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  • Romans on the Shores of the Caspian Sea August 5, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Romans on the Shores of the Caspian Sea

    Beachcombing has looked in a previous post at supposed direct contact between the Roman Empire and China in the second century. Today he will not be attempting to take the Romans so far to the east – but he will still be going an impressive way into Central Asia. Azerbaijan to be exact. It should […]

    A Column of Burning Snakes August 2, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    A Column of Burning Snakes

                    Beachcombing has before him on his desk a volume from Frazer’s Golden Bough, perhaps the most famous work of comparative mythology ever written. In it Frazer quotes from Athenaeum (1869) concerning a difficult to forget and cruel bonfire. At Luchon in the Pyrenees on Midsummer Eve: a […]

    Russian Roulette Before the Pistol July 30, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Russian Roulette Before the Pistol

                  Beachcombing has never played Russian roulette. But he can think of plenty of people – mainly fictional – who have from some gentlemen in the Deer Hunter, to the hero of Royal Flash, to an all too factual bored teenage Graham Greene – though Greene’s experimentation with loaded […]

    Review: War Elephants July 27, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Review: War Elephants

                        Beachcombing is bringing Elephant Week, ‘the freakish fringe history of the largest land mammal’, to a close with a review of an outstanding recent publication War Elephants by John M. Kistler (Nebraska 2007). In this work the author covers the history of pachyderms on three continents – Africa, […]

    Elephants and Burning Pigs July 26, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Elephants and Burning Pigs

                    A challenge. Your army is spread across the plain when rumbling into sight come not only two hundred enemy cavalry and a thousand hoplites but, unexpectedly, thirty mounted elephants that seem very, very angry – they have been made drunk before battle according to custom. As your horse […]

    The Last Elephant Charge in History? July 25, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    The Last Elephant Charge in History?

                                                      Beachcombing has had several very useful emails from readers on the last cavalry charge in history. So many useful emails, indeed, that he has decided to risk repetition and ask […]

    An Elephant Invades Italy in 1936 July 24, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
    An Elephant Invades Italy in 1936

                                    Night four of Beachcombing’s Elephant week extravaganza is taken up by Richard Halliburton’s attempt to cross the Alps in 1936 on the back of an African elephant. Halliburton, a fun kind of fellow, managed to hire (and insure!) an […]

    Execution by Elephant July 21, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Execution by Elephant

                                                And so begins Elephant Week – for the next seven evenings an article will be given over to the freakish fringe history of the largest land mammal. First of all, this extraordinary passage from the […]

    An Early Christian Apostless July 20, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    An Early Christian Apostless

            Summer’s here, the sun’s out and Mrs B and little Miss B are trying not to have arguments with the in-laws on a distant strand of Mediterranean. Beachcombing, instead, took a far more sensible line and stayed at home with a collection of books and is subsisting on a diet of […]

    A Roman Emperor in Second-Century China? July 16, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    A Roman Emperor in Second-Century China?

                  Classicists and Sinologists (experts on all things Chinese) spent much energy in the nineteenth and early twentieth century demonstrating that there had been contacts between the two greatest Empires of antiquity, the Chinese and the Roman. They succeeded to their own satisfaction and even came up with ‘evidence’ […]

    New Theory for Vesuvius, 79 AD July 11, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    New Theory for Vesuvius, 79 AD

                      Beachcombing once spent a happy two hours being given electric shocks in an academic hospital in Naples (long story…), the experience leaving him with great fondness for the Frederick II University of that city. So much so, indeed, that he thought that he would give some publicity […]

    The Karma Sutra of the Ancient Mediterranean July 8, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Karma Sutra of the Ancient Mediterranean

                    If there is a heaven then Beachcombing hopes that, past the brass-band podium and the daisy strewn park, there will be a public Library of Lost Books, stocked with the works of antiquity and the middle ages that inconsiderate ancestors forgot to hand down to us. And, […]

    Mad Coin-Burying Halliday July 4, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Mad Coin-Burying Halliday

                Beachcombing has noted, over the years, with great and punctilious interest, objects and people that archaeologists and historians have found in places where they almost certainly should not have been. Buddha statues in Viking Denmark, Viking weapons in pre Colonial Minnesota, American Indians in Europe… Some of these may be […]

    A Mystery Animal in Ancient Africa July 3, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    A Mystery Animal in Ancient Africa

    Beachcombing has been fascinated by the Voyage of Hanno since he was in short classicist pants. For this text, written in Hellenistic Greek, purports to describe a Carthaginian expedition down the western coast of Africa in the early centuries B.C., at a time when good Mediterranean folk had as little to do with the sub-Saharan side of the continent […]

    World’s Last Latin Speakers in Africa? June 23, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    World's Last Latin Speakers in Africa?

    Yes, yes, Beachcombing knows that those bores in the Vatican and some Finnish broadcasters still speak Latin. He’s even been into monastic libraries where they won’t give you a manuscript unless you babble something from Lewis and Short. But what Beachcombing wants to know – and he doesn’t think he’ll get an intelligent response for […]

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