Month: February 2019

Month: February 2019

What to Keep, What to Discard: The Mesopotamian Answer

Men and women in Neo-Classical dress talk and consult plans as a city is built in the background
Rome was not built in a day, but my emails were transferred in one! A Baroque tapestry of the AEDIFICATIO BABILONIAE in the city museum, Rimini.

It is the end of the semester in which I graduated, so I have been working to back up my emails onto my computer (Austrian university webmail is limited to 500 MB, and does IMAP not POP, so when the account closes the emails go away unless you move them to local folders). The Anglo chattering class loves to talk about what to do with old papers and knicknacks, with Marie Kondo or the Swedish Death Purge inspiring opinion pieces and social media threads. Did you know that the cuneiform world had a pretty firm opinion on the matter?
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A Herodotean Sentiment

The remains of the Roman amphitheatre, Rimini (ancient Ariminum) Evans-Pritchard [1937] (1977: 153) made the comment that when informants fall out; it is to the anthropologist’s advantage. However, in the modern era where informants read the anthropologist’s work, disputes among informants lead to all kinds of complications, and one must be... Continue reading: A Herodotean Sentiment

Cross-Post: Books Before Print

Erik Kwakkel, Books Before Print (Amsterdam University Press/ARC Humanities Press, 2018) EUR 34 (paperback), 105 (hardcover), 105 (ebook) (available on Biblio) Erik Kwakkel, excellent book historian and blogger, has a new book out on the medieval manuscript as a well-engineered tool shaped by readers’ habits and desires. This beautifully illustrated book provides an accessible introduction... Continue reading: Cross-Post: Books Before Print

Max Jähns, Red Figure Vases, and Linen Armour

A leatherbound book with gold impressed title on the spine
Innsbruck’s copy of Max Jähns, Handbuch einer Geschichte des Kriegswesens von der Urzeit bis zur Renaissance. Technischer Theil. (Leipzig: Fr. Wilh. Grunow Verlag, 1880)

Today, we often take it for granted that ancient texts mentioning linen or leather armour must describe the kind with a yoke over the shoulders and a skirt of ‘feathers’ which we see in Red Figure vase paintings and Etruscan tomb paintings. But like many other aspects of this debate, it is hard to trace back before Peter Connolly in the 1970s. People have collected references to linen and leather armour in literature since the 16th century, but for a long time they did not compare it to artwork any more than they compared it to objects in museums. At first this may have been because travelling to collections of art and accurately reproducing them was impractically expensive. Any scholar could see a collection of antiquities, but the one in their patron’s library was not the one in another scholar’s cathedral or a third’s country house, so they could not refer readers to a specific sculpture and expect that they would seek it out in the way they could cite a line of poetry and expect readers to take down another book and read it. Also, the brighter researchers often noticed that many of these passages describe the armour of barbarians: Egyptians, Assyrians, Iberians. John Kinloch Anderson is the first writer who comes to mind who explicitly identified the “linen and leather armour” he saw in Greek texts with the armour with shoulder flaps in Greek sculptures and paintings (Military Theory and Practice in the Age of Xenophon, 1970, pp. 22-23). About a hundred years before, him, a Prussian staff officer named Max Jähns had some different thoughts on this question.
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