Skip to main content
Michigan State University

Classical Studies: Odds and Ends

Content

Miscellaneous items related to Classical Studies...

Roman Hairstyle Recreated

Roman Hairdo

A modern woman models the Roman Vestal Virgin hairstyle and headdress. Courtesy of LiveScience

Roman Paintings

Limewood panel bearing an encaustic portrait of a bearded man wearing a fillet with a gold star, perhaps a priest of Serapis; white mantle and tunic with a pink clavus; vertical crack to the left.

 

Today, nearly 1,000 Fayum paintings exist in collections in Egypt and at the Louvre, the British and Petrie museums in London, the Metropolitan and Brooklyn museums, the Getty in California and elsewhere. (Gift of Edward S. Harkness, 1918 / Metropolitan Museum of Art; © The Trustees of The British Museum; © The Trustees of The British Museum / Art Resource, NY)

Roman Weddings

The tradition of bridesmaids wearing matching dresses dates back to ancient Rome, when bridesmaids not only wore the same dresses as each other, but also the same dress as the bride in order to act as decoys against evil spirits (and the bride's exes).

Chariot Racing


Roman mosaic of a chariot race in a circus, first to third centuries CE. A circus was a large structure used by Romans primarily for chariot races and similar events. Musee National du Bardo, Tunis, Tunisia.

Gladiators and Beasts

Bestiarii

“Bestiarii,” before 80 AD. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. - See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2016/09/roman-gladiators-facts/#sthash.WgRG9BED.dpuf

Pompeii

La villa dei misteri / Amedeo Maiuri. Roma : La Libreria dello stato, 1947. 260pp. Special Collections oversize N5771 .M48 1947

 

Pompeii : Playing A Game

A fresco from Pompeii shows people playing something resembling a board game on a small table.A fresco from Pompeii shows people playing something resembling a board game on a small table.

Pompeii Street Musicians

Mosaics are made out of hundreds if not thousands of tiny stones called tesserae. Using different colours, the original artists were able to create images of different figures and scenes, rendered three-dimensional through their careful use of shading. The sentence in the top left corner reads in ancient Greek: ‘Dioscourides of Samos made this’. 

This mosaic depicts a group of what are generally thought to have been street musicians or buskers. The men play a tamourine and cymbals, while the woman at the left plays the aulos or double-flute. The fact that they wear masks suggests that they are also actors, performing a scene from a play. Which play has long been the subject of discussion, but some believe it to be a scene from Theophoroumene (‘The Possessed Girl’) by the Greek playwright Menander (342/1–ca. 290 BC), of which only fragments remain.

Pictures like these give an idea of what life might have been like in the ancient world that texts alone cannot reveal. Pay particular attention to the colourful clothes worn by these musicians. Executed in exquisite detail, we can almost hear the music that they’re making.

Source : Josho Brouwers, Ancient History Blog, December 15, 2016.

Colossal: Resurrecting Ancient Ruins

This is Colossal: Ancient Ruins Reconstructed with Architectural GIFs. “Today, views of the world’s ancient architectural wonders are firmly based in their current state of ruin, leaving to visitors’ imaginations the original glory of structures like the Parthenon, Pyramid of the Sun, and Temple of Luxor. NeoMam, in a project for Expedia, has resurrected several ancient buildings through a series of gifs.” What a simple and terrific idea! Good afternoon, Internet…

King Tut (Grand Rapids Public Museum)

In 2015/2016 the Grand Rapids Museum featured a traveling exhibit devoted to King Tut.  Here are some related sites.

Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk, "Watch Egyptologist explain why King Tut's tomb survived intact for thousands of years", Mlive, August 7, 2015.  Grand Rapids Public Museum holds an open house for its "Discovery of King Tut" exhibition Friday, May 15, 2015. Featuring nearly 1,000 scientifically derived replications, the exhibit aims to allow the visitor to experience what Howard Carter and his team did upon discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922

Tutankhamun

Tutankhamun Tomb Excavation Photos

BBC Ancient Egypt Page.

