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Tycho Brahe was gilded

History Blog - Sun, 2016-12-18 00:04

In 2010, the astronomer’s coffin was exhumed from his tomb in Our Lady Before Tyn Church in Prague. Several samples of hair, teeth, bone and textile were taken and the remains were reburied four days later. Researchers from Aarhus University, the University of Southern Denmark and the Nuclear Physics Institute in Prague have been analyzing the samples ever since. In 2012 they confirmed that Brahe did not die from Mercury poisoning, an idea that had been floating about since a 1901 exhumation found elevated levels of mercury in his remains. It turns out, they weren’t particularly elevated at all right before his death or in the years leading up to it.

But it was another element that was found in surprising abundance: gold. The latest analyses have found that Tycho Brahe had gold in hair and lots of it. Tests of three different hair samples had gold content 20 to 100 times higher than the norm today.

There are no natural sources that could explain this high level of exposure to gold, such as soil or water, which means that Brahe must have been regularly exposed to gold in his everyday life.

“It may have been the cutlery and plates of gold, or maybe the wine he drank contained gold leaf. It’s also possible that he concocted and consumed elixirs containing gold, or that he worked with alchemy,” [University of Southern Denmark professor Kaare Lund] Rasmussen said.

Diane de Poitier, mistress of King Henry II of France, took a daily dose of gold for years. The theory was that gold’s purity and incorruptibility would be conveyed to Diane, keeping her young and beautiful. Instead it made her bones and hair brittle. When she died in 1566, 35 years before Tycho Brahe, the concentration of gold in her remains was 500 times greater than in a lock of her hair cut when she was a young woman. It may well be what killed her.

Brahe probably wasn’t taking gold to capture eternal youth. His exposure was more likely scientific. Samples from his hair, beard, eyebrows and bones were tested for another 14 elements and the results also showed higher-than-average concentrations of iron, cobalt, arsenic and silver. All of those would have been commonly used in alchemical experiments and in the preparation of medicines.

The concentration of metals is lower in the younger parts of the hairs, which allows the researchers to conclude that he was not exposed to these metals approximately the last 2 months before his death. The reason for that may be that he was too weak to work in his laboratory in his final weeks and months.

“What this tells us is that he did not suffer from an acute and fatal poisoning. This is not a particularly unusual cause of death in a period where the toxicity of metals was still unknown. Sir Isaac Newton, for instance, was subjected to mercury and lead poisoning,” Rasmussen explained.

So we still don’t know Tycho Brahe’s cause of death, but we can cross poisoning off the list. Researchers also found no evidence of metabolic diseases. The study has been published in the journal Archaeometry and can be read in its entirety here.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Academy of St. Clare of Assisi Next Spring

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sat, 2016-12-17 18:38

If you love embroidery, please save the weekend of March 31-April 2, 2017, because you won’t want to miss the Academy of St. Clare of Assisi: MORE Stitches in Time!

This weekend-long, embroidery-only event drew stitchers from five Kingdoms the first time it was held, and we are anticipating even more in 2017.

Activities will begin Friday night (March 31) and run through Sunday morning (April 2).  This year’s event offers:

  • all-new class topics
  • an additional hour of classes Saturday morning
  • FIVE “kit” classes to choose from (instead of four)
  • a Beginning Embroidery Track
  • an Embroidery Display Show & Tell
  • an Embroidered Fashions Show

Saturday morning classes will include these topics:

  • Some Basics on Gold and How It Relates to Embroidery by THL Jaqueline de Molieres
  • 14th century embroidered purses by Lady Vika Grigina z Prahy
  • Would You Know a Saint If You Met One? by Lady Johanna Lemercer 
  • How to Teach Fiber Arts by Lady Shirin of Susa

MORE morning classes are in the works!  (Details will be posted to the event website soon!)

On Saturday afternoon, attendees may choose to attend one of these intensive “kit” classes:

  • Assisi work by Maestro Filipia Capriotti (Good for beginners)
  • Bead embroidery by Mistress Jeanmaire Ilaria Beatrice du Domrémy
  • Embroidered book covers by Cristina inghean Ghriogair
  • Viking bag and embellishment by Lady Elska á Fjárfelli
  • Opus Anglicanum by Mistress Elspeth nic Cormac

Please note that “kit” classes require pre-registration and pre-payment. This enables the instructor to know how many kits to prepare in advance. Instructions for preregistering for “kit” classes will be emailed to you when we receive your event registration.
On Sunday morning, Mistress Elspeth nic Cormac, a left-handed embroideress, will offer a class on “Teaching Embroidery to Left-Handed Stitchers.”

Want more info?

Visit http://www.eg.bucknell.edu/~acg/Events/SiT.html  for details!

P.S. — If you are planning to attend, mail your event reservation by the end of December and save $5.00.  The event registration price increases by $5.00 after January 1.


Categories: SCA news sites

Art historian donates unpublished Velázquez to Prado

History Blog - Sat, 2016-12-17 00:45

A previously unpublished painting by Diego Velázques has been donated to the American Friends of the Prado Museum by art historian William B. Jordan and is now going on display at the Prado Museum in Madrid as a renewable long-term deposit. Jordan bought it in 1988 but only recently submitted it to the Prado experts for extensive testing and authentication.

Mr. Jordan acquired the painting in London at an auction of Phillips, where it was mistakenly labeled, both in terms of its subject matter and author. While the work ostensibly represented Don Rodrigo Calderón, “it was very obvious to me that it was” King Philip III, Mr. Jordan said. The work was also wrongly auctioned as painted by somebody from the circle of Justus Sustermans, a Flemish painter. Mr. Jordan also initially made a wrong assumption that the portrait was a fragment of a larger painting rather than a preparatory oil sketch.

The portrait is a preparatory painting for The Expulsion of the Moriscos, a large-scale historical work Velázquez made for a contest in 1627. According to Jusepe Martínez, a painter and friend of Velázquez’s, when some artists dismissed Velázquez as someone who can “do nothing but paint heads,” King Philip IV proposed a pictorial competition to settle the matter. His four court painters, Carducho, Caxesi, Nardi, and Velázquez, would create a monumental work on a historical theme. As a subject Philip IV chose the Expulsion of the Moriscos.

On April 9th, 1609, King Philip III decreed the expulsion of the Moriscos, the descendants of Muslims who had been forced to convert to Christianity in the early 16th century, from Spain. Five years and one entirely predictable financial collapse later, hundreds of thousands of Moriscos had been expelled, mainly to North Africa. The Church and nobility saw it as a heroic act of Christian kingship, and it became a popular subject for painters.

