A pause from blogging for a little while.
The man was about 5 feet 6 inches (1.68m) tall, and suffered from joint disease in his back. At some stage in his life he broke three ribs, perhaps through a fall or violent blow. They healed well, but not in a perfect alignment.
Radiocarbon dating tells us that he probably died between AD 390 and 430. He was in his late 30s or early 40s.
There is a short piece on the exhibition at UKTV.
It would be great to get some more detail on this story. According to Bosnia News, a late Roman structure, has been discovered at Crkvina in Bosnia.
The remains of a large ancient facility dating back to the III-IV century A.D., architectonic fragments, Roman money and Roman glass have been discovered at the location of at near the village of Halapic in Municipality Glamoc.
This discovery was made by the expert team of the Bosnian National Museum headed by Adnan Busuladzic, with assistance from the expert of the Banja Luka Museum, Milka Radoja. The team has been in the field since last Friday and the works should be completed in the next ten days.
Busuladzic said that the exact character of this facility remains unknown, given that the works have not been completed. Additionally, the Roman coins need to be cleaned of corrosion for the purpose of conducting a detailed analysis.
This location is known from before and it has been recorded in archaeological literature, but the very architectonic facility was discovered only now, said Busuladzic.
The area of the Halapic village is known for numerous locations of ancient cults. So far, 13 cult monuments that refer to nine different cults of the Roman Empire have been discovered. However, Busuladzic warned that numerous ancient monuments in the Glamoc area have been destroyed, because they were used as construction material in building houses and other facilities.
The activities in the Glamoc area were funded exclusively by the FBiH Entity Ministry of Culture and Sport.
Representatives of the Bosnian National Museum announced that activities would be continued on several locations during this year, including the Neolithic findings Okoliste in Municipality Visoko, which was regarded as one of the most significant archaeological findings in Europe in 2006 by the distinguished German expert, Johannes Muller of the University in Kiel.
The activities in Okoliste were also supported by the FBiH Entity Ministry of Culture and Sport.
A little more theological than usual, but rather useful. Carl Friedrich Keil und Franz Delitzsch's Biblischer Commentar über das alte Testament has been put online. Files here.
Roman soldiers descended on the Scottish Parliament to encourage MSPs to back an application for the Antonine Wall to gain World Heritage Status.
Scottish Conservative Deputy Leader Murdo Fraser MSP has put forward a motion calling on the parliament to support the application.
He has also called on the Scottish Executive to create a National Roman Centre in Scotland.
The 37-mile wall is the UK's official nomination for World Heritage status.
It is the most northerly walled frontier of the Roman Empire and runs from Bo'ness, near Falkirk, to Old Kilpatrick in West Dunbartonshire.
The Antonine Guard held a display at the parliament's Garden Lobby on Wednesday wearing full Roman gear.
Mr Fraser said: "I want to see The Antonine Wall gain World Heritage status and the creation of a National Roman Centre in Scotland.
"The impact and contribution of the Romans coming to Scotland hundreds of years ago cannot be underestimated.
"I believe that we must protect and preserve our ancient Roman sites in Scotland and use our sites as an education tool to get Scotland's youngsters interested in our past."
He added: "I am positive that if we get World Heritage status for the Antonine Wall and have a National Roman Centre we could eventually have thousands of visitors interested in Scotland's ancient Roman sites."
"I welcome the Antonine Guard coming to the Scottish Parliament and support the important work they carry out in Scotland and abroad."
UK Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell announced in January that the Antonine Wall was the UK's official nomination for World Heritage Status.
Conservation body Unesco, which is responsible for the scheme, will examine the proposal and make a final decision at a future date.
The bid has been supported by five local authorities throughout central and the west of Scotland.
The wall was built in about 140 AD to keep Pictish warriors out of the Roman Empire after the conquest of southern Scotland.
It became a monument to the reign of Emperor Antonius Pius but was abandoned after just a generation, in about 165 AD.
Short piece about continued search for World Heritage Statue for the Antonine Wall:
A bid to have a historic landmark recognised as a World Heritage Site has been backed at the Scottish Parliament.
Tory deputy leader Murdo Fraser lodged a motion supporting a bid by the Antonine Wall for the special status, which has previously been awarded to sites such as the Great Wall of China and the pyramids of Egypt.
The 2,000-year old wall runs for 37 miles between Bo'ness in West Lothian to Old Kilpatrick in West Dunbartonshire and is one of the most significant Roman remains still in existence.
Our friend Adrian Murdoch has written another excellent book, The Last Roman: Romulus Augustulus and the Decline of the West. (Unfortunately, it does not seem to be on the U.S. market yet, so the above links to Amazon UK.)
In his introduction, he writes “It is valid to ask whether one should attempt to write something that purports to be a biography about a character of whom we know so little. The answer has to be yes for three reasons.” As he sees it, the reason are: the human aspect of the drawn-out collapse of the Western empire; a growing popular interest in this period of late antiquity; and to make the case that 476 was important, “The idea of decline had become so contagious by the time Romulus was placed on the throne that it had become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
He certainly attains these aims in this lively written, easy to comprehend book, aimed at persons with a general interest in Roman history. It's a comparatively small one (190 pages in my review copy), but densely packed with information. I highly recommend it. It is also an entertaining read.
Full review here.
“Although I know their names well, I won’t mention them at all…they only lived a short while…and as a result accomplished nothing worth mentioning.” So wrote the Byzantine historian Procopius of Caesarea of the last emperors of Rome. His opinion has been shared by many people ever since, and as a result, the last decade of the Western Empire has been largely ignored outside of academic circles. It is therefore a breath of fresh air to come across a title like ‘The Last Roman’. For in this book, Adrian Murdoch has attempted to write the first popular history of Romulus Augustulus – a difficult job considering, as Murdoch tells us:
“It is not known when he was born ; it is not known when he died; it is not known where he was buried. No speeches, pronouncements or epigrams have survived. There is no hint of his likes or dislikes; there is not hint of sexuality, conventional or otherwise, to add a frision of historical excitement; there is not even any particularly gory violence.”
Some might ask how on earth can this be a biography if we know so little of the man? While others might be put off in the belief that a biography of this type would be dull and lacking in substance. The truth is different. For this is not strictly a biography of one character rather than a kaleidoscope view of the lives of the last western emperors and their generalissimos.
Murdoch starts his work by giving us a short overview of events from the Battle of Adrianople in AD 378 to the arrival of Attila the Hun’s horde on Gallic soil in AD 450. Many characters and events are briefly covered in this section, including Honorius, his general Stilicho and the Gothic leader Alaric. Murdoch believes it’s important to show the failures of the Roman state and the break-up of the empire before he moves on to the crux of his work. Following in the vein of Heather and Ward-Perkins, he dismisses Peter Brown’s ideas on late antiquity and shows the ruin brought on the empire by barbarian tribes. He uses Britain as an example of this, combining the works of Gildas with the latest archaeological excavations to show the extent of the damage caused by rampaging Saxon pirates.
We then move forward to the court of Attila the Hun to meet two people, Attila’s Roman secretary – Orestes and his trusted Scirian lieutenant - Edeco. These two men will play an important part in the tale. We follow their dealings with a Roman embassy through the eyes of Priscus, a Greek diplomat from Constantinople. Priscus writings are among the most interesting of the late Roman period, as they give us an intimate portrayal of the workings of the Hun court, and how the emperor Theodosius II planned on assassinating Attila. The plan was thwarted after Edeco – the would be assassin – revealed the Roman treachery to the Hun king. Attila then sent Orestes to the eastern emperor with a threatening message. An event that would give the secretary an understanding of power and authority - knowledge that would come useful in his later life.
Orestes and Edeco followed Attila as he rampaged through the western empire and after his death, Edeco became the leader of his people, the Scirians, while Orestes disappeared for many years. When he does reappear he has a son: Romulus Augustulus. Although we can never truly be sure what Orestes was up to in these years, Murdoch presents us with some compelling ideas about his whereabouts.
Murdoch turns his attention away from Orestes to the events unfolding in Italy. Ricimer and his successor Gundobad were two powerful figures who overshadowed the rulers of Ravenna; these emperors were in effect puppets to their generals. The author does a good job of explaining the Byzantine politics as the generalissimos try to balance the power between themselves, the puppet emperors and the eastern Roman emperor’s attempt to get Anthemius, his own puppet ruler, on to the Roman throne.
It is through these machinations that Orestes is finally able to place his son in power, thanks largely to his connections to Julius Nepos. Romulus Augustulus, Murdoch tells us, managed to do good works the short while he was emperor. Yet his reign was not to last. Odovacer, head of the palace bodyguard attempted to petition the emperor to give the German foederati farm land in Italy. When the emperor sent an embassy to Pavia to deal with foederati, they reacted violently, plundering the town and setting off a civil war. Within a week Odovacer had subdued Italy and declared himself king. Orestes was executed and Romulus was deposed. Odovacar spared his life as he took pity on the boy. It is one of the ironies of history that Odovacer was the son of Edeco, Orestes old companion.
What became of Romulus? This is where the author attempts some detective work. He comes across some mention of a ‘Romulus’ in a text from North Africa - correspondence between a bishop and his friend. This text was sent to Lucullanum, the place where Romulus was exiled. Could it be him? The author is not convinced, and any other text that mentions men called Romulus from this period almost certainly do not refer to the emperor. Despite these disappointments the author likes to believe that Romulus outlived his enemies, perhaps dying during the reign of Theoderic the Amal – a man whose intriguing reign is given much attention in the last few chapters of the book, along with the contempory events of his reign; namely his restoration of Roman civitas and the later decline in relations between Italians and Goths.
The book’s closing chapter ‘Imitation of Life’ looks at this period in popular culture. As such we are given overviews of German poems, Wagnerian operas, television shows and ‘The Last Legion’, both the Valerio Massimo Manfredi novel and the upcoming film. This chapter is an interesting addition on the themes followed in the book, and it might encourage some readers to seek out the material that’s discussed.
The Last Roman is easily the most readable book on the last years of the Western empire, and it stands as a great introduction to this obscure period. Murdoch’s prose is lucid and, his descriptions are vivid. It is one of the most well written works I’ve read on the Roman Empire in recent times; the author manages to successfully turn what could otherwise be an impenetrable academic work into something that could be easily understood by the layman. The book is well researched, and the addition of excerpts from rare late Roman sources, such as Ennodius’ description of the sack of Pavia in 476, are great additions that will interest those whose main primary sources for the later Roman empire consist of the works of Ammianus Marcellinus.
I highly recommend it to anyone who is curious about this period of Roman history, or would like to learn more about the declining years of the Western Roman Empire.
What is so good about this story in today's Daily Mail "Trafalgar Square skeleton forces historians to rewrite the story of Roman England" is that it was even better when the Times carried it five and a half months ago (as did Bread and Circuses). Anyway, it bears repeating:
For 1,500 years, this skeleton of a wealthy Roman man was buried beneath Trafalgar Square.
Now its discovery is forcing archaeologists to rewrite the history of London.
Until the bones were found, along with jewels and other valuables, it was thought that the Romans had abandoned Londinium around AD400 and the city was virtually desolate until the Saxons arrived in the seventh century.
But the Roman skeleton has been dated to AD410 and it was found surrounded by the graves of rich Saxons.
One had been buried with a pot that has been dated to AD500.
The finds - made during the £36 million redevelopment of St Martin-in-the-Fields church - prove the Romans remained in the city longer than previously thought and the Saxons arrived sooner.
Francis Grew, senior curator at the Museum of London, said: “For the first time we have the beginnings of a link between the Roman city and the Saxon London of the 600s.
“Before, we always believed London collapsed into ruins quite quickly after AD400.
“What I find really quite moving is this Roman symbolises the end of the ancient world and was around just about long enough to see the beginnings of what would become modern London.
“It would have been quite frightening for him because he would have grown up in a world where the Emperor's face was on every coin and Roman officials and soldiers walked the streets.
“By the time he died the first Saxons would have probably started arriving from northern Germany, after centuries of no immigration.
“Coins would have been replaced by barter. He would have felt quite isolated and disconnected.”
Other graves found on the site date from AD600 and appear to be Christian, raising the possibility that St Martin-in-the-Fields was a sacred site for longer than had been thought.
The skeleton, pot and treasures will be on display at the museum from Thursday until 8 August.