Saturday, March 15, 2014

Death and destruction in the Roman world for the Ides of March

There is plenty to beware of in the modern world today, beginning with the referendum in Crimea, which will begin while it's still the Ides of March in much of the Western Hemisphere.  I'm sure I'll get to that and other factors leading to and resulting from collapse and decline in future posts.  Instead, I'm going to feature items from and about the Roman Republic and Roman Empire that deal with death and destruction that I orginally featured in various Overnight News Digests this year so far.  I begin with the problems of Pompeii, which is being destroyed a second time.

First, The Guardian (UK): Down Pompeii: emergency meeting called after collapses in ancient city.
Collapse of tomb wall and supporting arch prompts Italy's culture minister to summon officials

Italy's culture minister demanded explanations on Sunday after more collapses this weekend in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii raised concerns about the state of one of the world's most treasured archaeological sites.

Pompeii, preserved under ash from a volcanic eruption in 79AD and rediscovered in the 18th century, has been hit by a series of collapses in recent months and years which have sparked international outcry over the neglect of the site.
The BBC has more in Damaged Pompeii to receive Italy rescue fund.
Italy says it will unblock 2m euros (£1.6m) in emergency funding to save the ancient city of Pompeii, after flooding caused walls to collapse.

A number of structures, including the Temple of Venus and Roma, were damaged by heavy rainfall on Sunday and Monday.

The decay prompted calls for action from the European Union and the United Nations.
Here's to hoping Pompeii can be saved again.

Tia Ghose of LiveScience reminds her readers that Pompeii is still a rich source of data in Elite of Ancient Pompeii Dined on Sea Urchin, Giraffe.
The commoners of the ancient city of Pompeii may have eaten a varied diet, with the wealthier even dining on giraffe, new research suggests.

Remains of food scraps found in the drains of Pompeii, Italy, a Roman city wiped out by a volcano, revealed that the middle- and lower-class residents dined on cheap but healthy foods, while slightly wealthier citizens dined on delicacies.

The new findings belie the common belief that the Roman elite dined on exotic delicacies while poor Romans starved on birdseed.
Follow over the jump for more on gladiators, plagues, Roman-era remains threatened by development, and the power of Pompeii as metaphor.

National Geographic News: Gladiator School Discovery Reveals Hard Lives of Ancient Warriors
Archaeologists have mapped an ancient gladiator school, where the famed warriors lived, trained, and fought.
Dan Vergano
National Geographic
Published February 25, 2014
Ancient Rome's gladiators lived and trained in fortress prisons, according to an international team of archaeologists who mapped a school for the famed fighters.

Discovered at the site of Carnuntum outside Vienna, Austria, the gladiatorial school, or ludus gladiatorius, is the first one discovered outside the city of Rome. Now hidden beneath a pasture, the gladiator school was entirely mapped with noninvasive earth-sensing technologies. (See "Gladiator Training Camp.")

The discovery, reported Tuesday evening by the journal Antiquity, makes clear what sort of lives these famous ancient warriors led during the second century A.D. in the Roman Empire.
National Geographic News: Headhunters' Trophy Skulls Uncovered From Ancient London
Skull discoveries point to hard knocks, and untidy endings, for ancient Roman gladiators and criminals.
Dan Vergano
National Geographic
Published January 15, 2014
Beheadings and brutality aplenty marked the deaths of the Roman Empire's gladiators, criminals, and war victims, suggest forensic archaeologists looking at skulls from ancient London.

The thriving capital of a Roman province by A.D. 100, Londinium (now London) held Roman legions, restive Britons, and an amphitheater for gladiatorial games. Along one of London's "lost rivers," the Walbrook stream, the city also held tanneries and burial pits.

In a new Journal of Archaeological Science report by Rebecca Redfern of the Museum of London and Heather Bonney of London's Natural History Museum, analysis of 39 skulls uncovered from those pits—many bearing marks of decapitation and other brutality—tell a gory tale of ancient times.
The Daily Telegraph (UK): Ancient cemetery of 'plague victims' discovered next to Uffizi Galleries
Construction work next to the famed Florence galleries reveals a 1,500-year old burial pit filled with skeletons
By Nick Squires, Rome
A centuries-old burial pit packed with the bodies of probable plague victims has been discovered by chance near the Uffizi Galleries in Florence.

Workers who were digging the foundations for a new lift for an annex to the world-famous art galleries stumbled on the ancient cemetery, which contains at least 60 skeletons and dates to the fourth or fifth century AD.
Looks like they were the victims of the same epidemic I described in Pandemics and collapse.

The Daily Telegraph starts to close the circle with Historic Roman terraces face threat from the building of Israel's separation barrier by Robert Tait, Battir, on 2:37PM GMT 28 Jan 2014,
Israel's highest court is to decide whether the separation barrier should pass through a "unique" agricultural site that conservationists say represents a precious slice of cultural heritage

Its fertile red soil and contour-hugging terraces are largely unchanged since King Herod ruled, and the methods used to irrigate and farm it are little different, either.

But now the fate of a 2,000-year-old site whose system of agriculture dates from when the Romans ruled the Holy Land is under threat - from Israel’s controversial separation barrier.
I complete the closing of the circle with two stories about the power of Pompeii as metaphor.  First, Hannah Osborne of the International Business Times reports Dental Plaque of Medieval Germans Provides 'Microbial Pompeii' of Bacteria.
Dental plaque from 1,000 years ago has revealed how medieval Germans suffered from the same bacterial disease as humans today.

Scientists at the University of Oklahoma analysed the dental plaque from 1,000-year-old teeth that had been preserved from a human in the German Medieval population.
Finally, Business Recorder (Pakistan) uses it for a site that actually is from the Eastern Roman Empire in Metro works in Greek city unearth 'Byzantine Pompeii' by CHRISTINE PIROVOLAKIS.
Extensive construction work on a new underground transit system in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki has unearthed a wealth of archaeological finds, leading some to hail the area as a Byzantine Pompeii - a reference to the ancient Roman city destroyed by an eruption in 79 AD. Started in 2006, the project is currently four years behind schedule, with frustrated citizens struggling with clogged traffic as they await the opening of the new metro line through the heart of the city.

Instead of engineers, however, residents in the city of Byzantine origin have been watching archaeologists spend years slowly shifting through excavations. "For many residents like myself, who work downtown, the metro will be a saviour - it will cut-down dramatically on traffic since tens of thousands of cars are trying to move in a city with only three major avenues," says Dimitris Mouzouris, a receptionist at City Hotel.
Once again, beware the Ides of March!

No comments:

Post a Comment