Friday, 28 April 2017

Artifacts from Rome Subway Work

Construction of the subway in Rome has resulted in scores of treasures from ancient times. A plethora of ancient Roman objects featuring amphora, marble panels, coins and peach pits have been uncovered and are on display at the Metro C archaeological exhibit. Officials are already planning to have a permanent exhibit of the excavated articles at the San Giovanni metro station.

An archaeologist checks human bones at ancient Roman ruins of former barracks. 13 skeletons were found.
The barracks were for Roman Praetorian guards dating back to the period of Emperor Hadrian. The Praetorian Guard were elite military troops established by the 2nd century BC. They were household troops of Roman emperors and acted as bodyguards to generals.

Notable finds included a three-pronged iron pitchfork, storage baskets, leather fragments possibly from a farmhand's glove or shoe, and traces carved into stone by a waterwheel's repeated turning. Peach pits, presumably from the farm's orchard, also were found. Peaches were still a novelty, first imported from the Middle East. Ancient Romans recycled. Amphorae, the jars they favored to transport and store food, were lined up with their ends cut open to double as water conduits. Other older signs of life were carriage ruts from as long ago as the 6th century B.C.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Sisyphus

In Greek mythology Sisyphus was the king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth). He was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, repeating this action for eternity.

Sisyphus promoted navigation and commerce but was avaricious and deceitful. He also killed travelers and guests, a violation of xenia, which fell under Zeus's domain. He took pleasure in these killings because they allowed him to maintain his iron-fisted rule.

Persephone supervising Sisyphus in the Underworld.

Hades with Cerberus - Pluto Carricci painting
Sisyphus was notorious for his cunning. His greatest triumph came at the end of his life, when the god Hades came to claim him personally for the kingdom of the dead. Hades had brought along a pair of handcuffs, and Sisyphus expressed such an interest that Hades was persuaded to demonstrate their use - on himself.

The lord of the Underworld was kept locked up by Sisyphus, which meant nobody could die.
As a punishment for his trickery against the Gods, King Sisyphus was made to endlessly roll a huge boulder up a steep hill. The maddening nature of the punishment was reserved for him due to his belief that his cleverness surpassed that of Zeus. Zeus displayed his own cleverness by enchanting the boulder into rolling away from King Sisyphus before he reached the top which ended up consigning Sisyphus to an eternity of useless efforts and unending frustration.

Pointless or interminable activities are described as Sisyphean.


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are described in the last book of the New Testament of the Bible, called the Book of Revelation of Jesus Christ to John of Patmos, at 6:1-8. The chapter tells of a book or scroll in God's right hand that is sealed with seven seals. The Lamb of God opens the first four of the seven seals, which summons four beings that ride out on white, red, black, and pale horses.

The four riders are often seen as symbolizing Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death. The Christian apocalyptic vision is that the four horsemen are to set a divine apocalypse upon the world as harbingers of the Last Judgment.

Albrecht Dürer, Knight, Death and the Devil, 1513
The first horseman is called Pestilence, and is associated with infectious disease and plague. It appears at least as early as 1906. "They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine, plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth." (Revelation 6:7-8 NASB). It is a matter of debate as to whether this passage refers to the fourth rider, or to the four riders as a whole.

The rider of the second horse is often taken to represent War. His horse's color is red. The color red, as well as the rider's possession of a great sword, suggests blood that is to be spilled.

When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him. — Revelation 6:3-4

When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; but do not damage the oil and the wine.”
The third horseman rides a black horse and is popularly understood to be Famine as the horseman carries a pair of balances or weighing scales, indicating the way that bread would have been weighed during a famine. — Revelation 6:5-6
The fourth and final horseman is named Death. Of all the riders, he is the only one to whom the text explicitly gives a name. Unlike the other three, he is not described carrying a weapon or other object, instead he is followed by Hades. Illustrations commonly depict him carrying a scythe.

When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth. — Revelation 6:7-8

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Salem’s Lost Gallows - Proctor’s Ledge

A rocky outcrop called Proctor’s Ledge has been confirmed as the site where 19 people accused of witchcraft were hanged in Salem, Massachusetts.

The Salem witch trials were a series of prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693.
The trials resulted in the executions of twenty people, fourteen of them women, and all but one by hanging. Five others (including two infants) died in prison. The episode is one of Colonial America's most notorious cases of mass hysteria.

Hundreds faced accusations of witchcraft; dozens languished in jail for months without trials.

Sometime in February of 1692, Betty Parris became strangely ill. She dashed about, dove under furniture, contorted in pain, and complained of fever. The cause of her symptoms may have been caused by a disease called "convulsive ergotism" brought on by ingesting rye infected with ergot. Convulsive ergotism causes violent fits, a crawling sensation on the skin, vomiting, choking, and hallucinations. LSD is a derivative of ergot.

Talk of witchcraft increased when other playmates of Betty began to exhibit similar unusual behavior. Everyone began to believe that the devil was real and close at hand.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Octavian and the Battle of Actium

Octavian was the son of Julius Caesar's niece. Octavian was only 20 years old when he learned of Caesar's assassination. Caesar had adopted him as his son posthumously, and Octavian returned to Italy to avenge his murder.

