30 April 2010

The church of Mar Jacob

The history of ancient Nisibis, modern Nusaybin in southeast Turkey, is almost a summary of everything there’s to be said about Antiquity. The town is mentioned in Assyrian and Babylonian sources, the Achaemenids waged battle near Nisibis, Alexander and Antiochus III passed through the city, the Parthians, Adiabenes, Armenians, and Romans tried to capture it. Once it had become Roman, it was defended by two legions, and one of the greatest Latin historians, Ammianus Marcellinus, was an eyewitness when the city was finally ceded to the Sasanian Persians. Pagans, Zoroastrians, Jews, Manichaeans, and Christians of almost every type – they’ve all been there.

There’s not much that reminds the modern visitor of the past glory. In fact, it shockingly resembles another city that summarizes a substantial part of world history: Berlin, which is a miniature of the twentieth century and was, like Nisibis today, a divided city. The northern part is Turkish, the southern part is Syrian, and there’s a lot of barbed wire in between (satellite photo). And right there, in the no man’s land, are the remains of an ancient Roman gate – inaccessible.

I wrote a new page about Nisibis, with some photos we made in September 2007; it’s here.

More Ark Stupidity

29 April 2010

The Ağri Daği was called Ararat in the Middle Ages

I already blogged about the stupidity of people looking for Noah’s ark. Whether it exists or not is beyond my knowledge – I just wanted to show that within their own paradigm, these people are incredibly stupid. The Bible does not mention a mountain named Ararat, which is the Hebrew version of the name Urartu. The mountain that is now called Ararat, owes this name to medieval travelers. It’s a well-known error, and if these so-called “evangelical explorers” had actually read the text of the Bible, even in translation, they would have seen it. I suppose they are illiterates.

I asked who was more stupid: the excavators, the people who paid them, the journalists who reproduced this crap, or the authorities who want to make this world heritage? Perhaps the journalists. Whatever the explorers’ errors, at least they did not write that “carbon dating conducted on wood and stone from the site has revealed their age as 4,800 years old”. Radiocarbon dating of stone… yeah, right.

Or perhaps it’s the people who pay the illiterates. Mike Heiser’s entertaining blog PaleoBabble had an interesting post that suggests that it’s the financiers: he quotes from a letter by one of them, who is still missing $100,000 and explains that the objects are outright fakes. $100,000 is a lot of money, but it’s a fair price for the lesson that you must not trust researchers who do not read the sources.

The Stupidity of the Quest for Noah’s Ark

27 April 2010

A modern replica of the Ark

Stupidity is immune to facts. We all know this. Yet, we can still be surprised, even shocked by people’s lack of understanding. Today’s example can be found in this article, about evangelical explorers who claim to have found Noah’s Ark. I will not be argueing that you cannot find what never existed; the historicity of the Great Flood is a matter of belief, and therefore a subject about which I postpone judgment.

But even if we assume that there was a flood, as our evangelical explorers do, and if we assume that there was an ark and that we can find it, even then they are guilty of some very, very grave errors.

“The team say they recovered wooden specimens from a structure on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey that carbon dating proved was 4800 years old…”

So, what does this prove? About nothing, I’d say. What are the facts?

  • The Bible does not mention a mountain named Ararat. It says that “the ark rested … upon the mountains of Ararat” (Gen 8.4).
  • This Ararat is the Hebrew version of Urartu, an ancient name for Armenia.
  • When the Bible was translated into Latin, some versions correctly translated “super montes Armeniae” (Vulgate), others referred to “super montes Ararat”.
  • Western explorers like Marco Polo have read this second version and were the first ones to call the volcano known as Ağri Daği “Mount Ararat”.
  • Eastern believers – whether Christians or Muslims or Jews – have never accepted this identification. Instead, they claim that the summit must be near Cizre, which happens to be the site referred to in the Mesopotamian literature.

Those are the facts to which the stupidity of these “evangelical explorers” is immune. I am shocked that it is possible to be so ignorant. Had they read the original Hebrew, they would have known; and most translations make no mistake at this point. The King James Version has translated this correctly, the American Standard Versian has translated this correctly, the World English Bible has translated this correctly. The French Louis Segond, the Dutch Statenvertaling, Luther’s German translation, they all have translated this correctly.

