Tacitus’ Histories

30 December 2008

Strewn across the Internet the diligent Googler will find several copies of the works of Tacitus in English, and a couple in Latin. There is thus no particular virtue or novelty in one more, but I got tired of not finding the convenience of local links, so I’ve added my own, just in English for now: the Loeb edition — translation by Clifford H. Moore — is about 75 years more recent, and as usual on Lacus, my transcription has its full complement of local links. Here.

Seventeen pages on Roman Nijmegen

25 December 2008
Nijmegen on the Peutinger Map.

Nijmegen on the Peutinger Map.

Nijmegen was not the largest or most important city north of the Alps, and because there is a major city on top of it (Nijmegen is Holland’s tenth city), excavating it is a pretty complex and frustratingly slow process. Still, the cluster of six settlements is one of the most fascinating archaeological projects I know, and fortunately, the Valkhof Museum is up to its task in explaining it to the larger audience.

Milestone along the road to Xanten.

Milestone along the road to Xanten.

Briefly summarized, the Romans arrived in 19 BCE, and founded a military base that was called Hunerberg; next to it were the HQs of the army of the Rhine, which have been identified on the Kops Plateau. To the west was the town where romanized Batavians lived: Batavodurum. In its center was a monument, dedicated to Tiberius. As long as Rome tried to conquer the land east of the Rhine, this was the situation. Later, the Hunerberg was abandoned, and when the limes was created, the Kops Plateau was converted into a cavalry camp.

In 69, the Batavians revolted (one of the subjects of TacitusHistories), and although they achieved some remarkable successes, Rome returned. The Hunerberg became a legionary base again: X Gemina stayed there for about thirty years, and was later replaced by troops from Britain (including a part of VIIII Hispana), and a subunit of XXX Ulpia Victrix. It was a luxurious base, with an aqueduct that was identified only recently.

A glass vase; Valkhof Museum.

A glass vase; Valkhof Museum.

The civil settlement Batavodurum had been destroyed during the Batavian Revolt, and a new city was built in the west, called Noviomagus. There was a bridge across the river Waal, two or three temples have been identified, the baths, the walls, and several splendid tombs.There were important satellite settlements, like the pottery at De Holdeurn, the Batavian sanctuary at Elst, and the bridge at Cuijk, which was vital for reaching Nijmegen.

In the fourth century, the situation had changed. The garrison was now concentrated on the Valkhof hill, and the civil settlement was along the river. It was still called Noviomagus, which became “Niomagus” after the Frankish take-over. The Valkhof remained an important castle, which was used by important rulers like Charlemagne and Frederick Barbarossa.

The Waal and its bridge.

The Waal and its bridge.

The castle was demolished in the eighteenth century, but if you go there, you can still see why this could become a city of some significance: you have a splendid view on the bridge that was so important a target for the Allies during the Second World War. Nijmegen will always be the place of one of the most important river crossings in the Low Countries.

I devoted seventeen pages to ancient Nijmegen, with some ninety photos. And if you prefer to read only about the history, this is your starting page. Enjoy!

[Update: page #18: three maps.]

Photos from Turkey

21 December 2008
The firy breath of the Chimaera

The breath of the Chimaera

Ancient Anatolia was one of the most heavily urbanized parts of the ancient Mediterranean world. Many ruins are well-preserved, making modern Turkey one of the places that any archaeologist, classicist, or historian simply must have seen. And fortunately, travel is easy over there, food is excellent, and the people are among the most friendly and hospitable in the world.

Here are some pages I have recently moved: the tomb of Antiochus II Theos at Belevi, the tombs of the Lydian kings at Bin Tepe, the source of natural gas that was identified with the mythological Chimaera, the rock of Niobe at Magnesia, the city of Olba/Diocaesarea and the nearby tombs of Demircili, the city and theater of Aspendus, the muddy river Meander, the temple of Apollo Smintheus, and the oracle of Apollo at Didyma. Enjoy!

