The Etruscan Necropolis near Cerveteri, known as Banditaccia. Rome, Italy.
An exceptional testimony to the civilization of the Etruscans, the Necropolis of the Banditaccia developed from the 9th century BCE, and expanded from the 7th century BCE onwards.
Thousands of tombs exist within the cemetery, the organization which are replica to Etruscan town planning schemes. They are organized in a city-like plan, with ‘neighborhoods' and 'streets'. Furthermore, the frescoed tombs, many of which are replicas of Etruscan houses, offer a unique insight into the daily life of the Etruscans, moreover, pre-Roman Italy.
The Necropolis of the Banditaccia contains many differing types of tombs, such as those carved into rock, in the shape of houses or huts, trenches cut in rock, and tumuli. Such tombs provide us with the only surviving evidence of Etruscan residential architecture. The different types of tombs depend on family status, period, as well as other criteria. The earliest known tombs within the site are a series of rock-cut trenches with pottery ossuaries containing the ashes of the dead.
The most famous of these tombs are the tumuli, which are under an imposing mound (such as shown in photo 2); a well known example of this at Cerveteri is the 4th century 'Hut Shaped Tomb'. My personal favourite feature of this tomb is the stone couches next to the walls; this tomb, like many others in the archaeological site, imitate houses, and therefore provide to us the best (and only) evidence of Etruscan residential architecture. Other famous examples of tombs within the necropolis include the 6th century BCE ‘Tomb of the Greek Vases’, the ‘Tomb of the Moulding’, and the ‘Tomb of the Capitals’. Perhaps the most famous of the thousands of the Banditaccia tombs is the 'Tomb of Reliefs'. The Toledo Museum of Art provides a virtual tour inside this tomb if you’re interested in seeing what it looks like.
+Also worth noting: one of the most famous pieces of Etruscan art was discovered at this site, the "Sarcophagus of the Spouses", currently housed at the Louvre.
Spartan Greaves, 7th-5th Century BC
A finely made, anatomically sculpted pair of greaves covering the knee, shin and calf; slightly everted rim at the ankle and thickened edge at the calf; beaten from sheet bronze.
Similar in design to the greaves marked with the name ‘Denda’ in the Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich. These came from a Greek workshop in southern Italy, and were found with a Corinthian helmet dated to circa 500 BC. Greaves were part of the standard equipment of the hoplite infantry formations. There was no need for attachment straps with this style of armour, which relied on the springiness of the bronze to close around the leg.
Timgad was founded ex nihilo as a military colony by the Emperor Trajan around AD 100. It was intended to serve, primarily, as a bastion against the Berbers in the nearby Aures Mountains. It was originally populated largely by Parthian veterans of the Roman army who were granted lands in return for years of service. The ruins are noteworthy for representing one of the best extant examples of the grid plan as used in Roman city planning.
Located at the intersection of six roads, the city was walled but not fortified. Originally designed for a population of around 15,000, the city quickly outgrew its original specifications and spilled beyond the orthogonal grid in a more loosely organized fashion.
The city enjoyed a peaceful existence for the first several hundred years and became a center of Christian activity starting in the 3rd century, and a Donatist center in the 4th century. In the 5th century, the city was sacked by the Vandals before falling into decline. In AD 535 the Byzantine general Solomon found the city when he came to occupy it. In the following century, the city was briefly repopulated as a primarily Christian city before being sacked by Berbers in the 7th century and being abandoned.
Because no new settlements were founded on the site after the 7th century, sacking, it was partially preserved under sand up to a depth of approximately one meter until it was excavated in 1881. The encroachment of the Sahara on the ruins was the principal reason why the town is so well preserved. The site of Timgad is located about 22 miles east of the town of Batna in the Aures Mountains of Algeria.
A remarkably preserved Roman coffin, and a child’s shoe found within it. Excavated by Wessex Archaeology at Boscombe Down, Wiltshire, England.
This burial is the earliest in its cemetery, and dates to around 220 AD. Later burials are clustered around it.
When the archaeologists lifted the lid of this stone coffin, they were surprised to find that it had not been filled with soil. Instead was the skeleton of a woman cradling in her arms a young child. Check out this video if you’re interested in seeing the part of the excavation.
Of the items in the coffin, the child’s leather shoe (pictured) survived. Laces that strapped the shoe can be clearly seen, as well as the holes for stitching the shoe together. The woman’s deer skin slippers also survived.
"The preservation of the shoes is remarkable. Because the processes of decay were quite slow we also have traces of cloth that have been preserved by a chemical reaction with the metal bangle. We even have traces of the puparia from which the coffin flies that infested the body hatched. Squeamish but fascinating!"
-Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick of Wessex Archaeology
Photos courtesy Wessex Archaeology.
Dolce & Gabbana Spring/Summer 2014 Catwalk in Milan, Italy.
classical studies is freaking weird
(McNiven, Timothy. 1995. “The Unheroic Penis: Otherness Exposed”. Source: Notes in the History of Art 15: 10-16.)
With current tensions in and around the Black Sea it might be worth remembering Rome’s somewhat forgotten nemesis of Mithridates, King of Pontus.
