modern scholarship I've been having a huge problem with - too many historians assume that just because people knew each other, or were related, that they were on the same 'side' politically. This may be truer later, but for Marius' day it need not have been and is a huge assumption to make.

Saturninus and Drusus are both described as allies of Marius in some modern histories, pushing through his political agenda. There is no evidence of any support by Marius for Drusus and his reforms. There is some evidence for Saturninus allying himself with Marius - though in the end Marius helped remove the Tribune from office. Julius Caesar was Marius' nephew and sometimes claimed to be his political heir; Anthony and Augustus claimed to be the heirs of Caesar.
But as we can see in the tangled links between Livius Drusus Tribune of 91, his son, and his son's daughter ... one can read too much into briefs mentions in the sources; if we did not know Livia's father had killed himself, and that her family had fled because of Octavian's proscriptions, and we only knew they had later married ... some historians might have tried to posit that Octavian and her father were allies in 42. Basically that's the sort of modern history I've been reading for Marius' period, much of it built on a house of cards.


Matilda of Tuscany - in Mantua

Mantua is hosting a series of exhibitions on Countess Matilda of Tuscany - also sometimes called Matilda of Canossa.

Matilda's forces fought for the Papacy, earning herself a place in Antonia Fraser's book The Warrior Queens.

It's unclear whether she led an army herself or not, since the accounts may be mythical, but she was certainly taught the art of war, and several of her suits of armour were recorded as still surviving during the Renaissance.

ANSA had an article about the exhibitions (see below). The web site for the exhibitions can be found here.

Mantua fetes medieval ruler - ANSA:

Exbitions explore life and times of Matilda of Tuscany

(ANSA) - Mantua, September 25 - The northern province of Mantua is celebrating the life and times of one of Italy's most powerful medieval women, Matilda of Tuscany (1046-1115).

Three exhibitions exploring her steady rise to power and her close relations with the Church are running in the city and the surrounding area. Matilda was the daughter of Boniface II of Canossa, who controlled great swathes of land in northern Italy, and his second wife, Beatrice.

At the age of six, Matilda became sole heir to her father's estate when he died, even though she had an older brother.

Beatrice, herself a strong, intelligent and deeply religious woman, was responsible for her daughter's upbringing, which was considered unconventional for the time. Matilda enjoyed an extensive education and was able to speak, read and write Latin, Italian, German and French, and also developed a great love of literature that led her to acquire numerous manuscripts.

Some sources also suggest she had military training, including horse riding, swordsmanship and tactical skills, and her presence on important battlefields seems to support the theory. Matilda governed the vast tracts of land she owned in northern and central Italy for almost 40 years but is today best known for her pivotal involvement in the Investiture Controversy. This involved a struggle between Europe's secular rulers, especially the German emperors, who believed they had the power to appoint Church officials, and the papacy, which declared that the pope alone had the power. Throughout her life, Matilda was a strong and active supporter of the papacy and played a crucial role in mediating an agreement of 1077 between the two main adversaries in the struggle, Pope Gregory VII and the German king Henry IV, later Holy Roman Emperor. Each of the three exhibits explores a different aspect of Matilda's life. The first and largest, in Mantua's Casa del Mantegna is entitled 'Matilde di Canossa, il Papato e l'Impero' (Matilda of Tuscany, The Papacy and the Empire). It features 250 items, including Henry IV's imperial throne of wrought iron and Gregory VII's papal throne. The only remaining seal used by Matilda is displayed, as well as 22 documents she personally signed. Other items include hangings, jewellery, sculpture, crucifixes and weapons, as well as a host of archaeological artefacts, giving a sense of what day-to-day life was like at that time. The second exhibition in the small town of San Benedetto Po, focuses on the Benedictine Abbey of San Benedetto Polirone founded by Matilda's grandfather, Tedaldo in 1007. Matilda withdrew to the Abbey for increasingly long periods of her life as she grew older and was eventually buried there.

Entitled 'Matilda's Abbey', the exhibit collates artworks, including portraits of Matilda, and original documents from the abbey, as well as archive maps, showing work carried out by the complex's inhabitants. The final show in the Diocesan Museum of Mantua spotlights the life of the Archbishop of Lucca Anselmo (1035-1086), sent by Gregory VII to be Matilda's advisor and confessor. This contains a variety of artworks and valuable documents. All three exhibitions are open until January 11 2009.


The Cup of Christ ... ?

I first became aware of this cup a couple of weeks ago, via an article in Der Spiegel (which is also the source of this photo) - Heiliger Gral vom Nil - which was rather unfortunately titled, as it's not the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper, so it's not the 'holy grail'.
A few specialised blogs picked up on the news, and are highly skeptical about it - the consensus seems to be that the inscription is late if not an outright fake. Tom Elliot of Current Epigraphy had an open thread on the cup here. Antonio Lombatti is another skeptic when it comes to this cup, and thinks it's too perfect. They clarify the inscription in the post. Ancient words were often written joined up, so this:
is broken up into these words:
Which in turn translates as “Magician through Christ” or "for Christ the Magician" - a phrase which is far more open to interpretation than people assume, even if it is genuine. Christ means generally means Messiah, and it would only refer to Jesus if it could be shown to have been owned by a Greek-speaking Christian - not a Jew. It could possibly be a given name, however, and indicate the owner of the cup. The 'magician' bit is also troubling - if the inscription is original, and if the owner was Christian ... what could he have meant by it? Did he believe Jesus performed magic?
The cup was apparently found by Franck Goddio's team in Alexandria, although as others have pointed out it was not mentioned amongst this year's finds on their web site. News of it broke when it was announced that it was going on loan to an exhibition in Madrid of Egypt's Sunken Treasures. Then El Mundo picked up on it - La vasija de 'Cristo, el mago' (with video).
Tom Elliot has set up a running bibliography, with articles in various languages.
I've been ignoring the cup for the simple reason that I have no idea what to say about it. St Paul's earliest letter is dated to AD 51, and the claims are that this cup is earlier - making it the first reference to Christ ... but we have not been offered any proof of the date. The truth is that until we know more about the context in which the cup was found we can't even begin to debate it's meaning. The cup has now however made the English-speaking media.

Earliest Reference Describes Christ as 'Magician' - Discovery News:
The general trend in the Discovery News article seems to be that it was used in soothsaying by a magus. But I shall leave the last word to the great Prof. RRR Smith:
Bert Smith, a professor of classical archaeology and art at Oxford University, suggests the engraving might be a dedication, or present, made by a certain "Chrestos" belonging to a possible religious association called Ogoistais.

The Battle of Gaugamela 331 BC

The 1st October is the anniversary of the battle of Gaugamela, where Alexander the Great defeated Darius III. The exact site of the battle, as with so many ancient battles, is uncertain, but in took place not far from Mosul in what is now northern Iraq - the area can be seen on Google Earth here. Darius' army was annihilated, and he fled.

Although Darius tried to raise another army he was assassinated in 330 by Bessuss, the Satrap of Bactria and one of the commanders at Gaugamela. According to Curtius Rufus, Bessus was in turn crucified by Alexander at the same spot where he had murdered Darius.

The Achaemenid Empire fell as a result of this battle.