In Southwest Asia in the first millennium BCE, most names meant something. Iranian, Babylonian, and Greek names tended to be meaningful phrases or adjectives in their native language. This leads to some moments of enlightenment as one learns the languages after getting to know the characters. Pharnabazus, for example, was “the gift of majesty,” and Alkibiades was “mightily forceful,” while Gadaljama’s fellow-tennant Rimut-Ninurta, the son of Murašȗ was “Gift-of-Ninurta, the son of the Wildcat.” Ninurta was a warlike god, so I wonder if the son lived up to his parents’ expectations, and how choosing a name for a new child worked when the parents didn’t need name-books to tell them what different possibilities meant.
Here we have a sketch of the Old Babylonian copy of the epic of Gilgamesh stored in Pennsylvania. It corresponds to the end of the first tablet of the better-known Standard Babylonian version from Nineveh, where Gilgamesch has some prophetic dreams and Shamkhat persuades Enkidu to visit the city. As everything slows down before the holidays, I thought that I would dust off another draft and talk about some of the challenges in reading Akkadian cuneiform.
Off the eastern shore of Sweden lies the island of Öland, and on that island fifteen hundred years ago the Ölanders built a ring fort and filled it with halls and silver and sparkling glass. To that fort came death, but rather than loot and burn, the attackers rowed away and left their victims weltering in their gore. Nobody returned to the site to bury the dead or recover the treasures, and over time the ring fort collapsed to the earth and was quarried for building material.
The local archaeologists would very much like to know more about the Ölanders and their attackers, but they lack the resources to do more than survey the site and dig a few test pits. They have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to fully excavate one of the houses, properly examine all of their finds, and publish them in English and Swedish. I have contributed; Martin Rundkvist, an archaeologist whom I respect, vouches that the local archaeologists can do what they say they will do. But there are only two weeks left in the campaign, and they still need 30,000 Euros. So if you enjoy solving archaeological mysteries, documenting horrible massacres, or looking at beautiful silverwork, why not donate?
(Minor proskynesis to Martin Rundkvist)
The seventeenth century is a depressing period for lovers of European armour. Europe was desperately poor and wracked by war, while a fashion for very heavy muskets fired from rests meant that armourers could no longer promise to protect most of the body against the most common dangers at a bearable weight, and the sports which had kept the nobility patrons of armour had fallen out of fashion. Both the use of armour and its beauty and craftsmanship collapsed.
A coin of Vespasian with the legend VICTORIA NAVALIS S C, courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Electronic Auction 340, Lot 333, via coinarchives.com
In my recent Ancient Warfare article I mentioned that scholars are divided on how to interpret the legend VICTORIA NAVALIS on Roman coins. Some link it with a battle between Romans and Jews in the Sea of Galilee, some with the centenary of Augustus’ victory over the fleet of Antony and Cleopatra, and some with the Roman civil wars of 69 CE. Since I am not an expert on numismatics or Roman Judaea I wanted to get a wide range of opinions. Search engines make it easier to find brief mentions in footnotes and sidebars than it once was, but finding and sorting still takes effort. Here are some scholars who have stated what they think the legend refers to: