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Viggen

Triumviri
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  1. ..this review has now been updated to the new layout!
  2. The Moral and Political Tradition of Rome This is another book published by Cornell University Press. The author is Donald Earl who wrote this book back in 1969... don't count on intense speculation but only what is completely known for sure to be examined deeply. The subject of this book is clearly about the 'Roman tradition', which is defined as the Roman aristocracy and its ideologies. Specifically, it focuses on the so called development of this tradition... ...read the full review of The Moral and Political Tradition of Rome by Donald Earl cheers viggen
  3. Book Review by Martin Holmes This book, awarded the 2008 Lakedaimonian Prize of the Academy of Athens, is political and military history at its best. In an era where the Spartans are idealised in popular culture through films such as 300 (2006) and 300: Rise of an Empire (2014) and, in contrast, are often dismissed or even derided by many classical scholars of the ‘Spartan mirage’ variety, Miltiadis Michalopoulos has provided a history of Sparta that is balanced, well researched, and fascinating. He takes as his subject neither the rise of Sparta nor its heyday. Indeed, at first glance its subtitle is liable to confuse: “the Rise and Fall of the Spartan Revolutionary Movement.” What movement? What revolution? In popular culture and in academia the Spartans are frequently portrayed as conservatives and traditionalists – rather dim ones, at that. Secluded in the southern part of the Peloponnese, perpetuating a centuries-old social system based on the teachings of Lykourgos that was foreign to the rest of Greece, and fiercely resistant to luxury, intellectual life, and cultural innovation, the Spartans make for unlikely revolutionaries. A major reason, most classicists think, behind Sparta’s decay was its inability to change. Michalopoulos agrees with this conclusion. The Spartans were indeed too conservative, he argues. Encumbered with an enormous population of helot slaves, suffering a continual decline in the number of homoioi to guard them, and a xenophobia bordering on paranoia prevented Sparta from dominating Greece for any length of time. But whereas many classicists trace the end of Spartan power to the third century B.C. – either with the Battle of Leuctra or the Macedonian conquest of Greece – treating later events as mere footnotes, Michalopoulos disagrees. For him, Spartan history did not end in the third century B.C.; neither the Thebans nor Alexander the Great invaded and destroyed Sparta. The Spartans, like Sir Winston S. Churchill two millennia later, knew that decline is not defeat and that defeat is not final. Well into the expansionist days of the Roman Republic groups of Spartans conspired and warred to restore the city’s prestige. In the Name of Lykourgos is the story of these latter-day Spartans. Finding themselves in an age far removed from that of their forebears, one in which the big empires – Rome, Macedon, Ptolemaic Egypt – dwarfed the old city-states of mainland Greece, and with their city’s prestige shattered by military defeats and helot rebellions, these Spartans desperately fought to keep their city afloat. This book contrasts their desire to restore the ancient ways of Lykourgos with the innovative, often radical methods they employed. Their methods were drastic: Agis IV (r. 245-241 B.C.), to boost the city’s manpower, enacted widespread economic reforms. All debts were cancelled; land was redistributed. Foreigners could bear arms and fight alongside the homoioi. For a short while the city was vibrant and hopeful. Yet traditional Spartans were stunned and, after only four years, Agis was executed. A generation later Kleomenes III (r. 235-222 B.C.) enacted wider, more radical reforms. He knew he was putting himself in danger but, at the same time, blamed Spartan complacency for the city’s decline. He too cancelled debts, redistributed land, and opened the army to foreigners and ‘inferior’ groups. Marching alongside an expanded and enthusiastic army, and celebrated as a champion of the poor throughout the Peloponnese, Kleomenes fought the rival Achaean League for restoration of Sparta’s traditional territories. In only five years he brought much of the Peloponnese under his control, including Corinth and Argos, and seemed poised to control it all. Eventually, however, he was defeated and died in exile. A generation later another king, Nabis (r. 207-192 B.C.), made a last-ditch effort to restore Sparta to its former glory. Helots were freed and armed, walls (for the first time) were constructed to defend the city, a navy was built, and money – the bane of traditionalists – was issued to boost the economy. He too had dreams of expansion and he too faced defeat, in this case at the hands of Rome and its Greek allies. In 195 B.C. Sparta was sacked and, in a bloody campaign, most of its warriors, including the king, were slaughtered. An account of these events is itself a worthy achievement on Michalopoulos’s part. The Spartan Revolution, occurring when it did, has been largely overshadowed by the exploits of Rome and Macedon. Certainly, those with an interest in Sparta will enjoy the book. So will anyone with an interest in Greek history, whether professional or amateur. Military historians may find the battles fascinating, not only because they are not so well-known, but because Michalopoulos is meticulous in his descriptions, having visited on multiple occasions each battle location, and provides readers with appendixes detailing the geography and military roads of the Peloponnese. It is as political history, however, that his book truly shines. Agis, Kleomenes, and Nabis were every bit as fascinating as Pericles, Marcus Agrippa, and the Gracchi; the economic and political reforms were among the most radical in the ancient world. His account of the small city state desperately trying to reassert its independence amid a changing world is probably the best of its kind to appear in recent years. ...more Book Reviews! Great Battles of the Classical Greek World by Owen Rees Ancient Warfare Magazine Vol XI Issue 3 The Rise and Fall of the Seleukid Empire by J. Grainger In fact, though it is convention for a reviewer to find something to dislike, in this case it is impossible. The subject is significant; the research, considering it was the author’s first book, was done well. Although a translation, it is not clunky, and there are no obvious spelling or grammatical errors. Perhaps the use of ‘k’s rather than ‘c’s in the names might confuse some readers but, being a Greek, Michalopoulos is well within his rights to spell as he does. The only downside is that the author is by profession civil engineer rather than an academic and, as such, might be unfairly dismissed by specialists. Hopefully this does not happen. For, if this is the quality of his first book, one cannot wait (and indeed hope) to see him write another. Miltiadis Michalopoulos was born in 1960 into a family with strong military traditions which originates from Sparta. He graduated from the Polytechnic School of Athens in 1990 with a BSc in civil engineering and currently works in that profession. He has had a life-long interest in history, particularly military history, and is a prominent member of local war gaming circles. His study In the name of Lycurgus is the result of ten years of intensive research into all available sources and repeated visits to the sites of the battles described in the book. Tell us your opinion - Submit your Review - Buy the book! Book Review of In the Name of Lykourgos: The Rise and fall of the Spartan Revolutionary Movement (243-146BC) - Related Topic: Roman Greek Bibliography Get it now! In the Name of Lykourgos for the UK ________________________________ Archive
  4. ...this review has now been updated to the new layout!
