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Hazards to Heritage 4 – Latter Day Ruin of Pompeii

170_feature_popham_map-300x225Ashes to ashes: the latter-day ruin of Pompeii

Pompeii, the best-preserved Roman town in the world, still attracts millions of visitors. But its appalling state is a disgrace to Italy, Unesco and European civilisation

by Peter Popham / April 29, 2010 /
Published in May 2010 issue of Prospect Magazine

At the ticket office at the entrance to Pompeii, the world’s greatest archaeological site, three women, two English and one Australian, are trying to make themselves understood. They have not come to look at the ruins. A few years ago, in a bid to tackle the “crisis” of Pompeii, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi declared the place a disaster zone and handed over control to a commissario straordinario as if, the archaeologists grumbled, Vesuvius had erupted last week and there was a humanitarian disaster under way. His choice for the job was Renato Profili, who (in the words of one insider) “did not recognise the real problems of the site.” Instead, he concentrated on issues such as the prostitutes and the illegal restaurants on the site’s periphery, and the packs of stray dogs. Profili died last year, but his legacy lives on in the Cave Canem project, which encourages visitors to adopt a dog.

pompeiiThe women at the ticket office have come to do just that. But they speak no Italian and the woman in the ticket office knows little English. There are forms to fill out in triplicate to adopt a dog, and taking the animals out of the country is another matter—no one has a clue what the procedure is.

The fate of Pompeii and its sister site Herculaneum puts Europe’s recent volcanic difficulty into proper perspective. The eruption of Vesuvius in AD79 had been preceded by weeks of earth tremors but the town, with a population of perhaps 20,000, was totally unprepared for the devastation. Pliny the Elder wrote that the eruption was “thrusting… bulging and uncoiling… as if the hot entrails of the earth were being drawn out and dragged towards the heavens.”

pompeii 2Over the following 1,500 years, the existence of the two towns was largely forgotten. Some local plundering seems to have occurred in the middle ages, and Pompeiian frescoes were unearthed in the 1590s, only to be covered over again. It was not until the late 18th century that systematic excavation got underway and people realised the degree to which the towns remained intact. “Many disasters have befallen the world,” Goethe said, “but few which have given posterity such delight… I have seldom seen anything so interesting.” Figures such as Charles, the first Bourbon king of Naples, Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister Caroline, and Mussolini were inspired by the sites, and devoted resources to excavating them. As Unesco’s inspectors said, when placing the sites on its world heritage list in 1997, the towns provide “a complete and vivid picture of society and daily life at a specific moment in the past that is without parallel anywhere in the world.”

pompeii 8But today they are so reduced that it is hard to guess what went on among the ruins. Profili’s dogs ramble around, crapping where they see fit. The great majority of the houses are in such decay that people aren’t allowed to enter them. Broken fences and signboards tell of torpor and indifference. Nearby Herculaneum, where many frescoes and mosaics have been irreparably damaged by rainwater, is an archaeological casualty ward; a team funded by the US billionaire David Packard is fighting to save what it can. Twice officially inaugurated, the site’s museum has never opened to the public.

pompeii 3Pompeii and Herculaneum are where archaeology as a science was born. They draw millions of visitors a year—but their state is a disgrace to Italy, Unesco and European civilisation. Not so long ago, the magic of these sites was still vivid. In 1924, Amedeo Maiuri, an archaeologist, was put in charge of them. He held that position until 1961, devoting superhuman energy to his work. The sites became a key element in Mussolini’s project for restoring national pride in ancient Rome, which in turn ensured a steady flow of funds and visitors.

pompeii 4Herculaneum, less well-known but in some ways more stunning than Pompeii, is Maiuri’s great memorial. The eruption of Vesuvius which buried Pompeii in about three metres of volcanic ash and rock entombed Herculaneum to a depth of more than 20 metres. As a result the plundering of Pompeii’s treasures happened early, while Herculaneum was largely forgotten. The rocky tuff that encased the town was a major challenge and it took heroic determination to remove it and expose its perfectly preserved villas, baths and shops.

Domenico Camardo, lead archaeologist on the Herculaneum Conservation Project, describes the work that went into the liberation of the buried town. While excavators drilled and hammered, masons worked alongside them, hurriedly propping up structures at risk of collapse; then carpenters and restorers dived in to carry out first aid on the decorative features. Once the buildings were safe, carpenters, marble-workers and gardeners took care of the restoration and furnishing of the houses with the aim of reopening them to the public. Maiuri wanted visitors to be able to experience the sites as they were immediately before disaster struck. “They even went so far as to replant the gardens,” Camardo says. “The most important objects found during the excavations were placed on view inside display cases that were built in situ. The houses were preserved in every detail, the furnishings and objects from daily life were put back in place.

pompeii 5“The city became an open-air museum in which the finds were contextualised—not just artistic objects, but also objects illustrating daily life: the walnuts found in a shop; plates with remains of fruit or food. To allow visitors a better view into interior spaces Maiuri chose in many cases not to reconstruct external walls, floor plates or balconies… In this way wall paintings and furnishings of the upper floors could be viewed from below.” Visiting the sites then was an experience as close to time travel as you could get. Today it’s rather different.

Leaving the would-be dog-adopters to wrestle with their problem, I set out for a walk. It is early spring and La Campania is already beginning to warm up: blue sky and a hazy sun. Vesuvius is an innocuous-looking mound to the north. Birds chirrup, a breeze tousles the greenery. The charm of Pompeii is that it is set apart from the modern town, so once you get away from the coaches and the cafés and are swallowed up in the enormous site there is no sense of the 21st century pressing around.

pompeii 9But there is precious little sense of the first century either. There are the cart tracks: the town’s ancient roads are paved with large, roughly flat stones which have clearly been in place from early in its history, because the wheels of carts have incised deep ruts in them. When Pompeii was buried it was already ancient: that’s what the cart tracks tell us more eloquently than anything else. But in other respects the site, about two thirds of which has been excavated, is mute.

pompeii 7Along the main roads leading into the town there is little to detain a visitor. Broken, irregular stone walls open on to cell-like enclosures which must once have been houses or shops, but are now unmarked, uncared-for and featureless. Wooden fences were erected in front of them to keep the curious out, but many have been smashed. The interiors are carpeted in weeds. Larger properties, villas of the town’s grandees, are fronted by steel gates, but most are padlocked. Signposts without signs; tin roofs poking from ancient masonry; locked gates enclosing rampant weeds: they all tell the same story.

The plan of the excavations, which is issued with the entrance ticket, lists 72 houses and temples of importance but warns “some buildings may be closed.” This is an understatement: in the centre of the town, where most of the tourism is concentrated, half the listed properties are shut up. There is no indication if any of them might open again.

pompeii 9=10The tour groups arrive—French, American, German and Japanese—the chirruping of their guides competing with the songs of the birds. Following them around I discover that the guides keep to a tight and repetitive itinerary. They visit the forum, which according to the Blue Guide, is “the most perfect example known of a Roman central square.” Then the House of the Faun with its eponymous statue (a copy), plus its fabulous mosaic of Alexander the Great challenging the Persians (likewise, a copy) and its garden. They tramp around the House of the Little Fountain and the House of Pansa, they admire the mosaic (another copy) of the famous cave canem sign in front of the House of the Tragic Poet, though the house itself is locked. And they hike up the Via Consolare to see the most famous house on the site, the Villa of the Mysteries, with its stunning frescoes of Bacchanalian rites.

And if the majority of what Pompeii theoretically has to offer is locked and off limits, the tourists’ route helps explain why. More than 2m visitors pass through Pompeii every year, and because so few of the important features are open, most only pass through the listed houses and a few others. The wear and tear is tremendous. The frescoes, the principal attraction of the houses that are open, are exposed to the weather and only protected from visitors by ropes. There are a few guards on the site, but none were on duty in those houses during my visit. There is nothing to deter tourists from chipping off a fragment of fresco as a souvenir.

So the same entropic process that has already led to the closure of the great majority of large homes will inevitably overtake the popular houses too. Pompeii will become less and less interesting, less and less extraordinary, year by year.

pompeii 6The scale of the town, and the fact that its ancient fabric has not been buried under later development, means that Pompeii remains magically evocative. But in the 50 years since Maiuri hung up his trowel, the authorities have done little to help visitors appreciate it. Pompeii gives an impression of yawning vacancy. Nearly all of its treasures, statues, frescoes and the bodies of its inhabitants, were long ago carted off to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples—where half the galleries are now closed because of a funding crisis.

Since 1997, both sites have been allowed to keep the profits from ticket sales, around €20m (£17.5m) a year, instead of being dependent on the ministry of culture. Some of the gate money has been ploughed into ambitious refurbishment works, including Pompeii’s House of the Chaste Lovers, which has just been unveiled. But any commanding sense of what must be done to save the sites, a vision to rank with Maiuri’s, is still strikingly missing. In tacit recognition of that fact, Italy’s minister of culture, Sandro Bondi, has just announced plans to set up a public-cum-private foundation to run them.

Why have the sites been allowed to deteriorate so badly? Pietro Giovanni Guzzo, superintendent of the sites since 1994, blames the government. “There was very little money available,” he said, “and that meant only emergency work could be carried out. Financial autonomy has granted a more suitable level of funding, but it is still much less than what is required.”

But impecuniousness is only part of the story. Both sites are located in areas notorious for organised crime, with rackets run by the Camorra, the Naples mafia, within spitting distance of the front gates. The port of Ercolano, the suburb of Naples in which Herculaneum sits, is said to be a focal point for the Camorra-run drugs trade. Up until the 19th century, Ercolano was a seaside resort for grandees, but today the old villas are hemmed in by squalor. Gang shootings are common on the streets.

More significant are the blunders of officialdom: a succession of mistakes and misfortunes, local and international, have conspired to turn Maiuri’s masterpiece into a disaster. Thanks to David Packard, we now know what went wrong.

pompeii 4Ten years ago Packard, a philanthropist with an interest in classics (and the eldest son of the co-founder of Hewlett-Packard), decided to try to save Herculaneum. He recruited a team of specialists led by Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, then professor of archaeology at Reading University. Wallace-Hadrill and his colleagues persuaded Guzzo that an infusion of private money and independent expertise could haul Herculaneum back from the brink. Nearly ten years and €15m later, work is still going on.

Jane Thompson, project manager for the Herculaneum Conservation Project, spelled out in a recent paper the mess the team found. “By the late 1990s,” she wrote, “the site was in a state of such serious neglect that it began to attract international attention. The absence of regular maintenance had brought about a serious and widespread state of disrepair and decay… compounded by the lack of much-needed remedial work on the ancient city’s infrastructure and the fact that previous restoration interventions were themselves aging… The very closure of houses… brought about an acceleration in the deterioration process; with no one visiting them their decay escalated unchecked, pigeons installed themselves and the houses became too unsafe to access.” The result was that the area open to the public “has gradually reduced down to roughly a third of the area that was open to the public 40 years ago. In parallel, the number of visitors has more or less tripled… with consequential wear and tear.”

Wallace-Hadrill, now master of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, is still in charge of Packard’s work on the site and visits twice a month. His English reserve melted long ago in the Campania sunshine and his passion for Herculaneum is infectious. He explained why the very richness of the Pompeii sites makes their conservation a mind-boggling challenge.

“There is an assumption that by digging stuff up you have saved it,” he says. “Except you haven’t. It’s stable when it’s underground. But the moment you excavate you start the clock again. It comes back to life which means it starts dying. I remember being struck at Pompeii by the fact that you’ve got almost as much human activity today on site with the tourists as there was in antiquity. Inevitably you have a problem, and it’s a generalised problem for all archaeology. The 19th and 20th centuries were the heroic ages for picking up loads of stuff and feeling that you’d rediscovered the past—and not thinking about the problems of keeping it going. But because Pompeii and Herculaneum are better preserved, thanks to the volcano, there is more to lose. And this is compounded by the acute problems of the local management.”

These were the problems that began after the departure of Amedeo Maiuri. Maiuri was a human hurricane, but when he retired in 1961 the wind dropped away. As so often in Italy, power resided not in the position or institution but the person. Once he was gone, the impetus went with him. The time was ripe for consolidation, but there is nothing glamorous about that as a career. And routine maintenance, as anyone who has lived in Italy knows, goes against the national grain.

Then there were the problems beyond the management’s control. Over the years, the local artisans who had kept the site ticking over were forced out when new European health and safety standards deemed their workshops substandard. Their work was outsourced to firms with no special loyalty to the sites, and the informal correcting of small problems reduced. When the problems on the sites became more daunting, what Jane Thompson calls “the cripplingly procedure-heavy administrative machine,” which requires three years of paperwork between three public organisations just to validate a period of sick leave, proved inadequate to the task.

The result was the shambles that Wallace-Hadrill and his team found in 2001. The condition of the many flat roofs that had been built over the ancient houses was one of the more startling examples. “Flat roofs are a neat solution for protecting houses that have lost their roofs,” he said, “but if you don’t maintain them the drain on the roof gets blocked, so gradually it turns into a tank of mulch. Plants grow in this wet mulch and their roots grow through the asphalt until the roof is completely destroyed. Then you get water running in down the frescoes… We’ve had dozens of examples of this.”

The dire state of the site forced Wallace-Hadrill and his team to change their strategy radically. “We initially came in and said we would do a big restoration project on one corner of the site and do it really well. But we became aware that if this took five years, it would take us 30 years to do the entire site. So we shifted from doing a definitive job in one place to addressing lots of basic problems right across the site.”

The result is ironic: while the state-employed managers use the box-office takings to embark on flashy makeovers—a new ticket office with fountains, a muscular-looking bridge—the American mogul’s millions have been spent on fixing the roofs, unplugging the drains and “trying to create a sort of worksheet,” as Wallace-Hadrill puts it, so the boring but vital everyday tasks get done when his team pulls out in the near future.

After spending all that money, it sounds like a pretty frail sort of legacy. On the other side of the scales, there are politicians whose idea of solving the problem is to send in officials obsessed with prostitutes and stray dogs.

No one I spoke to backed my personal theory that the gangsters have it in for Pompeii: the money, I was told, is small beer for them, and all those foreigners hanging around make them queasy. So that’s one problem we can cross off the list—until a tour bus gets caught in the crossfire.

Pompeii and Herculaneum have been listed as Unesco World Heritage Sites since 1997. So why isn’t the world’s culture policeman keeping the world’s most important Roman sites in order?

In fact, Unesco’s role in identifying and protecting world heritage is strictly advisory. Sites which have deteriorated gravely since being listed may be put on a danger list, and if deterioration continues, they may lose their listing altogether. But, as Pompeii was already in an appalling state when it obtained its listing, it is unlikely to lose its status.

Unesco depends largely on information provided by state authorities—so for Pompeii’s entry in the world heritage website, the “threat” box is blank. “World heritage site values have been maintained,” it asserts baldly. A description of work underway reads: “Superintendence is progressively replacing reinforced concrete… with proper stuff compatible with ancient structures and easily reversible. All these works have been improving the conditions of integrity of the archeological [sic] properties also raising the monuments’ level of authenticity.” Regarding management, it simply states, “The current management system is highly effective.”

