20 Nov 2016

Ancient History Magazine 7, 20 November 2016

Ancient History Magazine 7, 20 November 2016

Nineveh, that great city

Museum piece: Lauren van Zoonen, "The colossus of Constantine - Superhuman features"

The photo on the opposite page shows one of the most famous pieces of Roman art: the larger than life portrait of the emperor Constantine the Great (r.306-337). With its superhuman features, it immediately attracts the attention of the visitor to the Capitoline Museums.

Special: Sara Van Hoecke, "The death of Hypatia the philosopher - Caught between two religions"

Hypatia was the tragic heroine of the movie Agora by Alejandro Amenábar (2009): an intelligent and strong-willed woman who lived and worked in the turbulent Egyptian city of Alexandria during the second half of the fourth century AD and whose life ended in the cruelest way. But who was the historical Hypatia and what is her significance?

Theme: Radu Alexander, "A city without rival - The rise and fall of Nineveh"

As he walked out of his monumental palace, King Sennacherib gazed upon the city of Nineveh. It was the new capital of the mighty Assyrian Empire – a city marked by wondrous gardens, impenetrable walls, great gates and thousands of stone carvings that lauded Assyria’s culture and military prowess. Decades later, Assurbanipal continued the work of his grandfather and built the famed Library of Nineveh, transforming the city into one of the true cultural centers of the ancient world.

Theme: Andrei Pogăciaş, "The palace of King Sennacherib - The wonder of Nineveh"

One of the most important public buildings in the Assyrian capital was the “Palace without rival”, built by King Sennacherib. It was a edifice for both public and private use, full of works of art, which still to fascinate.

Theme: Sean Manning, "Counting the words that remain - Survival of the fittest"

Latin, Greek, Akkadian, Egyptian: much of our evidence for the ancient world consists of written text. But what are the most important languages? One way to find out is counting the number of known texts and words.

Theme: Sidney E. Dean, "Istar of Nineveh - The lady of heaven"

One of the great cults of ancient Mesopotamia was the worship of Ištar, the goddess of love, sexuality, fertility, and war. One of the main cult centers was Nineveh.

Theme: Daan Nijssen, "A look at the imperial structure of Assyria - Why did Assyria collapse?"

It is one of the great riddles of Antiquity: why did the Assyrian Empire collapse? We know of a civil war between King Aššurbanipal and his brother Šamaš-šum-ukin, of Assyrian campaigns against Elam, and of war with Babylonia, but Assyrian records in this period become increasingly rare. Although an overarching explanation of what caused the demise of this world power cannot be given with certainty, a look at the weaknesses within its structure may prove to be fruitful.

In Milek Jakubiec’s illustration, you can see a group of Greek mercenaries near one of the lamassu- protected gates of Nineveh. The two men to the the right are the “new hoplites” that had become increasingly popular during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC): no longer wearing breastplates, their equipment was lighter and allowed more flexibility. It also opened the possibility of making long marches – like the escape of the Ten Thousand from Babylonia to the Black Sea. The man to the left, carrying a sling, brings something to eat.Theme: Roel Konijnendijk, "Xenophon's encounter with the remains of Nineveh - The ruins of Empire"

The retreat of the Greek mercenaries of the Ten Thousand from the battlefield of Cunaxa in 401 BC took them straight through old Assyria. Chased by a Persian army, the Greeks marched north along the east bank of the Tigris, through Kalhu, and on to Nineveh. The Athenian Xenophon describes what they saw: vast, deserted ruins, and nothing more.

Theme: Marc G. DeSantis, "Austen Henry Layard and the rediscovery of Nineveh - Discovering Assyria"

Just as Troy will forever be associated with Heinrich Schliemann, the discovery and first excavations at Nineveh are linked to one man above all others: Austen Henry Layard (1817-1894). In 1840, he discovered that the hills of Küyünjik and Nebi Yunus contained an ancient city – but it took him ten years to get his excavations funded and to realize that he had found the capital of Assyria, Nineveh.

Fact check: Jona Lendering, "Fact-check: East versus West"

The claim: The Persian Wars were decisive for western civilizations. If the Greeks had not been victorious, the Persian conquerors would have suppressed democracy, philosophy, rationality, and the western sense of freedom.

The ring-necked parakeet (Psittacula krameri) has a long history in aviculture which dates back to the Egyptian, Greek and Roman times. It is one of the few parrot species that have successfully adapted to living in disturbed habitats.

Ancient animals: Maura Andreoni, "The colorful and intelligent parrot - Birds greeting emperors"

Known in the Mediterranean world since the oriental expedition of Alexander the Great, parrots were highly appreciated because of their colored plumage and their ability to repeat words. In Rome, parrots were kept as pets and considered to be the bearers of good fortune, which explains why these birds, so beautiful and intelligent, were represented in all possible ways.

Special: John S. Richardson, "The Romans in Scotland - Moors and mountains"

Three times, the Romans tried to subdue the Caledonians, living in what is now called Scotland. Three times, they came close to success, but in the end, Hadrian’s Wall was to be the northern border of the Roman Empire.

Philosophy: Kees Alders, "The philosophy of the Sceptics - Fundamental uncertainty"

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 also changed, as we see in our series on Hellenistic philosophy. In this issue, we introduce Scepticism.

How do they know: Jona Lendering, "How do scholars reconstruct ancient texts - Texts and trees"

Homer, Plato, the Bible, Caesar, Virgil: their texts have come down to us in medieval manuscripts that, after centuries of copying, inevitably contain scribal errors. So, how do scholars know what these ancient writers actually wrote?

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