Sunday, September 21, 2014

Today In 454: Aetius Was Assasinated By Valentinian III

Flavius Aetius is one of those fascinating Late Antique figures who was both a great general (dux) and a politician, the power behind the throne. He is sometimes known at the Last Roman, and is frankly far more interesting than the emperor he served.

Valentinian himself was assassinated the following year, possibly on the orders of Petronius Maximus avenging his wife's rape by the emperor. One of the assassins, Thraustila, was married to Aetius' daughter according to Additamenta ad chron. Prosperi Hauniensis, s.a. 455.

Obviously Aetius is best know as the man who saved the remains of the Roman Empire from Attila.

I very much enjoyed Ian Hughes' biography of Aetius: Attila's Nemesis: Kindle UK, Kindle US, etc - as well as his bios of Belissarius and other too often overlooked non-Imperial figures.

If you enjoyed this video by Adrian Murdoch, check out his book on The Emperors of Rome; Kindle UK, Kindle US, etc

Amphipolis: More Questions, More Answers ...

Hopefully this will answer the last of the current batch of questions, but the Ministry of Culture issued a new press release: here.

First the Elgin Marbles / Parthenon sculptures

This came up in the comments to my last Amphipolis Q&A. Back in 2003 I was critical of some Greek archaeologists. They're still not all perfect, but I have been far more critical of the British Museum (see here and here for example). In January 2013 I gave a talk at the Wallace Collection about the history of the Parthenon sculptures where I explained why I am in favour of a long-term loan to Greece, and how I thought this could be arranged. Just as Amphipolis is legally Greek but belongs to the world's heritage and is universal, so are the Parthenon sculptures. I'll go into greater detail in another post in the future, but the person who convinced me was Michaelis Lefantzis - the architect at the Acropolis, as well as the discoverer of the Amphipolis tomb (someone should give the guy a medal!). As the situation changed, my views evolved - the Parthenon sculptures may be carved in stone, but intelligent people's views should not always be.

you should talk about the caryatids in more detail and how they help on dating

To which I tweeted back "architectural sculpture tends to be lower quality than portraits and gods, so stylistic dating is risky & the architecture dates" - very little architectural sculpture was by leading sculptors, although the Parthenon and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus are notable exceptions. The Amphipolis sculptures are of very good quality, and I will discuss them more, but I am always wary of dating architectural sculpture purely stylistically. It should be dated in conjunction with the architecture for which it was created. Architectural sculpture is usually linked to cult buildings, whether temples or theatres, and religious structures such as tombs, so it is often slightly archaising or old-fashioned to emphasise the antiquity of the cult or the dynasty.

As I said yesterday, there are traces of paint on the Caryatids. Also I am wary of overly proscriptive rules when it comes to dating. An American scholar years ago wrote a book about Greek sandals and dating; by her arguments these sorts of raised sandals would be Hellenistic, but they are also known from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus which pre-dates Amphipolis!

This is the new diagram of the tomb the Ministry have released, and the Ministry spokeswoman has also confirmed the likelyhood of a fourth room. And denied that gold coins of Alexander were found!

a) What are the different dating methods one may use for sites like Amphipolis, or for the tombs like the ones at Aegae, and how accurate or uncertain they are?

Small finds such as broken pieces of pottery found in the foundations are the most usual method of dating, as obvious the building on top of them has to post-date them. Also coins are sometimes found in layers, and ideally one has literary sources and inscriptions too! Honestly dating in archaeology can be as much an art as a science, so this is why people publish conflicting articles.  

b) Do we have examples of large scale archaeological monuments which we only found out about after these have been excavated, as there was no historical reference (direct or indirect) to them?

I'm still caffeinating, so can't think of a Greek one off the top of my head, but we lost far more ancient sources than are preserved, so yes! And the best example is a whole ancient Chinese kingdom, about which we know nothing but amazing archaeological finds have been made in recent times.

c) There are many theories out there about the occupant of the Amphipolis tomb, some talk about Alexander despite the numerous references for his burial at Alexandria. Do we have examples in archaeology were historical references proved to be misleading?