  5. great stuff, thanks Michael
  6. This book, awarded the 2008 Lakedaimonian Prize of the Academy of Athens, is political and military history at its best. In an era where the Spartans are idealised in popular culture through films such as 300 (2006) and 300: Rise of an Empire (2014) and, in contrast, are often dismissed or even derided by many classical scholars of the ‘Spartan mirage’ variety, Miltiadis Michalopoulos has provided a history of Sparta that is balanced, well researched, and fascinating... ...continue to the review of In the Name of Lykourgos by Miltiadis Michalopoulos
  7. This book, awarded the 2008 Lakedaimonian Prize of the Academy of Athens, is political and military history at its best. In an era where the Spartans are idealised in popular culture through films such as 300 (2006) and 300: Rise of an Empire (2014) and, in contrast, are often dismissed or even derided by many classical scholars of the ‘Spartan mirage’ variety, Miltiadis Michalopoulos has provided a history of Sparta that is balanced, well researched, and fascinating... ...continue to the review of In the Name of Lykourgos by Miltiadis Michalopoulos
  8. Book Review by Neos Dionysos The author in his epilogue states that his purpose in writing this book was to show the change in dynamics that a late Roman Emperor would have had to face and deal with and personally. I think he does an excellent job. He relies on primary sources such as Zosimus, Ammaianus and the Annonymous to name a few as well as several contemporary works by such historians as Peter Heather, AHM Jones and Ramsey MacMullen. The book is around 400 pages long and covers every aspect of the reign of Valens, (as well as his brother in the West Valentinian), from how they came to power, to the end of Valens reign. He covers the challenges Valens faced from simply being of Pannonian birth and of the extreme exertion of will needed to govern the East during the 4th century. The first chapter deals with both emperors, thier background and early life and how they came to be. Also talked about is how the largely Roman elite viewed them and others from this region as well as the difficulties in building a court that would not only work well but not cause trouble. Valentinian was lucky because he went West and gave the East to his younger brother who faced numerous challenges because he was not an easterner nor did he even speak Greek. Lenski addresses these issues and how they were dealt with. In the second chapter, Lenski tells us how quickly Valens faced challenges as in the first year of his reign an ursuper challenged his rule, "the Procopius Revolt", and the difficulties and frustrations he endured putting it down. Valens, like many a late Roman Emperor, had a set number of ideals to which to live by and many contradicted the other but the people expected all to be shown by their emperor. How the revolt ended and the punishments and the reprecussions of it are addressed. Of particular interest is how from this revolt, Valens would forever hold a hatred and grudge against Constantinople and ironically just before his death, having been in the city for two weeks and greeted and recieved with riots and insults, he left the city swearing upon his return he would see it leveled. In the third and fourth chapters, the author tackles Valens first Gothic War and the Eastern Front respectively, showing us the complexity of the issues and the problems he faced in taking the throne in the east. It seemed as though he was never free of revolt or threat from outside force and was usually pulled in 3 or 4 seperate directions that would need his immediate attention. However, he did not have the military strength to handle each when the time demanded. Lenski also points how Valens not only re-secured Armenia but had forced Persia to negotiations which were favorable to Rome and was planning a large-scale invasion to retake land given up by Jovian before him. In the fifth and sixth chapters, the author talks about religion in the empire under the two brothers and of administration and finance. Here we are shown how overall, both emperors preferred not to become involved in the disputes and divisions of religion. Yet in the end, after Valentinian's death, Valens attacked and persecuted certain Christian sects, (namely the Nicenes), and his death was used by them as a divine tool. In a twisted way he is seen as making this sect go from almost extinct to the eventual victor in the struggle. In terms of adminstration and finance, we see how the brothers early exeprience, espcially that of Valens, of running farms and estates prepared them to run the empire effectivly. Both were very zealous in rooting out corruption, fixing the bureaucracy and above all helping the common man whom they personally felt attached to (having suffered the same problems and hardships of corrupt goverment when they were still younger men). In finance, Valens is seen as a genious, his reforming of the taxes, of the coinage and his measures to repair the debasement of coins by making them pure helped alleviate a lot of the stress of the inflation of the times and to help end the economic disaster they inhereted from Julian. Finally, in the seventh chapter, the Diaster at Adrianople is explained in excellent scholarly detail. From the re-settlement, the reasons behind, and the subsequent rebellion we see how much blame is put on Valens unfairly. His lack of immediate response was due to revolts from Arabs, Isaurians and threats from Persia who had violated the peace treaty. He was desperatly short on manpower after having to send a quarter of his army to his brother years before, an army that Gratian kept. We see the problems between the two emperors and the annoyance and grievence felt by Valens toward his nephews, (Valentinian II), whom were elevated to equal status when Valens was clearly their senior. We are shown what drove the Goths to revolt, how so many came into the land, and why they grew into such a huge force, partially from taking in slaves, hiring mercenaries and forcing riparian units from leaving the Danube and allowing previously fellow tribesmen to enter who had been previously denied. Gratian, for his part seemed as though he did not care, since it was not his realm in trouble and reluctantly sent forces to assist (of which Ammanius states were of the poorest qaultiy and of little number). Also shown is that Valens was waiting for his nephew but instead of sending forces he instead chose to chase a defeated barbarian group back over the Rhine and punish them further. Doing this, he even recalled advance units he sent to help his