Thursday, 28 September 2006

Where's Roman Scotland?

I recently stumbled across a web page which purported to record the Roman ruins of Britain. Here's the accompanying map of Roman Britain!

Now, admittedly, as the sponsor of the Antonine Wall, I may be slightly biased. But I'm absolutely positive that the reach of Rome did not stop at the wall of my illustrious parent, Hadrian.

In fact, there were more than a few enclaves of Romans (admittedly, often barbarians in the pay of Rome, but supervised by fully accredited citizen officers) dotted around the Scottish lowlands for centuries.

But, most amusingly, if you click on any of the placenames on this map (in its original web location, of course), you are whisked off to a page about St. Albans, a town only marginally further north than Watford.

Roman ruins in Britain? I don't think so!

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

Happy birthday ...

... to me!

So, I'm officially 1,920 years old, and I don't feel a day over 40. Now, where are all these birthday greetings?!

Tuesday, 12 September 2006

The past is a foreign country ...

As L.P. Hartley astutely observed, they do things differently there.

I have long believed that the New Testament cannot be fully understood without an appreciation of the contemporary culture which produced it. Now, a new book by Mark Chancey of the Southern Methodist University, Texas, "challenges the conventional scholarly view that first-century Galilee was thoroughly Hellenized".

A recent review concludes that Chancey "succeeds in challenging the overstating of a Greek setting for first century Galilee". But this is old news. In 1993, E.P. Sanders published a study in the journal Theology Today, warning against those who "think that a few Greek inscriptions and the construction of a few Hellenistic buildings by Herod prove that Palestinian Jews were swamped by, and accepted whole-heartedly, the entirety of Greco-Roman culture". Jesus, it seems, lived in a very Jewish context, despite the proximity of Herod's Hellenistic kingdom and the looming presence of Rome.

Scholarship is often cyclical, as current ideas fall out of favour and new theories turn out to be old theories with a fresh coat of paint. But it is important that we have such debates, to clarify the meaning of history for each new generation.

Monday, 4 September 2006

Under siege

There aren't too many books about ancient siege warfare.

Besieged book jacket

But the Ancient & Medieval History Book Club is advertising a new one. "Through use of outstanding photographs and explanatory diagrams of siege warfare", says their blurb, "this expert study examines the techniques and weapons used during the period."