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  • The Earliest Roman Ghost in Britain January 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Earliest Roman Ghost in Britain

    Owen Davies in his fascinating The Haunted: A Social History of Ghosts notes the way that strangely (or obviously if you are a sceptic like Beachcombing) ghosts follow the fashions and interests of their times. Take OD’s thoughts, for example, on Roman ghosts in the UK. The most recent addition to the corpus of heritage […]

    Socrates, Sneezing and Daemons December 31, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Socrates, Sneezing and Daemons

    Socrates is the bedrock on which the western philosophical tradition has been built. You can polish him like Plotinus. You can take your geological hammer and tap gently at his sides in the style of Aristotle (poor dolt). Or you can start smashing bottles of nitric acid on his stone-work as Nietzsche did. The fact […]

    Death by Laughter December 20, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Death by Laughter

    Beachcombing had hoped to give some extra time to this blog now the holidays are here. But, instead, Mrs B and younger daughter have fallen ill, elder daughter is doing unspeakable things to a rabbit, while Beachcombing has, just in time for Christmas, lost his sense of taste – honey tastes like margarine. He thought […]

    White Horses, Sex and Sovereignty December 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    White Horses, Sex and Sovereignty

    Inspired by Southern Man’s comment on yesterday’s post Beach thought he would today quote from some of the passages relating to Irish sovereignty. There was in pre-Norman Ireland the idea that the land is a woman, Sovereignty, who must be courted and seduced by the successful king. Take, for example, this rather tame passage relating […]

    From Vienna to the Baltic in Roman Times November 28, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient

      A couple of rarely examined sentences in Pliny’s Natural History (37,45) give the outline of a grand old Roman adventure in the times of the Emperor Nero (54 AD 68 AD). There are about 600 miles from Carnuntum [Roman camp close to Vienna] in Pannonia to the shores of Germany from which amber is […]

    Letting Off Steam November 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Letting Off Steam

    All societies need moments when kings, citizens and slaves let off steam. The police in the United States allow adolescents to get away with things on Halloween that would land them in a jail cell every other night of the year. The Romans had Saturnalia when masters had to serve their slaves the dinner and […]

    DNA Champion November 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    DNA Champion

    Our DNA is the damnedest stuff, it gets everywhere: not only forensically but also historically. Just the other day, Beach reviewed the evidence (2010) that one medieval Amerindian woman in Iceland passed on her DNA to eighty modern Icelanders. Then there are plenty of other dramatic examples of DNA spreading through history, especially now that […]

    A Rhinoceros in Eighteenth-Century London November 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    A Rhinoceros in Eighteenth-Century London

       Beach has a longstanding thing about elephants (see many previous posts and many posts to come) and has been wondering recently about opening up a second front on the rhinoceros: a distant reading of a text about Romans importing this beast for their games has been jumping up and down in his head. He […]

    City of Ravens: Boria Sax October 31, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern