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  • Last of the British? September 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Last of the British?

    There are sixty million Britons, yet if you go house to house through England, Wales, Scotland and the six counties you will find that relatively few people actually define themselves in this way. If a family from Glasgow, Cardiff or Sheffield turn up in a French hotel they will probably write (under nationality) respectively: ‘Scottish’, […]

    Love Goddess #11: Astarte’s Pierced Nipples September 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Love Goddess #11: Astarte's Pierced Nipples

    Astarte was one of those bitter-bitter eastern Mediterranean dieties, all smiles and pubic triangles until she wanted your elder son as a human sacrifice… Her name is arguably Punic and may have meant ‘womb’, but, again, fertility and bloodshed went together spectacularly well among the Phonecians so no baby rattles or wedding showers just yet. There […]

    Earliest Written Reference to Britannia? September 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Earliest Written Reference to Britannia?

    Female personifications of nations…. There is frigid Italia (with towers growing out of her head), France has psychotic Marianne drinking aristocratic blood, Uncle Sam sometimes flirted with French Liberty and Eriu (Ireland to Sassenach neighbours) was a hag who bedded warriors, but best of all there is sweet Britannia with a shield, trident and snooty outlook […]

    Roman Killing Theatre August 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Roman Killing Theatre

    The Romans, as is well known, had a particular genius for killing and for all their precious disgust at human sacrifice (the Empire banned human sacrifice wherever they found it) gladiatorial displays, occasional acts of genocide and public executions were all to the good. The most unusual aspect of Roman public executions was the willingness […]

    Female Poison Circles July 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Female Poison Circles

    As is well known periodically through history groups of frustrated women have banded together to poison their violent, somnolent, poor or idiotic husbands. Six or sixty or one hundred and fifty would  find a local gypsy who sold tastless, colourless (in short undetectable) poisons and then run home and start dosing gins and tonics or […]

    Burning Libraries: A Saucy Roman History Book July 8, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Burning Libraries: A Saucy Roman History Book

    This blogger remembers some sweaty hours reading Robert Graves’ translation of Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars, Roman history reduced to salacious tabloid gossip. The sex, the violence, the sex, the poison, the magic, the sex and, of course, that swimming pool… But once Suetonius stops writing Roman history lovers have almost nothing until Ammianus Marcelinus’ surviving […]

    Romans and Matron Poisoners: 190 Killed June 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Romans and Matron Poisoners: 190 Killed

    331 BC was a very bad year in Rome. Livy (obit 17 AD) is our only record for the catastrophe. I include here an online translation from 8, 18 (with some slight changes) and the Latin as I hate translating ‘the Padovan’. The foremost men in the State were being attacked by the same illness, […]

    African Ape in Iron Age Ireland? June 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Prehistoric
    African Ape in Iron Age Ireland?

    So here’s a teaser. The Barbary ape is an African primate whose only toehold on the European continent is at Gibraltar, where a tiny population has survived into modern times. How, then, did a Barbary Ape get to Co Armagh in Northern Ireland in the Iron Age? Archaeologists have waxed lyrical over the find of […]

    Caesar and a German Unicorn? May 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Caesar and a German Unicorn?

    Karl Shuker has recently put up a post on an ancient cryptoid: the Hercynian Unicorn. KS, always interesting, quotes the work of a German author Markus Bühler (whose work I’ve not read), suggesting that we are dealing with a ‘freak deer’ across the Rhine. However, before conjuring up abberant creatures to explain curious antique references, […]

    Romans and Fairies? November 25, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Romans and Fairies?

    ***Dedicated to Invisible who sent the Notts example in*** Beach has slowly become aware that Roman remains in Britain were misinterpreted by imaginative yokels. Of course, already by the seventh century Roman Bath (probably?) was the City of Giants in an Anglo-Saxon poem. By the twelfth century Geoffrey of Monmouth was claiming that some Roman […]

    The Last Single Combat? November 15, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    The Last Single Combat?

    Single Combat is not strictly the same as a duel, where two individuals meet to settle a matter of honour. In single combat a member of one army and a member from another meet before battle, either to warm up the ranks or, better still, to settle the affair pacifically without any one else having […]

    The Death of the Roman Republic November 3, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Death of the Roman Republic

    There is nothing in history to equal the death of the Roman Republic. On the one hand, a bunch of power-hungry opportunists including Caesar, Pompey, Augustus, Mark Anthony and Crassus. Then, on the other, the last defenders of Republican liberty: Cato, Cicero, Brutus and their many ‘sometime’ supporters in the Senatorial Class. The power-hungry opportunists […]

    The Law and Cauls October 25, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    The Law and Cauls

    Long-time readers of the blog may remember several posts on cauls (the membrane that sometimes sticks to a child as he or she exits the womb). ‘Hooded’ children or caulbearers are often said to have psychic gifts. But there is also a tradition of excellence in law: the reason for the connection between these two […]

    The Mystery of Hadrian’s Wall October 6, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Mystery of Hadrian's Wall

    Hadrian’s Wall is one of the great Roman mysteries: though most archaeologists and classicists that trot obediently along it do not think of ‘the Wall’ in those terms. Consider the facts though. Hadrian builds HW in 122-c.126 as part of his efforts to retrench the Empire after Trajan’s expansionary policy in Dacia and Armenia. Hadrian […]

    Unlucky Days: Rufus Fears Speaks September 13, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient
    Unlucky Days: Rufus Fears Speaks

    It’s always fun when academics go off message in the middle of talks. Here is a particularly crazy example from a lecture by Rufus Fears, the celebrated classics professor and editor of Lord Acton, recorded for the Teaching Company, Famous Romans, 3. (The TC, btw, puts some great stuff out there and this series of […]

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