Many countries eagerly seek world heritage status for their sites, seeing it as a way of creating interest in their cultural treasures and increasing tourism. But Italy is so well-endowed culturally—it has 44 sites, more than any other country—that a Unesco listing matters far less, which helps explain why Pompeii and Herculaneum applied so late. For the grandees of Italy’s culture ministry, which has more heritage than it knows what to do with, the listing was an afterthought.

If Unesco can’t help, a private donor is a potential answer. David Packard has spent €15m restoring Herculaneum; Pompeii is more than twice as big so perhaps €40m would bring it to the same point of repair. With good housekeeping, ongoing maintenance could be funded with the gate receipts.

Hazards to Heritage 3 – Damascus and the Syrian Civil War

Picture of a view of Damascus from the hills overlooking the city

Damascus – Will the walls fall?

By Anne Barnard
Photograph by Andrea Bruce

In the rectangular courtyard of the Umayyad Mosque, the heart of Old Damascus, women swathed in black sit and chat on the cream-colored stone floor, polished smooth by the comings and goings of generations. The sky overhead is an identical rectangle of blue. Children chase one another into shady corners, as pigeons swoop in and out, drawn, the women in black like to say, to the holiness of the place.

article-2314459-1976A597000005DC-495_964x617Within the mosque’s sturdy Roman walls, this quintessentially Damascene mix of ancient grandeur, restfulness, and quotidian bustle continues undisturbed for now, despite the rumbles of shelling in the distance—dispatches from the civil war that is ravaging the city’s ramshackle outskirts. But step out through the mosque’s towering gate, and it becomes clear that the Old City of Damascus, though mostly undamaged physically, has changed.

DamascusBeneath the remnants of a Roman colonnade, Mohammad Ali, 54, wielding a hefty Polaroid he has been carefully keeping going for a quarter century, shoots a photo of a grim-faced family taking a breather from war-torn Aleppo. His usual clients—tourists, foreign students, and well-dressed families out for a stroll—are long gone. Today many of the families browsing the bright blue Iranian pottery and bouquets of colorful shawls are Syrians forced from homes in outlying neighborhoods that have become battlefields. They live crammed into rented rooms, shop fronts, and offices in the capital’s shrinking zone of safety. In the city center, men with guns patrol the streets; they belong to the growing neighborhood militias that some residents trust and others fear. Bracing for the unknown, fearing the worst, sinking into economic hardship, the Old City hunkers behind ancient walls that are reclaiming, metaphorically for now, their original role as fortifications. Beyond the walls military checkpoints create another barrier, keeping rebels out of government-held central Damascus.

Along French colonial boulevards, in busy vegetable markets, in largely empty nightclubs, there is a sense of waiting within a bubble of provisional safety. Mortar shells land with increasing regularity in downtown Damascus, attacks that the government blames on rebels. (Most of the shelling heard in the city is outgoing—the odd spectacle of the government wrecking the suburbs of its own capital, many of which have remained in rebel hands for more than a year.) Mount Qasiyun, the city’s twinkling nighttime backdrop, was a breezy aerie where couples went to feast on fruit platters at cafés overlooking Damascus. Now it is a citadel from which government troops fire barrages of shells.

damascus 2Much has already been lost. But the singular culture of Damascus, viewed for centuries in the Arab world as a beacon of refinement and civilization, offers one of the few hopes for saving Syria. Given the country’s arbitrary colonial borders and contentious modern history, Damascus, for many Syrians, comes as close as anything to embodying a shared national idea. For centuries Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, and Jews have traded, worked, and lived together here, not without conflict but with a common relish for city life and business. (Only a few Jews remain; most left after the founding of Israel, when the government began viewing them with suspicion.) Later, after 1970, waves of Alawis, a long-oppressed group from the coastal mountains, came to Damascus, drawn to new opportunities under the rule of President Bashar al Assad’s family, which hails from their sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Those who live in Damascus and love it best stand united in their desire to preserve it. Even as a once peaceful popular movement for political rights, dignity, and justice takes on an uglier sectarian tone—deepening fears of another Sarajevo, another Baghdad—people here say they cannot imagine attacking one another. Yet Damascenes are divided on who most threatens their world. Just beneath a carapace of fear—of the rebels, of the government, of foreign intervention, of general chaos—bubble political views so divergent that it can be hard to picture how the gap might be bridged. (Small wonder that few in the city are willing to have their full names printed.)

damascus 3“Every stone is a heritage—every sculpture, every roof, every fountain,” says Ghazi H., a secular Christian in his 30s who has spent much of his life in the Old City. His schoolmates of all religions used the Umayyad Mosque courtyard as a study hall. As a teenager, he explored a Muslim quarter newly opening to the outside world: Cafés proliferated, boys and girls walked together without incident—although older people looked askance at them. As an adult, he salved boredom by hunting for “hidden treasures”—a courtyard in a boarded-up mansion, a small carving on an old house. But how people define the Old City’s heritage depends on their political outlook, and it is darker and more complex than most acknowledge, Ghazi says.“Everyone uses history to make their own points.”

damascus 4The Old City’s twisting alleys, where houses lean into one another and vines dangle across narrow streets, developed that way in part so that neighboring but segregated ethnic enclaves could protect their territories. “It symbolizes how these divided groups can live together even though they don’t like each other,” says Ghazi. Passing through a Shiite quarter, he notices posters on the walls commemorating fallen fighters for Assad, and he knows that some passing Sunnis from a neighboring quarter may be quietly cheering the deaths. Yet the two groups still greet each other and visit each other’s shops. “That’s what the Old City symbolizes,” Ghazi says, sitting in the courtyard of his now deserted hotel. “And if you go back in history, it has always been symbolizing this same thing. It was Christian, and when the Muslims came, they converted many churches to mosques”—the Umayyad Mosque, where a church once stood, still houses a shrine to John the Baptist—“and life has continued.”

In quieter times Assad embraced a version of the Damascene identity. He attended interfaith musical performances and took (disputed) credit for the refurbishing of the Old City, as entrepreneurs opened cafés and boutique hotels, like Ghazi’s, in traditional houses. This urban renaissance ushered in another phase of change: Large Muslim families cashed in on their increasingly valuable properties and built larger homes in suburbs now torn by war. Assad cultivated an image as an everyman by walking Old City streets en route to favorite nightspots like the Piano Bar. Supporters of the government here see him as the guardian of the city’s multiculturalism, fighting a foreign-inspired, extremist uprising bent on driving out minorities and imposing religious rule. Supporters of the rebels reject this as hateful nonsense, viewing the fighters—mostly poor Sunnis from the provinces—as ordinary Syrians who are themselves inextricably part of the cultural mosaic. Damascenes who oppose Assad say he has stoked sectarianism and, to stay in power, would be willing to lay waste to the city.

That is what happened in the northern city of Aleppo after the summer of 2012, when rebels entered its Old City and the government did not hesitate to shell it. Aleppo’s Umayyad Mosque was heavily damaged, along with crusader castles, Roman ruins, mosques, and churches across the country. “If they try to enter, I will be the first person to confront them,” says a Damascus shopkeeper who opposes Assad, fearing the destruction of the graceful Qasr al Azm, an Ottoman palace; the domed Khan Asad Pasha, where merchants used to unload their caravans; the Chapel of Ananias, the reputed site of the baptism of the Apostle Paul. “There is no military objective here. Freedom is needed, but not in this way.”