uncle so it is no wonder that Valens was fed up with his nephew from holding back forces, (some of which were part of the army he has sent West). It was a necessity that action had to be taken, and the gravity that the Goths were not a single, unified command but a conglomeration of different peoples as well, (which is attested by their ability to act independent and why the initial reports made it to be only 10000 Goths since the other roving bands had not come back yet), which made them that much more dangerous. ...more Book Reviews! Empire at War: A Compendium of Roman Battles by Don Taylor The Roman Soldier by G. R. Watson The Oxford Classical Dictionary by Hornblower and Spawforth In conclusion, I highly recommend this book for a number of reasons. One, for the person wishing to have a much better understanding of the late Roman Empire and the severity of situations faced by an emperor. Two, it is a much further examination of a time deemed to be the decline when in fact the empire was still vibrant and strong. Three, to better understand Adrianople, what led to it and the aftermath and why Valens as well as the battle have become so negative and seen as a complete and utter failure from the onset. This aspect is shown to be untrue and when based on the evidence and the reasoning for such actions, thelogical and the right choices were made. To put it short, Valens is a scapegoat for a plethora of problems and is unjustly seen by many as the failure when in reality the blame must be spread. He comes out as being more a victim of the circumstances and in my eyes a tragic figure. I give this book a 5 out of 5 and would recommend that anyone who reads it have a good grasp on Roman history and political, social and military background of the era in question before attempting to read, otherwise you will be left constantly stopping to reference something you are not familiar with. Tell us your opinion - Submit your Review - Buy the book! Book Review of Failure of Empire - Related Topic: Enemy Leaders of Rome Bibliography Get it now! Failure of Empire for the UK ________________________________ Archive
  9. Viggen

    Failure of Empire by Noel Emmanuel Lenski

    ...this review has now been updated to the new layout!
  10. Failure of Empire by Noel Emmanuel Lenski The author in his epilogue states that his purpose in writing this book was to show the change in dynamics that a late Roman Emperor would have had to face and deal with and personally. I think he does an excellent job. He relies on primary sources such as Zosimus, Ammaianus and the Annonymous to name a few as well as several contemporary works by such historians as Peter Heather, AHM Jones and Ramsey MacMullen. The book is around 400 pages long and covers every aspect of the reign of Valens, (as well as his brother in the West Valentinian), from how they came to power, to the end of Valens reign. He covers the challenges Valens faced from simply being of Pannonian birth and of the extreme exertion of will needed to govern the East during the 4th century. ...read the full review of Failure of Empire: Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century A.D. by Noel Emmanuel Lenski cheers viggen
  11. Viggen

    Empire Of Pleasures by Andrew Dalby

    ...this review has now been updated to the new layout!
  12. Crossing the Rubicon, when warfare was about to supersede Roman politics, opens one of the most fascinating periods of Roman history with bloody battles fought in the Balkans, North Africa and Spain. I have been an addict since living at (what may have been) the site of Caesar’s last battle, Munda in Spain, and researching and writing my first novel around the momentous events of 49-44 BCE. I had to have this issue of Ancient Warfare and devoured it in one session, then revisited time and again for the fresh insights and superb battle maps and graphics... ...continue to the full review of Ancient Warfare Magazine Vol XI Issue 3 (Roman Against Roman – Caesar and Pompey in the Balkans)
  13. Crossing the Rubicon, when warfare was about to supersede Roman politics, opens one of the most fascinating periods of Roman history with bloody battles fought in the Balkans, North Africa and Spain. I have been an addict since living at (what may have been) the site of Caesar’s last battle, Munda in Spain, and researching and writing my first novel around the momentous events of 49-44 BCE. I had to have this issue of Ancient Warfare and devoured it in one session, then revisited time and again for the fresh insights and superb battle maps and graphics... ...continue to the full review of Ancient Warfare Magazine Vol XI Issue 3 (Roman Against Roman – Caesar and Pompey in the Balkans)
  14. Review by Alistair Forrest Crossing the Rubicon, when warfare was about to supersede Roman politics, opens one of the most fascinating periods of Roman history with bloody battles fought in the Balkans, North Africa and Spain. I have been an addict since living at (what may have been) the site of Caesar’s last battle, Munda in Spain, and researching and writing my first novel around the momentous events of 49-44 BCE. I had to have this issue of Ancient Warfare and devoured it in one session, then revisited time and again for the fresh insights and superb battle maps and graphics. This time the memories of Sulla as Dictator were far more justified. Seán Hußmann, a young lecturer at the University of Bonn, writes an informed article revealing Caesar’s bias in omitting the political reasoning behind his action, in his Bellum Civile. The tensions continue to swell in a climate of threat and oppression, and Caesar continues his propaganda while loosening his sword in its scabbard. He is the Republic’s saviour, he tells his legion. No he is not, says Cicero. And the die, as Suetonius puts it, is cast. Now we come to the nitty gritty as you would expect from a publication of Ancient Warfare’s stature. Cicero had warned that Caesar was well prepared and capable, and so he proved to be when “doing what they least expect”. He forced Pompey’s hand, says regular contributor Murray Dahm, by force-marching south, capturing towns as he homed in on Brundisium, forcing Pompey’s evacuation to the Balkans. Instead of following, Caesar consolidated in Spain, Sicily and Sardinia. In 48 and having been declared Dictator, he crossed the Adriatic where Pompey had nine legions, a fleet and enormous wealth. That’s 45,000 men prepared and ready for Caesar’s 20,000 (under-strength legions and a shortage of transport). But true to form, Caesar moved fast. How he crossed and landed against these odds, took towns in Epirus (they submitted