The “Gate to Hell” Unearthed

Italian scientists have reportedly found the “Gate to Hell” among ancient ruins in southwestern Turkey. The discovery was recently announced at an archeology conference in Istanbul, Turkey, according to Discovery News. Commonly called “Pluto’s Gate,” or Plutonium in Latin, the cave was understood to be the portal to the underworld in Greek and Roman mythology, with its entrance filled with lethal vapors. According to the discovery team’s head, Francesco D’Andria, this extraordinary finding helps to confirm and clarify what we know from ancient literary and historic source material.

Plutonium is documented in the description of ancient Hierapolis within Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites (1976), which notes:

Adjoining the temple on the SE is the Plutoneion, which constituted the city’s chief claim to fame. It was described by Strabo (629-30) as an orifice in a ridge of the hillside, in front of which was a fenced enclosure filled with thick mist immediately fatal to any who entered except the eunuchs of Kybele. The Plutoneion was mentioned and described later by numerous ancient writers, in particular Dio Cassius (68.27), who observed that an auditorium had been erected around it, and Damascius ap. Photius (Bibl. 344f), who recorded a visit by a certain doctor Asclepiodotus about A.D. 500; he mentioned the hot stream inside the cavern and located it under the Temple of Apollo. There is, in fact, immediately below the sidewall of the temple in a shelf of the hillside, a roofed chamber 3 m square, at the back of which is a deep cleft in the rock filled with a fast-flowing stream of hot water heavily charged with a sharp-smelling gas. In front is a paved court, from which the gas emerges in several places through cracks in the floor. The mist mentioned by Strabo is not observable now. The gas was kept out of the temple itself by allowing it to escape through gaps left between the blocks of the sidewalls.

D’Andria and his team are currently creating a digital reconstruction of the ancient site. In the meantime, we thought it might be useful to brush up on our own ancient world knowledge. Here’s a quick reading list to get you going:

k235When They Severed Earth from Sky: How the Human Mind Shapes Myth
Elizabeth Wayland Barber & Paul T. Barber
Check out Chapter 1

Myth and History in Ancient Greece: The Symbolic Creation of a Colony
Claude Calame, Translated by Daniel W. Berman
Read Chapter 1

The Mythic Image
Joseph Campbell
One of Princeton University Press’s Notable Centenary Titles

k6773Apocalypse: Earthquakes, Archaeology, and the Wrath of God
Amos Nur, With Dawn Burgess
Here’s the Introduction

Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World
Edited by Richard J. A. Talbert
Winner of the 2000 Association of American Publishers Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Multivolume Reference Work in the Humanities
One of Princeton University Press’s Notable Centenary Titles

Beware the Ides of March!

Marcus Tullius Cicero, Rome’s greatest statesman and orator, was elected to the Roman Republic’s highest office at a time when his beloved country was threatened by power-hungry politicians, dire economic troubles, foreign turmoil, and political parties that refused to work together. What did he have to say of the death of Caesar on the Ides of March, 44 B.C.? Here’s an excerpt from Cicero’s How to Run a Country on Tyranny:

People submit themselves to the authority and power of another person for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they do it because of goodwill or gratitude for favor shown to them. Sometimes they do it because of the dignity of a person or because they hope to profit from the act. Some people subordinate themselves fearing that if they don’t, the other person will make them submit anyway. Sometimes people surrender their freedom because of gifts or promises. Finally, as has so often been the case in our own country, people submit to the power of another because of outright bribes.

The best way for a man to gain authority over others and maintain it is through genuine affection. The worst way, however, is through fear. Wise Ennius once said: “People hate the man they fear—and whomever they hate, they want to see dead.” Just recently we’ve learned, as if we didn’t know it already, that no amount of power can stand up to the hatred of the people. The death of Caesar, who ruled the state through armed force (and whose legacy still rules us) shows better than anything the terrible price paid by all tyrants. You will have a difficult time finding any despot who doesn’t end up like him. I say it again, using fear to maintain power simply doesn’t work. But the leader who keeps the goodwill of his people is secure.

Those rulers who wish to keep their subjects under control by force will have to use brutal methods, just as a master must when dealing with rebellious slaves. Whoever tries to govern a country through fear is quite mad. For no matter how much a tyrant might try to overturn the law and crush the spirit of freedom, sooner or later it will rise up again either through public outrage or the ballot box. Freedom suppressed and risen again bites with sharper teeth than if it had never been lost. Therefore remember what is true always and everywhere and what is the strongest support of prosperity and power, namely that kindness is stronger than fear. That is the best rule for governing a country and for leading one’s own life.

Eager to read more? Check out Philip Freeman’s Introduction to How to Run a Country. You might also want to have a look at How to Win an Election, Quintus Tullius Cicero’s no-nonsense advice on running a successful campaign for his brother Marcus. Here’s the Introduction.

Looking Back at 2012 “Through the Eye of a Needle”

As we come to the end of the holiday season and are almost to the New Year, we take the time to reflect on the magnum opus of the historian of late antiquity Peter Brown: Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD.

2012 has seen reviews of Brown’s important book in the New Republic, the New York Review of Books, and in the UK in BBC History Magazine, The Guardian, The Literary Review, and The Times Literary Supplement, to list just a few.

Why the interest in how Christianity and conceptions of wealth changed over a period of a two hundred years a few millenia ago? With ongoing discussions about how much each of us owes society (whether we’re talking holiday gifts or taxes and the so-called fiscal cliff), the issues around giving and our beliefs couldn’t be more timely–and it certainly can’t hurt that Brown is the top scholar to draw connections between the ancient past and today. As Glen W. Bowersock writes in the New Republic:

It is exciting to watch a historian who has already written so extensively on Late Antiquity absorb so much new scholarship, revise his old reviews, and re-imagine the world we thought we knew from him. . . . Through the Eye of a Needle is a tremendous achievement, even for a scholar who has already achieved so much. Its range is as vast as its originality, and readers will find everywhere the kinds of memorable aperçus and turns of phrase for which its author is deservedly famous. . . . There can be no doubt that we are in the presence of a historian and teacher of genius.

In his piece “A Masterpiece on the Rise of Christianity” in the New York Review of Books, Garry Wills (who also selected the title as his book of the year in the Chicago Tribune) says:

To compare it with earlier surveys of this period is to move from the X-ray to the cinema….Every page is full of information and argument, and savoring one’s way through the book is an education. It is a privilege to live in an age that could produce such a masterpiece of the historical literature.

Writing in his five-star online review at Christianity Today, Peter Leithart affectionately calls the book “deliriously complicated,” and goes on to write:

As usual, Brown leaves no stone unturned in his search for insight and evidence. … He paints a colorful social setting for early church debates about theology and ethics without becoming reductively sociological, and often overturns accepted mytho-history in the process. He quietly draws on contemporary theory but typically lets ancients speak for themselves because his aim is to introduce us to an exotic world. Through it all, he focuses on the masses of details by treating attitudes, beliefs, and practices about wealth as a ‘stethoscope’ to hear the heartbeat of late Roman and early Christian civilization. … Brown has captured the rough texture of real history. It is testimony to the success of Brown’s subtle, provocative, and beautifully written book.

Across the pond, Tom Holland champions Peter Brown and the book in History Today, BBC History Magazine, and Twitter. In History Today, Holland calls Brown the “greatest living historian of late antiquity.” He goes on in BBC History Magazine:

Through the Eye of a Needle is the crowning masterpiece of Peter Brown, the great historian who virtually invented late antiquity as a periodisation. The book’s theme might seem specialised: the evolution of attitudes towards wealth in the last century and a half of the Roman empire in the west, and the century that followed its collapse. In reality, like so many of Brown’s books, it gives us a world vivid with colour and alive with a symphony of voices. It is not only the most compassionate study of late antiquity in the west ever written, but also a profoundly subtle meditation on our own tempestuous relationship with money.

Meanwhile, Peter Thornemann of the Times Literary Supplement calls it “[O]utstanding. . . . Brown lays before us a vast panorama of the entire culture and society of the late Roman west.” And at The Guardian, Tim Whitmarsh writes,”His sparkling prose, laced with humour and humanity, brings his subjects to life with an uncommon sympathy and feeling for their situation.”

Through the Eye of the Needle has also been selected as a best book of the year at the Institute of Public Affairs blog, among others. Doubtless, the interest in the origins of how society balances faith and finances will continue well into 2013 and we would do well to heed the fascinating lessons of Brown’s much-lauded work.

To learn more about the author and his latest book:

bookjacket

Through the Eye of a Needle
Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD
By Peter Brown

Through the Eye of a Needle and Rethinking the Other in Antiquity are selected as Cambridge Heffer’s Classic Books of 2012

Through the Eye of a Needle:
Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD

Peter Brown

Peter Brown examines the rise of the church through the lens of money and the challenges it posed to an institution that espoused the virtue of poverty and called avarice the root of all evil. Drawing on the writings of major Christian thinkers such as Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome, Brown examines the controversies and changing attitudes toward money caused by the influx of new wealth into church coffers, and describes the spectacular acts of divestment by rich donors and their growing influence in an empire beset with crisis. He shows how the use of wealth for the care of the poor competed with older forms of philanthropy deeply rooted in the Roman world, and sheds light on the ordinary people who gave away their money in hopes of treasure in heaven.

“To compare it with earlier surveys of this period is to move from the X-ray to the cinema. . . . Every page is full of information and argument, and savoring one’s way through the book is an education. It is a privilege to live in an age that could produce such a masterpiece of the historical literature.”–Gary Wills, New York Review of Books

 

bookjacketRethinking the Other in Antiquity

Erich S. Gruen

Gruen shows how the ancients incorporated the traditions of foreign nations, and imagined blood ties and associations with distant cultures through myth, legend, and fictive histories. He looks at a host of creative tales, including those describing the founding of Thebes by the Phoenician Cadmus, Rome’s embrace of Trojan and Arcadian origins, and Abraham as ancestor to the Spartans. Gruen gives in-depth readings of major texts by Aeschylus, Herodotus, Xenophon, Plutarch, Julius Caesar, Tacitus, and others, in addition to portions of the Hebrew Bible, revealing how they offer richly nuanced portraits of the alien that go well beyond stereotypes and caricature.

Providing extraordinary insight into the ancient world, this controversial book explores how ancient attitudes toward the Other often expressed mutuality and connection, and not simply contrast and alienation.

“[T]he range of research, and the depth of thought, are extraordinary. Gruen has taken on a massively important subject, and he has brought a genuinely new perspective to the scholarly conversation.”–Emily Wilson, New Republic

This Week’s Book Giveaway

Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD
by Peter Brown

“Every page is full of information and argument, and savoring one’s way through the book is an education. It is a privilege to live in an age that could produce such a masterpiece of the historical literature.”
—Gary Wills, New York Review of Books

Jesus taught his followers that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Yet by the fall of Rome, the church was becoming rich beyond measure. Through the Eye of a Needle is a sweeping intellectual and social history of the vexing problem of wealth in Christianity in the waning days of the Roman Empire, written by the world’s foremost scholar of late antiquity.

Peter Brown examines the rise of the church through the lens of money and the challenges it posed to an institution that espoused the virtue of poverty and called avarice the root of all evil. Drawing on the writings of major Christian thinkers such as Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome, Brown examines the controversies and changing attitudes toward money caused by the influx of new wealth into church coffers, and describes the spectacular acts of divestment by rich donors and their growing influence in an empire beset with crisis. He shows how the use of wealth for the care of the poor competed with older forms of philanthropy deeply rooted in the Roman world, and sheds light on the ordinary people who gave away their money in hopes of treasure in heaven.

