Posts Tagged With: Rome

ROME…Super Bowl 242 B.C: How the Games Became So Brutal….


Could You Stomach the Horrors of 'Halftime' in Ancient Rome?

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The enormous arena was empty, save for the seesaws and the dozens of condemned criminals who sat naked upon them, hands tied behind their backs. Unfamiliar with the recently invented contraptions known aspetaurua, the men tested the seesaws uneasily. One criminal would push off the ground and suddenly find himself 15 feet in the air while his partner on the other side of the seesaw descended swiftly to the ground. Howstrange.

In the stands, tens of thousands of Roman citizens waited with half-bored curiosity to see what would happen next and whether it would be interesting enough to keep them in their seats until the next part of the “big show” began.

With a flourish, trapdoors in the floor of the arena were opened, and lions, bears, wild boars and leopards rushed into the arena. The starved animals bounded toward the terrified criminals, who attempted to leap away from the beasts’ snapping jaws. But as one helpless man flung himself upward and out of harm’s way, his partner on the other side of the seesaw was sent crashing down into the seething mass of claws, teeth and fur.

The crowd of Romans began to laugh at the dark antics before them. Soon, they were clapping and yelling, placing bets on which criminal would die first, which one would last longest and which one would ultimately be chosen by the largest lion, who was still prowling the outskirts of the arena’s pure white sand.

And with that, another “halftime show” of damnatio ad bestias succeeded in serving its purpose: to keep the jaded Roman population glued to their seats, to the delight of the event’s scheming organizer.

Welcome to the show

The Roman Games were the Super Bowl Sundays of their time. They gave their ever-changing sponsors and organizers (known as editors) an enormously powerful platform to promote their views and philosophies to the widest spectrum of Romans. All of Rome came to the Games: rich and poor, men and women, children and the noble elite alike. They were all eager to witness the unique spectacles each new game promised its audience.

To the editors, the Games represented power, money and opportunity. Politicians and aspiring noblemen spent unthinkable sums on the Games they sponsored in the hopes of swaying public opinion in their favor, courting votes, and/or disposing of any person or warring faction they wanted out of the way.

The more extreme and fantastic the spectacles, the more popular the Games with the general public, and the more popular the Games, the more influence the editor could have. Because the Games could make or break the reputation of their organizers, editors planned every last detail meticulously.

Thanks to films like “Ben-Hur” and “Gladiator,” the two most popular elements of the Roman Games are well known even to this day: the chariot races and the gladiator fights. Other elements of the Roman Games have also translated into modern times without much change: theatrical plays put on by costumed actors, concerts with trained musicians, and parades of much-cared-for exotic animals from the city’s private zoos.

But much less discussed, and indeed largely forgotten, is the spectacle that kept the Roman audiences in their seats through the sweltering midafternoon heat: the blood-spattered halftime show known as damnatio ad bestias — literally “condemnation by beasts” — orchestrated by men known as the bestiarii.

Super Bowl 242 B.C: How the Games Became So Brutal

The cultural juggernaut known as the Roman Games began in 242 B.C., when two sons decided to celebrate their father’s life by ordering slaves to battle each other to the death at his funeral. This new variation of ancient munera (a tribute to the dead) struck a chord within the developing republic. Soon, other members of the wealthy classes began to incorporate this type of slave fighting into their own munera. The practice evolved over time — with new formats, rules, specialized weapons, etc. — until the Roman Games as we now know them were born.

In 189 B.C., a consul named M. Fulvius Nobilior decided to do something different. In addition to the gladiator duels that had become common, he introduced an animal act that would see humans fight both lions and panthers to the death. Big-game hunting was not a part of Roman culture; Romans only attacked large animals to protect themselves, their families or their crops. Nobilior realized that the spectacle of animals fighting humans would add a cheap and unique flourish to this fantastic new pastime. Nobilior aimed to make an impression, and he succeeded.

