LLR Books

Epimetheus

The Greek god Epimetheus was a titan and the brother of Prometheus. he is the titan responsible for letting the evils into the world by accepting the gift of the first woman, Pandora from Zeus

Dionysus

Dionysus is the son of Zeus and a mortal woman named Semele. He is the youngest of the Gods and the only main God to have a mortal parent. He and Hermes replaced the Gods Hades and Hestia as main Greek Gods. He was raised in Asia, and is said to be insane. He is also the God of wine and partying. He is a major God in everyday life for the Greeks, there is a large party once a year for him

The Fourth Part of the World

"[Matthias Ringmann and Martin Waldseemuller and their colleagues] decided to produce a geographical package consisting of three parts: a huge new map of the whole world, dedicated to Maximilian I (the Holy Roman Emperor and thus the symbolic head of the Germanic people), that would sum up ancient and modern geographical learning; a tiny version of that map, printed as a series of globe gores that could be pasted onto a small ball, creating the world's first mass-produced globe; and a sort of users' guide to those two maps, titled Introduction to Cosmography. ... It was a profound moment in the history of cartography - and in the larger history of ideas. ...


"The bulk of the work - the design of the map and the globe, and the writing of the Introduction to Cosmography - fell to Waldseemuller and Ringmann. Ringmann took the lead in writing the book. Libraries today credit Waldseemuller as the author, but the book actually names no author, and Ringmann's fingerprints appear all over it. ... Ringmann the writer, Waldseemuller the mapmaker. ...

"Why dwell on this question of authorship? Because whoever wrote the Introduction to Cosmography almost certainly coined the name America (which would have been pronounced 'Amer-eeka'). Here, too, the balance tilts in Ringmann's favor. Consider the famous passage in which the author steps forward to explain and justify the use of the name.

" 'These parts have in fact now been more widely explored, and a fourth part has been discovered by Amerigo Vespucci (as will be heard in what follows). Since both Asia and Africa received their names from women, I do not see why anyone should rightly prevent this [new part] from being called Amerigen - the land of Amerigo, as it were - or America, after its discoverer, Americus, a man of perceptive character.'

"This sounds a lot like Ringmann, who is known to have spent time mulling over the reasons that concepts and places so often had the names of women. 'Why are all the virtues, the intellectual qualities, and the sciences always symbolized as if they belonged to the feminine sex?' he would write in a 1511 essay on the Muses. 'Where does this custom spring from - a usage common not only to the pagan writers but also to the scholars of the church? It originated from the belief that knowledge is destined to be fertile of good works. ... Even the three parts of the old world received the name of women.'

"The naming-of-America passage reveals Ringmann's hand in other ways, too. In his poetry and prose Ringmann regularly amused himself by making up words, by punning in different languages, and by investing his writing with hidden meanings for his literary friends to find and savor. The passage is rich in just this sort of wordplay, much of which requires a familiarity with Greek, a language Waldseemuller didn't know.

"The key to the passage, almost always ignored or overlooked, is the curious name Amerigen - a coinage that involves just the kind of multifaceted, multilingual punning that Ringmann frequently indulged in. The word combines Amerigo with gen, a form of the Greek word for 'earth,' creating the meaning that the author goes on to propose - 'the land of Amerigo.' But the word yields other meanings, too. Gen can also mean 'born' in Greek, and the word ameros can mean "new," making it possible to read Amerigen as not only 'land of Amerigo' but also 'born new' - a double entendre that would have delighted Ringmann, and one that very nicely complements the idea of fertility that he associated with female names. The name may also contain a play on meros, a Greek word that can sometimes be translated as 'place.' Here Amerigen becomes A-meri-gen, or 'No-place-land': not a bad way to describe a previously unnamed continent whose geography is still uncertain."

Author: Toby Lester
Title: The Fourth Part of the World
Publisher: Free Press
Date: Copyright 2009 by Toby Lester
Pages: 355-357

Historian says gays caused downfall of Rome, sparks row

ANI, Apr 10, 2011, 05.22am IST

LONDON: A top Italian history professor has caused outrage after he claimed that the Roman Empire fell due to the rise of homosexuality.

Roberto De Mattei, 63, a devout Roman Catholic, had already raised eyebrows by saying the Japanese tsunami was "divine punishment", and now with his latest claim he faces calls to resign.

"The collapse of the Roman Empire and the arrival of the Barbarians was due to the spread of homosexuality," the Daily Mail quoted the vice-president of Italy's prestigious Centre for National Research as saying in a radio interview.

"The Roman colony of Carthage was a paradise for homosexuals and they infected many others. The invasion of the Barbarians was seen as punishment for this moral transgression." It is well-known that effeminate men and homosexuals have no place in the kingdom of God, he said. "Homosexuality was not rife among the Barbarians and this shows God's justice throughout history," De Mattei stated.

Fellow historians, gay rights groups and politicians expressed their outrage over the historian's claims. "I have tabled an urgent call for the education minister to intervene," Paola Concia, a lawmaker with the Democratic Left, said.

Italian homosexual groups said the professor's comments were "based on superstition" and described them as ridiculous and outrageous". The groups called on him to resign from his Rome-based post.

"It is highly improbable homosexuality led to the fall of the Roman Empire," historian Emilio Gabba, a leading light in Roman history, said. However research would seem to suggest homosexuality was rife in ancient Rome, and it is widely portrayed in ancient Roman art and was seen as acceptable 2,000 years ago.

"There is no proof Rome had a high number of homosexuals. I can safely say Rome did not fall because it was gay," Professor Lellia Cracco Ruggini, an expert on Roman history from Turin University, added.

The Ides of March

The Ides of March hold a special significance for few in modern times, but historically they mark one of the most significant moments in ancient history.