It is pure stupidity, the refusal to read the actual source, not even in a modern translation, that explains why these people went to eastern Turkey. But they are not the only fools. What to think of the foundation that financed this expedition, “Noah’s Ark Ministries International”? What to think of the journalist who wrote down the crap, and gave it additional credibility? What to think of the “Local Turkish officials [who] will ask the central government in Ankara to apply for UNESCO World Heritage status”? I hope they are immune to this stupidity, but I am afraid that they won’t.

1600 ancient sites on Google Earth

27 April 2010


What you are looking for, is here.


26 April 2010

The southern walls of Diyarbakır

Diyarbakır is best known as the main city of the Kurds in eastern Turkey. Yet, it might be famous as well for another reason: its past. The city, once called Amida, is already mentioned in very ancient Assyrian texts, which is logical, because it controls an important crossing of the Tigris. Much later, the city was contested between the Romans and the Sasanian Persians; Ammianus Marcellinus offers an eyewitness account of a siege.

To be honest, I have unpleasant memories of my visit. I was guiding a group and I knew that on the morning of our arrival, a bomb had exploded that had killed six soldiers; as a consequence, the atmosphere was quite unfriendly, and it did not really help that there’s a military airport next to the town. The helicopters in the air did much to make us feel unsafe, although, of course, we had little to be afraid of. Still, I thought it better not to tell my company about the killing.

Anyhow, the black walls of this Kurdish city are really impressive; I have never seen something like that. If you have a chance, try to visit it. And if you can’t, my photos are now available here.

The Valetta Convention

25 April 2010

The sanctuary of Isis and Cybele, Mainz

As a responsible citizen, I often complain about my government. However, occasionally, things are just done well. The Convention of Valetta, or the “European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage” as it is called officially, is a case in point.

It established a very basic principle: the person who wants to build on a specific site, is responsible for financing the excavation. This has created much clarity. Even though we cannot say that someone or some body “owns the past”, at least it is agreed who pays the bill (and will probably forward it to others).

As a consequence, several important things have happened. In the first place, the developers of great building projects have learned to ask archaeologists to predict how much money they will need. Large databanks have been created, which are valuable scientific projects in themselves. In Holland, the expected weakness (what to do if there is an unexpected, really sensational find for which we have no budget?) has turned out to be less serious than some critics feared.

In the second place, archaeologists have learned to better look at the budget. Which is a good thing, because in the end, you and I have to pay the bill.

In the third place, construction companies have learned that archaeology is intrinsically valuable. They have learned to recognize it as an added value. They invite architects, at a very early stage, to make sure that future visitors are aware that they are on an archaeologically important site. Examples: the way the sanctuary of Isis and Cybele has become accessible in a new shopping mall in Mainz, or the multi-storey car park in Woerden, where you can see some of the finds from the Roman castellum.

In the fourth place -and this is a future development- if finds are shown in situ, museums can concentrate on other activities than displaying objects. They can show the choices made by archaeologists and explain what archaeology and history are really about.

All these changes are, in my view, advances.

Tepe Sialk

23 April 2010

Tepe Sialk

Kashan is best known for the lovely Fin Gardens, which are certainly worth a detour, but people who like archaeology will also be interested in a visit to Tepe Sialk. It’s one of the most important excavations in Iran, because it helped to establish the chronology of the Chalcolithicum. However, the high hill we see today, is younger: it is an eroded ziggurat from the 29th century BCE.

Fourth millennium vase (Louvre)

Some beautiful pottery has been found in Tepe Sialk, which can now be seen in the Louvre and the Archaeological Museum of Tehran. I was surprised to discover that even the Rijksmuseum van oudheden in Leiden, which is not really famous for its Iranian collection, owned a splendid beak pot.

My new page is here. As always, I liked bringing together photos from the museums with photos from the site itself, which I visited in 2004, when the excavations were still going on, and in 2009, when everything was ready to receive visitors.


23 April 2010

Painted decoration of the temple of Düver, Early Achaemenid Age (Rijksmuseum van oudheden, Leiden)

In 2003, we traveled from the northwest of Turkey to the southeast. It’s a long trip along an endless road, and we almost believed we were the protagonists of a road movie. I will never forget the afternoon of the first day, when we crossed the beautiful plain of Sivrihisar. It is impossible to make a photo that catches the impressive emptiness of those fields, which are the heartland of ancient Phrygia.