Yes! The ancients were just as fallible as us! Vitruvius clearly made a mistake in his 'lesson' about Caryatids, and Pausanias often just repeated the mistakes Roman tour guides told him. BUT I tend to be suspicious of scholars who claim the ancient source was wrong but they are right ... and I tend to by default give the ancient source the benefit of the doubt until proven wrong. 

d) There was a nice article few weeks ago about "tales of tomb looting" (here in greek: In that article, Angeliki Kottaridi describes how the tomb of Phillip escaped looting, saying that after the plundering of many other royal tombs by the Gauls, Antigonus Gonatas reinforced the great tumulus. Is that based on a historical reference or is it an assumption (because I can't find a reference). What I found is that Pyrrhus became extremely unpopular among Macedonias for letting the Gauls do what they did (plus for leaving them unpunished, afterwards). Was that maybe a motivation for sealing at least the important Macedonian tombs, like the one of Amphipolis, and could this explain the assumed later date of the filling (compared to the date of its construction)? 

Yes, there are sources of Pyrrhus sacking Vergina, and archaeological evidence for the tumulus built there after the sack. Pyrrhus was a rival of the ruler of Macedonia, and since history tends to be written by the victor ...

I will reiterate what I've been saying all along about looting. Yes there has been looting at Amphipolis over the century, and yes I am aware that a Greek 'expert' has been claiming he knew the Lion Tomb had been recently looted. If he had evidence, he should have gone to the Ministry so they could do something. In fact, the site has been very well guarded for two years. The 'expert' has an agenda in promoting looting - which is a bad problem, but not at this tomb - in order to raise funds so that he can fly around the world talking about it at conferences. I prefer to do something more practical to combat looting, such as getting items sent back.

I think the back-filling at Amphipolis was more likely to be later, and due to structural issues with the tomb about to collapse than to prevent looting. 

e) Here are photos that came up recently after the Amphipolis excavation became front page news:
These are supposed to be soldiers from WW1 period at the north of Greece, near Amphipolis, having some... fun with archaeological sites and skulls. In one of the photos we see an Amphipolis type on tomb entrace, which is walled up, like at Amphipolis (no idea which site is actually that). But walling up seems to have some common elements as the one we saw in front of the sphinxes at Amphipolis. Was that a common practice for Macedonian monuments?

That photo was taken in 1916 and is at the Imperial War Museum. Incidentally, a British officer working to free Greece from the Nazis during WW2 spent a lot of time in Macedonia and used his spare time to identify ancient sites, for example Vergina - he's better known as the archaeologist Nicholas Hammond. Not all British are bad!

Yes, most Macedonian tombs were sealed and buried, but the back-filling is very unusual. 

Do You think that this very tomb is much bigger than the three discovered chambers and that there could be another door in the last- wall, regarding to the size of the tumulus which is huge?

Hopefully I explained this one in yesterday's posts, but yes it probably had more chambers.

Aren't there scientific methods that could be used to absolutely date the find? I understand that carbon dating needs organic material to be applied, but there are other methods as well (according to wilipedia), such as "optically stimulated luminescence" (OSL) whicha can be used to date sediments (or the sand inside the tomb), if I understand correctly. Could something like this work and why hasn't this been done already? 

Carbon dating is very good, but one needs organic material for it to work ... not stone! There's one that works on terracotta, and which I assume is being used on the pottery - although it is distinctive enough and easy for experts to date the sherds, I would guess that the Ministry is making sure everything is double-checked. There are some issues with Carbon Dating at some periods, and it is not perfect, but if they find wood, it will probably be used.

a) there is a house in Amphipolis dated in the 2nd century BC, the painted walls of which remind a lot the structure of blocks forming the circular wall of the tomb. A photo is here:

Thank you! I'd been looking for photos from Olynthus just because it was destroyed by Phillip in 348 BC, so the finds are dated to well before the tomb. Domestic architecture often imitated monumental architecture in stucco or paint. The best examples come from Delos.

b) Strabo mentions nothing about the tomb in his passage for Amphipolis. Is that enough to assume that the tomb was in a bad condition or possibly unrecognisable by the time he visited ( sometime between 27 BC - AD 14)? 

Possibly, but also his sections on Macedonia are highly fragmentary and not fully preserved.

c) the block sequence in the fortification wall of Amphipolis, which I assume is much older than the hellenistic house above, also reminds (a bit) the circular wall of the tomb. Photo here:

The idea of alternating courses of thick and thin blocks is not unusual, and was a popular decorative feature.

Should the danger of collapse not be avoided at any cost?


How can technology help to assess the situation?

I can't discuss the work not released by the ministry.

What would be plan B?

B!?!?!? I think we might already be on Plan D or E ...

Why not try to enter digging down from the top?
Because going through the entrance is normal, except for Father Christmas and burglars? And we want to preserve the ceilings!


I think that covers the vast majority of the questions?

