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  • From Vienna to the Baltic in Roman Times November 28, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient

      A couple of rarely examined sentences in Pliny’s Natural History (37,45) give the outline of a grand old Roman adventure in the times of the Emperor Nero (54 AD 68 AD). There are about 600 miles from Carnuntum [Roman camp close to Vienna] in Pannonia to the shores of Germany from which amber is […]

    Letting Off Steam November 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Letting Off Steam

    All societies need moments when kings, citizens and slaves let off steam. The police in the United States allow adolescents to get away with things on Halloween that would land them in a jail cell every other night of the year. The Romans had Saturnalia when masters had to serve their slaves the dinner and […]

    A Rhinoceros in Eighteenth-Century London November 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    A Rhinoceros in Eighteenth-Century London

       Beach has a longstanding thing about elephants (see many previous posts and many posts to come) and has been wondering recently about opening up a second front on the rhinoceros: a distant reading of a text about Romans importing this beast for their games has been jumping up and down in his head. He […]

    Incitatus: Caligula’s Horse October 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Incitatus: Caligula's Horse

    The mad and bad Gaius Caligula (37-41 AD), third emperor of Rome had a reputation for cruel insanity and was responsible for the death of his grandmother, his father and several thousand Romans. But no one could say that he didn’t treat his horses well. The most celebrated, Incitatus, was given a retinue of eighteen […]

    From the Mahogany Ship to Mons Badonicus: An Archaeological Fantasia October 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    From the Mahogany Ship to Mons Badonicus: An Archaeological Fantasia

    Inspired by thoughts of Nag Hammadi, Howard Carter and Leslie Alcock at Cadbury Beachcombing spent an  evening wondering about archaeological fantasias, discoveries that he hopes will be made before he  himself becomes an archaeological subject and is put into the ground. Boudica’s grave. Boudica was, of course, the queen of the Iceni who gave Nero […]

    Population Games and Rorschach Tests September 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Population Games and Rorschach Tests

    Beachcombing had some fun the other day writing about ancient history and population estimates. Last night reading in the ‘wee hours’ he came across another lovely example of this: the insane modern debate about the population of Roman Britain. Now post-war estimates for the population of Roman Britain  have gone as low as 200,000 and […]

    Favourite Historical Cities September 3, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Favourite Historical Cities

    And so it begins… Three hours sleep, arguments about syllabi, a terrifying public-speaking engagement, a walk in the wood (six snakes spotted – an omen?), sleep and stress. In short, the students are back and the cycle of sow/reap/harvest (lesson/field-trip/exam) is starting up once again. They look (as always) like nice kids. But in an […]

    The Hare that Killed a Hundred Thousand July 25, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Hare that Killed a Hundred Thousand

    Beachcombing was much struck by some of the comments concerning his Amazon article about the terrifying warrior women of Benin. Several of the examples given by readers were not though of warrior women per se: but of women war-leaders, which is a fascinating phenomenon and one which is certainly more common. Think Joan of Arc, […]

    Perpetua’s Death Dream July 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Perpetua's Death Dream

    Beachcombing decided to bring night visions into the day a month ago, opening a new tag on – note the failure to alliterate – Historic Dreams. He offered as a start Lincoln’s prophetic dream of the President’s own death and raised some questions about how prophetic said dream really was. Today, he offers,  instead, a […]

    Incest in Ancient Egypt June 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Incest in Ancient Egypt

    Incest is a fringe interest in most societies. However, Beachcombing has learnt, on a morning trip to his local library, that there are some curious exceptions: a number of Hawaiian clans, certain tribes in the Solomon Islands and, of course, the most famous of them all, the Egyptian pharaohs. Now, it is common knowledge among […]

    Bishop Q June 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Bishop Q

    Today a curious Roman marble inscription from Terni in central Italy – not Rome as often reported – that probably dates from towards the end of the Empire, perhaps from the end of the fourth century (Olybrio = consul?). It is an inscription that is so unexpected that it is difficult to know where to […]

    Christian Orgies June 22, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Christian Orgies

    On rainy nights, when the children have gone to bed and Beachcombing wants to provoke his ultra Catholic wife, there is little he loves more than to quote from the following early third-century Christian text, where some of the first pagan criticisms against the upstart religion are aired. As well as describing how Christians eat […]

    Druids’ Eggs June 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Druids' Eggs

    An interesting text from Pliny: (29, 3*) There is also a sort of egg, famous in the provinces of Gaul, but ignored by the Greeks. Innumerable snakes coil themselves into a ball in the summertime. Thus they make it so that it is held together by a bodily secretion and by their saliva. It is […]

    Roman Mosaics and Bras in 1930s Leicester June 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
    Roman Mosaics and Bras in 1930s Leicester

    A busy day for Beach today – the hunt for mice, newspaper columns and the ongoing search for an aupair – and so he thought that he would just quote from this 1930s guide to Roman Britain for a strange archaeological visit. Leicester, for those who don’t know it, is a rather frightening English Midland […]

    Vampire Mermaids and Migraines May 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Vampire Mermaids and Migraines

    A Roman charm from, of all places, Carnuntum in the Alps offers one of the earliest recorded cures for migraine. Written on a piece of silver (and badly eroded) it does not discourse on low-dairy diets or darkened rooms. Rather… Well, Beachcombing will quote from the translated Greek: ‘Antaura came out from the sea. She […]

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