With the birth of the first “animal program,” an uneasy milestone was achieved in the evolution of the Roman Games: the point at which a human being faced a snarling pack of starved beasts, and every laughing spectator in the crowd chanted for the big cats to win, the point at which the republic’s obligation to make a man’s death a fair or honorable one began to be outweighed by the entertainment value of watching him die.

Twenty-two years later, in 167 B.C., Aemlilus Paullus would give Rome its first damnatio ad bestias when he rounded up army deserters and had them crushed, one by one, under the heavy feet of elephants. “The act was done publicly,” historian Alison Futrell noted in her book “Blood in the Arena,” “a harsh object lesson for those challenging Roman authority.”

The “satisfaction and relief” Romans would feel watching someone considered lower than themselves be thrown to the beasts would become, as historian Garrett G. Fagan noted in his book “The Lure of the Arena,” a “central … facet of the experience [of the Roman Games. … a feeling of shared empowerment and validation … ” In those moments, Rome began the transition into the self-indulgent decadence that would come to define all that we associate with the great society’s demise.

The Role of Julius Caesar

General Julius Caesar proved to be the first true maestro of the Games. He understood how these events could be manipulated to inspire fear, loyalty and patriotism, and began to stage the Games in new and ingenious ways. For example, Caesar was the first to arrange fights between recently captured armies, gaining firsthand knowledge of the fighting techniques used by these conquered people and providing him with powerful insights to aid future Roman conquests, all the while demonstrating the republic’s own superiority to the roaring crowd of Romans. After all, what other city was powerful enough to command foreign armies to fight each other to the death, solely for their viewing pleasure?

Caesar used exotic animals from newly conquered territories to educate Romans about the empire’s expansion. In one of his games, “Animals for Show and Pleasure in Ancient Rome” author George Jennison notes that Caesar orchestrated “a hunt of four hundred lions, fights between elephants and infantry … [and] bull fighting by mounted Thessalians.” Later, the first-ever giraffes seen in Rome arrived — a gift to Caesar himself from a love-struck Cleopatra.

To execute his very specific visions, Caesar relied heavily on the bestiarii — men who were paid to house, manage, breed, train and sometimes fight the bizarre menagerie of animals collected for the Games.

Managing and training this ever-changing influx of beasts was not an easy task for the bestiarii. Wild animals are born with a natural hesitancy, and without training, they would usually cower and hide when forced into the arena’s center. For example, it is not a natural instinct for a lion to attack and eat a human being, let alone to do so in front of a crowd of 100,000 screaming Roman men, women and children! And yet, in Rome’s ever-more-violent culture, disappointing an editor would spell certain death for the low-rankingbestiarii.

To avoid being executed themselves, bestiarii met the challenge. They developed detailed training regimens to ensure their animals would act as requested, feeding arena-born animals a diet compromised solely of human flesh, breeding their best animals, and allowing their weaker and smaller stock to be killed in the arena. Bestiarii even went so far as to instruct condemned men and women on how to behave in the ring to guarantee a quick death for themselves — and a better show. The bestiarii could leave nothing to chance.

As their reputations grew, bestiarii were given the power to independently devise new and even more audacious spectacles for the ludi meridiani(midday executions). And by the time the Roman Games had grown popular enough to fill 250,000-seat arenas, the work of the bestiarii had become a twisted art form.

As the Roman Empire grew, so did the ambition and arrogance of its leaders. And the more arrogant, egotistic and unhinged the leader in power, the more spectacular the Games would become. Who better than thebestiarii to aid these despots in taking their version of the Roman Games to new, ever-more grotesque heights?

Caligula Amplified the Cruelty

Animal spectacles became bigger, more elaborate, and more flamboyantly cruel. Damnatio ad bestias became the preferred method of executing criminals and enemies alike. So important where the bestiarii’s contribution, that when butcher meat became prohibitively expensive, Emperor Caligula ordered that all of Rome’s prisoners “be devoured” by the bestiarii‘s packs of starving animals. In his masterwork De Vita Caesarum, Roman historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (b. 69 A.D.) tells of how Caligula sentenced the men to death “without examining the charges” to see if death was a fitting punishment, but rather by “merely taking his place in the middle of a colonnade, he bade them be led away ‘from baldhead to baldhead,'”(It should also be noted that Caligula used the funds originally earmarked for feeding the animals and the prisoners to construct temples he was building in his own honor!)

