Sunday, October 31, 2010

pridie kalendas novembres

martyrdom of Quintinius (Quentin)
  • ludi Victoriae Sullanae (day 6)
  • 287 -- martyrdom of Quintinius (Quentin)

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

An Ancient Roman Ghost Story (ca. 61-115 AD)

An Ancient Roman Ghost Story (ca. 61-115 AD)

By: The Scribe on October, 2007

Pliny the Younger of ancient Rome told a ghost story that was remarkable similar to the tale of Marley in Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’.

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.

The ghost in Pliny the Younger’s tale probably looked nothing like this.

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

ante diem iii kalendas novembres

Marcellus the Centurion

Reminder : Next weekend - Roman Bacchanal @ Texas Renaissance Festival

Roman Bacchanal @ Texas Renaissance Festival

November 6-7
Texas Renaissance Festival presents Roman Bacchanal.
This will be held outside of Plantersville, Tx, which is North East of Brenham.
I have attached their flyer at the end of this post.
The flyer states that they will have contests to win valuable prizes. The competitions are Bocce Ball Contest, Toga Contest, and a Spaghetti Eating Contest.
They will have a Roman Basillica, "The Roman invaders erected this temple to Venus, the Goddess of Beauty and Love. White columns and Italian Cypress trees surround this sacred space."
Their entertainment combines the sights and sounds of Ancient Rome.
The flyer says that they have all the most authentic Ancient Roman food and drinks, including pizza by the slice, spaghetti and meatballs, and Italian Icees.
Anyone interested in going?
For more info, click here

The Earliest Werewolves

The Earliest Werewolves

By: The Scribe on April, 2007

Werewolves of AthensAlthough 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

ante diem iv kalendas novembres


  • ludi Victoriae Sullanae (day 4)
  • 310 A.D. -- martyrdom of (the rather obscure) Zenobius at Antioch (or Tyre) during the Galerian persecution

Ehud Netzer, noted Israeli archaeologist, dies

Ehud Netzer, noted Israeli archaeologist, dies

Ehud NetzerAP – FILE - In this Tuesday, May 8, 2007 file photo, Hebrew University archaeology professor Ehud Netzer presents …
JERUSALEM – Ehud Netzer, an Israeli archaeologist best known for excavating King Herod's winter palace and discovering the monarch's tomb there, has died after falling at the site this week. He was 76.
Netzer led numerous high-profile digs over decades of work in a country where the ancient past plays a central part in national life and where archaeologists have sometimes become leading public figures.Israel's prime minister released a statement mourning his death.
Netzer's discoveries helped expand modern understanding of ancient Israel and especially of King Herod, the extravagant Jewish proxy ruler who controlled the Holy Land under imperial Roman occupation two millennia ago.
Beginning in the 1960s, Netzer took part in the excavation of Masada, one of Israel's most famous digs. There, archaeologists revealed the scene of a standoff between Roman legionnaires and Jewish rebels after the destruction of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem — also built by Herod — in 70 A.D. The siege famously ended when the Jews committed mass suicide.
But he was best known for excavating Herodion, Herod's winter palace, located in a largely man-made hill in the West Bank near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. In 2007, after 35 years of work, he discovered what he identified as Herod's tomb, shedding new light on the king and drawing international attention.
Netzer's team unearthed limestone fragments from an ornately carved sarcophagus with decorative urns of a type never before found in the Holy Land. In keeping with Jewish tradition, it was not decorated with any human image.
In an interview with The Associated Press in 2008, Netzer described the palace as a kind of "country club," with a pool, baths, gardens, aqueducts and a large theater. He last spoke to the AP in September, when he uncovered a lavishly decorated theater box there.
Herod the Great was the father of Herod Antipas, the ruler from the New Testament's account of the lives of Jesus and John the Baptist.
Netzer was speaking with colleagues at the site on Sunday when a wooden safety railing broke and he fell several yards, suffering critical injuries, according to David Amit, a senior archaeologist at the IsraelAntiquities Authority. He was rushed to a hospital but did not recover, and died Thursday. His funeral was held Friday.
Netzer helped shape Israeli archaeology by leading some of the country's biggest and most important digs and educating young archaeologists as a professor at Hebrew University, Amit said.
"Ehud Netzer was a combination of a first-class field archaeologist, an architect who could grasp the big picture of landscape and monumental buildings, and a man with the rare organizational abilities necessary to carry out excavations of great size," Amit said.
Israeli media gave Netzer's death prominent mention. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement calling his death "a loss for his family, scholars of Israel's history and the science of archaeology."

