“Dignitas Amicorum Pie Zeses Vivas!” (“Worthy among your friends! Drink that you may live. May you live!”) A toast to a fruitful 2017, amici, and please feel free to leave comments below concerning what you want to hear about on the blog or perhaps how you will be toasting tonight.
Late antique Roman mosaic with an asarotos oikos “unswept floor” now on display in Switzerland at the Chateau de Boudry.
Over at the Forbes blog this week, I discuss the ancient and medieval history of falconry in the Mediterranean. After seeing the new documentary film ‘The Eagle Huntress,’ about a 13-year-old girl named Aisholpan learning to become an eagle hunter with her father in Mongolia, I went back to some class notes on Greco-Roman attitudes towards the eagle and the later development of falconry. This post was a good excuse to emphasize that there is little material evidence for falconry in the Roman world until the period of Late Antiquity. It is possible that the Vandals or Visigoths popularized the sport within the late Roman world. During the early middle ages, falconry and particularly the use of not only falcons, but also hawks, became popular among both male and female elites. Falconry was a courtly sport and in the late medieval period, we even have writings from women on the topic. I am certainly not a bird expert, but writing this piece was one way to commemorate the majesty of birds of prey and to establish humanity’s long connection to them.
“Detail of a bas-de-page scene of a lady observing her hawk bringing down a duck, Yates Thompson MS 13, f. 73v.” Image and caption via the British Library Blog and is in the Public Domain.
This week over at the Forbes blog, I discuss the International Astronomical Union (IAU)‘s publication of an official catalog of 227 star names. The list was published this week in order to further standardize how we reference stars and constellations, since each one has had numerous monikers in Greek, Roman, Chinese, Arabic and many other languages over the many millenia that people have been studying the stars.
I am also posting a list of digital resources and manuscripts below that I consulted for this article, so that you too can investigate the myriad contributions of Muslim scientists via the manuscripts themselves:
Ursa major (الدب الأكبر) as viewed on a celestial globe (upper) and as viewed in the sky (lower) (Or 5323, f.8v). Image via the British Library and is in the Public Domain.
I am grateful for the help given to me by the University of Iowa’s Special Collections librarians. Map librarian Paula Balkenende pulled a number of celestial maps for me and then gave me a special look at Lanciani’s Forma Urbis Romae–just for kicks.