How the Karatepe bilingual inscription from the 8th century B.C. led to the decipherment of Anatolian hieroglyphs

Just as the Rosetta Stone was fundamental in the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs, other writing systems followed a similar process, sometimes more rugged and convoluted. Some contributed in part to the decipherment of the Anatolian hieroglyphs, in a sort of curious domino effect. In 1694, the Cippi of Melqart, two pedestals bearing bilingual inscriptions, in…Continue readingHow the Karatepe bilingual inscription from the 8th century B.C. led to the decipherment of Anatolian hieroglyphs

Hippika gymnasia, the Roman cavalry tournaments

We are used, thanks to literature and cinema, to the image of medieval horsemen engaged in chivalry tournaments. Although this type of competition and its rules are exclusively of medieval invention, in reality similar exercises existed long before, such as the one practiced by the Roman cavalry, probably due to Greek influence. It was called…Continue readingHippika gymnasia, the Roman cavalry tournaments

How Sumerians named substitute kings during eclipses and the custom survived even in Alexander’s time

Between 1805 and 1799 B.C. (according to short chronology) or 1868 and 1861 B.C. (according to medium chronology) King Erra-Imitti ruled in the Sumerian city-state of Isin in present-day Iraq (about 20 miles south of Nippur). His name comes to mean something as a follower of Erra, who was a god of war, riots and…Continue readingHow Sumerians named substitute kings during eclipses and the custom survived even in Alexander’s time

The Lemnos Stele, a funerary inscription from the 6th century B.C. that links the Pelasgians to the Etruscans

In 1885, a unique stele was found as part of the walls of a church in the town of Kaminia on the Greek island of Lemnos. It has been dated to the 6th century BC, prior to the conquest of the island by the Athenians in 510 BC to the Pelasgians. This was the name…Continue readingThe Lemnos Stele, a funerary inscription from the 6th century B.C. that links the Pelasgians to the Etruscans

When Emperor Hadrian destroyed the world’s longest bridge

On 103 A.D. emperor Trajan ordered to build a bridge over Danube river to be used for the crossing and supply of troops in the imminent Second Dacian War against Decebalus, for which he was preparing the biggest army since Augustus’ times, about 150,000 men. The architect Apolodorus of Damascus, to whom the Pantheon is…Continue readingWhen Emperor Hadrian destroyed the world’s longest bridge

Corupedium, the battle that ended the long war between Alexander’s successors

It is curious that one of the most extensive empires of antiquity had such a weak foundation that, in reality, it was only based on the charisma of its builder. We’re talking about Alexander the Great. That giant with feet of clay that he formed with his military genius fell apart as soon as his…Continue readingCorupedium, the battle that ended the long war between Alexander’s successors

The mystery of the disappearance of the most valuable medicinal plant from antiquity

The ancient Greek city of Cyrene (in present-day Libya), where Eratosthenes was born, was founded by settlers from Thera (Santorini) on the advice of the Oracle of Delphi around 632 BC. It soon prospered and became one of the richest cities in the Mediterranean. A plant, whose trade Cyrene dominated for centuries, had a lot…Continue readingThe mystery of the disappearance of the most valuable medicinal plant from antiquity

The Great Marib Dam, one of the engineering wonders of antiquity

Yemen is a relatively fertile country, thanks to its location on the seashore and its humid climate. It has valleys and mountains to the west, with heights exceeding 3,500 meters, but also desert plateaus to the east. Here is located the Rub al-Khali, considered the largest sand desert in the world. From very ancient times…Continue readingThe Great Marib Dam, one of the engineering wonders of antiquity

Onesicritus, the historian whom Alexander the Great sent to learn the secrets of the yogis

Astypalaia is a small island in the Greek Dodecanese, possibly a colony of Megara, where around 360 B.C. Onesicritus, a historian and cynic philosopher who followed Diogenes of Sinope ( the one who lived like a beggar in a jar), was born. In 334 BC, when he was 26 years old, he crossed the Hellespont…Continue readingOnesicritus, the historian whom Alexander the Great sent to learn the secrets of the yogis

Lapis Niger, the shrine where the first known Latin inscription was found, was already a mystery to the Romans themselves

In 1898 the Venetian archaeologist Giacomo Boni was appointed director of the excavations of the Roman Forum at the Italian capital, a position he held until his death in 1925. Among the discoveries he made during that period are an Iron Age necropolis, the Regia (first a barracks and then the seat of Rome’s highest…Continue readingLapis Niger, the shrine where the first known Latin inscription was found, was already a mystery to the Romans themselves