willingly) on his way to Dyrrachium, and then hooked up with Mark Antony’s veterans including much-needed cavalry. Pompey, boxed in by a smaller force, eventually broke through and “bested” Caesar’s men, says Dahm. There follows a detailed account of the Dyrrachium campaign by Paul McDonnell-Staff, with a detailed maps showing the siege lines and movements of the forces. That was a painful setback for Caesar but only the prelude to the memorable battle of Pharsalus. This is admirably covered by author Lyndsay Powell and supported by a superb centre-spread 3D graphic of the positions and line of attack. There are supporting maps of the phases of the battle and poetic commentary from Lucan’s Pharsalia. You know the story – Caesar’s clever tactics and Pompey’s uncharacteristic resignation, riding back to his camp where the victory feast had been laid out before hand, only to be left for Caesar’s astonished captains. Why did Pompey lose? There were significant differences in the armies and tactics and Caesar’s unpredictability coupled with his legions’ experience over the inexperience of Pompey’s superior numbers, are the chief reasons given by student Ben Angell. From here it’s back to the politics – Pompey was shackled to the corpse of a less-than-formidable senate. After this defeat, the senate that had been held together by Pompey “melted away” – Cato and Scipio to Africa while others either fled or surrendered. The next instalment can’t come soon enough – the assassination of Pompey on Egypt’s shores, the war in Africa and its culmination in Spain where Pompey’s sons and Titus Labienus were defeated by an inspired Caesar at Munda. There are further informative articles covering further reading, Roman cavalry and the art of the ambush – but by now you’ll be exhausted after that incredible battle brought back to life by Ancient Warfare. A subscription is highly recommended! ...more Reviews! Empire at War: A Compendium of Roman Battles by Don Taylor Great Battles of the Classical Greek World by Owen Rees The Roman Soldier by G. R. Watson Ancient Warfare is a unique publication focused exclusively on soldiers, battles, and tactics, all before 600 AD. Starting with ancient Egypt and Persia and continuing to the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Ancient Warfare examines the military history of cultures throughout Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia and Africa. Ancient Greece and Rome receive the most frequent coverage, due both to the wealth of contemporary sources and the modern fascination with these two great civilizations. Subject-matter ranges from the familiar to the more obscure: while Alexander the Great, the Persian Wars and Caesar’s Gallic campaigns all receive regular coverage, Ancient Warfare also looks at some of the less common parts of ancient military history, from chariots as battle taxis to PTSD in antiquity. Alistair Forrest decided to be a writer on the day his English teacher ticked him off in front of his classmates for being too descriptive in his essay on Macbeth. Forrest and his wife Lynda have five children between them. For six years they lived in the very same upland valley in Spain where Julius Caesar marched eight crack legions towards the town of Munda (now Monda) to fight the sons of Pompey who had arrayed 13 legions against him. It was to be the last, bloody battle in Caesar’s civil war, just a year before he was assassinated. Inspired by the eagles that hunt in the surrounding olive groves, Forrest began to write Libertas. Tell us your opinion - Submit your Review - Buy the magazine! Book Review of Ancient Warfare Magazine - Roman Against Roman – Caesar and Pompey in the Balkans - Related Topic: Caesar's Civil War Bibliography Get it now! Ancient Warfare for the UK ________________________________ Archive
  15. Viggen

    Dux Raetia

    in German there is information most probably Augsburg (Augusta Vindelicorum) (there are some indications it could have been also in Regensburg ( Castra Regina ) https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dux_Raetiae#Hauptquartier
  16. Interview by Guy S. I am privileged to interview Dr. Francesco Galassi on behalf of UNRV. He and his co-author Hutan Ashrafian wrote the interesting and thought-provoking book, “Julius Caesar’s Disease: A new Diagnosis.” Guy S. for UNRV: Dr. Galassi, how did you become interested in the study of paleopathology (the study of ancient diseases in man and animals)? More specifically, what inspired you to reevaluate the health of Julius Caesar? Dr. Galassi: Ever since I was a child I have always been fascinated by ancient civilizations and languages. With a medical background, the possibility to combine different sources of information in order to investigate the historical presentation and evolutionary course of diseases through time is particularly captivating. Caesar has always been a historical character that captivated me because of his capacity to change the course of history through his lightning decisions and moves. My colleague and I noticed numerous discrepancies in his biographical accounts which led us to reinvestigate his symptoms and the likelihood of the traditional diagnosis of epilepsy. Our study, however, is not only about Caesar, namely one single “historical patient”, but it also opens a window on the role played by epilepsy in the past. It is said that so many great figures of antiquity suffered from it, yet, if closely inspected, one can clearly see that certain accounts, like those about Caesar, are contradictory and weak; in addition, epilepsy had clearly a double meaning in the ancient world. In a word, it was no ordinary disease. If the scientist speaking now is allowed a personal note, I would like to say that I shall always be grateful to my coauthor Hutan for working with me on this, sharing his great knowledge and expertise. It was after the Caesar study that I became a full-time palaeopathologist. UNRV: In your book, you and your co-author propose that Julius Caesar suffered from transient ischemic attacks (also known as TIAs or ministrokes). You suggest that both Julius Caesar and his adopted son Octavius attributed, instead, his symptoms of temporary physical weakness and mental confusion to epilepsy for political reasons. Why was epilepsy considered a “sacred disease” and where did this belief begin? Dr. Galassi: The ancient sources are very clear: at the end of his life Caesar was weakened in his health and was patently suffering from a condition he could not hide. That’s why the sources report it. Thus, finding himself in the position of not being able to deny his physical