To add to my comments about paint fading when exposed to the elements, this is the reconstruction of the facade of the Great Tomb at Lefkadia. It was a Macedonian tomb whose facade was buried soon after the funeral but ...

Whilst the architectural elements were bright, as were the guardians painted between the columns ... the metopes copy those of the much earlier Parthenon, and so are shown 'faded' as they would have been by this time.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Alexander’s Armour | The Second Achilles

Alexander’s Armour | The Second Achilles

A very interesting post about Alexander the Great's armour.

I think Caracalla allegedly ended up with Alexander's armour?

Amphipolis: Your Questions, My Answers ... Part Deux

Who's buried at Amphipolis?

Yes, this was the first question not surprisingly ...

I don't know, nor do the archaeologists working there. Based on the evidence they have excavated and research in libraries, they currently believe - and on this I fully agree with them - that it was possibly started immediately before the death of Alexander, that the majority of the construction was complete within roughly a decade after his death, but final touches could have been added up to the last years of the 4th century BC.

The obvious answer is that it was most likely to have been built for Alexander, and either left empty when he was buried in Alexandria, or re-used for another Macedonian monarch - eg it could have became the tomb of Antigonus I Monophthalmus and the mausoleum of the Antigonids, for example.

I am wary of ruling anybody out, but Olympias is unlikely as she was buried near Pydna according to inscriptions, which is where she died. The fact that she was not mooted as a suggestion by the excavators is significant! She was unpopular in Macedonia, so her burial was probably arranged by her Epiriot family. These later inscriptions are discussed in a Hesperia article by Charles Edson, The Tomb of Olympias, available as a PDF here:

I would be delighted if it turned out to be a heroon-tomb of Hephaestion as that would also re-write history.

Roxanne was a leading candidate a few years ago, but the excavators no longer consider her likely.

The various admirals and other figures suggested are less likely but not impossible.

Nearchus was a candidate when it was simply thought to be a Lion Tomb without the colossal mound, but the huge size of the tomb now makes that extremely unlikely. Also, despite claims on the internet, Neartchus was born on Crete not at Amphipolis; we also have no idea when let alone where he died, as he is last attested to my knowledge in 312 BC at Gaza fighting Ptolemy.

The brothers Laomedon and Erigyius were also not important enough for such a huge tomb, and they are describes in sources as from Mytilene, where their father certainly originated. Laomedon features little during the campaigns of Alexander, but after his death according to Appian [Syrian Wars, 52]:
The first satrap of Syria was Laomedon of Mitylene, who derived his authority from Perdiccas and from Antipater, who succeeded the latter as regent. To this Laomedon, Ptolemy, the satrap of Egypt, came with a fleet and offered him a large sum of money if he would hand over Syria to him, because it was well situated for defending Egypt and for attacking Cyprus. When Laomedon refused Ptolemy seized him. Laomedon bribed his guards and escaped to Alcetas in Caria. Thus Ptolemy ruled Syria for a while, left a garrison there, and returned to Egypt.
We don't know what became of his after the coup of  Antipater. Erigyius probably died in Sogdiana, now northern Afghanistan, in 328/327 BC.

Cassander married Thessaloniki, Alexander's half-sister, and is possible but so are many others.

Philip III Arridaeus and Adea Eurydice II died / were forced to commit suicide by Olympias in 317  (see here), and they were later buried by Cassander with her mother Cynane at Vergina. See Diodorus (xix. 52) and Athenaeus (iv. 41):
And Diyllus the Athenian says, in the ninth book of his Histories, that Cassander, when returning from Boeotia after he had buried the king and queen at Aegae, and with them Cynna the mother of Eurydice, and had paid them all the other honours to which they were entitled, celebrated also a show of single combats, and four of the soldiers entered the arena on that occasion.
Cleopatra the full-sister of Alexander was given a beautiful funeral by Antigonus - who had probably been behind her murder, but since that took place at Sardes, it is likely her tomb was there too.

Leonnatus, a relative of Alexander's who had planned to marry Cleopatra in order to reinforce his claim to the throne of Macedon is possible but unlikely - although the Lion would have made a nice pun on his name.

Several of the leading candidates can be excluded, but who the body was is not yet certain.

What we learn from the caryatids regarding dating of the tomb?

Nothing that goes against the date already suggested by the excavators. As I pointed out in the last post, they in no way indicate an Augustan date. Also since there are many copies and variants of the Tralles-Cherchel caryatid type from the Hellenistic period onwards, one can argue that they copied a famous lost original, and Amphipolis is the best candidate for having been that original.

