Saturday, 31 July 2021

King Lycurgus

In Greek mythology, Lycurgus was the king of the Edoni in Thrace, son of Dryas. Lycurgus banned the cult of Dionysus. As punishment, Dionysus drove Lycurgus insane. In his madness, Lycurgus mistook his son for a mature trunk of ivy and killed him, pruning away his nose and ears, fingers and toes. Consequently, the land of Thrace dried up in horror. Dionysus decreed that the land would be dry and barren as long as Lycurgus was left unpunished, so his people bound him and flung him to man-eating horses on Mount Pangaeüs.
In other stories Lycurgus tried to rape his mother after imbibing wine. When he discovered what he had done, he attempted to cut down the grapevines, believing the wine to be tainted. In Homer's Iliad, an older source, Lycurgus's punishment for his disrespect towards Dionysus is blindness inflicted by Zeus followed not long after by death.
The Lycurgus cup features dichroic glass, with gold and silver nanoparticles, producing a green appearance when light is shining on it from the front, and red when illuminated from behind.

The cup is also a very rare example of a complete Roman cage-cup, or diatretum, where the glass has been cut and ground back to leave only a decorative "cage" at the original surface-level. The cup features a composition showing the mythical King Lycurgus, who tried to kill Ambrosia, a follower of the god Dionysus (Bacchus). She was transformed into a vine that twined around the enraged king and restrained him, eventually killing him. Dionysus and two followers are shown taunting the king. The process used to create the dichroic effect is unclear, and it is likely that it was not well-understood by the makers.
The cup was made about 290-325 AD. The cup is first mentioned in print in 1845.

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

The Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone was the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics. The inscribed black granodiorite stone was the first ancient Egyptian bilingual text to be discovered in modern times. The stone was unearthed in 1799 during Napoleon's campaign in Fort Saint Julien, El-Rashid in Egypt and has been housed in the British Museum since 1802.

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Octavian and the Battle of Actium

Octavian was the son of Julius Caesar's niece. Octavian was 20 years old when he learned of Caesar's assassination. Caesar had adopted him as son posthumously, and Octavian returned to Italy to avenge his murder. In 43 BCE, he formed the Second Triumvirate with Marc Antony and Lepidus. They defeated Brutus and Cassius and divided the empire, with Octavian holding most of the West and Antony the East.
Antony and Cleopatra grew closer as Octavian worked to restore Italy. In 33 BC, the Second Triumvirate ended, leaving Antony without legal authority. Octavian then began a campaign against Antony, declaring war against Cleopatra.
Octavian’s admiral Marcus Agrippa held Antony’s fleet back in the bay of Actium in Greece. Antony and Cleopatra managed to escape, leaving the rest of his men to surrender to Octavian. Antony fled to Alexandria where he and Cleopatra eventually took their own lives in August, 30 BCE; this marked the end of the Roman civil wars.
Rome was officially transformed from a Republic to a Principate in January, 27 BCE. Octavian was crowned “Augustus”.

This coin was minted in Rome, 13-14 AD.
Over the next 40 years, Augustus shared his authority with the Senate. It would not be until Augustus’ coinage reform in 23 BCE that the gold aureus would come into standard use. In addition to his reorganization of the state and institutions of Rome, Augustus introduced a formal system of fixed ratios between denominations of coins.

Monday, 26 July 2021

Worst Roman Emperors

Caligula ruled from 37–41 CE. He became famous for his feats of carnage that exceeded that of Nero, his nephew. Caligula was cruel, depraved, and insane. In January 41 CE officers of the Praetorian Guard, led by Cassius Chaerea, killed him.

Elagabalus (218 to 222). Elagabalus's sin was not bloody, but acting unlike any Emperor. Writers told of his feminity, bisexuality, and transvestism.
Nero (27–68) debased currency and confiscated senators' property and severely taxed to fund his palace, the Domus Aurea. Rome burned for nine days. Its said Nero used the fire to clear space for his palace. The fire destroyed three of Rome's 14 districts and severely damaged seven others. Nero blamed the Christians, executing thousands.

Commodus (161–192) was a debauched and corrupt megalomaniac who viewed himself as reincarnated Greek gods. He too devalued Roman currency mercilessly, instituting the largest drop in value since Nero.

Commodus struck c. August- December 192 AD
Domitian (51–96) was fearful and paranoid. Conspiracy theories consumed him, and some were true. He curtailed the Senate and expelled those he deemed unworthy. He executed officials who opposed his policies and confiscated their property. Domitian was eventually assassinated in 96 CE.

Tiberius (ruled AD 14–37) sank into morbid suspicion of everyone around him: he retreated to the island of Capri and revived the ancient accusation of maiestas (treason) and used it to sentence to death anyone he desired. Tiberius living on Capri is recorded as a depraved sexual predator.
Caracalla (AD 211–217) dealt brutally with opponents: he set about exterminating all of them. Caracalla quickly turned the surplus he inherited from his father into a deficit. He was assassinated by a group of army officers, including Praetorian prefect Opellius Macrinus.

Diocletian (AD 284–305) conducted a ruthless persecution of Christians. Diocletian set about it's total eradication. Churches were destroyed, scriptures burnt, and Christian priests imprisoned and forced to conduct sacrifices to the emperor. Christians who refused to give up their faith were tortured and executed.