So much for moving my site this weekend; I have stil 138 pages to go…


21 December 2008
Model of the harbor area of Miletus (Pergamon Museum, Berlin)

Model of the harbor area of Miletus (Pergamon Museum, Berlin)

The city of Miletus was already a center of Greek civilization in the Bronze Age, and was to remain the largest Greek city in Asia Minor until the Roman age. Today, however, the ruins are a bit disappointing. There’s the theater, of course, but the ancient market is usually a sad, wet field, and you can not reach most buildings. The best moment to go to there is, I think, the end of summer.

I already had some photos online of our rather disappointing visit; I’ve now added a history of the city. Somehow, the subject did not make me very enthusiastic.

The Roman Bridge at Cendere

20 December 2008

The bridge from the southwest.

The Roman bridge at Cendere, built by the Sixteenth legion Flavia Firma, is a remarkable monument. It is 118 meters long and was part of the road along the Upper Euphrates that had once been Rome’s eastern frontier, but had become a normal province after Septimius Severus‘ eastern conquests. The bridge has been in use for about eighteen centuries, and it was only very recently that a modern bridge was built next to it. Most tourists will pass along Cendere on their road to Nemrud dagi. I used to have a small page dedicated to this monument, but added twelve photos, available here.

Motya and other Mediterranean towns

15 December 2008

A Greek-Phoenician female mask; Museum Villa Whittaker.

A Greek-Phoenician female mask; Museum Villa Whittaker.

Motya is a Phoenician city, situated on a small island in a lagoon in the west of Sicily. The city was destroyed in 396 BCE by Dionysius of Syracuse, but was not really abandoned: archaeologists have found villas from the fourth century. Still, the island had become more or less empty, and remained so until archaeologists started to dig. They found city walls, a port, sanctuaries, and tombs. The finds are now in museums on the island itself, in Marsala, and in Palermo. You can find the first of three pages devoted to Motya here; a satellite photo is here.

I was also occupied with Assos, in the west of Assos. We visited the site in 2004, and later, we saw many finds in the Paris Louvre and the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul. Everything is brought together on this page.

Slonta in Libya is one of the weirdest ancient sanctuaries, as you will see on this page; for a more regular ancient city, go to Roman Cordoba; and for the delighs of rural life, go to Suq al-Awty, which was part of the Limes Tripolitanus.

The regular reader of this blog will have noted that I am still moving pages. I still have 154 pages to go.

Photos from Rome

14 December 2008
Equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius.

Equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius.

Today, I moved the entire photo section of ancient Rome. Even though it is not a fraction of what there is to be seen in the capital of the Mediterranean Empire, it was still thirty-one pages, and even though many were just small, it cost me one day:

Plus Delphi (in fact still to be written), and that’s it for today. Only 161 pages left…

Two little pieces from Libya

13 December 2008
A meadow in the Gebel el-Ahkdar.

A meadow in the Gebel el-Ahkdar.

The Libyan regions known as Gebel as-Soda and the Gebel el-Akhdar are almost each other’s opposite. The first name means “black mountain”, and is a dark, dry sea of basalt where human life is almost impossible. The second name means “green mountain”, and indicates the region directly south of the Mediterranean coast, where the clouds empty themselves, and the rain creates the conditions for agriculture. (And it may be noted that I have now reached 3,300 webpages.)

The Parthenon of Nashville

12 December 2008
Modern reconstruction of Athena of Phidias in Nashville, Tennessee (Parthenon).

Modern reconstruction of Athena of Phidias in Nashville, Tennessee (Parthenon).

Well, Jona, that was a salutary reminder to me to put up my little site on the Parthenon; the one at Nashville, of course, for which the last time I looked, there was no good site online. It is a curious monument, originally built of plaster for a fair, then permanently rebuilt in beige concrete, which they assert was the original color of the temple in Athens — today’s gleaming white being an artifact of weathering! See my diary for further odd details.

Moving Livius.Org (10)

12 December 2008
Modern reconstruction of Athena of Phidias in Athens (Museumpark Orientalis, Netherlands).

Modern reconstruction of Athena of Phidias in Athens (Museumpark Orientalis, Netherlands).

As I have already indicated, I have to move a substantial part of my website because I want to start working with a Content Management System. Today’s harvest of moved items:

  • Fectio, a Roman limes fort close to Utrecht in the Netherlands (and home of the reenactment group with the same name);
  • Gabae, the ancient town that is now called Isfahan;
  • Gandj Nameh, a small valley near Hamadan in Iran, with two ancient inscriptions;
  • Yazd, a town in Iran that is well-known for its Zoroastrian past (although less old than commonly assumed);
  • and finally Athens, a brief article with an URL that will one day be the place where you will find a lot of articles on the Greek city.

Athens is the only article that was not at the same time updated: I already have the photos, but unlike all preceding articles, this time there are litterally hundreds of them, so updating is -at this moment- not a very wise thing to do. I will wait until things will have become easier. I still have 194 pages to go…

The gods must be crazy

11 December 2008

Webmasters have several tools, like Google Analytics, to see what search strings people use to find a particular website. Today, someone reached my website, even though (s)he was looking for divine help. I do not know what it means that the protective deities of the world wide web sent the suppliant to -of all people- me.


Diodorus 31‑32

9 December 2008
A hyena

A hyena.

Books 31 and 32 are now up at Lacus and proofread. This concludes the Web-reproducible portions of the Loeb edition, since, as noted earlier, Books 33‑40 remain under copyright. I will have to round out the author with the next previous edition, which is 150 years older — and it makes a difference in this case, since in the interim significantly better or more manuscripts have been found. There remains the translator’s introduction to Vol. 11, which will have to wait for tomorrow: I’ve got a Dog to walk and a dinner to prepare.

Still, this pseudo-end of Diodorus is in the best tradition of ancient texts: after managing to write soberly for 3000 pages, he finally caves in and concludes Book 32 with a rather long tale about hermaphroditic prodigies, unnatural intercourse, and the biology of the hyena: enjoy.

Carnivoracity, or Sarcophagy

7 December 2008

white_lambFrom lamb to lamb chop — Plutarch as a fired-up young vegetarian: On Eating Meat. (A fragmentary pair of essays)

Roman Trier

7 December 2008
The Porta Nigra.

The Porta Nigra.

Trier was the capital of the tribe of the Treveri, one of the most powerful political units in Gaul. After the Roman conquest, it became an important city, seat of the procurator of Gallia Belgica and -much later- capital of the Praefecture of Gaul.

I have visited the city several times, but usually without my camera. Still, my friends Marco and Richard have made several photos, and in the end, I could create several webpages about this nice town. There is a brief intro, and there are pages on the Imperial Baths, the famous Porta Nigra, the Basilica, and the bridge which is about 1800-1900 years old and still in use. Plus a couple of minor subjects, like the Amphitheater.

There are two excellent museums in Trier, which you simply must visit: the Landesmuseum shows many stone monuments from the city and its surroundings, and has some lovely mosaics and frescos; the Bischöfliches Dom- und Diözesanmuseum has a lot of early Christian art, including the most splendid frescos I have ever seen (with the possible exception of the Sistine Chapel). I hope to post photos of those mosaics later.

Another article on Roman Trier can be found here.

Moving Livius.Org (9)

6 December 2008
A reconstructed Roman watchtower near Rainau.

A reconstructed Roman watchtower near Rainau.

As I already announced, I am moving several pages of my website. Today, I transferred eleven articles from their original sites and gave them new URLs. Firstly, three sites along the Raetian limes: Rainau, Schwäbisch Gmünd-Schirenhof, and Schwäbisch Gmünd-Freimühle. A bit more to the north, the river Lippe, along which the Romans invaded Germania, until they were defeated at Kalkriese (the Teutoburg Forest).

Four minor sites from Greece: Aegae (Macedonian royal tombs), Tempe, Rion and Antirion, and finally the Road of Skiron. From Turkey: Pessinus, once the main sanctuary of Cybele. From the Netherlands: Rijswijk-De Bult.

When I started with this little project, I had to do about 340 pages. Right now, it’s still 204 pages, about two thirds. It looks as if I am making rapid progress, but so far, I have only done the smallest pages, with only a couple of photos. Besides, there are many pages that need revision. So I think Bill was right when he said that I would be busy until May 22, 2010.

Moving Livius.Org (8)

5 December 2008
The river Eurymedon

The river Eurymedon

As I already announced, I am moving several pages of my website to facilitate a transfer to a Content Management System. Today, I transferred seven articles from their original sites and gave them new URLs:

  • Carmo: a provincial town in ancient Spain;
  • The Cilician Gate: one of the main roads through the Taurus mountains, of great strategic importance;
  • Eurymedon: the site where the Athenian commander Cimon twice defeated the Persians;
  • Istakhr: an ancient Sasanian residence, of which very little remains;
  • Cape Mycale: the site where the Greek navy defeated the Persian navy;
  • Pactolus: a little river with gold dust;
  • Taurus: a mountain range in southern Turkey.

Still 213 pages to go…

Diodorus 23‑25

4 December 2008


Books 23, 24 and 25 are now up too: more fragments.

By now, as I round the bend toward the end of Mr. Diodorus — only about 150pp before I hit the wall of copyrighted material (fortunately not much: the very fragmentary Books 33‑40, only 150pp of text total, less than 5% of the Library of History) — I’m beginning to have my own burgeoning theory of why the text of Diodorus hasn’t survived as well as others, and very noticeably, the parts dealing with Rome: he is not pro-Roman. Never failing to point out the cruelty, rapacity, and impiety of the Romans, he would not have been a great favorite among Roman readers. Conversely and less grimly, it’s even rather funny, he goes out of his way several times, whenever something unsavory is afoot, to point out that Greeks had nothing do with it; or if they did, that they wuz just mongrels! (25.2.2)

An interesting little item is a passage in which by way of supplication after Cannae Roman matrons purportedly “cleansed the statues [of the gods] with their hair” (25.19); the similarity to the New Testament story of Mary Magdalen is made more striking by a whiff of a connection with sexual promiscuity (and the traditional association of Magdalen with the woman caught in sin, even though it may not be warranted by the Biblical text). Unfortunately, this particular passage of Diodorus comes to us via Tzetzes, 12c and Christian — so that we’re up in the air whether this is a separate, and earlier, ancient instance of this pilose or trichic practice, or just contamination by someone who’d read the later tale. On balance, following what in fact is a solid principle of Biblical exegesis, I plump for the former: the tale is so bizarre that why would it suddenly surface here if there were no reason for it, i.e. if it were not in the text of Diodorus?

Diodorus Books 21‑22

2 December 2008

Νὴ Δία, what donkey-work. Books 21 and 22 now up: fragments, some of them interesting.

Book 21 has the story of Alaric’s treasure buried in the river (5c AD), or wait, no, is it Decebalus’ treasure buried in the river Sargentius (2c AD); no, hang on, it’s Audoleon’s treasure buried in the river Sargentius (3c BC) — hmm, probably only one of these stories is true, if any of them. Read: urban legend. River remains unidentified, and of course, none of these three purported treasures has ever been found.

Book 22 mentions toothpicks. An obvious idea, but there’s not much in our literary sources about ancient dental hygiene (other than the nastinesses of tooth powder etc., for which see Smith’s Dictionary, s.vDentifricium).

Going back a bit, Book 20 is interesting primarily for confirmation from an unlikely source — the writer of an ancient history himself! — that everybody knows that we don’t read those long-winded rhetorical speeches put by many ancient authors in their characters’ mouths (20.1.1‑5).

Antioch and the Orontes

1 December 2008
the battlefield in 1274 BCE.

The plain of the Orontes near Kadesh: the battlefield in 1274 BCE.

The valley of the middle Orontes is not only extremely fertile, it is also flat, so that armies can easily encounter each other. The river has seen many military engagements. The most famous of these is the Battle of Kadesh in 1274 BCE, in which the armies of the Hittite king Muwatalli II and pharaoh Ramses II clashed; the latter won a tactical victory, but had to admit that the valley was taken over by the Hittites. Many other encounters have been recorded.

In c.300 BCE, Seleucus I Nicator founded three cities along the river: Apamea, Antioch, and Seleucia. Antioch became the main residence of his dynasty and the capital of the Roman province Syria. Today, it is a lively city, with a splendid museum full of ancient mosaics. I moved and expanded my page on Antioch; it is now here. Only 220 pages to go.

And for those interested in Diodorus of Sicily‘s Library of World History: Bill Thayer has now completed the online edition of Book 20.


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