Egypt: The Birthplace of Flip Flops? An amazing pair of flip-flops was discovered among King Tutankhamun's possessions

Parthenon (Nashville)

If you can't travel to Athens, Greece, consider visiting Nashville, Tennessee, where there is a full-size copy of the Parthenon -- based on all the research and archaeological information currently available. 

Photo link (March 2010)

Tour of the Parthenon in Nashville, with images of the Athena inside.

Parthenon (Nashville) entry from wikipedia.

Also visit the Hermitage, President and General Jackson's plantation.  The entrance hall wallpaper in the home features images of classical studies themes.  Interesting enough, the same wallpaper featured in the Main Hall extends to the upper level.  The upper wallpaper was damaged by a fire.  The National Park Service contacted museums around the world.  The Louvre responded they thought the same wallpaper was used in a country estate which was being sold.  Upon investigation, conservators were able to retrieve this wallpaper and use it again in the Hermitage to replace the damaged sections.

Miscellaneous Websites - Greece

BBC Ancient Greek History Page.

History Channel Ancient Greece.  Includes video clips.

Mark Schrope, "Medicine’s Hidden Roots in an Ancient Manuscript", New York Times, June 1, 2015.  Recently rediscovered Galen manuscript.

Myceanean Greece: "This 3,500-Year-Old Greek Tomb Upended What We Thought We Knew About the Roots of Western Civilization". The recent discovery of the grave of an ancient soldier is challenging accepted wisdom among archaeologists.  Smithsonian, January 2017.

The Greeks really do have near-mythical origins, ancient DNA reveals. Article by Ann Gibbons appearing in Science, August 2, 2017.  Ever since the days of Homer, Greeks have long idealized their Mycenaean “ancestors” in epic poems and classic tragedies that glorify the exploits of Odysseus, King Agamemnon, and other heroes who went in and out of favor with the Greek gods. Although these Mycenaeans were fictitious, scholars have debated whether today’s Greeks descend from the actual Mycenaeans, who created a famous civilization that dominated mainland Greece and the Aegean Sea from about 1600 B.C.E. to 1200 B.C.E., or whether the ancient Mycenaeans simply vanished from the region.  Now, ancient DNA suggests that living Greeks are indeed the descendants of Mycenaeans, with only a small proportion of DNA from later migrations to Greece. And the Mycenaeans themselves were closely related to the earlier Minoans, the study reveals, another great civilization that flourished on the island of Crete from 2600 B.C.E. to 1400 B.C.E. (named for the mythical King Minos).

The 12 Labours That Turned Herakles (Hercules) To Hero. Article by Mary Harrsch, Heritage Key, December 18, 2009. The beloved son of Zeus and, the mortal, Alkmene, Herakles (disputedly also known as Hercules) was the archetype for bravery and strength in the ancient world and one of the heros of Greek Mythology.  But he also suffered from a violent temper.  In his youth he became enraged and slew his own (and/or his brother's in some versions) children.  To pay for this grievous act, he was told he would have to go to the court of his cousin Eurystheus (who utterly despised Herakles) and perform whatever tasks would be assigned to him.  These tasks became the famous 12 labours of Herakles.

Ancient Greece - Moving Ships Over Land. In ancient times, there was no waterway for sailors to easily reach Athens if they were traveling to and from Greece’s Ionian coast. A piece of land, called the Isthmus of Corinth, was “in the way.” Without a “shortcut,” across the Isthmus, ships would have to sail from the Ionian Sea to the Aegean Sea by rounding the Peloponnesian Peninsula. Not only was that a long sail, it was a dangerous one. Gale-force winds often trouble sailors at Cape Matapan and Cape Maleas (with its treacherous shoreline). So ... the ancients invented a way to help boats cross the Isthmus on land. They made a road - known as “The Diolkos” - which served as an overland passage between the relatively quiet waters of the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf.  Awesome Stories.

Ancient Olympics FAQ courtesy of the Perseus Project.

