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Ancient Rome


  • Originally published 08/21/2013

    Rome’s start to architectural hubris

    Granted that Rome was not built in a day, the unresolved question among scholars has been just how long did it take. How early, before Julius Caesar came, saw and conquered, did Romans begin adopting a monumental architecture reflecting the grandeur of their ambitions?Most historians agree that early Rome had nothing to compare to the sublime temples of Greece and was not a particularly splendid city, like Alexandria in Egypt.Any definitive insight into the formative stages of Roman architectural hubris lies irretrievable beneath layers of the city’s repeated renovations through the time of caesars, popes and the Renaissance. The most imposing ruin of the early Roman imperial period is the Colosseum, erected in the first century A.D.

  • Originally published 08/12/2013

    2,000-year-old Roman ship found off Genoa

    The discovery was made by police divers off the coast of Porto Maurizio, Liguria, Il Secolo XIX reported.At least 50 Roman vases were found in the ship, 50 metres below sea level, which remains completely intact.“This is an exceptional discovery,” Lieutenant Colonel Francesco Schilardi told the newspaper.“Now it’s a matter of protecting the ship and keeping the grave...

  • Originally published 08/05/2013

    Nixon slams "All in the Family," ancient Roman rulers for being gay in White House tape

    An audio recording of former U.S. President Richard Nixon spouting off an anti-gay rant has surfaced.CNN published an excerpt from the tape, which was apparently recorded sometime during Nixon's time in the Oval Office from 1969-1974. In the clip, Nixon accuses the popular TV series "All in the Family" (which he initially mistakes for a movie) of "glorifying homosexuality,""The point that I make is that...I do not think that you glorify, on public television, homosexuality," Nixon proclaims. And the president doesn't stop there -- claiming that homosexuality "destroyed the Greeks," he notes, "Aristotle was a homo, we all know that. So was Socrates ... Homosexuality, immorality in general...these are the enemies of strong societies."...

  • Originally published 08/02/2013

    Road through Roman history creates colossal headache

    ROME — Via dei Fori Imperiali, a multilane artery running through the heart of Rome, is typically a frenzy of swerving Vespas, zipping Smart cars and honking Fiat taxis.But Mayor Ignazio Marino is seeking to transform the avenue to something calmer, where Gucci loafers and sensible sneakers would rule.Mr. Marino’s plan to ban private traffic on the roadway, which bisects a vast archaeological site, from the central Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum, has prompted grousing and histrionic debate over a project that conservators say would solidify the world’s largest urban archaeological area.This being Rome, the first high-impact initiative of his seven-week-old administration, which goes into effect on Saturday, has provoked its share of unfavorable comparisons with the overweening ambitions of emperors past. “The mayor’s job is not to pass into history, but to work for his citizens,” said Luciano Canfora, a professor of classics at the University of Bari. “We already had Nero, that’s more than enough.”...

  • Originally published 07/31/2013

    Diocletian’s palace gets laser facelift

    Conservators in Croatia have completed a ten-year project to remove more than 1,700 years of grime from the courtyard of the palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (AD244-311), in the coastal city of Split. Lasers were used as the primary method to clean the peristyle of the fourth-century imperial residence—an innovative technique that is normally reserved for cleaning individual sculptures or details of larger architectural elements, as opposed to whole structures. According to the architect Goran Niksic, who works for the city, this is the first time lasers have been used on this scale in Croatia to clean stone.

  • Originally published 07/31/2013

    Great Pompeii Project finally under way

    The Villa of Mysteries, first excavated in 1909, is named after a large and colourful cycle of frescoes showing young women undergoing an ancient Roman marriage initiation rite. Conservators are using laser technology to restore the colours to their former glory. Pompeii officials released a statement saying this is the first time the technique has been applied to such an important cycle of works a the site and that “it constitutes a viable alternative for preserving surfaces that might be too sensitive for [traditional] mechanical and chemical methods of conservation”. The laser is able to detect and remove the different protective layers that have been applied to the frescos by previous restorers. A spokesman confirmed that the restoration work, which is scheduled to end in October, is going well so far.Similar laser technology was used on an unusually large scale to clean the courtyard of the palace of the Roman emperor Diocletian in Split, Croatia (see link above).

