Ancient Rome’s Wealthy Cities of Oplontis, Stabiae, and Boscoreale

While the Vesuvian eruption was devastating, and many lives were lost, it preserved a moment in Roman history. Introduction More than 2,000 years ago, extremely wealthy Romans lived on the sunny shores of the Bay of Naples at Pompeii and in opulent villas nearby, unconcerned about Mount Vesuvius in the distance. Julius Caesar (100-44 BCE), Augustus[…]

Visigoths: Establishing a European Identity in the Ancient World

The designation Visigothi seems to have appealed to the Visigoths themselves, and in time they came to apply it to themselves. Introduction The Visigoths were the western tribe of the Goths (a Germanic people) who settled west of the Black Sea sometime in the 3rd century CE. According to the scholar Herwig Wolfram, the Roman writer Cassiodorus (c. 485-585 CE)[…]

Ancient Papyrus Horoscopes: Stars, Planets, and Fortunes

Heavenly bodies and human fate have long been perceived as intertwined. ‘The stars (…) disclose for men what will pertain to them from the time of their birth till their leaving the world’. This is what Dorotheus of Sidon, an astrologer who lived in 1st-century Alexandria, wrote at the beginning of his verse treatise on[…]

Evolution and an Ancient ‘Arms Race’ for Resources

Larger brains lead to a broader social network. Human society rewards individuals who can handle complex social interactions and control large groups of people. Extreme examples of this power are comedians who can fill stadiums entertaining 70,000 people, or politicians who, through their rhetoric and charm, convince millions of us to vote for them so[…]

Seizure of Looted Antiquities Illuminates What Museums Want Hidden

Middlemen often photographed their wares after receiving them from the tombaroli (grave-robbers). Introduction Over 20,000 precious art objects were seized in a raid at dawn — what can this tell us about beauty, theft, and the museum? On July 4, 2018, Europol and the Italian Carabinieri’s Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage announced the[…]

The Growth and Spread of Christianity in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds

The Edict of Milan made the Roman Empire officially neutral with regard to religious worship – and then it flipped into forced conversion. Introduction Persecution of Christians Members of the Early Christian movement often became political targets and scapegoats for the social ills and political tensions of specific rulers and turbulent periods during the first[…]

Destiny of the Republic: The Context of Cicero’s ‘de Officiis’ in Ancient Rome

While Antony was consul, it appeared that little could be accomplished. Cicero was concerned about his own safety and the threat of civil war. Cicero composed his final philosophical treatise in autumn 44 B.C. The detailed correspondence he maintained throughout the months of uncertainty after the assassination of Julius Caesar in March reveals Antony’s bid[…]

Defender of the Republic: The Political Career of Marcus Tullius Cicero

During the chaotic latter half of the first century BCE, Cicero championed a return to the traditional foundation of the republic. Introduction The political career of Marcus Tullius Cicero began in 76 BC with his election to the office of quaestor (he entered the Senate in 74 BC after finishing his quaestorship in Lilybaeum, 75[…]

Black Figures in Classical Greek Art

Museum and academic scholars are key players in the fight for contextualized and equitable perspectives of black people in antiquity. In ancient Greece, men often escaped their daily grind to socialize at a symposium, or formalized drinking party. In the symposium, revelers indulged in numerous leisure activities centered around the consumption of wine. Among the[…]

Texts, Tools, and Methods in Ancient Egyptian Medical Practice

Ancient Egyptians valued hygiene and proper medical care. Introduction Medical practice in ancient Egypt was so advanced that many of their observations, policies, and commonplace procedures would not be surpassed in the west for centuries after the fall of Rome and their practices would inform both Greek and Roman medicine. They understood that disease could[…]

Ancient Egyptian Medicine

The Greek historian Herodotus visited Egypt around 440 BCE and wrote extensively of his observations of their medicinal practice. Introduction The medicine of the ancient Egyptians is some of the oldest documented. From the beginnings of the civilization in the late fourth millennium BC until the Persian invasion of 525 BC, Egyptian medical practice went[…]

The Ambush of Roman Legions that Changed History in Ancient Gaul

The field where wily Germanic warriors halted the spread of the Roman Empire. “This is the soil of 2,000 years ago, where we are standing now,” Susanne Wilbers-Rost was saying as a young volunteer pried a small, dark clod out of it. Wilbers-Rost, a specialist in early German archaeology, peered through wire-rimmed glasses, brushed away[…]