Yet even here violence has come to seem a necessary evil. In a shabby living room in a sagging house overlooking Street Called Straight—where the Bible says God sent Paul after striking him blind on the road to Damascus—Leena Siriani serves coffee in the brown-striped cups she has used since her marriage in 1975. She fled her home in the rebel-held city of Homs because of the fighting and shelling. Yet as she listens to the whistling of shells and the thud of their impact, she cheers them on. “May God give you power,” she says, as if to the soldiers firing them. “I hope they are hitting the terrorists and the saboteurs.”

Down a nearby alley, where shoppers peer at gold bracelets, olive soap, and mounds of cumin, a wiry spiceseller in his mid-30s whispers a different story. He comes from one of those bombarded suburbs, and most of the people he knows there have taken up arms. “All day long you hear shells coming out from here and landing there,” he says with vehemence. “Then they tell you that the threat comes from there,” he says, pointing to the suburbs. “How? Should I be afraid of my own family?” He explains that he fled to protect his daughters, leaving behind a decent job selling cars. Now he earns just seven dollars a month. He feels guilty living behind government lines, he says, not like “a real man.” Casting his eyes furtively about, he mutters, “I will join the people there sooner or later.”

Just off Straight Street, in his 400-year-old mansion encrusted with relief paintings of flowers and lined with photographs of his ancestors, Samir Naasan, 65, keeps a Kalashnikov that he vows to use if rebels come. He has taken down the crystal chandeliers, because of the explosions. He shuffles around in a Puma sweat suit and sneakers, a tuft of his hair jutting off at an angle. From an old leather trunk he pulls snapshots of heads of state, including a sitting President Richard Nixon, visiting his house. Digging deeper, he finds photos of the craft workshops that made his family rich a century ago, where Jews hammered brass, Christians tooled wood for mosaics, and Muslims wove brocade.

To him, his family—which also owns the Piano Bar, President Assad’s hangout, across the street—embodies Damascene cosmopolitanism. That makes his prescription for the crisis all the more jarring. “If I were Bashar al Assad,” he says, “in 20 days I would finish it, even if I have to kill five million Syrians.” As for the Syrian masses, he adds, “better they should die than live poor.”

Then he heads out for drinks and meze at Qasr al Kheir, a restaurant in a courtyard with patterned tiles, mosaics, and a stone fountain. Its name means “palace of goodness,” and over the speakers Edith Piaf is singing “La Vie en Rose.” The place is empty except for an engagement party. As the music shifts to thumping Arabic wedding tunes, Christian women in short skirts hold hands with Muslim women in head scarves and men twirling prayer beads, all dancing a traditional line dance, the dabke. The next song praises President Assad and the army. The dancers whoop and stomp.

This is the bargain that Damascus and Syria made: live under an iron fist in exchange for a social safety net and a space for religious and cultural, if not political, pluralism. Then Syrians took peacefully to the streets in early 2011, claiming that a family mafia oppressed not only the Sunni majority but all citizens. The government responded with overwhelming force, and its opponents turned to arms.

Now Assad’s long-standing claim—after me, Islamic extremists—has proved true in many parts of the country. How and why will be long debated. But as both sides grow exhausted, forced to face the real prospect of demolishing all they are fighting for, perhaps resolution lies somewhere in the Damascene model of coexistence. Or simply in shared love for the millennia-old city that no one wants to see die.

For now, Damascus focuses on survival. Merchants, unable to flee because their cash is tied up in inventory, tenderly fold and unfold brocade shawls that were made in now destroyed suburban workshops. For Ghazi H., comfort is found in Abu George’s cubbyhole bar. Even when shelling prompts other places on Straight Street to close early, the bar glows like a fire on a cold night. The patrons, nowadays mostly neighborhood Christians, wax nostalgic for the Muslims from the suburbs who would drop in to drink out of sight of judging neighbors. They rarely come now—they would have to cross the front lines.

For Ghazi, what is slipping away is the Old City’s special flavor. “This period, it made me lose the feeling for things,” he says. “Now I walk—I don’t look. It took the spirit from the Old City. You think, Which is more important, the people or the rocks? Losing someone close to you, or losing the minaret of the Umayyad Mosque? For sure, the people are more important.”

Sometimes he wonders if people like him will be driven out, or he even catches himself thinking a decisive battle would be worth it if it ended this period of uncertainty.

And if either of those things happens, will the ancient city of Damascus be destroyed forever? He says no. “It will change,” he says. “Like it has changed in the past.”

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/03/syrian-war/barnard-text

Hazards to Heritage 2 – ISIS blows up part of Nineveh Wall

images NinevehJanuary 28, 2015 by Abdelhak Mamoun

Nineveh – A Kurdish official revealed on Tuesday evening that the ISIS organization had bombed large parts and tracts of the ancient Nineveh wall, indicating that such an act violates the right of human culture and heritage.

Nineveh 3The media official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Mosul, Saed Mimousine said in an interview for IraqiNews.com, “ISIS militants blew up today large parts and expanses of the archaeological wall of Nineveh in al-Tahrir neighborhood,” explaining that, “The terrorist group used explosives in the process of destroying the archaeological fence.”

Nineveh 2Mimousine added, “The Wall of Nineveh is one of the most distinctive archaeological monuments in Iraq and the Middle East,” adding that, “The fence dates back to the Assyrian civilization.”

NinevehMimousine stressed that, “Bombing the archaeological monuments by ISIS is a flagrant violation of the right of human culture, civilization and heritage,” calling the international community to “take a stand to curb the destruction of historic monuments.”

assyria

www.IraqiNews.com

Hazards to Heritage 1 – Crane Crashes into Ancient Egyptian Tomb

EGYPT-ARCHAEOLOGY-ACCIDENTCAIRO – A centuries-old tomb in southern Egypt was partly demolished when a crane lifting blocks of sculpted masonry sliced through its dome, officials said on Tuesday.

Monday’s accident happened when workmen were using the crane to move large blocks of stone to a site in the town of Aswan where an international exhibition for sculpture is being held.

“The crane carrying heavy blocks of stone crashed into the dome and severely damaged it,” Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damaty said in a statement.

He said the authorities have now asked German conservators who work on maintaining such structures in Aswan to help restore the mausoleum that dates back to the Shiite Fatimid dynasty which ruled Egypt between 969 and 1171.

There are more than 50 such mausoleums in Aswan. — Agence France-Presse

More from: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/433664/lifestyle/artandculture/crane-crashes-into-ancient-tomb-in-egypt

New Voices In Classical Reception Studies – Issue 10 (2015)

Now available online at:  http://www2.open.ac.uk/ClassicalStudies/GreekPlays/newvoices/Issue10/issue10index.htm

Iliadic Territory: Homer’s Insurgence into Duggan’s The Watchers on Gallipoli
James Allen
Abstract:   pdf
Full Article:   pdf

“So Glad to be at Home Again”: L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a Rereading of Homer’s Odyssey
Silvio Bär, University of Oslo
Abstract:   pdf
Full Article:   pdf

Witches and Wicked Objects
Lilah Grace Canevaro, University of Edinburgh
Abstract:   pdf
Full Article:   pdf

Gender Roles, Time and Initiation in Pan’s Labyrinth and the Homeric Hymn to Demeter
Jacqueline Clarke, University of Adelaide
Abstract:      pdf
Full Article:   pdf

Classical Elements and Mythological Archetypes in The Hunger Games
Sophie Mills, University of North Carolina, Asheville
Abstract:   pdf
Full Article:   pdf

New discovery solves ancient Egyptian chariot mystery

ancient_egypt_chario

Published April 23rd, 2013 by Nevine El-Aref

During routine archaeological research as part of the Ancient Egypt Leatherwork Project (AELP) carried out by Salima Ikram, Professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and Andre Veldmeijer, head of the Egyptology section at the Netherlands Flemish Institute in Cairo, a collection of 300 leather fragments of an Old Kingdom chariot were uncovered at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Published April 23rd, 2013During routine archaeological research as part of the Ancient Egypt Leatherwork Project (AELP) carried out by Salima Ikram, Professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and Andre Veldmeijer, head of the Egyptology section at the Netherlands Flemish Institute in Cairo, a collection of 300 leather fragments of an Old Kingdom chariot were uncovered at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Ikram describes the discovery as very important and the collection as “extremely rare.” Only a handful of complete chariots are known from ancient Egypt, and of these, only one heavily restored in Florence and one in the Egyptian Museum have any significant amount of leather.

