Tuesday 29 January 2013

Roman Republic Network

I am happy to forward the message and the link to the distribution map of individuals from Italy documented in the Roman Republic created by Saskia Roselaar. It is a useful tool to easily visualise connections.

Dear all,
During the last two years I have been working on a database containing
information about all known individuals from Italy (including Rome) in the
Republican period. I have now gathered information about some 8,200
individuals and created an interactive map through which this information
can be accessed. The most recent version of this map can be accessed on my
website: https://sites.google.com/site/romanrepublicresearch/home together
with documentation about how the map was created and a bibliography.
I hope this will be a useful resource for people interested in the
Republican period. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know
at saskiaroselaar@gmail.com !

All best wishes,

Monday 28 January 2013


As wrote in his "brevis adnotatio de duobus Pliniis" Giovanni de Matociis (Giovanni Mansionario) in early 14th century.
"Nam, ut dicit Suetonius idem in libro De Viris Illustribus, dum idem Plinius legiones in Siciliam duceret, eruptione fauillarum ab Aetna eructantium praefocatus interiit anno vitae suae quinquagesimo sexto, et in Sicilia tumulatur: cui consonat Plinius nepos eius in praefata epistula ad Macrum dicens, “Miraris quod tot volumina multaque in his scrupulosa homo occupatus absoluerit. Magis miraberis, si scieris illum aliquandiu causas dictitasse, et decessisse anno sexto et quinquagesimo.”
What do you think about?
 "It seems that the 14th-c. Giovanni de Matociis, aka Johannes Mansionarius, was a Veronese clergyman who was one of the first to develop critical tools for making sense of the mess of classical sources. One of his key contributions was to make clear that there were two Plinys(at the time, there was thought to be just one — a conflation of the Elder and Younger); he did this in brevis adnotatio de duobus Pliniis. The passage you cite seems to be one of Mansionarius’ arguments for distinguishing the two men: Suetonius says that Elder Pliny died at age 56, and Younger Pliny claims the same age at death for his uncle, thus meaning that the Elder and the Younger had to be two different persons (I’d wager that the ‘matching of age at death’ is what ‘cui consonat’ refers to). In letters 6.16 and 6.20, Pliny does not actually name his uncle; he doesn’t have to, because it is obvious to Tacitus, the addressee. E.T. Merrill, in the Classical Journal of 1910 (vol. 5.2, pp. 175-88), says (p. 181): “Again, in the same paragraph of the Adnotatio he quotes “Suetonius Tranquillus” as authority for the statement that the elder Pliny was smothered under the ashes of Etna, and yet calmly refers to Plin. Ep. vi. 16, which he must have known gives quite a different story. The Mansionarius certainly was aware that Campania is not Sicily, and Vesuvius is not Etna. But, as was the case with Vincent [another scholar] in the instance cited, the different sections of his doubtless somewhat overloaded memory were not always geared together.” In short, Mansionarius knew better, but wasn’t thinking clearly about reconciling these two stories of Elder Pliny’s death in this passage; he was interested in proving that there in fact were two Plinys." -  (A comment from Pedar W. Foss s. http://quemdixerechaos.com/2012/12/04/translatingplinypt4/comment-page-1/#comment-105)
Was Mansionarius a madman? Not at all.
Mansionarius rightly decided that it can not be that a man in his letters describing his own death. So letters belong to someone else, according to the name, some close relative. It would seem that there could not be any doubt. The Younger Pliny writes – “…my uncle” (6.16.1). However, this division into two Pliny was revealed to the world as a discovery. Why?
In common version of Life of Pliny the Elder Suetonius says nothing about Sicily, but almost word for word passed version of the death of Pliny, allegedly voiced his nephew’s letter to Tacitus, which is becoming a strong suspicion of forgery.
"PLINIUS SECUNDUS Novocomensis equestribus militiis industrie functus procurationes quoque splendidissimas et continuas summa integritate administravit, et tamen liberalibus studiis tantam operam dedit, ut non temere quis plura in otio scripserit. Itaque bella omnia, quae unquam cum Germanis gesta sunt, XX voluminibus comprehendit, itemque “Naturalis Historiae” XXXVII libros absolvit. Periit clade Campaniae; cum enim Misenensi classi praeesset et flagrante Vesubio ad explorandas propius causas liburnica pertendisset, nec adversantibus ventis remeare posset, vi pulveris ac favillae oppressus est, vel ut quidam existimant a servo suo occisus, quem aestu deficiens ut necem sibi maturaret oraverat."
It is possible that Tacitus showed to Suetonius the letters addressed to him by Pliny the Younger, who used them as a source of information for his series of “Lives of famous people”, but what is most interesting, Tacitus does not used this information by himself as well as Suetonius never mentions in his writings Tacitus!

