Over on the Forbes blog, I have posted a day-by-day reconstruction of the events leading up to and including the famed Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE. I did this with the help of UT-Knoxville Classicist Thomas Rose (also a ASCSA alumnus & fellow marathoner). The battle was the basis for the modern day Marathon race (26 miles from the plain of Marathon to Athens), but the victory of the Athenians and Plataeans over their Persian foes was also a story of David over Goliath. Using the ancient sources and their references to the moon phases, we can now approach a timeline for the battle and reconstruct this instantly mythical struggle for students and interested readers alike.
Bronze Corinthian helmet of alleged Marathon soldier with his skull. This artifact resides at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, though I have trouble believing this 19th century find at the site is what it is says it is on the card. Those are my hands taking the picture because, well, I was there in April.
Over on my Forbes blog, I explore the history of religious tattoos.This post stems from my interest in the use of various stigmas–legal, social, and even corporal–against marginalized individuals. Tattoos in Greco-Roman antiquity were often linked to servility, but could also advertise one’s religious convictions. I spoke with tattoo historian Anna Felicity Friedmanabout pilgrimage tattoos in Jerusalem and also chatted with Jordan Rosenblum (UW-Madison) about the old wives’ tale that tattooed Jews can never be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Overall, it is interesting to see the variant ways in which tattoos have been used since antiquity and to realize what a potent canvas the human body was and still is.
As these resources demonstrate: when we reimagine the ancient world, we have to do so in technicolor. This means both for statues and for daily life. It means we must read the subtexts provided to us by mentions of colors in particular. Although these aspects of premodern societies can go unnoticed, clothing, color, and laws that controlled these aspects can tell us a great deal about the past and the present.
The famed ‘Augustus of Prima Porta’ as it is today (left) and a reconstruction of the polychrome original, which would have been similarly painted (right). Screen cap from a video reconstruction you can find here.