Skeletons halt work on clinic

Skeletons halt work on clinic

Published Date: 
28 October 2010
IT IS a major public sector building project which has been delayed, causing headaches for bosses and the public.

• 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.

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

Metal detectorist Steve Blair finds Iron Age burial ground

By Harriet Cooke Harriet.Cooke@Sevenoaks-Chronicle.Co.Uk
HAVING wielded a metal detector for 15 years, a builder finally struck lucky when he stumbled across an Iron Age burial ground.
Steve Blair, of Heaverham Road in Kemsing, has a passion for history and archaeology and had always hoped to uncover artefacts more significant than his usual finds of Victorian pennies.
His luck changed when his detector found three cremation urns dating back to the late Iron Age and early Roman period.
His once-in-a-lifetime find led to professional archaeologists uncovering 19 more.
Mr Blair made the discovery after the field was dug up by South East Water for a new pipeline.
STRUCK LUCKY: Steve Blair on the site where he found the early Roman burials with his metal detector  TWLD201011022C-001_C
He said: "The archaeologists are excited because nothing like this has been discovered between Otford Mount and Oldbury Hill.
"I'd been out for 20 minutes and then the metal detector sounded off and I started to look.
"I found the edge of the first one and I cleaned around it and I noticed the white bone inside. Then I called the archaeologists."
A team from the Kent Archaeological Project spent more than a week turning up more urns, and was due to finish yesterday.
In one case they found what are believed to be two urns next to each other, one with pointed edges and the other curved, with a pot for perfume nearby.
The team believe it could be the remains of a husband and wife.
A brooch was found next to another urn.
Tim Allen, director of the archaeological group, said: "The most interesting thing is it's probably quite a big burial ground and when there is a big burial ground there is a big settlement near."
While some of the urns crumbled when uncovered, others remained intact and will be opened in a laboratory.
"All sorts of things end up in these urns, but there probably will just be bone – nothing of financial value," said Mr Allen.
The cremated remains must be reinterred but the pots will be glued together and stored.
Mr Blair said the experience had been fascinating.
"I've been doing this land since 1987 and you find Roman coins not of any value all over the place," he said. "If you find a coin 2,000 years old and you are the first person to touch it – that's the excitement."
South East Water said its 1.4km long pipeline will reinforce the water supply between Kemsing Water Treatment Works and Oak Bank Reservoir in Chart.
A spokesman said: "On schemes such as this we take the precaution of having archaeologists working alongside."

Will the owner of a chariot...

A Gladiator Graveyard? (1st C BC/AD)

A Gladiator Graveyard? (1st C BC/AD)

By: The Scribe on May, 2007

Gladiator graveyardAmong 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.

For several years since the bones’ discovery, a team of pathologists at the University of Vienna have studied and catalogued the bones for age, injury, and cause of death. It appears that the graveyard contained bones of 67 individuals, almost exclusively between the ages of 20 and 30 years old. In addition, many of the individuals appear to have healed wounds – one body even showed evidence of surgical amputation, suggesting a high level of medical care that was rather unprecedented for the average Roman citizen.

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.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Headless Romans in England Came From "Exotic" Locales?

A headless skeleton.

One of the headless Romans found in an ancient cemetery in York.

