Thursday, 31 March 2022

Praetorian Guard

The Praetorian Guard (cohortes praetoriae) was an elite unit of the Roman Army who were bodyguards to the emperor. During the era of the Roman Republic, the Praetorians served as a small escort force for high-ranking officials. With the transition to the Roman Empire, Augustus refounded the Guard as his personal security detail.
Although they continued to serve in this capacity for roughly three centuries, the Guard became infamous for its interference in Roman politics, to the point of overthrowing emperors and proclaiming successors. The Guard was ultimately disbanded by Constantine the Great in 312.
Praetorian Cohorts intervened many times in the struggle for the imperial succession. Lacking troops of its own, the Senate had no choice each time but to accept the choice of the Praetorians as well as that of the various legions. The new emperor was always proclaimed by the Praetorians before being ratified by the Senate and the legions stationed in the various provinces. While the guard had the power to make or break emperors, it had no formal role in government. Often after outrageous acts of violence, revenge by the new ruler was almost always forthcoming.

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

'Underworld' at the Getty Villa

“Underworld: Imagining the Afterlife,” was an exhibit at the Getty Villa in 2018. One of the masterpieces is a krater from Altamura, Italy, dated about 350 B.C. It is almost 6 feet tall and would have been made for a high status individual. The exhibit provided a lens into the underworld during that period.
Grave relief fragment with Danaids, Persephone and Hades, Hermes and Herakles, late 4th century B.C.
Gold burial offerings were intended to help the deceased navigate the afterlife.

Storage Jar with Sisyphus and the Uninitiated, about 525 BC
Orpheus emerges as a central figure. Orpheus traveled to the underworld to retrieve his wife, Eurydice. The quest did not turn out well for Orpheus, but he returned from the Underworld, a feat that made him a hero.
Weeping Siren, about 350 - 325 B.C.

New dog patrolling Pompeii

Pompeii archaeological park has enlisted a robotic K9 called Spot to inspect the ancient Italian city's streets and tunnels instead of humans. Acting as a robotic guard dog, Spot will patrol Pompeii when the site is closed to tourists, providing a live feed for humans. Part of Spot's job is to investigate tunnels dug by thieves, which are dangerous or too confined for officials to access safely.

Monday, 28 March 2022

Archaeologists discover Roman harbor in ancient Greek port

In 2017 archaeologists carrying out excavations in Lechaion, once the main harbor town of ancient Corinth, discovered impressive Roman engineering under the waves.
The ancient city of Corinth, located on the Peloponnese peninsula of southern Greece, was once a strategic city of great importance with access to the Mediterranean trade routes. It was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BCE. A mysterious island monument in an area of the Inner Harbour was dated to the early 1st century AD. It was likely built as part of a Roman building program designed to help restore Corinth. The area was destroyed by an earthquake sometime between 50-125 CE. Experts speculate it may be the first evidence of the earthquake of 70 CE recorded during the reign of the Roman emperor Vespasian (69-79 CE).

Sunday, 27 March 2022


Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, is extracted from the flowers of the saffron crocus, Crocus sativus. The first known use by humans of wild crocuses was as pigment for cave paintings, about 50000 years ago in today’s Iraq. Ancient texts from Sumer, Assyria, and Babylonia also describe the use of wild crocuses in medicine and dye. Ancient artworks and genetics point to Bronze Age Greece, in 1700 BCE or earlier, as the origin of saffron’s domestication. Domesticated saffron can only be propagated asexually with human help. The process was first described by the Greek philosopher Theophrastus in the fourth century BCE. Today, domesticated saffron is grown for use in cooking and perfumes and as a yellow dye. 16000 flowers, requiring up to 470 person-hours to collect, yield a single kilo, worth between $1300 and $10000.
Dense patches of crocus flowers on the fresco ‘The Saffron Gatherers’ from the island of Santorini (1600 BCE) suggest cultivation. Around the globe today, all saffron crocuses are effectively clones dating back to saffron’s emergence in ancient times.

Friday, 25 March 2022

Historians wrong about ancient Roman vase for centuries

New research shows that one the British Museum’s most famous artifacts—the Portland Vase—was manufactured by a different technique than the one assumed by historians. For centuries, experts said that the Portland Vase, along with other Roman cameo glass artifacts, were manufactured by the Romans using a blown glass technique. Arguments say a cold-processing technique now known as “pate de verre” was used. The Portland Vase was crafted sometime between 30 BC to 50 AD and is probably the best known piece of Roman cameo glass in the world.