decay, would it be preferable for him to admit to suffer from declining health, or, instead, from a disease, which was somehow linked to the divine sphere, epilepsy? Epilepsy was considered by the Greeks as a curse sent by the gods to punish man, that’s why it’s called “sacred”, namely it comes from the gods and the first to be affected by it was Hercules, a demi-god. However, other sources, primarily the pseudo-Aristotle clearly show how already in ancient times epilepsy was associated with genius-level mythological and historical figures and great accomplishments. If the disease had just been a curse and a sign of social marginalization, then a mighty person constantly in the public eye would do anything in his power to get rid of or conceal this stigma. One might object that Caesar didn’t have the time to do that, since he was prematurely assassinated, but his successor Augustus was in power (and we are talking of a dyspotic regime in which any form of opposition was crushed and many of the historians of that time were ruthlessly censored) for a very long period of time. On the one hand he elevates his adoptive father to the rank of god, the almighty father and patron of the ruling Julian dynasty, but on the other hand he does nothing to eliminate any traces of a disease considered to be a curse sent by the gods. It makes no sense at all. Let me add one additional aspect. Hippocrates argued that the “sacred disease” was an ordinary, organic disease, it was by no means special. This proves that in ancient Greece a rational approach to the matter already existed in some primitive form. Nonetheless, we clearly realize that this observation did not enjoy much success and the aura of myth surrounding this pathology continued to exist at popular level (later in the Middle Ages it would be linked to madness and demonic possession). While the Roman elite might well have been skeptic and agnostic – certainly critical towards the belief in divine signs – certainly the crowds were not and the power of omen could easily be implemented as a political weapon. A “wonderful weapon” as Hutan and I called it. And Caesar was able to make marvellous use of divine signs for his political agenda. UNRV: Part of the differential diagnosis for Caesar’s poor health included tertiary syphilis, which you excluded. In the modern pre-penicillin era, tertiary syphilis was a frequent cause of neurologic and cardiovascular complications. In the book, you state that syphilis in ancient Rome possibly did not exist and certainly was not widespread. Do you believe, therefore, that syphilis (at least the virulent form we know today) was probably brought to Europe after the time of Columbus from the Americas? Dr. Galassi: Specifically addressing Caesar’s case, we can exclude syphilis, since the sources rather point in the direction of a way more common condition of a cardiovascular nature. The palaeopathological consensus it that syphilis did not exist in Europe before Columbus’s voyages. Some skeletons have been found to show lesions which may be suggestive of syphilis, however the morphological evidence alone appears not be strong enough to support this stance, since certain lesions are produced by other diseases, too. I really hope that one day the fast-developing palaeo-molecular technologies will be able to assess this on such ancient human remains so that a definitive answer may be given. One way or the other, that would represent a remarkable research goal. UNRV: Are there any ancient sources that give an accurate clinical description of common modern ailments such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease, or cancer? Dr. Galassi: The ancient authors describe the diseases you mention, particularly diabetes and cardiovascular disease with a reasonably good degree of accuracy. Those sources represented the main source of information for centuries. In the past 100 years many more details and data have been collected through the scientific study of mummies. Let me just give you a straightforward example. Until some decades ago, people would be of the opinion that atherosclerosis was the result of modern life-style, that is a product of modern civilization. Palaeopathological research, instead, has clearly demonstrated the antiquity of cardiovascular diseases and atherosclerotic changes in arteries, particularly in the upper classes of ancient civilisations. UNRV: Many people feel that the role of disease and illness in shaping ancient history is inadequately investigated. Would you agree? Dr. Galassi: Diseases do shape history, as much as history shapes diseases. In the pre-vaccination era, tetanus would kill lots of people (e.g. children or soldiers wounded in battle). Scientific progresses made tetanus decrease considerably in the modern world. Attributing major historical events or transitions to disease alone, would be a mistake, since that would mean biologising history. Historical processes instead show much more sophisticated dynamics and are influenced by a definitely longer list of factors. At the same time, I would agree with those who are of the opinion that we should focus more on the relative impact of diseases on our history. Personally I wouldn’t blame this lack on current historiographical research priorities nor on anybody in particular. You see, diseases and their interaction with human populations are highly complicated processes that require a multi-disciplinary and multi-level approach in the world we live in. Imagine when we try to figure out how disease presented in the past, simply relying on scant sources (literary or material). In palaeopathology an even higher level of coordination and collaboration between specialists from the most heterogenous fields is not only required but warmheartedly encouraged. Words change in their meaning over time, therefore we need philologists to crack their meaning for the specific historical period we are analyzing. Just think of “gout”: thanks to the important discoveries by Sir Alfred Garrod (1819-1907) we now know that this rheumatological condition is caused by a precipitation of a substance called uric acid in the joints when its blood concentration is higher than a certain level. In the 15th or 16th century, for instance, gout was a much more general term encompassing all sorts of rheumatic afflictions, most of which would only be described and classified much later. That’s why we need a strong and virtuous alliance between humanities specialists and science ones. I feel there is tremendous potential for joint work and indeed the best days for multidisciplinary approaches lie ahead. UNRV: From the