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A Tribute to Augustus

This year marks the bimillennial anniversary of the death of the first Roman emperor, Augustus. He died on 19th August AD 14 at the age of 75 after a 41-year reign, the longest in Roman history.

Augustus left his mark on Rome and western civilisation like few others. He vastly expanded the Roman Empire, established a period of relative peace known as the “Pax Romana” (or “Pax Augusta”), a period of immense architectural and artistic achievement whose effects were felt far beyond the capital. His legacy is perhaps best represented in the abundance of statues that were erected throughout the empire during and after his reign.

Augustus of Prima Porta, discovered in the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta © Carole Raddato

Portraits of Augustus were used as symbols of his political propaganda. Abandoning the realistic style of the Republican period, his portraits always showed him as an idealized young man. This would set the standards for imperial portraiture used by Roman emperors over the next three centuries.

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8 Ancient Greek Temples

The temple in the ancient Greek world was perhaps the most recognisable building in the urban landscape. Typically constructed in an eye-catching location using the finest of marble, they were the focus of Greek religious practices and could house magnificent treasures and monumental stautes of the Greek gods on the inside and display some of the greatest of Greek sculpture on the outside. Built wherever the Greeks colonized across the Mediterranean world, they would go on to influence the Romans and, even today, their architectural features can be seen across the world in all manner of public buildings. To read more on temples see Ancient History Encyclopedia’s definition, Temples in the Ancient World.

Temple of Apollo, Naxos

The remains of the foundations, crepidoma and doorway leading from the prodromos to the cella of the 6th century BCE temple of Apollo on Naxos in the Cyclades. The doorway is 6m high and 3.5 m wide. The temple itself, as indicated by its surviving foundations, measured some 59 by 28 metres.
The remains of the foundations, crepidoma and doorway leading from the prodromos to the cella of the 6th century BCE temple of Apollo on Naxos in the Cyclades. The doorway is 6m high and 3.5 m wide. The temple itself, as indicated by its surviving foundations, measured some 59 by 28 metres.
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Visiting the ancient city of Babylon

We had a 4-day national holiday. Meaning what? No clinic and no hospital! I said to myself, “It’s been a long time since I have visited Babylonia.” I drove my car for about 11 hours, continuously. Finally, I was there. I went to my uncle’s house, which lies about a quarter of hour from the ancient city of Babylon. The ancient city lies within modern-day city of Hillah, the center of Babel Governorate, Iraq, about 83 kilometers south of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital city.

After the US-led invasion in 2003, the American and Polish armies established a military base within the ancient city. God only knows what happened there during their presence! A British Museum report has found that extensive damage was done to the site by this military occupation. In 2009, the local government of Babylon opened the city to the public.

It was a very sunny and hot day in mid-July, with temperatures exceeding 55 oC (131 F). I took 8 bottles of cold water with me!

A general view of the ancient city of Babylon. The picture was shot from Saddam’s Palace, which lies on a mound which looks over the city. The South Palace of Nebuchadnezzar lies on the right. Babylon, modern day Babel Governorate, Iraq.
A general view of the ancient city of Babylon. The picture was shot from Saddam’s Palace, which lies on a mound which looks over the city. The South Palace of Nebuchadnezzar lies on the right. Babylon, modern day Babel Governorate, Iraq. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
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Visiting the Ancient City of Borsippa

Borsippa lies about 11 miles southwest of the ancient city of Babylon. It is a Sumero-Akkadian city and was built on either side of river Euphrates. It lies within modern-day Babel Governorate, Iraq. There is a road, which takes you directly near the city. It is not a desert.

The modern-day name of the city is Birs-Nimrud (Arabic: برس نمرود). Local people think/thought that this is the place where king Nimrod ordered the burning of Prophet Abraham. A nearby shrine can be found and is linked to Prophet Abraham.

