Sunday, October 31, 2010
By: The Scribe on October, 2007
The Ancient Standard has decided to offer up something a little different this Halloween – we’ve decided that in honor of this infamous “holiday”, we’ll let one of the ancient writers give you a bit of history in his own words… namely, an ancient Roman ghost story which he recounted sometime around 100 AD. Ghost stories are anything but a modern phenomenon – as proven by the tale below, written by Roman writer Pliny the Younger, they’ve been around for at least two thousand years. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the harmonies of an ancient ghost story brought back to life once more…
An Ancient Roman Ghost Story (in translation from the original Latin) – as originally recorded by Pliny the Younger
There was in Athens a house, large and spacious, which had a bad reputation as though it was filled with pestilence. In the dead of night, a noise was frequently heard resembling the clashing of iron which, if you listened carefully, sounded like the rattling of chains. The noise would seem to be a distance away, but it would start coming closer… and closer… and closer. Immediately after this, a specter would appear in the form of an old man, emaciated and squalid, with bristling hair and a long beard, and rattling the chains on his hands and feet as he moved.
The unfortunate inhabitants of the house went sleepless at night due to unimaginable and dismal terrors. Without sleep, as it had happened to others, their health was ruined and they were struck with some kind of madness – as the horrors in their minds increased, they were led on a path toward death. Eventually even during the daytime, when the ghost did not appear, the memory of their nightmares was so strong that it still passed before their eyes, every waking moment. Their terror was constant, even when the source of fear was gone.
Because of this, the house was eventually deserted and damned as uninhabitable, abandoned entirely to the ghost. In hope that some tenant might eventually be found who was ignorant of the house’s malevolence, a bill was still posted for its sale. As it happened, a philosopher by the name of Athenodorus came to Athens at that time. Reading the bill for the house, he easily discovered the price – and being an intelligent man, he was suspicious at its extremely low cost. Someone did tell him the whole story, and yet he wasn’t dissuaded, but was instead eager to make the purchase. Thus, he did.
When evening drew near, Athenodorus asked for couch to be readied for him at the front of the house. He asked for his writing materials and a lamp, and then asked his retainers to retire for the night. In order to ensure that his mind stayed focused and away from distractions of stories about imaginary noises and apparitions, he poured all his energy into his writing.
For awhile, the night was silent. Then the rattling of fetters began. Athenodorus would not lift his eyes or set down his pen. Instead, he concentrated on his writing and thereby closed his ears. But the noise wouldn’t stop, and it only increased and drew closer until it seemed to be at the door and then standing in his very chamber! Finally, Athenodorus looked away from his work… and saw the ghost standing just as it had been described. It stood there, waiting, beckoning him with one finger.
Athenodorus held up his palm as though the visitor should wait a moment, and once again bent over his work. The ghost, impatient, shook his chains over the philosopher’s head, beckoning again. This time, Athenodorus picked up his lamp and followed the ghost as it moved slowly, as though it was held back by its chains. Upon reaching the courtyard, the ghost suddenly vanished.
Now on his own, Athenodorus carefully marked the spot where the ghost vanished with a handful of leaves and grass. The following day, he asked the magistrate to have that spot dug up, and in that spot was found – intertwined with chains – the skeleton of a man. The body had lain in the ground a long time and had left the bones bare and corroded by the fetters. The bones were then collected and given a proper burial at public expense – and since the ghost’s tortured soul had been finally laid to rest, the house in Athens was haunted no more.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
By: The Scribe on April, 2007
Although the origins of werewolves are traditionally attributed to the Middle Ages, tales of humans transforming into wolves have been documented from as early as 440 BC.
Greek mythology contains the story of a king named Lycaon, who was transformed into a wolf after serving a bowl of human flesh to Zeus; another version of the story tells of Lycaon’s transformation into a wolf as punishment for sacrificing a child to Zeus. This tale resulted in the belief that from that point on, one man was turned into a wolf at the annual sacrifice to Zeus, but would be able to regain his human form after abstaining from human flesh for ten years.
In one of his writings, a Roman scholar named Pliny the Elder quoted the Greek author Euanthes, who told the story of a man who was selected by lot to swim across a lake, where he hung his clothing on a tree, and – upon swimming across the lake – was transformed into a wolf for nine years. The man was only able to swim back across the lake and regain human form if he did not attack any humans during those nine years.
The Greek historian Herodotus, in his work Histories, discussed a tribe to the north-east of Scythia called the Neuri, who were annually transformed into wolves for several days.
The Latin poet Virgil took a different approach, and in one of his writings described a sorcerer who was able to ingest a certain combination of lethal herbs that would turn himself into a werewolf; in the year 60 A.D., the Roman playwright Gaius Petronius composed his novel Satyricon, in which a character recites a story about a man who transforms into a wolf during a full moon.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Skeletons halt work on clinic
28 October 2010
• The discoveries, among the most impressive made in Scotland, include several sets of human remains from the Roman era as well as 5000-year-old tools
But it is decapitated skeletons and 2000-year-old forts rather than red tape and swelling costs that have caused the hold-up for the new health centre in Musselburgh.
Progress on the site has been delayed by at least six months after significant Roman remains were discovered.
Now architects have revealed the extent of their discoveries, which include human remains, the bones of horses and weapons and culinary tools.
Archeologists there said the "unique" finds, among the most impressive ever discovered in Scotland from that period, will help build a picture not only of Roman activity in Musselburgh from 140AD, but improve the wider understanding of life at that time.
As well as the skeletons, some of which have been superbly preserved, there are impressive sections of rampart, thought to be part of a defensive wall for a fortlet.
Site director for CFA Archaeology, which is working on the site, Magnus Kirby said that some of the findings predated the Roman era, with items such as flints possibly dating back up to 5000 years.
"The number of Roman skeletons we have found doesn't point to this being a cemetery," he said. "But it is still fascinating. The Roman remains have been very well preserved.
"Of the older human remains that predate that, in some cases there has been nothing but a set of teeth."
It was known before the excavation began that Romans had existed in that area but the number of discoveries since work began three months ago has surprised archaeologists.
LIVE AND LET LIVE
It is thought the Votadini tribe inhabited the Lothians during the late Iron Age period, around the time of the birth of Christ. They built hill fort defences which are still visible on Arthur's Seat, at Dunsapie Hill and above Samson's Ribs.
Historians believe they also occupied Traprain Law in East Lothian.
The Roman occupation of the Lothians soon after the turn of the millennium is said to have left both physical landmarks and governance legacies.
As well as forts, artefacts found across the Lothians point to an active trading set-up with locals and experts believe the Roman's stay in the Lothians helped convert Scotland to Christianity, and establish the early roots of our legal system.
"The quality of the structures such as the rampart are fantastic," Mr Kirby added.
"You do treat the human remains differently, because of what they are, but it is the structures you find that tell you more about life at that point."
Although the finds are interesting, the Roman revelations have actually proved a significant inconvenience for NHS Lothian, which wants to crack on with the Musselburgh Primary Care Centre.
The £20 million facility, which was first mooted 15 years ago, is now due to open in the spring of 2012.
Metal detectorist Steve Blair finds Iron Age burial ground
By: The Scribe on May, 2007
Among the ruins of the city of Ephesus in Turkey, archaeologists believe that they may have found an ancient gladiatorial burial ground – something never seen before, even in Rome itself. A major city in the Roman empire, this Ephesian graveyard contained graves with thousands of bones as well as three gravestones with carved images of gladiators.
A lack of multiple wounds on the bones also suggests that the individuals here were not involved in large, mass battles, but instead were participants in some form of controlled combat. Indeed, several bones showed evidence for mortal wounds, which would not be unreasonable in gladiatorial combat. Ancient written sources on Roman sports tell that in some cases, if the defeated gladiator had been a coward or unsportsmanlike in combat, the crowd would shout to have the losing party killed.
Relief depictions from Roman art show images of a kneeling man having a sword thrust down his throat, into the heart – evidently an efficient method of execution. Marks found on the vertebrae of several bodies from Ephesus show that this may have actually occurred to some of the individuals interred here. Some skulls were also found to have sets of three holes at irregular intervals, consistent with the possible damage done by a three-pronged weapon such as a trident. Other rectangular wounds may have come from a hammer.
If a gladiator survived three years of fighting in the arena, the ancient sources explain that he would win his freedom, and often these ‘retired’ gladiators became teachers in a local gladiator school. One of the skeletons from Ephesus was identified as the potential body of a retired gladiator, as he was middle-aged and appeared to have many healed wounds from previous fights.
Since gladiators had approximately a one in three chance of dying in each battle, the chances of survival for a gladiator was fairly bleak. It is therefore not unreasonable to consider the creation of cemeteries specifically for gladiators, though the graveyard at Ephesus is the first to be found.