21 February 2009
Plutarch, bust from the museum of Delphi.
Again a treatise by Plutarch online at LacusCurtius: this time, the venerable author deals with the Principle of Cold (Περὶ τοῦ πρώτως Ψυχροῦ), and that turns out to be far more interesting than you would think.
First, Plutarch argues that an “element of cold” exists, and then, he Plutarch considers what that element may be. Since fire is obviously excluded, can it be air, as the Stoics believe, or water, as Empedocles holds? Or, indeed, may it be earth itself? This latter opinion is put forward by Plutarch as his own contribution to theoretical physics, but the essay closes with a recommendation to skepticism. The Sage of Chaeronea may not have regarded his attempted proof as cogent, as indeed it is not.
8 February 2009
Magians performing a sacrifice
Dascylium (satellite photo), situated to the southeast of Lake Dascylitis on a bank of a river, was the capital of the Persian satrapy of Hellespontine Phrygia and the residence of the Pharnacid dynasty (Artabazus, Pharnabazus, Pharnaces, Pharnabazus, Ariobarzanes, and Artabazus), until it was captured by Parmenion, a general of Alexander the Great, after the battle of the Granicus (334). The site is famous for several fifth-century reliefs, showing Persian Magians performing sacrifices; they are now among the (many) highlights of the Arkeoloji Müzesi of Istanbul.
My new page is here. As I already announced, I am moving several pages of my website; I also moved Shushthar to a new location – so now there’s 121 pages left to do.
7 February 2009
The southern wall and the citadel
The big wars between the Roman Empire and the Sasanian king Shapur in the mid-third century proved that Rome’s defenses on the Euphrates were insufficient. The Palmyrene rulers therefore built Fort Zenobia, named after their queen/empress, and now better known as Halebiye. It was rebuilt several times, a/o by the Byzantine emperor Justinian. This reconstruction is described in some detail by Procopius (Buildings, 2.8.8-25).
On the opposite bank is a similar fort, poorly preserved, now called Zalebiye. This gained some fame as the place of an Israeli air strike in September 2007.
A view from the citadel.
Zenobia, which covers about twelve hectares, remains impressive: the fifteen massive towers and the praetorium are almost intact, just like Justinian’s fantastic walls. The southern wall is about 550 meters long and connects the citadel on the hill to the river; the northern wall is 350 meters long. The praetorium is adjacent to the northern wall, halfway up the hill: a multi-storeyed building with a very large hall that would have been called a knight room in more recent fortifications.
Less well preserved are the 385‑meter-long wall along the river, which had to contain the Euphrates, the bathhouse, the palaestra, the governor’s house, and the two basilicas. The East Basilica probably dates to the fifth century, the West Basilica was built by Justinian.
My new webpage is here. And it is little bit special, because it is the 3333rd page on the site.
7 February 2009
Map of the Neronian Sacra Via
The Via Sacra (or Sacra Via) in Rome is the road that connects the valley that is now dominated by the Colosseum, passing over the crest of the Velia, to the Forum Romanum. People celebrating a triumph used this road. What you can see today when you walk from the Temple of Caesar to the Arch of Titus is the road as it was in the age of Augustus.
However, it is possible to imagine what it looked like at a later stage. In an article originally posted in the American Journal of Archaeology (in 1923), Esther Boise Van Deman showed how the area was restructured during the last regnal years of Nero: a straight road leading to the Vestibulum of the Golden House (where the Colossus stood) with basilicas to the left and right – now the site of the Basilica of Maxentius and the Horrea of Vespasian. The article has been made available now by LacusCurtius‘ Bill Thayer, and you can find it here.
5 February 2009
Most scholars (like this one) believe that Velia is the ancient name of the ridge that connects the Palatine and the Esquiline; it is one of the eight places mentioned in the list known as Septimontium. In an article on the historical topography of the Velia, originally in the Transactions of the American Philological Association, H.F. Rebert shows that the name Velia in fact refers to a slightly different area, to the west of what is now believed to be the Velia. The article has been made available now by LacusCurtius‘ Bill Thayer, and you can find it here.
2 February 2009
A cat opens a door (Side).
If you think that a door is just there to enter a house, you haven’t read James Yates’ article Janua, which was published in William Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities and has now been made available by LacusCurtius‘ Bill Thayer. I was impressed that there was so much to tell about the structure of a door, about customs (like knocking), and about religious beliefs. Yates’ piece was written in 1875, and much archaeological and anthropological research has been done since then, but I wonder if it is possible to add more information. So, enjoy it.