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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Lullingstone Roman Villa

Lullingstone Roman Villa  was built during the Roman occupation of Britain, is situated near the village of Eynsford in Kent, in southeast England. Constructed in the 1st century, perhaps around 80-90 CE, the house was repeatedly expanded and occupied until it was destroyed by fire in the 5th century CE. The occupants were wealthy Romans or native Britons who had adopted Roman customs.  

About 150 CE, the villa was considerably enlarged, with a bath block heated by a hypocaust added, and may have been used as the country retreat of the governors of the Roman province of Britannia. Two sculpted marble busts found in the cellar may be those of Pertinax, governor in 185-186 CE, and his father-in-law, Publius Helvius Successus. 

In the 3rd century, a larger furnace for the hypocaust as well as an expanded bath block were added, as were a temple-mausoleum and a large granary. In the 4th century fine mosaic floors were installed in the dining room including one illustration of Zeus, disguised as a bull, abducting Europa and a second depicting Bellerophon killing the Chimera. A room, already in religious use as a pagan shrine dedicated to local water deities depicted as water nymphs in a niche that can still be seen today, was converted to a Christian chapel or house church, the earliest that has been found in the British Isles. 

According to English Heritage: "The evidence of the Christian house-church is a unique discovery for Roman Britain and the wall paintings are of international importance. Not only do they provide some of the earliest evidence for Christianity in Britain, they are almost unique – the closest parallels come from a house-church in Dura Europus, Syria. Perhaps almost as remarkable as the discovery of the house-church is the possibility that pagan worship may have continued in the cult room below. What is not clear is whether this represented the family hedging their bets, trumpeting their apparent acceptance of Christianity, while trying to keep the old gods happy, or whether it represents some members of the family clinging to old beliefs in the face of the adoption of Christianity by others."

The villa complex also includes a Romano-Celtic Temple-mausoleum that was constructed around 300 CE.  It held the bodies of two young people, those of a male and a female, in lead coffins. Although the young woman's coffin was robbed in antiquity, the other remained in situ and undisturbed, and is now on display at the site.

Images from my visit to the villa in 2006 as well as other images by Carole Raddato, and other contributors to Wikimedia Commons:

Overall image of the covered archaeological site of Lullingstone Villa courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (no author given)

Complete mosaic in the triclinium of Lullingstone Roman Villa courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (no author given)

Detail of triclinium mosaic in Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed in 2006.

Detail of triclinium mosaic in Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed in 2006.

Detail of triclinium mosaic in Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed in 2006.

Detail of triclinium mosaic in Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed in 2006.

Detail of triclinium mosaic in Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed in 2006.

Detail of triclinium mosaic in Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed in 2006.

Detail of triclinium mosaic in Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed in 2006.

Detail of triclinium mosaic in Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed in 2006.

Detail of triclinium mosaic in Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed in 2006.

Male burial that I photographed at Lullingston Roman Villa in 2006.

Modern restoration of the fresco containing the Christian symbol of the Chi Rho from the Roman Villa at Lullingstone, now at the British Museum, London courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor udimu

Christian paintings in the former pagan shrine at Lullingstone Roman Villa courtesy of Carole Raddato

Christian paintings in the former pagan shrine at Lullingstone Roman Villa courtesy of Carole Raddato

Closeup of a painting of a Christian worshiper found in a former pagan shrine at Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed at the British Museum in 2008.

Closeup of a painting of a Christian worshiper found in a former pagan shrine at Lullingstone Roman Villa that I photographed at the British Museum in 2008.

One of the busts found at Lullingston Roman Villa thought to be possibly Pertinax, governor of Britannia from 185-186 CE or his father-in-law, Publius Helvius Successus courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Ethan Doyle White

Monday, September 28, 2020

Diadems symbols of wealth, victory, and royalty

 The diadem, an ornamental headband worn by monarchs as a symbol of royalty and sometimes by others, such as victorious athletes in the classical world, may have had its origins in central Asia.  One of the oldest examples of a diadem worn by a priest king of the Indus Valley Civilization dates to approximately 3000 BCE.  Originally the term referred to an embroidered white silk ribbon but was later replaced by a circlet of precious metal, sometimes in the shape of a wreath.

