Das Boot

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Schleswig. One of the pleasures of the trip was seeing the famous Nydam boat, a thirty-oared galley sunk in a lake around 400 CE. It had apparently been captured in war and was sunk as a sacrifice to the gods in a lake which received sacrifices for several centuries. A Greek would have called it a triakonter, although Germanic ships in the fourth century CE differed from Greek ones in the fifth century BCE in many details.
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Book and Sword

Das Boot

A view along the Nydam ship towards the prow
A view along the Nydam ship towards the prow

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Schleswig. One of the pleasures of the trip was seeing the famous Nydam boat, a thirty-oared galley sunk in a lake around 400 CE. It had apparently been captured in war and was sunk as a sacrifice to the gods in a lake which received sacrifices for several centuries. A Greek would have called it a triakonter, although Germanic ships in the fourth century CE differed from Greek ones in the fifth century BCE in many details.
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Did the Greeks Wear Glued Linen Armour?

A recent scholarly book argues that ancient Greek soldiers wore body armour of many layers of linen glued together. This would be surprising, since most cultures with linen armour sewed it together, but some people are concerned that Greek images of this armour rarely show stitch marks.* The book briefly cites two 19th century articles as evidence that such glued linen armour has been found.** Many curious readers will not be able to follow up on these references, since the necessary journals are hard to obtain outside of a large reference library, and since the articles are in Italian and German. One perk of studying in Innsbruck is that I do have access to the necessary publications, and I can read German if not Italian. I therefore spent a few hours flipping through online databases and back issues of journals with gilded titles on the spines and „königlich und kaiserlich“ in the stamps on the title page. Because many interested people do not have access to these articles, I have decided to reproduce the key passages with an English summary.

The first article describes the contents of an Etruscan tomb at Tarquinia. (It was published as W. Helbig, “Oggetti Trovati nella Tomba Cornetana detta del Guerriero,” Annali dell’Instituto di Corrispondenza Archaeologica 46 (1874) 249-266). The relevant passage seems to be as follows:

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A Comment to Diodorus

Τέννης δ’ ὁ τῆς Σιδῶνος βασιλεὺς προσελάβετο παρ’ Αἰγυπτίων στρατιώτας μισθοφόρους Ἕλληνας τετρακισχιλίους, ὧν ἦν στρατηγὸς Μέντωρ ὁ Ῥόδιος. μετὰ δὲ τούτων καὶ τῶν πολιτικῶν στρατιωτῶν τοῖς προειρημένοις σατράπαις συμβαλὼν ἐνίκησεν καὶ τοὺς πολεμίους ἐξέβαλεν ἐκ τῆς Φοινίκης. And Tennes the king of Sidon got himself from amongst the Egyptians four thousand Greek mercenary soldiers,... Continue reading: A Comment to Diodorus


The Stone Throwers of Onomarchus

Classicists and Assyriologists spend a great deal of time and energy editing ancient texts, debating which version to use, and carefully noting which they have chosen. A debate about the use of catapults in fourth-century BCE Greece has reminded me why this matters.
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Technologies of recordkeeping in Mesopotamian history

Although this is the end of term in Austria, I made time to hear a very exciting talk by Dr. Jens Høyrup of Copenhagen. What was billed as an overview of mathematical and scribal culture turned into a survey of Mesopotamian history from the Agricultural Revolution to the Neo-Assyrian Empire as seen through the lens of the technology of numbers. Høyrup has some provocative views, including the idea that Sumerian is descended from a creole. He also had a good overview of the transition from counting tokens to impressions of tokens to sketches of tokens to cuneiform writing. The first stage of this transition does not seem to have soaked the popular literature, and I will try to find and link a good article on it one of these days. (A famous book is How Writing Came About by Dr. Denise Schmandt-Besserat of Texas).
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The obscurity of a learned language

The book supposes a readership who knows ancient Greek (he translates μύλλω as ‘βινέω’, for example). Recent review of an academic book Note: While some ancient Greek words are untranslatable, βινέω and μύλλω are crudities of the sort with which every language is well-furnished. These days most translators chose to translate rude words with rude... Continue reading: The obscurity of a learned language


The New Hesychius

Some academic books overcome such obstacles that they should be accompanied by trumpets and parades when they come out. Two volumes published by Walter de Gruyter in 2005 and 2009 completed an edition of Hesychius’ lexicon which was begun in 1914 and carried on through two world wars, shortages of money, economic crises, the closing of the original publisher, the death of the original editor, and the illness of his replacement. This edition, in turn, was the descendant of one published in Venice as early as 1514. The editor, M. Musevius, wrote his corrections on top of the original text before lending the manuscript to the printer, and that turned out to be unfortunate because his manuscript was the last one in existence. The manuscript, in turn, had been made circa 1430 and was linked to Hesychius’ own work in the fifth or sixth century by a long process of copying, condensing, and interpolating. The purpose of a scholarly edition is to publish a text which is as close to what Hesychius actually wrote as possible, with a few comments on sources, especially controversial entries, and related texts.
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Im Abendland

Some of my recent reading has reminded me that German has two interesting expressions for “East” and “West” in the sense of two broad cultural and geographical regions. One can speak auf Deutsch of the Abendland and the Morgenland, the land of dawn and the land of twilight. I admire these phrases, which are much... Continue reading: Im Abendland