What is unknown to us today, which version of Suetonius MS Mansionarius has used and, more importantly, where it is gone after his death?
I would put under suspicion the Paduan humanist Sicco Polenton (Sicconio Polentone), which in 1437 produced the first history of Latin literature in 18 volumes. As Berthold Louis Ullman considered, Sicco, because of the large amount of work for his intended History, took the path of least resistance, and, once he has copied all that he wanted to include in his book from a single existing copy to that time of the Suetonius De Viris Illustribus MS, destroyed the MS in order to prevent possible further charges in plagiarism.
(s. Ullman B.L. Siccoinis Polentoni Scriptorum Illustrium Latinae Linguae, American Academy in Rome, 1928)
But it’s not that simple. Mansionarius, focusing on Suetonius, should be familiar with the letters of Pliny the Younger, to which he refers. However, unfortunately his letters have not being quoted! Did he not pay attention to the discrepancy in the description of the place of death of Pliny the Elder by Suetonius and by Pliny the Younger? Maybe in the XIV century, the texts of letters of Pliny to Tacitus as well as the texts of Suetonius differed from that canonized by now?
Humanists of the 14th century under the influence of popular imitations of ancient authors, such as Cicero (Ad Atticum, Ad Familiares) and Pliny, practiced writing dialogue in letters. To distinguish which of them really are authentic is almost impossible. Particularly successful in this business was Jerry Arezzo ((Geri d’Arezzo (Gerius Frederici de Aretio) 1270 – 1339). In his written conversations he often quotes or imitates Seneca, Juvenal, and especially Pliny. In a letter to Bartolomeo Oliari, the Cardinal of Padua in 1395, Coluccio Salutati, chancellor of Florence and a leading humanist of his generation pointed Jerry as the greatest copycat of Pliny the Younger in that time and the “first cultivator of eloquence” after centuries of decline of the rhetoric.
“emerserunt parumper nostro seculo studia litterarum; et primis eloquentie cultor fuit conterraneus tuus Musattus Patavinus, fuit et Gerius Aretinus, maximus Plinii Secundi oratoris, qui alterius eiusdem nominis sororis nepos fuit, imitator”
(s. Coluccio Salutati, Epistolario, a cura di Francesco Novati, Roma 1896, vol. III.)
From the epistolaries of Jerry survived only six letters. One of them addresses the Florentine poet Gherardo da Castelfiorentino, dating from 1306 – 1339′s, in which he admires Pliny Secundus of Verona, as a brilliant orator. This letter was accompanied also with allegedly found by Jerry a manuscript of Caesar’s “De bello Gallico”, the existence of which Petrarch never knew until his death. All the rest has disappeared until our times from the literary circulation. It is possible that some of his letters were later supplemented to a collection of letters of Pliny the Younger and even edited with.
In connection with the alternative version of Suetonius of the death of Pliny the Elder in Sicily whilst the Mount Etna erupted, let us carefully consider the letter of Pliny to Tacitus (6.16) one more time.
Pliny wrote:
"Usus ille sole, mox frigida, gustaverat iacens studebatque; poscit soleas, ascendit locum ex quo maxime miraculum illud conspici poterat. Nubes – incertum procul intuentibus ex quo monte; Vesuvium fuisse postea cognitum est – oriebatur, cuius similitudinem et formam non alia magis arbor quam pinus expresserit."
One can assume that the explanation (afterwards it was known to have been Vesuvius) is a later interpolation. Why? If you are in Miseno you can not be confusing Vesuvius with any other mountain. Vesuvius from there is in full view and Pliny`s uncle did not have to climb to a higher place to see it. All the more so, because at such a distance one hundred meters difference in height of the observation point above sea level do not play any significant role in improving the view.
But if the uncle was not in Misenum, where he “was in command of the fleet”, but in Messana in Sicily, it really would have been difficult for him to make sure from which one of mountains came out a cloud resembling a pine.
Also the ancient port and the famous Roman naval base Missina (Messana) in Sicily is very in tune with Miseno.
Some comments to the timeline:
Then his uncle, for the sake of interest, ordered to prepare liburna and was about to leave the house when he received a letter from Rectina, wife of Tascus:
Pliny wrote:
"Egrediebatur domo; accipit codicillos Rectinae Tasci imminenti periculo exterritae – nam villa eius subiacebat, nec ulla nisi navibus fuga -: ut se tanto discrimini eriperet orabat."
Pliny does not specify how long the uncle Pliny surveyed the surroundings and how soon liburna could be ready to sail, but to get from the foot of the Mount Vesuvius to Misenum, currier of Rectina would need to drive his horse at a trot changing from time to time to walk more than 40 km along the coast. And it is not less than 4 hours. Otherwise forty kilometers of a gallop - a horse simply won’t survive, it would die. And the Roman roads were not built for a derby.
Pliny wrote:
"Vertit ille consilium et quod studioso animo incohaverat obit maximo. Deducit quadriremes, ascendit ipse non Rectinae modo sed multis – erat enim frequens amoenitas orae – laturus auxilium."
Pliny also does not specify the time required for charging quadrireme but in any case it turns out that, when the uncle Pliny finally become ready to rescue Rectina, the day wore on. However uncle Pliny to reach the event, even in a straight line, must sail about 30 km of distance. And that, at an average speed of 5 knots (Knot = 1,852 km / h), means for at least 3 hours of sailing. On August 24th in Naples at 7 pm is already dark. And if you would believe in other MS of letters of Pliny, where the eruption of Vesuvius occurred in November, there was already dark at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. At night, as I know, in those days nobody sailed.
Pliny the Younger does not mention neither Pompeii nor Herculaneum. Probably in the 14th century, when the letters of Pliny were forged (or altered), no one did know anything about their deaths and in Sicily such towns do not exists.
Cassius Dio, as you know, has been discovered much later.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Flying over: Pompeii Aerial Survey Project

