Head of Julia DomnaAD 193-217
Arch of Septimius Severus in Leptis Magna, modern day Libya.
Mummy Portrait of a Girl - Roman Egypt 120-150 AD; Wax colors (encaustic) on sycamore wood.
Mumienbildnis eines Mädchens, römisches Ägypten 120–150 n. Chr.; Wachsfarben (Enkaustik) auf Sykomorenholz.
It was common practice in antiquity to dedicate representations of afflicted parts at a healing shrine, either as an offering of thanks for a cure or in hope of one. The inscription on this marble relief reads: Ἀσκληπίῳ καὶ Ὑγ(ι)είᾳ εὐχαριστήριον, and can be translated as ‘Tyche [dedicated this] to Asklepios and Hygieia as a thank offering’. Hygieia was the female companion of Asklepios, the god of medicine and son of Apollo, and is often represented with him. The shape of the Greek letter ‘S’ after the first ‘A’ allows us to date the relief to the Roman period.
The relief was found in 1828 in the same sanctuary on Mílos as a colossal marble head of Asklepios himself. A round votive altar was also found, inscribed with a dedication to Asklepios and Hygieia by a priest named Claudius Gallinus.
2nd century AD, found in the Shrine of Asklepios on the Island of Milos, Aegean Sea
© Trustees of the British Museum, London
Apollo Playing the Lute. 1874. Briton Riviere. British 1840-1920. oil /canvas.
Orichalcum Sestertius of Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus (AD 69-79)
Among the finest known, a numismatic masterpiece with a bird’s eye view of the Flavian Amphitheater.
On the coin is the Flavian Amphitheater (The Colosseum) of Rome. In the reverse is inscribed IMP T CAES VESP AVG P M TR P P P COS VIII with Titus seated on curule chair, holding branch and scroll; below, on either side of him is a pile of arms. In the field, S – C.
From a numismatic perspective, the Colosseum is among the hardest to collect of Roman monument representations. It only occurs on coinage three times and each issue is scarce. It first appears on sestertii of Titus, the emperor under whom the Colosseum was completed, and later on coins of Severus Alexander and medallions of Gordian III.
Orichalcum is a metal mentioned in several ancient writings, including the story of Atlantis as recounted in the Critias dialogue, recorded by Plato. According to Critias, orichalcum was considered second only to gold in value, and was found and mined in many parts of Atlantis in ancient times. However, by the time of Critias (5th century BC), it was known by name only. In numismatics, orichalcum is the golden-colored bronze alloy used for the Roman sestertius and dupondius coins.
But as Vesuvius began emitting black clouds of ash, and the danger became more obvious, most people fled or sought shelter. So what did they reach for in the hours before the fatal eruption? There are many practical items like lamps and lanterns. Even before nightfall, the cities could have been plunged into darkness ahead of the main eruption which came shortly after midnight. Some people had their keys, clearly hopeful that they would be returning home. Hundreds of refugees from Herculaneum had taken shelter in the vaulted arcades at the beach, perhaps hoping to be rescued, clutching their jewellery and money.
Among them was a young girl found with a charm bracelet, constructed of more than 40 charms from all over the Roman empire. She may have hoped it would bring her good luck. The bracelet would have had “no financial value,” says Paul Roberts, “but is a very poignant object, which must have had sentimental value for its owner.”
People took things that had personal meaning - a doctor was found with his medical kit, which included scalpels, forceps, and a needle. “We can never know if this was to safeguard the tools of his trade, or a valiant attempt to help the wounded,” says Roberts.
One woman was found with bags of jewellery, and gold and silver coins - more wealth than found with any other body. Around her neck was a large necklace, or “body chain”, which she must have been particularly attached to, as it was the only piece of jewellery she was wearing.
Along with more precious items, there was a single battered earring and fragments of an armlet - suggesting that she didn’t have time to carefully choose what she took, but may have simply grabbed or tipped her jewels into a bag as she fled.
The possessions of another young woman, found outside Pompeii’s Nola gate, suggest that superstition and faith played their part as the victims tried desperately to escape from the rising heat and falling pumice. The “Porta Nola” girl carried a silver statuette of the Egyptian goddess Isis-Fortuna, protective silver amulets including one in the shape of a phallus which was thought to protect against the evil eye, and rings containing icons associated with luck. It is impossible to know whether she, or any of the victims, grabbed those objects at the last minute, but she had clearly tried to protect herself from bad fortune….
People in Pompeii and Herculaneum were also found with impractical items, says Paul Roberts. Some had bulky silver pots, which would have made it hard to escape with any speed, but would have been seen as a valuable item that they could trade for food or money.
(via BBC History)
Terracotta oil lamp decorated on the discus with a winged Victory holding a shield, inscribed with a New Year’s wish for happiness: Annu(m) / Nov(u)m Fau/stum Fel/icem mi/hi, “I (wish) for a happy and prosperous new year”.
Around her are representations of things that were usually given as gifts to celebrate the New Year—money (in the form of three by-then old coins, showing a Janus-head of Republican type, a Victory and clasping hands around a caduceus) and dried fruit (dates and figs).
