The Erechtheion temple of the Athenian acropolis was constructed between 421 and 406 BCE under the supervision of the architect Philocles. The temple was built to house the ancient cult wooden statue of Athena and as a shrine to other local gods such as the early Athenian kings Erechtheus and Kekrops, and Boutes and Pandrosos. Poseidon and Zeus also had sacred precincts within the building. The south porch has the iconic Caryatids which make the building one of the most distinctive surviving structures of antiquity.
The Erechtheion, named after the demi-god Erechtheus, the mythical Athenian king, was built using local Pentelic marble. The largest inner chamber housed the diiepetes, the olivewood statue of Athena Polias (of the city-state), clothed in the specially woven robe which was carried in the Panathenaic procession, held in the city every four years. In front of the statue stood a gold lamp designed by Kallimachos which had a bronze palm-shaped chimney and an asbestos wick which burned continuously. The sacred serpent (oikouros ophis), which was believed to be an incarnation of Erechtheus, dwelt in one of the western chambers and acted as guardian to the city. Well looked after, it was regularly fed with honey cakes.
The front facade of the Erechtheion.
Triptych featuring images of various foods. Painted plaster. MANN 8760. ©The Superintendence for the Archaeological Heritage
of Naples (SAHN).
Two thousand years ago, Mount Vesuvius – a stratovolcano located close to the Gulf of Naples – erupted with tremendous force and little warning. Within only 24 hours, the Roman city of Pompeii was buried under a rain of hot ash and falling debris. Lying undiscovered for over 1,600 years, the city’s rediscovery remains one of the greatest archaeological finds of all time.
Pompeii: In the Shadow of the Volcano, which opened last month at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, Canada, examines everyday life in Pompeii through six distinct sections on those who called the ancient city home. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Curator Paul Denis about the exhibition as well as the ways in which our lives mirror those from the distant past.
In March this year reports swept through the global media that ISIS had used bulldozers to level the ancient city of Hatra. ISIS has already destroyed a number of irreplaceable sculptures from Hatra in the Mosul Museum, lending immediate credibility to reports from Iraqi antiquities officials that ISIS fighters had destroyed Hatra itself as well.
However, no videos or other confirmation surfaced for a month afterwards and there was no way to assess the extent of the damage. The story gradually faded from the media. Given the massive size of Hatra, and its location in the middle of the desert, in a region of no strategic significance, over fifty kilometers from inhabited areas, some grew skeptical that ISIS had mounted a major operation to demolish Hatra.
On Saturday video surfaced on YouTube and other websites which showed ISIS fighters destroying sculptures at Hatra. The voice-overs from several ISIS fighters contained the standard spiel about shirk, idolatry, and Muhammad destroying the idols of the Kaaba. The video was quickly removed, but I took some screenshots that will suffice illustrate the items which have been destroyed while leaving out the majority propaganda elements.
The good news is that the damage to Hatra is not as extensive was was first feared. The bad news is that more irreplaceable and unique Hatrene art has been damaged, threatening to further erase an already under-studied field.
At the beginning of the video there is an aerial shot of the ruins of Hatra which seems to have been shot from a blimp or drone. A graphic then highlights the Great Iwans and the Temple of the Triad with a label which reads “idols and statues.”
All of the artifacts shown being destroyed in the video are from the Great Iwans. None are seen from the Temple of the Triad.
Plan of the Great Iwan at Hatra. City of the Sun God, p. 332-333.
This week marks the anniversary of the Great Fire of Rome, one of the worst disasters ever to hit the city of Rome. This tragic event took place during the reign of Nero in 64 A.D. The fire began in the merchant area of the city near the Circus Maximus and rapidly spread through the dry, wooden structures of the Imperial City. According to Tacitus, the fire burned for six days and seven nights. Only four of the fourteen districts of Rome escaped the fire; three districts were completely destroyed and the other seven suffered serious damage.
Colossal head of Nero belonging to a larger-than-life size statue,Glyptothek Museum, Munich © Carole Raddato
There are hundreds of great history blogs out there and we could write about them all day! These are the 10 history blogs Ancient History et cetera’s blog editor follows on a regular basis.
Cuneiform Writing. Photographer Jan van der Crabben
Wings outspread, jagged talons projecting front and back from his knees, his face emerging from an eagle’s beak, this is an eagle warrior. Templo Mayor Museum, INAH. National Council for Culture and Arts – INAH.
