Month: December 2014
Categories: Ancient
Tags: , ,

Month: December 2014

On Names

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... Continue reading: On Names

Reading Akkadian


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.

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The Sandby Borg Massacre

Sword pendant in gilded silver, found in House 40 at Sandby borg. Photo courtesy of Daniel Lindskog. 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... Continue reading: The Sandby Borg Massacre

The Armour of Johann von Sporck

Suit of black plate armour with a closed helmet, articulated pauldrons, and tassets which flare at the hips and extend below the knees
The cuirassier harness of Johann von Sporck in the Heeresgeschichtliche Museum, Vienna. To my knowledge his wealth came from land and leading imperial armies, not from eccentric cutlery.

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.

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Bonus Content: “Victoria Navalis” Bibliography

A corroded copper-alloy coin with a Roman emperor's profile on one side and the goddess Victoria standing on a ship's prow on the other

A coin of Vespasian with the legend VICTORIA NAVALIS S C, courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Electronic Auction 340, Lot 333, via

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:

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