“Even then, they are largely unembellished and not as well-preserved as the fragments we found,” asserted Ikram. Although horse-drawn chariots are often illustrated in ancient Egyptian artwork, she said, archaeological evidence that goes beyond wooden frames is rare due to their organic nature, as leather fragments seldom survive.

“The fragments are in a much better shape than we originally anticipated, and we were able to achieve a sense of how the leather unfolds,” Ikram pointed out, adding that the fine condition that the leather was in suggests that it may have been preserved in a tomb.

The archaeological team is now studying the technology and resources used to make the leather chariots in order to reconstruct a complete exact replica of an ancient Egyptian royal leather chariot in 2014.

“The team is also going to test hypotheses about the uses of the different pieces of leather, which may prove to be a challenging endeavour,” said Ikram.

She explains that studies on the newly discovered leather fragments reveal that some pieces are folded over in a crumpled state, and the reconstruction of certain portions while trying to maintain accuracy in reproducing the technologies used might be more difficult than anticipated.

The AELP started in 2008 working on all leather artefacts on display at the Egyptian Museum. During the work, Ikram and Veldmeijer came across a 1950s publication by Robert Jacobus Forbes titled Studies in Ancient Technology with a black and white photograph of ancient reigns and horse harnesses, evidently intact and said to exist at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Thrilled by Forbes’s findings, both Egyptologists sought the help of museum curators to locate a cache of leather items related to an ancient chariot, including parts of the bow-case.

Ikram and Veldmeijer documented, examined and conducted analytical studies of the technology and resources utilised. They categorised the leather into two main groups based on colour and sturdiness. The leather fragments have been numbered and described, and include nave hoops, neck straps, gauntlets and parts of the bow-case. The remnants evidently comprised all parts of the chariot.

“Everything we saw about the chariot leather was new,” affirmed Ikram, adding that it provided a revelation on how the chariot was put together in terms of the technologies and materials used.

“Our examinations also disclosed how drawstrings served as the means of securing leather components over the skeleton of the chariot.”

According to a press release sent from the AUC press, the findings fit in with a larger multidisciplinary and holistic research venture on leatherwork in ancient Egypt, which also includes the study of other fragmentary chariot pieces, such as those originating from the tombs of Thutmose IV (Carter and Newberry, 1904), Amenhotep II (Daressy, 1902) and Amenhotep III (Littauer and Crouwel, 1985, 1968 and 1987), as well as the leather finds from the Amarna period (Veldmeijer, 2010). This larger project is directed by Veldmeijer and Ikram.

“Chariots introduced the notion of roadways for faster wheel conveyance, revolutionising the way Egyptians moved through the landscape and pioneering means of transportation and warfare,” said Ikram.

http://www.albawaba.com/editorchoice/ancient-egypt-chariot-486726#.UXhDMlA2PQY.facebook

Acta Classsica – Vol 57:2014, Now Available Online!

VOLUME 57 (2014)

CHAIRPERSON’S ADDRESS

Lambert, M. 2014. ‘On rainbows and butterflies: the Classics, the Humanities,

VOLUME 57 (2014)

CHAIRPERSON’S ADDRESS

Lambert, M. 2014. ‘On rainbows and butterflies: the Classics, the Humanities, and Africa’. Acta Classica 57: 1-15. [Download full text]

ARTICLES

Bosman, P. R. 2014. ‘Naphtha and narrative art in Plut. Alex. 35′. Acta Classica 57: 16-29.

Haskins, S. L. 2014. ‘Bestial or human lusts? The representation of the matron and her sexuality in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses (10.19.3-22.5)’. Acta Classica 57: 30-52.

Karkavelias, N. 2014. ‘The chronology of Pisander’s mission to Athens revisited: Thucydides 8.53-54’. Acta Classica 57: 53-75.

Kirby-Hirst, M. 2014. ‘Philostratus’ Heroikos: Protesilaos, Achilles, and

VOLUME 57 (2014)

CHAIRPERSON’S ADDRESS

Lambert, M. 2014. ‘On rainbows and butterflies: the Classics, the Humanities, and Africa’. Acta Classica 57: 1-15. [Download full text]

ARTICLES

Bosman, P. R. 2014. ‘Naphtha and narrative art in Plut. Alex. 35′. Acta Classica 57: 16-29.

Haskins, S. L. 2014. ‘Bestial or human lusts? The representation of the matron and her sexuality in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses (10.19.3-22.5)’. Acta Classica 57: 30-52.

Karkavelias, N. 2014. ‘The chronology of Pisander’s mission to Athens revisited: Thucydides 8.53-54’. Acta Classica 57: 53-75.

Kirby-Hirst, M. 2014. ‘Philostratus’ Heroikos: Protesilaos, Achilles, and Palamedes unite in defence of the Greek world’. Acta Classica 57: 76-104.

Murray, J. 2014. ‘”These are our jewels”: women and classical education at Huguenot College’. Acta Classica 57: 105-126.

Ross, A. 2014. ‘Constantius and the sieges of Amida and Nisibis: Ammianus’ relationship with Julian’s panegyrics’. Acta Classica 57: 127-154.

Russo, F. 2014. ‘Rhetorical strategy and juridical subterfuges in Cicero’s Pro Tullio‘. Acta Classica 57: 155-164.

Walsh, J. 2014. ‘The concept of dunasteia in Aristotle and the Macedonian monarchy’. Acta Classica 57: 165-183.

Zakowski, S. 2014. ‘The distribution of ἄν in John Chrysostom’s homilies Adversus Iudaeos. Acta Classica 57: 184-224.

MISCELLANEA

Evans, R.J. 2014. ‘The capture of Sybaris (510 BC) and the siege of Mantinea: History repeated?’. Acta Classica 57: 225-232.

Futter, D. 2014. ‘Socrates’ bull sacrifice (Phd. 117b5)’. Acta Classica 57: 233-240.

Hilton, J. L. 2014. ‘A new sixth-century reader of Heliodorus’ Aethiopica?’ Acta Classica 57: 241-245.

Whitaker, R. A. 2014. ‘Aimé Césaire and the cyclops of Theocritus Idyll 11′. Acta Classica 57: 246-248.

REVIEWS

Cameron, A. 2014. Byzantine Matters. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014. Pp. xviii + 164. ISBN 978-0-691-15763-4. £15.95. (Bell, P.N. Acta Classica 57: 249-252). [Download full text]

Hardwick, L. and Harrison, S. J. edd. 2013. Classics in the Modern World. A Democratic Turn? Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-967392-6. US$160/£90 (Hobden, F. Acta Classica 57: 253-259). [Download full text]

Hutchinson, G. O. 2013. Greek to Latin: Frameworks and Contexts for Intertextuality. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-967070-3. £90.00. (Geue, T. Acta Classica 57: 260-262). [Download full text]

McConnell, J. 2013. Black Odysseys: The Homeric Odyssey in the African Diaspora since 1939. Classical Presences. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-960500-2. £65.00 (Whitaker, R. Acta Classica. 57: 263-266). [Download full text]

Richardson, E. 2013. Classical Victorians: Scholars, Scoundrels and Generals in Pursuit of Antiquity. Classics after Antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-02677-3. £55.00. (Hilton, J.L. Acta Classica 57: 267-271). [Download full text]

Vasunia, P. 2013. Classics and Colonial India: Classical Presences. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-920323-9. £85.00. (Umachandran, M. Acta Classica 57: 272-275). [Download full text]

Whitmarsh, T. 2013. Beyond the Second Sophistic: Adventures in Greek Postclassicism. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-52027681-9. US$49.95. (Tagliabue, A. Acta Classica 57: 276-280). [Download full text].