Wedgwood replica

Thursday, 24 March 2022

Ancient naval bases in Athens' Piraeus Harbor

Massive fortifications and sunken ship-sheds thousands of years old were found in 2016, in the harbor city of Athens. The discoveries are part of the partially sunken port that played a pivotal role in the famous Battle of Salamis, against the Persian Empire, a naval conflict that saved Greece in 480 BCE.
Researchers identified the 5th century BC naval bases of Piraeus, ship-sheds, the slipways and harbor fortifications. The victory in the Battle of Salamis freed the Greeks from Persian domination.

A Persian victory would have hamstrung the development of Ancient Greece, and western civilization.
The Battle of Salamis was a naval battle fought between an alliance of Greek city-states under Themistocles and the Persian Empire under King Xerxes in 480BC which resulted in a decisive victory for the outnumbered Greeks. The battle was fought in the straits between the mainland and Salamis, an island near Athens. The battles of Salamis and Plataea marked a turning point in the course of Greco-Persian wars.
King Xerxes watches his defeat
With the Persian ships gone from the Aegean, the nature of the allied Greek states changed from defensive to expansive. Athens was freed to deploy large fleets throughout the Mediterranean, which it used to carve out the great Greek empire. To preserve its empire and secure its wealth, Athens maintained a large war fleet. At its peak, Piraeus hosted about 400 triremes requiring crews of 80,000 sailors and soldiers. Athenian triremes patrolled the Black Sea in the North, the Israelite coast in the east, and the Nile delta of Egypt in the south.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Apollo Galleries Auction

Apollo Galleries and Auctions is Britain's premier source for expertly appraised cultural art and antiquities. This Greek Illyrian hammered bronze hoplite helmet, circa 600 BC is estimated $52k-$105k

Greek Apulian red-figure wheel-thrown ritual krater. Est $26k-$52k.

Monday, 21 March 2022

Getty Museum told to hand over 'Victorious Youth' by Italians, again

In 2021 the Italian senate approved a resolution that could pave the way to restitutions as politicians call for return of the ancient Greek bronze also known as Atleta di Fano
Italy’s highest court ordered the Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 2018 to return an ancient Greek bronze statue that was found off the Adriatic coast of Italy by fishermen in 1964. The ruling by the Court of Cassation in Rome was the latest round in a decade-long, acrimonious dispute over the ownership of the exquisite bronze figure, known as Victorious Youth or the Getty Bronze. The Getty Museum immediately rejected the judgment, saying it had no intention of giving up the fourth century BC statue. The museum bought it in 1977 for $3.95 million from a German art dealer. Italian authorities maintain that the statue was illegally taken out of the country.

Sunday, 20 March 2022

Minoan Gold

Minoan, about 1850-1550 BC. 'Master (or Mistress) of the Animals'
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age society that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from about the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC. 'Minoan' was coined after the mythic King Minos.
Minos is associated in myth with the labyrinth, which identifies with the site at Knossos.

According to Greek mythology, King Minos of Crete had the craftsman Daedalus construct the Labyrinth in order to conceal the Minotaur. The Minotaur was a half bull and half man creature that yearly ate the Athernian tribute of fourteen young men and women.
Salzburg Multiple lane labyrinth with Theseus and the Minotauros in the center.

The Bronze Age began in Crete as locals on the island developed centers of commerce. This enabled the upper classes to expand their influence. Eventually the ground would be laid for a monarchist power structure - a precondition for the creation of great empires. Around 1450 BCE, Minoan culture experienced a turning point due to a natural catastrophe, possibly the eruption of Thera. (Santorin) The palace in Knossos seems to have remained largely intact. The Minoan palace sites were occupied by the Myceneans around 1420 BC. By 1200 BC the Minoans had faded into history.

Signet ring dates to around 1500 BCE

Saturday, 19 March 2022

Tomb unearthed in China contains spectacular golden jewelry

A 1,500-year-old tomb unearthed in China in 2016 was found to contain spectacular golden jewelry inlaid with gemstones and amethysts. Burials from the Northern Wei Dynasty have yielded beautiful gold earrings, but experts say these are the most exquisite ever found. Datong City was founded in 200BC and located near the Great Wall Pass to Inner Mongolia.
It flourished and became a resting place for camel caravans traveling from China to Mongolia. Around the 4th and 5th centuries AD, Datong became the capital of the Northern Wei Dynasty. This was when the famous Yungang Grottoes were constructed.