The theme did give Velázquez the opportunity to paint some heads, most notably that of Philip III, but unlike the portraiture that he was already famous for, this portrait was of someone he had never seen who was dressed in period clothing. The sea-side setting was also unfamiliar to the Madrid-based painter. He overcame all obstacles of theme, setting and format. The judges, Dominican friar Maino of Toledo and Italian painter Giovanni Battista Crescenzi, ruled that Velázquez was the winner. His winning painting was found a place on the walls of the Royal Alcázar palace in Madrid.

References to it appear in the palace Inventory of 1686, in the will of Charles II (1701), and in the third volume of Antonio Palomino’s compendium of Spanish artists in 1724. There is no extant record that mentions the work. It was destroyed in the fire that reduced the palace to rubble in 1734. Velázquez’s groundbreaking and endlessly influential Las Meninas came close to sharing The Expulsion of the Moriscos‘ fate. It was saved only by being taken out of its frame and thrown out the window.

In the century between its creation and destruction, no copies of it were made that have survived. There aren’t even any sketches or drawings known. All we know about the painting is from written descriptions. The preparatory painting does seem to fit with the descriptions, which is one of the reasons Jordan became convinced of its identity and attribution. There are other reasons as well.

Philip III appears to be aged around 40 in the painting, his age in 1609 when the moriscos were expelled from Spain.

Stylistically, the work necessarily dates from later than 1609. It must have been produced between 1623, when Velázquez arrived at court and introduced a new style of royal portrait that corresponds to that of this work, and 1631, when he returned from Italy and adopted a notably different portrait style.

The fact that Philip III is in profile and looking up indicates that this is not a portrait (in which the sitter normally looks straight ahead) but an image to be included in a narrative scene.

The fact that the work’s characteristics are not comparable to the styles of the other portraitists working at the court in the 1620s, such as Van der Hamen, Maíno, Diricksen, etc.

A study of written descriptions of The Expulsion of the Moriscos suggest that the portrait of Philip III in that scene had a similar expression to this one and was looking in the same direction.

The Prado’s technical study of the work confirmed that the canvas, preparation and construction are all comparable to the those used by Velázquez in paintings from around 1627 and before his first trip to Italy in 1629. The modelling of the faces and is also similar in method and style to royal portraits Velázquez made in the late 1620s.

The addition of this work to the Museum’s collections as a long-term deposit will contribute to completing its representation of Velázquez as a royal portraitist, given that it is a work of outstanding quality and previously unpublished in the scholarly literature. As such, it will help to cast light on one of the key works of the artist’s early period at court.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Æthelmearc Herbal and Apothecary Guild

AEthelmearc Gazette - Fri, 2016-12-16 22:42

The Æthelmearc Herbal and Apothecary Guild would like to announce that they have a Facebook page and a quarterly newsletter!

The newsletters are posted on the group’s Facebook page. Volume 2 was posted at the beginning of December and includes articles on the history of gardening, the use of flowers in food, and a list of herbals ranging from early Chinese and Eqyptians to renaissance Italians and Spaniards.

Interested parties are invited to join the discussion on the guild’s Facebook page, which is managed by Lady Maggie Rue (mka Jen Sadler).

 


Categories: SCA news sites

Poland in talks to buy The Lady with Ermine

History Blog - Fri, 2016-12-16 00:24

Things were looking up for the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1790. After having been reduced to little more than a Russian protectorate in the late 17th century and less than two decades after the First Partition of Poland had divvied up much of it territory between Austria, Prussia and Russia, the Commonwealth was headed towards more independence than it had been in centuries. King Stanislaus II August supported liberal reforms and with Austria and Russia busy fighting the Ottomans, the Constitution of 3 May, 1791, was passed, creating in Poland a constitutional monarchy along the same lines as the British system.

A great patron and lover of the arts and well aware of how effectively culture can stimulate national pride, King Stanislaus commissioned English art dealers Sir Francis Bourgeois and Noël Desenfans to buy high-end artworks and create a royal collection of fine art worthy of a new Polish national gallery. The partners worked for five years towards that lofty goal, and then it all fell apart. Polish nobles opposed to the new constitution asked Queen Catherine the Great of Russia to send troops, which she was all too glad to do.

A war (lost), the Second Partition of Poland (Russia and Prussia took almost everything, leaving only a feeble rump state) and a reformist revolt led by Tadeusz Kościuszko ensued. The revolt failed due to the overwhelmingly superior numbers of Russian and Prussian forces and in 1795, the Third Partition destroyed the last sad vestige of the Polish state. Stanislaus abdicated and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth died. The dream of a Polish national gallery to rival those of the great European powers died with it. The works collected by Desenfans and Bourgeois became the core of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the first public art gallery in the UK.

Into the devastating breach stepped one Princess Izabela Czartoryska. A writer and collector who hobnobbed with the cream of Enlightenment society — Benjamin Franklin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire — and advocated progressive reformist politics, Princess Izabela together with her husband Prince Adam Kazimierz Czartoryski made the Czartoryski Palace Pulawy a center of Polish art, philosophy and politics in the 1780s. Pulawy earned the moniker the Polish Athens thanks to the flouring of intellectual life at the Czartoryski Palace.

After the Third Partition annihilated what was left of Polish independence, Izabela had the palace, burned and looted by Russian troops in retaliation for the Czartoryskis support of the Kościuszko Uprising in 1794, rebuilt by architect Chrystian Piotr Aigner and installed a museum of Polish royal and national memorabilia. The nascent collection included Turkish trophies captured by King Jan III Sobieski at the Battle of Vienna in 1683, heirlooms purchased from and donated by Poland’s greatest noble families.

In 1801, Izabela opened the Temple of the Sibyl, also known as the Temple of Memory, on the Czartoryski Palace estate. The Temple, designed by Chrystian Piotr Aigner after the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, Italy, held the collection of Polish historical and cultural artifacts salvaged from royal castles, a growing collection of books, historic archives (including King Stanislaus II’s) and art. It was the first museum in Poland. Izabela’s son Adam Jerzy Czartoryski expanded the art historical significance of the collection geometrically during a 1798 trip to Italy when he purchased The Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci and Portrait of A Young Man by Raphael.

The collection was endangered by the November Uprising of 1830. The Russian army suppressed the uprising and the Czartoryski Palace holdings. Princess Izabela successfully hustled many of the museum’s treasures, including the Leonardo, out of danger before the Russians came. The family was forced into exile in Paris and Izabela’s son Adam installed the collection at the Hôtel Lambert. The Czartoryski collection returned to Poland in 1878 where it reopened in a new Czartoryski Museum in Kraków.

