Ancient History et cetera

Barry Strauss on the Assassination of Caesar

Cover of Barry Strauss's "Death of Caesar," which was recently published by Simon & Schuster.

Cover of Barry Strauss’s “Death of Caesar,” which was recently published by Simon & Schuster.

The assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar on March 15, 44 BCE is one of the most dramatic and notorious events in Roman history. Many of us living in Anglophone nations are familiar with the events of Caesar’s demise thanks in large part to William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar. However, Shakespeare dramatized only a few vignettes of a story written in cold blood. In The Death of Caesar: The Story of History’s Most Famous Assassination, by acclaimed military historian Barry Strauss, the reader learns how disaffected politicians and officers carefully planned and hatched Caesar’s assassination weeks in advance, rallying support from the common people of Rome. One is also introduced to fascinating character of the man who truly betrayed Caesar — the wealthy and intelligent Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus. In this exclusive interview to commemorate the Ides of March, James Blake Wiener, Communications Director at Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE), speaks with Dr. Barry Strauss about his new title and why he chose to revisit the world of late Republican Rome.

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Visiting the Paikuli Tower Built by the Sasanian King Narseh

by Osama S. M. Amin March 12, 2015 Photos, Travel 0 Comments

While I was photographing two large blocks at the main hall of the Sulaymaniyah Museum, I read that these blocks were part of the Sassanian tower of Paikuli. “Paikuli”(Arabic: بيكولي; Kurdish: په يكولي): a new name to me! I went home and surfed the net trying to find out what this tower represents. After getting the information, I phoned Mr. Hashim Hama Abdullah, the director of the museum. “Please, guide me on how to get there,” I asked him. He replied positively.

It was a very sunny and hot day in mid-summer, and it was a holiday. I took a relative of mine, who resides near Lake Darbandikhan (Arabic: دربندخان; Kurdish ده ربنديخان), about 80 km south to the city of Sulaymaniyah. We drove south through Bani Khellan (Arabic: باني خيلان; Kurdish: باني خيلان) and then turned west to the foot of Paikuli pass to reach Barkal village (latitude 35° 5’53.91″N; longitude 45°35’25.95″E). The latter lies very near to the ruins of the Paikuli Tower. The ruins can be seen on a hill at the right side of our road.

I used my car to ascend to the top of the hill through a narrow path. A mountainous range looks over the hill. At last, here it is!

Paorama view of the Paikuli tower's ruins. This is the base of the tower and is surrounded by stone blocks. The blocks have been rearranged in situ by the Italian archeological team. The tower was build on the top of this hill and there were no foundations beneath the earth, as the Italian team has concluded.

Panorama view of the ruins of the Paikuli Tower. This is the base of the tower and is surrounded by stone blocks. The blocks have been rearranged in situ by the Italian archaeological team. The tower was built on the top of this hill, and there were no foundations beneath the earth, as the Italian team concluded.

Let the time machine take us back. In the year 293 CE, Narseh (also written Narses), brother of the Sassanian king Warham II (also written Barham II) and son of King Shapur I, was in Armenia, very far away from the Sassanian capital of Ctesiphon. In the same year, Warham II died and his son, Warham III, succeeded him and reigned only for few months. Several nobles and notables considered Warham III too weak to rule the Sassanian Empire and supported his grand-uncle, Narseh, in ascending the throne.
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K2 Friday Night Revelry at the Rubin Museum of Art

K2Lounge

On Friday evenings from 6:00-10:00 PM, the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City becomes a lively social venue with a full bar, series of special public lectures or tours, and complimentary gallery admission. In January, Ancient History Encyclopedia’s Communications Director, James Blake Wiener, partook in the museum’s end of the week festivities and learned a curious thing or two about Tibetan art along the way.

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Assessment of the ISIS Destruction at the Mosul Museum

This is a cross-posting from the blog Gates of Nineveh. Part 1 and Part 2 of the original posts can be found there.

Last week ISIS released yet another propaganda video, showing what has been feared since the fall of Mosul last summer: the destruction of ancient artifacts of the Mosul Museum. By now most of the world has seen this video, which has been featured in all the world’s major news agencies. This post will attempt to identify what has been lost and assess the damage.