Palamedes unite in defence of the Greek world’. Acta Classica 57: 76-104.

Murray, J. 2014. ‘”These are our jewels”: women and classical education at Huguenot College’. Acta Classica 57: 105-126.

Ross, A. 2014. ‘Constantius and the sieges of Amida and Nisibis: Ammianus’ relationship with Julian’s panegyrics’. Acta Classica 57: 127-154.

Russo, F. 2014. ‘Rhetorical strategy and juridical subterfuges in Cicero’s Pro Tullio‘. Acta Classica 57: 155-164.

Walsh, J. 2014. ‘The concept of dunasteia in Aristotle and the Macedonian monarchy’. Acta Classica 57: 165-183.

Zakowski, S. 2014. ‘The distribution of ἄν in John Chrysostom’s homilies Adversus Iudaeos. Acta Classica 57: 184-224.

MISCELLANEA

Evans, R.J. 2014. ‘The capture of Sybaris (510 BC) and the siege of Mantinea: History repeated?’. Acta Classica 57: 225-232.

Futter, D. 2014. ‘Socrates’ bull sacrifice (Phd. 117b5)’. Acta Classica 57: 233-240.

Hilton, J. L. 2014. ‘A new sixth-century reader of Heliodorus’ Aethiopica?’ Acta Classica 57: 241-245.

Whitaker, R. A. 2014. ‘Aimé Césaire and the cyclops of Theocritus Idyll 11′. Acta Classica 57: 246-248.

REVIEWS

Cameron, A. 2014. Byzantine Matters. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014. Pp. xviii + 164. ISBN 978-0-691-15763-4. £15.95. (Bell, P.N. Acta Classica 57: 249-252). [Download full text]

Hardwick, L. and Harrison, S. J. edd. 2013. Classics in the Modern World. A Democratic Turn? Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-967392-6. US$160/£90 (Hobden, F. Acta Classica 57: 253-259). [Download full text]

Hutchinson, G. O. 2013. Greek to Latin: Frameworks and Contexts for Intertextuality. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-967070-3. £90.00. (Geue, T. Acta Classica 57: 260-262). [Download full text]

McConnell, J. 2013. Black Odysseys: The Homeric Odyssey in the African Diaspora since 1939. Classical Presences. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-960500-2. £65.00 (Whitaker, R. Acta Classica. 57: 263-266). [Download full text]

Richardson, E. 2013. Classical Victorians: Scholars, Scoundrels and Generals in Pursuit of Antiquity. Classics after Antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-02677-3. £55.00. (Hilton, J.L. Acta Classica 57: 267-271). [Download full text]

Vasunia, P. 2013. Classics and Colonial India: Classical Presences. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-920323-9. £85.00. (Umachandran, M. Acta Classica 57: 272-275). [Download full text]

Whitmarsh, T. 2013. Beyond the Second Sophistic: Adventures in Greek Postclassicism. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-52027681-9. US$49.95. (Tagliabue, A. Acta Classica 57: 276-280). [Download full text].

http://www.casa-kvsa.org.za/2014.htm

and Africa’. Acta Classica 57: 1-15. [Download full text]

ARTICLES

Bosman, P. R. 2014. ‘Naphtha and narrative art in Plut. Alex. 35′. Acta Classica 57: 16-29.

Haskins, S. L. 2014. ‘Bestial or human lusts? The representation of the matron and her sexuality in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses (10.19.3-22.5)’. Acta Classica 57: 30-52.

Karkavelias, N. 2014. ‘The chronology of Pisander’s mission to Athens revisited: Thucydides 8.53-54’. Acta Classica 57: 53-75.

Kirby-Hirst, M. 2014. ‘Philostratus’ Heroikos: Protesilaos, Achilles, and

VOLUME 57 (2014)

CHAIRPERSON’S ADDRESS

Lambert, M. 2014. ‘On rainbows and butterflies: the Classics, the Humanities, and Africa’. Acta Classica 57: 1-15. [Download full text]

ARTICLES

Bosman, P. R. 2014. ‘Naphtha and narrative art in Plut. Alex. 35′. Acta Classica 57: 16-29.

Haskins, S. L. 2014. ‘Bestial or human lusts? The representation of the matron and her sexuality in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses (10.19.3-22.5)’. Acta Classica 57: 30-52.

Karkavelias, N. 2014. ‘The chronology of Pisander’s mission to Athens revisited: Thucydides 8.53-54’. Acta Classica 57: 53-75.

Kirby-Hirst, M. 2014. ‘Philostratus’ Heroikos: Protesilaos, Achilles, and Palamedes unite in defence of the Greek world’. Acta Classica 57: 76-104.

Murray, J. 2014. ‘”These are our jewels”: women and classical education at Huguenot College’. Acta Classica 57: 105-126.

Ross, A. 2014. ‘Constantius and the sieges of Amida and Nisibis: Ammianus’ relationship with Julian’s panegyrics’. Acta Classica 57: 127-154.

Russo, F. 2014. ‘Rhetorical strategy and juridical subterfuges in Cicero’s Pro Tullio‘. Acta Classica 57: 155-164.

Walsh, J. 2014. ‘The concept of dunasteia in Aristotle and the Macedonian monarchy’. Acta Classica 57: 165-183.

Zakowski, S. 2014. ‘The distribution of ἄν in John Chrysostom’s homilies Adversus Iudaeos. Acta Classica 57: 184-224.

MISCELLANEA

Evans, R.J. 2014. ‘The capture of Sybaris (510 BC) and the siege of Mantinea: History repeated?’. Acta Classica 57: 225-232.

Futter, D. 2014. ‘Socrates’ bull sacrifice (Phd. 117b5)’. Acta Classica 57: 233-240.

Hilton, J. L. 2014. ‘A new sixth-century reader of Heliodorus’ Aethiopica?’ Acta Classica 57: 241-245.

Whitaker, R. A. 2014. ‘Aimé Césaire and the cyclops of Theocritus Idyll 11′. Acta Classica 57: 246-248.

REVIEWS

Cameron, A. 2014. Byzantine Matters. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014. Pp. xviii + 164. ISBN 978-0-691-15763-4. £15.95. (Bell, P.N. Acta Classica 57: 249-252). [Download full text]

Hardwick, L. and Harrison, S. J. edd. 2013. Classics in the Modern World. A Democratic Turn? Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-967392-6. US$160/£90 (Hobden, F. Acta Classica 57: 253-259). [Download full text]

Hutchinson, G. O. 2013. Greek to Latin: Frameworks and Contexts for Intertextuality. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-967070-3. £90.00. (Geue, T. Acta Classica 57: 260-262). [Download full text]

McConnell, J. 2013. Black Odysseys: The Homeric Odyssey in the African Diaspora since 1939. Classical Presences. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-960500-2. £65.00 (Whitaker, R. Acta Classica. 57: 263-266). [Download full text]

Richardson, E. 2013. Classical Victorians: Scholars, Scoundrels and Generals in Pursuit of Antiquity. Classics after Antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-02677-3. £55.00. (Hilton, J.L. Acta Classica 57: 267-271). [Download full text]

Vasunia, P. 2013. Classics and Colonial India: Classical Presences. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-920323-9. £85.00. (Umachandran, M. Acta Classica 57: 272-275). [Download full text]

Whitmarsh, T. 2013. Beyond the Second Sophistic: Adventures in Greek Postclassicism. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-52027681-9. US$49.95. (Tagliabue, A. Acta Classica 57: 276-280). [Download full text].