The Nazi depredations of World War II did a number on the Czartoryski museum. The Lady with an Ermine and Portrait of A Young Man were stolen practically the minute Germany invaded Poland. The Leonardo was brought back to Poland in 1940 because the Governor General Hans Frank wanted to hang it in his office. Allied troops found it at the end of the war and returned it to Poland. Many other works stolen by the Nazis from the Czartoryski collection were eventually rediscovered and returned. The Raphael is still missing to this day.

The Czartoryski Museum was nationalized after the war and administered by the Communist government. The museum and library collections were officially returned to Prince Adam Karol Czartoryski as the rightful owner in 1991. Since then, the Czartoryski Museum has been one of the most visited institutions in Poland, thanks largely to the enduring charm of Leonardo’s beautiful Lady and her muscular ermine.

It’s still privately owned, however, which means in theory The Lady with Ermine and everything else in the collection could leave the country. Poland most assuredly does not want that to happen. The Polish Culture Ministry announced Wednesday that they are in talks to buy the Czartoryski collection for the state.

“The Polish state and thus the Polish nation will own one of the world’s most valuable art collections, including this work, which many art historians deem superior to the ‘Mona Lisa’,” Selin said, quoted by the PAP agency. [...]

The ministry told AFP on Wednesday that Minister Piotr Glinski had “announced steps to finally set the status of the collection,” which requires a deal with the president of the foundation, Prince Adam Karol Czartoryski, who lives in Madrid.

This would bring together King Stanislaus II August’s long-thwarted vision and Princess Izabela’s dogged determination to keep Poland’s history and cultural prominence alive. Whether it can actually happen remains to be seen. The deal would be in the billions of dollars — the Leonardo alone is insured for $350 million — and there is a question whether the terms of the Czartoryski Foundation allow it to be sold in whole or in part.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Tasty Sharing at Æcademy Brewers Round Table

AEthelmearc Gazette - Thu, 2016-12-15 18:36

By Lady Elska á Fjárfella, round table host.

At the Æthelmearc Fall Æcademy, the Brewer’s Guild was invited to host a Brewer’s Round Table as it was blessed with a wet site. Initially scheduled in the main class room, we quickly packed up and invaded the quiet, out-of-the-way Troll table as it was a wee bit noisy (had nothing to do with us…).

With about a dozen brewers ranging from novice to Laurel and from all parts of our kingdom, we proceeded to have an informative and tasty round table on the topic of Fall fruit, in any shape or form.

 Many had brought tasty samples of fruit-flavored beverages. Madoc Arundel graced us with a Belgian Tripel, and he later confessed he thoroughly enjoyed the citrus melomel brought by novice brewer Cristina Inghean Ghriogair, who supplied us with several choices, ranging from blackberry wine made with baking yeast (from a traditional family heirloom recipe) and dandelion wine to  plum wine, apple citrus, and a raspberry cordial sampled together with dark chocolate. Her favorite was the mixed fruit rum someone had contributed. Leioolfr Grimr shared a blueberry cordial sweetened with beet sugar, or cherry, he did not quite remember…

My contribution was an example of how using fruit can throw a learning curve. I brought two bottles of red currant mead, based on a red raspberry mead recipe. Substituting one-to-one currants for raspberries made for a rather tart mead, which I personally did not quite like. Back sweetening with a little honey made all the difference, I thought. It was interesting to find that some people liked the tart original, some preferred the sweetened, and most wondered if downscaling the currants to lower the tartness might also lessen the currant flavor, which nobody wanted to mess with… so, surprising to me, the consensus was to not mess with the recipe , and make those dry wine lovers happy!

We traded some secrets, such as where to get grape juice in bulk (many local vineyards growing their own grapes sell plain grape juice, ready to ferment), shared some tips (freezing whole fruit helps free up the fruity goodness, and using a masticating juicer is not ideal as it is difficult to ferment apple sauce), and, as always, we had a great time.

 Thank you Æthelmearc Æcademy for inviting us, and thank you all for coming!


Categories: SCA news sites

Oscar Wilde portrait returns to UK after a century

History Blog - Thu, 2016-12-15 00:41

The introduction of photography in the mid-19th century had democratized portraiture, giving people who couldn’t afford to commission painters and miniaturists to immortalize them on canvas the opportunity to capture their image for a tiny fraction of the cost. Portraits could now be handed out like calling cards; in fact, they often were calling cards, as in the cartes de visite and later cabinet cards.

Oscar Wilde was an enthusiastic proponent of photographic portraits. Even before he made his literary bones with the plays and stories that would make him famous, he was already cutting a fine figure in society as a raconteur, wit and dandy, and his portraits emphasized his esthetic. He was captured in a variety of outfits and posed by some of the most famous photographers of the period, most notably a series of albumen prints taken by Napoleon Sarony of New York in 1882. Photos from the Sarony series have become iconic representations of Oscar Wilde.

Around the same time, Wilde commissioned an oil-on-canvas portrait from US artist Robert Goodloe Harper Pennington. The life-sized, full-length portrait depicts Wilde in a classic elite power pose often seen in royal portraiture like Anthony van Dyck’s 1635 painting of Charles I at hunt, now in the Louvre. He stands with elegant nonchalance, one hand on his cane, the other, holding his gloves, on his hip. Pennington gave the portrait to Wilde and his new bride Constance as a wedding present in 1884.

Oscar Wilde loved the portrait, hanging it above the fireplace in his home in London. He published The Picture of Dorian Gray just a few years later in 1890. Perhaps his own experience standing for the Pennington portrait — Dorian’s was also a life-sized, full-length portrait — informed his writing. “It is horribly dull standing on a platform and trying to look pleasant,” Dorian complains to the artist Basil Hallward, the tedium of it driving Dorian to engage the corrupting influence of Lord Henry Wotton.

The came the disastrous libel suit. In 1895, Wilde sued the Marquess of Queensberry, father of his impetuous lover Lord Alfred Douglas, for leaving a calling card with a note calling Wilde a “posing sodomite.” Evidence of Oscar’s sexual liaisons with Douglas and other men was presented at trial, and instead of just losing the libel suit, Wilde was himself tried for “gross indecency” and was condemned to serve two years in solitary confinement with hard labour. The trial and conviction ruined Wilde’s reputation, his career and his life. Broke, shunned by his wife and children and a social pariah where he had once been toast of the town, Wilde died in Paris in 1900 at the age of 46.