To meet this ever-growing pressure to keep the Roman crowds happy and engaged by bloodshed, bestiarii were forced to consistently invent new ways to kill. They devised elaborate contraptions and platforms to give prisoners the illusion they could save themselves — only to have the structures collapse at the worst possible moments, dropping the condemned into a waiting pack of starved animals. Prisoners were tied to boxes, lashed to stakes, wheeled out on dollies and nailed to crosses, and then, prior to the animals’ release, the action was paused so that bets could be made in the crowd about which of the helpless men would be devoured first.

Perhaps most popular — as well as the most difficult to pull off — were there-creations of death scenes from famous myths and legends. A singlebestiarius might spend months training an eagle in the art of removing a thrashing man’s organs (a la the myth of Prometheus).

The halftime show of damnatio ad bestias became so notorious that it was common for prisoners to attempt suicide to avoid facing the horrors they knew awaited them. Roman philosopher and statesmen Seneca recorded a story of a German prisoner who, rather than be killed in a bestiarius’ show, killed himself by forcing a communally used prison lavatory sponge down his throat. One prisoner who refused to walk into the arena was placed on a cart and wheeled in; the prisoner thrust his own head between the spokes of its wheels, preferring to break his own neck than to face whatever horrors the bestiarius had planned for him.

It is in this era that Rome saw the rise of its most famous bestiarius, Carpophorus, “The King of the Beasts.”

The Rise of a Beast Master

Carpophorus was celebrated not only for training the animals that were set upon the enemies, criminals and Christians of Rome, but also for famously taking to the center of the arena to battle the most fearsome creatures himself.

He triumphed in one match that pitted him against a bear, a lion and a leopard, all of which were released to attack him at once. Another time, he killed 20 separate animals in one battle, using only his bare hands as weapons. His power over animals was so unmatched that the poet Martial wrote odes to Carpophorus.

“If the ages of old, Caesar, in which a barbarous earth brought forth wild monsters, had produced Carpophorus,” he wrote in his best known work, Epigrams. “Marathon would not have feared her bull, nor leafy Nemea her lion, nor Arcadians the boar of Maenalus. When he armed his hands, the Hydra would have met a single death; one stroke of his would have sufficed for the entire Chimaera. He could yoke the fire-bearing bulls without the Colchian; he could conquer both the beasts of Pasiphae. If the ancient tale of the sea monster were recalled, he would release Hesione and Andromeda single-handed. Let the glory of Hercules’ achievement be numbered: it is more to have subdued twice ten wild beasts at one time.”

To have his work compared so fawningly to battles with some of Rome’s most notorious mythological beast sheds some light on the astounding work Carpophorus was doing within the arena, but he gained fame as well for his animal work behind the scenes. Perhaps most shockingly, it was said that he was among the few bestiarii who could command animals to rape human beings, including bulls, zebras, stallions, wild boars and giraffes, among others. This crowd-pleasing trick allowed his editors to create ludi meridianithat could not only combine sex and death but also claim to be honoring the god Zeus. After all, in Roman mythology, Zeus took many animal forms to have his way with human women.

Historians still debate how common of an occurrence public bestiality was at the Roman Games — and especially whether forced bestiality was used as a form of execution — but poets and artists of the time wrote and painted about the spectacle with a shocked awe.

“Believe that Pasiphae coupled with the Dictaean bull!” Martial wrote. “We’ve seen it! The Ancient Myth has been confirmed! Hoary antiquity, Caesar, should not marvel at itself: whatever Fame sings of, the arenapresents to you.”