Through the Eye of a Needle challenges the widely held notion that Christianity’s growing wealth sapped Rome of its ability to resist the barbarian invasions, and offers a fresh perspective on the social history of the church in late antiquity.

The random draw for this book with be Friday 9/28 at 11 am EST. Be sure to like us on Facebook if you haven’t already to be entered to win!

BOOK FACT FRIDAY

FACT: “From the Middle Bronze Age, when they first became relatively common, swords were a standard accouterment in well-outfitted men’s graves; graves, in other words, that contained other special kinds of objects, such as feasting vessels, wheeled vehicles, and gold ornaments. A sword can thus be seen as a standard part of the elite man’s outfit from the middle of the second millennium BC until the seventh and eighth centuries AD, when the practice of outfitting graves with goods gradually declined in much of Europe. Swords almost never occur in otherwise ‘poor’ graves, and it is unusual to find a wealthy man’s grave that does not have a sword (or, during the sixth and early fifth centuries BC, a dagger).”

How Ancient Europeans Saw the World: Vision, Patterns, and the Shaping of the Mind in Prehistoric Times
by Peter S. Wells

The peoples who inhabited Europe during the two millennia before the Roman conquests had established urban centers, large-scale production of goods such as pottery and iron tools, a money economy, and elaborate rituals and ceremonies. Yet as Peter Wells argues here, the visual world of these late prehistoric communities was profoundly different from those of ancient Rome’s literate civilization and today’s industrialized societies. Drawing on startling new research in neuroscience and cognitive psychology, Wells reconstructs how the peoples of pre-Roman Europe saw the world and their place in it. He sheds new light on how they communicated their thoughts, feelings, and visual perceptions through the everyday tools they shaped, the pottery and metal ornaments they decorated, and the arrangements of objects they made in their ritual places—and how these forms and patterns in turn shaped their experience.

How Ancient Europeans Saw the World offers a completely new approach to the study of Bronze Age and Iron Age Europe, and represents a major challenge to existing views about prehistoric cultures. The book demonstrates why we cannot interpret the structures that Europe’s pre-Roman inhabitants built in the landscape, the ways they arranged their settlements and burial sites, or the complex patterning of their art on the basis of what these things look like to us. Rather, we must view these objects and visual patterns as they were meant to be seen by the ancient peoples who fashioned them.

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9831.pdf

BOOK FACT FRIDAY

FACT: “By 4300-4200 BCE Old Europe was at its peak. The Varna cemetery in eastern Bulgaria had the most ostentatious funerals in the world, richer than anything of the same age in the Near East. Among the 281 graves at Varna, 61 (22%) contained more than three thousand golden objects together weighing 6 kg (13.2 lb). Two thousand of these were found in just four graves (1, 4, 36, and 43).”

The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World
by David W. Anthony

Roughly half the world’s population speaks languages derived from a shared linguistic source known as Proto-Indo-European. But who were the early speakers of this ancient mother tongue, and how did they manage to spread it around the globe? Until now their identity has remained a tantalizing mystery to linguists, archaeologists, and even Nazis seeking the roots of the Aryan race. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language lifts the veil that has long shrouded these original Indo-European speakers, and reveals how their domestication of horses and use of the wheel spread language and transformed civilization.

Linking prehistoric archaeological remains with the development of language, David Anthony identifies the prehistoric peoples of central Eurasia’s steppe grasslands as the original speakers of Proto-Indo-European, and shows how their innovative use of the ox wagon, horseback riding, and the warrior’s chariot turned the Eurasian steppes into a thriving transcontinental corridor of communication, commerce, and cultural exchange. He explains how they spread their traditions and gave rise to important advances in copper mining, warfare, and patron-client political institutions, thereby ushering in an era of vibrant social change. Anthony also describes his fascinating discovery of how the wear from bits on ancient horse teeth reveals the origins of horseback riding.

