The Itinerarium Egeriae: Mapping Egeria’s Pilgrimage On Candlemas

In the Roman Catholic Church, the celebration held forty days after Christmas is the festival of Candlemas (February 2). Candlemas recognizes the presentation of Jesus in the temple and the purification of the Virgin Mary forty days after giving birth (Luke 2:22-29). This was in accordance with Jewish purity law (Lev. 12:4) which required women whoContinue reading “The Itinerarium Egeriae: Mapping Egeria’s Pilgrimage On Candlemas”

Picturing the Patriarch: Resources for Finding Illustrated Papyri and the Case for Image Licensing

Ancient and medieval papyri not only transmitted text, some even held illustrations. Mathematical, scientific, and magical papyri often had accompanying images meant to enhance the understanding of a text or perhaps to depict someone being cursed. Some historical and literary papyri (e.g., those of Homer) had illustrations as well. I was reminded of this fact this morning,Continue reading “Picturing the Patriarch: Resources for Finding Illustrated Papyri and the Case for Image Licensing”

‘Bind His Hands’: Curse Tablets and Charioteer Magic in Ancient Sports

Over on the Forbes blog this week, I wrote a bit about how social anxiety can be viewed through magic. In the case of curse tablets involving charioteers, we see an incredible amount of energy invested in sports. The culture of athletic competition and rivalry in chariot racing is not all that different from theContinue reading “‘Bind His Hands’: Curse Tablets and Charioteer Magic in Ancient Sports”

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,Continue reading “Ancient And Medieval Censored Books To Read During Banned Book Week”

To BCE Or Not to BCE: That Is a Very Common Question

A short post in order to discuss a topic that comes up a lot when I blog and when I tweet: Why do I use BCE and CE (Before the Common Era and Common Era) instead of BC (Before Christ) and AD (anno domini–“in the year of [our] lord”)? History of the Debate:  The use of BC andContinue reading “To BCE Or Not to BCE: That Is a Very Common Question”

I Wear My Sunglasses at the Fight? The Emperor Nero and the History of Sunglasses

Nero princeps gladiatorum pugnas spectabat in smaragdo. The princeps Nero viewed the combats of the gladiators in a smaragdus. — Pliny, Natural History, 37.16. There are many fantastical stories to be found in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. Part of the lure of this encyclopedic work is the (often misleading) conviction with which the statesman explored the objects, peoples, and placesContinue reading “I Wear My Sunglasses at the Fight? The Emperor Nero and the History of Sunglasses”

It’s On the Sillybos: The Birth of the Book Title

Anyone who has ever written a book, article, course advertisement, blogpost, or conference paper knows the mental agony that accompanies the completion of this task. It is not enough to write a great book; we must next sell our work with a clever title. We are told that “sexy” titles lure the elusive reader, student, or conference participant to our work. ItContinue reading “It’s On the Sillybos: The Birth of the Book Title”

‘Can I Get Your Autograph?’: A Short History of Signature Collecting

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with collecting the signatures of the Atlanta Braves baseball players. It was a point of pride to show my friends the signatures of John Smoltz or Greg Maddux, and they provided me with a little residual cachet. Turns out that Romans had much the same reaction. The naturalContinue reading “‘Can I Get Your Autograph?’: A Short History of Signature Collecting”

Sacrificial Lambs: Livestock, Book Costs, and the Premodern Parchment Trade

Pliny the Elder remarks on a conflict that arose between King Eumenes of Pergamum and Ptolemy V, the Egyptian pharaoh, around 191 BCE. The naturalist notes the regal rivalry in his section on writing materials from the ancient world (NH 13.21). During an epic battle to build each other’s libraries bigger and faster (would that thisContinue reading “Sacrificial Lambs: Livestock, Book Costs, and the Premodern Parchment Trade”

Martius Madness: On Manliness, Roman Gambling Laws, and NCAA Brackets

We are in the midst of the NCAA March madness tournament in the U.S., and, as NPR reported, the American Gaming Association boasted more NCAA Brackets than number of votes for the next president. Now, I identify as both a UVa Cavalier and a UNC Tar Heel, and so my entire household was glued to the screen yesterday. AsContinue reading “Martius Madness: On Manliness, Roman Gambling Laws, and NCAA Brackets”