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Narrator stands in front of a lamassu in an ISIS propaganda video.

As in several of the group’s past videos, a spokesman for the group appears in the video to explain the rationale for the destruction. International Business Times has provided a translation:

These ruins that are behind me, they are idols and statues that people in the past used to worship instead of Allah. The so-called Assyrians and Akkadians and others looked to gods for war, agriculture and rain to whom they offered sacrifices…The Prophet Mohammed took down idols with his bare hands when he went into Mecca. We were ordered by our prophet to take down idols and destroy them, and the companions of the prophet did this after this time, when they conquered countries.

The video then shows a montage of ISIS fighters toppling sculptures, smashing them with sledgehammers and using jackhammers to pulverize the faces of some statues.

Most of the destroyed artifacts fall into two categories: Sculptures from the Roman period city of Hatra, situated in the desert to the south of Mosul, and Assyrian artifacts from Nineveh and surrounding sites such as Khorsabad and Balawat.

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Exploring the Dakhla Oasis

The Dakhla Oasis lies west of the Nile river, between Cairo and Luxor. Egyptologist Garry Shaw follows the trail of one of the earliest visitors to the Oasis, Archibald Edmonstone, around Egypt’s ‘wild west’

It was dawn when I left the White Desert for Farafra. The rising sun had already revealed the petrified zoo of chickens, horses, and sphinxes that had commanded my attention the previous evening. Eroding limestone giants, stretched and unfolded themselves for the new day. The desert foxes, gaunt-faced and curious, had long since scurried away, fed, if not full, from scraps of bread offered by Saleh, my driver. White, jagged splats of limestone appeared like frozen waves upon a yellow ocean. The air was crisp.

The Haggar Temple

The Haggar Temple

A short drive later and I was in Farafra, a half-finished vision of a Wild West outpost, where Saleh, paid and pleased, dropped me off and departed back for Bahariya Oasis, performing an illegal-in-forty-countries U-turn in the process. There, following true Western movie convention, as a stranger in an unfamiliar town, I was immediately picked up by the local police and questioned on my reasons for being in the oasis; more importantly, they wanted to know when I’d be leaving and suggested that I take the 2pm bus.

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Senebkay, first Pharaoh to die in Battle

by Jan van der Crabben February 25, 2015 Education 0 Comments
Senebkay's skull shows clear impact marks of an axe

Senebkay’s skull shows clear impact marks of an axe

In collaboration with the Ministry of Antiquities, a University of Pennsylvania team discovered new evidence on the life and death of pharaoh Senebkay, founder of the 16th Dynasty of the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt. The pharaoh’s skeleton’s forensic analysis performed by researchers directed by Dr. Josef Wegner indicated that the reason behind the death of this king was due to a number of wounds received during a fierce battle from multiple assailants or an ambush. The skeleton was found by the Pennsylvania mission in 2014 inside the King’s tomb in Abydos, Suhag Governorate, declared Dr. Eldamaty, Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities. Read more…

Taposiris Magna Stele: Another Rosetta Stone

by Jan van der Crabben Events 0 Comments

Stela found at Taposiris Magna, inscribed in Hierglyphic and Demotic side by side.

The SCA Archaeological Mission in collaboration with the Catholic University of Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) working at the Taposiris Magna site succeeded in discovering a limestone stele inscribed with Hieroglyphic and Demotic inscriptions.

The Minister of Antiquities, Dr. Eldamaty stated that the discovered stele contains 20 Hieroglyphic lines with royal cartouches of king “Ptolomy V” whom the stele was inscribed during the seventh year of his reign. Cartouches of Ptolomy’s wife and sister, Queen “Cleopatra I”, his father, King “Ptolomy IV” and his wife “Arsinoe III” also appear.

The Demotic inscriptions that lie at the bottom of the stele consist of five lines of a text that seem to be a translation and a copy of the previous Hieroglyphic lines. Eldamaty added that the stele is a 105 cm. length, 65 cm. width and 18 cm. thick.

A Significant Discovery

The Antiquities Minister stressed that the importance of this discovery lies in the different scripts forming it, resembling the Rosetta Stone which was inscribed in the ninth year of king “Ptolomy V” ‘s reign which means two years after this Stele was inscribed.