Around 1325 CE, southward migrating Mexicas or “Aztecs” came upon an island in Lake Texcoco, located in the highlands of Central Mexico. On this spot, they consecrated a temple and founded their capital city — the legendary Tenochtitlán — from which they initiated a wave of imperial conquests throughout Mesoamerica. Aztec civilization flourished for nearly two hundred years before falling to the might of the Spanish, led by Hernán Cortés (1485-1547 CE), in 1521 CE. Despite their remarkable innovations in engineering, agriculture, and architecture, many remember the Aztecs solely for their bloody rituals of human sacrifice.
This summer, Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Museum in Montréal, Canada presents a major international exhibition, The Aztecs, People of the Sun, which offers glimpses into the lost world of a culture that reigned over much of what is present-day Mexico. In this interview, James Blake of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Ms. Christine Dufresne, Project Manager at Pointe-à-Callière, about the exhibition and the finer points of Aztec civilization.
Out of all the history apps available these select few are ones used by Ancient History etcetera’s blog editor, hopefully you find them useful too!
Byzantium at the Getty
If you are interested in exploring the visually rich and spiritual art of the Byzantine Empire, this app is for you. It contains audio, video and photography displaying items of spiritual significance.
The Getty is available on both Android and Apple phones. It was created in conjunction with two 2014 exhibitions, Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections and Heaven and Earth: Byzantine Illumination at the Cultural Crossroads.
In honour of Twitter’s international Museum Week (#MuseumWeek), I invite you today to discover some of my favourite sculptures from the collections of the Musée Saint-Raymond in Toulouse (France). The museum is among the best and richest archaeological museums in France and visitors can discover the Roman town of Tolosa (Toulouse in Roman times), the sculptures discovered at the Villa Chiragan and the remains of a necropolis from late antiquity. Its collection, spread over three floors, gives a fascinating glimpse of the history of Toulouse and its area.
Known since the 16th century, the first excavations at the Villa Chiragan were conducted in 1826. The villa was occupied for over four centuries, from the end of the 1st century BC to the early 5th century. Dozens of Roman marble portraits were unearthed as well as a unique ensemble of reliefs depicting the twelve labours of Hercules. The reliefs date from the end of 3rd century AD, during the time of the first Tetrarchy (‘Rule of Four’) instituted by Emperor Diocletian. The empire was effectively divided in two, with an Augustus and a subordinate Caesar in each part. Diocletian appointed fellow officer Maximian as Augustus of the West.
The Labours of Hercules, marble relief discovered at the site of the Roman villa of Chiragan, end of 3rd century ADMusée Saint-Raymond
Mercury, 175 – 225. Roman. Medium: Silver and gold. Object: H: 56.3 x Diam.: 16 cm, Weight: 2772 g (22 3/16 x 6 5/16 in., 6.1112 lb.). D: 24 cm (9 7/16 in.). Accession No. VEX.2014.1.1. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des monnaies, médailles et antiques, Paris.
Accidentally discovered by a French farmer in 1830 CE, the spectacular hoard of gilt-silver statuettes and vessels known as the Berthouville Treasure was originally dedicated to the Roman god Mercury. Following four years of meticulous conservation and research at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, CA, Ancient Luxury and the Roman Silver Treasure from Berthouville allows visitors to appreciate their full splendor and offers new insights about ancient art, technology, religion, and cultural interaction in Late Roman Gaul. James Blake Wiener, Communications Director at Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE), learns more about this exhibition from Mr. Kenneth Lapatin, Associate Curator of Antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, in this exclusive interview.
This post is the start of a series of image posts Ancient History et cetera will be putting together each month and today’s post is all about amazing ancient Roman mosaics!
The Romans, well the wealthier ones, were well known for enjoying mosaic decorations in their homes and public buildings. As Roman culture spread far and wide the use of mosaics as decoration can also been seen across North Africa, the Middle East, and Turkey.
A Roman floor mosaic dating to the 4th century CE and depicting Dionysos fighting Indians. Dionysos was a very popular subject in Roman mosaics. Provenance: Villa Ruffinella, Rome. (Palazzo Massimo, Rome). Photographer: Mark Cartwright