Sunday, March 18, 2018

Roman Iron Gates

This ancient Roman gate is made of iron. It is typical of the entrance gates to the oppida (fortresses).

Two towers flanked the entryway. The entryway was protected by a portcullis (huge metal grating) at each end of the entryway. These could be raised or lowered. They were raised early in the morning to permit villagers to come into the fortress to sell their goods. They were lowered at night and also in times of enemy attack.

Artist rendering of an Iron Age oppidum.

In the ancient world people lived at high elevations near permanent water sources. These "high places" were often fortified mounds, which in Hebrew are called "ophel" (Hebrew עֹ֫פֶל).

These fortified mounds gave security to the residents. The guards who watched the surroundings area from the walls were called "oplites." Here we see the same root as in the Hebrew word ophel. The root is OP and it pertains to seeing (optics, optic nerve, etc.); armed guards (opiltes); walled towns (oppida), and sun shrines/temples (Opiru). The Opiru were served by a caste of priests known in the ancient world as Ha'piru, Ha'biru or 'Apiru. The word Habiru is rendered as "Hebrew" in English Bibles.

Ferrum - iron
Lead - plumbumCopper - cyprium
Gold - aurum
Silver - argentum

Tin - stannum or plumbum album
Bronze - aes or æris

Wood - ligna

The temple of Janus in Rome was in a street named Argiletum. This road connected the Roman Forum and the residential areas in the northeast. The iron gates of the temple are shown on this bronze coin.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Veristic Portraiture Versus Stylized Portraiture

Sculpture portraits from ancient Rome show the transition from the Republic to the Empire. Most of these sculptures were made of stone, marble or bronze. Watch this video.

Veristic sculptures show the actual features of the person. In this type of sculpture we see details that express the personality. The subject is shown with warts, scarred, bald, or flabby. Many of the men are older with wrinkled faces and sagging cheeks like the sculpture in the middle.

During the Republic the people were governed by the Senate and the senators were all older men. Because of their older age, their were respected fro their wisdom and experience.

Practice saying these Latin words. Now make flashcards for these Latin words.

Wood - lignum
Stone - lapis
Marble - marmor
Bronze - aes or æris
Iron - ferrum 
Copper - cyprium
Tin - stannum or plumbum album
Lead - plumbum
Gold - aurum
Silver - argentum  
(The country of Argentina takes its name from the word for silver.)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Cyprus is an island located in the Mediterranean Sea. The island's location made it an important place for ancient shipping. It is located at the marine trade routes between Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. 

Some of the ancient seaports include Amathus, an ancient royal city of Cyprus until about 300 BC.

Many ships sank off the coasts of the island.  A famous shipwreck discovered there is the a 4th-century BC Greek merchant ship Kyrenia.

The Greek name for the island was Kúpros, which refers to copper. The Latin word for copper is cyprium. The people of ancient Cyprus were known for their metalworking skills and were some of the first to use copper.

One of the oldest copper mines in Israel is in the region of Timnah. 

This is a copper mine in the Faynan in present-day Jordan, ancient Edom.

At an ancient city in southern Iraq there is a place call "Bad-tibira" which means "Wall of the Copper Worker." This ancient site appears among the cities named in the Sumerian King List. Its Akkadian name was Dûr-gurgurri.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Roman Jewelry

The Romans used different metals to make rings, bracelets, brooches, hair pins, and clasps for men's capes. These metals included:

Copper - cyprium (Named for the island of Cyprus.)
Tin - stannum or plumbum album
Lead - plumbum
Gold - aurum
Silver - argentum
Bronze - aes or æris

Related reading: Lead Contamination in Ancient Rome

Friday, February 23, 2018

Lead Contamination in Ancient Rome

Lead - plumbum

Lead is a metal that can be harmful to humans. In recent years, the water supplies of some American cities has been found to have high concentrations of lead. Flint, Michigan made the news when it was discovered that the water wasn't properly treated. Lead from aging service lines began leaching into the Flint water supply after the city tapped into the Flint River as its main water source.

The problem of lead contamination is not a new problem. The water systems of ancient Rome used lead pipes. These pipes disintegrated, leaving lead residue in the soil. Researchers can use these lead trails to figure out the urban expansion around 33 BC.

Researchers examined lead levels in dirt drilled from two Roman harbor sites, Ostia and Portus, on the Tiber River. The samples spanned 2000 years, from 1000 B.C. to A.D. 1000. Until around 200 B.C., the waters in the harbor were clean, but then the samples revealed contamination, likely from the runoff from lead pipes in the city’s water system.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Materials Used to Make Roman Clothing

Source: Costumes of All Nations by Albert Kretschmer

The fabrics used by the Romans to make clothing include silk, linen, wool, leather and cotton. Here we see the typical clothing of Roman men. The most common garment worn by the men was the tunic. It usually came to just above the knees, but long tunics were also worn. The longer tunics came to the ankles. The men of high rank in Roman society wore the toga when they appeared in public. The toga was a large piece of cloth that was wrapped around the man with a portion draped over the shoulder and left arm.

Silk – sericum, bombyx

Silk is the softest material used to make clothing. It is made from the cocoons of the caterpillar known as Bombyx mori. The Romans bought silk from Chinese traders. Silk was very costly and only worn by the richest members of Roman society.

silk thread

Linen – linteum; fine linen - sindon

The fine linen used to make the clothes of high-born Roman citizens came from the region of Tyre and Sidon. The merchants of Tyre and Sidon provided dyed material (purpureus) for the imperial court. These cities were on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The rulers of Tyre were related to King David. Jesus visited the city of Tyre.

Wool - lana

Wool comes from sheep. Roman farmers usually sheered their sheep twice a year. Sheering did not hurt the animal. If the sheep was accidentally injured, the wound was sealed by liquid tar.

Leather - corium

Leather was used to make belts, straps, shoes, pouches, and covers for the soldier's scutum. Leather is made from processing the hides of animals, mainly cattle.

Cotton - bombacio

The Romans imported cotton from India and Egypt.