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Posts Tagged ‘Rome’

“Imperium sine fine”, they termed their empire: “dominion without limit.” Well, the Goths, Huns, Vandals and Moors had something to say about that. But Philip Parker’s new book, The Empire Stops Here, has a most intriguing concept:

to travel the entire length of what the Romans themselves termed the “limes”, the frontier zone of their empire. As The Guardian reviews it, the result was a journey epic enough to satisfy even a Virgil. As Parker sums it up, with justifiable pride, “I have encountered more than five centuries of Roman history, in some 21 modern countries, covering a range of climactic variations from a snowstorm in Switzerland to a sandstorm at 45 Centigrade in Egypt’s Dakhleh Oasis, and have covered more than 20,000 kilometres on the ground.”Yet his book is far from being a conventional travelogue. Once the introduction is done, the first person barely intrudes. Neither a work of history, nor a scholarly gazetteer, nor a guide, but rather a blend of all three, The Empire Stops Here is a book in which weather-beaten masonry serves to crowd out human beings, and in which the people who most truly come alive are those who have been dead for 2,000-odd years.

Read more from The Guardian here.

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SCIENCE-US-BRITAIN-ROMAN-FINDIt’s called the “millefiori” (“a thousand flowers”) dish, and it’s “a miracle to have survived,” according to archaeologists in London.

Dating from the 2nd or 3rd century AD, and acquired by a citizen of the ancient Roman outpost of Londinium, it is made of hundreds of mosaic tiles shaped like petals, blue with white bordering. And nothing like it has ever been found intact in the Western Roman Empire.

The artifact was found 2.5 to 3 meters (yards) down at a sprawling ancient cemetery in Aldgate, east London, just beyond the old city walls. Romans were required by law to bury their dead outside the city gates.

It formed part of a cache of grave goods found close to a wooden container holding the ashes of a probably wealthy Roman citizen of Londinium.

Other artifacts recovered with the bowl included ceramic pottery and glass flasks which once contained perfumed oil used to anoint the body.

<Read more here>

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corinthian-iiCruisecritic.com has published a review of a recent Travel Dynamics International cruise taken by user pisque, who joined us for a journey from Rome to Istanbul aboard the Corinthian II.

Here are some excerpts:

Travel Dynamics International has it all together. This is small-ship cruising designed for a full intellectual barrage. No casino and night club fru-fru….just a great immersion into the world of ancient artifacts and thought.

We heard about this trip via an opera association. It had all the places we wanted to see, a full lecture format, and we wanted to try a smaller vessel….we were amply rewarded…

Fellow passengers were fascinating. Some were experts in Greco-Roman history, others ran the gamut from financial tycoons to physicists…

Local excursions were terrific, with local guides at each port, commodious buses, with two lunches at local places included, with one in Sicily being exceptional, and another in Santorini being adequate.

The staff put together a dinner by candlelight in Ephesus, with local cuisine equal to the ships great dinning room, together with a string ensemble providing music…This was a night to remember.

Disembarkation and transfers were handled with aplomb. We opted for a two night extension in Istanbul. The Hotel was luxurious, and again the tour buses and guide were outstanding.

I would not hesitate to book a cruise with this company in the future.

Read the full review here.

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In October of 2009, Travel Dynamics International will undertake a strikingly original cruise called Remarkable Women of Antiquity and their Times. In it, we’ll be traveling into Syria, to the splendid ruins of Palmyra, to have a look at the reign of Queen Zenobia.

Palmyra? Zenobia?
What’s that? Who’s she?

Shame on you. Clearly you’ve not recently delved into Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Granted, not many of us these days have time for a ramble through a three-volume, 2700-page epic filled with lots of obscure names, arch diction, and an occasionally tedious rendering of centuries of appalling, unmitigated slaughter. But, hey, that’s what we at the TDI blog are here for. Here are the tasty bits for your robust historical delectation, to whet your wanderlust. Here’s the story of Palmyra and Queen Zenobia, which takes place in the middle of the 3rd century A.D. It’s pretty good prose, right?

