A Red Letter Way: Color, Writing, and Reading in Antiquity and the Middle Ages

Within most medieval books of hours, there were ecclesiastical calendars that had important holy days printed in red. This was a type of textual highlighting used to call attention to important festivals; a visual language that had long indicated significant textual features, paragraph organization, and wordplay (e.g. acrostics). The Latin word for red ochre and red coloring in general was rubrīca. As such, making a text red is called “rubrication” and influenced the original use for the word “rubric.” The practice of coloring significant dates in red is perhaps best known through the English idiom of a “red letter day.”

At the Copa: Women, Clothing, and Color Codes in Roman Taverns

On February 3, 326 CE, Constantine issued a legal clarification for Augustus’ Lex Julia de adulteriis, ruling that the wives of tavern owners (here labeled an uxor tabernarii) could be brought up on charges of adultery, but that the the barmaids working within the tavern could not be. Their lowly status as an ancilla orContinue reading “At the Copa: Women, Clothing, and Color Codes in Roman Taverns”

Ancient 3D Models Before Digital Modeling

Last week, my interview with Abydos Archaeology’s Matthew Douglas Adams was published at Hyperallergic. The article focused on the discovery of an industrial royal brewery dating to 3100-2900 BCE at the Egyptian site of Abydos, where Adams co-directs the excavation with Deborah Vischak, as part of fieldwork supported by New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts and Princeton University. InContinue reading “Ancient 3D Models Before Digital Modeling”

What Are the Best Classics Books for Children?

Finishing my third trimester in the midst of a pandemic was not what I had planned for the last months of pregnancy. Since the Ides of March, we have sequestered ourselves in our house in Iowa City and cancelled any and all social gatherings––including the planned baby shower––as has almost everyone else across the globe.Continue reading “What Are the Best Classics Books for Children?”

Consider the Anus Radish: Etymologies, Adultery, and the Defense of the Microhistory

Isidore was a learned scholar and the Bishop of the Spanish city of Seville from 600-636 CE. Thousands of manuscripts containing his Etymologiae (“The Etymologies,” also called the Origines, “The Origins”) survive today; the only work to surpass it in terms of extant manuscript copies in Western Europe is the Bible (Throop 2005: xii). The sheer number ofContinue reading “Consider the Anus Radish: Etymologies, Adultery, and the Defense of the Microhistory”

Through the Eyes of Ruby: Discovering Color and Trade in ‘The World Between Empires’

Last week, Candida Moss and I were lucky enough to catch the tail end of The World between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East, an exhibition which opened March 18 and closes on June 23, 2019 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The 190 objects within the exhibition acquired fromContinue reading “Through the Eyes of Ruby: Discovering Color and Trade in ‘The World Between Empires’”

Deus Ex Machina: Depicting Cranes and Pulleys in the Ancient World

Within ancient theater, the phrase ‘deus ex machina‘ actually referred to a crane called a μηχανή (the Greek term from whence we get our “machine”) used to suspend and then lower individuals onto the stage during performances of tragic plays, particularly those written by Sophocles and Euripides. In nine of his plays, an epiphanic deus was loweredContinue reading “Deus Ex Machina: Depicting Cranes and Pulleys in the Ancient World”

Signs of the Times: Ancient Symbols Reused by Hate Groups

For the past year and half, I have written extensively about the appropriation of ancient symbols, texts, and material culture as a rallying point for hate and marginalization within the U.S. and Europe. I wanted to take a moment to aggregate this work, to address how and why ancient historians are working to record thisContinue reading “Signs of the Times: Ancient Symbols Reused by Hate Groups”

A Reversed Perspective: Looking at Greek and Roman Art from Behind(s)

A few weeks ago, I began to ponder the ways in which Greek and Roman art is presented within the modern museum context–and to ruminate on whether we put a bit too much emphasis on the perceived front of a piece of art rather than the side or back of it. This led to aContinue reading “A Reversed Perspective: Looking at Greek and Roman Art from Behind(s)”

Digitization ≠ Repatriation: When Digital Humanities Provides Access But Not Restitution

This week over at Hyperallergic, I wrote about new exhibits at the British Library and the Victoria & Albert Museum which both engage with the cultural heritage of ancient and medieval Ethiopia. An examination of the Ethiopian cultural heritage held in the libraries and museums of Britain can perhaps demonstrate a seminal point about digitization andContinue reading “Digitization ≠ Repatriation: When Digital Humanities Provides Access But Not Restitution”