Felix dies natalis, Roma! (Happy birthday, Rome!) This week on the 21st of April is the traditional date given for the founding of Rome. According to Roman mythology, the founders were Romulus and Remus, twin brothers and supposed sons of the god Mars and the priestess Rhea Silvia. The twins were then abandoned by their parents as babies because of a prophecy that they would overthrow their great-uncle Amulius, but were saved by a she-wolf who nursed them. Romulus killed his brother after a vicious quarrel and went on to establish a city which he named after himself.
When you enter Room 7 of the British Museum, after passing through two colossal lamassus, you are taken through time to the North-West Palace of the Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BCE). This is the imperial palace of the King in Nimrud (ancient Kalhu or Biblical Calah; Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq), the capital city at the heart of the Assyrian Empire. Room 7 is a long hall “decorated” with alabaster-bas wall reliefs from that palace. After being neglected for more than 2500 years, British archaeologist Sir Henry Layard and his workmen unearthed the remains of the North-West Palace in 1845. Layard shipped many reliefs on the Apprentice and these large and heavy slabs reached the British Museum in January 1849. I will publish a series of articles about these reliefs, addressing their finer details, which are not easily recognised.
In an effort to share more of our favourite ancient objects from around the world, Ancient History Encyclopedia staff have taken a closer look at some really amazing objects or structures. Today’s Object in Focus is the Meroe Head of Augustus.
For most ancient peoples, the Sun was more than a celestial body. It was a deity and source of life. However, it was believed this deity only emerged on the horizon during the sunrise and sunset. How did the people in ancient times safely observe an eclipse? One might pour water into a bowl and watch the reflection and that is what they did for thousands of years. Until representatives of the Catacomb archeological culture improved the method.
At a lecture hosted by the Friends of ANU Classics Museum (Canberra, Australia) in September, I learnt about the Villa of the Papyri. Imagine a villa so big that parts of it haven’t been uncovered yet and big enough to house over 90 sculptures and other artefacts. This villa can be found in what was once the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum, and today is in a half-excavated dig site near the Gulf of Naples. Rough floor plan of the Villa of Papyri. Drawn by Karl Weber.
Bezvodovka is a solar observatory. It is an ancient Bronze Age architectural monument of land architecture, science and spirituality spanning nearly 20 square kilometres. The research in this blog post is unique and exploratory because it contradicts the accepted interpretation of the site. Current mainstream interpretations of these are burial mounds of nomadic tribes. Scholars have long studied the mounds at Bezvodovka and seem to feel they have them easily defined. New research, however, suggests that this site could be far more intriguing and amazing than the mainstream interpretation. In the Chernihiv region of Ukraine, near the city of Ichnia, at Bezvodovka plateau, there are a group of ancient mounds. Some of them were destroyed by people and machinery while the others that remain have been described by scholars as mounds of nomadic tribes from the 1st and 2nd centuries BCE. However, new knowledge has allowed us to unite the scattered mounds into a single complex of nearly 20 square kilometres. Aerial photography records and computer applications have made it possible to also determine the purpose of the mounds.
Happy Saturnalia to all! December 17, marks the beginning of the Saturnalia, a festival held in honour of Saturn that lasted for between 3 and 7 days. It was celebrated in Rome for the first time in 497 BC when the Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum was dedicated. The poet Catullus called it “the best of days” – Saturnalibus, optimo dierum!. The holiday began with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn. After the rituals, the celebrants shouted ‘Io, Saturnalia’ (Macrobius I.10.18). It was followed by several days of feasting and fun. “It is now the month of December, when the greatest part of the city is in a bustle. Loose reins are given to public dissipation; everywhere you may hear the sound of great preparations, as if there were some real difference between the days devoted to Saturn and those for transacting business. … Were you here, I would willingly confer with you as to the plan of our conduct; whether we should eve in our usual way, or, to avoid singularity, …