Sam Harrelson



Sam Harrelson

Roman Earthquake Cloaking

I tend to agree with the physicist from UNCC here that the Colosseum and other buildings that exhibit these “metamaterial” designs were probably self-selecting (in that they didn’t fall down during earthquakes), but we definitely don’t give the ancients enough credit with their engineering and scientific prowess…

Scientists are hard at work developing real-world “invisibility cloaks” thanks to a special class of exotic manmade “metamaterials.” Now a team of French scientists has suggested in a recent preprint on the physics arXiv that certain ancient Roman structures, like the famous Roman Colosseum, have very similar structural patterns, which may have protected them from damage from earthquakes over the millennia.

via Ars Technica




It’s not like Caligula didn’t have some warning…

Between the laughing statue, God kicking me with his toe, and the flamingo incident, I might have considered a course correction in my life’s path had I been in Caligula’s shoes…

While the statue of Olympian Jupiter was being dismantled before removal to Rome at his command, it burst into such a roar of laughter that the scaffolding collapsed and the workmen took to their heels; and a man named Cassius appeared immediately afterwards saying that he had been ordered, in a dream, to sacrifice a bull to Jupiter. The Capitol at Capua was struck by lightning on the Ides of March, which some interpreted as portending another imperial death; because of the famous murder that had taken place on that day. At Rome, the Palace doorkeeper’s lodge was likewise struck; and this seemed to mean that the Owner of the Palace stood in danger of attack by his own guards. On asking Sulla the soothsayer for his horoscope, Gaius learned that he must expect to die very soon. The Oracle of Fortune at Antium likewise warned him: ‘Beware of Cassius!’ whereupon, forgetting Chaerea’s family name, he ordered the murder of Cassius Longinus, Governor of Asia at the time. On the night before his assassination he dreamed that he was standing beside Jupiter’s heavenly throne, when the God kicked him with a toe of his right foot and sent him tumbling down to earth. Some other events that occurred on the morning of his death were also read as portents. For instance, blood splashed him as he was sacrificing a flamingo; Mnester danced the same tragedy of Cinyras that had been performed by the actor Neoptolemus during the Games at which King Philip of Macedonia was assassinated; and in a farce1 called Laiireo1i~s, at the close of which the leading character, a highwayman, had to die while escaping and vomit blood, the understudies were so anxious to display their proficiency at dying that they flooded the stage with blood. A nocturnal performance by Egyptians and Ethiopians was also in rehearsal: a play staged in the Underworld.

Source: Suetonius’ Life of Caligula




Was Writing Developed by Poets, Priests, our Accountants?

Fun read:

As a writer of nonfiction, I can’t help but love writing’s roots in enumerating concrete objects and reality itself. The textual analyst part of me loves how Mesopotamian tokens were wrapped in clay envelopes after being impressed on the soft exterior – perhaps clay-wrapped tokens of meaning give rise to the notion that text is both a surface and an interior, and that that’s what leads us to talk so relentlessly (in English and other languages) about what is ‘in’ a given text. The poet in me wants to repurpose the heavy thumb of authority’s use of writing on behalf of the powerless. The linguist in me recognises the cognitive significance of the layers of writing’s invention, none of which the brain was evolved to do specifically but with which we have co-evolved. And as a partisan of text, I know its deep history won’t ever be erased.

— Read on aeon.co/essays/the-roots-of-writing-lie-in-hopes-and-dreams-not-in-accounting




Cautionary Tale of Climate Change Prepping from Ancient Egypt and Bronze Age

These agricultural feats managed to extend the life of the Egyptian empire about half a century longer than it might otherwise have lasted, according to the archaeologists. The lesson for our own civilization — which is likely to face increasingly severe droughts as humans change the climate far faster than nature has ever done — is to plan ahead, Dr. Finkelstein said.

— Read on www.nytimes.com/2018/03/30/climate/egypt-climate-drought.html




James C. Scott’s New Book

James C. Scott is one of the scholars I always enjoy reading. I was introduced to his work Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts while in a (wonderful) seminary class on the Parables. The insightful connection that our beloved professor made between Jesus’ acts and words in his performance of the parables with the essence of what Scott described as “public” and “hidden” transcripts still resonates with me today anytime I read the Gospels.

I’m excited to read this work as well. Although it seems to have a similar topic as many scholarly takes on the how’s and why’s civilizations collapse, (anyone else notice how both academic works, as well as the entertainment world, is fascinated by dystopias and doom-and-gloom in this Age of Trump?) one of my ongoing fascinations and points of interests is the rise of civilization in Mesopotamia as well as the later “Sea Peoples” of Egyptian history. It looks like both of these topics make an appearance in Scott’s new work:

What if the origin of farming wasn’t a moment of liberation but of entrapment? Scott offers an alternative to the conventional narrative that is altogether more fascinating, not least in the way it omits any self-congratulation about human achievement. His account of the deep past doesn’t purport to be definitive, but it is surely more accurate than the one we’re used to, and it implicitly exposes the flaws in contemporary political ideas that ultimately rest on a narrative of human progress and on the ideal of the city/nation-state.

Source: Steven Mithen reviews ‘Against the Grain’ by James C. Scott · LRB 30 November 2017




Roman Empire GDP Per Capita

NewImage

Fascinating…

Roman Empire GDP Per Capita Map Shows That Romans Were Poorer Than Any Country in 2015 – Brilliant Maps: “What a difference 2,000 years makes. The map above shows the GDP per capita in 14AD of the various provinces of the Roman Empire in 1990 PPP Dollars. On average, the GDP per capita across the whole Empire, was only $570.”