  • Originally published 07/29/2013

    Does Caligula deserve his bad rep?

    Our modern idea of tyranny was born 2,000 years ago. It is with the reign of the Caligula - the third Roman emperor, assassinated in 41 AD, before he had reached the age of 30 - that all the components of mad autocracy come together for the first time.In fact, the ancient Greek word "tyrannos" (from which our term comes) was originally a fairly neutral word for a sole ruler, good or bad.Of course, there had been some very nasty monarchs and despots before Caligula. But, so far as we know, none of his predecessors had ever ticked all the boxes of a fully fledged tyrant, in the modern sense.There was his (Imelda Marcos-style) passion for shoes, his megalomania, sadism and sexual perversion (including incest, it was said, with all three of his sisters), to a decidedly odd relationship with his pets. One of his bright ideas was supposed to have been to make his favourite horse a consul - the chief magistrate of Rome....

  • Originally published 07/21/2013

    Scotland coining in it out on the treasure trail

    A MEDIEVAL heraldic badge worn by a diplomat negotiating between Scottish and English forces during the reign of King Edward I was among the treasure trove artefacts unearthed in Scotland in the past year.A hoard of coins used to bribe hostile clans after the Romans retreated from Scotland were also handed to the Crown.There were 316 cases of historical items being handed over to the Treasure Trove Unit in 2012-13, up from 152 the previous year. The unit aims to ensure significant or important finds are kept for the nation and go on show in museums....

  • Originally published 06/27/2013

    Victor Davis Hanson: We’re Like Rome, Circa A.D. 200.

    Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His new book, The Savior Generals, is just out from Bloomsbury Press.By a.d. 200, the Roman Republic was a distant memory. Few citizens of the global Roman Empire even knew of their illustrious ancestors like Scipio or Cicero. Millions no longer spoke Latin. Italian emperors were a rarity. There were no national elections.Yet Rome endured as a global power for three more centuries. What held it together?...As long as the sea was free of pirates, thieves were cleared from the roads, and merchants were allowed to profit, few cared whether the lawless Caracalla or the unhinged Elagabalus was emperor in distant Rome.Something likewise both depressing and encouraging is happening to the United States. Few Americans seem to worry that our present leaders have lied to or misled Congress and the American people without consequences....

  • Originally published 05/03/2013

    Ancient Roman cemetery found under parking lot

    Hidden beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England, archaeologists have discovered a 1,700-year-old Roman cemetery that seemed to show no religious bias.The new discovery, found at the junction of Newarke and Oxford Streets, includes numerous burials and skeletal remains from 13 individuals, both male and female of various ages. The cemetery is estimated to date back to around A.D. 300, according to University of Leicester archaeologists who led the dig."We have literally only just finished the excavation and the finds are currently in the process of being cleaned and catalogued so that theycan then be analyzed by the various specialists," John Thomas, archaeological project officer, told LiveScience in an email....

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    Graeco-Roman industry in Suez Canal

    An Egyptian excavation mission from the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) uncovered on Thursday a complete industrial area that can be dated to the Graeco-Roman era.The discovery was found during routine excavation work at the archaeological site of Tell Abu-Seifi, located east of the Suez Canal and south of Qantara East. The industrial area includes of a number of workshops for clay and bronze statues, vessels, pots and pans as well as a collection of administrative buildings, store galleries and a whole residential area for labours. Amphora, imported from south of Italy, was also unearthed. "It is a very important discovery that highlights Egypt’s economical and commercial relation with its neighbouring countries on the Mediterranean Sea," MSA Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online. He added that it also gives a complete idea of the Egyptian labours’ daily life....