Could you please provide your timeline of events regarding: Construction of the tomb, it being used or re-used, its backfilling and the construction of the sealing walls. Not so much in terms of accurate dating, but more in terms of sequence of events: is the backfilling contemporary to the construction? Is the sealing wall contemporary to the back-filling etc. ?

This is my current working theory, but please not that both the ideas of the archaeologists at Amphipolis and mine have changed as new evidence is excavated:

It was started before or soon after the death of Alexander in 323 BC, probably as his tomb, possibly as his deified friend Hephaestion.

It was left empty when Ptolemy took his body to Egypt, possibly in the hope that they would bring him "home" to be buried there.

It was probably finished by the death of Antigonus I Monophthalmus in 301 BC.

It may have been left empty and served as a cult centre, or it may have been used by a successor once it became clear that Alexander's body was not coming back - for example once his new tomb the Sema or Soma was built in Alexandria, probably by Ptolemy II Philadelphus; see PhDiva: Alexander's Tomb(s) in Egypt

The soil back-fill and the walls that sealed each chamber were almost certainly contemporary; soil was probably used instead of concrete as it meant the tomb could be sealed and the roof supported, but not necessarily lost as would be the case with Roman concrete. The walls would have been necessary to hold in the soil, to stop it pouring out. I assume that there are small finds within the soil which will help date this - bits of pottery, dropped coins, etc - but I am not aware of them.

My guess is that the architecture was not strong enough to support the mound, and that after an earthquake it began to cave in, so the soil was used to support the structure.

The destruction of the superstructure was initially thought to be Byzantine iconoclasm, then coins were found in this destruction layer which were presented at the conference, and which I am pretty sure put this in the early 3rd century AD. So the possibility was discussed that the superstructure was used to dredge swamp land by the river to combat malaria, but this was also set aside.

I am asking because through informal statements made by Ms. Peristeri it has been implied that the back-filling and the sealing walls were protective measures against the looting of the tomb (and therefore contemporary to its construction?)

I do not think Prof Peristeri was trying to suggest that the sealing was contemporary to the construction. She is under a lot of pressure, and perhaps her words were misinterpreted?

It is possible that the tomb was filled to stop it collapsing further. And that soon after the superstructure was removed in order to lessen the weight bearing down on it, and that the plan had been to re-open it but if so this plan was abandoned.

I would like to draw a parallel to one early suggestion on how to construct a dome over the cathedral in Florence. The art of building domes had been forgotten, and someone suggested filling the whole building with soil, and building the dome over that. He thought that if one buried cheese in the soil, the mice would then moved all the earth out for them ... it didn't work out!

soil and diaphragm walls are later from the grave?, from the construction of the grave not seem to be place from the basic architect 

Yes, see above.

Please note that just as so many Richard Rogers buildings today seem to have the odd engineering issue, so did ancient ones ...

Vitruvius [II.2.8] discusses open air temples:
8. The HYPÆTHROS is decastylos, in the pronaos and posticum. In other respects it is similar to the dipteros, except that in the inside it has two stories of columns all round, at some distance from the walls, after the manner of the peristylia of porticos. The middle of the interior part of the temple is open to the sky, and it is entered by two doors, one in front and the other in the rear. Of this sort there is no example at Rome, there is, however, an octastyle specimen of it at Athens, the temple of Jupiter Olympius.
 ... fails to mention that the Olympieion in Athens was unroofed because it was never finished!

Also, there is a Roman engineer in Algeria who tried to build a tunnel through a mountain by starting at both ends and meeting in the middle. The plan didn't quite works out ... (see Roman builder ... whoops).

Hi, is it the case much more work went into the circular wall than the tomb itself? I mean, it's a wall of huge radius with tons of marble

That's a very interesting question, and I don't know the answer. We have enough ancient building accounts preserved to know that sometimes the long wooden beams needed for the roof could cost more than marble, as they needed to be imported from the Levant. At Delphi, we know that it cost more to bring the marble from the port to the sanctuary by road than it cost to bring the marble by ship to the port. For more on this I highly recommend looking up the work of Alison Burford, which are quite old but very good.

Yes it is harder to cut a circular edge on a block than a straight one. More than that, I cannot say.

Obviously limits to sensible speculation until it's been fully excavated, but are there parallels from elsewhere, whether Macedonia itself or the wider Hellenistic world, for the steps down and then the two (?) antechambers which require backfilling to deny access?

The steep steps down I find very unusual and don't know of parallels, and the only thing that springs to mind - other than Egyptian tombs - is the similarity of descending to, for example Hades, in Mystery Cults, the two not being mutually exclusive.