Amid the barren deserts of Arabia a few cultivated spots rise like islands out of the sandy ocean. Even the name of…Palmyra, by its signification in the Syriac as well as in the Latin language, denoted the multitude of palm-trees which afforded shade and verdure to that temperate region. The air was pure, and the soil, watered by some invaluable springs, was capable of producing fruits as well as corn. A place possessed of such singular advantages, and situated at a convenient distance between the Gulf of Persia and the Mediterranean, was soon frequented by the caravans which conveyed to the nations of Europe a considerable part of the rich commodities of India. Palmyra insensibly increased into an opulent and independent city, and, connecting the Roman and the Parthian monarchies by the mutual benefits of commerce, was suffered to observe an humble neutrality, till at length, after the victories of Trajan, the little republic sunk into the bosom of Rome, and flourished more than one hundred and fifty years in the subordinate though honourable rank of a colony. It was during that peaceful period, if we may judge by a few remaining inscriptions, that the wealthy Palmyrenians constructed those temples, palaces, and porticos of Grecian architecture, whose ruins, scattered over an extent of several miles, have deserved the curiosity of our travellers. The elevation of Odenahus and Zenobia appeared to reflect new splendour on their country, and Palmyra, for a while, stood forth the rival of Rome; but the competition was fatal, and ages of prosperity were sacrificed to a moment of glory.

Continue below the fold to read The Grand Yet Lamentable History of Queen Zenobia, who defied the powerfully potent purple-garbed panache of the Roman Emperor Aurelian. Note, this is Edward Gibbon we’re talking about here, who’s a man, and Englishman, and a 19th-century Englishman to boot. So we earnestly entreat you to read any perceived sexist, classist, racial, nationalistic, or any other presumptions as the author’s and NOT our own. Hey. Give him a break. He’s just a man.

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Roman liberty coin, 3rd century ADThe BBC News Magazine would like us to remember that times of economic difficulty are cyclical, and helpfully notes some penny-pinching periods of the distant past. It notes England of the 1440s, still recovering from the Black Death; the economic competition and workhouses of the 1830s and ’40s, when an onslaught of imports caught England unawares; and this cautionary lesson about inflation from Rome, circa 270 AD:

In the third century AD the Roman Empire was in a bit of mess.

A bad year came in 260 when the Emperor Valerian died in Persian captivity after a period of war in what is now Iraq. The empire effectively split into three and there were numerous mini-crises.

By 274, the Emperor Aurelian was determined to shore up stability, with a reform of the silver coinage high on his manifesto. Sadly, says Dominic Rathbone, professor of ancient history at King’s College London, the result was chronic inflation.

“He introduced a new silver coin but retariffed it. They would only accept the new coins back [as taxes].”

In effect, people were receiving their incomes in old debased coins, but were being asked to pay their taxes in the new improved coinage, a major change. While those who had their money in silver and gold bullion could remain relatively immune to the inflation, anyone in the empire who dealt in mere bronze or silver coinage suffered badly. Soldiers were among those worst affected.

And at the time, the mechanics of economics would not have been understood by many. Often a moral aspect would be factored into equations.

“There was a vague realisation that if you suddenly minted a lot of money interest rates would fall. Not only was it economically bad but it was morally bad to use debased silver coins.”

The problems dissipated under the Emperor Diocletian but were not finally resolved until the issue of the gold “solidus” coin under the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. The lesson learned was that coinage was something that had to be handled very carefully for the sake of the whole empire.

“Fundamentally it was the government stopping messing about with the coinage,” says Prof Rathbone.

You can keep your silver, and gold, and copper, and bronze safely stowed aboard Travel Dynamics International’s voyage from Rome to Greece — all excursions are included.

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TDI’s textual archaeologists have been digging, and they have unearthed a rare find: an epistle by the writer Mary Lee Settle on the lure of ancient cities. We think it captures the essence of where we travel, why we travel, and how we travel, and it bears quoting in full. She writes:

How many miles to Babylon
Three score and ten
Can I get there by candlelight?
Aye, and back again.

FROM THE NURSERY RHYMES THROUGH the fairy tales and into the yearning to travel that comes after – the city is there, the one that has caught the rhythms of dreams and silence. I can go. I can find it – Baghdad, Ecbatana, the Cities of the Plain, Troy and Carthage and Trebizond and Petra and Lhasa -whatever legendary city has been in my mind and sometimes in my dreams since childhood. I must unearth it, or crawl through labyrinths, or dive, or go by donkey, or simply sit and dream.

A legend is a story that no one can take away from you. It is secret. It must be as far away in place as Shangri-La, as deep in time past as the dreams of Miniver Cheevy and in time future as adolescent hopes – neither mundane here nor mundane now. It is a place to be discovered on one’s own, whether in reality, as Heinrich Schliemann did when he followed his own dream to the Troad, or in poetry. (more…)

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