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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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)


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.