Women Had Their Own Olympics in Ancient Greece.  Since women were barred from the Olympics in Ancient Greece, it was only natural that they had their own separate games.  The first of the Heraean Games took place in the 6th century BC; they were held in Olympia before the men’s competition. And, consistent with the men’s event, in the early days the only sport was running. Winners were awarded with crowns fashioned from olive branches and, bizarrely, ox meat from sacrifices made to Hera.

Chariot Race - Ancient Greece. In ancient Greece, artists used vases in the same way as painters use canvases today.  We therefore see great works of art, which survive from the ancient world, on vases and amphora.  This particular vase, from around 410 BC, depicts Pelops (who has challenged King Oinomaos to a chariot race) and Hippodameia (the King's daughter who will marry Pelops if her suitor wins the race). Awesome Stories.

Hercules - Fighting the Nemean Lion. Legends abound regarding Hercules (Herakles to the Greeks).  One of the most important involves a great monster - the Nemean Lion - who was roaming the Nemean Plain, in the land of Argolis, terrorizing people at will. .   Awesome Stories.

300 - Battle of Thermopylae  : Xerxes, also called the Great King, was on the move. The Persian leader - who considered himself a god - had amassed a huge army. Herodotus says it numbered 1,700,000 men from forty subject countries. Their destination? Greece. Inheriting a substantial empire from his father - Darius I - Xerxes already had nearly everything a king could want. The ruins, for example, of his palace at Persepolis - in today’s Iran - are magnificent. But the battle, against Greece, would be personal. This fight was about revenge. Courtesy of Carole D. Bos and AwesomeStories.com

Legendary Runner of Marathon - Pheidippides.  History tells us that Pheidippides ran to Athens with the news of the great victory his people had over the Persians at Marathon. It was 490 BC, and the distance he ran was about 26 miles (or, around 40 kilometers). After he delivered his message - “Nenikikamen” (which means, “Rejoice we conquer” or, put differently, “We have won”) - Pheidippides died.  We might ask ... why was that particular run so difficult for him? Why did it take the life of the great-news bearer? To answer those questions, we have to dig a little deeper.   Awesome Stories.

HIstory Channel Peloponnesian War.   Includes videos.

History Channel Sparta Page.   Includes videos.

Women of Sparta : Tough Mothers.  Compared to their Athenian sisters, and the fairer sex in many other ancient cultures, Spartan women had enormous rights, and a vital role to play.  Article by Malcolm  Jack from the Heritage Key.

Wonders of the Ancient World - Arson at the Temple of Artemis.  Awesome Stories.

Roman Gladiators

Latin Language Blog

The Colosseum.   Archaeologists believe that the Colosseum contained both drinking fountains and latrines.

Gladiator courtesy of Awesome Stories.

Death of a Gladiator :  The content of this article provides interesting history, facts and information about Death of a Gladiator.  Roman Colosseum. 2008.

The Gladiator Diet : The biggest revelation to come out of the Ephesus cemetery is what kept the gladiators alive--a vegetarian diet rich in carbohydrates, with the occasional calcium supplement. Article by Andrew Curry appearing in Archaeology Magazine.

Gladiator Mosaics

Gladiators Back from the Dead :  More than one million of history's ultimate fighters died in the arenas of the Roman Empire, yet not a single complete gladiator skeleton has ever been found. Now, archaeologists in England have unearthed what is believed to be an ancient gladiator graveyard. It contains the skeletons of 75 adult males, all of whom died in the prime of life, with savage bone wounds suggesting lives of violence.

Glory and Gloom of Gladiators : The life and death of the Gladiator has been popularized in pop culture by movies like Spartacus and Gladiator. A picture has been painted of fierce warriors, battling to the death under the gaze of elites and commoners alike. However, the actual rules and lives of the gladiators themselves are not as well understood as popular notion would have us believe, and it is important that we interpret the life and death of the gladiator without letting our own preconceptions bias them. However, archaeologist can use the gravestones and graves of gladiators to create more nuanced and evidence based interpretations of their lives.  Posted in Bones Don't Lie by Katy Myers, Graduate Student in the Archaeology program at Michigan State University.