Today, I wrote a page about the legendary kingdom of Midas and the Achaemenid satrapies, which you can find here.

Moving (16)

22 April 2010

The Lycian coast

If I say that Telmessus has moved to this URL, and if I add that Lycia is now here, and if I mention that a couple of photos of Lycian tombs can be seen here, you will understand that you have come across a new installment of the highly irregular and highly irrelevant series called Moving Livius.Org.

As always, I have used to occasion to improve the pages. The one on Telmessus is essentially new, and was necessary because I am preparing a trip to – well, guess where.

Still 46 pages to go…

Happy Birthday, Rome!

21 April 2010

Marcus Aurelius

Today, 21 April, the founding of Rome is commemorated, and it may be nice to tell the story behind the photo of Marcus Aurelius‘ equestrian statue.

The real statue has been removed from the Piazza del Campidoglio in 1981 or so; I don’t know exactly, but when I visited the city for the first time in ’82, it was already gone. The old piece of art had become too vulnerable, needed repairs, and is now in the Palazzo dei Conservatori. For many years, there was only an empty pedestal, but in 1997, a copy was ready, and so we went to the Capitol, to see what would happen. It was 21 April.

A white, plastic drapery covered the new statue, and the idea was that the mayors of several cities in the world called Rome would, together with mayor Francesco Rutelli, unveil the monument. However, the wind caught the drapery, and the emperor’s head was already visible when we arrived on the hill. Soon, an arm unveiled itself, and not much later, the horse started to shake off the cover from its head. Someone urged the people to leave, because the plastic drapery had to be reattached to the statue to allow the television cameras to have some nice footage. Many people protested. They had arrived early to see everything well, and were afraid to lose their front row positions.

At that moment, Mr Rutelli intervened. Clearly improvising his speech, he said that if the emperor himself decided to address his people, it was improper for lower officials to speak. He quoted from the Meditations, someone – perhaps the mayors, I could not see – took away the remaining piece of the plastic veil, and that was the end of the ceremony. I have some nice photos of the partly covered statue, but this one, with the backlighting, is one of my favorites.


20 April 2010

The reconstructed temple of Nehalennia

To be perfectly honest, it’s not really worth a detour, but if you happen to be in Colijnsplaat or have to cross the Zeelandbrug, you may consider a quick visit to the reconstructed temple of Nehalennia. It is close to the port (satellite photo) and was built in 2005 to keep the memory alive of the spectacular discovery of the site of an ancient temple, a bit to the northwest, about a kilometer off the coast. In 1970, Nehalennia, until then a little-known goddesses, rapidly became one of the best-attested deities of the pantheon of the Low Countries.

The ruin of the submerged temple was never identified, and will be hard to find, because the waters of the Eastern Scheldt have had about seventeen, eightheen centuries to destroy all. Nevertheless, 122 votive altars were brought to the surface and divers were able to recognize the streets of the ancient settlement. We know, therefore, more about the answered prayers of the faithful than about the sanctuary itself.

The reconstruction near the port of Colijnsplaat is, therefore, entirely hypothetical. Well, perhaps there is one clue. Flemish divers have found a rooftile that was sown with an angle of 45º. Objects like these have been found only in the ruins of Gallo-Roman temples, the ones with a portico surrounding the real sanctuary. It is not much evidence, but so far, the reconstruction seems to be more or less accurate.

The Joy of History (2)

14 April 2010

The Persian Gate

We were the first, after a millennium or two, to visit the site and know what had happened there. Early in the morning, we had hired a taxi in Shiraz and had left for Yasuj, 150 kilometers to the northwest. The driver had been a kind man, who tried to make us feel at home by endlessly playing a tape of Modern Talking, not exactly our type of music. After two hours, we had reached our destination.

In 1979, Henri Speck had tried to visit Yasuj as well. He lectured on English literature in Shiraz, and liked to explore the countryside, trying to find the Persian Gate, the mountain pass where Alexander the Great had forced his way across the Zagros mountains, into the heartland of the Persian Empire. Speck had already found out that the old identification, by Aurel Stein, was incorrect, and had established that the real mountain pass was the Tang-e Meyran near Yasuj. Unfortunately, he was never able to visit the place: in the small police station, he learned that the Revolution had started, that Americans were not safe. So, Speck left Yasuj, hurried to Iraq, forgot about the Persian Gate, and published his results in 2002. But he had never visited the site.

The battlefield at the Persian Gate

My friend Marco and I were more successful. It was easy to find the Tang-e Meyran, and we found the little path that Alexander used to circumvene the Persian positions after a bit of searching. By noon, we knew that Speck had been right. It was a pity that he was not with us, when we were standing there: the first western students of ancient history at the Persian Gate, the first to know what had happened over there. We felt privileged and lighted two special Italian cigars, which we had saved for the occasion. 18 February 2004 is one of the happiest days of my life.

This is an example of what is called “the historical sensation”: to touch the past, to know that you really have contact with something that happened long time ago. The French historian Henry Houssaye (1848-1911) once described the overwhelming nature of this experience, and when he explained what it was to feel present during a famous battle, he started to weep for joy.

He was right. History is nice, it is fun. That is enough. There is no need to use it for a practical purpose. Of course this does not explain why our governments pay money for historians. That needs another justification.


Henry Speck, “Alexander at the Persian Gates. A Study in Historiography and Topography” in: American Journal of Ancient History n.s. 1.1 (2002) 15-234.

The Joy of History (1)

14 April 2010

Alexander, bust from Delos (Louvre)

I don’t remember the date, but it was at least an hour past midnight… no, this story needs a different beginning. For some time, my former teacher Bert van der Spek and I had been trying to understand the portents surrounding the death of Alexander the Great. They are mentioned in several Greek sources (Arrian, Diodorus, Plutarch, Appian), and Bert had already argued that at least one of the Babylonians involved, a man called Belephantes by Diodorus, might perhaps be identical to a Babylonian astronomer named Bel-apla-iddin. Much of the Greek stories seemed plausible, but what celestial omen predicted Alexander’s death?

We know a lot about Babylonian astrology. We have the Astronomical Diaries, which contain observations and events that appeared to have been predicted, and a catalog of portents, Enûma Anu Enlil. They are two sides of one project: if something unusual happened in the skies (say, a lunar eclipse), one could check in the catalog what that meant (the death of a king within 100 days). The Astronomical Diaries are the empirical foundation of the catalog.

BM 36390, rev.: Astronomical diary describing the battle of Gaugamela (British Museum)

Bert had already identified some of the sections of the catalog that were relevant to understand how the ancients would have understood the lunar eclipse on 20 September 330, which took place before the battle of Gaugamela. Here is the explanation from Enûma Anu Enlil:

If on either the 13th or 14th Ulûlu the moon is dark; the watch passes and it is dark; his features are dark like lapis lazuli; he is obscured until his midpoint; the west quadrant – as it covered, the west wind blew; the sky is dark; his light is covered.
[The significance is:] The son of the king will become purified for the throne [because the king is dead] but will not take the throne. An intruder will come with the princes of the west; for eight years he will exercise kingship; he will conquer the enemy army; there will be abundance and riches on his path; he will continually pursue his enemies; and his luck will not run out.

After this omen, the Persian army, which consisted of recruits, must have been heavily demoralized; and there is much evidence to confirm this. So, Bert had found a beautiful match between ancient astrology and historical events. To find out which celestial omen had predicted Alexander’s death, however, proved to be more difficult. After a year, neither Bert nor I had been able to find out anything. He had checked the tablets countless times, I had been looking at my computer planetary endlessly, but not a single bad omen, as mentioned in Enûma Anu Enlil, was available.


I don’t remember the date, but it was at least an hour past midnight. I was again checking the translated texts and the list of stellar omens. There was no eclipse in June 323, when Alexander died. The next eclopse was in the autumn, eight solar years after Gaugamela. And then, lightning struck: we had been searching in the wrong direction. We had been looking for a portent of death, but should have been looking for a text about the length of Alexander’s reign – in the section above, “for eight years he will exercise kingship”. We had had the solution on our desks for at least a year. I was overcome by a feeling of immense happiness.

I opened a bottle of wine, lighted a cigar, and wrote an e-mail to Bert, who wasn’t sleeping either, and immediately made a phone call. During the conversation, I realized how ridiculous it actually was: two grown-up men, discussing a piece of clay twenty-three centuries old, in the middle of the night.