Mithridates VI came to the throne in 120 BCE. The Kingdom he inherited is marked on the map as dark purple. In 88 BCE he co-ordinated a rebellion in the cities in the Roman province of Asia which resulted in the deaths of between 80,000 -150,000 Roman or Italians.
Exactly how this worked is unknown but it was devastating to the Romans. Men, women and children were butchered and even slaves who spoke only Roman weren’t spared. Cities like Pergamon and Ephesus witnessed the massacres and those who sought refuge in temples were cut down still clasping altars and statues.
The result of this was the First Mithridatic War (88-84 BCE) and the extent of Mithridates’ conquests is indicated in pink on the map. As you can see it was a fearsome rebellion which covered a huge area.
Melvin C. Shaffer / Lava Flow Engulfing a Village to the West of Vesuvius / 1944.
1700-year-old blackboard emerges
From underneath the sand of an Egyptian desert, an astonishing find: an intact classroom dating back 1700 years, with the schoolmaster’s writing still on the “blackboard” - a wall, in this case. The properties of the environment (dry, warm) no doubt contributed to the pristine preservation of the schoolmaster’s writing: the ancient Greek letters look like they were written last week. The word “imitate” is found next to the text, which indicates that the pupils were supposed to copy the text, likely onto wax tablets, per custom in this age. The text on the blackboard itself is equally remarkable. Referring to Homer’s Odyssey, it discusses the use of opium as a drug - which, according to the red writing, “takes away grief and anger, and brings forgetfulness of every ill.” A model text to be copied by young children that advertises the beneficial properties of a recreational drug: it’s a remarkable find all around.
Pic: Paola Davoli / 2.5 Generic. Though discovered some years ago, the news was reported on various websites on 11 February, 2014. I used this one from Live Science as a source for the images and the information (images of the classroom are found there, too).
Running up that hill: The topography of Ancient Rome
The first thing most people do when visiting Rome or any historical site is to strip away the modern buildings and imagine what it may have looked like. In some places this is easier than others, but perhaps a modern visitor needs to do more than simply redraw what’s around them, they need to look below their own feet.
Rome was built on seven hills, the diagram below shows this:
Then along came Romulus and Remus, the first hill given walls was the Capitoline
Hills lose a lot of their effect on flat maps, what we need is a 3-D model which we just so happen to have
As you might have noticed, it’s from a guide-map. But it’ll serve to start with, the temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline (next to the word Capitoline) and acts as a handy orientation point. Note how high the hills are – this is what I meant when I wrote earlier of how you need to look below you.
The seven hills were much more prominent as we shall see. Before we go further here’s a reminder of the layout of Rome in the much later Augustan period:
Use the Tiber to navigate, you can see that certain buildings were added later. The area of the Campus Martius is very different. You can also just make out the area which came to be the Forum. Here’s a better view:
That’s the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline and the valley between the hills is the forum. Note how much of a valley it was in. We’re effectively looking towards the east, with the Tiber in the background.
Now we are looking south, the Temple of Jupiter is still a handy point of reference and the Forum in the bottom left corner. The Palatine Hill stands across from it (just up a bit and left as we are looking).
Fancy widening this out? Ok – here we go, this time we’re looking southwards (as above) but with a much wider view. You can see how the city evolved from the hills and spread out.
Finally, here’s a model looking northwards of the entire city – dating to the early years of the Republic. It’s from a guide map, so apologies for the numbers. Again – orientate using the river and the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill.
From the initial image we can get an idea of how Rome developed. A series of hills offered a nice defensive retreat from which early settlers could descend from into the fertile land below. The river gave fish and later a very useful commercial artery.
So the next time you’re in Rome, or on any site, consider how the landscape changed (even consider the coastline - here’s how the coastline of Troy differed). Chances are that it wasn’t just modern buildings which have made it different.
Not many people know the stereotypical heart shape was meant to be two hearts fused together
Hey there. History nerd here… not many people know this “fact” because it’s not true. The universal heart shape we recognize today has nothing to do with the heart, actually. It has to do with early Roman birth control.
The Romans used a plant called silphium to prevent pregnancy. It was so effective that it became a critical part of Rome’s economy and daily life. It was literally so important to their culture that the image of it’s seed were even imprinted on currency.
It’s the exact shape of the heart we know today, and this is the first time it’s visage was ever recorded in history. It was so important to them, and so highly prized that they actually drove the plant into extinction by over harvesting it for use.
This shape was so ingrained in their society’s conscious as a symbol of sexual liberation that it became associated with all aspects of intimacy, eg. sex, unity, and love.
It’s not two hearts sewn together. It’s an ancient plant that Romans used to have gratuitous amounts of sex before condoms were around.
Very interesting piece - though the coin used in this piece is an Attic drachma found in Cyrene and dating 510-470 BCE, so the image was more widespread.
Boeotian Terracotta Horse and Rider - Greece, Mid 6th Century BC
Horse and rider figures were popular grave offerings in 6th-century Boeotia. It is likely that the possession of a real horse was a mark of social and even political status. Laying a model in the grave might show the mourners’ respect for the position the dead person had held in society. Similar figures have also been found in sanctuaries. This terracotta horse and rider might have been offered a god as a representative of the dedicator, thanking the god or requesting a favour.
Etruscan, about 500-480 BC Made in ancient Etruria, in modern Italy