Wednesday, 24 August 2016
Ancient History Magazine 6, 24 August 2016
Rome of the Twelve Tables
The museum piece: Svenja Grosser, "Female gladiators - Fight to the draw"
Evidence from literary sources, inscriptions, and legal texts proves that women participated in Rome’s gladiatorial contests. To this evidence, we can add one depiction that shows two female gladiators – a relief from Halicarnassus.
Theme: Jona Lendering, "Rome in the fifth century BC - A crisis and its consequences"
After the fall of the monarchy, Rome went into decline. It had to defend itself against tribes from the mountains and had to cope with internal conflicts. To put an end to the latter, the Romans decided to write down their laws. It was the beginning of a legal tradition that was to dominate the Mediterranean world for centuries to come.
Theme: Richard Kroes, "The laws of the Twelve Tables - Clarifying the rules"
Dangerous foreign enemies and domestic conflicts: in the first half of the fifth century, Rome had to cope with serious difficulties. The Laws of the Twelve Tables were meant to solve the conflict between patricians and plebeians.
Theme: Marijke Gnade, "The fifth century in Latium - An archaeological dark period"
Rome’s sumptuary laws – to be discussed on page 31 – forbade conspicuous funerals, which makes the tombs of fifth-century Latium rather poor. Many ancient settlements are still occupied, making excavation impossible. As a consequence, archaeologists find it difficult to understand the world in which the Twelve Tables were written. There is one exception: Satricum, where a large sanctuary of Mater Matuta, a spectacular Latin inscription, and more than two hundred graves have been found.
Theme: Sidney E. Dean, "Roman patrician and plebeian pantheons - Upstairs, downstairs"
A major feature of the Roman Twelve Tables is the differentiation between the patrician and plebeian social classes. While the plebeians gained certain rights and securities through the Twelve Tables, the class structure – marked by patrician dominance – was largely cemented by the laws. But legal status, participation in government, and advancement opportunities were not the only factors separating the upper and lower classes in the early Roman Republic. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, patricians and plebeians were two groups of people divided by a common religion.
Theme: Andrei Pogăciaş, "Coriolanus and his legend - Hesitant traitor, tragic hero"
Gaius Marcius Coriolanus was a legendary general of Rome at the beginning of the fifth century. Victim of the conflict between the patricians and plebeians, he turned against his own city one of the few Roman military commanders to do so.
A cinerary urn from the age of the Twelve Tables, the mid fifth century. Interestingly, this young man is reclining as if he is attending a banquet in Greek style. The head of this limestone sculpture is removable, allowing the ashes of the deceased to be put into hollow body. Found in Chiusi, it is now in the Altes Museum in Berlin.
Theme: Mark McCaffery, "Death and funerals in Republican Rome - Three veils, a purple tunic & ten flute-players"
The tenth of the Twelve Tables clarified and established rules for a proper funeral. One of its aims was to limit conspicuous expenditure, a political instrument that the legislators wanted to be blunted. These laws were so successful that Roman graves from this age are quite sober, making this age an archaeological “dark period”.
Theme: Jona Lendering, "The significance of the Twelve Tables - Epilogue"
The Twelve Tables averted Rome’s disintegration but did not create unity. The tensions between patricians and plebeians remained. The real significance is the birth of a society that was, compared with contemporary societies, quite charmed by legal procedures.
Special: Jona Lendering, "The chronology of Mesopotamia - Deeper and deeper"
The study of Antiquity is not famous for spectacular breakthroughs, but occasionally, fundamental discoveries are made. Recently, one of the greatest puzzles was solved: the chronology of Mesopotamia in the Middle Bronze Age.
Special: Lauren van Zoonen, "The Nike of Samothrace - Winged victory"
Samothrace is not the most famous of the Greek islands. Small, mountainous, and situated in the northern waters of the Aegean Sea, it was on the periphery of the Classical and Hellenistic world. However, it has received a place in all books on art history, because it is the place where a priceless sculpture was uncovered on 15 April 1863: a winged victory. The Nike of Samothrace is one of the most important works of art from the Hellenistic age.
Special: Mike Manarpies, "Fossils in ancient Greece - Beasts or heroes?"
Surely those tales about supernatural beings such as minotaurs, cyclopes, giants, and heroes with superhuman abilities and stature must have been just “stories” for the ancient Greeks as well? The common people may perhaps have believed in those famous mythological creatures, but one would expect a more critical approach from the educated classes. But what if there appeared to be proof of their existence?
A reconstruction of the famous statue of Augustus, found in the villa of his wife Livia in Primaporta (a suburb of Rome). The little Amor on the dolphin would have reminded every ancient visitor that Augustus’ family claimed descent from the goddess Venus, as was broadcasted in Virgil’s epic poem Aeneid. On the body armor are representations of military successes during Augustus’ reign.
Special: Patrik Klingborg, "The dark side of Rome's first emperor - Augustus the monster"
The emperor Augustus took great care to present himself as the man who had extinguished the flames of civil war. While stressing his own peaceful intentions, he tried to erase evidence to the contrary. Still, this hostile information once circulated and is as important as Augustus’ own account. A historian needs to take it into account to get a balanced image of Rome’s first emperor.
Philosophy: Kees Alders, "A short look at Stoic logic - Does God play dice?"
The conquests of Alexander the Great profoundly changed the Greek world. The old dichotomy between the independent Greek city-states and the eastern world empires ceased to be relevant. People were citizens of a common world. The world view changed, and hence philosophy, as we see in our series on Hellenistic philosophy. In this issue: the early Stoics after Zeno.
How do they know?: Jona Lendering, "How do we decipher ancient languages - Breaking the code"
Archaeologist often find ancient texts. If they are written in a language that is still in use, like Latin, we can understand them. Other texts, however, are more problematic. Even worse, some ancient texts are written in a script we don’t understand. Still, progress is possible.
Ancient History Magazine