These lamps represent a reification of a social practice that is also well attested in literary and documentary sources. The most explicit description and explanation of this custom is found in book I of Ovid’s fasti. This poem follows the traditional Roman calendar and so begins with the Kalends of January. The poet is visited by the god Janus and takes this opportunity to inquire as to the meaning of the customs of the holiday:
I followed his final words with my own:
‘What do the gifts of dates and dried figs mean’,
I said, ‘And the honey glistening in a snow-white jar?’
‘For the omen,’ he said, ‘so that events match the savour,
So the course of the year might be sweet as its start.’
‘I see why sweet things are given. Explain the reason
For gifts of money, so I mistake no part of your festival.’
He laughed and said: ‘How little you know of your age,
If you think that honey’s sweeter to it than gold!
I’ve hardly seen anyone, even in Saturn’s reign,
Who in his heart didn’t find money sweet.
Love of it grew with time, and is now at its height,
Since it would be hard put to increase much further.
Wealth is valued more highly now, than in those times
When people were poor, and Rome was new,
When a small hut held Romulus, son of Mars,
And reeds from the river made a scanty bed.
Jupiter complete could barely stand in his low shrine,
And the lightning bolt in his right hand was of clay.
They decorated the Capitol with leaves, not gems,
And the senators grazed their sheep themselves.
There was no shame in taking one’s rest on straw,
And pillowing one’s head on the cut hay.
Cincinnatus left the plough to judge the people,
And the slightest use of silver plate was forbidden.
But ever since Fortune, here, has raised her head,
And Rome has brushed the heavens with her brow,
Wealth has increased, and the frantic lust for riches,
So that those who possess the most seek for more.
They seek to spend, compete to acquire what’s spent,
And so their alternating vices are nourished.
Like one whose belly is swollen with dropsy
The more they drink, they thirstier they become.
Wealth is the value now: riches bring honours,
Friendship too: everywhere the poor are hidden.
And you still ask me if gold’s useful in augury,
And why old money’s a delight in our hands?
Once men gave bronze, now gold grants better omens,
Old money, conquered, gives way to the new.
We too delight in golden temples, however much
We approve the antique: such splendour suits a god.
We praise the past, but experience our own times:
Yet both are ways worthy of being cultivated.’
Ovidio, Fasti, I, 184-226. [x]
50 - 100 AD
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
A quick look at: Acueducto de los Milagros, Mérida, Spain.
This Roman aqueduct was dubbed Acueducto de los Milagros ("Miraculous Aqueduct") by the inhabitants of Mérida for the fact that it was still standing, and for the awe that it evoked.
This aqueduct was located in the Roman colony of Emerita Augusta (present day Mérida), which was founded by Augustus Caesar in 25 BC. The construction of the aqueduct itself is thought to have taken place during the 1st century AD, with later construction or renovations occurring around 300 AD.
The structure was built to supply water to Emerita Augusta. This water was originally brought to the city from Lago de Proserpina -a reservoir which was fed by the Las Pardillas stream, about 5km north-west of Mérida. 38 pillars which stand 25 metres high along some 830 metres remains today. The structure is constructed from opus mixtum.
The Romans constructed aqueducts to supply water from distant sources to their towns and cities, supplying public baths, private households, etc. Water was moved by the aqueducts through gravity, the aqueducts were built on an ever-so-slight downward gradient. This diagram is useful in showing how Roman aqueducts worked.
Photo courtesy & taken by Jane Drumsara.
The famous ‘Elephant Denarius’ of Julius Caesar, struck in a traveling mint, c. 49-48 BC
On the obverse is a group of religious symbols including a simpulum (libation ladle), an aspergillum (implement used to sprinkle holy water), an axe surmounted by a wolf’s head, and an apex (hat). On the reverse, an Elephant advancing right, trampling on a horned serpent, CAESAR inscription below.
It is estimated that 22 million of these were minted, making them the third most minted coin of the Roman Republic and enough to pay eight legions. This coin coincides with the time when Caesar took gold and silver bouillon from the Temple of Saturn treasury in Rome, which is likely the source of the metals used in this coinage.
It has been suggested that Caesar’s use of the elephant was intended to humiliate the self-important Pompey, who had tried to associate himself with Alexander the Great by riding one of Alexander’s symbols, the elephant, in his triumphal procession. Pompey had embarrassingly failed to fit the beast into the city.
The religious symbols associate Caesar with his prestigious pontifical position as the head of Rome’s religious hierarchy. Caesar had been Pontifex Maximus since 63 BC.
Scythian Gold Double Dragon Torc Necklace from Central Asia (200 BC - 0)
I hate to be a smartass, but there was no year zero!
Heracleion Photos: Lost Egyptian City Revealed After 1,200 Years Under Sea
It is a city shrouded in myth, swallowed by the Mediterranean Sea and buried in sand and mud for more than 1,200 years. But now archeologists are unearthing the mysteries of Heracleion, uncovering amazingly well-preserved artifacts that tell the story of a vibrant classical-era port.
