Library of Alexandria: Factoids about the Ancient World

For discussing SPQR Blues (the mostly daily webcomic), Vesuvius (the mostly disgruntled volcano), and obscure facts about ancient Rome.

Library of Alexandria: Factoids about the Ancient World

Postby Spqrblues on Wed Mar 28, 2007 7:33 am

I'll try to collect all the historical commentary that was posted along with the comics. Feel free to ask questions too.
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Roman handwriting

Postby Spqrblues on Fri Mar 30, 2007 5:37 am

I have a wonderful book on Latin handwriting and cursive forms... in a box somewhere. So here are some images quickly snapped up from the intarweb:

ImageImageImage

That last fragment says: bruised beans, two modii, chickens, twenty, a hundred apples, if you can find nice ones, a hundred or two hundred eggs if they are for sale there at a fair price ... 8 sextarii of fish-sauce ... a modius of olives ... to the slave of Verecundus

Titus had a reputation as an excellent forger.

Reading it gets relatively easy once you know what to look for and can recognise quirks such as how sometimes Romans would write, say, four slanting, unconnected strokes to form an "M" instead of connecting them as below.

Image

Also pen-and-ink cursive is different than wax-tablet cursive, which is where you're more likely to see unconnected strokes. Sometimes Roman handwriting looks like Ogham :D

Here's an image I found here of a wax tablet from Pompeii:

Image

When I was a wee freshman and only knew of CAPITALIS LATIN INSCRIPTIONS IN STONE, a friend in the dorm asked me to help him read a letter I think was purported to be in the Emperor Claudius' handwriting (or some other important person). A photocopy of it for a class, not the real thing. Then I visited the uni's rare manuscripts collection and saw a whole lot of real things. I'd already had some militant dissatisfaction about how high school history was taught as "times and places a lot of people died" (as opposed to those lower school social studies units we had such as "in the middle ages, people ate black bread"), but it was then that I realised how vastly more interested I was in how the ordinary folks lived than lists of kings and where the emperors and generals marched. I began to understand that some of the keys to understanding the development of cultures and human civilisation lie in the mundane, not just the territorial squabbling and who gets to erect a statue at the end of the day. That leads to understanding some of those marching generals a whole lot better, too.
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Under the Volcano

Postby Spqrblues on Wed Apr 11, 2007 4:01 pm

UNDER THE VOLCANO

Last night I dragged myself out to a talk by a forensic archaeologist who has done a lot of work in Herculaneum. I had a chance to speak with him a while afterward. He elaborated on some things I knew, added information I would never have imagined.

The information on forensic archaeology was brutal--things I knew, but far more detailed information. For example, I knew there were bodies found by the beach, and that many people there were killed by a sudden blast of extraordinary heat. He talked about particular individuals and what they were doing at that moment and what could be surmised about what they had been doing in the minutes or hours beforehand. He explained exactly what happens to a body when that effect occurs, and how forensics specialists can tell which people saw something coming and which ones had no idea and absolutely no time to understand what was happening. He spoke of a man frozen in the act of swallowing a piece of food. He stretched his hand out to demonstrate the effect of the "shimmer of heat," as he described it, and that's when I knew I'd be having nightmares.

He described the physics of the eruption and the pyroclastic flow being almost identical to the physics of the shockwaves from the collapse of the World Trade Center--which, once he said it, seems so obvious: the eruption sent a massive column of matter up into the air, which then collapsed, but with the difference of a wave of heat. He described his work at Ground Zero and things the general public probably just doesn't know about what happened in the narrow streets all around, the same streets I twisted through last night to get to the event. He has worked with the Titanic, and at Hiroshima.

He described removing a doll from the arms of a little girl at Herculaneum to study, and replacing it with a doll inscribed by his children so that remains would be as he found them. He also spoke rather radically about the sociology of the town. Although it's all the same elements that are already in or planned for the story, I'm not sure I want to get quite that radical with the interpretation--my studies (both formal and otherwise) come from one point of view, and his come from a very different approach to the subject. I'm not sure his knowledge of the workings of ancient society is as broad or as in depth, though it is certainly informed by his broad knowledge of the physical evidence; he spoke much of basing his conclusions on a small set of physical clues as if gathering bits and pieces from a crime scene, but I'd love to get into more of a conversation with him about his knowledge of the overarching social context. Overall, his comments on the social structure of Herculaneum in general and on the houses and people used in the story were encouraging--it's nice to know that I'm not being outstripped by the continuing archaeology of the site.

We disagree, I think, on the quality of life in the ancient world. It was hard to tell--he said both positive and negative things with great enthusiasm. I couldn't tell whether he was calling ancient Rome the "dark ages" or sarcastically saying "how could you call this a bad time to live?" and I didn't have a chance to follow up on that. He was very excited about ancient plumbing. But then, so am I.

His life is far more interesting than mine (but whose isn't?). I gave him a business card with the comic's URL. I am sure he thinks I'm crazy.

