30 November 2008
The young shepherd and his lamb
In the third quarter of the fifth century, the sanctuary of Saint Simeon Stylites was rapidly expanding: there were at least three basilicas, a mausoleum, a baptistery, and a monastery. Pilgrims were arriving from all parts of the Near East. To make travel easier, it seems, road stations were built, and of course there had to be churches for the pious travellers. One of these stations was at Mushabbak, halfway between modern Aleppo and the Saint Simeon complex.
We arrived there late in the afternoon; the sun was setting, and we were distracted by the young shepherd who arrived with his flock, carrying a lamb that was born only minutes before our arrival. It was easy to be distracted, but we did make some photos, now online.
While I was occupied with Cyrrhus and this little church, Bill Thayer put online Book 20 of Diodorus of Sicily‘s Library of World History, which deals with the years before the Battle of Ipsus. He is still proofreading, but the text can be consulted.
30 November 2008
Roman bridge at Cyrrhus
The base of the Tenth legion Fretensis in northern Syria, Cyrrhus, has never been excavated, and the nearby city was investigated only superficially. With a little luck, a visitor can find a still unknown inscription or the tombstone of a Roman soldier (as we did).
However, archaeologists have already a few parts and there is much to see: two Roman bridges, a well-preserved mausoleum (probably the tomb of a centurio), the traces of the wall (built by Justinian), two gates, a theater, and a basilica. A satellite photo can be found here, and my new article is here.
Meanwhile, Bill Thayer has put online Book 18 and Book 19 of Diodorus of Sicily‘s Library of World History. It’s a good read.
15 November 2008
Feldberg Limes Castle
As I already announced, I am moving several pages of my website. Today, I transferred three articles from their original sites and gave them new URLs:
Still 221 pages to go…
15 November 2008
This blog has some hundred hits every day, so I think there’s a reasonable chance that someone knows the answer to this question: is this man the Palmyrene ruler Odaenathus?
Probably, the answer is yes. In his Syria, Land of Civilizations (1999), Michel Fortin has no doubt about the identification, and I have not found any blatant errors in that beautiful book. The man who ordered the bust wears a laurel wreath, which also suggests that he is a Roman-style ruler. What worries me, though, is that the Museum of Palmyra does not add an explanatory sign that says that this bust represents the famous Palmyrene ruler who restored order in the Roman East. On the other hand, it is in a display that immediately attracts attention: a suitable place for so important a military leader. Your comments and suggestions are appreciated.
13 November 2008
Domitian (Museo Arqueológico, Sevilla, Spain)
The Roman historian Tacitus (c.55-c.120) wrote three delightful monographs (Agricola, Germania, and the Dialogue on the Orators) and two monumental histories: the Histories and the Annals, a dark work that is his masterpiece. His central theme is how a wealthy man had to act in an age of tyranny: he had duties towards society that he could not honorably evade, but this was not without danger – emperors were jealous and cruel.
For centuries, scholars have praised Tacitus’ style and the depth of his analysis. Some of this praise is exaggerated (arguably, Cassius Dio is a better, less biased historian), and it cannot be denied that the ghost of Domitian, who had acted despotically but to whom Tacitus owed his career, hovers over Tacitus’ accounts of other reigns. Still, he is certainly an efficient writer who knows how to employ stereotypes to create a story that is utterly unputdownable.
I have now added an article on Tacitus to my website, and you can find it here; an earlier version was published in Ancient Warfare.
11 November 2008
Welcome back, Jona; I hope the end of your trip went as well as the rest of it seems to have gone.
I’ve just completed putting the first 17 Books of Diodorus’ Library of History online at Lacus; English translation only, no Greek, about 2000 pages of print. Non-Jonas out there should know that he did a fair chunk of the work himself: the quasi-endless proofreading of I don’t know how many Books (for which my warm thanks, and maybe yours as well, gentle reader, because otherwise we may never have got this monster online) — so that this is an appropriate welcome-back item, I guess.
The remaining Books, 18-40, will find their way onsite in the fullness of time. It’s in fact not as bad as it sounds, since these Books are for the most part fragmentary or even very fragmentary, and thus what’s still missing onsite accounts for only 30% of what we have of him.