"Roman Gladiators - How They Were Picked"  Article by Carole Bos via AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Jan 31, 2016. Includes film clip from BBC.  

Women Engaged in Gladitorial Events, and Fought to the Death.

11 facts you may not have known about Roman gladiators. Article by Zachary Cuevas and Cassandra Gill.  OUPBlog, September 19, 2016.

Photos: Gladiators of the Roman Empire.  Article by Owen Jarus, LiveScience, April 17, 2012.

Rare Ancient Statue Depicts Topless Female Gladiator. Article, by Own Jarus, Live Science, April 17, 2012.

Roman Gladiator's Gravestone Describes Fatal Foul.  Article by Owen Jarus, Live Science, June 17, 2011.

Ancient Gladiator School Discovered, Recreated.  Article from Live Science, February 27, 2014.

Could You Stomach the Horrors of 'Halftime' in Ancient Rome.  Article by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowitz, LiveScience,  February 4, 2016.

Watch Gladiators Fight in A Real Roman Arena  n our last day in Nîmes we were lucky to catch the first day of a festival called Les Grands Jeux Romains, or the Grand Roman Games. Every year in Nîmes, there is a giant reenactment of the Roman Games in Les Arènes de Nîmes.

Surprise: Gladiators Were Vegetarians.  A huge factor in a gladiator's physical fitness was a meatless diet. During training, he primarily ate beans for protein and barley for carbohydrates.  Video from Smithsonian Channel.

History of the Roman Colosseum (YouTube)  The development of Rome's Flavian amphitheater.

Gladiators from the Zliten mosaic.

Chariot Racing in Ancient Rome

Photograph showing a Modern recreation of Roman chariot racing
Modern recreation of Roman chariot racing

Chariot Racing: Ancient Rome’s Most Dangerous Sport. Chariot racing has a long heritage going into the Greek past. It was a feature of the heroes’ seasonal games in Homer, and it was also a feature of the ancient Greek Olympic Games. The Romans, in their inimitable fashion, took this habit and turned it into the most popular of the mass entertainment staged spectacles in ancient Rome.

Peter Donnelly, "Some Observations on Roman Chariot Racing", Revised January 30, 2018.

The Circus : Roman Chariot Racing.

A Roman Mosaic of an Ancient Chariot Race Has Been Uncovered in Cyprus, BBC News, August 12, 2016

Stunning 4th century mosaic floor unearthed in Cyprus illustrates scenes of ancient Roman chariot races in the hippodrome. Daily News, August 12, 2017

Rare Roman mosaic depicting an exhilarating chariot race unearthed in Cyprus. Realm of History, August 13, 2016

Putting the Horse Before the Chariot: Gorgeous Ancient Roman Mosaics Unearthed in Cyprus. Ancient Origins, August 13, 2016

Cyprus reveals rare Roman horse race mosaic in Akaki. BBC News, June 20, 2017.

Lyon, France Mosaic.

Roman circuses : arenas for chariot racing / John H. Humphrey.  Berkeley : University of California Press, [1986].  Chariot racing was a mass entertainment of Roman society, perhaps the most important. The Circus Maximus seated 255,000 spectators, and Rome had three other large circuses and several smaller ones. Many circuses remain, and provide invaluable documents of Roman society, but amazingly little has been published on them. On the Circus Maximus, for example, the best thing in English is a short article in S. Platner and T. Ashby's A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (1929). No survey exists in any language. With the publication of Roman Circuses we have a magnificent work on the subject, the result of more than 14 years of unremitting work on the literary, archaeological, and numismatic evidence. The core of Humphrey's study consists of three chapters on the Circus Maximus, 140 pages in all. Circuses in Africa, Spain, Italy, France, and the Eastern provinces are also examined, and a final chapter treats the final (and most prolific) period of circus construction, the early 4th century, and concludes with a summary of the role of the circus in Roman society.

