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Goths vs. Greeks: Epic Ancient Battle Revealed

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Another  Thermopylae[artwork by Igor Dzis]

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Republication from Live Science

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By Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor

Fragments of an ancient Greek text telling of an invasion of Greece by the Goths during the third century A.D. have been discovered in the Austrian National Library. The text includes a battle fought at the pass of Thermopylae.

Researchers used spectral imaging to enhance the fragments, making it possible to read them. The analysis suggests the fragments were copied in the 11th century A.D. and are from a text that was written in the third-century A.D. by an Athens writer named Dexippus.  During Dexippus’ life, Greece (part of the Roman Empire) and Rome struggled to repel a series of Gothic invasions.

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Another Battle of Thermopylae found in palimpsest

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Republication from Τhe History blog

GermanicsGermanic warriors battling Romans (Teutoburg Forest). In my view, the Greek combatants who confronted them would have been armed like the earlier Roman auxilia of the 2nd century AD (in the mid-3rd century AD there were no longer auxilia from the Empire’s populace because they were all citizens) bearing chain mail armour, scuta (thyreos-shields in Greek) and heavy Roman swords but with helmets of traditional Hellenic types (image and comment added by periklisdeligiannis.wordpress.com)

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The leaves of books in the Middle Ages were made of parchment and vellum, created from animal skins in an expensive and time-consuming craft. It was so costly that scribes often recycled pages from earlier books, removing the ink to create a blank sheet. In the early Middle Ages, the ink was washed off and over time the shadow of former writing reappeared like a pentimento in a painting. In the later Middle Ages, they used pumice powder to scrape the ink away for good.

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Dutch archaeologists discover the location of Caesar’s battle and massacre on the Tencteri and Usipetes tribes

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Republication from the VU University of Amsterdam

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Hundreds of skulls and other bones, considered to belong to the massacred Germanics were found in the excavated location (credit: VU University of Amsterdam).

VU archaeologists discover location of historic battle fought by Caesar in Dutch river area

Earliest known battle on Dutch soil.

At a press conference held on Friday 11 December in the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam, archaeologist Nico Roymans from the VU Amsterdam announced a discovery that is truly unique for Dutch archaeology: the location where the Roman general and statesman Julius Caesar massacred two Germanic tribes in the year 55 BC. The location of this battle, which Caesar wrote about in detail in Book IV of his De Bello Gallico, was unknown to date. It is the earliest known battle on Dutch soil. The conclusions are based on a combination of historical, archaeological, and geochemical data.

Skeletal remains, swords and spearheads
It is the first time that the presence of Caesar and his troops in Dutch territory has been explicitly proven. The finds from this battle include large numbers of skeletal remains, swords, spearheads, and a helmet. The two Germanic tribes, the Tencteri and the Usipetes, originated in the area east of the Rhine and had explicitly appealed to Caesar for asylum. Caesar rejected this request for asylum and ordered his troops to destroy the tribes by violent means. Nowadays, we would label such action genocide.
During the press conference, Roymans described in detail the discoveries made in Kessel (North Brabant) and their historical significance. He also showed weapons and skeletal remains from this battle.

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The face of mock battles – images of Roman cavalry helmets from Germania Inferior

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I recently resumed my travels on the Limes Germanicus and headed north along Rome’s frontier in the Roman province of Germania Inferior. The Lower Germanic Limes extended from the North Sea at Katwijk in the Netherlands to Bonna along the Lower Rhine. Numerous museums with impressive collections of Roman artefacts can be found by the Limes road. Among the masterpieces on display are the face mask helmets, also called cavalry sports helmets.

One such helmet was found at the site of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, where three Roman legions were wiped out by the Germanic tribes in 9 AD. This face mask originally belonged to a helmet of a Roman cavalry man. It is composed of an iron basis and sheet-silver applied to the surface. After the battle the valuable sheet-silver was cut off and hastily taken by Germanic ponderers.

Kalkriese face mask for Roman cavalry helmet, Museum und Park Kalkriese, Germany © Carole Raddato

Kalkriese face mask for Roman cavalry helmet, Museum und Park Kalkriese (Germany)
© Carole Raddato

According to Arrian of Nicomedia, a Roman provincial governor and a close friend of Hadrian, face mask helmets were used in cavalry parades and sporting mock battles called “hippika gymnasia”. Parades or tournaments played an important part in maintaining unit morale and fighting effectiveness. They took place on a parade ground situated outside a fort and involved the cavalry practicing manoeuvring and the handling of weapons such as javelins and spears (Fields, Nic; Hook, Adam. Roman auxiliary cavalryman: AD 14-193).

Calvary helmets were made from a variety of metals and alloys, often from gold-coloured alloys or iron covered with tin. They were decorated with embossed reliefs and engravings depicting the war god Mars and other divine and semi-divine figures associated with the military.

Below are some examples of face mask helmets to be found in the museums of Germania Inferior.

The Nijmegen cavalry helmet, an iron mask sheathed in bronze and silver discovered in 1915 on the left bank of the Waal river near Nijmegen, second half of the first century, Museum het Valkhof, Nijmegen (Netherlands) © Carole Raddato

The Nijmegen cavalry helmet, second half of the first century, Museum het Valkhof, Nijmegen (The Netherlands)
© Carole Raddato

The Nijmegen helmet above is a cavalry display helmet that was found in the gravel on the left bank of the Waal river south of Nijmegen in 1915. It dates to the 1st century A.D., probably the latter half; the busts are Flavian in style, so from between 69 and 96 A.D.

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