Sunday, 7 March 2021

Priam's Treasure

Priam's Treasure is a spectacular collection of gold and other artifacts discovered by archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann at Hissarlik in modern Turkey. Schliemann smuggled Priam's Treasure out of Anatolia. The majority of the artifacts are in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Schliemann claimed the site to be that of ancient Troy, and assigned the artifacts to the Homeric king Priam.

The treasure is a thousand years older than Homer's King Priam of Troy, who died about 1200 B.C. The collection, consisting of 259 items, has been held in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts since 1945.

Russia claims the looted art as compensation for the destruction of Russian cities and looting of Russian museums by Nazi Germany in World War II.
Sophia Schliemann wearing the "Jewels of Helen" excavated by her husband in Hisarlik
The “Mask of Agamemnon” is one of the most famous gold artifacts from the Bronze Age. The Mask was discovered in 1876 by Schliemann during excavations at Mycenae.

The gold leaf funeral mask was found over the face of a body in a burial shaft in the Mycenaean Citadel.

Saturday, 6 March 2021

Sargon of Akkad

Sargon of Akkad, also known as Sargon the Great "the Great King" was a Semitic Akkadian emperor famous for his conquest of the Sumerian city-states in the 24th and 23rd centuries BC. The founder of the Dynasty of Akkad, he was originally referred to as Sargon I until records of an Assyrian king also named Sargon (now usually referred to as Sargon I) were unearthed.

Sargon's vast empire is thought to have included large parts of Mesopotamia, and included parts of modern-day Iran, Asia Minor and Syria. He is often regarded as the first in recorded history to create a centrally ruled empire.
After coming to power, Sargon killed the king of Kish, and attacked Uruk. He captured Uruk and dismantled its famous walls. The defenders fled the city.

Sumerian forces fought two pitched battles against the Akkadians and were routed. Sargon pursued his enemies to Ur before moving eastwards to Lagash, to the Persian Gulf, and then to Umma.

Uruk was renowned for its walls which were first built 4,700 years ago by the Sumerian King Gilgamesh, hero of the epic named after him.
Akkadian influence was seen through trade throughout much of the known world from Eastern Europe to Northern Africa to India.

Akkadian customs – language, religion, art, architecture – were the standard for almost two millennia until the Greeks and Persians established their empires.

Friday, 5 March 2021

Marble Mosaic from Caligula's ‘Orgy Ship’

The square slab of marble flooring, decorated with a floral motif made of pieces of green and red porphyry, serpentine and molded glass, was discovered at an Italian collector's apartment in New York. The artifact was stolen from Italy's Roman Ship Museum after World War II and was seized by the New York district attorney's office from the collection of Helen Fioratti. She purchased the piece more than 45-years-ago from an aristocratic Italian family that lived on Lake Nemi. Lake Nemi is a small volcanic lake located about 30 km (19 mi) south of Rome.

The artifact dates to Caligula's reign, 37-41 AD and came from one of his three ships built at Lake Nemi. Described as “floating palaces” the ships were noted for their extreme opulence and luxury. The ships were over 70 meters long and were richly decorated with marble, gold and bronze.
After Caligula was killed, his ships were sunk and remained underwater for centuries. Benito Mussolini was the first to launch an organized exploration of the lake and two vessels were retrieved between 1928 and 1932. The third ship, which was the most luxurious of the three, was never retrieved.

The short reign of Caligula was extremely expensive for the citizens of Rome.

Lake Nemi

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Decline of Roman silver coins

A pre-reform denarius of Nero, about 98% pure silver.
For the first 90 years of the Roman Empire the purity of Rome’s silver coinage was 98% or higher. That standard was kept by the emperors Augustus, Tiberius (14-37), Caligula (37-41) and Claudius (41-54), and even the first decade of Nero's reign (54-68). The Great Fire of Rome in 64 marked the start of a debasement that would eventually bring Rome’s silver coinage to unfathomable depths.
Post-reform denarius of Nero, about 93% pure silver Nero chose the quickest possible pathway to raising funds – re-coining old money. Nero decreased the purity of silver denarii by 5%, dropping it from about 98% to about 93%. At the same time he reduced the weight of the denarius by about 12.5%, which further reduced silver weight. Nero also reduced the weight of his gold aurei.
Nero was overthrown in 68 giving rise to the infamous Year of Four Emperors in 69. Vespasian (69-79), came to power and reduced the purity of the denarius again, to about 90%.
In 107 Trajan (98-117) reduced the purity of the denarius to 88% silver. From there the purity slid until 148, when the emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) removed about another 5%. The denarius was now about 84% or 83% pure.