The scandal quickly led to financial ruin. Wilde was declared bankrupt while awaiting trial and all his belongings were sold at auction to pay off creditors. The portrait was bought by his good friends Ernest and Ada Leverson (he had stayed at their house when the trial and scandal drove him into hiding). In a letter written less than a month after his release from Reading Gaol, Wilde connected the portrait to the blackened reputation of its subject: “I was quite conscious of the very painful position of a man who had in his house a life-sized portrait, which he could not have in his drawing-room as it was obviously, on account of its subject, demoralising to young men, and possibly to young women of advanced views.” He still loved it though, and got it back from the Leversons when he was released. He kept it in a room in Kensington, but died in exile never having seen the portrait again.

After Wilde’s death, the portrait was kept by his literary executor, former lover and loyal friend Robert Ross. Robert Ross’ collection of books, manuscripts and assorted Wildeana including the Pennington portrait was sold in 1928, nine years after Ross’ death, to US collector William Andrews Clark. Clark acquired three other major collections of Wilde’s works and possessions, creating the largest Oscar Wilde collection in the world. That collection is now housed at UCLA’s William Andrews Clark Memorial Library.

For the first time in almost a century, the portrait will be returning the UK next year for the first exhibition dedicated to queer British art at the Tate Britain. This will be the first time the portrait that after his trial Oscar Wilde described as a “social incubus” will be on public display in Britain. It will be displayed next to the door of his prison cell in Reading Gaol.

Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson said the painting showed Wilde on the verge of success.

“It’s an extraordinary image of Wilde on the brink of fame, before imprisonment destroyed his health and reputation,” he said. “Viewing it next to the door of his jail cell will be a powerful experience that captures the triumph and tragedy of his career.”

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Kingdom Bardic Competition at Twelfth Night

AEthelmearc Gazette - Wed, 2016-12-14 16:57

From Master William de Montegilt, Kingdom Bard:

Good greetings to the wonderful bards of Sylvan Æthelmearc! Their Majesties desire a competition be held at Kingdom XIIth Night to choose Their new Bardic Champion. The rules are simple: Anything goes, with two exceptions. The songs titled “Song of the Shield Wall” and “Born on the List Field” will not be considered. Tune your instruments (if you use them) and learn the words! So saith William.


Categories: SCA news sites

Rare ancient gold Odin amulet found on Lolland

History Blog - Wed, 2016-12-14 00:12

A rare ancient gold amulet decorated with the face of Odin has been discovered in Magletving on the Danish island of Lolland. Local metal detectorist Carsten Helm and his two young sons, Lauritz (10) and Luke (12), were scanning a field when they unearthed a small gold disk about two centimeters (.8 inches) in diameter, a type of medallion known as a bracteate. It has a loop at the top for hanging from a chain and is bordered with gold thread. The Helms continued to scan the field and within 130 square meters (1400 square feet) discovered another gold pendant, three gold pieces probably broken off of a necklace and several chunks of silver, likely fragments of jewelry that could be broken into smaller weights and used as currency.

They reported their finds to the Museum Lolland-Falster. Museum experts tentatively dated the treasure to around the 6th century. That was a turbulent, dangerous time when people had good reason to bury their most precious belongings for their safety. There were also extreme weather events in the year 536 A.D., referred to in ancient sources as a gelid year without sun. Likely caused by a massive volcanic eruption or a meteor strike throwing up so much ash it darkened the skies, the year of darkness devastated crops and caused widespread famine, especially in the north. Such a calamity might inspire terrifying comparisons to the Norse myth of Ragnarök, the destruction of the world in which the sun turns black and the “Mighty Winter” descends. The treasure could have been an offering to the gods, perhaps even by a single person, to ask for their protection from marauders or the end of the world.

It’s the gold amulet that is the most exciting piece to archaeologist. On the front of the disk the large face of a man takes up most of the space. Beneath it is a horse and to the side is a left-facing swastika, believed to be a solar symbol in pre-Christian northern Europe. The face is identified as Odin’s because the iconography has been found on other bracteates accompanied by the runic phrase “The High One,” one of the nicknames for the Norse god of war and king of Asgard.

What makes it particularly compelling is that it is an extremely early depiction of a subject from Norse religion. It may be presenting Odin in his role as a shaman. The shaman’s soul journeys through the world of the spirits, represented by animals like birds, fish and horses. Odin’s face hovering over the horse could therefore be a representation of Odin’s soul traveling to the spirit world. Another possible interpretation is that this is Odin represented as a horse doctor. One of his magical attributes was the ability to heal sick horses. In more detailed scenes with this iconography, Odin touches the horse with his hand and foot, a laying on of limbs, as it were, to convey healing magic.

This kind of Odin amulet is rare, with a total of about 1,000 having been found in northern Europe and only two others on Lolland. The last such amulet found on Lolland was discovered in 1906.

The treasure is on display at the Maribo County Museum until December 20th. After that brief exhibition, the artifacts will be sent to the National Museum for further study and valuation as treasure trove. Once it is declared treasure trove, Carsten Helm and his sons will receive a finder’s fee that is at least the equivalent of the gold value.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Christmas Shopping for Medievalists

AEthelmearc Gazette - Tue, 2016-12-13 22:53

The Æthelmearc Gazette does not endorse any vendors or products. This article is intended solely for entertainment purposes, and is entirely Arianna’s fault.

Christmas is less than two weeks away, and you say you haven’t found the perfect gift for your SCA friends and kids? Never fear, the Gazette has some great gift ideas for the medievalists in your life!

Medieval knight hoodie: look like you’re in armor even when you’re not! Bonus: keeps your nose warm! $49.99 from ThinkGeek.

Medieval battle T-Shirt: Show your love of medieval combat, art, or both! $31.65 from Zazzle.

Unicorn tapestry T-shirt: for those more interested in gentle pursuits. $20.10, also from Zazzle.

Knights of the realm wall sculpture: 13″ wall-mounted sculptures of armored men in two different designs. $35 for one or $60 for both from Design Toscano.

Lancelot and Guenevere shower curtain: make your bathroom look like an illuminated manuscript! $56.95 from CafePress. They have other medieval designs ranging from images out of the Unicorn Tapestries, to castles, weaponry, and scenes of armored men. Search on “medieval shower curtains.”

Medieval chess set: Figures include medieval knights, kings, horsemen and towers. $99.50 from Wal-Mart.