The day marks the date of the death of Julius Ceasar, which occurred in 44 B.C. Famously the Roman leader was stabbed 23 times in the Roman Senate in a conspiracy led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, along with 60 other conspirators.

The incident was most famously portrayed and dramatized in Shakespeare's Julius Ceasar. The play famously coined the phrase 'beware the Ides of March."

The term "ides" was used to refer to the 15th day of March, May, July, and October, and the 13th day of all other months.

Rare Roman altar stones uncovered in Musselburgh

Two rare, carved altar stones found in East Lothian could shed new light about the Roman period in Scotland, it has been claimed.


The Roman stones were found during the redevelopment of a cricket pavilion in Lewisvale Park, Musselburgh.

Experts said they may help re-write the history books on the Roman occupation of Inveresk.

Although they were found in March 2010, it has only now become safe to fully inspect them.

Archaeologists said the stones were of "exceptional quality".

The experts from East Lothian Council, Historic Scotland and AOC Archaeology Group have been carefully removing the stones for the past year.

Only the backs and sides were visible until this month, when it was finally safe to make a full inspection.

The first stone has side panels showing a lyre and griffon as well as pictures of a jug and bowl, objects which would be used for pouring offerings on the altar.

The front face bears a carved inscription dedicating the altar to the god Mithras - the furthest north that such dedications have been discovered.

Mithraism was a religion in the Roman Empire from the 1st to 4th Centuries and the worshippers had a complex system of initiation grades.

Mithras is often shown slaying a bull with Sol looking on and there is often an association between both deities.

Face of God

The front face of the second stone shows female heads which represent the four seasons.

All are wearing headdresses, spring flowers, summer foliage, autumn grapes and a shawl for winter.

The centre of the stone contains a carving of the face of a God, probably Sol, wearing a solar crown.

This is the first evidence for the god Mithras in Scotland, and changes our view of Roman religion on the northern frontier”

The eyes, mouth and solar rays are all pierced and the hollowed rear shaft would probably have held a lantern or candle letting the light shine through, similar to a Halloween pumpkin or turnip lantern.

An inscription on a panel beneath the four seasons is currently partially obscured, but experts said it was likely to bear the name of the dedicator - who is believed to be a Roman centurion - and the God to whom the altar is dedicated.

Traces of red and white paint are still visible beneath the inscription panel, which experts said suggested it was originally brightly painted.

Ruth Currie, East Lothian Council's cabinet member for community wellbeing, said: "This is enormously exciting and its significance could be huge.

"These beautiful artefacts could reveal a whole new strand of East Lothian's history and possibly even shed light on the way the Romans lived on an international scale."

Dr Fraser Hunter, Iron Age and Roman curator at National Museums Scotland, said: "The quality of these sculptures is remarkable, and they will tell us an enormous amount.

"This is the first evidence for the god Mithras in Scotland, and changes our view of Roman religion on the northern frontier."

Dr James Bruhn of Historic Scotland said: "The discovery of altar stones to the eastern God Mithras adds a fascinating new chapter to the story of Inveresk's Roman past

Dead Roman soldiers: History's first gas attack casualties?

Almost 2,000 years ago, 19 Roman soldiers rushed into a cramped underground tunnel, prepared to defend the Roman-held Syrian city of Dura-Europos from an army of Persians digging to undermine the city's mudbrick walls. But instead of Persian soldiers, the Romans met with a wall of noxious black smoke that turned to acid in their lungs. Their crystal-pommeled swords were no match for this weapon; the Romans choked and died in moments, many with their last pay of coins still slung in purses on their belts.

Nearby, a Persian soldier — perhaps the one who started the toxic underground fire — suffered his own death throes, grasping desperately at his chain mail shirt as he choked.

These 20 men, who died in A.D. 256, may be the first victims of chemical warfare to leave any archeological evidence of their passing, according to a new investigation. The case is a cold one, with little physical evidence left behind beyond drawings and archaeological excavation notes from the 1930s. But a new analysis of those materials published in January in the American Journal of Archaeology finds that the soldiers likely did not die by the sword as the original excavator believed. Instead, they were gassed.


Where there's smoke
In the 250s, the Persian Sasanian Empire set its sights on taking the Syrian city of Dura from Rome. The city, which backs up against the Euphrates River, was by this time a Roman military base, well-fortified with meters-thick walls.

The Persians set about tunneling underneath those walls in an effort to bring them down so troops could rush into the city. They likely started their excavations 130 feet (40 meters) away from the city, in a tomb in Dura's underground necropolis. Meanwhile, the Roman defenders dug their own countermines in hopes of intercepting the tunneling Persians.

The outlines of this underground cat-and-mouse game was first sketched out by French archaeologist Robert du Mesnil du Buisson, who first excavated these siege tunnels in the 1920s and 30s. Du Mesnil also found the piled bodies of at least 19 Roman soldiers and one lone Persian in the tunnels beneath the city walls. He envisioned fierce hand-to-hand combat underground, during which the Persians drove back the Romans and then set fire to the Roman tunnel. Crystals of sulfur and bitumen, a naturally occurring, tar-like petrochemical, were found in the tunnel, suggesting that the Persians made the fire fast and hot.

Something about that scenario didn't make sense to Simon James, an archaeologist and historian from the University of Leicester in England. For one thing, it would have been difficult to engage in hand-to-hand combat in the tunnels, which could barely accommodate a man standing upright. For another, the position of the bodies on du Mesnil's sketches didn't match a scenario in which the Romans were run through or burned to death.

"This wasn't a pile of people who had been crowded into a small space and collapsed where they stood," James told LiveScience. "This was a deliberate pile of bodies."