Macedonian tombs, for example at Vergina Tomb II, were covered over soon after the burial. This one does not seem to have been, and was stone rather than stucco, making it very unusual. The back-filling as I discussed in the last post, is probably later.

I have read on the web that one commentator is convinced that the tomb is Alexander's. He says that it took two years to complete it and then the body was brought from the East. He says that the body in Alexandra was just a mummy that Ptolemy grabbed. Basically he says the ancient accounts aren't true and are full of 'tales'. How should we regard the ancient texts that we rely on that relate to Alexander's burial site? I suppose we shall soon find out if this tomb changes history. If it is Alexander's that would create a huge public sensation. That would be GREAT to get the public - and kids - talking about history and archaeology.

I think anything that interests people in archaeology and history is wonderful but ... the overwhelming majority of ancient sources agree that Alexander's body remained in Alexandria through into the Byzantine period.

There was still a great deal of interest in Alexander during the Byzantine period - for example this late 5th century AD head was excavated at Ostia (and stolen from the museum, so if you find it, let me know) - but if his body was moved from Alexandria before the Arab conquest, it is very unlikely to have been put into the tomb at Amphipolis, and would probably have been taken to Constantinople.

Also, thank you so much for your wonderful blog - it's a great resource and a wonderful gift to us amateurs and enthusiasts.

You're welcome! But don't forget that the archaeologists at Amphipolis are the ones doing all the hard work!

One last question - do you expect the caryatids to be fully painted?

The Tralles-Cherchel figure from Tralles and now in Istanbul still has traces of paint, so they probably were painted originally. The Greeks tended to paint sculpture and architecture, although it became less fashionable to do so in the Roman period.

The Svestari tomb caryatids also still have a lot of paint, as the tomb was sealed but not filled with soil.

My question is about the caryatid’s face. The nose and nostrils seem to be uncommonly broad compared to those in Hellenistic sculpture. I have looked at many hellenistic statues, noses are narrow at the base. Also the caryatid’s eyes have a stretch and the mouth looks fuller. Is there a foreign influence here?

That's a very interesting question. Only one caryatid preserves the face, but she is missing her nose, so that all that's left is the 'shadow' ... and where the noise joins the face is always wider than the tip.

But looking at other Caryatids of this type - and this is the head of the Tralles-Cherchel type from Hadrianic Athens - I don't find the nose unusually wide. Ancient Greek women did not have access to American plastic surgeons, so they didn't have those tiny little button noses!

If you're asking if she could be African, I am wary of making statements about race based on a damaged sculpture ...

But I discussed the portrait of Septimius Severus, an emperor who was born in Roman north Africa here - he may be shown darker than his wife because his skin was darker, or because it was the convention to depict men as darker than women.

I'll answer more questions tomorrow ...

Quick Answers About Amphipolis ...

Thank you all for your many interesting questions about Amphipolis, and for the information people have been kind enough to email me. I am thrilled people around the world, not just in Greece, are so excited and enthusiastic about the Lion Tomb at Amphipolis, and I'll start with some of the images people have created - please do add credits in the comments, as I don't have them for all the images, partly as I am sticking to the official press releases.

For some questions I have to paraphrase my fictional colleague Lara Croft, and answer "I cold tell you, but then I'd have to kill you ..."

Just as the Luna Temple built off Santorini by Alexander the Great is fictional ... so, I'm afraid, are all claims Alexander was buried at Amphipolis.

Based on what I know, I think it could well have been started by him and finished by the Antigonids; they could well have left it empty, assuming that they would 'soon' bring his body back from Alexandria ... but they never did. Then it would have been either re-used for a subsequent ruler's burial or possibly kept as a cenotaph / heroon to his cult, possibly jointly with Hephaestion, as they were sometimes honoured jointly as dioscouroi. 

Are there more chambers? These diagrams are very useful for showing that the three chambers so far identified don't go very far into the mound, suggesting that there were. It is very unlikely that there was a chamber at the centre of the mound, since that was the support weight for the lion, but since the architect made some structural mistakes, anything is possible.

If there are only three chambers, since these are close to the edge of the mound, the weight they carry is lighter and so they should not have the structural issues we are seeing. I suspect that there are more chambers, in worse condition, and that there is a sort of domino effect, with the badly damaged inner chambers pushing outwards onto the third and second ones ...

People have asked about earthquakes. This damage could have been caused by an earthquake, but the removal of the superstructure was deliberate - we know that as the parts of the lion and the base were found some distance away, by the river, and the reason they were not originally associated with the mound was because of this.

