Saturday, September 17, 2016

Life Lessons from the Roman Empire

Ancient Greek manuscripts reveal life lessons from the Roman empire | Books | The Guardian
Ever been unsure about how to deal with a drunken family member returning from an orgy? A collection of newly translated textbooks aimed at Greek speakers learning Latin in the ancient world might hold the solution.
Professor Eleanor Dickey travelled around Europe to view the scraps of material that remain from ancient Latin school textbooks, or colloquia, which would have been used by young Greek speakers in the Roman empire learning Latin between the second and sixth centuries AD. The manuscripts, which Dickey has brought together and translated into English for the first time in her forthcoming book Learning Latin the Ancient Way: Latin Textbooks in the Ancient World, lay out everyday scenarios to help their readers get to grips with life in Latin. Subjects range from visiting the public baths to arriving at school late – and dealing with a sozzled close relative.
The oldest versions of the texts exist as fragments on papyri in Egypt, where the climate meant they survived. Due to the size of these fragments, Dickey had to refer to medieval manuscripts from across Europe. “They have been copied and copied over many centuries, with everyone introducing more mistakes, so they’re not that readable. As an editor, I had to find all the different manuscripts and try to work out what the mistakes were, so I could get to the original text.”
Dickey shows how the students had glossaries to help them get to grips with the new language, collecting together lists of words on useful subjects such as sacrifices (“exta” means entrails, “victimator” is a calf-slaughterer and “hariolus” is a soothsayer) and entertainment. “They’re definitely not the same sorts of words as we’d need,” said Dickey.

Read more here at The Guardian

The Ancient Book of Deer

The Ancient Book of Deer, Oldest Known Gaelic Text in Existence | Ancient Origins
Currently housed at the University of Cambridge Library, the historic Book of Deer is said to have been discovered by the University's librarian, Henry Bradshaw, around 1860. It is said to be the only pre-Norman manuscript revealing tenth century northeastern Scottish culture's society and religious traditions, and is the earliest known Gaelic document in existence.
Although fascinating to historians for multiple reasons, the greatest intrigue for those drawn to this ancient text lies within the handwritten notations made in its margins and other blank areas, and not necessarily within the text itself. The notations, also referred to as 'notitiae', are written in the type of Gaelic typically spoken by the upper classes in the early twelfth century region of Buchan at a time later than the original text, indicated land grants or 'charters' and represented the legal rights to land believed to have belonged to the original Deer monastery of Aberdeenshire in Scotland, thus presenting a clear connection to the Deer region.
Read more of article at Ancient Origins

Voynich Manuscript

Spanish publisher to release copies of Voynich Manuscript, a book no living person can understand - The Washington Post
If manuscripts that come with cheeky insanity warnings are your cup of tea, a select few of you are in luck. A small Spanish publisher has obtained the rights to, in essence, clone the document, down to the holes in the parchment and tears on the pages. (If you prefer your unreadable tomes digitized, Yale has made pages from the book available online.) Holding the manuscript, the publisher argues, provokes a feeling that images on the Internet cannot capture.
Read more on publication via Washington Post

Lost In Translation: Sydney Morning Herald
The Voynich – currently under lock and key at Yale University – is a 240-page, lavishly illustrated book that dates from the early part of the 15th century. It has been studied intensively for decades by historians, linguists and cryptologists – including some very smart boffins who successfully cracked codes during two world wars – and still no one has figured out its language, much less its meaning.

Read more about ancient incomprehensible texts here

Jewish life in ancient Afghanistan and Persia

Ynetnews Jewish Scene - Rare documents shed light on Jewish life in ancient Afghanistan and Persia
A rare collection of 250 documents from the 11th to the 15th century was purchased by the National Library and reveals for the first time the main trade routes of the Silk Road, which stretched from the Far East to Europe. The collection, dubbed the Second Afghan Genizah, was found several years ago in caves in the city of Bamyan in central Afghanistan. The find is considered an ancient and rare treasure from which scholars can learn much about life in ancient Jewish and Muslim communities in Persia and Afghanistan before the Mongol conquest.
Most of the texts were written by Jewish and Muslim merchants who lived in the period preceding the destruction the Mongol armies wreaked from 1258-1260, when they were led by the grandson of Genghis Khan.

Read article here at Ynet News

The Fierce, Forgotten Library Wars of the Ancient World

The Fierce, Forgotten Library Wars of the Ancient World | Atlas Obscura
In the Hellenistic Era—that's 323 BC to 31 BC, for all you numbers fans—the Library of Alexandria, Egypt was a research hub of high prestige. But while certainly the largest of its time and the most famous, the Library of Alexandria wasn’t the only institution of its kind. Libraries throughout the ancient world competed to be the best Greek library, in rivalries that proved as dangerous and unscrupulous as actual wars.
Perhaps the most vicious rivalry of all was between the libraries of Alexandria and Pergamum in the city of Pergamon—present-day Bergama, Turkey. In this conflict, the ego-driven kings of both cities enforced various sneaky maneuvers to stunt the growth of the opposing collections.