The Horse, the Wheel, and Language solves a puzzle that has vexed scholars for two centuries—the source of the Indo-European languages and English—and recovers a magnificent and influential civilization from the past.

“[A]uthoritative . . . “—John Noble Wilford, New York Times

“A thorough look at the cutting edge of anthropology, Anthony’s book is a fascinating look into the origins of modern man.”—Publishers Weekly (Online Reviews Annex)

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s8488.pdf

Nomads and Networks opens at NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World

The exhibit for Nomads and Networks: The Ancient Art and Culture of Kazakhstan, just opened at NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, and I was excited to see The New York Times piece by John Noble Wilford on the exhibition, which makes mention of our gorgeous catalogue, featured on the front page of today’s Science Times.

There was also a nice write-up on the exhibition in the Wall Street Journal last week.

Nomads and Networks is the first U.S. exhibition to offer a comprehensive overview of the nomadic culture of the peoples of eastern Kazakhstan’s Altai and Tianshan regions from around the eighth to first centuries bce. The catalogue is available for sale at the exhibit, which will run until June 3, 2012. Admission is free, and according to their website, a free guided tour is offered on Fridays at 6pm. Check it out if you’re in the neighborhood.

 

BOOK FACT FRIDAY

FACT: “For much of its history Memphis was the first city of Egypt. Founded shortly before 3000 b.c., it was the Old Kingdom capital of the country from the time of the union of the two lands, serving as royal residence from the early second dynasty (from c. 2890 to 2173 b.c.). In a nodal position some 40 kilometers south of the Delta apex, Memphis lay at a key point on the Nile, the main artery of the country.”

Memphis Under the Ptolemies: Second Edition
by Dorothy J. Thompson

Drawing on archaeological findings and an unusual combination of Greek and Egyptian evidence, Dorothy Thompson examines the economic life and multicultural society of the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis in the era between Alexander and Augustus. Now thoroughly revised and updated, this masterful account is essential reading for anyone interested in ancient Egypt or the Hellenistic world.

The relationship of the native population with the Greek-speaking immigrants is illustrated in Thompson’s analysis of the position of Memphite priests within the Ptolemaic state. Egyptians continued to control mummification and the cult of the dead; the undertakers of the Memphite necropolis were barely touched by things Greek. The cult of the living Apis bull also remained primarily Egyptian; yet on death the bull, deified as Osorapis, became Sarapis for the Greeks. Within this god’s sacred enclosure, the Sarapieion, is found a strange amalgam of Greek and Egyptian cultures.

“[A] masterful analysis of the surviving evidence for ancient Memphis.”—John F. Oates, American Journal of Philology

“[A] book of utmost importance to all readers interested in ancient civilizations. . . . Thompson’s concentration on the Hellenistic period provides a penetrating study of all aspects of this city from the time of Alexander to Augustus.”—C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, Choice

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9703.pdf

New Ancient World Catalog

We invite you to check out our new 2012 ancient world catalog at:
http://press.princeton.edu/catalogs/ancient12.pdf

New titles include Quintus Cicero’s How to Win an Election, Simon Goldhill’s Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity, Melissa Lane’s Eco-Reupblic, Harriet Flower’s Roman Republics, John Haywood’s The New Atlas of World History, and more.

We’re at the AIA and APA joint meeting, happening now in Philadelphia. Stop by and visit us at booth #505.

This Week’s Book Giveaway

This week’s book giveaway is Rome: Day One by Andrea Carandini, translated by Stephen Sartarelli.

Andrea Carandini’s archaeological discoveries and controversial theories about ancient Rome have made international headlines over the past few decades. In this book, he presents his most important findings and ideas, including the argument that there really was a Romulus—a first king of Rome—who founded the city in the mid-eighth century BC, making it the world’s first city-state, as well as its most influential. Rome: Day One makes a powerful and provocative case that Rome was established in a one-day ceremony, and that Rome’s first day was also Western civilization’s.