Pompeii

Death of People in Pompeii.  As a pyroclastic flow races toward Pompeii, people in the town fear for their lives.  Thousands of years later, when excavators began to uncover what had happened in Pompeii, residents' bodies were found - positioned just as they had died.  Awesome Stories.

Dying Man at Pompeii.  People and animals, who became victims of Vesuvius in 79 AD, were buried in hot volcanic ash. As the ash hardened—volcanic ash does not dissolve in water—it molded itself to those who had died. As bodies deteriorated, they left a cavity inside the hardened ash.  When Professor Giuseppe Fiorelli became involved with archeological excavations in Pompeii, he wanted to learn more about the people and animals who had been inside the hardened cavities. He developed a method to reveal the actual victims by pouring Plaster of Paris into the open spaces of the hardened ash.  The plaster replicas tell us about the final moments of Vesuvius’ 79-AD victims. This image depicts one of the men of Pompeii who died in the disaster.  Awesome Stories.

Final Moments in Pompeii.  Awesome Stories.

Pompeii and Vesuvius.  Awesome Stories.

Pompeii Forum Project : The Pompeii Forum Project is a collaborative venture that focuses on the urban center of Pompeii. (The forum at any Roman town was the urban center housing the town's main religious, civic, and commercial institutions.) There are three components to the project: documentation of standing remains; archaeological analysis; and urban study that seeks a) to interpret the developments at Pompeii in the broader context of urban history and b) to identify at Pompeii recurring patterns of urban evolution that can be applied to contemporary issues in American urbanism. An interdisciplinary collaborative research venture sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the University of Virginia, and private contributors.

Reading the Writing on Pompeii’s Walls.  To better understand the ancient Roman world, one archaeologist looks at the graffiti, love notes and poetry alike, left behind by Pompeians.  Article by Kristen Chison, Smithsonian Magazine,  July 27, 2010.

Splendor of First-Century Life in Pompeii.  Homes in Pompeii, before Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, were not only beautiful in their own right, they also included beautiful gardens. This image depicts a reconstruction of the House of the Vettii. The villa is named for its possible owners, two brothers named Aulus Vettius Conviva and Aulus Vettius Restitutus. (We know their names from their signet rings which were found during the home’s excavation.) Awesome Stories.

Vineyards of Vesuvius - There and Gone.  This image depicts a fresco which was discovered in a Pompeii home known as the “House of the Centenary.”  Awesome Stories.

Pompeii the Talking Walls (YouTube)

The Private Lives of Pompeii (Ancient Rome Documentary) | Timeline

 

Miscellaneous Web Sites - Rome

BBC Roman History Page

HIstory Channel Ancient Rome.  Includes videos.

Ancient Roman food - feeding soldiers, gladiators, plebs and priests!  (YouTube)  A light-hearted look at some of the food of ancient Rome - take with a pinch of salt, and a gallon of garum.

Before MAGA : Mithras, Phrygian Caps, and the Politics of Headwear.  Article by Sarah E. Bond, Hyperallergic, April 6, 2018. Despite the current political landscape of the US, we can look to antiquity to see that the red cap was actually once a symbol of citizenship and welcome to the foreigner.

Roman Insulae.

Living: Inside an Insula. Article by Bija Knowles, Heritage Key, April 22, 2009. During the rule of Augustus from 27 BC to 14 AD, about 750 years after Rome was founded, the city's population had ballooned to one million people. The hub of the Roman empire had transformed itself from its origins as a small agricultural community into the biggest city the world had ever known. It wasn't until London, as hub of the British Empire, grew to one million in the mid-nineteenth century that there would be another city to equal the size of ancient Rome. The solutions : build housing flats called insula for the masses.

Roman Sites and Roman Ruins.

Rome's Ruins from National Geographic.

10 Best Roman Ruins Outside of Rome.  Jeanine Barone, BootsnAll, March 15, 2010.

Libya's Roman Ruins  courtesy of Time 

Home Away From Rome.   Excavations of villas where Roman emperors escaped the office are giving archaeologists new insights into the imperial way of life.  Article by Paul Bennett, Smithsonian Magazine, June 2010.