Using old reports and sketches, James reconstructed the events in the tunnel on that deadly day. At first, he said, he thought the Romans had trampled each other while trying to escape the tunnel. But when he suggested that idea to his colleagues, one suggested an alternative: What about smoke?

Fumes of hell
Chemical warfare was well established by the time the Persians besieged Dura, said Adrienne Mayor, a historian at Stanford University and author of "Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World" (Overlook Press, 2003).

"There was a lot of chemical warfare [in the ancient world]," Mayor, who was not involved in the study, told LiveScience. "Few people are aware of how much there is documented in the ancient historians about this."

One of the earliest examples, Mayor said, was a battle in 189 B.C., when Greeks burnt chicken feathers and used bellows to blow the smoke into Roman invaders' siege tunnels. Petrochemical fires were a common tool in the Middle East, where flammable naphtha and oily bitumen were easy to find. Ancient militaries were endlessly creative: When Alexander the Great attacked the Phoenician city of Tyre in the fourth century B.C., Phoenician defenders had a surprise waiting for him.

"They heated fine grains of sand in shields, heated it until it was red-hot, and then catapulted it down onto Alexander's army," Mayor said. "These tiny pieces of red-hot sand went right under their armor and a couple inches into their skin, burning them."

So the idea that the Persians had learned how to make toxic smoke is, "totally plausible," Mayor said.

"I think [James] really figured out what happened," she said.

In the new interpretation of the clash in the tunnels of Dura, the Romans heard the Persians working beneath the ground and steered their tunnel to intercept their enemies. The Roman tunnel was shallower than the Persian one, so the Romans planned to break in on the Persians from above. But there was no element of surprise for either side: The Persians could also hear the Romans coming.

So the Persians set a trap. Just as the Romans broke through, James said, they lit a fire in their own tunnel. Perhaps they had a bellows to direct the smoke, or perhaps they relied on the natural chimney effect of the shaft between the two tunnels. Either way, they threw sulfur and bitumen on the flames. One of the Persian soldiers was overcome and died, a victim of his own side's weapon. The Romans met with the choking gas, which turned to sulfuric acid in their lungs.

"It would have almost been literally the fumes of hell coming out of the Roman tunnel," James said.

Any Roman soldiers waiting to enter the tunnels would have hesitated, seeing the smoke and hearing their fellow soldiers dying, James said. Meanwhile, the Persians waited for the tunnel to clear, and then hurried to collapse the Roman tunnel. They dragged the bodies into the stacked position in which du Mesnil would later find them. With no time to ransack the corpses, they left coins, armor and weapons untouched.

Horrors of war
After du Mesnil finished excavations, he had the tunnels filled in. Presumably, the skeletons of the soldiers remain where he found them. That makes proving the chemical warfare theory difficult, if not impossible, James said.

"It's a circumstantial case," he said. "But what it does do is it doesn't invent anything. We've got the actual stuff [the sulfur and bitumen] on the ground. It's an established technique."

If the Persians were using chemical warfare at this time, it shows that their military operations were extremely sophisticated, James said.

"They were as smart and clever as the Romans and were doing the same things they were," he said.

The story also brings home the reality of ancient warfare, James said.

"It's easy to regard this very clinically and look at this as artifacts … Here at Dura you really have got this incredibly vivid evidence of the horrors of ancient warfare," he said. "It was horrendously dangerous, brutal, and one hardly has words for it, really."

Prometheus and Epimetheus (a Greek myth)

Once upon a time, long ago, the great god Zeus overcame the gigantic race, the Titans, to become the most powerful god. He ruled over Olympus and banished the Titans to Tartarus, but he spared two of those he conquered, Prometheus (or forethought) and his brother, Epimetheus (or afterthought). Instead of banishing them, he gave them the task of going to earth to make its creatures. Just before he sent them down from the heavens, he gave Epimetheus gifts to offer their creations.

The brothers traveled to earth and set to work. Using the abundant river clay, they began to mold their creations. Prometheus was wise and the more thoughtful and cautious of the two brothers. He took great care with his work, spending a good deal of time thinking over each decision he made in crafting human beings. He decided he would shape them like the gods, for he imagined great things they would one day accomplish.

His brother was not so thoughtful. He worked as fast as he could, shaping and molding all the animals. Each time he finished a creation, he handed out of one Zeus' gifts. He gave the animals strength and endurance. He gave out a keen sense of smell and sight. To some of his creatures he gave wings; to others he gave claws; to others he gave a protective coat; and others still received thick coats of fur.

When Epimetheus was finished with his creation, he realized he had given away all Zeus' gifts, and he had nothing left for his brother to give the human beings.

When Prometheus finished his work and saw his creatures shivering in the cold, dark night, terrified of the many powerful beasts his brother had created, his heart ached. He could not bear the sight of their suffering, and so he decided he must return to Olympus to ask Zeus for another gift. He wished to give his creations fire.

He stood before Zeus and humbly asked, "I wish you to give me one more gift. The people do not have coats of fur to keep them warm, and they do not have protective shells or wings or claws. Please, let me give them fire."

Zeus was furious at so bold a request. "The fire belongs to the gods and to the gods alone!" he roared. "How dare you return asking for more!" And he sent Prometheus away.

Prometheus knew he must help his creations, and although he understood Zeus could be a vengeful, angry god, he decided he must do something. He would steal fire.

He waited until he was certain Zeus was not watching, and he lifted his torch to the light of the sun, catching an ember of fire. This he hid inside a hollow stalk and hurried back to earth.

He gathered the people and said, "I give you fire," and he set the ember free.

It burst into flame, and all the people cheered at the warmth and the light of this gift.

"Never let the light of Olympus die," Prometheus warned. "If you keep the flames alive, you shall live good and happy lives."

