Ancient History et cetera

Exploring the Depth and Beauty of Anglo-Saxon Literature

This map shows kingdoms in the island of Great Britain at about the year 800 CE.

This map shows kingdoms in the island of Great Britain at about the year 800 CE.

When we hear the words “Anglo-Saxon literature,” Beowulf is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Then we might think of the beauty of illuminated manuscripts such as the Book of Durrow or the Lindisfarne Gospels. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener talks with Professor Larry Swain of Bemidji State University about these works, as well as Norse and Irish influences on Anglo-Saxon literature and the significance of the Byzantines, Theodore and Hadrian, who came to Northumbria in the seventh century CE. Professor Swain recommends learning Old English in order to be able to read works in Old English, of course, but equally intriguing, to allow us to better express ourselves in modern English.

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The Fratricide and Architecture: The Cendere Bridge

In the southeast of Turkey, not far from the city of Adiyaman,  there lies a Roman bridge. It is one of the best preserved Roman structures in Turkey. The restoration was done in 1997, but even before that, the bridge was still in use by vehicles. Today there is a modern bridge that serves the traffic; there are more stray dogs than people visiting the old bridge.

Cendere bridge; columns dedicated to Septimius Severus and Julia Domna; photo by Mina Bulic

Built between 198 and 200 CE by the XVI legion (XVI Flavia Firma) based at Samosata, the bridge crosses the Cendere River at its narrowest point. The Cendere Bridge was probably built as part of construction efforts to facilitate the military campaign of Septimus Severus in the Parthian Empire and Mesopotamia.  The 118 m long bridge used to have four Doric columns with statues, two on each side of the bridge, inscribed with dedication texts. The first pair was dedicated to Emperor Septimius Severus and his wife Julia Domna. Read more…

The Byzantine “Bird Mosaic” from Caesarea, Israel

A stunning mosaic floor referred to as the “Bird Mosaic” was uncovered by accident in 1955 on the outskirts of Caeserea in Israel, outside the walls of the ancient settlement. With no budget available for its preservation, it was covered over again until the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Director of the Caesarea Antiquities Preservation project decided in 2005 to preserve the unique find and to reveal it to the public. Lying in situ, the Bird Mosaic offers a rare glimpse into the lives of a wealthy Byzantine-era Caesarean who commissioned this ancient work of art.

6th century AD Bird Mosaic, of a large villa or mansion, Caesarea, Israel © Carole Raddato

During the excavations of 2005 archaeologists determined that the ‘Bird Mosaic’ was part of a Byzantine palace complex dating from the 6th century AD. During the Byzantine period, the harbour city of Caesarea flourished and expanded as much as 800 m inland. This palace complex, covering an area of nearly 1 acre (4,000 sq. meters), was probably owned by a reputable and wealthy family. The “Bird Mosaic” adorned the floor of a large open courtyard, the atrium, with a portico along the western and southern sides.

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The gems of Palazzo Altemps

The National Roman Museum is of course situated in Rome, but the collection is divided among different buildings around the city. One of the branches of NRM is situated in the Palazzo Altemps. Designed in XV century, this building passed from hand to hand of many well-off families,  until 1997 when it became a part of the museum. Today it is home to one of the most impressive collections of Greek and Roman sculptures. It is usually not crowded with people and during your visit to Rome this is that rare place where you can feel the luxury of contemplating the sculptures, probably alone just like all those popes, cardinals and other collectors of this kind of beauty.  Or, if you are like me and you usually do street photography, you can just take your time and click: the sculptures look very much alive but I am sure they will not move. Here are the stars of the collection.

Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus

The Ludovisi Battle sarcophagus in Palazzio Altemps, III century AD

The Ludovisi Battle sarcophagus, III century AD

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Roman frescoes on show in Toulouse (France)

Last weekend I travelled to Toulouse to visit the fabulous exhibition on Roman frescoes being held at the Musée Saint-Raymond. The exhibition entitled ‘L’Empire de la couleur – De Pompéi au sud des Gaules’ (which translates as ‘Empire of colour – From Pompeii to Southern Gaul’) opened last November and runs through March 2015.

Empire of colour. From Pompeii to Southern Gaul, exhibition poster

The majority of Roman frescoes were found in Campania, in the region around the Bay of Naples. It is there that Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, burying much of the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and nearby villas. The ash, lapilli, and mud that seeped into the houses acted as a preservative for wall paintings, but also for many households and decorative objects, as well as organic materials. Most of the paintings were detached from the houses of Pompeii and the surrounding area between the mid-eighteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. They represent an exceptional insight into the development of Roman painting from the Late Republic to the Empire.

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Survey for a new Magazine

by Jan van der Crabben January 21, 2015 Entertainment 0 Comments
Ancient Warfare Magazine

Ancient Warfare Magazine

Ancient Warfare magazine is looking into starting a new magazine about ancient history in general. They are running a survey to better understand what their audience wants, which will help them to decide on whether they should launch the magazine or not. This is, of course, right up our alley… so we thought you might like to give your input, too. Here’s what they have to say:

For some time, we’ve had an idea here in the office about starting a new magazine, one devoted more generally to the ancient world. It would, therefore, be broader in scope than Ancient Warfare and cover topics such as ancient politics, society, economics, religion, and culture (art and architecture, and so on).