The ‘Gladiator’ Commodus

The Roman Games and the work of the bestiarii may have reached their apex during the reign of Emperor Commodus, which began in 180 AD. By that time, the relationship between the emperors and the Senate had disintegrated to a point of near-complete dysfunction. The wealthy, powerful and spoiled emperors began acting out in such debauched and deluded ways that even the working class “plebs” of Rome were unnerved. But even in this heightened environment, Commodus served as an extreme.

Having little interest in running the empire, he left most of the day-to-day decisions to a prefect, while Commodus himself indulged in living a very public life of debauchery. His harem contained 300 girls and 300 boys (some of whom it was said had so bewitched the emperor as he passed them on the street that he felt compelled to order their kidnapping). But if there was one thing that commanded Commodus’ obsession above all else, it was the Roman Games. He didn’t just want to put on the greatest Games in the history of Rome; he wanted to be the star of them, too.

Commodus began to fight as a gladiator. Sometimes, he arrived dressed in lion pelts, to evoke Roman hero Hercules; other times, he entered the ringabsolutely naked to fight his opponents. To ensure a victory, Commodus only fought amputees and wounded soldiers (all of whom were given only flimsy wooden weapons to defend themselves). In one dramatic case recorded in Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Commodus ordered that all people missing their feet be gathered from the Roman streets and be brought to the arena, where he commanded that they be tethered together in the rough shape of a human body. Commodus then entered the arena’s center ring, and clubbed the entire group to death, before announcing proudly that he had killed a giant.

But being a gladiator wasn’t enough for him. Commodus wanted to rule the halftime show as well, so he set about creating a spectacle that would feature him as a great bestiarius. He not only killed numerous animals — including lions, elephants, ostriches and giraffes, among others, all of which had to be tethered or injured to ensure the emperor’s success — but also killed bestiarii whom he felt were rivals (including Julius Alexander, a bestiarius who had grown beloved in Rome for his ability to kill an untethered lion with a javelin from horseback). Commodus once made all of Rome sit and watch in the blazing midday sun as he killed 100 bears in a row — and then made the city pay him 1 millions esterces (ancient Roman coins) for the (unsolicited) favor.

By the time Commodus demanded the city of Rome be renamed Colonia Commodiana (“City of Commodus”) — Scriptores Historiae Augustae, noted that not only did the Senate “pass this resolution, but … at the same time [gave] Commodus the name Hercules, and [called] him a god” — a conspiracy was already afoot to kill the mad leader. A motley crew of assassins — including his court chamberlain, Commodus’ favorite concubine, and “an athlete called Narcissus, who was employed as Commodus’ wrestling partner” — joined forces to kill him and end his unhinged reign. His death was supposed to restore balance and rationality to Rome — but it didn’t. By then, Rome was broken — bloody, chaotic and unable to stop its death spiral.

In an ultimate irony, reformers who stood up to oppose the culture’s violent and debauched disorder were often punished by death at the hands of thebestiarii, their deaths cheered on by the very same Romans whom they were trying to protect and save from destruction.

The Death of the Games and the Rise of Christianity

As the Roman Empire declined, so did the size, scope and brutality of its Games. However, it seems fitting that one of the most powerful seeds of the empire’s downfall could be found within its ultimate sign of contempt and power — the halftime show of damnatio ad bestias.

Early Christians were among the most popular victims in ludi meridiani. The emperors who condemned these men, women and children to public death by beasts did so with the obvious hope that the spectacle would be so horrifying and humiliating that it would discourage any other Romans from converting to Christianity.

Little did they realize that the tales of brave Christians facing certain death with grace, power and humility made them some of the earliest martyr stories. Nor could they have imagined that these oft-repeated narratives would then serve as invaluable tools to drive more people toward the Christian faith for centuries to come.

In the end, who could have ever imagined that these near-forgotten “halftime shows” might prove to have a more lasting impact on the world than the gladiators and chariot races that had overshadowed the bestiarii for their entire existence?

By Cristin O’keefe Aptowicz…

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Romans and nanotechnology…..