The people were overjoyed. With fire, they no longer shivered in the cold night. With fire they were able to forge weapons to subdue the wild beasts. With fire they made tools to till the earth and build dwellings. With fire they warmed those dwellings. And the animals feared the sight of those flames and no longer attacked human beings.

As the humans watched the smoke spiraling up into the sky, their thoughts turned to the gods. They decided to build temples to honor those gods, and they decided to roast an animal as a sacrifice to those gods.

When Zeus looked down and saw the fires flickering, he was furious. He understood Prometheus had betrayed him. But when he breathed in the smells of those sacrifices, he calmed down. He liked this notion of a sacrifice to him, the all-powerful god.

Prometheus did not like watching his creations burning their meat as sacrifice. He worried that they had too little to waste on the gods, so he devised a plan.

He instructed the men to butcher an ox and to divide the meat into two equal portions. "Place chops and roasts in one half and bury these beneath sinews and bones. In the other half place scraps and entrails and fat."

When they had followed his instructions, Prometheus invited Zeus to earth to choose his offering, and naturally Zeus selected the half that looked better — the scraps and fat. When he realized Prometheus had tricked him and cheated the gods, he was overcome with rage.

"Now you and your creations will suffer!" he roared, and he sent for Hermes, the messenger god, to carry Prometheus to the top of the Caucasus Mountains and chain him there.

Every day an eagle swooped out of the sky and tore at Prometheus' liver, and every night his immortal liver once again grew. The next day the eagle returned, swooped down, and once again Prometheus suffered the anguish of his punishment. It was only the visits from his son, Deucalion, that gave Prometheus any joy.

Zeus had sworn to punish humans, too, and this he did — in a roundabout fashion — by creating a beautiful woman, Pandora. She was endowed with many god-given virtues, including curiosity, and Zeus sent her to Earth as a wife for Epimetheus. Epimetheus, despite warnings from his brother not to trust gifts from Zeus, accepted her, and in time, Pandora wreaked terrible havoc upon humans.

Prometheus, however, did not suffer eternally after many ages had passed. Zeus relented and allowed the great warrior, Hercules, to rescue him. Hercules killed the eagle and broke Prometheus' chains, thus freeing this great hero and friend of mankind.

Roman find on Cumbrian farm stuns visiting archaeologist

A freelance archaeologist and his wife came face to face with a chunk of unique Roman history as they walked across a Wigton farm.

Karl James Langford, 36, and his wife Lisa, 43, are over the moon with their chance discovery of a sandstone fragment which still bears part of a Roman inscription.

The couple had gone with their two children – a boy aged two and a five-month-old girl – to visit the remnant of the Maglona Roman fort near Wigton last week when Lisa spotted the stone on the ground. It had been exposed by a heavy rain storm.

Still clearly visible on the sandstone fragment – which is about the size of a tea saucer – are the Roman letters M, R and P.

Karl, 36, believes the artefact may once have spelled the name of the settlement, which was abandoned a few decades before the Romans pulled out of Britain in AD 410.

He said: “We were having a short holiday to see Hadrian’s Wall and wanted to see the Maglona Roman Ford, known locally as Old Carlisle. Lisa found the stone alongside a wall that overlooks the remains of the Roman fort.

“It would have been garrisoned by about 1,000 men who were mainly auxiliary soldiers and there to support the eastward side of Hadrian’s Wall. I feel this is quite a significant find.

“It’s impossible to know for sure but I suspect the M may have spelled out the name Maglona, and perhaps the P and the R were part of the word prefectus, [usually indicating a soldier who was the third most senior in a legion.]

“A find like this shows that important archaeological finds are not always made by people with a metal detector.

“The stone would have been inscribed at the site of the fort and it was interesting to find out that the farmer’s son there is a stonemason, doing the same kind of work today.”

Lisa, who shares Karl’s passion for history and archaeology, said: “It was pouring with rain and very, very muddy and I was walking ahead of Karl with our daughter in her carrier when I glanced down.

“I did a double take and then called Karl over, but he thought I was joking.”

Lisa said it was the second time she has made a chance archaeological find.

“When I was a teenager I dug up a vegetable patch and found a canon ball which dated from the English Civil War and the time of Cromwell. Finding the Roman stone was quite exciting.”

The couple, who were on the site with the farmer’s consent, hope to return to the Roman Fort to further explore it while Lisa would like the stone to possibly go to Tullie House Museum in Carlisle, which is due to open a new exhibition about the Roman Frontier in the summer.

The Statue of Constantine the Great in York

Constantine the Great was immortalized in bronze in 1998 in the Yorkshire city in which he was proclaimed Roman Emperor in 306 AD

A recent addition to the landscape of the city of York that testifies to the city’s ancient Roman history is a large, bronze statue of the great Roman Emperor, Constantine. It was unveiled in 1998 and stands outside the beautiful York Minster, the second largest Gothic cathedral north of the Alps. The statue was designed by Philip Jackson and represents Constantine after The Battle of the Milvian Bridge. He is sitting on his imperial throne, contemplating a broken sword in the shape of a cross: it symbolises that the battle is over, and Christianity has triumphed.

The Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 AD was when Constantine defeated his main rival in the West, the pagan Maxentius, and he was convinced his victory was due to Christ, as the night before the battle he had a vision of a cross against the sun with the words, 'By this sign thou shalt conquer.' Later that night in a dream he saw Christ telling him to use the sign as a safeguard in battle. In the battle the next day, his troops bore crosses and carried a Christian standard. Constantine was converted to Christianity, becoming the first Christian Roman emperor and his support for the new religion led to its becoming the main one in the Western world. Some, however, suggest that it was a political move to keep the support of the people, more and more of whom were becoming Christian.

