Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Sphinx

The sphinx was said to have the body of a lion, the head of a woman, and the wings of an eagle. The sphinx is perhaps known best for her role in the legend of Oedipus.

Oedipus was traveling when he is confronted by the creature. The sphinx blocks Oedipus’ path and confronts him with a riddle.
Although the exact riddle is not mentioned in legend, the popular version goes ... "What is that which in the morning goeth upon four feet; upon two feet in the afternoon; and in the evening upon three?”

Oedipus correctly answers: Man - who crawls on all fours as a child, then on two feet as an adult, and finally (with the help of a cane) on three feet during the sunset of life. Having been bested at her game, the Sphinx throws herself from a high cliff.
The Great Sphinx of Giza is a limestone statue of a reclining sphinx. Facing directly from West to East, it stands on the Giza Plateau on the west bank of the Nile in Giza, Egypt. The face of the Sphinx is generally believed to represent the Pharaoh Khafre.

It is the oldest known monumental sculpture in Egypt and is commonly believed to have been built by ancient Egyptians of the Old Kingdom during the reign of the Pharaoh Khafre (c. 2558–2532 BC)

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Trove of Roman coins unearthed in Spain

Workers laying pipes in a southern Spanish park in 2016 unearthed a 600 kilogram (1,300 pounds) trove of Roman coins. The construction workers came across 19 amphoras containing thousands of unused bronze and silver-coated coins dating from the end of the fourth century.

The coins are believed to have been recently minted at the time and had probably been stored to pay soldiers or civil servants. The clay pots, 10 of which were said to be intact, were found just over a metre underground. The coins bear images of emperors Constantine and Maximian and with a variety of pictorial images on the reverse.

The Romans began to conquer Spain in 218 B.C. and ruled until the fifth century.

Hispania was the Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula. Under the Republic, Hispania was divided into two provinces: Hispania Citerior and Hispania Ulterior.

Latin was the official language of Hispania during the Rome's more than 600 years of rule, and by the empire's end in Hispania around 460 AD, all the original Iberian languages, except the ancestor of modern Basque, were extinct. Even after the fall of Rome Latin was spoken by nearly all of the population.

Friday, 29 December 2017

The Jersey Hoard (Grouville Hoard)

The last coins from an ancient Celtic hoard discovered in a field in Jersey have been successfully removed from the dirt they were buried in.

Dating from around 30-50 BC, the collection of nearly 70,000 coins was six times larger than any other similar Celtic artifacts and also included jewellery, beads and fabric.

The Jersey Hoard (Grouville Hoard) is a hoard of an estimated 70,000 late Iron Age and Roman coins discovered in June 2012. It was discovered in a field in the parish of Grouville on the east side of Jersey in the Channel Islands.

The hoard is thought to have belonged to a Curiosolitae tribe fleeing Julius Caesar's armies around 50 to 60 BC.

Jersey Heritage's conservation team have been excavating an area known to contain gold jewelery. One end of a solid gold torc was uncovered.

The find follows the discovery of two other solid gold torcs - one gold-plated and one of an unknown alloy - along with a silver brooch and a crushed sheet gold tube.
__________________________________________________________
At least 50,000 coins dating back to the time of Julius Caesar were found in a field in Jersey. The Roman and Celtic coins, which date from the 1st Century BC, were found by two metal detector enthusiasts.

Archaeologists said the hoard weighed about three quarters of a tonne.
It is the first hoard of coins found in the island for more than 60 years.

Several hoards of Celtic coins have been found in Jersey before but the largest was in 1935 at La Marquanderie when more than 11,000 were discovered.
This is the world's biggest Celtic coin hoard ever, and was a significant part of a tribe's wealth.

It is also one of the world's biggest coin hoards and certainly the biggest coin hoard found in Britain. The value of the hoard was estimated at up to £10m when it was first removed from the ground.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

How Eratosthenes calculated the Earth's circumference

In the mid-20th century, satellites determined the exact circumference of the Earth, 40,030 km. But over 2,000 years earlier in ancient Greece, a man arrived at nearly that exact same figure by putting a stick in the ground. That man was Eratosthenes. A Greek mathematician and the head of the library at Alexandria.

The idea of a spherical Earth was floated around by Pythagoras around 500 BC and validated by Aristotle a couple centuries later.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Baiae - Las Vegas of ancient Rome

Baiae was a mineral springs and coastal resort on the northwest shore of the Gulf of Naples in ancient Italy. It was fashionable for centuries during antiquity for the super-rich. It was notorious for its hedonism, corruption and scandal. It later formed part of Port Julius, the base of the western fleet of the Imperial Roman Navy.

Its ruins submerged by volcanic activity by the time of the Renaissance.
Baiae was built on the Cumaean Peninsula in the Phlegraean Fields, an active volcanic area.
The bathhouses of Baiae were filled with warm mineral water directed to its pools from underground sulfur springs.

Roman engineers constructed a complex system of chambers that channeled underground heat into facilities that acted as saunas.
'Rome’s Sunken Secrets' follows a series of dives involving historians and scientists from across the world. They revealed vast villas, priceless statues and breathtaking mosaics, as well as heated spas, cobbled streets and even a nymphaeum – a grotto of pleasure.

The chambers of volcanic molten rock that lay beneath Baiae, providing the hot water that served the spas, were eventually its undoing. The chambers emptied as the lava found a way to escape, causing the resort to sink beneath the waves.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Gold aureus of Septimius Severus

A circa A.D. 202 to 210 gold aureus issued by Septimius Severus recalls the measures he took to keep his sons Caracalla and Geta from fighting. The boys were then in their mid- to late teens. All three appear on horses on the reverse of the aureus, raising their right hands as if receiving an ovation. The coin highlights Baldwin of St. James’s New York City auction Jan. 14.

Severus took his wife and two sons to wage war against the Caledonians of northern Britain. Severus sent his sons to lead the troops. While in Britain Severus fell ill and died in A.D. 211, leaving behind two sons who were still intent on eliminating one another.
The Romans never campaigned deep into Caledonia again: they soon withdrew south permanently to Hadrian's Wall. Upon his death, Severus was deified by the Senate and succeeded by Caracalla and Geta, who were advised by his wife Julia Domna. Caracalla had Geta murdered later that year. Severus was buried in the Mausoleum of Hadrian in Rome. His remains are now lost
Severus' currency debasement was the largest since the reign of Nero.

The coin is “virtually as struck and almost mint state, extremely rare and possibly the finest specimen known,” according to the firm. It has an estimate of $24,000 to $30,000.

Caracalla persecuted and executed most of Geta's supporters and ordered a damnatio memoriae. It became a capital offence to speak or write Geta's name.