Throne: want to feel like lord of your own castle? This medieval-inspired full-size throne chair is $749 from Design Toscano plus another $97 shipping.

Glass top dragon coffee table: If you’re going to have a medieval throne, you absolutely must have a medieval coffee table to go with it. $397.86 from Wayfair.com.

And for the kids in your life, we have some more great options!

Playmobile Knights play box: start your little ones early with this set of knight and king figures. Comes with weapons (including a functional crossbow), a throne, and a carrying case. $19.99 from Kohls. If you’re feeling generous, Playmobile also offers a castle for $100.

Go Fish for Art: your kids can play Go Fish with famous renaissance art like the Mona Lisa instead of regular playing cards. $10.99 from Jet.com

Make-it-youself unicorn hobby horse: Feeling inspired and ready to do some sewing? Download this pattern to make your child their very own unicorn hobby horse. $9 from Whileshenaps on Etsy.

Knight wall art: You can decorate your kid’s wall with a 25″ x 28″ knight graphic. $17.00 from Stateofthewall on Etsy.

Knight and shields toddler bed set: Keep your little one dreaming of knightly deeds with this sheet and blanket set. $25.99 from Target.

Knight-themed books: Medieval historian Ewart Oakeshott wrote a series of books on knights and their armor, weapons, and battles. This is one of several from which you can choose. $13.95 from Barnes and Noble.

Happy medieval shopping, everyone!


Categories: SCA news sites

Previously unknown ancient city found in Greece

History Blog - Tue, 2016-12-13 00:54

A team of archaeologists from the University of Gothenburg and University of Bournemouth has discovered the ruins of a previously unknown ancient city near the village of Vlochós, about 200 miles north of Athens. A smattering of ancient remains were known to be on Strongilovoúni hill on the plains of Western Thessaly, but they were believed to belong to a small rural settlement. Fortifications, more than eight feet high in some places, are visible on the hill, as are the remains of towers and city gates. The new discoveries lower on the hill were obscured by layers of silt and sediment deposited by the river Enipeas.

This year archaeologists launched the first major systematic exploration of the hill, which has also been virtually ignored by scholarly research other than a few tangential descriptions of the archaeological remains. The Vlochós Archaeological Project (VLAP) is remedying this oversight starting with a non-invasive investigation of the site using technology like Network Real Time Kinematic GPS for precise measurements, drone photogrammetry and ground-penetrating radar.

During a mere two weeks in September, the VLAP team discovered that this supposedly sleepy backwater was actually a thriving polis.

“We found a town square and a street grid that indicate that we are dealing with quite a large city. The area inside the city wall measures over 40 hectares. We also found ancient pottery and coins that can help to date the city. Our oldest finds are from around 500 BC, but the city seems to have flourished mainly from the fourth to the third century BC before it was abandoned for some reason, maybe in connection with the Roman conquest of the area.”

[University of Gothenburg PhD student and fieldwork leader Robin] Rönnlund believes that the Swedish-Greek project can provide important clues as to what happened during this violent period in Greek history.

“Very little is known about ancient cities in the region, and many researchers have previously believed that western Thessaly was somewhat of a backwater during Antiquity. Our project therefore fills an important gap in the knowledge about the area and shows that a lot remains to be discovered in the Greek soil.”

The fortifications on the hill were built in the late Archaic to the Hellenistic periods (ca. 500-200 B.C.), but there is evidence of repairs done in the Late Roman/Early Byzantine eras, so if it was entirely abandoned for a stretch after the Roman conquest, it was reoccupied, or at least strengthened by the end of the Roman period.

The exploration of the site will continue next August during the second season of the project. Archaeologists hope a thorough ground-penetrating radar study will answer some of the questions about the development of the city.

Here is some picturesque drone footage of the remains on the hill taken from 1500 feet above ground level.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Ancient necropolis found in Bordeaux city center

History Blog - Mon, 2016-12-12 00:58

Archaeologists have discovered an exceptionally large and diverse ancient necropolis in the center of Bordeaux. The site, known as Castéja, hosted the first school for deaf girls in France (the main building built in 1862 is a historic monument). More recently it was the city’s central police station. The police station was closed in 2003 and in 2014 the property was sold to developers for an ambitious mixed incoming housing project. An archaeological survey was commissioned in advance of new construction.

So far around 40 graves containing the skeletal remains of about 300 people have been unearthed. Archaeologist and excavation director Xavier Perrot thinks the number of burials will increase as the excavation proceeds, perhaps even doubling. The burials begin in late antiquity (the 4th century) and continue through the early Middle Ages. There are a variety of tombs: ancient tile graves, amphora burials for babies, inhumations with traces of wooden coffins, brick-lined burial pits. Archaeologists also found two Merovingian-era sarcophagi and some very rare medieval coins.

The contents of the graves are unusually diverse for the period. Some are individual burials, while others contain multiple bodies piled on top of each other in a haphazard fashion. They appear to have been tossed in the grave hastily, which suggests they have been victims of mass violence, or more likely, of an epidemic. The Plague of Justinian, a pandemic that swept through the Byzantine Empire before spreading to the Mediterranean port cities and the rest of Europe in the mid-6th century, is a possible culprit. The remains will be subjected to a battery of laboratory tests to determine the dates of those burials and identify the epidemic, should there be one to identify.

Very few burial grounds this densely packed with remains are extant from antiquity. There are maybe three or four comparable sites in France and one in Bavaria, and none of those are as large as the Bordeaux find.

“This is an important operation. We see the evolution of the urban fabric and changes in burial arrangements with inhumations in the ground, in coffins, sarcophagi, a funerary space that evolves with a pit, multiple burials”, said Nathalie Fourment, regional curator of archeology at the regional Direction of Cultural Affairs (DRAC).

Excavations began early last month and were originally scheduled to end on January 20th, but because of the importance of the find, DRAC is negotiating an extension with property owner Gironde Habitat.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

SCAdian Steps Bravely into Void Left by Statue Incident

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sun, 2016-12-11 14:12

photo by Kaitlyn Sweeney

Sadly, the town of Pittston, PA (in the Barony of Endless Hills) suffered a great loss this week when a car demolished their statue of Christopher Columbus, necessitating the removal of the statue until it can be replaced.

Lord Cormacc mac Gilla Brigde from Endless Hills stepped bravely into the void until the northeast Pennsylvania cold forced a retreat.