Constantine's Legacy
Constantine, born in 272 AD near the Danube, was proclaimed Emperor in York in 306 AD following the death of his father Constantius Chlorus, who had been emperor of the Western Roman Empire, and Constantine himself became the ruler of the whole Roman world after defeating his rival Licinius in battle in AD 324. It is said that he was the son of an English mother, Helena, who was probably his father’s concubine.

Constantine introduced several new laws, including the abolition of crucifixion and Sunday trading, and declared Easter a celebratory event. He built the first St Peter's in Rome and probably a church in York, as the city had a bishop in 314 AD. He founded a new capital for the Roman empire – Constantinople, now Istanbul – and was buried there.

Roman York
The Roman name for York was Eboracum. It became one of the most important Roman cities in Britain and after 211 AD was the capital of Britannia Inferior. The city today is the county town of Yorkshire and has many Roman relics, for example in the Yorkshire museum, where there is a marble bust of Constantine

Greek Tablet May Shed Light on Early Bureaucratic Practices

Greek Tablet May Shed Light on Early Bureaucratic Practices of a distant past counts on the conqueror’s havoc, nature’s upheavals and plain human negligence to have left legacies of unintended value — like a fragment of a clay tablet bearing archaic writing from an early period of state formation in Greece, more than 3,400 years ago.



Had it not been for some inadvertence, the tablet would almost certainly have disintegrated in the rain in a year or two and scattered with the wind as so much illiterate dust. The tablet seems to be a “page” from a bookkeeper’s note pad. Not meant to be saved as a permanent record, it was not baked in a kiln , but ended up in a refuse dump, where a fire hardened the clay for posterity.

The discoverers and other specialists in Greek history said the tablet, one of the oldest known examples of writing in mainland Europe, should cast light on the political structure and bureaucratic practices near the beginning of the renowned Mycenaean period, 1600 to 1100 B.C. At its height, the culture supported the splendor of palaces at Mycenae and Pylos and inspired the heroic legend of the Trojan War, immortalized in Homer’s Iliad.

“This is a rare case where archaeology meets ancient texts and Greek myths,” Michael B. Cosmopoulos, director of the excavations, said last week in announcing the discovery.

Dr. Cosmopoulos, an archaeologist and professor of Greek studies at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, said the tablet, only 2 inches by 3 inches, was a surprise uncovered last summer in the middle of an olive grove in southwest Greece, near the modern village of Iklaina. Judging by pottery in the dump, the tablet dates to sometime from 1490 to 1390 B.C. Scholars said they had little evidence before that clay tablets were made and used to keep state records so early in Mycenaean history.

Elsewhere, the Minoans on the island of Crete were keeping records as early as 1800 B.C. in an enigmatic script that predates the Mycenaean Linear B. The earliest known writing, also presumably for bookkeeping, evolved around 3200 B.C. in the Sumerian city of Uruk, in Mesopotamia. The first Egyptian writing appeared more or less at the same time.

The Missouri team had investigated the Iklaina site for 11 years, and in the last couple of summers examined the extensive evidence of stone walls of what may have been a palace at a district capital. Some walls are decorated with frescoes showing ladies of the court and ships with dolphins cavorting in water. There are also remains of a drainage and sewer system far ahead of its time.

Previous excavations had yielded clay writing tablets from 1200 B.C., close to the approximate time of the supposed Trojan War, and some references to Iklaina as an administrative center associated with Pylos. Dr. Cosmopoulos said in an interview that the new findings appeared to show that some 200 years earlier this may have been the seat of an independent chiefdom that had already achieved a degree of literacy and political organization.

On one side, the tablet has one readable word, a verb meaning to prepare to manufacture. Along the broken edges are other characters, but not enough for scholars to make out the word or words. On the reverse side, the tablet gives a list of men’s names alongside numbers. Cynthia Shelmerdine at the University of Texas, Austin, was the first to read the writing and assess its importance.

“The fact that we have a tablet like this means that this government had scribes, and scribes are a product of bureaucracy,” Dr. Cosmopoulos said. “And this suggests some degree of political complexity and a growing need to keep track of commodities, property and taxes, all earlier than we once thought.”

Archaeologists are only beginning to consider the implications of the discovery. It suggests that political states in ancient Greece originated at least a century and a half earlier than had been documented. Iklaina may have started small and been conquered and annexed by one of the expanding powers, like Pylos, in the same region.

Dr. Cosmopoulos suggested the Iklaina palace may have been a district administrative center subject to one of the main capitals: “a two-tiered government, or a sort of quasi-federal system,” he called it.

Donald C. Haggis, an archaeologist and classics professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the tablet discovery was “really exciting and important because we don’t know much of the dynamics of these palace sites and the early phases of state formation in Greece.”

Dr. Haggis, who was familiar with the research but not a member of the team, said that nearly all that had been known of the dynamics of these government centers came from excavations in the final stages of the Mycenaean period. Now the tablet, he said, “tells us this place had an administrative function at an early stage” and the architecture of the palace “reflects authority” and “looks like a place for ritual, communal dining and production of crafts.”

What the Romans didn't do for us

The discovery that a Roman road may in fact have been made by Iron Age Britons offers a glimpse of a far more sophisticated society than previously thought

A reconstruction of the different levels of the road discovered at Bayston Hill quarry in Shropshire. Photograph: Caroline Malim/James Reed PR

It's not a question often asked, but perhaps it should be. What did the Druids do for us? The discovery of a road in Shropshire that was built by pre-Roman engineers suggests that indigenous Britons may have been much more accomplished than we – or the Romans – liked to imagine. The road itself tells the story well.

