Category Archives: Ancient Rome

Explore the World at your Desk with the Google World Wonders Project

Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 11.27.34 AMIf you are familiar with google maps and google earth, then the next venue for your is the Google World Wonders Project. The project covers six continents (including Antarctica)  and focuses on natural as well as manmade wonders. You can walk through the ruins of Pompeii, swim at the Great Barrier Reef, stand in the middle of Stonehenge, fly through the Grand Canyon, and more.

The Education provides lesson plan ideas for teachers of K-12 students. It’s a great way to incorporate these sites in your social studies and science curriculum.

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Women in the Ancient Record

GraecoMuse

George Eliot wrote that ‘the happiest women…have no history’; such a philosophy embodies that for women in the ancient world there is a great lack of communication from women themselves.  So to what extent is the historian thwarted by this lack of communication?

One of the biggest problems facing the historian of women in the ancient world is that there are very few sources that are written by women themselves; there is a general lack of communication.  So is it possible to trace their history even without their own sources? Gould describes women in the ancient world as a muted group, made inarticulate by the lack of a language in which to communicate their particular sense of society and its relationship to the totality of experience.  While other academics believe that the history of women can be interpreted through numerous sources contributed by males, such as tragedies and comedies, this…

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Ancient Pompeii’s Social Media

Pompeii shadowed by Mt. Vesuvius courtesy of Wikimedia

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.

Famous Roman Shipwreck Off the Coast of Greece Could be Two Ships

Antikythera Mechanism fragment courtesy of Wikimedia

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.

Dormice & Other Saturnalia Gifts

Pompeii_-_Osteria_della_Via_di_Mercurio_-_Dice_Players

Roman Dice Players from Pompeii courtesy of Wikimedia

December 23 marks the end of the Roman festival of Saturnalia, a celebration during which gifts were exchanged, debts forgiven, and drunken shenanigans ensued.

It was one of the longest and most opulent festivals of Ancient Rome – many of its traditions enduring the adoption of Christianity and seen in the celebration of Christmas.

Today, the History Girls Blog highlights some of the most popular (and sometimes odd) gifts exchanged at this time of year in their post: “Dormice and Other Saturnalia Gifts.”

Top 10 Archaeological Discoveries of 2012

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 12.24.08 PMToday, Archaeology Magazine has rolled out its “Top 10 Discoveries of 2012.” The list includes (in no particular order):

Maya Sun God Mask

Neanderthal Medicine Chest

First Use of Poison

Aztec Ritual Burial

Caesar’s Gallic Outpost

Europe’s Oldest Engraving

The First Pots

Scottish “Frankenstein” Mummy

2,000 Year Old Stashed Treasure

Oldest Egyptian Funerary Boat

 

How Pompeii Perished – Scientific American

Me in the Forum of Pompeii with Vesuvius in the Background

Every school child knows the story of Pompeii, the ill-fated city at the base of Mount Vesuvius. Pliny the Younger, an eye witness to the eruption, recorded the terrifying event:

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].”

To read more about the violent end of the city, see the article: “How Pompeii Perished.”