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  • A Pillar and an Archer in Medieval Alexandria January 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    A Pillar and an Archer in Medieval Alexandria

      Ancient pillars survive even when associated buildings collapse. Many Greco-Roman pillars, indeed, are still standing today: a testimony to the durability of early Mediterranean civilisation. The medieval dwarfs looking back at the achievements of the classical world often got excited by pillars. Pillars were probably in part responsible for causing an early English poet […]

    A Roman Werewolf and a Dinner Tale January 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    A Roman Werewolf and a Dinner Tale

    Beachcombing still has the werewolf itch and it will not be exorcised unless he manages to spit out the story of Niceros the Freedman. The tale appears in Petronius’ Satyricon, the incomplete and bawdy Roman road novel that is best know today for its description of a Roman feast – where, in fact, this story is told. […]

    Last Will and Testament of a Pig January 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Last Will and Testament of a Pig

    Beachcombing ran across a curious little work today: the Testamentum Porcelli, Will of a Pig. It is possible that he read it many years ago because it seemed vaguely familiar: there is certainly something pleasingly grotesque in its words – a bit Roald Dahl - that brought Beachcombing back to his early 20s when Beach drank too […]

    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 […]

    Going Dark Age on the Circle Line October 12, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Going Dark Age on the Circle Line

    Beachcombing’s trawl around south-east England and London on behalf of Canadian History Student is now three-days old and continues here with another side of London’s Circle Line. The Circle Line for any London virgins among Beachcombing’s readership is the wonderful series of station represented by a yellow circle on the map of central London that goes […]

    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 […]

    Centaurs in Deepest Arabia August 21, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Centaurs in Deepest Arabia

                      Phlegon of Tralles is not a Greek author of the first rank. Indeed, he rarely comes up in conversation among students of the ancient except for a reported remark concerning the death of Christ. But this small-time second-century writer, who was born in south-west Turkey and who lived […]

    Roman legionaries in Central Asia? August 18, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Roman legionaries in Central Asia?

                        Beachcombing has written before about Roman penetration into central Asia and even possible direct contacts between Rome and the Chinese Imperial court. Tonight he wants, instead, to look at a claim that Romans – it is argued legionaries – visited western Uzbekistan close to Afghanistan […]

    Review: Off the Beaten Track in the Classics August 14, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Review: Off the Beaten Track in the Classics

    Beachcombing has to go and prepare a birthday surprise for a beloved niece and so decided that, today, he would limit himself to a quick write up of one of his favourite ancient history books: Carl Kaeppel’s Off the Beaten Track in the Classics (Melbourne 1936). If the name does not excite you then the […]

    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 […]

    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 […]

    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 […]

    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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