The route had long been known as a lost Roman road, named Margary No 64 after the man who first mapped what everyone assumed to be the country's earliest network. It was visible as a low earthwork and as marks in ploughed fields, and in 1995 archaeologists dug up a bit. Sure enough, it looked Roman.

But in 2009, quarrying by Tarmac was due to destroy 400m of it, giving archaeologists a rare opportunity to expose a long section of road, some of it, crucially, very well preserved. At first, it still looked Roman, from its cambered, cobbled surface on a metre of hardcore and a clay base, to the ditches at the sides with a thin scatter of Roman rubbish. However, dig director Tim Malim noticed that the road had twice been rebuilt, and knew its history could be dated using a technique that tells you when buried mineral grains were last exposed to sunlight.

The unexpected result was a more than 80% chance that the last surface had been laid before the Roman invasion in AD43. Wood in the foundation was radiocarbon-dated to the second century BC, sealing the road's pre-Roman origin. And Malim thinks a huge post that stood in 1500BC close to the crest of the hill was a trackway marker.

So, while the cobbles rattled to the sound of carts and chariots generations before the Romans invaded Britain, the route itself was older than Rome.

When the Roman army marched around its new conquest, it was not above using the road and discarding its litter. Indeed, there's every reason to believe that the Shropshire road continues north to meet Watling Street, suggesting that one of the Roman engineers' great achievements was at least in part no more than an act of resurfacing.

It is fashionable among archaeologists and ancient historians to debate how much Britain was really "Romanised". There is no consensus. But notwithstanding villas with central heating and public statues of Roman emperors, some academics portray the four centuries of Roman occupation as a mere ripple on the longer and stronger flow of native culture and politics.

But what of the reverse? Could Britain have been more "Roman" than was thought, before it was invaded? What do we find if we follow route 64 back into the past?

The road implies not just the ability to design and organise its construction, but also the justification for its cost – heavy traffic. Immediately we are outside a vision of ancient Britain where wheeled vehicles appear only in battle, as Roman writers would have it, in chaotic displays of chariotry.

Archaeological evidence is clear that long before the Roman invasion, the British landscape was well organised, with a dense network of fields and tracks. Larger settlements were towns in all but name, where homes were separated from industrial areas by streets, and functions such as mass storage and ritual had their separate places. Baths, medicines, skilled arts and crafts, perhaps even forms of currency – such things were commonplace, and can be seen evolving over millennia.

But archaeology is revealing a twist to this native sophistication, which suggests that before they were invaded, Britons were more aware of Rome than Rome was of Britain. This is seen no more clearly than in a cemetery near Colchester, Essex, excavated mostly in the 1990s at, as it happens, another Tarmac quarry.

Some very special people had been buried there. They weren't leaders, but members of the ruling class who had died between about AD40 and AD60: it's conceivable that some of them actually saw the invading Roman army, but they had grown up and learned their skills long before. There is nothing about their graves that looks in the least bit Roman. One of the men could have been a druid.

But when you look at the things the deceased took with them, you notice a striking thing: Rome. Or more specifically, precious Roman objects requiring Roman expertise. These include a beautiful blue glass jar of a type more typically found in the Mediterranean region around the time of the birth of Christ, that probably held a cosmetic. There is a pottery inkwell: did its owner write? One man took with him a large Italian wine jar and a copper jug and basin set, such as was common in Pompeii; an amber-coloured glass bowl may have been made in Italy.

And then there is "the doctor". This man had his wine jar, his imported pottery service and copper vessels. But he also had a set of surgical instruments – one of the oldest known in the ancient world. The tools are recognisably functional – scalpels, forceps, probes and more – and comparable to finds made around the Roman empire.

But they are not Roman. On current evidence, they were made in Britain to designs that merely borrowed from Greece and Italy. Buried with the surgeon's shiny tools were divining rods and a magical board game. Whether you call him a doctor or a druid, he was a local aristocrat with access to luxuries and ideas from Rome and beyond, and he had the ability to choose.

Archaeology traditionally deals in centuries; history in years. If you find something that looks Roman, you will probably call it Roman, though the dating may be too imprecise to pin down your discovery to a generation, still less a few years either side of a historical event such as a military invasion. Many things here once thought "Roman" could, in fact, be older. Shropshire's road, then, could be the start of a journey that changes the way we think about early Britain.

Somnus

Somnus was the Roman god of sleep.Morpheus (his son) was the Roman god of dreams

Titus Livius



“Adversity makes men remember God,” declared Roman historian Titus Livius

Study shows 'God had a wife'

A new research claims that God had a wife.

Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou University of Exeter concludes that ancient Israelites worshipped a God and Goddess in the same temple, reports the Daily Mail.

Stavrakopoulou pursued her interest in Greek at Oxford, where she spent several years specialising in the cultural and social contexts of the Bible.

She discovered that Yahweh, the God we have come to know, had to see off a number of competitors to achieve his position as the one and only god of the ancient Israelites.

Despite Yahweh's assertion in the Ten Commandments that 'You shall have no other gods before me', it appears these gods were worshipped alongside Him, and the Bible acknowledges this.

The Bible also admits that the goddess Asherah was worshipped in Yahweh's temple in Jerusalem.

In the Book Of Kings, we're told that a statue of Asherah was housed in the temple and that female temple personnel wove ritual textiles for her. In fact, although the Bible condemns all of these practices, the biblical texts suggest that goddess worship was a thriving feature of high-status religion in Jerusalem.

According to Stavrakopoulou, the evidence within the Bible that she was worshipped in the temple in Jerusalem indicates that she might have played the role of a divine wife in ancient Israel too.

The evidence was a remarkable ceramic inscription in the Sinai desert.

The inscription was photographed and recorded by archaeologists and scholars of ancient Israelite religion, so we know what it looked like - and importantly - what it said.