During the Hellenistic period, High-ranking or wealthy Greek women often wore elaborate diadems and hairnets of gold and gemstones as part of their jewelry.  Greek and Macedonian diadems were sometimes adorned with a large Hercules knot, inspired by the one the hero used to tie the paws of the lion skin he wore. Due to its protective quality, the Hercules knot also became important in marriage symbolism and was a common motif for women's jewelry of the Hellenistic period, and in royal Macedonian art more generally. The Roman author Pliny (23-79 CE) even attributed healing qualities to the Hercules knot. 

Roman emperors from the time of Diocletian onwards wore a diadem and it was this object that the Foederatus general Odoacer returned to Emperor Zeno (the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire) after his expulsion of the usurper Romulus Augustus from Rome in 476 CE.

Two segments of a Diadem Greek late 3rd-2nd century BCE Gold that I photographed at the Dallas Museum of Art in Dallas, Texas.

Gold and garnet strap diadem with Herakles knot Greek 3rd-2nd century BCE that I photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Closeup of Gold Diadem with Rams' heads possibly Hyksos Egypt or southern Levant 2nd Intermediate Period Dynasties 15-16 1640-1550 BCE that I photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

A reproduction of A diadem of King Tutankhamun New Kingdom 18th Dynasty 1332-1323 BCE that I photographed at the "Discovery of King Tut" exhibit in New York City.

Gold Diadem featuring Dionysos and Ariadne from a tomb at Madytos on the European side of the Hellespont Greek 330-300 BCE that I photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The centerpiece of this Hellenistic diadem is a Herakles knot, known for its apotropaic powers and its status as a symbol of fertility. Walters Art Museum, c. 3rd – 2nd century BCE courtesy of the museum and Wikimedia Commons.

Funerary diadem produced around 150 BCE from the Crimean Peninsula at the Glyptotek Munich courtesy of the museum.

Gold diadem. Greek, probably made in Alexandria, Egypt, and belonging to a noblewoman of the Ptolemaic dynasty (220–100 BCE): the clasp is shaped as a Herakles knot now in the Getty Villa courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Wolfgang Sauber

Diadem Greek 2nd century BCE Gold and glass that I photographed at the Dallas Museum of Art in Dallas, Texas

Diadem with Ornamental Frieze Greek 4th century BCE Gold that I photographed at the Dallas Museum of Art in Dallas, Texas.


Sunday, September 27, 2020

Chain mail use in the ancient world

Often when I am looking for images of ancient people or events I encounter art, usually medieval, with ancient people dressed anachronistically in medieval clothing.  This morning, however, I happened across a wall painting from a synagogue in Dura Europos dated to 250 CE clearly depicting soldiers in chain mail at the battle of Eben Ezer between the Israelites and the Philistines as retold in the Book of Samuel.  The Philistines inhabited the coast of Canaan from the 12th century BCE until 604 BCE when they were destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia. I was pretty sure that was before chain mail was used for body armor.  Just to be sure, though, I looked it up and as I suspected, chain mail did not become common military armor until the 3rd century BCE. 

The Romans adopted mail after observing its use by the Celts. The earliest depiction of Roman mail armor was found on the Aemilius Paulus Monument in Delphi.  The mail shirt was long and completely covered the thighs.  Such long mail shirts are also depicted on the Altar of Domitius and on defeated Galatians on a weapons relief from Pergamon dated to the 2nd century BCE. These shirts also featured, according to depictions, broad epaulets to provide added protection for the shoulders although this aspect has not yet been found in the archaeological record. The shirts were fastened by leather straps, then later by hooks.  During the Flavian period, S-shaped bronze fastening clasps were introduced.

By the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, a T-shirt-like mail garment was introduced that could be slipped over the head, without fasteners or shoulder doubling, although  examples have been found that still had a sheet metal fastener in the chest area.  It was suggested these were included simply for decoration but this has been considered refuted by current scholars.  

Although various scholars have suggested mail was worn by both citizen legionaries and auxiliary soldiers, Trajan's column depicts legionaries in segmented armor while auxiliaries are shown wearing short mail shirts with a lower serrated edge.  However, this type of mail has not been found in the archaeological record.