  • Originally published 04/08/2013

    Maybe Cleopatra didn’t commit suicide

    The famous story of Cleopatra’s suicide gets points for drama and crowd appeal: Her lover, Mark Antony, had been defeated in battle by Octavian and, hearing that Cleopatra had been killed, had stabbed himself in the stomach. Very much alive, after witnessing his death, the beautiful last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt pressed a deadly asp to her breast, taking her own life as well.But what if Cleopatra didn’t commit suicide at all?Pat Brown, author of the new book, The Murder of Cleopatra: History’s Greatest Cold Case, argues that the “Queen of Kings” did not take her own life. Rather, she was murdered, and her perpetrators managed to spin a story that has endured for more than 2,000 years....

  • Originally published 03/29/2013

    Syria's cultural heritage under attack during bloody civil war

    Amid a two-year bloody civil war that has killed an estimated 70,000 civilians and left 2.5 million people homeless, a profound loss of another kind has unfolded inside Syria – an attack on the country's cultural heritage, as missiles demolish ancient sites and looters steal artifacts as old as civilization.  More than 12 of the country's 36 museums have been raided and at least six historical sites have been damaged – including the Crusader castle Krak des Chevaliers – since the uprising began in March 2010, according to several international groups tracking the destruction.   Aleppo – one of the most beautiful cities in the Middle East and a crossroads of Christian, Jewish and Arab cultures – is among the hardest hit by the fighting between regime forces and rebels....

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    What the sculpture of Pan reveals about sex and the Romans

    Nothing is more likely to inspire us to see for ourselves than a warning about the effects of looking. Take the media interest this month when it was revealed that the British Museum's exhibition, Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum, is to include a "parental guidance" notice. The reason? An ancient marble sculpture of the god Pan (a part-human, part-goat figure) having sex with a she-goat is not to be segregated, as it has been since its discovery in 1752, but displayed openly with the other exhibits – a liberal move by London, if also one which dulls the object's impact. Getting this story into the news ensures that centuries of censorship are not swept under the carpet, and that Pan, and the show he speaks for, remain "hot property".But the news story also exaggerates this censorship. Far from being forgotten in its first modern home in the royal palace at Portici on the Bay of Naples, the sculpture, which was part of a restricted collection in the cellars, was quickly a celebrity.

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Cambridge dig unearths 'thriving' Roman settlement

    An archaeological dig in Cambridge has revealed the site's history from the Bronze Age to its role in World War II.Excavation of the site in the north-west of the city began in October, ahead of a large-scale University of Cambridge development. Roman roads and World War II practice trenches were amongst the discoveries. Christopher Evans of Cambridge Archaeological Unit said: "Something that is going to be vibrant in the future was also vibrant in the past."...

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Jammed in Roman caves, ducking Syria’s war

    ...They live a grim existence — a routine of trying to eat, to stay warm and dry, to gather firewood and water out in the elements, all while listening for the sounds of incoming planes and artillery shells.Explanations of the origins of these underground shelters, many of which are set among other Roman ruins, vary from squatter to squatter. Some say they once were pens for livestock. Others say they were temporary quarters, occupied while more impressive dwellings were built in the centuries before Jesus. Perhaps some were crypts.Whatever the intention of those who first dug them, Syria’s caves have become essential once more, restored to modern use because their thick walls offer a chance of survival to a population under fire....

  • Originally published 03/20/2013

    Cirencester Roman cockerel 'best find' in 40 years

    A restored Roman cockerel figurine is the best result from a Cirencester dig in decades, archaeologists have said.The enamelled object, which dates back as far as AD100, was unearthed during a dig in 2011 at a Roman burial site in the town.It has now returned from conservation work and finders Cotswold Archaeology said it "looks absolutely fantastic".The 12.5cm bronze figure was discovered inside a child's grave and is thought to have been a message to the gods....