Huge Roman Villa Discovered Underneath a Garden in Britain.  History Channel News, April 21, 2016 By Sarah Pruitt.

Chedworth Roman Villa.  Alan P. Newman, Atlas Obscura, no date.  This fantastic Roman villa is one of the largest in Britain, tucked away down long winding roads in the picturesque countryside just north of Chedworth. The highlights of this ancient site are the many fine mosaics that rival any in the U.K. (and many in Europe), as well as the remarkable underfloor heating systems.

Found: 1,600-Year-Old Mosaic, by Amateur Archaeologists.  Natasha Frost, Atlas Obscura, September 5, 2017. Experts are calling it the most exciting British mosaic discovery in fifty years.

London dig turns up slice of Roman life. Article by Laura Smith-Spark, CNN, April 11, 2013.   Phallic good luck charms, wooden buildings, an amber gladiator amulet, even documents -- all these are among a huge trove of Roman artifacts preserved by a lost river in London's financial district, archaeologists said Wednesday. The find has given an extraordinary glimpse into the bustling everyday life of Londinium, as the Roman city was known, the Museum of London Archaeology said. In the course of six months, the team has removed 3,500 metric tons of soil by hand and revealed some 10,000 finds covering the entire period of the Roman occupation of Britain, from around 40 AD to the early 5th century.

London archaeologists find Roman eagle statueArticle by Laura Smith-Spark, CNN, October 30, 2013.  A Roman sculpture of an eagle with a writhing serpent firmly gripped in its hooked beak was unveiled Wednesday in London, where archaeologists found it on a site earmarked for a hotel development.  Archaeologists in London say the statue is one of the very best examples surviving from Roman Britain.  A number of discoveries highlighting London's Roman past have been made in recent months in connection with major construction projects. They include about 20 Roman-era skulls found beneath London's Liverpool Street station by workers digging a new rail tunnel.

Temple to ancient Roman cult resurrected beneath London.  Article by Katy Scott, CNN, January 12, 2018.  In central London, seven meters underground, lies an ancient Roman temple to a mysterious god called Mithras.... Nearly 2,000 years after the temple was frequented by the all-male members of an exclusive, enigmatic cult, it has now been faithfully restored and opened to the public.

The Secrets of Ancient Rome’s Buildings.  What is it about Roman concrete that keeps the Pantheon and the Colosseum still standing?  Article by Eric Wayman, Smithsonian Magazine, November 16, 2011.

Explore Julius Caesar's Rome. Article by Natasha Geiling appearing in Smithsonian.com , March 31, 2014. From his former neighborhood to the place where he met his demise, check out these spots associated with Rome's most famous leader

Rare Roman-Era Coffin Features Carving of Curly-Haired ManArticle by Laura Geggel, LiveScience, September 03, 2015

The Coin That Killed Caesar?  Coins at Warwick Blog, April 1, 2015.

What’s Inside a 2,000-Year-Old, Shipwreck-Preserved Roman Pill?.   Article by Joseph Stromberg, Smithsonian Magazine, January 2013.

This 1,600-Year-Old Goblet Shows that the Romans Were Nanotechnology PioneersResearchers have finally found out why the jade-green cup appears red when lit from behind .   Article by Zeeya Merali appearing in Smithsonian Magazine, September 2013.

Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire Exposed in Greenland Ice Samples.  Article by Katie Langin appearing in Science, May 14, 2018.

The Oldest Modernist Paintings.  Two thousand years before Picasso, artists in Egypt painted some of the most arresting portraits in the history of art.  Article from Smithsonian Magazine, February 2012.

Found: The Oldest Handwritten Document Ever Discovered in England.  Sarah Laskow, Atlas Obscura, June 1, 2016. Tablets, more than 400 in all, were found in what the Guardian calls “a sodden hole” under a 1950s office building, the future site of a fancy new Bloomberg headquarters in London. Eighty-seven of the tablets have been deciphered so far, and they include the first ever written reference to London.