This colorful 1,600-year-old glass goblet shows the Romans were experts at nanotechnology … The glass chalice, known as the Lycurgus Cup because it bears a scene involving King Lycurgus of Thrace, appears jade green when lit from the front but blood-red when lit from behind … a property that puzzled scientists for decades … until researchers in England scrutinized broken fragments under a microscope and discovered that the Roman artisans were nanotechnology pioneers.
cup

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Amateur treasure hunter unearths haul of Roman coins with £300 metal detector he bought off a friend….


An amateur fisherman snared himself an unusual catch – a haul of Roman and Iron Age coins, hailed by the British Museum as a ‘very excting discovery’.
Jason Hemmings usually spends his time plucking sea bass from the ocean. But, having recently bought a metal detector and taken up treasure hunting as a hobby, he struck gold in a field in Owermoigne, Dorset, finding 15 bronze and silver coins that may have been lying there for 2,000 years.
Mr Hemmings, 41, began his hobby when he purchased the detector for £300 from a friend who wanted to upgrade his own.
After scouring the field, he unearthed the first coin and, initially, that seemed to be it. ‘I had a quick search and couldn’t find anything else,’ he said.
‘I had to go home for Sunday roast. But I went back the next day, and that’s when I came across more.’
The machine was giving off such faint, intermittent signals that his friend did not think it was worth the effort of digging, but he persevered,. and the rest is history.
He followed the required procedure in reporting the discovery under the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which encourages the voluntary recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales.

Eleanor Ghey, a British Museum expert, said the moeny is likely to have been dropped by a soldier at the time Romans first came to the country.
‘These coins are likely to be close in date to the conquest of Britain in AD 43. They almost pinpoint the time when the Romans were first in Britain. It’s one of the earliest things we have. This is a very exciting discovery.’
The coins – three different currencies all circulating in Britain in the middle of the first century AD – include large bronze coins of the Roman emperor Claudius issued between AD 41 and 50.
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Did Nostradamus predict Pope Benedict?


Many are asking if this prophecy is what is happening today:

In persecutione extrema S.R.E. sedebit.
Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oves in multis tribulationibus, quibus transactis civitas septicollis diruetur, & judex tremendus judicabit populum suum. Finis

Translation:

In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit [i.e., as bishop].
Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations, and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills [i.e. Rome] will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people. The End

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2,000-Year-Old Treasure Discovered In Black Sea Fortress……


Residents of a town under siege by the Roman army about 2,000 years ago buried two hoards of treasure in the town’s citadel — treasure recently excavated by archaeologists.
More than 200 coins, mainly bronze, were found along with “various items of gold, silver and bronze jewelry and glass vessels” inside an ancient fortress within the Artezian settlement in the Crimea (in Ukraine), the researchers wrote in the most recent edition of the journal Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia.
“The fortress had been besieged. Wealthy people from the settlement and the neighborhood had tried to hide there from the Romans. They had buried their hoards inside the citadel,” Nikolaï Vinokurov, a professor at Moscow State Pedagogical University, explained. [See Photos of the Buried Treasure]
Artezian, which covered an area of at least 3.2 acres (1.3 hectares) and also had a necropolis (a cemetery), was part of the Bosporus Kingdom. At the time, the kingdom’s fate was torn between two brothers —Mithridates VIII, who sought independence from Rome, and his younger brother, Cotys I, who was in favor of keeping the kingdom a client state of the growing empire. Rome sent an army to support Cotys, establishing him in the Bosporan capital and torching settlements controlled by Mithridates, including Artezian.
People huddled in the fortress for protection as the Romans attacked, but Vinokurov said they knew they were doomed. “We can say that these hoards were funeral sacrifices. It was obvious for the people that they were going to die shortly,” he wrote in an email to LiveScience. The siege and fall of the fortress occurred in AD 45.
Curiously, each hoard included exactly 55 coins minted by Mithridates VIII. “This is possibly just a simple coincidence, or perhaps these were equal sums received by the owners of these caskets from the supporters of Mithridates,” the team wrote in its paper.
A Greek lifestyle
Vinokurov’s team, including a number of volunteers, has been exploring Artezian since 1989 and has found that the people of the settlement followed a culture that was distinctly Greek. The population’s ethnicity was mixed, Vinokurov wrote, “but their culture was pure Greek. They spoke Greek language, had Greek school; the architecture and fortification were Greek as well. They were Hellenes by culture but not that pure by blood.”
Greeks are known to have created colonies on the Black Sea centuries earlier, intermarrying with the Crimeans. The customs and art forms they introduced appear to have persisted through the ages despite being practiced nearly 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) from Greece itself.
This Greek influence can be seen in the treasures the people of Artezian buried. Among them is a silver brooch engraved with an image of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and gold rings with gems engraved with images of Nemesis and Tyche, both Greek deities.
When archaeologists excavated other portions of the torched site they found more evidence of a Greek lifestyle.
“In the burnt level of the early citadel, many fragmentary small terra cotta figures were found depicting Demeter, Cora, Cybele, Aphrodite with a dolphin, Psyche and Eros, a maiden with gifts, Hermes, Attis, foot soldiers and warriors on horseback, semi-naked youths,” the researchers wrote in their paper, adding fragments of a miniature oinochoai (a form of Greek pottery) and small jugs for libations also were found.
All this was torched by the Romans and later rebuilt by Cotys I, who had been successfully enthroned by Rome. However the treasures of the earlier inhabitants remained undiscovered beneath the surface, a testament to a desperate stand against the growing power of Rome.
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A time to die in Ancient Rome…..