Palamedes unite in defence of the Greek world’. Acta Classica 57: 76-104.

Murray, J. 2014. ‘”These are our jewels”: women and classical education at Huguenot College’. Acta Classica 57: 105-126.

Ross, A. 2014. ‘Constantius and the sieges of Amida and Nisibis: Ammianus’ relationship with Julian’s panegyrics’. Acta Classica 57: 127-154.

Russo, F. 2014. ‘Rhetorical strategy and juridical subterfuges in Cicero’s Pro Tullio‘. Acta Classica 57: 155-164.

Walsh, J. 2014. ‘The concept of dunasteia in Aristotle and the Macedonian monarchy’. Acta Classica 57: 165-183.

Zakowski, S. 2014. ‘The distribution of ἄν in John Chrysostom’s homilies Adversus Iudaeos. Acta Classica 57: 184-224.

MISCELLANEA

Evans, R.J. 2014. ‘The capture of Sybaris (510 BC) and the siege of Mantinea: History repeated?’. Acta Classica 57: 225-232.

Futter, D. 2014. ‘Socrates’ bull sacrifice (Phd. 117b5)’. Acta Classica 57: 233-240.

Hilton, J. L. 2014. ‘A new sixth-century reader of Heliodorus’ Aethiopica?’ Acta Classica 57: 241-245.

Whitaker, R. A. 2014. ‘Aimé Césaire and the cyclops of Theocritus Idyll 11′. Acta Classica 57: 246-248.

REVIEWS

Cameron, A. 2014. Byzantine Matters. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014. Pp. xviii + 164. ISBN 978-0-691-15763-4. £15.95. (Bell, P.N. Acta Classica 57: 249-252). [Download full text]

Hardwick, L. and Harrison, S. J. edd. 2013. Classics in the Modern World. A Democratic Turn? Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-967392-6. US$160/£90 (Hobden, F. Acta Classica 57: 253-259). [Download full text]

Hutchinson, G. O. 2013. Greek to Latin: Frameworks and Contexts for Intertextuality. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-967070-3. £90.00. (Geue, T. Acta Classica 57: 260-262). [Download full text]

McConnell, J. 2013. Black Odysseys: The Homeric Odyssey in the African Diaspora since 1939. Classical Presences. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-960500-2. £65.00 (Whitaker, R. Acta Classica. 57: 263-266). [Download full text]

Richardson, E. 2013. Classical Victorians: Scholars, Scoundrels and Generals in Pursuit of Antiquity. Classics after Antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-02677-3. £55.00. (Hilton, J.L. Acta Classica 57: 267-271). [Download full text]

Vasunia, P. 2013. Classics and Colonial India: Classical Presences. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-920323-9. £85.00. (Umachandran, M. Acta Classica 57: 272-275). [Download full text]

Whitmarsh, T. 2013. Beyond the Second Sophistic: Adventures in Greek Postclassicism. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-52027681-9. US$49.95. (Tagliabue, A. Acta Classica 57: 276-280). [Download full text].

http://www.casa-kvsa.org.za/2014.htm

Ancient Scrolls of Philodemus, Carbonized by Vesuvius, Now Readable

By Justin

Rare Medieval Manuscripts On Ancient War Machines Are Now Online

The British Library has just added several Greek manuscripts to its online collection, including a lavishly illustrated, 16th century compilation of treatises on warfare, which detail the science and tactics of siege craft.

vbnvsbblo74nrnj6x7fcSuch ancient works on military

The British Library has just added several Greek manuscripts to its online collection, including a lavishly illustrated, 16th century compilation of treatises on warfare, which detail the science and tactics of siege craft.

vbnvsbblo74nrnj6x7fcSuch ancient works on military machines were a source of fascination during this era, not only because of their historic interest, but also as a source for modern inventions to be used in contemporary warfare.

urngpj7vpteakt2to9xeThe manuscript includes the

The British Library has just added several Greek manuscripts to its online collection, including a lavishly illustrated, 16th century compilation of treatises on warfare, which detail the science and tactics of siege craft.

vbnvsbblo74nrnj6x7fcSuch ancient works on military machines were a source of fascination during this era, not only because of their historic interest, but also as a source for modern inventions to be used in contemporary warfare.

urngpj7vpteakt2to9xeThe manuscript includes the writings of several classical authors, including Apollodorus of Damascus, who was a Roman architect and engineer of the late 1st to early 2nd century AD. As Emperor Trajan’s architect and military engineer, he was responsible for Trajan’s Forum and possibly Trajan’s Column, and he produced several designs for siege machines. Above is an illustration on the construction of a testudo or tortoise, which protected attackers as they filled in ditches near the wall of a fortress. A siege tower or ram could then be brought into position and used to launch an attack onto the walkway, aided by missile fire from the higher levels of the tower.

zzl6goeflu9ssjexs635Diagrams of one such mobile siege engine (above) appear in Bitons’ De Constructione Bellicarum Machinarum et Catapultarum (On the Construction of Warlike Engines and Catapults). As the British Library notes:

The tower was usually rectangular, with four wheels and a height roughly equal to that of the wall; it was sometimes higher to allow archers to stand on the top and fire into the fortification. The tower was made chiefly of wood, but sometimes there were metal components as well. They were both unwieldy to manoeuvre, and slow to assemble, and consequently were usually constructed at the siege site. They were considered a “last resort” to be used only if defenses could not be overcome by ladder assault, mining or ramming. Sometimes siege towers themselves incorporated other devices, including artillery, rams, and dropbridges.

In the mid 10th century AD, Apollodorus’ work was updated and supplemented by an anonymous author, “Heron of Byzantium.” His instructional manual, the Parangelmata Poliorcetica, was written for the non-specialist — adding more information and explanations on such devices as the battering ram.

m6oohuhmhl4iuxl350rsTo shield the soldiers from attack, they often built a covering shed, in which they hung a thick trunk on chains suspended from a beam above. The front was tapered into a blunt point capped with iron. Sometimes the shed was covered with animal pelts or earth to make it fireproof. According to the author, the shed should be fixed to the ground while the ram was being used to prevent both skidding and strain on the axles from the weight of the moving apparatus. This would also increase the strength of the impact on the walls.

http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Burney_MS_69

writings of several classical authors, including Apollodorus of Damascus, who was a Roman architect and engineer of the late 1st to early 2nd century AD. As Emperor Trajan’s architect and military engineer, he was responsible for Trajan’s Forum and possibly Trajan’s Column, and he produced several designs for siege machines. Above is an illustration on the construction of a testudo or tortoise, which protected attackers as they filled in ditches near the wall of a fortress. A siege tower or ram could then be brought into position and used to launch an attack onto the walkway, aided by missile fire from the higher levels of the tower.

zzl6goeflu9ssjexs635Diagrams of one such mobile siege engine (above) appear in Bitons’ De Constructione Bellicarum Machinarum et Catapultarum (On the Construction of Warlike Engines and Catapults). As the British Library notes:

The tower was usually rectangular, with four wheels and a height roughly equal to that of the wall; it was sometimes higher to allow archers to stand on the top and fire into the fortification. The tower was made chiefly of wood, but sometimes there were metal components as well. They were both unwieldy to manoeuvre, and slow to assemble, and consequently were usually constructed at the siege site. They were considered a “last resort” to be used only if defenses could not be overcome by ladder assault, mining or ramming. Sometimes siege towers themselves incorporated other devices, including artillery, rams, and dropbridges.