Photograph courtesy York Archaeological Trust

James Owen

for National Geographic News

Published October 28, 2010

An ancient English cemetery filled with headless skeletons holds proof that the victims lost their heads a long way from home, archaeologists say.

Unearthed between 2004 and 2005 in the northern city of York (map), the 80 skeletons were found in burial grounds used by the Romans throughout the second and third centuries A.D. Almost all the bodies are males, and more than half of them had been decapitated, although many were buried with their detached heads.

(Related: "51 Headless Vikings in English Execution Pit Confirmed.")

York—then called Eboracum—was the Roman Empire's northernmost provincial capital during the time.

In a new study of the ancient bones, Gundula Müldner of the University of Reading in the U.K. says the "headless Romans" likely came from as far away as Eastern Europe, and previous evidence of combat scars suggests that the men led violent lives.

"The headless Romans are very different [physically] than other people from York," Müldner said. "They come from all over the place. Some of them are quite exotic."

Headless Romans Had Foreign Diets

Müldner's team analyzed the bones for chemical clues called isotopes, which are different versions of particular elements. Based on the geology and climate of where a person grew up, their bones hold telltale traces of isotopes absorbed from the local food and water.

Oxygen and strontium isotopes in the bones of the headless Romans indicate that just 5 of the 18 individuals tested came from the York area, the team reports in the new study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The rest of the men came from elsewhere in England or mainland Europe, possibly from France, Germany, the Balkans, or the Mediterranean.

(Related: "Roman 'Curse Tablet' Discovered in England.")

Traces of carbon and nitrogen show that five of the headless Romans ate very different foods from York's local population. And two individuals had a carbon signature from a group of food plants—including sorghum, sugarcane, and maize—not known to have been cultivated in England at that time.

"We haven't seen such a signature anywhere in Britain before" in the archaeological record, Müldner said.

In fact, millet is the only food plant from this group that was being grown anywhere in mainland Europe, she added.

The archaeologist noted that "the Romans were not very fond of millet, and often, when they established a new province, other cereals such as wheat would replace millet as the principally grown crop."

Müldner's team thinks the headless millet-eaters hailed from colder climates, perhaps parts of Eastern Europe that were beyond the borders of the Roman Empire.

"It might have been the Alps as well, or any higher mountains," Müldner said.

Dead Men Still Have Tale to Tell

As for what the men were doing in York, previous theories had suggested the headless Romans were slain soldiers, imported gladiators, executed citizens, or ritually killed victims of a religious cult. (Related: "Headless Man's Tomb Found Under Maya Torture Mural.")

Müldner's team favors the military explanation: The ancient city had a large Roman garrison, and the skeletons show injuries consistent with armed combat. It's possible the men were soldiers who had been executed, or who had been killed during battle andhad their corpses—with or without heads—recovered for burial by their compatriots.

(See pictures of a rare Roman helmet found in northwestern England.)

Other recent research suggested the headless Romans were gladiators brought to the distant capital for entertainment.

Evidence for this notion includes some skeletons' unequal arm development—associated with the specialized use of single-handed weapons—and, on one skeleton, tooth marks from a large carnivore, possibly a gladiatorial lion or bear.

"If the carnivore bite mark is indeed genuine, then, why not, they may indeed have been gladiators," Müldner said. (Related: "Ancient Gladiator Mosaic Found in Roman Villa.")

Kurt Hunter-Mann of the York Archaeological Trust, who led the original excavations, said he doubts the new study "will give us conclusive proof one way or another, but it's all very useful."

The suggestion that the headless Romans were a diverse bunch confirms previous archaeological findings, Hunter-Mann added.

"We know that the population of Roman York is quite diverse anyway, because a lot of traders, for example, were coming from various parts of the Empire," he said.

Solving the grisly puzzle of who the headless Romans were will require further bone analysis and forensic studies, due to be completed in about a year, he added.