The Romans had two types of burials, cremation or inhumation, depending on the fashion at the time. Romans practiced cremation (burning) of their dead. The ashes would be placed in a small clay jar know as an urn and placed in a tomb. Cremation was the usual custom until about A.D. 100. The influence of the Christian religion moved the handling of the dead to burial, especially for those of the Christian faith. Many tombs in later Rome were along side the roads leading out of the city. Only the very rich could afford a tomb within the city. Poor people often could not afford a tomb and would be buried in a public pit on Esquiline Hill.The first thing they did was to close the deceased’s eye while calling out his name. This helped to make sure that the person was actually dead. Sometimes a deep coma could mimic death and if the family were going through the ritual and expense of a funeral, they certainly didn’t want the deceased sitting up in the middle of his funeral procession.
Then his relatives would wash the body and dress him in his finest clothes and wearing a crown if he had earned one in life. He would be laid out on a couch and a coin was placed in his mouth under his tongue so he could pay the ferryman Charon to row him to the land of the dead. The Romans believed that the soul of the dead would go underground to the river Styx. The soul had to cross the river. A coin was placed in the mouth of the deceased to pay Charon, the boatman of the underworld, for the passage across. If the body was not properly buried and did not have a coin, the soul was forced to stay for one hundred years before being allowed to cross the river Styx. He was laid out for eight days then taken out for burial.
The outside of the house where the wake was held was adorned with cypress branches as a sign of mourning and at times the male relatives and slaves would clip the front part of their hair as a token of grief.
In an expensive procession there was the “funeral director” called the designator, who had lictors. He was followed by musicians and mourning women. Other performers might follow, such as mimes, imitating or even satirizing the events of the person’s life. Next came the newly freed slaves (most Romans freed a number of slaves at their deaths). In front of the corpse, men representing the ancestors of the departed, wearing wax masks in the image of the ancestors, walked. If the deceased had been a famous person, a funeral oration would be given in the forum. This was called a laudatio and could be given for either a man or woman.
If the body were to be burned it was put on a funeral pyre and then when the flames rose, perfumes were thrown at the fire. When the pile burned down, wine was used to douse the embers and the ashes wee gathered and placed in an urn.
Because of the expense of a funeral, the poor Romans, including slaves joined burial societies which guaranteed proper burial in large community tombs called columbaria instead of simply being dumped in a pit to rot.

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Caesar, the Orchid Chief…….