The city of Borsippa is marked by this survived ziggurat and temple of God Nabu. The so-called tongue tower lies on the top. People thought that these are the ruins of the Tower of Babylon
The city of Borsippa is marked by this survived ziggurat and temple of God Nabu. The so-called tongue tower lies on the top. People thought that these are the ruins of the Tower of Babylon. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
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10 Greek Pottery Details

The pottery of ancient Greece has provided us with some of the most distinctive pottery shapes and striking decoration from antiquity. This collection begins with the Minoans whose love of the sea and flowing, vibrant forms can be seen on the famous Marine Style askos. In the archaic period geometric designs gained popularity until designers eventually began to experiment with human figures. These would become more and more expressive and detailed with the black-figure style which first appeared in Corinth and then spread across Greece. Finally, the red-figure style added yet more details and greater variety in colours to pottery decoration and saw more ambitious attempts made at achieving depth and perspective.  For more on this fascinating subject see Ancient History Encyclopedia’s definition on Greek pottery.

Minoan Pottery

New-Palace period (1500-1450 BCE) Cretan Clay askos with 'Marine Style' decoration, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete.
Minoan Octopus, New-Palace period (1500-1450 BCE) Cretan Clay askos with ‘Marine Style’ decoration, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete.
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10 Greek & Roman Frescoes

As a technique, true fresco painting (buon fresco) is the painting of colour pigments on wet lime plaster without a binding agent, and when the paint is absorbed by the plaster, it is fixed and protected from fading. Inherent problems with frescoes for historians are their fragility, incompleteness, and artistic anonymity. In addition, at archaeological sites they are often found removed from their original settings, making them extremely difficult to date. However, frescoes can provide us with some of the most striking imagery from antiquity, and they can give a unique insight into the ordinary lives of people long ago.

For more on frescoes see our articles on Minoan Frescoes, Akrotiri Frescoes, and Roman Wall Painting.

 Minoan Frescoes

Minoan Dolphin Fresco
Minoan Dolphin Fresco from Knossos, Crete, 1700-1450 BCE.
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10 Coins of Ancient Greece

The first Greek coins were minted in Aegina from 560 BCE, and then Athens and Corinth also began their own coin production shortly after. Each city used an easily identifiable symbol: a turtle for Aegina, an owl for Athens and a winged-horse for Corinth.  The turtle was an apt choice for the Mediterranean trading power, the owl was associated with Athens’ patron goddess Athena, and Pegasus was the horse of the Corinthian hero Bellerophon. Other cities soon produced their own coins and images from Greek mythology continued to be popular in coin designs. Later, letters and short inscriptions were added to signify the issuing authority.  The coins were created by hammering a plain metal disk placed between two engraved metal dies made from hardened bronze or iron. The disks were heated first to aid the stamping of the design. Greek coins were most commonly made of silver, gold, or a copper alloy.

Silver stater from Metapontum, 520 BCE. O: Ear of wheat, R: same incuse.
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10 Ancient Gold Jewellery Pieces

Malleable, lustrous, resistant to corrosion, and high in value, gold has always been a favourite material for jewellers going back to earliest antiquity. The following jewellery pieces are all from the ancient Mediterranean and have nothing more in common than their excellent craftsmanship and striking designs. For more on the history of ancient gold see Ancient History Encyclopedia’s definition on gold in antiquity.

Gold Bead

A gold bead from the dolmen d'Er Roh, La Trinite Sur Mer (France). 2200-2000 BCE. (Vannes Archaeological Museum, France)
A gold bead from the dolmen d’Er Roh, La Trinite Sur Mer (France). 2200-2000 BCE. Vannes Archaeological Museum, France.
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Visiting the Pergamon Museum in Berlin

August 11, 2014. It was a partly cloudy day. I arrived at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin around 10 AM. I found a long queue . . . Average waiting time: two hours! I asked a guard about this. He said, ”This line is for holders of priority pass tickets and pre-booked tickets.” I said, “OK, where I can buy this priority pass ticket?” The answer was, “You have to join this long queue, and once you enter into the museum’s main reception, you can buy this type of ticket.” The ticket costs 24 Euros; it is valid for three consecutive days, and you can use it to enter the other museums at “the Museum Island in Berlin” and other museums within the city of Berlin. It’s an excellent deal!

Finally, I went upstairs and found myself within the Processional Way of ancient Babylon. What a feeling I had! The Ishtar Gate faces the Processional Way. I walked back and forth, through the gate and the street, maybe ten times. I said to myself, “Nebuchadnezzar and his army walked through this gate!”