1,700-Year-Old Ring Depicts Nude Cupid, the Homewrecking God.  Article by Owen Jarus, LiveScence, November 23, 2015.

Classical Depravity: A Guide to the Perverted Past. Edmund Richarddson, Atlas Obscura, March 24, 2014.

The Fashion and Mystery of Ancient Roman Puzzle Locks.  Eric Grundhauser, Atlas Obscura, January 12, 2018.

The Dormouse-Fattening Jars of Ancient Rome.  Carly Sliver, Atlas Obscura, June 26, 2017.  For the plumpest, tastiest rodents.

Ancient Rome Was Infested with Human Parasites, Poop Shows. Article by Laura Geggel, LiveScience, January 07, 2016.

Oldest Roman Hairstyle Recreated for First Time. Article by Stephanie Pappas, Live Science, January 09, 2013.

Huge Ancient Roman Shipyard Unearthed in Italy.  Article by Jennifer Welsh,  LiveScience, September 23, 2011.

Wrecks & Shipfinds of the Mediterranean : This section starts with the Greek Classic Period around 480 BC and ends with the collapse of the Roman Empire in 395 AD. During this period the Mediterranean had a dramatic increase in shipping, becoming an Autobahn of its day. The shipping volume of the Roman Empire would not be exceeded until maybe the 17th century AD.

Found: The Site Where Julius Caesar May Have Landed in Britain.  Vittoria Traverso, Atlas Obscura, November 29, 2017.  Is this Rome's first beachhead in the Isles?

How Pants Went from Banned to Required in the Roman Empire.  Vittoria Traverso, Atlas Obscura, September 19, 2017. Six hundred years in the history of trousers.

Found: A Wealthy Roman Neighborhood in France, Preserved Under Ash.  Sarah Laskow, Atlas Obscura, August 2, 2017.  The team that found it is calling it a “Little Pompeii.”

DNA Boosts Herodotus’ Account of Etruscans as Migrants to Italy. An article by Nicholas Wade appearing in the New York Times, April 3, 2007.

Comitatus.   Roman reinactment activities in United Kingdom.

Subject Guide

Jon Harrison's picture
Jon Harrison
Contact:
366 W. Circle Drive
E. Lansing, MI 48824
517-884-0855
Website

Ask a Librarian

Hoplites on 6th Century B.C. Water Vessel (Louvre)

Detail from a sixth-century B.C. water vessel in the Louvre shows soldiers fighting.

Chariot Racing in Ancient Greece

Chariot racing on a black-figure hydria from Attica, ca. 510 BC Photo Credit

A Roman Lamp from the MSU Museum Collection

Today, lighting up a room is as simple as flipping a switch.

 

In the ancient world it was a bit more complicated. The oil lamp was a staple of illumination that evolved over thousands of years. The earliest lamps were simple round bowls filled with oil into which a wick could be placed. Later lamps added a pinched channel for the wick. Lamps such as those used by the Persians and the Greeks were further refined, having an elongated nozzle and a rim that was folded over to reduce the risk of spillage. 

This specific lamp is Roman and dates from the third or fourth century C.E. It is further evolved from the lamps described above. Unlike earlier lamps, the fuel chamber is completely closed off except for a small filling hole on top. The nozzle is distinct from the body of the lamp. A wick would be inserted into this nozzle and could be pulled up as it burned down. The raised dots on the top of the lamp are a simple form of decoration.

The mass production of lamps was common across the Roman Empire. The lamps were molded in two parts, the upper with the nozzle and the lower consisting of the fuel chamber. The two pieces were then combined and fired. This lamp is no exception and may have been produced in Syria, where nearly identical lamps have been found. Given that it is made from terracotta, this lamp would have been relatively cheap and likely would have been used by a common person. 

Compiled by Tyler Cunningham. Collections Up Close: Object of the Day, January 24, 2014.

Michigan State University