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  • Immortal Meals 9#: The Discovery of Nero’s Rotating Dining Room? May 17, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Immortal Meals 9#: The Discovery of Nero's Rotating Dining Room?

    Beach’s reading today comes from Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars, Nero (31) There was nothing however in which [Nero] was more ruinously prodigal than in building. He made a palace extending all the way from the Palatine to the Esquiline, which at first he called the House of Passage, but when it was burned shortly […]

    Badgers, Pigs and Asses: Celtic in English May 10, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Badgers, Pigs and Asses: Celtic in English

    ‘While I was on the ass, going to feed my dun hog, carrying only a matlock and some bannock, I saw a brock coming down from the tor that’s shaped like a bin’. It is not exactly poetry. But this sentence might stand as a memory aid for students of English. The interest lies not […]

    Lost in Transmission May 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Lost in Transmission

    Words echo through the centuries like coins dropped down an infinite well. And as they are passed on they are smoothed and confused in the mouths of the people. The best examples we have of this are, of course, placenames: in the space of eighty generations Londinium becomes London, Mamucium becomes Manchester and Euboricum becomes […]

    The Babel of History May 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Babel of History

      The past according to a much worn-line is ‘a foreign country, they do things differently there’. Of course, if this were all then history would be a doddle. It would be enough to fill the Cutty Sark with sabres and give the natives music sheets for their acres. But, unfortunately for those who like […]

    Pyramids in Italy April 29, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Pyramids in Italy

    The pyramids of the Etruscan king Porsenna (fl c. 500 BC) are one of the great mysteries of antiquity. What does this passage ‘mean’? What did they really look like (try and visualise them)? Where were they? Hell, did they ever really exist? [Porsenna] was buried below the city of Clusium in the place where […]

    More Christ Confusion April 20, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    More Christ Confusion

        Beach wrote a few days ago of the most moving source for the historical Christ, a source that perhaps dates back to a decade after Jesus’ death. Today, instead, he thought he would look at the most amusing source for Christ’s death, a fragment from Josephus, the turncoat who supported the Jewish resistance […]

    Did Christ Exist? April 14, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Did Christ Exist?

    Beach should start this piece with a disclaimer: he is not a Christian – ‘not that there is anything wrong with that’ – and is unlikely to ever become one. And with this bit of initial hand-wringing out of the way on to today’s question, provoked by some recent internet articles, did Jesus exist? Well, […]

    Suicide and Historical Loopholes April 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Suicide and Historical Loopholes

    Suicide has proved abhorrent to most spiritual traditions. Certainly, the great monotheistic religions and most of the far Eastern religions have condemned ‘self-murder’: cue lots of pulpit bashing and descriptions of hell or unpleasant reincarnations. This begs the question though of what you can do if you live in 500 BC or 500 AD or […]

    Dark Age Scotland Without Oxygen? March 25, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Dark Age Scotland Without Oxygen?

    First of all huge apologies for lack of coverage in these days: the Beachcombing household really is in a it-doesn’t-rain-it-pours month. In less than 48 hours their beloved aupair disappears and despite honourable and numerous dishonourable efforts to sort this out they have been left uncovered. The first time someone falls ill there is going […]

    Perrottet: Sinners’ Grand Tour March 23, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Perrottet: Sinners' Grand Tour

    Tony Perrottet, The Sinner’s Grand Tour: Journey Through the Historical Underbelly of Europe (2011 in paperback) Broadly-speaking all humans have three reactions to forms of sexual activity: (i) frenzy, (ii) comic indifference or (iii) disgust. Beachcombing, for example, has to (i) contain himself when confronted with sultry Mediterranean beauty. He finds it (ii) amusing that […]

    Amerindians in Sardinia!?! March 20, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Amerindians in Sardinia!?!

    When Beachcombing was a strapping young lad he opened a fuchsia file of claims for pre-Columbian crossings of the Atlantic. The problem was that after two or three years and entries for every people from Basques and Gaels to Zulus he got a tadge bored: most theories lacked anything like sensible proof, then (more seriously) […]

    St Patrick and Confusion March 17, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    St Patrick and Confusion

    Beach has always been fascinated by questions of uncertainty in history, in part because these teach modesty, in part because they are a useful way to annoy colleagues. And, in tribute to question marks past, he thought that he would celebrate St Patrick’s day – finally a correct date for an anniversary! – by concentrating […]

    Procopius, Brittia and Britain March 14, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Procopius, Brittia and Britain

    Procopius is one of the most interesting writers of all antiquity: his discussion of the orifices of Theodora and his detailing of his own walk-on role in the Italian wars proving particularly memorable. But in the thousands of words of his Greek that survive there are many, many other passages that deserve a wider audience: […]

    Pulling Things Out of Rivers March 13, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Pulling Things Out of Rivers

    Rivers are useful guardians of the past: often thousands of years roll by (and millions of tonnes of water) before things that have been thrown in are fished out (sometimes literally) several hundred or thousands of years later. Here are Beachcombing’s favourite they-were-found-in-river things. Others would be welcome: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com 1) Claudius’ […]

    Christ’s Execution in a Marble Jar March 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Christ's Execution in a Marble Jar

    Beachcombing must yet again apologise to his readers for a brief post, but the last exams before spring break need to be corrected (hurrah! hurrah!) and in any case the Huntsville Daily Times (29 Jan 1911: MO) wanted to do all the talking for him. George Carter, son of the late I. M. Carter and […]

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