To the Romans, Jesus, known to them as Christus/Christos, was a troublemaker, and his followers were by turns anathema, evil and mischievous.
For it seemed to them a dark form of mischief making to try and reverse the shame of crucifixion, which was in itself also a promotion of Roman power over enemies of the state, and spin it into something to glorify and celebrate.
As the earliest non-Christian accounts of the followers of Jesus attest, Christianity was seen as only slightly less abhorrent than outright rebellion and a slap in the face to the ultimate power of the Roman state.
The first century AD historian, Tacitus minced no words when he wrote that Christians were evil. He felt that the execution of a man that was to him a complete nobody; a man less than an idea, had been necessary to temporarily quash what he termed a dangerous superstition.
‘Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus,’
[Tacitus, Annales XV].
Many today who would agree, like Tacitus, that belief in Jesus is dangerous superstition, forget that Tacitus too believed in an unseen realm, controlled by forces beyond the reach of man.
Why then did the likes of Tacitus, declare the beliefs of Christians to be dangerous, evil and despised? Well I think, Tom Holland is correct in his hypothesis in Dominion that to the Romans, crucifixion represented not only the death of a rebel; painful and excruciating and a shameful way to die, but it was essentially to turn the condemned person into a pawn of the state, a temporarily live exhibition of Roman power.
Thus to glory in a crucifixion was to them incomprehensible, and to deify one who had undergone the most shameful and degrading of public deaths was to spit at Roman power and authority.
Disdain for Christianity’s apparent devotion to the crucified Christos was not restricted to historians like Tacitus, but also to statesmen and lawyers like Pliny the Younger, governor of Pontus/Bithynia from 111-113 AD.
It fell to Pliny to suppress Christianity in his province and wrote a famous letter to the emperor Trajan asking if his procedures for trying denounced as Christians were acceptable.
The majority of people could simply avoid punishment for defiance of the edict banning Christian worship by swearing to the gods of Rome, the deified emperor and offering wine to his image etc, however Pliny felt he had to question further some who said they had stopped being Christians after the promulgation of the edict.
‘Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition … the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms.’
The ordinary people, especially in Rome, so it seems, were no less disdainful of the apparent absurdity of revering not only the victim of crucifixion but the cross itself as if it was the throne of a king.
A graffito found on the Palatine Hill in Rome, of uncertain date, (with estimates ranging from the 1st to the 3rd centuries AD,) mockingly caricatured a figure gesturing at cross that bears a man with the head of an ass, with the words scratched in Greek reading: ‘Alexamenos respects god.’
The words of the 1st Century AD Historian Suetonius in his lives of the Caesars are firm on the matter of the legislation enacted under Nero, for amongst the many laws he says the emperor created was that:
‘Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition,’
Suetonius, Life of Nero.
and in his book on Claudius, he informed his readers that the emperor, hearing that:
‘the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus [presumed to be a mishearing of Christos], he expelled them from Rome.’
Suetonius, Life of Claudius.
To return to Tacitus, (reporting that Nero had blamed the Christians for the Great Fire of Rome,) who like Suetonius found the Christian ’superstition’ in Jesus to be ‘mischievous’ but also an abomination, continued that after the death of Christ, the movement:
‘thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.’
Notwithstanding a short break (what’s a millennia and a half between friends ay?), the Olympics has been a part of humanity’s story for the last 2800 years – ish. The start of the Ancient Olympics is usually attributed to the year 776 BC -that’s when the first Olympic Games took place in the town of Olympia; situated somewhere between the city-states of Elis and Sparta on the west coast of the Peloponnese. The first Games consisted of only one event, the Stade race, in which runners had to run 280 meters (or a Stadion, the word we derive ‘stadium’ from). The race was unremarkable, should 20 competitors decide run a Stade race today it would be remarkably similar to a modern sprint – other than the fact that male competitors would all be naked of course. Which would certainly make for some unflattering media coverage, or perhaps a 21st century resurgence of the Stade race would make the Olympics more popular than ever?
There are many other ways that the Ancient Olympics differ to our modern Olympics but this list represents by far the weirdest.
Only Men Could Compete
The Ancient Olympics was both primarily a religious event and also a strictly man only affair. That’s not to say that women couldn’t take part in their own sporting events – they could compete in the Heraean Games, though many of the finder details of this event have been lost to the mists of time – but they were forbidden from entering the Olympics. In fact, if you were a married woman you were prevented from even watching the Olympics. The punishment for ogling the jiggling glutes of the male competitors for a wed woman was severe, if you were caught you’d be thrown off a mountain.
That’s not to say that a woman never won the Olympic Games however. Who achieved this seemingly impossible feat? That would be a Spartan woman called Kyniska, daughter of the Archidamos. Rather oddly, the winner of a chariot race was not the rider, rather it was the owner of the horses who received the glory – enabling Kyniska to win the event, without actually being there. The rider – despite being in command of a rickety chariot pulled by four muscle bound horses over some 12 laps and 14,000 metres – received a grand total of zilch for their efforts.
They Were Stinky. Very Stinky
Today, a country fortunate enough to hold the Olympics must invest millions into creating custom built stadiums. Not only are they perfectly constructed in every conceivable way, providing the ideal environment for the athletes competing within them, they also offer comprehensive comfort for the spectators. Offering food, drink, seating and – most importantly – lots and lots of toilets.
The spectators of the Ancient Olympics had no such luxury, Every four years (that’s an Olympiad) over 50,000 people descended on the ordinarily virtually uninhabited Olympia (a few priests kept things ticking over but that was about it). 50,000 people sat in the hot sun with only a river to poop in. Just imagine the stench. Add to that the fact that 100 oxen would be sacrificed and burnt on the Alter of Zeus in the middle of the festival. There’s one thing for certain, no candle manufacturer will ever be making an overpriced candle infused with the scent of the Ancient Olympics.
A Dead Person Won the Olympics
The Ancient Olympics were a brutal affair, boxing and wrestling were much more violent than the modern versionwe are used to seeing on our televisions today. Though both these blood soaked spectacles paled in gore levels compared to Pankration – the mixed martial arts of the Ancient world.Pankration had only two rules, no biting and no poking out anyone’s eye. Other than that, anything went!
One remarkable account details the final fight of Arrhichionof Phigalia. Arrhichion was trapped in the vice like grip of his formidable opponent. Arms like steely vein covered greasy oil coated pythons were wrapped around his neck, and try as he might Arrhichion could not free himself. As his vision began to fade Arrhichion stamped as hard as he could on his opponent’s foot. The pain was so intense that this unknown fighter released Arrhichion and submitted. The crowd went wild, Arrhichion had overcame the odds and won. But while the crowd went bananas Arrhichion remained unmoving on the sand and dirt. He was dead.
That didn’t dampen the celebration however. Despite being very deceased, Arrhichion was crowned the victor and returned to Phigalia a hero.
More Gore than Ever Before
Arrhichion’s final victory was not the goriest event to take place in the Ancient Olympics, instead that honour would fall to the boxing match between Damoxenos and Creugas. In Ancient Boxing there were no weight classes and the matches were randomly picked. So you could end up with a bout in which one fighter had a significant size and weight advantage over the other. Which reportedly was the case when these Damoxenos and Creugas, two undefeated champions, went up against each other.
Damoxenos was a massive slab of humanity, whilst Creugaswas smaller but incredibly nimble. And a good thing too, with no boxing gloves fighters instead just wrapped their fists in leather; one punch from the giant Damoxenos would have levelled Creugas, and with no rules stating otherwise, the bigger man could keep on punching Creugas in the head – regardless of whether or not if he could defend himself. Either way power vs agility had led to a draw, meaning a ‘klimax’ was enforced. Here each man takes it in turns to hit the other with full force; this is an unprotected blow taking at their liberty. Like some sort of blood soaked penalty shootout the fight ends when only one man is left standing.
Creugas went first, he punched the bigger man in the head as hard as he could. But to little avail, Damoxenos just shrugged off the assault. Then it was Damoxenos’ turn, Creugus braced himself as this terrifying beast punched him with full force with straight fingers into the bread basket. Damoxenos clearly needed a manicure as his sharp nails ripped at Creugas’ skin. Damoxenos then ripped his fingers once more along Creugas’ abdomen, gutting the fighter like a pig and causing his innards to come tumbling out like meat and potato from a freshly bitten pie.
It was all over, Creugus had won. That’s right, Creugus. Damoxenos had been disqualified as the rules of the ‘Klimax’ state one punch at a time only. Sure, Creugas’ guts were getting a sun tan but it was all worth it for that laurel wreath.
The World’s Greatest
These days, in every Olympic event, multiple world records are smashed. Athletes are lucky to hold on to their world record for a decade but it would be unheard of for a competitor to hold a record for fifty years, let alone a hundred. Yet there was one ancient athlete who held his record for over two thousand years. Yes, TWO THOASAND YEARS. This phenomenal specimen of a Homo Sapien was Leonidas of Rhodes.