Known as Heracleion to the ancient Greeks and Thonis to the ancient Eygptians, the city was rediscovered in 2000 by French underwater archaeologist Dr. Franck Goddio and a team from the European Institute for Underwater Acheology (IEASM) after a four-year geophysical survey. The ruins of the lost city were found 30 feet under the surface of the Mediterranean Sea in Aboukir Bay, near Alexandria.
A new documentary highlights the major discoveries that have been unearthed at Thonis-Heracleion during a 13-year excavation. Exciting archeological finds help describe an ancient city that was not only a vital international trade hub but possibly an important religious center. The television crew used archeological survey data to construct a computer model of the city (above, last image).
According to the Telegraph, leading research now suggests that Thonis-Heracleion served as a mandatory port of entry for trade between the Mediterranean and the Nile.
So far, 64 ancient shipwrecks and more than 700 anchors have been unearthed from the mud of the bay, the news outlet notes. Other findings include gold coins, weights from Athens (which have never before been found at an Egyptian site) and giant tablets inscribed in ancient Greek and ancient Egyptian. Researchers think that these artifacts point to the city’s prominence as a bustling trade hub.
Researchers have also uncovered a variety of religious artifacts in the sunken city, including 16-foot stone sculptures thought to have adorned the city’s central temple and limestone sarcophagi that are believed to have contained mummified animals.
For more photos, visit Goddio’s Heracleion website.
Experts have marveled at the variety of artifacts found and have been equally impressed by how well preserved they are.
“The archaeological evidence is simply overwhelming,” Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe, a University of Oxford archeologist taking part in the excavation, said in a press release obtained by The Huffington Post. “By lying untouched and protected by sand on the sea floor for centuries they are brilliantly preserved.”
A panel of experts presented their findings at an Oxford University conference on the Thonis-Heracleion excavation earlier this year.
But despite all the excitement over the excavation, one mystery about Thonis-Heracleion remains largely unsolved: Why exactly did it sink? Goddio’s team suggests the weight of large buildings on the region’s water-logged clay and sand soil may have caused the city to sink in the wake of an earthquake.
PHOTO GALLERY: Lost city of Heracleion
From Legend to Reality
Thonis-Heracleion (the Egyptian and Greek names of the city) is a city lost between legend and reality. Before the foundation of Alexandria in 331 BC, the city knew glorious times as the obligatory port of entry to Egypt for all ships coming from the Greek world. It had also a religious importance because of the temple of Amun, which played an important role in rites associated with dynasty continuity. The city was founded probably around the 8th century BC, underwent diverse natural catastrophes, and finally sunk entirely into the depths of the Mediterranean in the 8th century AD.
Prior to its discovery in 2000 by the IEASM, no trace of Thonis-Heracleion had been found. Its name was almost razed from the memory of mankind, only preserved in ancient classic texts and rare inscriptions found on land by archaeologists. The Greek historian Herodotus (5th century BC) tells us of a great temple that was built where the famous hero Herakles first set foot on to Egypt. He also reports of Helen’s visit to Heracleion with her lover Paris before the Trojan War. More than four centuries after Herodotus’ visit to Egypt, the geographer Strabo observed that the city of Heracleion, which possessed the temple of Herakles, is located straight to the east of Canopus at the mouth of the Canopic branch of the River Nile.
With his unique survey-based approach that utilises the most sophisticated technical equipment, Franck Goddio and his team from the IEASM, in cooperation with the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, were able to locate, map and excavate parts of the city of Thonis-Heracleion, which lies 6.5 kilometres off today’s coastline. The city is located within an overall research area of 11 by 15 kilometres in the western part of Aboukir Bay. Franck Goddio has found important information on the ancient landmarks of Thonis-Heracleion, such as the grand temple of Amun and his son Khonsou (Herakles for the Greeks), the harbours that once controlled all trade into Egypt, and the daily life of its inhabitants. He has also solved a historic enigma that has puzzled Egyptologists over the years: the archaeological material has revealed that Heracleion and Thonis were in fact one and the same city with two names; Heracleion being the name of the city for the Greeks and Thonis for the Egyptians.
The objects recovered from the excavations illustrate the cities’ beauty and glory, the magnificence of their grand temples and the abundance of historic evidence: colossal statues, inscriptions and architectural elements, jewellery and coins, ritual objects and ceramics - a civilization frozen in time.
The quantity and quality of the archaeological material excavated from the site of Thonis-Heracleion show that this city had known a time of opulence and a peak in its occupation from the 6th to the 4th century BC. This is readily seen in the large quantity of coins and ceramics dated to this period.
The port of Thonis-Heracleion had numerous large basins and functioned as a hub of international trade. The intense activity in the port fostered the city’s prosperity. More than seven hundred ancient anchors of various forms and over 60 wrecks dating from the 6th to the 2nd century BC are also an eloquent testimony to the intensity of maritime activity here.
The city extended all around the temple and a network of canals in and around the city must have given it a lake dwelling appearance. On the islands and islets dwellings and secondary sanctuaries were located. Excavations here have revealed beautiful archaeological material such as bronze statuettes. On the north side of the temple to Herakles, a grand canal flowed through the city from east to west and connected the port basins with a lake to the west.
How the Ancient Romans made glass.
From the series, What the Ancients Did For US