Category Archives: ANCIENT HISTORY

Nero, The Emperor

Nero, The Emperor


Sumptuously housed on the Palatine Hill—the origin of our word “palace”—is His Highness Claudius Nero, Head of the State, Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, Empowered to act as Tribune of the People, and Head of the State Religion: in modern times commonly called “the Emperor.” Every day and night his palace is surrounded by a regiment of the Imperial Guards, and attached to his person is a special corps for bodyguard, and orderlies.

The ancient city of Petra

The ancient city of Petra

Now a World Heritage Site in the kingdom of Jordan and one of the most compelling archaeological sites in existence, ‘the rose-red city half as old as time’ was by the fourth century bc the capital of the Nabataean people, who controlled the trade routes from oasis to oasis in Arabia and later allied themselves with the Romans. It was found by a 27-year-old Swiss explorer called Johann Ludwig (or Jean Louis) Burckhardt.

Pictish society

Pictish society

The Romans classified some fifteen tribes in the north and loosely identified the territories they occupied. They also observed that tribal chiefs had a religious as well as a royal function. Women could have such a role, as was the case with Boudicca of the Iceni. The succession of leaders was matrilineal: it mattered more who their mother was than who their father was. Since it is possible that women may indeed have more than one husband, the matter of succession could be complex. later Romantics sometimes regarded this Pictish society as democratic, but it was in fact full of social differentiations.

Roman’s “thumbs up” for the death

Roman’s “thumbs up” for the death

Neither Roman spectators calling for the death of the gladiator, nor Roman Emperors authorising one, ever gave a thumbs down. In fact, the Romans did not use a “thumbs down” at all. If death was desired, the thumb was stuck up – like a drawn sword. For a loser’s life to be spared, the thumb was tucked away inside the closed fist – as with a sheathed weapon. This is expressed in latin as pollice compresso favor iudicabatur, “goodwill is decided by the thumb being kept in”.

Akhenaten: A Different Pharaon

Akhenaten: A Different Pharaon

At some point around 1375 BC (Egyptian chronology is not yet an exact science) a flotilla made its way along the Nile. It contained the migrating royal court, or at least the royal family, and the purpose of the journey was to found a new capital. This sort of thing was not unknown in the ancient Near East, but the sequel to this particular voyage was unprecedented. A series of boundary stelae marks the spot to this day, a semi-circular bay in the cliffs of the eastern desert, some 200 miles south of modern Cairo.