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The rebuilding of Cyrene by Hadrian in AD 118/9 (#Hadrian1900)

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Cyrene – Temple of Apollo

Apollo was the patron and foremost divinity of Cyrene, and the temple dedicated to him on the terrace beneath the sacred spring was one of the most important monuments of the ancient city.
© Mohamed Kenawi, Manar al-Athar Photo-Archive, Oxford 2013–, available at http://www.manar-al-athar.ox.ac.uk (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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In AD 115, while Trajan and the majority of the Roman troops were campaigning in Parthia in the East, the diasporic Jews rose against Rome, creating havoc in Cyrenaica, Egypt and Cyprus. The hostilities started in Cyrene and quickly spread to Alexandria, Judaism’s largest city, and resulted not only in great loss of life but also in widespread destruction. In Cyrenaica, the revolt raged all over the country and was characterized by extreme violence and bloodshed. Dio Cassius paints a horrific picture of unrelieved brutality.

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Exploring Hadrian’s Athens

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Hadrian was a dedicated philhellene who admired Greek culture and did his best to be accepted and admired by the Greeks. He visited Greece three times when he was emperor (AD 124/5, 128/9 and 131/2) and he was especially fond of Athens. Pausanias writes that “the Emperor Hadrian generosity to his subjects was bestowed most of all on Athens” whilst Cassius Dio tells about Hadrian’s generosity in a passage referring to his stay: “He granted the Athenians large sums of money, an annual dole of grain, and the whole of Cephallenia”. The philhellenic emperor did all he could to raise Athens to a special position in the Roman Empire and hoped to restore the city to the greatness of its distant past.

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Roman engineering: The Hadrianic aqueduct of Caesarea Maritima, Israel

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Caesarea Maritima is perhaps one of Israel’s most famous attractions. Its ruins are located by the sea-shore of Israel about half way between Tel Aviv and Haifa. It is the site of one of the most important cities of the Roman World, the capital of the province of Judaea. The city was founded between 22 and 10 BC by Herod the Great (37-4 BC) as an urban centre and harbor on the site of the earlier Straton’s Tower. The city has been populated through the late Roman and Byzantine era. Today, Caesarea is a large and beautiful national park and a fascinating place to visit while exploring the Holy Land.

Herod the Great's palace and circus, Caesarea, Israel © Carole Raddato

Herod the Great’s palace and circus, Caesarea
© Carole Raddato

The Judaean port of Caesarea had no reliable source of fresh water when construction on the city began around 22 BC. King Herod commissioned a raised aqueduct to deliver water from the springs near Shuni, 16 kilometers north-east of Caesarea Maritima. Today, the most impressive part of the Herodian aqueduct (known as the high-level aqueduct I) can be seen on the beach of Caesarea, north of the ancient city.

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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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