Continue reading article by Lauren Young

Book on Sargon II, King of Assyria

University Professor Publishes Book on Ancient Assyrian King

Clarkson University Associate Professor of Ancient History Sarah Melville has just published a book examining military and political struggles in the ancient the Near East.
Sarah Melville "The Campaigns of Sargon II, King of Assyria, 721-705 B.C." is the first in-depth military study of an Assyrian king. Melville's book demonstrates how Sargon changed the geopolitical dynamics in the Near East, inspired a period of cultural florescence, established long-lasting Assyrian supremacy, and became one of the ancient world's most successful kings.
Sargon reigned in what is now northern Iraq, the area where ISIS recently destroyed Assyrian ruins at Nineveh (modern Mosul) and Nimrud. By contrast, Sargon II aimed to improve the territory he took.
Continue reading article via Assyrian International News Agency

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Who Really Wrote the Book of Job?

Who Really Wrote the Book of Job? - Jewish World - Haaretz - Israel News
The Book of Job is quite possibly the strangest book in the Hebrew Bible, and is notoriously difficult to date.
In essence, Job is an essay on the problem of evil. The book starts with God and Satan discussing Job, a “perfect and upright” man who “feared God and eschewed evil” (1:1). Satan tells God that Job is only virtuous because he is well off; were he to suffer, he would surely “curse thee to thy face” (1:11). God accepts the challenge and gives Satan permission to destroy Job’s life.
Since the story lacks any historical context and no historic individuals are mentioned, it is very hard to date.
There's a snag, though. The language in Job is unlike any other found in the Bible, or outside it. True, the book is written in Hebrew, but it is very strange Hebrew indeed. It has more unique words than any other book of the Hebrew Bible. The language is archaic, which would indicate that it was very ancient: but it is also heavily influenced by Aramaic, which would make it relatively late.
Read more: Haaretz News

Books of Jasov Monastery

Books of Jasov -
Courtesy: Slovakia Travel
Books were also important in the Premonstratensian monastery at Jasov, south of Košice. Its library comprises about 45,000 titles, and the whole monastery possesses an impressive 100,000 books. A visitor to the library can admire books stored along all its walls, arrayed along the shelves of tall cabinets. The oldest of these date from the 16th century.
Read rest of short article here at The Slovak Spectator

Mayan Grolier Codex Is Genuine

Grolier Codex
In a rare reversal, archaeologists have determined that a Maya book written almost 900 years ago is genuine—after decades of believing it was fake. The Grolier Codex was so named because it was first displayed in 1971 at the book lovers' Grolier Club in New York City. Archaeologist Michael Coe, who arranged the 1971 showing, later described its rather questionable history in a book.
It was acquired in a spectacularly scammy way in 1966 by a Mexican collector named Josué Sáenz. Coe says that Sáenz told him that a group of unknown men offered to sell the book to him, along with a few other items found "in a dry cave" near the foothills of the Sierra de Chiapas. They would only sell it if Sáenz agreed never to tell anyone or show the book. The collector, intrigued, took a plane to a remote airstrip with two experts, who declared the codex fake. But Sáenz went with his gut and bought the codex. After allowing Coe to display it in New York, he gave it to the Mexican government.

In the 1960s, what is said to be one of the rarest books in the world was discovered: an ancient Maya book called the Grolier Codex. While the physical book itself — meaning the actual pages — were quickly dated back to the 13th century, researchers have long speculated that the drawings contained in the book were forgeries, something sellers would have made to try and get more money for the product. That’s not true, it turns out. Researchers with Brown University have announced that the Grolier Codex is genuine in every way, making it the oldest known manuscript found in America.

Since it was reportedly unearthed in the 1960s, the 13th century Grolier Codex – one of the rarest books in the world – has been regarded with scepticism. Some people have questioned the authenticity of the book, suggesting that it was forged by modern writers. However, a new study has reviewed all known research on the manuscript, and suggests that the Grolier Codex is both genuine, and likely the oldest of all surviving manuscripts from ancient America.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Jonathan Riley-Smith

It is with heavy heart that we relate the sad loss of noted Crusader and Knights Hospitaller historian and author, Jonathan Riley-Smith.  News came via the web - so more details will no doubt be forthcoming I am sure.

I have a number of his books in my own collection of crusades literature. A full list of his academic credits can be found on the above links.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Les Parisiennes: The Women in WWII Paris

The women in WWII Paris who 'did what they had to' for survival | The Times of Israel
The testimony of Arlette Reiman, now Arlette Testyler, is just one of scores of agonizing stories, many of them Jewish, in a remarkable new book, “Les Parisiennes,” by the journalist and historian Anne Sebba. It seeks to recast wartime France — and, specifically, Paris — as a time when women were in the ascendant as never before.
“Paris was a feminine city,” says Sebba. Its men had either been called up and imprisoned or killed as France fell in 1940, or — if they were Jews — they had been deported to camps from which few returned. The only men in Paris were those too young or too old to serve, or they were the German occupiers.
So the women, as Sebba shows in a meticulously researched series of sweeping vignettes, were faced with the most difficult of choices.
The choices ranged from full-on collaboration — resulting, said Sebba, in the birth of between 100,000 and 200,000 Franco-German babies from illicit love affairs — to tiny compromises, such as buying black market food for children. And there was also out-and-out heroism, displayed by the women of Paris and the women of the SOE, or Special Operations Executive, parachuted into France from Britain, for extraordinarily dangerous missions that nearly always ended in capture, torture and death.

Read rest of article here at The Times of Israel