On the Expeditio Pompeiana Universitatis Helsingensis (Epuh) site, a report of the Pompeii Aerial Survey Project supported by a drone produced by the danish firm LE34 has just been published: 
"The aim of the project was to test the application of aerial drone technology in the documentation and survey of built structures in an archaeological context (Pompeii) against traditional methods of architectural investigation. This was the first time that aerial drones had been successfully employed at Pompeii for aerial photography; indeed, previous aerial photography had traditionally used balloons!"
More here.

Wednesday 16 January 2013

An article in Scientific American

An article of interest: 

Pompeii "Wall Posts" Reveal Ancient Social Networks  

"Ancient Pompeii’s political elite vied for advertising space on the “private walls” of wealthy citizens  Think of it as the earliest version of the Facebook wall post: Ancient Pompeii residents revealed their social networks through graffiti on actual walls.  Now, a new analysis of some of these scribbled messages reveals the walls of the wealthy were highly sought after, especially for political candidates hoping to drum up votes. The findings suggest that Pompeii homeowners may have had some control over who got artistic on their walls, said study researcher Eeva-Maria Viitanen, an archaeologist at the University of Helsinki." ...

Read more in Scientific American

Monday 14 January 2013

UNESCO mission to Pompeii

News coverage in the Italian newspaper "Il Sole 24 Ore" about last week's reactive monitoring inspection of Pompeii by UNESCO/ICOMOS - not much else on this subject as the inspectors aren't allowed to make public statements, we'll have to wait until end of February to see the official mission report.

I dubbi su Pompei della missione Unesco

La spesa dei fondi straordinari prosegue a rilento. Il personale è insufficiente. Mancano profili tecnici. E alcuni interventi della soprintendenza si starebbero svolgendo senza aver prima avvertito l'agenzia culturale dell'Onu. Non poche le perplessità che la delegazione Unesco, da lunedì a giovedì scorso in visita all'area archeologica di Pompei, porta con sé a Parigi. Gli esiti della missione, a due anni dal crollo della Schola armatorum, saranno resi noti a inizio marzo, con buone probabilità a Roma.

Article continues here.

Sunday 13 January 2013

Against the idealised views of Pompeii and the trade patterns from the coast to the Apennines

For those who live in the Northern European countries and are interested in either the relationship between mankind and volcanoes or the trade patterns in ancient Campania, the next few days provide some occasions to discuss these subjects with other archaeologists (and to meet some members of the Apolline Project too).

