Pompeii shadowed by Mt. Vesuvius courtesy of Wikimedia
The Roman city of Pompeii was destroyed and buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE. The preserved city allows archaeologists, historians, and Classicists to examine materials far better preserved than a ‘traditional’ archaeological ruin.
The graffiti on the walls of Pompeii are famous for the content and vulgarity. However, scholars now believe they served another purpose: communication. Perhaps working as an early, non-tech, “social media.” Property owners may have had control over the political messages written on their walls.
“The current view is that any candidate could have chosen any location and have their ad painted on the wall. After looking at the contexts, this would not seem very likely. The facades of the private houses and even the streetwalks in front of them were controlled and maintained by the owner of the house, and in that respect, the idea that the wall space could be appropriated by anyone who wanted to do it seems unlikely.” - Eeva-Maria Viitanen
To learn more about the political ads and their role at the city of Pompeii, see the article posted at Scientific American.
Antikythera Mechanism fragment courtesy of Wikimedia
The famous Roman shipwreck at Antikythera may in fact be the resting place of two wrecked vessels. The underwater site was discovered in the early 1900s and became quickly famous when nautical archaeologists discovered a device they termed the Antikythera Mechanism, a sophisticated device used to calculate astronomical positions.
The breadth of the wreck and vast array of artifacts have led researchers to question whether or not there are actually two ships at the site rather than the assumed one.
The site’s preservation is due to its remote and deep location, which protects it from curious scuba divers and would be looters. However, the attention that has been showered on the site has encouraged documentary film makers and reporters to be more… creative in how they have presented the finds and the site itself. As such, researchers are planning to return to the site to better explore it.
“Because the site has been so intruded upon for more than a century it gets really hard to disambiguate what’s myth and what’s fact,” – Brendan Foley
To learn more about the excavation and proposed return to the Antikythera wreck, see the article at Discovery News.
You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, others their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices. People bewailed their own fate or that of their relatives, and there were some who prayed for death in their terror of dying. Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore.
Today, Scientific America highlights the death of the city and how many historians and archaeologists get the geology wrong. Mary Beard, an expert in Roman History, states that the problem is that historians and archaeologists are “not a volcanologist[s].”
Stanford has just launched Orbis, a self described: “Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World reconstructs the time cost and financial expense associated with a wide range of different types of travel in antiquity.”
Scholars, laymen, educators, and students can use this tool to made traveling networks (by land and sea) for more than 751 ancient sites in the ancient world and are able to examine mileage distance, travel difficulty, and estimated time for traveling by foot or boat.
This is an amazing and innovative tool for those working in the ancient world. It is easy to navigate and quick to adapt. I highly recommend playing around – try to figure out how long it would take to get from Londinium to Antioch as a civilian or a soldier, by land or by sea.
Caesarion, a potential and dangerous heir to rival Augustus, was put to death. However, the children of Antony and Kleopatra were actually given to Augustus’s sister, Octavia (the Roman legal wife of Mark Antony) to raise and educate. Reportedly, she loved them deeply and grieved the loss of her adopted sons. Years later, the sons of Antony would disappear from history, but the daughter, Kleopatra Selene, was married off to King Juba II (a prominent Eastern King) and seemed to serve as co-regent.
Archaeologists have recently uncovered the statue of a topless, female warrior that they believe represents the likeness of a female gladiator. Female gladiators, termed a Gladiatrix, are well documented in Roman history and archaeology (although somehow left out of popular Hollywood films). They often portrayed mythical figures like Amazon Warriors.
While the figure is depicted topless, wearing only a loin clothe, real female gladiators would have been geared with protective armor and helmet. This statue represents only the second such discovery of a female gladiator (meaning she was likely a popular star of the arena).
Most of us are familiar, largely reading Shakespeare in high school, of the “Ides of March.” In the Roman Calendar, it marked March the 15th. It was made famous for the date of Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 BCE.
Caesar: The Ides of March have come!
Soothsayer: Aye, Caesar, but not gone.
The Roman Calendar was very similar to our own, divided into twelve months and then demarcated by the kalends (the first day of the month), the Nones (the 9th day of the month), and the Ides (the middle of the month falling on the 13th or the 15th); other days were marked by counting back from the stated demarcation (e.g. 3 days before the Ides of July). In Ancient Rome, the Ides of March were traditionally a day set aside to settle debts – a symbolic element highlighted by Caesar’s assassins. The Roman Calendar was fastidiously kept by the government and regularly required adjustment. Its accuracy (like most ancient calendars) was problematic and it regularly required adjustment. It was also often adjusted by various politicians (such as Julius Caesar – July, Augustus – August, etc).
Although the Romans never actually went to ireland, confining themselves to the Big Island (and only making a brief foray into Scotland), it turns out that the Irish occupants did in fact interact with the Romans.
A new Irish Archaeological organization called the Discovery Programme is beginning to research how much of the Romans impacted and interacted with the Irish (including investigations into the possibility of a Roman invasion). While Irish archaeologists have uncovered Roman goods (ceramic-ware, beads, jewelry, etc), until now there has been little investigation into Ireland’s “Roman heritage.”
This edition of Archaeology Magazine highlights the quest of modern archaeologists and explorers in locating the original source of the famed Aqua Traina - built by the Emperor Trajan in the 1st century CE. Aqueducts were the key to sustaining the large population of the ancient city of Rome and even today, stand as a testament to Roman engineering and industrialization.