Ancient Roman Gaul: Cultural Annihilation and Replacement

The Gaulish language and cultural identity underwent a syncretism with the Roman culture of the new governing class. Introduction The Roman Republic’s influence began in southern Gaul. By the mid-2nd century BC, Rome was trading heavily with the Greek colony of Massilia (modern Marseille) and entered into an alliance with them, by which it agreed[…]

Charvaka: Understanding the Material World in the Philosophy of Ancient India

Materialism holds that perceivable matter is all that exists, while supernatural entities or planes of existence are imagined. Introduction Charvaka (also given as Carvaka) was a philosophical school of thought, developed in India c. 600 BCE, stressing materialism as the means by which one understands and lives in the world. Materialism holds that perceivable matter[…]

The Story of the Exodus and Lack of Historicity

Archaeologists from the 19th century actually expressed surprise when they failed to find any evidence whatsoever for the events of Exodus. Introduction This article examines the Young Earth creationist and Biblical literalist claims regarding the historical reality of the Exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt, as well as the evidence relating to such claims.[…]

Immense Neolithic Ring Discovered Near Stonehenge

The mystery near and around Stonehenge keeps growing. The latest revelation is the discovery of a ring of at least 20 prehistoric shafts about 2 miles from the famous Neolithic site of immense upright stones, according to an announcement from the University of Bradford. Archaeologists say the “astonishing” shafts in Durrington Walls date back to[…]

The Plague of Justinian in the Sixth-Century Roman Empire

The plague’s social and cultural impact has been compared to that of the Black Death that devastated Eurasia in the fourteenth century. Introduction The Plague of Justinian or Justinianic Plague (541–549 AD) was the beginning of the first plague pandemic, the first Old World pandemic of plague, the contagious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia[…]

The Antonine Plague: Pandemic in the Second-Century Roman Empire

The disease killed as much as one third of the population in some areas and devastated the Roman army. Introduction The Antonine Plague of 165 to 180 AD, also known as the Plague of Galen (after Galen, the physician who described it), was an ancient pandemic brought to the Roman Empire by troops who were[…]

The Roman Empire in the First Century: Imperial Intrigue and Chaos

The Roman Empire repeatedly faced an uncertain future. Introduction Two thousand years ago, at the dawn of the first century, the world was ruled by Rome.  The Roman Empire struggled with problems which are surprisingly familiar: violent coups, assassination, overarching ambition, civil war, clashes between the classes as well as the sexes and questions of[…]

‘Beware the Ides of March’: When a Ruler Gets Drunk on Power

In 44 BC, at the celebration of the Lupercalia, Julius Caesar, seated in a gilded chair at the front of the Rostra, publicly refused the diadem of kingship presented to him by Antony. He already exercised the power of dictator, and many regarded the gesture as nothing more than pretense. Indeed, for Appian, “the difference[…]

Damnatio and Creatio Memoriae: Memory Sanctions as Creative Processes in the 4th Century

How ancient emperors used oratory, ceremony, and triumphal architecture to memorialize their fallen enemies. Introduction Damnatio memoriae, the ill-defined group of processes that we often now refer to by the term ‘memory sanctions’, is generally thought of in wholly negative terms. It is imagined as a process of destruction, of erasure, and of silence. Yet[…]

Damnatio Memoriae: Sanctions against Memory in Ancient Rome

Many emperors were raised to gods after death, but just as many received the opposite – officially erased from memory. Condemning Memory Damnatio memoriae is a term we use to describe a Roman phenomenon in which the government condemned the memory of a person who was seen as a tyrant, traitor, or other sort of[…]

Mosaics and Microcosm: Iconography in Ancient Byzantine Monasteries

Byzantine texts interpreted the domed church as a microcosm – a three-dimensional image of the cosmos. Ecstatic Motion The city of Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire since its foundation by Constantine in 330 C.E., was roiled by the Iconoclastic Controversy in the 8th and 9th centuries. Emperors, bishops, and many others debated[…]

Alexander I the Philhellene and Reform of the Ancient Macedonian Army

He is known for his participation in the Olympic Games and his attempt to expand his kingdom and reform the Macedonian army. Introduction Alexander I of Macedon, also known as Alexander I the Philhellene (‘friend of the Greeks’) or ‘The Wealthy’, was king of ancient Macedon from around 498 to 454 BCE. He is known for the role he[…]

Guilds from the Ancient to Medieval Worlds

Guilds secured the monopoly and the commerce of the cities, controlling the various activities and selling all kinds of goods. Already in the Roman era, associations of people practicing the same trade are attested: in the first century, they actively participated in the political life of the city (as shown by the electoral graffiti of[…]