Vindolanda tablets we can learn a lot about everyday life at the Roman frontier of Hadrian’s Wall. From one tablet (# 154) we learn about the readiness and health of the First Cohort of Tungrians. Of the 31 soldiers who were present but unable to perform duties (more than 10% of the total Cohort), ten were suffering from eye inflammation. Were eye ailments common among legionaries and what was the etiology of this eye inflammation? (Possible reasons suggested for the eye inflammation have included trachoma infection, malnutrition, and even environmental irritants such as dust from marching.) Dr. Galassi: You must be alluding to the famous writing-table where the word “lippientes” can somehow still be read. Lippi were those people suffering from eye-infections of different sorts, often not too serious afflictions since they were clearly distinguished from aegri (the sick) and from the volnerati (the wounded).The etiologies you mention are indeed correct. In the number of known ophthalmological diseases we recall cysts, stye, blepharitis, conjunctivitis, lacrimal fistula. All these diseases are described in the works of Celsus and Galen. Another condition worthy of mention was epiphora, a form of incessant lacrimation mostly caused by an obstruction of the nasolacrimal ducts. I am currently investigating this disease in depth. UNRV: Recent DNA analysis of skeletal remains from the Plague of Justinian (541-542 AD) confirm the theory that the plague was caused by Yersinia pestis bacterium (the cause of bubonic plague and the infamous Black Death that devastated Europe in the 14th century). The cause of plagues that devastated ancient Rome are still debated, however. The cause is unknown for the Antonine Plague (also known as Plague of Galen) that disrupted the Roman Empire from 165-180 AD during the time of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. Similarly, the cause for the Plague of Cyprian in the third century is still controversial. Do you have any thoughts about possible infectious etiologies for these two plagues? Dr. Galassi: Unlike for the Plague of Justinian, no definitive palaeomolecular results have been yielded on the Antonine or Cyprian’s. Historians have proposed smallpox and/or measles. Smallpox may be plausible yet – as correctly pointed out by Sabbatani and Fiorino in 2009 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20046111) - Galen, who witnessed the disease, never specifically mentioned in recovered patients the typical indelible scars which very often disfigure their faces. Sadly, in order to recover ancient DNA of Variola virus (if we assume that smallpox was the disease in question) mummified bodies with their still preserved soft tissues (including skin lesions) are definitely better, which have not been preserved – to the best of our knowledge – for the two Plagues you mention. Osteological remains, instead, may not be equally good material for this purpose. For Cyprian’s plague even haemorrhagic fevers have been postulated, yet it must be acknowledged that the original sources are not clear enough to allow us to formulate a confident retrospective diagnosis. Future molecular analyses might elucidate the whole matter further. It is preferable to wait and keep collecting data. UNRV: What do you see for the future role of DNA and genomic studies in the research of ancient history? In what settings could these studies be used? Dr. Galassi: Palaeomolecular analysis represents the highest technological form of palaeopathological research available these days. It’s yielding fascinating results which allows us to understand our past and evolution. We can not only clarify the etiology of past epidemics but also reconstruct the full genome of pathogens which have devastated civilizations and peoples through history. We also learn a lot about genes which predispose to the development of complex multifactorial diseases such as the cardiovascular ones. I always remark that it is, however, always important try to combine as much information as possible, from different sources. This allows researchers to reconstruct ancient phenotypes and genotypes, thus we a have a full clinical picture from a bygone age. UNRV: Dr. Galassi, as someone in the medical field, how has your study of ancient medical history impacted on your own perspective on the care of patients and modern medicine? Dr. Galassi: Palaeopathology and medical history can teach us two fundamental lessons. The first is that we should not feel overly satisfied with the knowledge that we possess today, yet we should study the matter in depth, investigate the antiquity and, above all, understand the evolutionary patterns at the heart of pathologies still affecting us nowadays. The second is that whenever we take care of a patient we should not only think of this person in terms of the disease he or she is suffering from nor should we only rely on the most recent technological advances. Each patient is first of a human being who deserves the greatest consideration and respect and his/her medical history must be assessed and examined in depth, in order to understand it properly and provide the best possible diagnosis and subsequent therapeutical strategy. Paleopathology and history of medicine teach researchers to cultivate their ability to spot the tiniest details and to analyse complex items both microscopically and macroscopically, combining different approaches and methodologies. UNRV: Dr. Galassi, thank you for your time. I hope you will join us at UNRV for further discussions about ancient Roman history and share your expertise on medical topics of the ancient world. ...more Book Reviews! Caesar's Disease: A New Diagnosis by Galassi and Ashrafian Rubicon by Tom Holland The Roman Soldier by G. R. Watson Francesco Maria Galassi, MD, is a paleopathologist at Zurich University’s Institute of Evolutionary Medicine, where he serves as Assistant and Principal Investigator of the Italian Paleopathology Project. He graduated from the University of Bologna and has collected research experiences at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London. Besides studying osteological remains and mummies, he specialises in the analysis of ancient texts in order to identify the historical presentation and evolution of diseases throughout history. Amongst his most acclaimed studies, the causes of death of Alaric I and Giovanni Boccaccio. Aged only 27, Francesco Galassi is one of the youngest palaeopathologists in the world and already an expert in the field of palaeomedicine. Francesco’s studies have received worldwide attention in quality papers such Forbes Magazine, The