The Antiochus Cylinder

23 February 2008

The ancient Babylonian kings had the habit to put clay cylinders in the foundations of their temples, as a message from a king to posterity. The most famous of these is the Cyrus Cylinder; the youngest is a cylinder by king Antiochus I Soter, the son of Seleucus I Nicator. It dates to 268 BCE, and illustrates that the Macedonian tried to present himself as a Babylonian.

Antiochus tells how he personally moulded the first bricks in Syria, brought them to Babylonia, and rebuilt the temple of Nabû in Borsippa (the Ezida). The text continues with a prayer to the gods, which is pretty stereotypical, but also contains a likely reference to the First Syrian War: Antiochus asks for support in his fight against Ptolemaic Egypt. In the last lines, he asks for a long life for his wife Stratonice and his son Seleucus – somewhat ironically, because within two years, he had the boy killed.

De amicitia, De Senectute

23 February 2008

And both of these old chestnuts are now up in English as well: Laelius de Amicitia, Cato Maior de Senectute; and several of those Orations of Dio have now been joined by their Greek originals.By the way, since I’m plugging away at texts not online elsewhere, or not very well online elsewhere, you might as well pass along any requests.

More Cicero

21 February 2008

I used  to know a man who was writing a Ph.D. thesis on Cicero’s opinions about friendship, and he always quoted a text that I never bothered to read: Laelius, vel De Amicitia. I was wrong. Now that my friend Bill Thayer has made that text (in translation) available online, I have hurried to read it, and I discovered a text that was nicer than I expected. The Latin text can be found here. (The Ph.D. thesis BTW, was apparently never finished.)

Also available: the translation of Cicero’s famous treatise Cato the Elder on Old Age (Latin), the article on the temple of Hercules Custos from Platner’s Topography of Ancient Rome, and the Greek texts of several speeches by Dio of Prusa: 19, 42, 58, 63, 67, 68, 69, 70, 75, 76.

Cicero, On Divination

15 February 2008
Cicero  (Musei Capitolini, Rome)

Cicero (Musei Capitolini, Rome)

Bill Thayer is no fan of the Roman author Cicero, but has put online an English translation (Loeb) of the two books On Divination. Bill’s very own synopsis: “He doesn’t believe in it”. The webmaster of LacusCurtius adds that the text “appeals more to our sense of reasonableness than to reason: its refutation of the various superstitions involved makes for pleasant reading, but humor and loose captiousness are hardly proofs, and the main interest of the work is in the details he winds up furnishing about the odd practices he makes fun of.”

To which I have only to add that the text was, until today, not available online, and that the Latin text can be found here.

Platner & Ashby

12 February 2008

Samuel Plattner’s Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, which was completed by Thomas Ashby, was published in 1929 and  used to be the standard work on the monuments of the capital of the ancient Mediterranean world. Although outdated on several issues, it is still very useful. LacusCurtius’ Bill Thayer is preparing an online addition (better proofed than the Perseus version), and has now added articles on Curiae and the two sanctuaries of Juno Sospita.

Libyan tombs

11 February 2008

The inhabitants of Roman Tripolitana had several types of funeral monuments, like small temples (e.g., Ghirza‘s Northern Necropole), cube-like mausolea (Qasr Banat), and obelisk-shaped tombs. On two sites, east and southeast of Banu Walid, you will find two of the last-mentioned type of mausoleum (others are at Sabratha and Ghirza’s Southern Necropole). Both sites are called aptly called Msletten, “needles”. The largest of them is also called “mother of all poles”, Umm el-Omad.

Three Libyan sites (update)

10 February 2008

In January, I visited Libya and was able to take better photos of several archaeological sites, which I had visited before. Here are Gheriat al-Garbia, a Roman castellum belonging to the Limes Tripolitanus; Slonta, a native sanctuary with some bizarre sculptures; and a nameless monument along the Wadi El-Amud (photo). Nothing new, nothing spectacular, but perhaps worth a quick look. It may take a lot of time to update everything.

Castalian Spring

6 February 2008

The Castalian Spring near Delphi, about which I just put online a short article, was a fountain east of the famous sanctuary of Apollo. Today, a basin and a reservoir from the Hellenistic age are still visible. In Antiquity, it was the place where one had to ritually cleanse oneself before entering the oracle, and the waters became so famous that the word “Castalia” could be used as a synonym for Delphi, for poetic inspiration (e.g., by Virgil), and for wisdom. It is therefore not very surprising to find a representation of the pagan fountain depicted in Christian churches, like the one at Qasr Libya in the Cyrenaica (photo).

Online: the Historia Augusta

6 February 2008

It is the nightmare of every ancient historian and a garden of delights for every classicist: the Historia Augusta, a collection of biographies of Roman emperors from Hadrian to Numerian.

The author plays a clever game of hide-and-seek with the readers, pretending that the text was written by six people living during the reigns of Diocletian (284-305) and Constantine the Great (306-337). Probably, the text was in fact written in the 390’s, and it is certainly the product of one single, pagan author. He also offers false information and quotes at least 130 fake sources, only to disagree with them.

This ancient mockumentary is nice, but one can sympathize with the ancient historian’s despair. However, the work is, for a historian, not entirely worthless. It can be shown that the “major biographies”, i.e. the lives of the officially recognized emperors until Heliogabalus, are based on a collection of biographies written by an important senator named Marius Maximus, who is known to have finished a more or less reliable continuation of SuetoniusLives of the Twelve Emperors.

The full text, in Latin and English, is now available at LacusCurtius: go here.

Dio Chrysostom, the Complete Works

6 February 2008

It is no news that LacusCurtius‘ Bill Thayer was working to put online a full translation of the works by Dio of Prusa (also known as Dio Chrysostom, “Goldvoice”). The project is now finished, and the great sophist can now also be read by people who have no access to a well-equipped academic library. Dio really has a lot to say, and tells much about daily life, as C.P. Jones has shown in his book The Roman World of Dio Chrysostom (1978).


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