  • Originally published 03/20/2013

    Syria's ancient Palmyra on brink of destruction

    As the Syrian crisis enters its third year, an end to the violence in the country is nowhere to be seen. The world has become accustomed to rising death tolls and reports of shelling and destruction. However, another threat looms in Syria, and this time it is targeting its cultural heritage.Palmyra, one of the oldest cities in the country, has been subjected to intermittent shelling by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. The ruins of the city, which is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, date back thousands of years. “Bombs and rockets come in all directions,” eyewitnesses said. Assad forces have struck the Roman Temple of Bel – built in 43 A.C. – and damaged its northern wall, eyewitnesses said, adding portions and stones of the wall have been destroyed....

  • Originally published 02/22/2013

    1 Kitty, 2 Empires, 2,000 Years: World History Told Through a Brick

    At some moment a few years after Jesus Christ died but before the second century began, someone made a brick on the island that would become the cornerstone of Great Britain. The area was controlled by Rome then, and known as Britannia  and as the brick lay green, awaiting the kiln, a cat walked across the wet clay and left its footprints before wandering off to do something else. The clay was fired, the prints fixed, and the brick itself presumably became a piece of a building or road.Two thousand years later, a Sonoma State master's student named Kristin Converse was poking around the holdings of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Washington state. She was writing her thesis on the business and technology of brickmaking in Portlandia (known more formally as the Willamette Valley). A brick caught her eye. It was part of an odd group that was not of local origin. In one corner, there were the footprints of a cat. Where had this cat lived? 

  • Originally published 01/29/2013

    Archaeologist Uncovers Clues To Ancient Roman Vineyard

    An American classics professor has uncovered ancient grape seeds that could provide insight into Roman Chianti vineyards.One of the world’s authorities on the Etruscans, Nancy Thomson de Grummond is the M. Lynette Thompson Professor of Classics and Distinguished Research Professor at Florida State University. She unearthed 150 waterlogged grape seeds during a dig in Cetamura del Chianti, an ancient hilltop located in the heart of the Chianti district of Tuscany near Siena, during the summer of 2012.De Grummond serves as project director of archaeological excavations at Cetamura del Chianti, which is in an area once inhabited by the Etruscans and then the Ancient Romans. Faculty and students of Florida State University have conducted research at the archaeological site since it opened in 1973....

  • Originally published 01/25/2013

    Who will save Rome's ruins in cash-strapped Italy?

    When archaeologists announced the discovery of the tomb of Marcus Nonius Macrinus in Rome in 2008, the find was heralded as the most important in decades. Built in the shape of a temple, with tall fluted columns and an intricately carved sarcophagus, it was the final resting place for the Roman general who served as inspiration for Russell Crowe‘s character in the movie Gladiator, unearthed a the site of a planned housing project some 1,800 years after its construction.In contrast, the December 2012 announcement regarding the tomb was much more muted. Italy’s cash-strapped ministry of culture declared it was unable to find the several million euros that would be required to protect the ruins and turn them into a tourist attraction. Instead, the Gladiator’s Tomb, as the site has come to be known, would likely have to be buried once again....

  • Originally published 01/25/2013

    Ovarian tumor, with teeth and a bone fragment inside, found in a Roman-age skeleton

    A team of researchers led by the UAB has found the first ancient remains of a calcified ovarian teratoma, in the pelvis of the skeleton of a woman from the Roman era. The find confirms the presence in antiquity of this type of tumour - formed by the remains of tissues or organs, which are difficult to locate during the examination of ancient remains. Inside the small round mass, four teeth and a small piece of bone were found.Teratomas are usually benign and contain remains of organic material, such as hair, teeth, bones and other tissues. There are no references in the literature to ovarian teratomas in ancient remains like those found in this study, led by the researcher Núria Armentano of the Biological Anthropology Unit of the UAB and published in the International Journal of Paleopathology....