Tag: Roman

What we’re finding as we excavate Halmyris, a frontier fort of the Roman Empire

Reading time: 5 minutes
Nationalism is resurging across Europe, and with it has come increasing attention on the vulnerable outer edges of nations: borders, frontiers, and other marginal zones. Today, some of the frontiers of the Roman Empire are now national boundaries, but in antiquity these spaces functioned very differently from how we understand borders today.

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Roman Britain was multi-ethnic – so why does this upset people so much?

Reading time: 4 minutes
Mary Beard, professor of classics at the University of Cambridge, has recently been at the receiving end of a “torrent of aggressive insults” for suggesting that Britain under the Roman empire – which at its height stretched from northern Africa to Scotland – was ethnically diverse. The trouble started when Beard described an educational cartoon produced by the BBC, which included a black Roman solider in Britain, as “pretty accurate”.

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The Roman dead: new techniques are revealing just how diverse Roman Britain was

Reading time: 6 minutes
Our knowledge about the people who lived in Roman Britain has undergone a sea change over the past decade. New research has rubbished our perception of it as a region inhabited solely by white Europeans. Roman Britain was actually a highly multicultural society which included newcomers and locals with black African ancestry and dual heritage, as well as people from the Middle East.

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18th- and 19th-century Americans of all races, classes and genders looked to the ancient Mediterranean for inspiration

Reading time: 6 minutes
The ancient world of the Mediterranean has long permeated American society, in everything from museum collections to home furnishings. The design of the nation’s public monuments, buildings and universities, as well as its legal system and form of government, show the enduring influence of Mediterranean antiquity on American culture.

Until the late 19th century, Americans encountered the ancient world almost exclusively through reproductions – in books, artwork and even popular plays. Very few could afford to travel abroad to encounter Mediterranean artifacts firsthand.

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What the Romans can teach us about immigration and integration

Reading time: 4 minutes

At its largest, the Roman empire encompassed an area from Spain in the west to Syria in the east, and while start and end dates are largely a matter of perspective, it existed in the form most people would recognise for over 500 years.

The empire of course had many great strengths – but it could be argued that one of the most important keys to its durability was its inclusiveness.

Roman society was, of course, marked by stark inequalities. It was inherently misogynistic and rigidly classed, while slavery was ubiquitous. But in other ways, it was surprisingly open-minded – even by the standards of 2015.

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How did we come to celebrate Christmas?

Reading time: 6 minutes
The western date for Jesus’ birth is quite arbitrary. It was chosen by Pope Leo I, bishop of Rome (440-461), to coincide with the Festival of the Saturnalia, when Romans worshipped Saturn, the sun god. This was the day of the solar equinox, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, which officially marked the halfway point of winter.

The date of the feast varies within Christian denominations. Western Christians celebrate the Nativity on a fixed date, 25 December. Some Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate it on 6 January together with Epiphany, the revelation of the infant Jesus to three wise men. The Greek and Russian Orthodox celebrate Christmas on 7 January and Epiphany on 19 January.

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Harking back: the ancient pagan festivities in our Christmas rituals

Reading time: 5 minutes
When we think of the Romans, gift-giving, carol-singing and celebrating the birth of Christ don’t immediately present themselves. Waging wars, general oppression and a never-ending desire to rule the world are more likely to spring to mind.

But various Christmas traditions come from ancient pagan festivities, including the Roman celebration of the Saturnalia.

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The busy Romans needed a mid-winter break too … and it lasted for 24 days

Reading time: 5 minutes
The actual reasons for celebrating Christmas at this particular time in the year have long been debated. Links have often been drawn to the winter solstice and the Roman festival of Saturnalia. Some people have also associated it with the supposed birthday of the god Sol Invictus, the “unconquered sun”, since a fourth-century calendar describes both this and Christ’s birth as taking place on December 25.

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Mythbusting Ancient Rome: cruel and unusual punishment

Reading time: 7 minutes
Early Roman history is full of stories about the terrible fates that befell citizens who broke the law. When a certain Tarpeia let the enemy Sabines into Rome, she was crushed and thrown headlong from a precipice above the Roman forum.
Such tales not only served as a warning for future generations, they also provided a backstory for some of Rome’s cruellest punishments. Tarpeia is one of many legendary figures who appear in Livy’s History from the Foundation of the City; regardless of whether she was a real person, it became established practice to throw traitors from the “Tarpeian Rock”.

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The History of Food Delivery 

Reading time: 7 minutes
From Ancient Rome to Uber Eats, food delivery has a long history.
Fast food has its roots in Ancient culture. No matter the century, human nature seems to crave convenient, easy access to food prepared and sold by others. In 1911, historians found evidence of one of these ‘fast food’ restaurants in Pompeii. Called a ‘thermopolium,’ these establishments were specifically designed to provide refreshments and hot, prepared food for the working class.

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HOW DID A COCKATOO REACH 13TH CENTURY SICILY?

Reading time: 7 minutes
Among the hand-written documents, books, and ancient artefacts in the Vatican Library is a 13th century manuscript on falconry written in Latin by or for the Holy Roman Emperor – King Frederick II of Sicily.
Frederick’s De Arte Venandi cum Avibus (The Art of Hunting with Birds) dates from between 1241 and 1248. In its margins are nine hundred drawings of falcons, falconers and other animals kept by the emperor at his palaces.

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