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Ancient textiles returned to Peru

Peru recovered 79 pre-Hispanic textiles in 2017 that had been illegally located in Sweden since 1935. In 1935, Swedish ambassador to Peru Sven Karrell acquired the fabrics hailing from the Nasca and Paracas cultures and took them to Sweden illegally. They were anonymously donated to The Museum of Gothenburg, according to the Peruvian government.

The fabrics were made of cotton and wool from vicunas, the national animal of Peru. The textiles were made between 700 B.C. and A.D. 200

Defaced Roman coins

Julius Caesar, as Dictator (49-44 BCE). AR denarius. NGC Choice XF 5/5 – 2/5, graffiti.
Ancient coins were often deliberately defaced or mutilated as an expression of contempt for the subject depicted or name inscribed. Coins mistreated in this way have an appeal to some collectors.

Gaius Julius Caesar was beloved by his troops and Rome’s common people, but he was hated by many of the elite. Lifetime portrait coins of Julius Caesar are in high demand from collectors, even a deep scratch is an acceptable defect.

Gaius (Caligula). 37-41 CE. Æ Sestertius (35mm, 26.20 g, 6h). Rome mint. Struck 37-38 CE.
When the reclusive, miserly and paranoid Tiberius died at the age of 78, most Romans greeted the accession of his great-nephew Gaius joyfully. That didn't last long.

Two years after Caligula's death, the Senate voted that all bronze coins bearing his image be melted down, but the chronic shortage of small change in the Roman economy meant this wasn't enforced, and many coins of Caligula survived, but rarely with the name or image intact.

Nero. 54-68 CE. Æ Sestertius. Rome mint. Struck circa 66 CE.
Nero is infamous for his debauchery and was deeply unpopular with the nobility and political class, which eventually led to his downfall.

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Rare Roman horse race mosaic

Scenes from a chariot race are depicted in a rare Roman mosaic found in rural Cyprus in 2017. Dating from the 4th Century AD, it is in Akaki, a village not far from Nicosia. Only nine similar mosaics - showing a hippodrome race - have been found at ancient Roman sites.

The ornate 26-metre-long (85ft) mosaic was probably part of a wealthy man's villa.

Friday, 23 July 2021

The tribute penny – Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s

Tribute Penny – Tiberius, ca. 18-35 CE.
Tiberius didn’t particularly want to be emperor. He was stepson of Augustus and became emperor in 14 CE upon Augustus’ death. Tiberius was one of the greatest Roman generals but is remembered as a dark and reclusive ruler. Pliny the Elder called him "the gloomiest of men." After the death of his son Drusus Julius Caesar in 23 AD, Tiberius became even more reclusive. Tiberius left Rome to retire on the island of Capri in 27 CE. When Tiberius eventually died, the succession was left to his nephew Caligula and grandson Tiberius Gemellus. Caligula quickly established his reputation by executing Gemellus.
Tiberius, 41-54 CE
Tiberius took no interest in coinage, leaving a single type in place for nearly the entirety of his 23-year reign. It proved to be one of the most widely used coinages in Roman history and ranks among the most familiar coins of antiquity. Tiberius coins became known as the 'Tribute Penny' due to its famous reference in The Bible as the coin Jesus said to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Coinage of King Pyrrhus

EPIRUS. Pyrrhus (297–272 BC). Silver tetradrachm (16.56 gm). $60K in 2012.
After the particularly bloody Battle of Asculum in 279 BCE, Pyrrhus famously remarked: “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.” This would live forever in the phrase “Pyrrhic victory”.

The silver tetradrachms were a high-value coin and were struck with dies engraved by the most skilled artisans.

Pyrrhos, King of Epiros, (297-272 BC.), AV Stater, 8.55g, Struck in Syracuse, 278 BC. $180k.
To pay mercenaries needed to fight the Carthaginians, Pyrrhus produced a massive issue of gold staters and half staters at Syracuse. The finest engravers were hired to produce stunning designs.
See ----->Pyrrhic Victory

Monday, 19 July 2021

The Year of the Four Emperors

GalbaThe Year of the Four Emperors, 69 AD, was a year of the Roman Empire in which four emperors ruled in succession: Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian. On June 9, 68 AD, Nero was tried in absentia and condemned to death. He met death at his own hand, thereby attaining the distinction of being the first Roman Emperor to commit suicide. Otho
The four most influential generals in the Empire successively vied for imperial power.
VitelliusVespasian was legate of Legio II Augusta during the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 and subjugated Judaea during the Jewish rebellion of 66. Vespasian brought stability. After his death in 79, he was succeeded by his eldest son Titus, thus becoming the first Roman emperor to be directly succeeded by his own natural son.Vespasian

Saturday, 17 July 2021

Murum aries attigit - "The ram has touched the wall"

To give no quarter means to show no mercy. Romans held that once an assault had begun, no mercy or quarter would be given. The ram touching the wall referred to the battering ram in an assault.
The term "missio" refers to the sign that a gladiator may give when they cede a fight to their opponent. It serves as both an acknowledgement of defeat and a plea for mercy.
The loser asks the munerarius to stop the fight and send him alive (missus) from the arena. If he had not fallen he could be "sent away standing" (stans missus). The editor took the crowd's response into consideration in deciding whether to let the loser live or order the victor to kill him. "Without missio" was a fight with no possibility of a reprieve for the loser.