The denarius continued its slide, reaching about 71% near the end of the incompetent reign of Commodus (177-192)
Under Septimius Severus (193-211) the purity of the denarius dropped to about 57%. Over the next four decades, the purity of imperial silver coinage continued to slide, dropping steadily until it had reached about 41% purity under Trajan Decius (249-251). Under Trebonianus Gallus (251-253) and Aemilian (253), it sank to about 35% pure. By 268, the double-denarius had slid to a silver content of 5% or less – in some cases dropping to about 2.5%.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Some of Kruger’s ‘lost hoard’ up for sale through SA Mint

The South African Mint has released a trove of South African gold coins – Kruger ponde – that were discovered in a Swiss vault. During the second Boer War in South Africa, gold was evacuated from Pretoria by the Transvaal government with no accurate account of its fate. These original, certified and graded coins are available for purchase.
Coins are available in two sets, the first comprising an 1893 to 1900 Lost Hoard Kruger half-pond, which is accompanied by a 2019 1/10 oz gold privy-mark proof Krugerrand. This set is limited to 233 units. The second set consists of an 1893 to 1900 Lost Hoard Kruger full-pond, and is accompanied by a 2019 quarter oz gold privy-mark proof Krugerrand. This set is limited to 677 units.

Antoninus Pius

Antonius Pius was Roman emperor from 138 to 161. He was one of the Five Good Emperors and few events occurred during his 23-year reign. A rebellion in Roman Britain was suppressed, and in 142 a 36-mile (58-km) garrisoned barrier—called the Antonine Wall—was built to extend the Roman frontier 100 miles north of Hadrian’s Wall. A spectacular aureus of Antoninus Pius that is only the second specimen known is expected to fetch $9k.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Celtic Chieftain’s chariot brooch - £55,000

The brooch is made from cast copper-alloy. The front is decorated with champlev√© enamel - red glass - forming a flowing pattern of opposed scrolls with tips that curl like breaking waves. The decoration is in the tradition of the Celtic ‘South Western Style’. The very rare horse brooch would probably have belonged to a wealthy Celtic chieftain in the mid 1st century AD. They indicate high status. There are only a handful of known examples from Britain. Buckinghamshire, where it was found, was once the territory of the Trinovantes and the Catuvellauni, two of the most powerful and richest tribes in Ancient Britain.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Trump's Eagle - Aquila - SPQR

Jaws are flapping about the Trump campaign's use of the Nazi eagle. Students of history would recognize the Nazi eagle as that stolen from the Romans. The Nazi swastika was similarly hijacked from ancient sources. The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika, which means “good fortune” or “well-being."
An aquila, or eagle, was a prominent symbol used in ancient Rome, especially as the standard of a Roman legion. A legionary known as an aquilifer, or eagle-bearer, carried this standard. Each legion carried one eagle.
The eagle was very important to the Roman military, beyond merely being a symbol of a legion. A lost standard was considered an extremely grave event. The Roman military often went to great lengths to protect a standard and to recover it if lost. In the aftermath of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest the Romans spent decades trying to recover the lost standards of the three destroyed legions. SPQR stood for Senatus Populusque Romanus. The meaning was "The Senate and People of Rome". No legionary eagles are known to have survived.

Sunday, 28 February 2021

Ancient Salamis

Salamis is an ancient Greek city-state on the east coast of Cyprus, 6 km north of modern Famagusta. According to tradition, the founder of Salamis was Teucer, son of Telamon, who could not return home after the Trojan war because he had failed to avenge his brother Ajax.
The earliest finds date to the eleventh century BC. The copper ore on Cyprus made the island an essential ancient trade port. In 450 BC, Salamis was the site of a land and sea battle between Athens and the Persians. (not the earlier Battle of Salamis in 480 BC in Attica.) After Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire, Ptolemy I of Egypt ruled the island of Cyprus. In 306 BC, Salamis was the site of a naval battle between the fleets of Demetrius I of Macedon and Ptolemy I. Demetrius won the battle and captured the island. In Roman times, Salamis was part of the Roman province of Cilicia.
An eBay auction of a looted marble tile from Salamis was stopped by a well-known activist on antiquities.