Friday, 18 June 2010

The Battle at the Edge of the World

Mons Graupius AD83It seems that there is a new book about Mons Graupius, the famous battle in Scotland where the Roman army of Agricola defeated the Caledonian tribes and brought Britain into the Roman empire.

The battlefield is notoriously unlocated, with many candidates proposed over the years, and there are still those who cling to the previously-fashionable date of AD 84. But it looks as if we now have a firm date, at least.

All of this is good news. The last book about Mons Graupius appeared twenty years ago, and has long been out-of-print: if you can find a copy, you'll discover that Gordon Maxwell's A Battle Lost is a wonderful little book, beautifully written and meticulously researched by an acknowledged expert in Romano-Scottish archaeology. But Maxwell was unwilling to commit to one or other of the date ranges then current for Agricola's governorship (consequently dating the battle to AD 83/84), and favoured a southerly location for the battlefield. On the contrary, Tacitus' description would lead us to place the battle as far north as possible. And Tacitus is currently our only guide, until some metal-detectorists attempt to rectify the situation.

If Mons Graupius AD 83 delivers half as much as some other recent Osprey Campaign volumes (I have seen a particularly readable Pharsalus 48 BC, for example), then we are all in for a treat!

The book is available directly from Osprey Publishing.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

World-class Ephesus

EphesusI was amazed to discover that Ephesus is not yet a World Heritage Site.

In fact, the ancient town of Ephesus has been on UNESCO's tentative list since 1994 but seems never to have been formally nominated for recognition as a World Heritage Site.

This is odd. Ephesus seems to be an archaeological site of outstanding value, the primary qualification for recognition. It is also an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement which is representative of Graeco-Roman culture. This site should be at the top of the list.

Of course, a successful nomination brings expensive responsibilities, and Turkey already has nine other World Heritage Sites to look after.

But, at last, it seems that Ephesus is to be nominated (Balkan News report). Good luck, Turkey!