The new magazine – which we’re tentatively calling Ancient History Magazine or AHM for short – will have a format similar to Ancient Warfare. This means that each issue will focus on a particular theme and will be richly illustrated throughout with full-colour photos and custom artwork. We are currently aiming for 60 pages for each bimonthly issue, perhaps a little more.

 

Visiting the Ancient Orient Museum, Istanbul

I was attending an international neurology conference in Istanbul, Turkey. I had two days left, and I thought to myself: “How about shooting some artifacts in the Istanbul Archaeological Museums?” I visit Istanbul every now and then and this museums’ neighborhood is one of my favorite spots. It’s on a hill in the same complex as the famous Topkapi Palace.

It is a group of three museums (Archaeological Museum, Ancient Orient Museum, and Tiled Kiosk Museum). The group lies on the European side of Istanbul at Sultanahmet/Fatih district. You should not miss the nearby Gulhane Park, Topkapi Palace, and Hagia Sofia; all are within the same area!

There is a single entrance for all of the museums. The opening hours are from 9 AM to 5 PM. Monday is the Museum’s holiday. The price of the ticket is 15 Turkish Lira (circa 6.50 USD; 5.50 EUR). You can visit the three museums with this ticket. Excellent deal!

My first station was the Ancient Orient Museum. The Museum’s logo says that it is founded in 1917 CE. It is a 1-floor building and the artifacts are categorized according to their origin/civilization.

Once you pass through the information desk, you will find some artifacts from the pre-Islamic Arabian Peninsula. Next, comes the ancient Egyptian section. And, then turn right; a small stela of Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon is erected and lions from the Processional Street of Babylon flank the way. Step by step, you will encounter artifacts from Anatolia, Urartu, and Mesopotamia.

Granite stela of Nabonidus, king of Babylon, 555-539 BCE. It narrates the religious activities of the king and the harassment of enemies to city of Babylon and other cities.  In the background, the standing/striding lion of the Processional Street appear.

Granite stela of Nabonidus, king of Babylon, 555-539 BCE. From Babylon, Mesopotamia. It narrates the religious activities of the king and the harassment of enemies to city of Babylon and other cities. In the background, the standing/striding lions of the Processional Street of Babylon appear. Glazed bricks from Babylon (modern-day Babel Governorate, Iraq). Reign of king Nebuchadnezzar II, 602-562 BCE.

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Bronze statue of Hadrian from the legionary camp at Tel Shalem (Judaea), Israel Museum

A magnificent bronze statue of Hadrian, now on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, was found by chance by an American tourist in Tel Shalem (Beth Shean Valley, Israel) on 25th July 1975 while searching for ancient coins with a metal detector. Tel Shalem was once occupied by a detachment of the Sixth Roman Legion (Legio VI Ferrata). The 50 fragments of this statue were found in a building which stood at the center of the camp, perhaps in the principia (the headquarters tent or building).

Bronze statue of Hadrian, found at the Camp of the Sixth Roman Legion in Tel Shalem, 117–138 AD, Israel Museum, Jerusalem © Carole Raddato

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7 Impressive Greek Bronze Statues

by Mark Cartwright January 12, 2015 Photos 0 Comments

Greek Sculpture from 800 to 300 BCE took early inspiration from Egyptian and Near Eastern monumental art, and over centuries evolved into a uniquely Greek vision of the art form. Greek artists would reach a peak of artistic excellence which captured the human form in a way never before seen and which was much copied. Greek sculptors were particularly concerned with proportion, poise, and the idealised perfection of the human body, and their figures, especially in their favoured material of bronze, have become some of the most recognisable pieces of art ever produced by any civilization

The larger bronze statues, as in this collection, had a non-bronze core which was sometimes removed to leave a hollow figure. The most common production of bronze statues used the lost-wax technique. This involved making a core almost the size of the desired figure which was then coated in wax and the details sculpted. The whole was then covered in clay fixed to the core at certain points using rods. The wax was then melted out and molten bronze poured into the space once occupied by the wax. When set, the clay was removed and the surface finished off by scraping, fine engraving and polishing. Sometimes copper or silver additions were used for lips, nipples and teeth, and eyes were inlaid. The result was figures which had become sensuous and appeared frozen in action; it seems that only a second ago they were actually alive. Quite simply, the sculptures no longer seemed to be sculptures but were figures instilled with life and verve.

You can read more on Greek sculpture in our article here.

The Delphi Charioteer

The Delphi Charioteer

The victorious charioteer of Delphi , 480-460 BCE. Archaeological Museum of Delphi.

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Defining Beauty Exhibition

by Jan van der Crabben January 08, 2015 Exhibitions 0 Comments

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The British Museum in London has just announced an upcoming exhibition that’s right down our alley: Defining beauty – the body in ancient Greek art. The exhibition is on from 26 March to 5 July 2015. Tickets are priced rather heftily at £16.50 (children and museum members go free, discounted tickets are available). Pre-booking is already available, as these types of exhibitions often fill up quickly. Read more…