He leveraged his association with Caesar to gain power. In 43 BCE, he formed the Second Triumvirate with Marc Antony and Lepidus. They defeated Brutus and Cassius and divided the empire, with Octavian holding most of the West and Antony the East.
Antony grew progressively closer to Cleopatra while Octavian worked to restore Italy. In 33 BC, the Second Triumvirate ended, leaving Antony without any legal authority. Octavian then began a campaign against Antony, declaring war against Cleopatra.
Octavian’s admiral Marcus Agrippa held Antony’s fleet back in the bay of Actium in Greece. On September 2, Antony and Cleopatra managed to escape and break free, accompanied by a small squadron, leaving the rest of his men to surrender to Octavian. Antony fled to Alexandria where he and Cleopatra eventually took their own lives in August, 30 BCE after being cornered by Octavian; this marked the end of the Roman civil wars. Rome was officially transformed from a Republic to a Principate in January, 27 BCE. Octavian renounced his old name and only used “Augustus”.
Over the next 40 years, Augustus shared his authority with the Senate. It would not be until Augustus’ coinage reform in 23 BCE that the gold aureus would come into standard use. In addition to his reorganization of the state and institutions of Rome, Augustus introduced a formal system of fixed ratios between denominations of coins.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Hydra

The Lernaean Hydra was a serpentine water monster in Greek and Roman mythology. Its lair was the lake of Lerna. Lerna was reputed to be an entrance to the Underworld. In myth, the monster is killed by Hercules, using sword and fire, as the second of his twelve labors.

According to Hesiod, the Hydra was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna. It possessed many heads. Later versions of the Hydra story add a regeneration feature to the monster: for every head chopped off, the Hydra would regrow new heads. The Hydra had poisonous breath and blood so virulent that even its scent was deadly.

He then confronted the Hydra, wielding either a harvesting sickle, a sword, or his famed club.
Eurystheus sent Hercules to slay the Hydra, which Hera had raised just to slay Hercules. Upon reaching the swamp near Lake Lerna, where the Hydra dwelt, Hercules covered his mouth and nose with a cloth to protect himself from the poisonous fumes. He shot flaming arrows into the Hydra's lair, a deep cave from which it emerged only to terrorize neighboring villages.
The weakness of the Hydra was that it was invulnerable only if it retained at least one head. Realizing that he could not defeat the Hydra, Heracles called on his nephew Iolaus for help. His nephew then came upon the idea of using a firebrand to scorch the neck stumps after each decapitation. Heracles cut off each head and Iolaus cauterized the open stumps. Seeing that Heracles was winning the struggle, Hera sent a giant crab to distract him. He crushed it under his mighty foot. The Hydra's one immortal head was cut off with a golden sword given to Heracles by Athena.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Newly discovered Egyptian carnivore hunted our ancestors 40 million years ago

A new species of long extinct carnivorous mammal from Egypt has been identified by scientists. The animal, known as Masrasector nananubis, was once near the top of the African food chain and lived in the same ecosystem that was home to our earliest monkey-like relatives. Researchers suggest that our ancient ancestors could have once been hunted by Masrasector.
Masrasector was a small mammal that ate large rodents and other mammals.
The species name, nananubis, means 'tiny Anubis,' because it resembles the jackal-headed Ancient Egyptian god of the afterlife. Masrasector nananubis was part of an extinct group called hyaenodonts. Hyaenodonts were the only meat-eating mammals in Africa for over 40 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs, lasting until around seven million years ago. The specimens were discovered in a quarry called Locality-41, one of the most fossil-rich places from the beginning of the Age of Mammals in Africa.

Spectacular Ancient Bronze

Dated to around 330 BC, the bronze Boxer at Rest is a Hellenistic Greek sculpture of a sitting nude boxer at rest, still wearing his caestus, a type of leather hand-wrap, in the collection of the National Museum of Rome.  The Boxer was discovered in 1885, possibly from the remains of the Baths of Constantine.
“Portrait of Seuthes III” (about 310-300 B.C.), Greek. Bronze, copper, calcite, alabaster, and glass. Seuthes III was a ruler of the Odrysian kingdom of Thrace from 331 BC to ca. 300 BC. This bronze was found in his tomb.

“The Medici Riccardi Horse” About 350 B.C. Italian Bronze and gold.
The bronze "Chimera of Arezzo" is one of the best known examples of the art of the Etruscans. It was found in Arezzo, an ancient Etruscan and Roman city in Tuscany, in 1553.

Inscribed on its right foreleg is an inscription, TINSCVIL, showing that the bronze was a votive object dedicated to the supreme Etruscan god of day, Tin or Tinia. The statue is estimated to have been created around 400 BC.
The over-lifesize "Dancing Satyr" of Mazara del Vallo is a Greek bronze statue recovered from the sea floor at a depth of 500m (1600 ft.) off the southwestern coast of Sicily in 1998.

The satyr is depicted in mid-leap, head thrown back ecstatically and back arched, his hair swinging with the movement of his head. The figure is highly refined; the whites of his eyes are inlays of white alabaster.
Artemis and the Stag is an early Roman Imperial or Hellenistic bronze sculpture of the ancient Greek goddess Artemis. In June 2007 the statue fetched $28.6 million at auction, the highest sale price of any sculpture at the time.

The statue depicts Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunting and wild animals. She stands in a pose that suggests she has just released an arrow from her bow. At some point in its history, the bow was separated from the sculpture and was lost.
Alexander the Great on Horseback, 100-1 B.C., bronze and silver.

Victorious Athlete, "The Getty Bronze" 300-100 B.C.
They are the 2,500 year-old Riace Bronzes - a pair of towering statues of naked Greek warriors.

With their rippling muscles, thick beards and manes of curling hair they are extraordinarily life-like. Their teeth are made of gleaming silver. Copper gives their lips and nipples a reddish tinge, and glass and ivory were used for their eyes.