His feat was even picked up by local news, and he was later interviewed about his “shenanigans” both by an online newspaper and a local radio show


Categories: SCA news sites

V&A acquires watercolor of Henry VIII’s lost Nonsuch Palace

History Blog - Sat, 2016-12-10 23:03


The Victoria and Albert museum has acquired a unique watercolor of Nonsuch Palace painted from life by Flemish artist Joris Hoefnagel. He signed and dated it 1568, which makes it the earliest surviving depiction of the grand palace and one of the earliest surviving English landscape watercolors. Only six contemporary depictions of Nonsuch are known, and this one is the most detailed and accurate. They are all the more precious because the palace was destroyed 150 years after it was built. The watercolor was sold at auction to a foreign buyer, but a temporary export ban gave British institutions the change to keep this rare glimpse into a lost Renaissance architectural masterpiece. The price tag was a steep £1 million ($1,257,450). The V&A was able to raise the money with help from grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and the Art Fund.

Construction on the palace began in April of 1538, six months after the birth of Henry VIII’s obsessively desired son and heir, Edward. Unlike his other 13 palaces around London, this one was built from scratch, not an addition to a previous structure. Henry picked the location near Ewell in Surrey because it was next to his favorite hunting grounds. The fact that a village and church stood there was no deterrent. He paid compensation and demolished the structures to make room for a great Franco-Italianate palace whose splendour would outdo any other monarch’s (especially Henry’s archrival Francis I of France) grandest residence.

Covered in hundreds of elaborate stucco high reliefs bordered with carved and gilded slate, the palace was dubbed Nonsuch because it was sui generis, one of a kind. There was no other such palace in Europe. The reliefs in the inner courtyard depicted figures from Classical mythology and history. They were organized in three levels. On the top were Roman emperors, in the middle gods and goddesses, and on the bottom the Labours of Hercules on the west side of the courtyard and the Liberal Arts and Virtues on the east. On the south side was a relief of Henry VIII with his son Edward, a celebration of the Tudor dynasty as the culmination (at least in the king’s mind), of all those emperors, deities and muses.

The palace was unfinished when Henry VIII died in 1547 (all the important bits were done and it was entirely livable). Queen Mary I sold the palace to Henry Fitzalan, 12th Earl of Arundel, in 1557 and he finally finished it. He’s the one who probably commissioned Joris Hoefnagel to paint the palace. Nonsuch returned to the crown in 1592, purchased by Elizabeth I who loved it and used it extensively. It remained a royal property until the Civil War. After the execution of Charles I in 1649, it was confiscated along with the rest of the crown’s property and sold.

With the restoration of the monarch in 1660, Nonsuch was returned to the crown. Charles II had little interest in the Renaissance masterpiece, and 10 years later he deeded it to his mistress, the tempestuous and profligate Barbara Palmer, 1st Duchess of Cleveland and Countess of Castlemaine. In 1682, Barbara took it upon herself to demolish the palace and sell it off piecemeal to pay off her enormous gambling debts. It took years to take the whole thing apart, at least until 1688. As late as 1702, one of the turreted gate houses still stood.

Just to give you an idea of high on the “because people are crazy” scale the Duchess of Cleveland was, she didn’t even sell the stucco panels! They were busted up to bits and an estimated 100,000 fragments carted off somewhere. The first archaeological exploration of the site of the demolished palace in 1959 recovered more than 1,500 fragments with visible decoration and many more plain stucco fragments. Out of all those fragments a single panel was able to be partially reconstructed, that of a Roman soldier sitting next to his shield (now in the Museum of London). You can actually see a soldier and his shield on Hoefnagel’s watercolor, and it is located just above the spot where the fragments were discovered. This is a perfect example of why this one watercolor is so historically and culturally significant.

Mark Evans, Senior Curator of Word and Image at the V&A, said: “Painted in 1568 by the last of the great Flemish illuminators and a foremost topographical artist of the day, this is a rare and beautiful work of outstanding importance. Among the earliest surviving English landscape watercolours, it brings to life one of the greatest monuments of the English Renaissance, now lost to us. We are delighted to acquire a picture of such quality and historical importance for our visitors to enjoy.”

The Joris Hoefnagel watercolor of Nonsuch Palace is now on display in the V&A’a British Galleries.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

East Kingdom 50 Year Event Bids Sought

East Kingdom Gazette - Sat, 2016-12-10 18:21

Greetings  unto the populace of this great East Kingdom.

Bids are now being accepted from those that want to run an East Kingdom 50 year event.

The East will hit the 50-year mark in 2018.  This results in a really tight window for bids to be received and reviewed by the Council of the Exchequer.

Had it not been for the desire of several people to run such an event, this momentous occasion could have passed by without any acknowledgment at all.

Considering that this event is unique in its nature it will likely have more detail than the standard East Kingdom event bid form. http://seneschal.eastkingdom.org/docs/EK50YearEventBid.docx

Submit all details and costs on the form or in additional attachments.  Include any and all information so that the council has a complete picture of your event and bid.

Your bids are to be sent to the  Kingdom Exchequer and Seneschal as well as Their Majesties and Highnesses. The deadline to receive bids is January 15, 2017.

In Service,

Ignacia,  Kingdom Exchequer

Mercedes, Kingdom Seneschal


Filed under: Announcements, Events, Uncategorized Tagged: EK 50th, Exchequer, seneschal

Lost 1924 Austrian film about anti-Semitism rescued

History Blog - Sat, 2016-12-10 00:38

While anti-Semitism was common in Austrian politics at the turn of the century, particularly in Vienna where the vast majority of Austria’s Jews lived, the 1867 constitution had eliminated all remaining laws discriminating against Jews. The end of World War I, the fall of Habsburg monarchy and the subsequent political and economic turmoil in the former empire ushered in a new, more violent, more organized form of anti-Semitism. The Antisemitenbund (Anti-Semites League) was founded in September 1919. That same month eight speakers stood in front of Vienna’s city hall advocating the expulsion of all Jews from the city before a rapt crowd of 5,000 people. When the Antisemitenbund organized a congress of anti-Semites in 1921, 40,000 people attended.

It wasn’t just talk. Prominent Jews — writers, intellectuals, publishers — were beaten on the streets. The courts provided little justice to the victims of these hate crimes, no matter how brutal the perpetrators. Best-selling novelist Hugo Bettauer became a target of anti-Semitic parties including the Nazi Party, the Christian Social Party and the Greater German People’s Party because of his writing. Born in 1872 the son of prosperous Jewish stockbroker, Bettauer converted to the Evangelical denomination of Christianity when he joined the army at the age of 18. It was a formality, not a genuine conversion, done because it was well known that Jews were denied advancement and promotion in the military. In the end Bettauer was too much of a free spirit for the army and the career he’d converted for ended after a few months.