The next two days (14-15 January) the Aarhus University in Denmark will host the conference titled:
Past Vulnerability: Volcanic Eruptions and human vulnerability in traditional societies past and present.
This conference is part of the LaPaDiS project - Laboratory for past disaster science. The full program is available here and it includes the following paper on Vesuvius:

Girolamo F. De Simone, The fragile landscape of Vesuvius: against the idealized views of Pompeii

Pompeii is generally reckoned as the ideal example of a mid-rank Roman city in the first century AD. In fact, the volcanic ashes that buried the town provide a sharp terminus ante quem, which is used to create pinpoint history. Nevertheless, the clear snapshot provided by Vesuvius generated the assumption according to which, eruptions apart, the landscape was static and acted as a sort of canvas for human activities.
This paper provides some insights into the innate fragility of Vesuvius and discusses how people reacted to the “minor catastrophes” which frequently occurred in the environs of the volcano. In particular, the paper discusses the effects of earthquakes, bradyseism, landslides, flash-floods to settlements and the human response to them, like the reconstruction and reinforcement of buildings.
In the last part, the paper will describe and discuss the issue of resettlement around Vesuvius after the AD 79 eruption, in particular the role of the cities in resettling the countryside and the social change that occurred.

Just a couple of weeks later (1-3 February), another conference will take place in Amsterdam, with the title: Island, Mainland, Coastland & Hinterland: ceramic perspectives on connectivity in the ancient Mediterranean. This meeting is part of the NPAP Project, New Perspectives on Ancient Pottery. The full program is available here and it includes the following paper:

Girolamo F. De Simone & Caterina Serena Martucci, From Neapolis’ harbour to the Apennines: coast-hinterland dynamics in AD 472 Campania

Beyond Pompeii and Herculaneum, life continued on the slopes of Vesuvius, until another eruption stroke in AD 472.  Similarly to the Pompeian eruption, the later one offers a sharp chronological marker and a vivid snapshot of the trade patterns around the volcano.
At that time, important transformations were taking place in the economy of the Mediterranean basin. Despite the Vandal conquest, the commercial network from northern Africa was still in place, but regional productions became more relevant. In Campania, most of the micro-regional products seem to be related to several workshops scattered in the Vesuvian countryside, while others might be compared with vessels attested in the Apennines. For each class, this paper provides fabrics’ visual and archaeometric characteristics, typology, and distribution.
Archaeometric analyses, matched with quantification studies, suggest new patterns of trade, which move beyond the traditional coast-hinterland economic model. In particular, overseas goods were traded following a hierarchical pattern that marginalised small centres, while local products hint to tight connectivity and preference for particular shapes, which were not attested in the cities. A third route linked the Apennines with the Vesuvian plain and shows interdependency between the two areas.
These distributional routes are mirrored by different cultural areas: among these the most relevant one is that on the slopes of Vesuvius, because it shows overall similarities with the city, but also the presence of both peculiar shapes not attested in Neapolis, and shapes peculiar of the Apennines.

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Life and times of the inhabitants of Pompeii and Herculaneum

Life and Times of the Inhabitants of Pompeii and Herculaneum

The Roman Finds Group is holding a conference at the British Museum on Friday 19th April, 2013 to coincide with the BM exhibition.  Speakers include Paul Roberts (curator of the exhibition), Ray Laurence, Alex Croom and Ria Berg. Papers by Bone Jones, David Griffiths, Hilary Cool and Richard Hobbs will have a special focus on data from the excavations within Insula VI.1 at Pompeii.

The day will include the opportunity to visit the exhibition. Details are available on the RFG website ( http://www.romanfinds.org.uk/meetings ) and early booking is advised.

Monday 7 January 2013

To Die in Pompeii : Excavation of the Necropolis of Porta Nocera (2003-2007)

I'm posting this on behalf of William Van Andringa (Professor, University of Lille 3, France) with apologies for the slow response time due to the Christmas holidays!

To Die in Pompeii : Excavation of the Necropolis of Porta Nocera (2003-2007)

This impressive monograph (1451 pp.) is the culmination of an extensive and detailed excavation, undertaken between 2003 and 2007, in the funeral quarter of one of Pompeii's necropolis.  Our understanding of such sites was once limited to the analysis of funeral inscriptions, tomb architecture, and treatment of the dead (burial or cremation), but this research is focused on the rites and practices that accompany the separation of the living and the dead as well as the management of funeral spaces protected by the "law of burials" and the religious status given to them.  
The first volume is dedicated to the analysis of archeological contexts, a synthesis of burial space management, and the remarkable contributions of anthropology, rituals, and burial practices to such a synthesis. The second volume provides a detailed analysis of each specific type of archeological material being studied: inscriptions, statues, ceramics, amphora, textiles, oil lamps, glass, coins, metal, charcoal, pollen, insects, human and animal bones, plant remains, and objects made of metal plate and bone.
This monograph offers a completely revised vision of funeral practices in the Roman era.

You can download a flyer for the volume here and read more on this work on the project website here.

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