It’s this experience, the lightning strike and the immense happiness when you realize that you understand the past, that explains why people study history. It can be pretty sensational to discover things. James Joyce would have called it an epiphany. This sensation is also the justification of their activity. The question “why do you study the past?” is as ridiculous as “why do you like to sit in the garden?”, “why do you play chess?”, “why do you go to the movies?” or “why do you like mountaineering?”

History is nice, it is fun. That is enough. There is no need to use it for a practical purpose. Of course this does not explain why our governments pay money for historians. That needs another justification.


R.J. van der Spek, “Darius III, Alexander the Great and Babylonian scholarship” in: Achaemenid History 13 (2003), 289-346

[to be continued]

Silly Science

9 April 2010

Ramses II

The Biblical plagues that devastated Ancient Egypt in the Old Testament were the result of global warming and a volcanic eruption.” This time, it’s a professor Augusto Magini, paleoclimatologist at Heidelberg University, who helps give science a bad name.

He argues that there was a dramatic climate change in the second half of the reign of Ramses II: after a favorable climatic period with plenty of rain, a dry period started. That is very interesting as it helps us understand the collapse of the Bronze Age world system. I would love to know more about it. For instance, is there corroboration from other areas?

Magini is apparently not content with one interesting result. He continues to argue that the climate change triggered the Biblical plagues. Now things become embarrassing. He and a colleague named Stephan Pflugmacher, biologist at the Leibniz Institute in Berlin, argue that rising temperatures would have caused the Nile to dry up, which would in turn have caused the arrival of the first plague: the river turning to blood – or toxic algae, as the scientists prefer to read the text. From here, they jump to frogs, lice and flies. Finally, the exploding volcano Thera would explain the darkness. And so on, and so on.

News reports like this are published every year, usually in the weeks before a major religious festival. This time, it was Passover; the “scientific” reading of the Quran usually makes the headlines during the Ramadan, while scientific explanations of the Star of Betlehem belong to Christmas like sending cards and eating turkey. I am not claiming that all scientists are necessarily wrong, but Magini obviously is.

In the first place, if he wants to take the Bible litterally, why does he accept the description of the events (the sequence of plagues, for example), but doesn’t he accept the chronology? You cannot only use the part that suits you and ignore the part that doesn’t. The Bible is pretty explicit about chronology (1 Kings 6.1), and there is simply no way to put the Ten Plagues during the reign of Ramses. Of course I am aware that many scholars have argued away the chronology of the Exodus, but these scholars also accept the story of the Exodus as a literary text, not as a historical event. If you’re a litteralist and want to believe that the Ten Plagues are a fact – fine, but then you must offer arguments why you don’t accept the text in its entirety.

In the second place, the Bible does not refer to rising temperatures or a dry climate. Of course Magini can answer that the Bible does not mention a lot of things -the name of the pharaoh for example – but he will admit that “you can add to a text any element you need” is not sound logic. By adding an element that’s just not there, Magini’s second mistake is the converse of his first one: leaving out what did not suit him.

I could go on ’till the cows come home. The authors of the Bible were not stupid. They were perfectly capable of distinguishing between algae and blood, for example. And whenever the Thera exploded, it was not during the reign of Ramses. And so on. But my main point is this: history is a profession. You need some training. Reading an ancient text is less easy than is often assumed – even by historians themselves, as I often need to point out on this little blog.

Scientists can do a lot of things, like establishing that there was a climate change in the third quarter of the thirteenth century. That’s good and I am grateful for that. But reading ancient texts is something else. I am not saying scientists should not discuss history, because I know that the two fields sometimes overlap. But when I have to discuss, say, ancient astronomy (here), I check things with a professional scientist. It would have been better if Magini, who works at a university with an excellent history department, had walked to his colleagues and asked what they thought about his idea.

Until now, I have received eighteen e-mail messages about Magini’s article. If he had been a bit more careful, a bit more scientific, he might have saved me a lot of time.

Smith’s Dictionary Again

8 April 2010

Smith's Dictionary

As the readers of this little blog will know by now, LacusCurtius’ Bill Thayer is making William Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities available online. Often, archaeological research has improved our understanding of ancient realia, but Smith’s articles are still useful because they collect all written sources.

A week ago, he wrote me that the job was almost finished; only some 25 articles were missing. Today, he added four new articles:

So, the work is almost finished!

Plutarch, Progress in Virtue

6 April 2010

Plutarch, bust from the museum of Delphi.

LacusCurtius’ Bill Thayer is now especially occupied with making available the biographies of a long series of nineteenth-century American officers (here), but in the meantime also continues to put online some ancient stuff.

Today’s contribution came, to me, as a pleasant surprise: Plutarch’s essay How We may Become Aware of Our Progress in Virtue, one of my favorite texts from Antiquity. It’s polemical: the Stoics had argued that only wise people can be virtuous, and Plutarch shows that this is absurd. Admittedly, Plutarch’s suggestions on how we realize that we’re becoming more virtuous/wise, is rather commonplace. Yet, it is a good question – perhaps one of the best questions we may expect from philosophers.

Do Classics Matter?

4 April 2010

The infelicitous illustration

Ignore the headline “The Classics Rock“, which has been used once too often, and read this interesting article. The author, Yakub Grygiel, explains why it is useful to study the classics, even though the Greek and Roman authors know nothing about modern politics, business, and life. I would have liked to write these words myself:

The ancients were not worried about the movement of the IS and LS curves. But that’s precisely the point. Reading Thucydides’s description of the revolution in Corcyra, Tacitus’s praise of Agricola, or Julius Caesar’s tale of Vercingetorix’s uprising is refreshing because these works do not simplify human affairs to logical models. These books are full of contrasts and contradictions, showing above all that not everything can be understood.

Essentially, Mr Grygiel argues that the classics still matter because they allow us to put our own values into perspective. We can compare them to others and become a bit wiser. It is a common argument, which has been discussed often in the 1960s. I have often said similar things, but I have never been able to phrase it as eloquently as Mr Grygiel does.

The argument, however, is not unproblematic. We can indeed learn a lot from the ancients, but we can achieve the same wisdom a lot easier by visiting a foreign country. One fortnight in Iran or China is cheaper, and will also help you realize that things can be done differently.

There’s another problem with this article, although Mr Grygiel cannot help it. The webmaster who published his article, put a photo next to it that will probably scare away many potential readers: a photo of that Vespasian Exhibition in the Colosseum. I am not making this up: indeed, the exhibition that pretended it was about the Roman senator-general-emperor, but ignored Vespasian’s entire career and was in fact about the decorative arts in the fourth quarter of the first century. Indeed, the exhibition that crossed the line between “an attractive title” and “simply misleading the visitors”. One stupid picture tells a lot more than a thousand wise words: that at least some classicists will do anything to get attention and don’t care about truth. This photo stresses that from some classicists, you can only learn very bad things.

The Tyche of Antioch

4 April 2010

Tyche (Vatican Museums)

The goddess Tyche, “fortune”, became an important, frequently venerated, goddess in the decades after the conquests of the Macedonian king Alexander the Great (r.336-323), when the outcomes of many wars seemed to depend on nothing but capricious luck. The good fortune of the ruler who was able to create or destroy a city, was one of the best examples of the influence of Fate, and it comes as no surprise that one of those new cities, Antioch, venerated its own fortune in a temple.

The cult statue was made by Eutychides of Sicyon and is essentially an assemblage of symbols, almost an allegory. The goddess is seated on a rock (=Mount Sipylus), has one foot on a swimming figure (=the river Orontes), and has several ears of grain in her hand (=the city’s fertility). On her head rests a mural crown, which is an orientalizing influence: mural crowns had been used in the art of ancient Elam and Assyria.

I added two small articles today: one on Tyche, and one on the Mural Crown.

Regio egestatis

3 April 2010

Because April is the cruellest month, because I have a lot of work to do, and because there’s no law that bloggers have to be on topic always, here’s a well-known poem:

Funeral portrait from Fayyum (Antikensammlung, Munich)

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.

A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.

Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

Smith’s Dictionary

3 April 2010

Smith's Dictionary

William Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities was published several times between 1842 and 1891, and resembles other dictionaries/encyclopaedias like the Realenzyclopädie by Pauly and Wissowa and the Dictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques et Romaines by Daremberg and Saglio. The books were published and republished at about the same time; an article on their mutual influence might be interesting.

LacusCurtius’ Bill Thayer recently informed me that his online publication of Smith’s dictionary is almost complete, missing only something like 25 articles. That was after he had added Cyma, Discus, and Vis, but before he added (on the first of April) Comoedia. Often, archaeological research has improved our understanding of ancient realia, but Smith’s articles are still useful because they collect all written sources.


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