He made his name writing satirical fiction. His most famous novel was Die Stadt ohne Juden: Ein Roman von Übermorgen (The City Without Jews: A Novel from the Day After Tomorrow), published in 1922. Set in Vienna, the book satirizes the growing anti-Semitism in politics and culture. A politician named Dr. Karl Schwertfeger, modelled after former mayor of Vienna Karl Lueger who Hitler would write about in glowing terms in Mein Kampf for his anti-Jewish beliefs, orders that all Jews be expelled from Vienna. In a chilling preview of future events, Schwertfeger borrows 30 stock car trains to pack the 200,000 Jews of Vienna (out of 220,000 total in Austria) off to the east. In short order, the city completely falls apart and the politicians beg for the Jews to come back. The novel sold more than 250,000 copies and was translated into multiple languages.

The response from the anti-Semitic parties was immediate and vocal. He was accused of Communism and, in what one hopes is a classical allusion but was probably unironic pomposity, of being a “corruptor of the youth.” Bettauer was even put on trial for these so-called offenses. He was charged with 16 counts of harming public morality. Surprisingly, he was acquitted of all them.

A year later, the novel was being made into a movie by director Hans Karl Breslauer. Keen to avoid some of the controversy around the book, Breslauer changed the setting from Vienna to a fictional city named Utopia and obscured other recognizable real world details. He also emphasized comedic aspects of the story. It didn’t help at all. The film premiered in Vienna on July 25th, 1924, and even though it wasn’t the blockbuster the novel had been, Nazis still protested, causing a ruckus at showings of the film and ramping up their criticisms of Bettauer in the press. Austrian Nazi Kaspar Hellering wrote screeds exhorting the lynching of “polluters of our people” like Bettauer. On March 10th, 1925, Otto Rothstock stepped up to do just that. He shot Bettauer in his office. Two weeks later, Bettauer died of his wounds.

Rothstock claimed he was motivated by Bettauer’s immorality (he advocated free love, wrote and published an erotic lifestyle weekly), but it was no coincidence that he was a former member of the National Socialist party. His financial supporters and legal defenders were either Nazis or had strong ties to the party. Even though he never admitted it, the murder was motivated by anti-Semitism, both against the author’s own Jewishness and the mockery he’d made of anti-Semitism in the book and movie. Rothstock was tried by a sympathetic court and sent to a psychiatric facility. He was released in 18 months.

The movie suffered greatly from state and local censorship. A severely edited and incomplete version of it managed to survive in a Dutch film museum archive (it was rediscovered there in 1991), a miracle in and of itself given the volatility of nitrate film and the toll the war took on Austrian films. Die Stadt ohne Juden is one very few Austrian expressionist films still extant. In October of 2015, a French film collector contacted the Austrian Film Archive to tell them he’d found a film relevant to their interests at a Paris flea market. When the Austrian experts examined the footage, they found it was a version of Die Stadt ohne Juden complete with missing footage and original ending.

It includes the hitherto lost ending of the film, while the other sequences found reveal an obviously dramaturgically staged parallel narrative. Previously unknown images show Jewish life in Vienna with a clear anti-Semitic connotation. The famous expressionist scene featuring Hans Moser in the role of a ruthless anti-Semite is available in its entirety for the first time. All in all, the political message of the film and the depiction of murderous anti-Semitism in Vienna in the wake of World War I are now significantly more sharply articulated. Upon completion of the restoration work, it may be possible to present DIE STADT OHNE JUDEN, more than 90 years after its premiere, in an almost complete and authentic version once again.

To bring this culturally and historically significant movie back to modern audiences, the Austrian Film Archive needed funding, first to copy it from highly explosive nitrate film to a stable medium and then convert it to digital. They started a crowdfounding campaign to raise the 75,500 euros necessary to conserve the film. The campaign exceeded its goal and currently stands at 85,159 euros with hours left to go.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

The Largesse of the Great Heart of Saint Kenric of Blessed Memory

East Kingdom Gazette - Sat, 2016-12-10 00:21

The following was shared with the Gazette by Meister Ulric von der Insel, Baron Bridge.

It is with humility and reverence that we, Ulric and Clothilde, Baron and Baroness Bridge do announce the rediscovery of the Great Patrimony bestowed upon us in days gone by! Much like the noted Donation of Constantine, whereby the Papal States were formed and which in NO WAY at all might be a forgery, Bridge was the recipient of the Largesse of the Great Heart of Saint Kenric of Blessed Memory, which, also, is in NO WAY a forgery at all! The document was rediscovered and read to the delight of all assembled at the barony’s 43rd birthday. Much as with the miracle of saints’ blood still staying wet over the centuries, herein was a miracle of Saint Kenric that the ink even appeared wet upon the scroll! Here it reads verbatim as follows:


Kenric Masculobarbatus Rex Defender of the East & Patron of Prosperity to All to whom these letters come, especially around AS 51, greetings. Know that Our Crown Barony of the Bridge being home of Our Heart & Body We would ensure its future lest it fall into poverty and so it must also prosper as a fit home for My Dearest Avelina in the unfortunate case of my demise by oh, I don’t know – maybe many black arrows in the chest. Thus do We gift forever said Crown Barony with the full income of the Great Kings Highway from one end to the other without gainsay, hindrance, stay or molestation upon pain of censure, forfeiture of estate, dismemberment and disembowelment. This We command upon this 24th day of September AS 46 being the birthday of Our most beloved brother Ulric. So say We Kenric Rex the First of Three or So.

Kenric

Post Script: This document is in no way a forgery
Signed Kenric’s Scribe’s Notary

This was read by myself – Meister Ulric von der Insel, Baron Bridge – on Sunday December 4 at Bridge Birthday 43. The document was discovered after long laying forgotten in a chest. (Note: It’s a forgery patterned after the famous Donation of Constantine, by which the Papal States were granted to the popes in perpetuity by Emperor Constantine. Really, it’s just for instigation and fun!)

 


Filed under: History Tagged: Barony of Bridge, Kenric and Avelina

Is this Robert the Bruce which you see before you?

History Blog - Fri, 2016-12-09 00:32

Robert the Bruce, hero of Bannockburn and King of Scots (r. 1306-1329) He died comparatively young, a month before 55th birthday, of an unknown ailment. His body was buried in Dunfermline Abbey where a passel of Scottish kings and queens were laid to rest. The abbey was sacked in 1560 during the Scottish Reformation. The parts of it that survived the sacking fell into ruin. The nave was repaired and used as a parish church until the early 19th century when a new church was built on the site of the Benedictine abbey. Construction workers building the new parish church in 1818 unearthed the bones of Robert the Bruce in a vault underneath what was once the high altar. His remains were sealed in pitch and reburied with great pomp and circumstance, but a cast was made of the skull before the reburial.

There are no reliable contemporary written or artistic depictions of Robert the Bruce’s appearance. He had suffered multiple bouts of serious illness during his lifetime, and some English chroniclers intimated he was afflicted with leprosy. No Scottish reports mention any such affliction. Modern technology could answer many questions about Bruce if his bones were available for research, but they are not. All we have is the cast of the skull of which there are several copies.

University of Glasgow professor of Scottish history Dr. Martin MacGregor had a brainwave when he saw a documentary featuring the facial reconstruction of Richard III. He realized the technology was advanced enough now that it might work on the cast of Robert the Bruce’s skull in the University’s Hunterian Museum. He reached out to Professor Caroline Wilkinson, Director of Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU)’s Face Lab, an expert in craniofacial identification who created the facial reconstruction of Richard III.

A careful examination of the cast of Robert the Bruce’s skull does show signs of what could be leprosy. There are osteological changes to his upper jaw and nose consistent with Hansen’s Disease, but the evidence is not conclusive. Dr. Wilkinson therefore took a two-pronged approach to the reconstruction: a younger man in full health, and an older one with scarring from leprosy.


Professor Wilkinson said: “Using the skull cast, we could accurately establish the muscle formation from the positions of the skull bones to determine the shape and structure of the face. But what the reconstruction cannot show is the colour of his eyes, his skin tones and the colour of his hair. We produced two versions – one without leprosy and one with a mild representation of leprosy. He may have had leprosy, but if he did it is likely that it did not manifest strongly on his face, as this is not documented.” [...]

Professor Wilkinson added: “In the absence of any DNA, we relied on statistical evaluation of the probability of certain hair and eye colours, conducted by Dr MacGregor and his team, to determine that Robert the Bruce most likely had brown hair and light brown eyes.”

“There have also been a number of advances in facial reconstruction techniques since previous depictions of this Scottish hero, including better facial feature prediction and more advanced CGI.”

“This is the most realistic appearance of Robert the Bruce to-date, based on all the skeletal and historical material available.”

This video walks through the facial reconstruction:

This one reconstructs his long-lost tomb, destroyed during the reformation.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Entertainers Wanted for Kingdom Twelfth Night

AEthelmearc Gazette - Thu, 2016-12-08 19:57

Kingdom Twelfth Night is looking for entertainers!

What’s a Carnivale without jugglers and minstrels? Please share your talents and entertain us! There will be a “town square” space set aside in the main hall for you to show us your best!

For event information click here.

-Mistress Othindisa Bykona
Kingdom 12th Night 2017 Autocrat


Categories: SCA news sites

Dutch return head of Julia Domna to Italy

History Blog - Thu, 2016-12-08 00:42

The head of a statue of Roman Empress Julia Domna that almost wound up on the auction block in Amsterdam has been returned to Italy after the Carabinieri Art Squad determined it had been recently stolen. In May of 2015, a man and a woman attempted to sell statue head through Christie’s Amstersdam office. The appraisers and experts were immediately suspicious, as they well should have been, and Christie’s lawyer called the Art Squad.

The piece, one foot high and dating to the 2nd century A.D., wasn’t on the Art Squad’s list of stolen and looted artworks, but their experts were able to trace its origins to Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli, the imperial country retreat/enormous palace built by the Emperor Hadrian in second and third decades of the 2nd century. A number of Severan dynasty portrait busts were unearthed at the villa during excavations in the 1950s, evidence that it was used by the imperial family well into the 3rd century. It was last on display in 2012 at an exhibition held in the Museum of the Canopus. Someone apparently stole the head after that, possibly from storage.

The auction house cooperated with the investigation, suspending the sale so the Art Squad and the Dutch police could work together to research the head. In addition to confirming the true origin of the object, the joint investigation identified two Dutch citizens who were illegally in possession of the statue head. Armed with all the evidence, the police confiscated the portrait and returned it to representatives of the Carabinieri Art Squad. It will be kept with authorities in Rome while the legal case proceeds. When it’s all over, Julia Domna will go back to Hadrian’s Villa with all her family members.

Born in what is today Homs, Syria, to a wealthy family of senatorial rank, Julia Domna was the second wife of Septimius Severus (r. 193-211 A.D.). He chose her because she had been prophesied to marry a king, and Severus was a rising political and military star with ambitions for the imperial throne. They married in around 186 A.D. Their union was by all accounts a happy one. She was intelligent, highly educated, a patron of philosophers and politically astute. Severus relied on her counsel and very unusually for the time, took her with him on military campaigns.

Julia Domna bore him two sons, Caracalla and Geta, who hated each other bitterly. She tried to smooth things over between them and their father — Caracalla co-ruled with his father from 198 until his death — to ensure a smooth succession, never a simple thing at the best of times, and certainly not when a new dynasty was in play. When Severus died in Eboracum (modern-day York), he left the empire to both Caracalla and Geta. His last words to them, reported by Cassius Dio, “Be harmonious, enrich the soldiers, and scorn all other men.”

This was not advice the young men chose to follow to the letter. Caracalla had his brother killed by members of the Praetorian Guard before the year was out. He did follow his father’s dictum when it came to soldier pay, showering them with bonuses so generous that he soon had to debase the currency. It didn’t buy him security, though. In 217, he was killed by a disgruntled soldier egged on by the Praetorian Guard Prefect Macrinus, that same Macrinus who would just happened to become the next emperor.

During Caracalla’s six years of solo rule, his mother did all the grunt work of being emperor. Caracalla was on campaign most of the time, so it was Julia Domna who took on the onerous duties of administering a vast territory where every single legal dispute, no matter how picayune, was adjudicated by the emperor. The amount of paperwork the imperial administration had to deal with was staggering, hence the staff of thousands of slaves, freedmen, clerks, translators, etc. necessary to keep the wheels turning. Caracalla showed a mark disinterest in this aspect of the job, while his mother proved willing and able. After she heard of his assassination, Julia Domna committed suicide.

Her distinctive style, evident in her portraiture, and her great power and influence during the reings of her husband and son, make her busts among the most recognizable. The one, the only forensic hairdresser Janet Stephens covers Julia Domna’s styling in videos on her YouTube Channel.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History