In the mid 10th century AD, Apollodorus’ work was updated and supplemented by an anonymous author, “Heron of Byzantium.” His instructional manual, the Parangelmata Poliorcetica, was written for the non-specialist — adding more information and explanations on such devices as the battering ram.

m6oohuhmhl4iuxl350rsTo shield the soldiers from attack, they often built a covering shed, in which they hung a thick trunk on chains suspended from a beam above. The front was tapered into a blunt point capped with iron. Sometimes the shed was covered with animal pelts or earth to make it fireproof. According to the author, the shed should be fixed to the ground while the ram was being used to prevent both skidding and strain on the axles from the weight of the moving apparatus. This would also increase the strength of the impact on the walls.

To read more, visit the British Library website:

http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Burney_MS_69

machines were a source of fascination during this era, not only because of their historic interest, but also as a source for modern inventions to be used in contemporary warfare.

urngpj7vpteakt2to9xeThe manuscript includes the

The British Library has just added several Greek manuscripts to its online collection, including a lavishly illustrated, 16th century compilation of treatises on warfare, which detail the science and tactics of siege craft.

vbnvsbblo74nrnj6x7fcSuch ancient works on military machines were a source of fascination during this era, not only because of their historic interest, but also as a source for modern inventions to be used in contemporary warfare.

urngpj7vpteakt2to9xeThe manuscript includes the writings of several classical authors, including Apollodorus of Damascus, who was a Roman architect and engineer of the late 1st to early 2nd century AD. As Emperor Trajan’s architect and military engineer, he was responsible for Trajan’s Forum and possibly Trajan’s Column, and he produced several designs for siege machines. Above is an illustration on the construction of a testudo or tortoise, which protected attackers as they filled in ditches near the wall of a fortress. A siege tower or ram could then be brought into position and used to launch an attack onto the walkway, aided by missile fire from the higher levels of the tower.

zzl6goeflu9ssjexs635Diagrams of one such mobile siege engine (above) appear in Bitons’ De Constructione Bellicarum Machinarum et Catapultarum (On the Construction of Warlike Engines and Catapults). As the British Library notes:

The tower was usually rectangular, with four wheels and a height roughly equal to that of the wall; it was sometimes higher to allow archers to stand on the top and fire into the fortification. The tower was made chiefly of wood, but sometimes there were metal components as well. They were both unwieldy to manoeuvre, and slow to assemble, and consequently were usually constructed at the siege site. They were considered a “last resort” to be used only if defenses could not be overcome by ladder assault, mining or ramming. Sometimes siege towers themselves incorporated other devices, including artillery, rams, and dropbridges.

In the mid 10th century AD, Apollodorus’ work was updated and supplemented by an anonymous author, “Heron of Byzantium.” His instructional manual, the Parangelmata Poliorcetica, was written for the non-specialist — adding more information and explanations on such devices as the battering ram.

m6oohuhmhl4iuxl350rsTo shield the soldiers from attack, they often built a covering shed, in which they hung a thick trunk on chains suspended from a beam above. The front was tapered into a blunt point capped with iron. Sometimes the shed was covered with animal pelts or earth to make it fireproof. According to the author, the shed should be fixed to the ground while the ram was being used to prevent both skidding and strain on the axles from the weight of the moving apparatus. This would also increase the strength of the impact on the walls.

http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Burney_MS_69

writings of several classical authors, including Apollodorus of Damascus, who was a Roman architect and engineer of the late 1st to early 2nd century AD. As Emperor Trajan’s architect and military engineer, he was responsible for Trajan’s Forum and possibly Trajan’s Column, and he produced several designs for siege machines. Above is an illustration on the construction of a testudo or tortoise, which protected attackers as they filled in ditches near the wall of a fortress. A siege tower or ram could then be brought into position and used to launch an attack onto the walkway, aided by missile fire from the higher levels of the tower.

zzl6goeflu9ssjexs635Diagrams of one such mobile siege engine (above) appear in Bitons’ De Constructione Bellicarum Machinarum et Catapultarum (On the Construction of Warlike Engines and Catapults). As the British Library notes:

The tower was usually rectangular, with four wheels and a height roughly equal to that of the wall; it was sometimes higher to allow archers to stand on the top and fire into the fortification. The tower was made chiefly of wood, but sometimes there were metal components as well. They were both unwieldy to manoeuvre, and slow to assemble, and consequently were usually constructed at the siege site. They were considered a “last resort” to be used only if defenses could not be overcome by ladder assault, mining or ramming. Sometimes siege towers themselves incorporated other devices, including artillery, rams, and dropbridges.

In the mid 10th century AD, Apollodorus’ work was updated and supplemented by an anonymous author, “Heron of Byzantium.” His instructional manual, the Parangelmata Poliorcetica, was written for the non-specialist — adding more information and explanations on such devices as the battering ram.

m6oohuhmhl4iuxl350rsTo shield the soldiers from attack, they often built a covering shed, in which they hung a thick trunk on chains suspended from a beam above. The front was tapered into a blunt point capped with iron. Sometimes the shed was covered with animal pelts or earth to make it fireproof. According to the author, the shed should be fixed to the ground while the ram was being used to prevent both skidding and strain on the axles from the weight of the moving apparatus. This would also increase the strength of the impact on the walls.

To read more, visit the British Library website:

http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Burney_MS_69

Giant Ancient Roman Water Basin Uncovered

dnews-files-2014-12-largest-ancient-Roman-water-basin-141204-jpgItalian archaeologists have unearthed the largest Roman water basin ever found, right in the heart of modern Rome.

Found some 65 feet down near St. John in Lateran Basilica during the excavation of the new metro C line, the huge irrigation basin measures 115 feet by 230 feet.

“It’s so big that it goes beyond the perimeter of the metro work site. It has not been possible to uncover it completely,” Rossella Rea, the dig’s director, said at a news conference in Rome.

Photos: Ancient Water Basin Found in Rome

Rea, who led an all-woman team of archaeologists, noted the basin was lined with hydraulic plaster and most likely extends, still preserved, beyond the work site toward the ancient city walls.

“On the basis of the size that had been determined so far, it could hold more than four million liters (1 million gallons) of water,” Rea said.

The massive basin was part of a farm dating to the third century B.C. In the first century A.D., the basin was added to existing structures, such as water wheels, used to lift and distribute the water along canals.

“Most likely it served as a water reservoir for crops as well as an area that made it possible to cope with overflows from the nearby river,” Rea said.

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She believes the basin also extends towards the existing metro station of the A line, although most of the structure has been almost certainly destroyed.

The excavation, carried out by archaeologists Francesca Montella and Simona Morretta, also brought to light various agricultural related items, such as a three-pronged iron pitchfork, and remains of storage baskets made from braided willow branches.

Lined up jars with their ends cut open were recycled as water conduits. Used tiles were also recycled to make canals. They were inscribed with the encircled initials “TL” — evidence that the farm belonged to a single owner.

Peach pits revealed the agricultural plant featured the first cultivation of peach trees, imported from the Middle East.

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The farm was obliterated at the end of the first century A.D., its structures, including the water basin, demolished and buried.

Rea said some findings will eventually be put on display in the St. John’s subway station, while other artifacts will be moved to Rome museums.

Image: Part of the massive water basin unearthed in Rome: Credit: Soprintendenza speciale per i beni archeologici di Roma.

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