The inscription is a petition for a blessing. Crucially, the inscription asks for a blessing from 'Yahweh and his Asherah' - evidence that presented Yahweh and Asherah as a divine pair.

Discovered in the Sinai in the Seventies, the real thing has since been mysteriously 'lost'. Neither the BBC team of researchers nor my academic colleagues and contacts could locate it.

Just as other deities worshipped in ancient Israel were relegated to become angels, or rejected as 'abhorrent', so too Asherah was done away with. (ANI

How the Filibuster Wrecked the Roman Senate—and Could Wreck Ours

By Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni


Have we just seen a simultaneous, mutual flip-flop on the filibuster? Democrats, many of whom spent the last two years railing against obstruction in the U.S. Senate, this winter cheered the "Wisconsin 14" for walking out on Gov. Scott Walker's anti-union bill, using quorum rules to stage a quasi-filibuster of their own. Republicans, who spent those same two years defending a passionate minority's right to obstruct, were suddenly up in arms over the Wisconsin "fleebaggers."

So are we all hypocrites now? As Matt Yglesias challenged filibuster fans : "What's so different about the US Congress that routine supermajorities are [a] good idea there but not for state legislatures?" From the other direction, Jonah Goldberg pointed out that "many of the same voices [that criticized the Senate filibuster] are celebrating the fugitive lawmakers as heroes." Nor is this the first time that the parties seem to have swapped positions: in 2005, Democrats were singing the sanctity of unlimited debate on judicial nominations, while Republicans were threatening to unleash the "nuclear option."

To be fair, each side can argue that it's been acting consistently the whole time. Liberals can fairly point out that the Wisconsin walk-out only delayed Gov. Walker's bill, but couldn't prevent a vote indefinitely; it's also true that one instance of obstruction in extraordinary circumstances is hardly the equivalent of the minority rule that has become a way of life in the U.S. Senate (with an unprecedented 275 filibuster threats in the last two Congresses). Conservatives, for their part, can claim that filibusters of judges are a more serious matter than filibusters of legislation.

Still, it's hard to shake the public impression that there's no such thing as a principled, "veil of ignorance"-style case against the filibuster -- a case that boils down to more than helping the majority enact its policy preferences. More importantly, the senators with the power to restrict the filibuster understand that today's majority is tomorrow's bystander. The most recent attempt at reform -- which would have forced would-be obstructionists to talk nonstop, rather than merely threaten to -- failed in January, in large part because Democrats could easily imagine the day (perhaps starting in 2013) when "they might soon need the filibuster themselves."

The most powerful case against the filibuster, then, wouldn't appeal to senators' self-interest as members of the majority or the minority -- it would appeal to their more lasting self-interest as legislators invested in keeping the Senate relevant. It would show how a Senate that tolerates obstruction for too long will ultimately see its influence leach away. When supermajority votes become business as usual, writes Ezra Klein , "it's bad for Congress and bad for democracy. It means power devolves from the legislature and towards unelected, unaccountable organizations."

The power-shift is already underway. After the Senate's failure to pass climate change legislation, the EPA moved to regulate greenhouse gasses on its own. With the supermajority requirement standing in the way of economic stimulus for most of 2010, the most significant attempt came from the Federal Reserve's "quantitative easing" program. Even when the Senate took last-minute action to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," it did so knowing that the courts were ready to step in with a repeal order of their own.

Whatever one thinks of the outcomes, removing decisions like those from the legislature threatens accountability in general, and threatens the institution of the Senate in particular. In fact, the struggles of our Senate are an example of a broader rule: legislatures that make obstruction a way of life tend to get bypassed.

Some of the best evidence for this comes not from the recent past but from ancient history -- history that was familiar to our classically-educated Founders. The Senate of the ancient Roman Republic was the first legislature to use the filibuster, the first to abuse it, and the first to suffer the consequences.

One Roman senator, in particular, had a special fondness for the host of obstructionist tools scattered across Rome's constitution: Cato the Younger, Rome's fiercest traditionalist and the leading voice of the optimates, the Republic's conservative elite.

His first recorded filibuster came against the state's private tax collectors. Rome, still struggling to govern an empire with tools designed for a city of a few thousand, had no permanent bureaucracy to collect taxes from its provinces. Instead, it sold the right to tax to the highest bidder. For the winning contractors, the publicani, the reward came in setting the rate as high as a province could bear, paying the treasury an agreed-upon amount, and pocketing the difference.

In 60 bce, however, Rome's eastern provinces were wrung dry by years of war and drought. The publicani found themselves in the unfamiliar position of losing money on their tax-farming contracts -- unless the contracts were renegotiated at a drastically lower rate.

So the tax collectors demanded new contracts. Because they were among Rome's most influential businessmen--and because they had the powerful backing of Crassus, Rome's richest man--most of the Senate was inclined to give in. Cato, however, refused. A contract, he insisted at great length, was a contract. If the publicani had bid too high, that was their misfortune; contracts were meant to be lived by and, if need be, suffered under.

So adamant was Cato that he declared that not only would the publicani get nothing, but he would shut down the entire Senate until they went away. In that spirit of moral purism, Cato began a months-long campaign of obstruction that would bring the Senate to the point of paralysis. Halfway through the deadlock, his fellow senator Cicero complained to a friend:

It is now three months that he has been worrying these wretched tax-collectors, who used to be great friends of his, and won't let the Senate give them an answer. So we are forced to suspend all decrees on other subjects until the tax-collectors have had an answer. For the same reason I suppose even the business of the foreign embassies will be postponed.

After six months, the publicani finally gave way. But they did not go quietly: they announced that if Cato was so set on holding them to an unjust bargain, they were no longer capable of holding up their end. They threatened to simply walk away from their contracts, and Rome's ability to raise any revenue from the provinces it had strained so hard to conquer was thrown into doubt.

