jump to navigation
  • 2012 and All That January 24, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
    2012 and All That

    The Beachcombings’ last aupair but one wanted to go back to school and get a degree as a midwife (which in itself begs all kinds of questions) but was holding off till 2013: ‘I don’t want to waste my time if the world is about to end’ she usefully explained. Beach should add that she […]

    What Religion did Fairies Follow? January 22, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    What Religion did Fairies Follow?

    Beach’s endless reading in the literature of fairies has led him to a couple of unusual passages. He honestly doesn’t know that to make of them. In truth, they frighten him. The first is from a south-western fairy tale where a man is reunited with his ‘dead’ fiancé who is actually trapped in fairy land. […]

    Medieval and Ancient Rats January 18, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Medieval and Ancient Rats

    One of the mysteries of the Black Death in the Middle Ages is how the victims never – with one curious Scandinavian exception – cottoned on to the fact that rodents, particularly rats were disease bearers. In some cases there were infestations of rats before the disease struck and many rats also died, which should […]

    Vintages Past January 17, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Vintages Past

    There is a beautiful scene in the junky teen fantasy Highlander (1986) where Connor (the decapitator) opens a bottle of eighteenth-century brandy in late twentieth century New York. ‘1783’  states our hero ‘was a very good year. Mozart wrote his Great Mass. The Montgolfier brothers went up in the first hot-air balloon. And England recognized […]

    Jesus Lived to 114 in Japan! January 11, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
    Jesus Lived to 114 in Japan!

    Beach has long been hearing rumours that Jesus Christ was actually buried in an obscure Japanese village of Shingo. But it was only this morning that he finally decided to climb up this particular mountain of madness and see what was really happening up in the mists. According to local ‘tradition’ (always a slippery word) […]

    Plotinus Meets a God January 8, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Plotinus Meets a God

    A WIBT (Wish I’d been there) moment from later antiquity, brought to mind, in part by stories at the end of 2011 about Socrate’s daemon. The subject is Plotinus, a follower of Plato and the thinker who offered the ancient Mediterranean a ‘sensible’ alternative to Christianity: neo-platonism. Plotinus, as all Platonists, had mixed feelings about […]

    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