A good example of archaeologists identifying earthquake damage was in the original excavations of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus - one side of the building went splat in an earthquake, and by identifying where on the ground the sculptures were found, Geoffrey Waywell was able to project backwards and identify where on the building they would originally have been.

These are based on the official reconstruction by the archaeologists presented at the Thessaloniki conference - see photo below (the snap was taken at an angle, so the lion was not leaning to the right!).

Again this not Ministry of Culture diagram shows how little under the mound the chambers found go.

The very steep steps down are highly unusual, and I am surprised they have not attracted more comment as there are few parallels.

The gap between the spinx gate and the steps was rather narrow, and then we have to remember that there was a later wall added.

The floor actually looks like this, and has a pattern that echoes the masonry lining the walls:

Again, this is the official reconstruction by the archaeologists:

Yes the tomb is huge, as several people have pointed out. The measurements people keep using for the Mausoleum of Hadrian are of it as it survives as the Castel Sant'Angelo; the original complex was slightly bigger, and closer in size to the Mausoleum of Augustus ... but still tiny compared to Amphipolis!

Although there are almost a dozen earlier more-or-less round buildings, the perfect circle is associated with Dinocrates by the archaeologists working there.

I can't discuss any geo-phys surveys, but I am not expecting gold and treasure. We hopefully will find some things left behind, but the fact that finds have not been announced from the back-fill suggests that they were probably removed when the tomb became structurally unsafe.

Below is a plan of the mound over Tomb II at Vergina. There are a variety of interpretations of who was buried there, but in my opinion Philip II is the best candidate. You can see the plan of a small shrine or naiskos to the right, which may have been a cult shrine.

Vergina was sacked by the troops of Pyrrhus in one of the many wars fought by the successors of Alexander, and the mound seems to post-date this sack since it encompasses several tombs, unlike Amphipolis where the mound is part of the original structure. Various finds in the mound at Vergina come from the funerary pyre, suggesting that there had been a smaller mound before.

This is the Lion as it was reconstructed, using blocks found by the river. The archaeologists have now identified more blocks, to fill in the reconstructed gaps.

The destruction of the Lion and superstructure was not in an earthquake, nor does it seem to be Christian iconoclasm as previously thought. The archaeologists shifted the date downwards into the Roman period, based on small finds such as dated coins found in this destruction layer.

Why someone with a great deal of power would put so much effort into destroying and concealing the tomb is very puzzling. It seems to have been an officially sanctioned project, since although mobs could destroy buildings it is very unlikely that a mob moved the blocks such a great distance.

The destruction could be key to identifying who was buried at Amphipolis. If it was someone like Hephaestion, then it may have been because an emperor did not approve of him? Or it could be linked to a megalomaniac such as Caracalla - perhaps he wanted the only tomb linked to his beloved Alexander to be in Alexandria? There are as many possible answers to that one as there are theories!

Yes, the way the margins are drafted on the masonry in the entrance is quite unusual, but not without parallels - and the whole point of exceptional and important buildings is that they often have unusual architectural features ... that's what makes them special. For example the carved column drums at Ephesus (and I hope no one is planning to re-date that to the Roman period).

There are rosettes carved at Amphipolis, but these are not, to the best of my knowledge, a specifically royal symbol, and they can be found on the funerary stele of ordinary ancient Greeks.

As I've pointed out before, one could see structural issues starting with the Caryatids - the cracks in the lintel above, the face which sheered off and was found in the back-fill.

As I've said before, the archaeologists working at Amphipolis are very good. I've also pointed out that any semi-competent archaeologist could make the observations I'm making. I am competent, but unfortunately not all archaeologists are.

One has re-dated the tomb to Augustus' day on the basis that Caryatids are an Augustan symbol ... as you can all see in this photo of the Caryatids he used in the Forum of Augustus, Augustus liked copies of the Erechtheion Caryatids which were of a completely different type from those found at Amphipolis ...

And even if Amphipolis had had Caryatids that copied the columns carved as Korai from the Erechtheion - which it does not - this would not be grounds for re-dating it to the Roman period. The Heroon of Pericles of Limyra, a local dynast dated to the 4th century BC, also had strange slightly archaising copies of the Erechtheion Korai ... For more on Limyra, see here.

The Ionic door frame on the exterior of the third chamber is unusual, but then so is so much of the Amphipolis tomb. It slightly echoes Egyptian Mastaba Doors, although I am wary of seeing too much into that, or seeing it as the influence of Alexander's conquest of Egypt let alone any other links.

The interior lintel of the third chamber is badly cracked, and shows how precarious the structure of the tomb is. This makes it very dangerous for archaeologists, and is why they are waiting for engineers to shore it up.

The Ionic pilaster capitals from the front entrance are interesting. As on many other buildings, they were painted. I am wary of making too many claims, but the exterior (left) seems more weathered than the interior face (below), suggesting that this part of the tomb was exposed to the elements, and that wind and rain faded some of the paintwork.

The red paint on the walls of the third chamber is interesting. I will simply for now point out that Tyrian Purple, the colour associated with royalty, is also sometimes called Tyrian Red as the colour produced by the Murex is quite a reddish-purple ...

I have to go walk the dog and run errands, but I'll try to do another post later today answering the many other good questions people have asked. Meanwhile I highly recommend looking at the inter-active floor plan of the excavations at The Amphipolis Tomb web site here.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Amphipolis: Who Has Questions?

I'm going to do a post today about Amphipolis, to try to answer some of the questions people have asked and make a few other observations, but ... first the supermarket and laundry and ...

... and I will continue to try to answer questions asked in each post's comments, but if anyone has any other questions, please do continue to post them and I will do my best to answer them if I can!

Mini Myrmidons ...

... oh let's just call an ant an ant!

I have to admit that plates and dishes by German artist Evelyn Bracklow would freak me out, but for those that are braver, they are available from her Etsy shop “La Philie” ...

For more about her see also Demilked here and here.

Books: Michael Scott's Delphi

In case you guys are getting bored of Amphipolis and Augustus, I can highly recommend Michael Scott's Delphi, which I will get around to writing more about soon.

Meanwhile, don't forget that the poor serpent column ended up in the Hippodrome at Constantinople, and was chopped up there too and ... For photos of it and Ottoman images when it was still more or less 'whole' see: The Hippodrome in Constantinople.

Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World - Amazon UK
Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World - Amazon US

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Myrmidons ...

As so often, the story involves a woman scorned. Hera ... Or rather, a woman fed up with her husband's philandering who goes far too far in terms of reprisals. She sent a plague to wipe out the inhabitants of Aegina in retaliation for Zeus' affair with the eponymous nymph, he in turn turned the island's inhabitants into men.

But whilst the Myrmidons in Ovid replaced the men killed in a plague, this work by Rafael Gómezbarros speaks more of the plagues of violence besetting the world. Just as poppies were once the symbol of forgetting but now are a reminder of our dead, meanings change with the centuries.

Casa Tomada, 2013
at the Saatchi Gallery until 2nd November (to the left of the entrance).

I wish I'd been able to see it when it covered the National Congress in Colombia:

"Ants being usually associated with hard labour and a complex social organization are turned into phantasms of the disappeared, ghost like figures that have acquired the capacity to take over national monuments." (more here)

Le Fluff et Le Puff … Le Kilt

Tartan 2

I’ve discussed the ‘first’ tartans before here: Ancient fabrics, press folds, checks and not tartans ... As with so many things, the Chinese claim to have invented it first, and the Germans have a good claim, but this is the Falkirk Tartan Textile Fragment which is a proto-tartan that dates to the 3rd century AD and is 100% Scottish.

Today Scotland votes and the people will decide whether or not to stay in the Union. I have no strong feelings either way, and no vote so my views wouldn’t matter anyway. I’ll continue to visit Scotland, and my long love affair with cashmere and the kilt will continue. Tartan and kilts have been associated with Scottish nationalism for so long that the English at one point introduced the Dress Act 1746 to ban it.

Today In AD 14 ... Tiberius Became Emperor

Yes, we celebrated the 200th anniversary of Augustus' death in August ... but the ascension to the purple of Tiberius, as Augustus' heir, can also be dated to today because of the reform of the calendar.

Although Tiberius became Augustus' heir, he was not always "it" - and Adrian Goldsworthy in his excellent new biography of Augustus points out that there were various heirs at different points, and often no obvious sole heir, suggesting that Augustus perhaps envisioned multiple heirs, perhaps two in the style of the consuls.