Guardian, The Telegraph and he regularly features in the press and radio-TV programs as commentator of paleopathological research. Hutan Ashrafian, BSc Hons, MBBS, MBA, PhD, MRCS is a surgeon, historian, systems biologist, biostatistician, paleopathologist and philosopher. He is currently lecturer in surgery at Imperial College London and surgeon registrar at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London. His historical and paleopathological work spans the era of Alexander the Great and the classical world, epistemology and the earliest world literature from the Ancient Near East, art and science in the renaissance focusing on the work of Leonardo da Vinci. As an Egyptologist, he has offered the first pathological analysis of the Great Sphinx and his analysis of the death of Tutankhamun was featured in documentaries on the BBC and the Smithsonian Channel. He is the founding president of the Institute of Polymaths. Tell us your opinion - Submit your Review - Buy the book! Interview with Dr. Francesco Galassi on Julius Caesars Disease: A New Diagnosis - Related Topic: Ides of March Bibliography Get it now! Caesars Disease for the UK ________________________________ Archive
  17. I am privileged to interview Dr. Francesco Galassi on behalf of UNRV. He and his co-author Huton Ashrafian wrote the interesting and thought-provoking book, “Julius Caesar’s Disease: A new Diagnosis.” Guy S. für UNRV: Dr. Galassi, how did you become interested in the study of paleopathology (the study of ancient diseases in man and animals)? More specifically, what inspired you to reevaluate the health of Julius Caesar? Dr. Galassi: Ever since I was a child I have always been fascinated by ancient civilizations and languages. With a medical background, the possibility to combine different sources of information in order to investigate the historical presentation and evolutionary course of diseases through time is particularly captivating. Caesar has always been a historical character that captivated me because of his capacity to change the course of history through his lightning decisions and moves... ...continue to the interview with Francesco Galassi!
  18. I am privileged to interview Dr. Francesco Galassi on behalf of UNRV. He and his co-author Huton Ashrafian wrote the interesting and thought-provoking book, “Julius Caesar’s Disease: A new Diagnosis.” Guy S. für UNRV: Dr. Galassi, how did you become interested in the study of paleopathology (the study of ancient diseases in man and animals)? More specifically, what inspired you to reevaluate the health of Julius Caesar? ...continue to the interview with Francesco Galassi! Thanks @guy and Francesco
  19. Fantastic interview, thank you Guy and Francesco!
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    Eclipse

    ...so for us that are not in the USA, has it happend already or is it tonight?
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    unidentified relic

    ...looks pretty interesting, although no idea to be honest, doesnt look Roman. May i ask what made you think it could be Roman? cheers
  22. Adding to the rapidly-extending corpus of books on Late Antiquity comes the Oxford publication on the Late Roman/Early Byzantine Empress, Theodora, wife of Justinian. The author of the book, David Potter – Francis W. Kelsey Collegiate Professor of Greek and Roman History and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Greek and Latin at the University of Michigan – here attempts to find the real person behind the scheming woman portrayed by Procopius in his ‘Secret History. The Contents of the book clearly illustrate that Potter is approaching his theme using a roughly chronological approach... ...continue to the review of Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint by David Potter
  23. Adding to the rapidly-extending corpus of books on Late Antiquity comes the Oxford publication on the Late Roman/Early Byzantine Empress, Theodora, wife of Justinian. The author of the book, David Potter – Francis W. Kelsey Collegiate Professor of Greek and Roman History and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Greek and Latin at the University of Michigan – here attempts to find the real person behind the scheming woman portrayed by Procopius in his ‘Secret History. The Contents of the book clearly illustrate that Potter is approaching his theme using a roughly chronological approach... ...continue to the review of Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint by David Potter
  24. Book Review by Ian Hughes Adding to the rapidly-extending corpus of books on Late Antiquity comes the Oxford publication on the Late Roman/Early Byzantine Empress, Theodora, wife of Justinian. The author of the book, David Potter – Francis W. Kelsey Collegiate Professor of Greek and Roman History and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Greek and Latin at the University of Michigan – here attempts to find the real person behind the scheming woman portrayed by Procopius in his ‘Secret History. The Contents of the book clearly illustrate that Potter is approaching his theme using a roughly chronological approach: Introduction 1. Constantinople 2. Telling Nasty Stories 3. Sex and the Stage 4. Factions and Networks 5. Patrician 6. The Succession 7. Augusta: The First Five Years 8. Revolution 9. War and Religion 10. Plots and Plague 11. Last Years 12. Legacy - Dramatis Personae - Timeline Obviously, the greatest difficulty faced by Potter in assessing Theodora’s life is the paucity of reliable information. The main source is Procopius, who gives some positive information concerning Theodora in his History of the Wars, published during the ruling couple’s lifetime, but who then vilifies Theodora in his Anecdota (Secret History), published after their passing. Although in Chapter 2, Telling Nasty Stories, Potter highlights the ‘scandalous’ nature of the latter, there is little specific analysis and refutation of any of the gossip which Procopius portrays as truth in his work. Instead, Potter notes the dubious nature of the Anecdota but later uses some aspects of the tale to his advantage whilst ignoring or discounting those stories which do not agree with his perception of Theodora. Whether his decision is justified is up to the individual to decide. As noted, the reader is treated to a step-by-step approach to the life of Theodora, starting with her birth and early life as an ‘actress’, through to her assumption of the role of Empress. Using anecdotal, hypothetical and descriptive methods Potter takes the reader through a proposed lifestyle of Theodora in each of her ‘roles’. This includes