Remains of the Bay

I'd known that a lot of people were pushed off the hillside in Herculaneum by the shockwave (that also blasted the furnishings out of some houses and tossed it all into the bay, though other houses and their goods are perfectly preserved, wood and scrolls and glass dishware and platters set with rolls and bowls of nuts and all ("shock cocoons"). While Pompeii was being smothered by rising debris, Herculaneum went pretty quickly and is much more literally a moment frozen in time. And difficult to loot until more modern times

Archaeologists can tell that down at the waterfront some people came running around a corner into the caves at great speed, and the men and the soldier down at the boats had enough time to flip a small boat over themselves for protection. He--I should give him a name already, Charles Pellegrino--described what they would have seen that would have made so many people suddenly race for shelter. But those whose views were blocked wouldn't have realised anything was coming when the heat blast rolled over them. (All of you must share my sense of deep visceral horror! Though I guess if you have to go and be preserved for 1900 years until you get dug up and exposed to the air then badly re-preserved with acrylic sealant, that's the way to go. Uhm...)

I can't precisely say when I first became so fascinated with Herculaneum or why I bypassed Pompeii and zeroed in on the sister city. But as for the inspiration for SPQR Blues, I know the exact moment: the spark that started me working on this particular story was an article about the Herculaneum soldier that mentioned he had a little belt bag of tools. One brain cell led to another, and things got all out of hand, and here we are. The article was about the quality of teeth in a society with no refined sugar but with grain ground in mortar-and-pestle. If I recall correctly, the soldier had good teeth, except for maybe a couple knocked out in accidents. Poor soldier. Bad Vesuvius.

I don't think the destruction of Herculaneum has ever been depicted in precise graphic-novel detail. I don't think so, anyway. Maybe I'll get started now on planning that out. Because I do know exactly where each one of our intrepid characters will be on that particular day.... But am I a merciful creator, or an evil one...? Time will tell.
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Re: Library of Alexandria: Factoids about the Ancient World

Postby mithsmile on Thu Dec 09, 2010 10:15 pm

Okay, here's something that would be cool:<P>What if there was a page that you could have where you could subscribe to the comics you wanted and see each new one every day?<P>You could set it as your home page on your browser and load it to read whenever you went online.<P>Basically you could make your own customized funnypapers. <P>Just a thought for the future...
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Re: famous volcanoes Vesuvius

Postby SuzieDsouza on Thu Feb 24, 2011 10:40 pm

Mount Vesuvius is the only volcano within the Campanian Volcanic Arc to have erupted within recent history. The Mount Vesuvius mountain started forming around 25,000 years ago and the lowest layer of eruption material lies on top of the 34,000 year-old Campanian Ignimbrite.
http://www.whatisguide.net/0214-famous-volcanoes.html
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New Year's cats

Postby VapQuepmeaddy on Sun Feb 27, 2011 5:00 pm

Image
Фото источника.
Last edited by VapQuepmeaddy on Mon Jan 09, 2012 7:20 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Cool place

Postby apopdralA on Mon Feb 28, 2011 7:49 am

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Cool place

Postby apopdralA on Mon Feb 28, 2011 12:25 pm

happy im here today...

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Re: Library of Alexandria: Factoids about the Ancient World

Postby backlashforblow on Tue Jul 12, 2011 11:47 pm

Alexandria was Ptolemy'sfounded in Egypt by Alexander the Great.

His successor as Pharaoh, Ptolomy II Soter, founded the Museum or Royal Library of Alexandria in 283 BC.
The Museum was a shrine of the Muses modeled after the Lyceum of Aristotle in Athens. :wink:
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Mein erster Beitrag

Postby RONApery on Mon Jul 18, 2011 1:26 pm

Hallo, sehr schöne Forum !!!!!! :)
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Re: Roman handwriting

Postby david49 on Tue Dec 20, 2011 12:22 pm

Spqrblues wrote:I have a wonderful book on Latin handwriting and cursive forms... in a box somewhere. So here are some images quickly snapped up from the intarweb:

ImageImageImage

That last fragment says: bruised beans, two modii, chickens, twenty, a hundred apples, if you can find nice ones, a hundred or two hundred eggs if they are for sale there at a fair price ... 8 sextarii of fish-sauce ... a modius of olives ... to the slave of Verecundus

Titus had a reputation as an excellent forger.

Reading it gets relatively easy once you know what to look for and can recognise quirks such as how sometimes Romans would write, say, four slanting, unconnected strokes to form an "M" instead of connecting them as below.

Image

Also pen-and-ink cursive is different than wax-tablet cursive, which is where you're more likely to see unconnected strokes. Sometimes Roman handwriting looks like Ogham :D

Here's an image I found here of a wax tablet from Pompeii:

Image

When I was a wee freshman and only knew of CAPITALIS LATIN INSCRIPTIONS IN STONE, a friend in the dorm asked me to help him read a letter I think was purported to be in the Emperor Claudius' handwriting (or some other important person). A photocopy of it for a class, not the real thing. Then I visited the uni's rare manuscripts collection and saw a whole lot of real things. I'd already had some militant dissatisfaction about how high school history was taught as "times and places a lot of people died" (as opposed to those lower school social studies units we had such as "in the middle ages, people ate black bread"), but it was then that I realised how vastly more interested I was in how the ordinary folks lived than lists of kings and where the emperors and generals marched. I began to understand that some of the keys to understanding the development of cultures and human civilisation lie in the mundane, not just the territorial squabbling and who gets to erect a statue at the end of the day. That leads to understanding some of those marching generals a whole lot better, too.


Hi i was just admiring your Latin handwriting collection, how did you come in to possession of these if you don't mind me asking, as i would think that you paid some nice money for them.

Regards :D
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