Monthly Archives: September 2016

Ancient And Medieval Censored Books To Read During Banned Book Week

This week (September 25-October 1, 2016) is banned books week. Over on the Forbes Blog, I discuss the import of celebrating the freedom to read any book that we want. This is despite the fact that written works continue to be censored and removed from public libraries even today. I discuss just a few of the works that were burned, censored, or banned completely in antiquity and the middle ages, and mention a new book I am reading, Dirk Rohmann’s Christianity, Book-Burning and Censorship in Late Antiquity : Studies in Text Transmission. Head on over to the ALA’s list of censored texts and pick a banned book to read this week!

Side note: The Sibyl of Cumae was clearly  extremely buff to the mind of Michelangelo (see image above), but I like to think it is from lifting all those books all the time. #libraryworkouts

Does NYC’s New 3D Printed Palmyra Arch Celebrate Syria Or Just Engage In ‘Digital Colonialism’?

Over on the Forbes Blog, I discuss the ethics of 3D printing antiquities and the developing practice of “digital colonialism.” These issues have come up yet again with the unveiling of the 3D replica of the Palmyra Arch newly erected in New York City. The problem is with the signage, the lack of methodological transparency, and absence of true connections to the Syrian community.

Many thanks to Dante A. Ciampaglia, who took these photos for me in New York City yesterday.

September 12, 490 BCE: Remembering The Battle of Marathon On The 2,506th Anniversary

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.

Tattoo Taboo? Exploring The History Of Religious Ink And Facial Tattoos

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 Friedman about 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.

What Not To Wear: A Short History Of Regulating Female Dress From Ancient Sparta To The Burkini

Over on the Forbes blog, I talk about the history of dress codes for women. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I think a lot about clothing, color, and historical dress. This post is reacting to the recent burkini bans in towns along the French Riviera by mentioning the fact that Sparta, Rome, the Church, and many others have tried to control female dress as a means of advertising a communal identity. In short? Women often serve as blank political canvases that others (usually elite men in antiquity) may paint upon in order to advertise social hierarchy, communal ideals, or attitudes towards luxury. Below, I have also offered some links to other posts I have written on clothing both here and elsewhere.

Previous Posts on Ancient Clothing, Color, and Historical Dress:

  1. Clothing and Cross-Dressing in Antiquity
  2. The Popular Gaze: Roman Underwear, Nudity, and Visual Display

  3. with Kristina Killgrove, Caesar Undressing: Ancient Romans Wore Leather Panties And Loincloths

  4. Unlocking the Dark Ages: A Short History of Chastity Belts

  5. Good Mourning: Roman Clothing, Courtrooms, and the Psychology of Color

Short Bibliography in Order Of How Much I Love The Book (Because it is my blog and I do not have to go alphabetically):

  1. Upson-Saia, Kristi, Carly Daniel-Hughes, Alicia J. Batten, and Callie Callon. 2014. Dressing Judeans and Christians in antiquity.

  2. Upson-Saia, Kristi. 2011. Early Christian dress: gender, virtue, and authority. New York: Routledge.

  3. Edmondson, J. C., and Alison Mary Keith. 2008. Roman dress and the fabrics of Roman culture. Toronto [Ont.]: University of Toronto Press.

  4. Parani, Maria G. 2003. Reconstructing the reality of images: Byzantine material culture and religious iconography (11th-15th centuries). Leiden: Brill.

  5. Polychromy of Roman Marble Sculpture (Met Museum Guide).

A more extensive bibliography on ancient clothing is available via Miko Flohr’s website. 

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.