descriptions of the cities in which she lived – especially Constantinople – and of the people who inhabited them. In some respects this at times results in a disjointed narrative, where Theodora is simply a shadowy figure in the background whilst the actions and lives of others is used to illuminate and give context to the conditions in which she will have lived. This is especially the case when it comes to Theodora’s early life. Here, it is the descriptions of the cities and the depiction of the rivalries between the racing factions of the Blues and the Greens which dominates the story: Theodora is only portrayed rarely, usually in a context where her life would be comparable to one of those under scrutiny. Partly due to the realities of the time, and partly to the survival of the evidence, religion plays a very large role in the text. The emperor Justinian is portrayed as ‘mildly’ Chalcedonian in his religious sympathies (following the decisions reached at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE), but his main focus was an attempt to create religious unity and the halting of religious violence. On the other hand, Theodora is portrayed as anti-Chalcedonian in sympathies, using her position to influence the choice of bishops in Eastern cities and so creating a set of divisions which would far outlast her. Despite their apparent division on religious matters, Potter manages to emphasise that the two rulers worked together in most respects to ensure the continuation of a Christian Empire. These discussions and descriptions take up a significant part of the book. Apart from the religious aspects of life in Eastern Rome, the main thrust of Potter’s ‘later-Theodora’ is the woman who introduced legislation. Possibly a lesser-known aspect of Theodora’s life, a variety of laws concerning women working as ‘actresses’, on prostitution, on sex-trafficking and on divorce were passed during Justinian’s reign and are seen as an attempt by Theodora to right wrongs which she had personally either seen or suffered. Although instituted in Justinian’s name, it is hard to believe that Justinian would have promulgated these laws without the input and dominating influence of his wife. Throughout the book Potter manages to bring to light the various plots and machinations at the court of ‘Byzantium’ that has resulted in convoluted and dangerous political manoeuvrings now being known as ‘Byzantine’. In these descriptions the author convincingly argues that Theodora was able to intrigue successfully against those who were scheming against her. This is allocated to her ability to build herself a power base amongst the dominant men in the capital – despite the fact of her lowly origins – due to her ability to inspire loyalty and trust in those around her. The fact that she survived for so long and is portrayed by many as a saint attests, according to Potter, to the strength and allure of her personality, especially when the vicious nature of the accusations against her are taken into account. Possibly the only down side to the book is that the author sometimes allows ‘explanation’ and ‘exemplar’ to become digression, sometimes straying far from the indicated subject. As a by-product, the reader is introduced to a huge number of ancillary characters many of whom share the same or a similar name ranging over a large period of time. It is clear that Potter acknowledges these difficulties, since at the end of the book are two sections – Dramatis Personae and Timeline – aimed at addressing these issues. ...more Book Reviews! Beginnings Of Rome by Tj Cornells Julius Caesar's Disease: A New Diagnosis by Galassi and Ashrafian Release Your Inner Roman by Jerry Toner The book is superbly researched, with an excellent grounding in events from this period. Yet Potter is hampered by the main problem faced by anyone attempting to write a ‘biography’ of an individual from so far back in time. There is so little direct and incontrovertible evidence concerning Theodora that the author is forced to rely on inference, implication and interpretation rather than ‘fact’. Due to this, much of the book is taken with assessing contemporary events and deciding whether the sources’ few depictions of Theodora’s actions are consistent with the outcomes and each other. In turn this leads to a vast array of characters whose actions may have influenced Theodora’s reactions. Sadly, unless the reader has some background knowledge of the period this can lead to confusion and the need to reread sections in conjunction with the sections on named people and chronology in the hope of clarifying the situation. Yet despite these caveats the book is a worthwhile read. Although there is a limited amount of material specifically on the title character, the vast amount of background information gives the reader access to the milieu in which Theodora was working, and allows Potter to at least speculate intelligently on Theodora’s actions and motives. Ian Hughes has a MA in Ancient History and Society from Cardiff University and is the author of Belisarius: The Last Roman General; Stilicho: The Vandal Who Saved Rome; Imperial Brothers: Valentinian, Valens and the Disaster at Adrianople; and Patricians and Emperors: The Last Rulers of the Western Roman Empire. Tell us your opinion - Submit your Review - Buy the book! Book Review of Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint - Related Topic: Byzantine Emperor List Bibliography Get it now! Theodora for the UK ________________________________ Archive
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    Galbas Men by L.J. Trafford

    L.J. Trafford is a polished storyteller who quickly immerses the reader into the little explored world of common Roman slaves who executed the day-to-day tasks of managing the emperor’s palace. Galba’s Men, published in 2016, is the second book in Trafford’s four-book series, The Four Emperors. Galba’s Men is preceded by Palatine and is followed by Otho’s Regret and Vitellius’ Feast. The inglorious death of Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (his imperial title) at age 30 in 68 A.D. instigated by his own Praetorian prefect, Nymphidius Sabinus, introduced a short period of civil war into Roman history. This upheaval lasted only a year but witnessed four separate individuals accede to the Roman throne. The story of Galba’s Men is told from the palace slaves’ unique point of view from Galba’s arrival in Rome from Spain, and his short occupancy as Emperor, the pinnacle of Roman power... ...continue to the full review of Galbas Men by L.J. Trafford
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