From Cato's perspective, adamant obstruction had won out, and little time passed before he deployed the tactic again. His next targets were two generals Cato feared as would-be tyrants: Gnaeus Pompey and Julius Caesar. Pompey had promised his troops small farms of their own in the Italian countryside. It was their expected reward for shipping off to war; but anyone who had spent a day in Rome's teeming, stinking alleyways, straining under an influx of migrants from the country, also understood the case for land reform that could repopulate rural Italy.

The optimates, however, were suspicious of any policy that resembled redistribution--and of the popularity that would accrue to Pompey if he could deliver. Rather than risk empowering Pompey, Cato and his faction froze the Senate again, preventing a vote on the land bill. Pompey's veterans were left empty-handed.

Caesar's request of the Senate was more personal. Freshly returned from a successful campaign in Spain, Caesar wanted the right to celebrate a triumph -- the daylong spectacle in which he, as a conquering general, would be trailed through the streets in a parade of his warriors, his winnings, and his well-wishers. He also wanted to run for consul, Rome's highest elective office. But under a quirk of Roman law, a triumph could only be enjoyed by a commander officially under arms, a status Caesar would lose as soon as he entered the city for the election. Caesar asked the Senate for an exception allowing him to both triumph and run for office, and a majority seemed ready to accommodate him.

But Cato found Caesar's popularity even more threatening than Pompey's and was in no mood to make his path to power any smoother. For the third time in a year, Cato brought the Senate to a halt, seizing the floor to denounce Caesar from dawn to dusk. As it happened to be the last Senate meeting of the year, all Cato had to do was run down the hourglass for a single day -- and for a man famously able to speak at the top of his lungs for hours, it was no great difficulty.

Never before had a senator brought such a range of legislation to the same dead stop in just a matter of months. But while Cato had been implacable in the face of what he saw as corruption or budding tyranny, many of his colleagues, like Cicero, had been willing to cut deals. They understood that the Senate's authority was not a given, and they worried that the obstructive strategy personified by Cato would isolate the Senate from the Roman people and the state's most powerful men.

That, as it turns out, is precisely what happened. Caesar chose the power of a consulship over the glory of a triumph. In his first important act, he took a beefed-up version of Pompey's land reform bill before the Senate. And when the optimates promptly blocked it again, Caesar revealed his backup plan: an alliance between himself, Pompey, and the financier Crassus. Though the three had every reason to be rivals, Cato's dogged opposition helped them make common cause.

With the support of Pompey's veterans, Crassus's money, and his own political savvy, Caesar now had all the cover he needed to take the pivotal land bill directly before the Roman people. His strategy was constitutionally questionable, and it was fiercely opposed by Cato and his faction, but Caesar effectively made the case that the Senate's inaction had forced his hand. As one ancient historian observed, Caesar could now credibly claim "that he was driven forth into the popular assembly against his wishes, and was compelled to court its favor by the insolence and obstinacy of the Senate."

A turning point came when a member of Cato's faction angrily announced to the people's assembly, "You shall not have this law this year, not even if you all want it!" -- and had a bucket of manure dumped on his head for his troubles. With their opponents' intransigence exposed so starkly, Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus were able to pass bill after bill by popular vote: Pompey's veterans had their land, Crassus's tax-collecting friends had their new contracts, and Caesar was voted the command in Gaul that would cement his fame. Their alliance, the First Triumvirate, would sideline the Senate and dominate Roman politics for the better part of a decade.

Is there a lesson here for today's Senate? Cato's endless obstruction succeeded wildly for a time, but it finally empowered his rivals and fatally weakened the Senate he cherished so much. It wasn't any one filibuster that helped wreck the Senate's legitimacy. It was a pattern of obstruction that had begun to look permanent.

Our democratic norms are too strong for senators to ever fear a president governing like a Caesar. And our legislatures aren't hurt by the occasional obstruction that forces public debate on a divisive issue under extraordinary circumstances -- yet ultimately gives way, as in Wisconsin, to the majority and the next election.

But when the filibuster starts to become the rule, rather than the exception, the minority may find itself with more and more power in a Congress that matters less and less. Minority rule will ultimately mean more power for the presidency, the lawyers who draft executive orders, unelected judges, and the federal bureaucracy. Placing limits on the filibuster is the wisest course for any senator who cares about the institution's future.

There's a reason, after all, that there's no filibuster written into the Constitution. Our Founders were deeply read in classical history, and they had good reason to fear the consequences of a legislature addicted to minority rule. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist No. 22, "If a pertinacious minority can control the opinion of a majority...[the government's] situation must always savor of weakness, sometimes border upon anarchy." It was true in the time of Cato, and it's still true today.

March

March, originally from the Latin word Martius, named for Mars, the Roman
God of War

Dead language prompts lively debate: Senate approves ND Latin motto

BISMARCK, N.D. — Some say Latin is a dead language, but a Latin phrase prompted a lively debate in the North Dakota Senate on Friday.

Senators voted to approve a new Latin motto for the state. It is "Serit ut alteri saeclo prosit," (SARE'-it ut AL'-tur-ee CY'-cloh PRO'-sit).

In English it means, "One sows for the benefit of another age."

A group of Fargo high school Latin students lobbied for the motto. Fargo Sen. Tim Flakoll (FLAH'-kol) says it captures North Dakota's agricultural heritage.

But some senators say the Legislature has been wasting time with less important bills that offer civics lessons to students.

Hazen Sen. Randy Christmann says the job of the Legislature is to make policy.

Senators approved the Latin motto 34-10. The bill now goes to Gov. Jack Dalrymple.