Another fascinating point Goldsworthy makes is that whilst adoption by Augustus as his heir sounded good ... it was actually a bit of a demotion for Tiberius from head of the Claudii, a prominent patrician family, to ... one of several adopted sons of an emperor who had already adopted half is relations. I had also been unaware that this highly unusual adult adoption was not Tiberius' first - he had been adopted as a baby after Philippi:
When the husband rebelled, his wife – aged about seventeen – journeyed to join him. She followed him during the rebellion and into exile, avoiding pursuers and living rough. Twice the infant Tiberius’crying was said to have threatened to give them away. In their escape from Sparta, Livia’s hair and dress were scorched by the flames. When the family returned to Rome they were short of money, like many finding it difficult to recover even the quarter share of confiscated property promised to them as part of the Treaty of Misenum. They arranged for Tiberius to be adopted by a wealthy senator eager for a connection with an ancient patrician clan. Politically this may not have been an astute move. Not long before, the man’s brother was suspected of plotting against Caesar. He was arrested and then died in somewhat mysterious circumstances.
Hatchards in London has signed copies of Adrian's book, and again I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Augustus: From Revolutionary to Emperor - hardcover at Amazon UK
Augustus: From Revolutionary to Emperor - Kindle at Amazon UK
Yale hardcover at Amazon US - Augustus: First Emperor of Rome

Tiberius' mother Livia lived on until 28 September AD 29, but hopefully for him spent most of her time at her villa at Prima Porta on the outskirts of Rome. This the villa where the portrait of Augustus on the cover of Adrian's book, known as the Prima Porta Augustus, was found. The villa itself recently opened to the public:
Villa of Livia now open to the public - Lifestyle -

If you enjoyed this video by Adrian Murdoch, check out his book on The Emperors of Rome; Kindle UK, Kindle US, etc

Green: Style Over Substance

Both in terms of Green's planned Bible Museum and the Washington Post's journalsim.

So, just how em do you design a Bible museum? - The Washington Post

The footer clarifies that:
Michelle Boorstein is the Post’s religion reporter, where she reports on the busy marketplace of American religion.
I realise that the comment about the marketplace is meant to be witty. But when did ethics cease to be of importance in religion in America? Isn't there a Commandment against stealing? After all that is in effect what one does when one acquires papyri looted from another country ...

See PhDiva: I come to bury Green, not to praise him on how dodgy the acquisition of some of the Green artifacts were.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Excavations Continue at Sobibor

Excavations continue at Sobibor, and have now confirmed the location - and existence - of gas chambers at the death camp.

Gas chambers at Sobibor death camp uncovered in archaeological dig:
An archaeological dig in Poland has revealed the location of the gas chambers at the Sobibor death camp, Yad Vashem announced on Wednesday.
This is important, as although the vast majority of people are reasonable and not only acknowledge but regret the Holocaust in which millions of Jews and Gentiles, Poles, Greeks, Catholics, homosexuals, Roma, disabled and the politically inconvenient were killed ... there will always be idiots, some theoretically highly educated, who continue to deny the Holocaust.

Last summer's excavation located an escape tunnel: Escape tunnel discovered at Nazi death camp Sobibor - Telegraph

In 2012 the finds were highly personal items left behind by those sent to their deaths.

Israeli archaeologist digs into Sobibor death camp in search of Nazi killing machines Israel News | Haaretz

70 years after revolt, Sobibor secrets are yet to be unearthed | The Times of Israel

The problem is that we forget, or we 'move on' and ... make the same mistakes all over again. In Yugoslavia, in Rwanda, now under ISIS or ISIL or whatever abbreviation you want to use for the fundamentalists pushing a strange misinterpretation of the teachings of Islam.

Every time I watch one of the many movies and documentaries about Rwanda, a part of me hopes that that Clinton administration official won't repeat her inane description of the massacres there as "acts of genocide" and instead admit that it was "genocide" pure and simple. Obviously, she never does. The distinction is important, and not just a legal nicety - had the US acknowledged that there was genocide there, they would have been obliged to interfere to prevent it under the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.

I understand people standing by and doing nothing because they were too scared to do so, fearing that they too would be the victims of reprisals, but I find it impossible to believe that people living in the vicinity of death camps did not realise what was going on. When Downtown reopened after 9/11 there was still the smell of barbeque; I know people tend not to talk about it, but it was distinctive, and obvious. Far fewer people were incinerated on 9/11 in the WTC than were on an average day in an extermination camp.

Former Harvard professor Samantha Power is currently the US Ambassador to the UN, so when she produces another revised edition of her seminal work A Problem From Hell, after having dealt with the current atrocities, it will be particularly interesting.

For now I can only recommend the most recent edition of A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide: x, x and the usual places.

It rightly won the Pulitzer in 2003, but unfortunately she has had to  update it many times since then. Given the situation in the Middle East, it is still a key read for anyone interested in current events, the history of geo-politics and nationalism run wild.