=====The Ara Pacis, an altar erected in Rome by the emperor Augustus in 9 B.C.E., includes one of the earliest documented depictions of an orchid (inset) in Western art.=====

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Turns out the early Romans were wild about orchids. A careful study of ancient artifacts in Italy has pushed back the earliest documented appearance of the showy and highly symbolic flowers in Western art from Renaissance to Roman times. In fact, the researchers say, the orchid’s popularity in public art appeared to wilt with the arrival of Christianity, perhaps because of its associations with sexuality.

The fanciful shapes and bright colors of orchids have long made them popular with flower fanciers, and today they support a multibillion-dollar global trade. The flowers also have a symbolic value that spans many cultures due to their resemblance to both male and female sexual organs; the flower’s scientific name—Orchis—derives from a Greek word for testicles. But while the biology and ecology of orchids has gotten plenty of attention from researchers, there are few studies of its “phytoiconography,” or how the flower has been used symbolically in art.

A few years ago, botanist Giulia Caneva of the University of Rome (Roma Tre) set out to change that. Working with several graduate students, she began assembling a database of Italian artifacts, including paintings, textiles, and stone carvings of subjects including vegetation. Then, the team began the painstaking process of trying to identify the real plants the artists had copied.
One surprise was that depictions of Italian orchids—there are about 100 species in all—showed up much earlier than expected. Although scholars had spotted the flowers in paintings from the 1400s, Caneva’s team discovered that stone carvers were reproducing orchids as early as 46 B.C.E., when Julius Caesar erected the Temple of Venus Genetrix in Rome. And at least three orchids appear among dozens of other plants on the Ara Pacis, a massive stone altar erected by the emperor Augustus in 9 B.C.E., Caneva and colleagues reported last week in the Journal of Cultural Heritage. Artists probably chose the flowers to help emphasize the altar’s theme of civic rebirth, fertility, and prosperity following a long period of conflict, Caneva says.

But orchids and other plants begin to fade from public art as Christianity began to gain influence in the 3rd and 4th centuries, she notes. “My idea is that they are eliminating pagan symbols, and [those] that are related to sexuality,” she says. With the arrival of the Renaissance, however, orchids blossom anew in art, “but this time mostly as a symbol of beauty and elegance.”

The new study is a reminder of “just how much history is tied up with this flower. … It shows up in all kinds of places you might not expect it,” says Kristin Nicole Edrington, a jewelry specialist in Alexandria, Virginia. She recently completed a master’s dissertation at the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, D.C., that examined the rise of orchid imagery in high-end jewelry made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The discovery that Roman artists also favored the flower, she says, just confirms that “orchid mania is nothing new, and was such a big thing even back in the day.”

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Cat leads owner to discovery of ancient Roman ruins…..


Mirko Curti was chasing his cat through the streets of his village on Tuesday night when the cat inadvertently discovered a set of ancient Roman ruins.
“The cat managed to get into a grotto and we followed the sound of its meowing,” Curti told the Guardian.
When he caught up to the animal, it had crawled into an opening in the side of a cliff. Inside the opening, Curti stumbled upon a 2,000-year-old tomb “piled with bones” and ancient Roman urns.
The tomb was discovered just outside a residential area in the Roman city of Via di Pietralata.
Archeologists who were called to the site have speculated that it dates back to sometime between the 1st century B.C. and the 2nd century A.D.
Curti described the discovery as “the most incredible experience” of his life.
The archeologists said that recent rains in the area were likely responsible for exposing the tomb and noted that several other similar discoveries have been made in the area in recent years.

