Haunting dispatches from the edge of the Roman Empire, just before its collapse | Aeon Videos

The funerary paintings known as the ‘Fayum portraits’ are named for the Egyptian desert oasis region of Fayum, just west of the Nile, in which many of them have been found. Painted on the outskirts of the Roman Empire as it began to decline in the first centuries CE, these stark and hauntingly lifelike images [...]

Knocking at the gates by Clayton Trutor | The New Criterion

In 410 ad, Alaric I, King of the Visigoths, breached Rome’s walls, likely with the aid of collaborators, and led an army of thousands into the city. Alaric’s sack of Rome was the culmination of a decade’s worth of campaigns against an increasingly unstable western imperial state, which had grown incapable of controlling its hinterlands [...]

How Do You Know If You’re Living Through the Death of an Empire? – Mother Jones

The fall of an empire—the end of a polity, a socioeconomic order, a dominant culture, or the intertwined whole—looks more like a cascading series of minor, individually unimportant failures than a dramatic ending that appears out of the blue. Carts full of olive oil failing to arrive at some nameless fort because of a dysfunctional [...]

March of the Turanians: how Central Asian horselords shaped the modern world

From the 5th Century AD to the 12th Century AD, wave after wave of nomadic horse lords marched out of their Central Asian homelands, changing, forever, the course of history in Europe, South Asia and India, and, even, China. It all began with Attila the Hun, who, arguably, sounded the death knell of the Western [...]

Caligula’s Descent into Madness

40 CE: Caligula announced his self-deification, building temples and erecting statues, even in Rome, to his glorified self. He even ordered that a statue of himself should be placed in the Temple of Jerusalem and the Jews be forced to worship him (the procurator wisely postponed executing this order, and it had not yet been [...]

Archaeology Intern Unearths Spectacular, 2,000-Year-Old Roman Dagger | Smart News | Smithsonian Magazine

Discovered still in its sheath in the grave of a soldier at the archaeological site of Haltern am See (Haltern at the Lake), the weapon was nearly unrecognizable thanks to centuries of corrosion. But nine months of meticulous sandblasting revealed a spectacularly ornamented 13-inch-long blade and sheath that once hung from a matching leather belt, [...]

How Roman skeptics shaped debates about God | OUPblog

Cicero (106 —43 BCE) was equally troubled about popular piety and wrote three books against deformed religious beliefs: On the Nature of the Gods, On Fate, and On Divination. But unlike Lucretius he made a clear distinction between practice and belief.  Active involvement in religious life was fine, but only out of respect for cultural tradition, state order [...]