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  • The Vein of Love and the Ring Finger May 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval
    The Vein of Love and the Ring Finger

    A beautifully realised graphic history of the engagment ring by Vashi led to thoughts about why, in the Western World, the wedding ring is worn on the ring finger, the third finger of the left hand counting from the index. The answer most authorities give, from nineteenth-century reference works, to modern wedding miscellanies, to early […]

    A City Without Buildings: Themistocles Before Salamis May 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    A City Without Buildings: Themistocles Before Salamis

    A WIBT (Wish I’d Been There) episode from the wars between Greece and Persia in 480/479. The Athenians, save some brave warriors who attempted to defend, futilely the Acropolis, have fled from their city. The unstoppable Persian army has fired the temples and the holy places of Athena: and the Persian fleet has moved down […]

    The Nile’s Flooding and the Limits of Logic May 6, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Nile's Flooding and the Limits of Logic

    Herodotus was fascinated by Egypt, a kind of topsy-turvy version of his Greek world, and above all, in the second book of the Histories, he shows that he was fascinated by the Nile that ran through Egypt. The great mystery with the Nile for Herodotus and his readers, though it seems to have little bothered […]

    Man vs Horse: Pheidippides and his Missing Mount April 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Man vs Horse: Pheidippides and his Missing Mount

    ***Inspired by Little Miss Beach and Tacitus at Empire*** http://detritusofempire.blogspot.it/ When Beach recently described, at table, Pheidippides’ heroic 300 mile round trip from Athens to Sparta little Miss Beach looked at her father contemptuously and asked ‘why didn’t he just get on a horse?’ Beach prepared to gently put his daughter down, not wanting to crush her […]

    The Campestres, Romano-British Fairies? April 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Campestres, Romano-British Fairies?

    Fairies appear in nineteenth-century folklore collections, seventeenth-century spells, sixteenth-century plays, tenth-century charms and (at least in Ireland) early medieval tales. How wonderful it would be to drag the evidence back into the Roman period and beyond for our native fauns. One strategy for doing so has been to turn to Romano-British inscriptions which may (just […]

    Pheidippides: The Greek Who Met A God April 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Pheidippides: The Greek Who Met A God

    Pheidippides enters the history book because he could run fast and far, and because in 490 BC, with angry Persian immortals just outside their walls, the Athenians decided that they needed help. They looked for assistance in the most violent of all Greek polis, the Spartans to the south. Sparta, though, stood 150 miles from Athens […]

    Book Eating in the Bible April 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Book Eating in the Bible

      ***Dedicated to KMH who came up with this link*** A recent post looked at Bible sandwiches, the idea of eating the Bible to cure yourself from ills or poison. The average reader might raise their eyebrows and wonder what the scriptural basis for that is. This was Beach’s residual-protestant reaction but, then, to his shock, […]

    Pheidippides and the Myth of the Marathon April 4, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Pheidippides and the Myth of the Marathon

    Pheidippides is a bit player in history. A fifth-century Greek who allegedly ran the original marathon. First, though some background to help situate one of the fastest men in the ancient world. In 490, perhaps in early September, Athens found itself in trouble. The Persian Emperor, Darius, resented the fact that Athens had helped the Ionian city states […]

    The Oldest Phrase in the World March 17, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Oldest Phrase in the World

    Sentences are passed from mouth to mouth down through the ages: some of these that are both reckoned wisdom and that attain a particularly attractive form remain with us. A simple question now: what is the oldest sentence in continual use? First, some ground rules. The sentences in question cannot be overly general. For example, […]

    Jacob of Edessa’s America March 9, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Jacob of Edessa's America

    Many readers of Beachcombing will know Beach’s fellow bizarrist, Esoterx, who writes fascinating posts about ancient, medieval and modern history and in Beach’s humble opinion has the best and wittiest headlines on the internet: a recent discussion of Hellenic religion was called, for example, ‘Muppet Theology’. Often Beach knows Esoterx’s sources, as the two share […]

    Immortal Meals #21: The Fish That Killed An Emperor March 3, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Immortal Meals #21: The Fish That Killed An Emperor

    ***thanks to Tacitus from Detritus for sending this one in*** Symmachus and the far more famous Boethius were Roman nobles after the end of the Roman empire, an uncomfortable time to be ‘senators’. Boethius fell into disgrace with the emperor Theoderic: he essentially got into trouble for defending, in the law courts, an enemy of Theoderic. […]

    A Roman Coin in the Congo! February 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    A Roman Coin in the Congo!

    Roman coins turn up in the wildest places: Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Iceland… But who would have ever guessed the discovery of a Roman coin in sub-equatorial western Africa? The reference was first given Italian Rivista of Numismatica (vi, 1893, 45). However, the passage quoted here is a digest from Mouvement Géographique (26 Nov 1893): En […]

    Goodbye Constantinople February 7, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Goodbye Constantinople

      ***Some might like to listen to the very topical Strange History theme song while reading this, thanks to Chris S for the tip*** The night of 28 May 1453 the Emperor of Byzantine, Constantine, ‘the eleventh of his name’, went for a ride with his friend, George Sphrantzes, on the city walls of Constantinople, […]

    The Rhino’s Horn and Memory February 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Rhino's Horn and Memory

    Every so often Beach gets a post from a reader that practically writes itself and the extent of this blogger’s work is the cut and paste button. Here is one such example that goes in the well established oral transmission tag.  The correspondent and author was Indranil. Can any reader help out Indranil and his […]

    Struell Wells, Ireland: Pagan Customs in the Modern Age? January 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Struell Wells, Ireland: Pagan Customs in the Modern Age?

    Exciting article by Finbar McCormick from 2009, one that somehow passed Beach by, ‘Struell Wells’, The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (2009), 45-62. FM begins with a careful description of a nineteenth-century Irish water shrine, the Struell Wells (Downpatrick). This shrine is credited through St Patrick with the power of curing. Crowds would […]

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