Image: Fresco from a synagogue in Dura Europos dated to the 2nd century CE depicting the battle of Eben Ezer between the Israelites and the Philistines courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Marysas.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Roman auxilia cavalry

 Prior to the Republican period, Rome depended on their non-citizen allies to provide, train, and equip cavalry known as the Foederati. But, when the Republic transitioned into the Empire, Augustus created a regular Auxilia corps. Although still non-citizens, these troops were now a regular part of the Roman army that were paid and trained by the Roman State. A typical cavalryman of an ala would be paid 20 percent more than a typical citizen legionary. Roman auxilia cavalry were usually heavily armored in mail and armed with a short lance, javelins, the spatha long sword, and sometimes bows for specialist horse archer units. These men primarily served as medium missile cavalry for flanking, scouting, skirmish, and pursuit.  Riders and horses were housed together in the same barracks.

Structurally, a cavalry alae of the type ala quingenaria consisted of 480 horseman (ideally) divided into 16 turnmae of 30  men each under a decurio. The ala milliaria, however, contained 1008 horseman divided into 24 turmae of 42 men each.  The overall commander of either type was always a praefectus alae of equestrian rank.

Although commanders of auxilia infantry were appointed by the governors of the provinces in which they served, praefectus alae were appointed directly by the emperor in Rome.  In the middle of the second century another rank was added, the prefectus alae milliariae.  This rank, seldom awarded, was the highest rank an equestrian could attain. It paved the way for a procuratorship, managing the financial administration of an entire province.

From the late 1st century CE onward, a new type of non-citizen force arose in the provinces, the numeri. Numeri, consisting of 100-200 guard and reconnaissance units, were stationed along fixed lengths of frontier and were not sent outside their assigned province on campaign.  Mounted units of numeri were referred to as exploratio and were used to explore and secure areas beyond the frontiers, particularly in remote forest regions such as the Dacian limes.

Technical Reference: Army of the Roman Emperors: Archaeology and History by Thomas Fischer © 2019.

Roman parade helmet from the vicus of Theilenhofen, Bavaria 150-200 CE.  It bears the names of its owners and their troop units: (Turma) PATERCLIANA ATTONIS; behind the left ear protection: (Turma) ATAVLVANI FL(avi) FLAVIANI; on the right side IVLIA ALIQAN; on the forehead: ALIQANDI COHOR(tis) III BRACARAV(gustanorum Turma) NONI.  Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Pirkheimer. 


Image:  Much less ornate Type "B" Roman auxiliary cavalry helmet, 1st century CE, at the British Museum courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Michel wal.  


Friday, September 25, 2020

Iron Age Warriors of Eastern Iberia

 The Iron Age Tartessian culture of southeastern Spain, previously influenced by the Phoenicians, began to transform when exposed to Greek influence during the 6th - 4th centuries BCE.  Aristocratic power increased and numerous fortified oppidums began to appear.  Referred to as the Iberian culture, the people engaged in commerce that served to reinforce aristocratic power and control.  Iberian funerary customs became dominated by Greek-style mud-brick rectangular burial mounds and their script, once a modified version of the Phoenician alphabet, began to include a variant of the Greek alphabet.  Their mythology also began to include creatures such as winged griffins, often seen in Greek art.

An early warrior figure of this period appears to fight mostly nude adorned only with what appear to be tatoos on his chest and an ornate belt.  A century later, an Iberian warrior depicted in a statue at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art dated from the 3rd to 2nd century BCE is shown wearing body armor  and helmet.  This would have been the appearance of the Iberian warriors facing the Romans who conquered the area beginning in 220 BCE.

Iron Age figure of a warrior once holding weapons 600-400 BCE southern or eastern Iberian peninsula at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada courtesy of the museum

Iberian warrior of the 3rd - 2nd century BCE at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art courtesy of the museum.

Recreation of an Iberian warrior from the 5th-4th century BCE, with his weapons (falcata, shield, plate bib, linothorax) courtesy of the Museo de Prehistoria de Valencia

Iberian equestrian statue 490 BCE from the Provincial Archaeological Museum of Albacete.