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  • The Napalm Snake Mystery November 18, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Napalm Snake Mystery

    In ancient and medieval and, indeed, modern times geographers frequently got things embarrassingly wrong for those there-be-dragons areas outside the circuit of their little worlds. So the early Greeks believed that the Gobi desert was full of flightless griffins. The Byzantines were convinced that the air in Scotland was poisonous. And the British in the […]

    The Three-Thousand-Year-Old Toads of Hector of Troy? November 11, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    The Three-Thousand-Year-Old Toads of Hector of Troy?

    Beachcombing greatly enjoyed, a month ago, looking at one of the world’s oldest surviving animals – the tortoise Harry/Harriet that Darwin brought away on the Beagle and who – bless her – died in 2006. He received, from readers, notice of several other historical tortoises that he hopes to come to in time. However, he thought that for today […]

    On Church Fathers and Peacock Flesh… November 8, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    On Church Fathers and Peacock Flesh...

    Beachcombing doesn’t much care for the greatest Church Father of them all, Augustine. Perhaps its what ‘the Confessor’ did to his mother and his concubine. Perhaps it is his rather smug treatment of Britain’s first fanatic, Pelagius. Perhaps it is his Latin that is so tiresomely balanced and his apparently imbalanced thinking. But Beachcombing must […]

    Rant: Lost Works, Mary Beard and ‘the Survival of the Fittest’ November 3, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Rant: Lost Works, Mary Beard and 'the Survival of the Fittest'

    ‘Mary Beard’, ‘Mary Beard’..: even now, twenty years on from the beginning of Beachcombing’s infatuation (naturally unfulfilled), the words are enough to send a lightening bolt into that blogger’s overstrained central cortex. Beachcombing still remembers seeing Mary’s swan-like body for the first time, in the reading room at the UL: indeed, Beachcombing trembled as Britain’s most beautiful […]

    Aristotle and the Flatulent Earth October 27, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Aristotle and the Flatulent Earth

    Beachcombing is always loath to give any publicity to the appalling Aristotle – and recently had a piece on Aristotle’s lost work on comedy wrung out of him against all his better judgement. However, after Beachcombing’s first experience of an earthquake last year he found himself grazing in Aristotle’s Metereology where the non-Platonic one gives […]

    Pytheas and the Mysterious Marine Lung October 25, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Pytheas and the Mysterious Marine Lung

    Pytheas of Marseille was a Greek sailing captain who, in the fourth century BC, ventured from the comfortable and known Mediterranean out into the northern Atlantic describing what he found there. Later generations believed that Pytheas was a fantasist and decried him. But, from the bits and pieces of Pytheas’ work that have survived – […]

    Calleva: the Last Romano-British City October 14, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Calleva: the Last Romano-British City

    Beachcombing finishes, today, his rapid tour around bizarre or curious near-London and London sites: a work he has undertaken partly for Canadian History Student and partly out of nostalgia – he is in Italy at the moment.  And what better place to end than Calleva Atrebatorum, the Woody Place of the Atrebates Tribe, way out […]

    The Isis Arms: Britain’s oldest pub October 13, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Isis Arms: Britain's oldest pub

    Beachcombing is having fun this week looking for off-the-beaten-track places in and around London for Canadian History Student. And this morning he is out on Tooley Street in Southwark seeking London and, indeed, Britain’s oldest pub, the Isis Arms. The pub in question was built in the first generation of Roman London, say, c. 70 […]

    A Ring, A Curse Stone and J.R.R. Tolkien October 11, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    A Ring, A Curse Stone and J.R.R. Tolkien

    As noted in yesterday’s post Beachcombing is presently trying to pass on some off-the-beaten-track travel tips to Canadian History Student in his/her coming trip around south-east England. Beachcombing thought that for the second of his suggested visits he would counsel a quick run up to Vyne House near Basingstoke. Beachcombing doesn’t care much for the […]

    Druidic Ravens at the Tower of London? October 10, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Druidic Ravens at the Tower of London?

    Beachcombing got an email this week from a Canadian history student. ‘Seeing as you seem to have knowledge of historical things quite off the beaten track I thought I’d seek some historic tourism advice. I’m a Canadian history student and over Christmas I’ll be travelling to London. I plan on a doing a couple of […]

    Boiling mice in the name of history October 3, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Boiling mice in the name of history

    It is widely known, Beachcombing believes, that the Romans ate dormice. Despite sumptuary laws forbidding the practice – dormice were an indulgence – they were fattened in gardens and kept in winter in a glirarium (a large ceramic jar) to prevent them hibernating (and becoming thin…). They were then cooked, stuffed with  pine kernels, garum, […]

    Super-Centenarians in the Roman Empire September 23, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Super-Centenarians in the Roman Empire

    Beachcombing knew that life expectancy in the Roman Empire stood at between twenty and thirty years of age – a figure dragged down, of course, by appalling infant mortality. So he was particularly fascinated to come across this passage in Pliny the Elder. In addition there are the experiences of the last census, held within the […]

    Ten Thousand Romans in Turkmenistan September 19, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Ten Thousand Romans in Turkmenistan

    There are many reasons for which individuals have travelled a long way from home in history: money, love, fear… But a vitally important and generally overlooked motive is imprisonment. Soldiers taken in battle have often (and very sensibly) been moved from where they were captured to the furthest possible point from their own country to avoid […]

    The Nine Unknown – An Invisible Library September 15, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
    The Nine Unknown - An Invisible Library

    In Beachcombing’s ergot, ‘invisible libraries’ are books or collections of books that have never existed except in the fantasies of readers. And today he has a cracker. In Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier’s Morning of the Magicians there appears a description of the Nine Unknown Men of India and their notebooks. For those who do […]

    Centaur of Volos September 5, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
    Centaur of Volos

    All centaur-lovers with a honeymoon or a sabbatical coming up should buy a ticket to Knoxville, Tennessee and visit the second floor of the Hodges Library at the University there. Still encased in the Greek mud, in which it sank almost two thousand five hundred years ago, is a centaur, the only one you will […]

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