Historians tell us that there is no more reason to believe that Rome was actually established by Romulus than there is to believe that he was suckled by a she-wolf. But Carandini, drawing on his own excavations as well as historical and literary sources, argues that the core of Rome’s founding myth is not purely mythical. In this illustrated account, he makes the case that a king whose name might have been Romulus founded Rome one April 21st in the mid-eighth century BC, most likely in a ceremony in which a white bull and cow pulled a plow to trace the position of a wall marking the blessed soil of the new city. This ceremony establishing the Palatine Wall, which Carandini discovered, inaugurated the political life of a city that, through its later empire, would influence much of the world.

Uncovering the birth of a city that gave birth to a world, Rome: Day One reveals as never before a truly epochal event.

“Dateline Rome, April 21, 753 BC. Andrea Carandini, archaeologist extraordinary, burrows down through thirteen meters of fill to hit pay dirt—Day 1 of Urbs Roma. What could be more exciting! History and archaeology rub shoulders with Freudian psychology as Carandini, a native of Rome, takes us on an enthralling guided tour through the material and written sources for the primal moment of the City that would create a World, our world. Urbi et Orbi, indeed.”—Paul Cartledge, University of Cambridge

The random draw for this book with be Friday 9/30 at 3 pm EST. Be sure to “Like” us on Facebook if you haven’t already to be entered to win!

BOOK FACT FRIDAY

FACT: “Before 775/750 BC, which is the space of time considered by excavators to be the most likely period in which Rome was founded, there were no cities or states in the Mediter­ranean of a more or less constitutional character. From 775/750 BC to the fifth–sixth centuries AD, in the western Mediterranean, and much later in the eastern Mediterranean, a world based on the ‘ancient’ city-states was created—and then swallowed up by the Roman Empire. After the period of decadence of the Western cities between the fifth–sixth and tenth–eleventh centuries ad, during which protohistory seems to revive, the cities blossomed anew, never to fall again into decadence. A number of these cities achieved a degree of regional prominence, while others became centers and me­tropolises of large states.”

Rome: Day One by Andrea Carandini
Translated by Stephen Sartarelli

Andrea Carandini’s archaeological discoveries and controversial theories about ancient Rome have made international headlines over the past few decades. In this book, he presents his most important findings and ideas, including the argument that there really was a Romulus—a first king of Rome—who founded the city in the mid-eighth century BC, making it the world’s first city-state, as well as its most influential. Rome: Day One makes a powerful and provocative case that Rome was established in a one-day ceremony, and that Rome’s first day was also Western civilization’s.

Historians tell us that there is no more reason to believe that Rome was actually established by Romulus than there is to believe that he was suckled by a she-wolf. But Carandini, drawing on his own excavations as well as historical and literary sources, argues that the core of Rome’s founding myth is not purely mythical. In this illustrated account, he makes the case that a king whose name might have been Romulus founded Rome one April 21st in the mid-eighth century BC, most likely in a ceremony in which a white bull and cow pulled a plow to trace the position of a wall marking the blessed soil of the new city. This ceremony establishing the Palatine Wall, which Carandini discovered, inaugurated the political life of a city that, through its later empire, would influence much of the world.

Uncovering the birth of a city that gave birth to a world, Rome: Day One reveals as never before a truly epochal event.

“It has been assumed generally that the traditional founding of Rome by twin brothers Romulus and Remus 28 centuries ago should be classified as myth. This provocative examination by a highly regarded but controversial archaeologist suggests, however, that the story contains more than a grain of truth . . . he marshals considerable evidence, written and archaeological, to bolster his claims, and his conclusions certainly are startling and exciting.”—Jay Freeman, Booklist

We invite you to read the Introduction here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9397.pdf