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Spot Where Julius Caesar Was Stabbed Discovered……


Archaeologists believe they have found the first physical evidence of the spot where Julius Caesar died, according to a new Spanish National Research Council report.
Caesar, the head of the Roman Republic, was stabbed to death by a group of rival Roman senators on March 14, 44 B.C, the Ides of March. The assassination is well-covered in classical texts, but until now, researchers had no archaeological evidence of the place where it happened.
Now, archaeologists have unearthed a concrete structure nearly 10 feet wide and 6.5 feet tall (3 meters by 2 meters) that may have been erected by Caesar’s successor to condemn the assassination. The structure is at the base of the Curia, or Theater, of Pompey, the spot where classical writers reported the stabbing took place.
“We always knew that Julius Caesar was killed in the Curia of Pompey on March 15th 44 B.C. because the classical texts pass on so, but so far no material evidence of this fact, so often depicted in historicist painting and cinema, had been recovered,” Antonio Monterroso, a researcher at the Spanish National Research Council, said in a statement.
Classical texts also say that years after the assassination, the Curia was closed and turned into a memorial chapel for Caesar. The researchers are studying this building along with another monument in the same complex, the Portico of the Hundred Columns, or Hecatostylon; they are looking for links between the archaeology of the assassination and what has been portrayed in art.
“It is very attractive, in a civic and citizen sense, that thousands of people today take the bus and the tram right next to the place where Julius Caesar was stabbed 2,056 years ago,” Monterroso said.

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Sacks of Human Waste Reveal Secrets of Ancient Rome……



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Giant chamber in volcano-smothered town held clues to daily life.
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You might turn your nose up at sifting through hundreds of sacks of human excrement, but researchers are doing just that in Italy—and happily.

The unprecedented deposit is said to be yielding new insights into everyday life in the ancient Roman Empire.

Admittedly, at 2,000 years old, the feces “isn’t remotely unpleasant,” Roman historian Andrew Wallace-Hadrill said. “There’s absolutely no scent. It’s exactly like earth compost.”

Ten tons of the stuff has been excavated from a cesspit beneath the ancient town of Herculaneum, near Naples.

Flushed down sewers from apartment blocks and shops, the deposit—the largest collection of ancient Roman garbage and human waste ever found, researchers say—dates to about A.D. 79. That year a catastrophic volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried Herculaneum, along with its more famous neighbor, Pompeii.

Lost jewelry, coins, and semiprecious stones from a gem shop have been found, along with discarded household items such as broken lamps and pottery, according to Wallace-Hadrill, director of the Herculaneum Conservation Project, a Packard Humanities Institute initiative.

And, coming from a onetime district of shopkeepers and artisans, the organic material has revealed just what your run-of the-mill Roman might have eaten in this coastal town, according to project scientists, who collaborated with the British School at Rome and the archaeological authorities for Naples and Pompeii.
Fish, Fig, Fennel

Seeds, bones, shell fragments, and other remains suggest Herculaneum residents had a diverse diet, which included chicken, mutton, fish, fig, fennel, olive, sea urchin, and mollusk.

“This is absolutely standard diet for ordinary people in the town,” Wallace-Hadrill said.

“It’s a jolly good diet—any doctor would recommend it,” he added.

While stuffed dormice and other such culinary delicacies of the Roman elite are well known from the historical record, less is known about standard Roman food, Wallace-Hadrill noted.

“It’s very good to get a feeling for what the basics actually were.”
“Foul Stuff” Revealing Roman Life

Measuring some 230 feet (70 meters) long, one meter (three feet) wide, and about seven to ten feet (two to three meters) tall, the large underground structure was first thought to be part of Herculaneum’s drainage system. However, no outlet was found.

“All the foul stuff from the latrines and all the rubbish thrown down the chute accumulate and compost, as in a septic tank,” Wallace-Hadrill said.

The waste was excavated and put through a series of graded sieves by a team led by Mark Robinson of the University of Oxford.

The first sieving captured larger objects such as pottery and bone. The second caught smaller objects, including nuts and seeds.

“It’s in these progressive stages that, bit by bit, you capture more and more information,” Wallace-Hadrill said.

Future microscopic analysis of bits of the ancient Roman stool could reveal evidence of disease, such as bacterial or parasitic infections, he added.

So far, only 70 of the 774 sacks of human waste—bagged by researchers over the past decade—have been examined.

“If you looked in detail at everything,” he said, “it would take a lifetime.”

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