Tetradrachm of Ptolemy V

Tetradrachm of Ptolemy V

The stele is an excat copy of the stele of Philae Temple – Aswan which dates back also to king “Ptolomy V”  that reflects the king’s offering a huge area of Nubia to the goddess Isis and her priests.

On the other hand, Chief of the Dominican Egyptian Mission, Dr. Kathleen Martinez added that the mission has been working for six years at Taposiris Magna Site and made a lot of important discoveries concerning the history of Alexandria in general. Some of the major discoveries are tombs of Nobles and a number of statues of the goddess Isis in addition to many bronze coins belonging to Queen “Cleopatra”.

Supreme Council for Antiquities (Egypt), via Past Preservers

The Divine Gift of Writing

by Cristian Violatti February 24, 2015 Education 0 Comments

The gods were responsible for teaching humans how to write. Without their divine involvement, it would have been impossible for us, imperfect mortals, to develop such a valuable and powerful skill. This, and other similar explanations, was the way that most ancient societies accounted for the existence of writing.

Itzamná,

Itzamná in the Maya Book of the Dead

Itzamná, the Mayan god and ruler of heaven, was the inventor of writing in Mesoamerica, just like Odin in Norse mythology was the god who invented the runes. Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom and scribe of the gods, was responsible for the invention of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Greek god Hermes (the Roman Mercury), related to the Egyptian Thoth by some Greeks, was the creator of the Greek alphabet. Even those Greeks who had a more rational explanation for the origin of the alphabet relied on a legendary figure who although was no god, was still mythical: Cadmus, the founder and first king of Thebes according to Greek folklore (Herodotus, 5.58).  Read more…

Finding the hidden Naram-Sin rock relief in Iraq

by Osama S. M. Amin February 23, 2015 Photos, Travel 0 Comments

I was chatting with my uncle about the archaeological reliefs in the Governorate of Sulaymaniyah. The Governorate is part of Iraqi Kurdistan and is about 400 km north-west of Baghdad. He said that he saw a relief in the year 1985 on a top of a mountain, south-west of the city of Sulaymaniyah. The name of the relief, as the local villagers call it, is Naram-Sin (Arabic: نارام سين ; Kurdish: نيرام سن). This happens to also be the name Sargon the Great‘s grandson; Naram-Sin of Akkad (reigned 2261-2224 BCE). Interesting!

Ok, let’s go. I drove my car and in about 2 hours, I reached the area my uncle had talked about (there is a road from the main street up to the top of the mountain, which was made by the local government). After that, I had to use my feet. From the top of the mountain, I descended down into a valley-like crevice. It is not that dangerous if you are familiar with hiking. Finally, there you are!

The dead silence of the mountain top, together with the wind and the sound of the tree branches, make you feel the history and smell its 4000 years’ scent.

The rock relief lies on the cliff side of Darband-i-Gawr (which means the pass of the pagan). This pass is part of the south-eastern side of the Qara Dagh (also written Kara Dagh) mountain range. Qara Dagh is a Turkish term which means the “black mountain.” It is a double range of cretaceous limestone, reaching a height of more than 1,700 meters above sea level.

This is where the road ends. I had to descend through this slit (on the right of the viewer) which leads to a valley within the mountain top, Darband-i-Gawr.

This is where the road ends. I had to descend through this crevice (on the right of the viewer) which leads to a valley within the mountain top, Darband-i-Gawr.

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The Punic-Roman Temple of Antas, Sardinia

Nestled in the middle of the Iglesiente mountains in the southwestern part of Sardinia, the ruins of the Punic-Roman Temple of Antas offer visitors a truly majestic sight. After lying abandoned for centuries, the temple was discovered in 1838 and extensively restored in 1967. Most impressively, the original Ionic columns were excavated and re-erected. The present visible structure dates to the 3rd century AD on a floor-plan from the Augustan age.

Temple of Antas, a Punic-Roman temple, first built around 500 BC, and restored around 300 BC, the Roman temple was built under Augustus and restored under Caracalla, Sardinia © Carole Raddato

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