He first competed in the Olympic Games of the 154th Olympiad in 164 BCE, where Leonidas captured the laurel wreath in three different races; the stadion, the diaulos (a foot face of (400 metres) and the hoplitodromos (a diaulos where the runners wear armour – talk about exhausting!). He then went on to win these three events over the next three consecutive Olympiads. Bear in mind that in the Ancient Olympics there was no second of third place, you were either a winner… or a massive loser.
This astonishing act, of winning twelve individual Olympic victories, was unmatched until 2016; when Michael Phelps, the American swimmer, one his 13th Olympic Gold.
Adrian is a co-owner of Imagining History workshops. Imagining History provides educational history workshops for primary schools that captivate and entertain.
Their interactive sessions combine role-play, storytelling, demonstrations and drama and performance to bring history to life for students.
One of the best rooms in the British Museum, London, is what I like to call the Room of Turquoise and Stone. A capsule of pre-Columbian Mexican History. Here are some of it’s highlights.
Guardians of the East Stairs.
One of the many mid century fusions of diplomat, explorer and writer was a man by the name of John Lloyd Stephens was among the first to write detailed English descriptions of the Mayan sites during the 1840’s and his companion in adventure, a British artist and architect named Frederick Catherwood was the first to visually record them on paper:
‘It is thirteen feet in height, four feet in front, and three deep, sculpted on all four of its sides from the base to the top, and oe of the richest and most elaborate specimens in the whole extent of the ruins. Originally it was painted, the marks of red colour being still distinctly visible.’
John Lloyd Stephens. Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan. v I.. 1841.
Despite his detailed descriptions, which inspired later explorations of the sites, Stephens admitted that it was annoyingly difficult to find out any verifiable history regarding them.
The question, who built them?, never by any accident crossed their minds. The great name of Montezuma, which had gone beyond them to the Indians of Honduras, had never reached their ears, and to all our questions we received the same dull answer which first met us at Copan, “Que sabe?”‘
John Lloyd Stephens. Incidents of Travel in Yucatan. v I. 1843.
Que Sabe would remain the question until modern scholars cracked the Mayan writing system but the lure of ‘lost’ cities proved irresistible and in the decades that followed.
Years later the explorer, and archaeological pioneer, Alfred Maudesley became known in the scientific world because of a five volume treatise called Biologia Cantrali-Americana. Published in 1902 it described many of the most important Mayan ruins, such as Chichen Itza and represents the fruit of his life’s work.
When Stephens and Catherwood made their explorations they relied on detailed drawings and written descriptions but, Maudesley could rely on the use of camera technology to document his findings.
He also made detailed casts of the extraordinary sculptures he surveyed, made by expert plaster modeler, Lorenzo Giuntini. These were carefully packed and crated to be shipped off to museums in Europe and North America.
Two of Giuntini’s grey plaster Stelae from Copan confront you at the foot of the British Museum’s East Stairs. Their labyrinthine intricacy is offset by the simple intensity of the noble faces of the rulers, staring down at visitors with solemn imperturbability from either side of a wide doorway, barred to all except staff.
Room 27: The Mayans.
As far as the galleries of the British Museum go, room 27, housing the Mexican exhibits and accessed by a right turn at the bottom of the stairs, (they themselves being decorated with Mayan stelae) is an intimate space.
It’s dark, illuminated by the spotlights that reveal the objects on display. The selection showcases the sophistication of the early civilisations of Mexico, ending with fabulous mosaic items from the Mexica empire.
But first we return to the Maya. The writings of the Mayan civilisation have taken 150 years to read. It is only recently that scholars have been able to decipher the tantalisingly neat pictograms blocked into plaques and wall paintings.
A great aid scholars used in breaking the Maya code was the painfully rare codex’s, a tracing of the ‘Dresden codex’ which document’s the remarkable astronomical sophistication of this civilization.
Works of art as well as vital historical documents, the linguistic legacy of the Mayan civilization stands as one of it’s greatest achievements and is as equally inspiring and complex as the most graceful European calligraphy or Egyptian equivalents.
Not even the Mexica (anachronistically known as the Aztec) people, who came to rule central Mexico, knew who the builders of Teotihuacan were. The name means simply, ‘place of the gods.’
Sitting in the company of multiple ceramics and precious objects this fragment of a Nebaj style jade plaque must have been made for a very important individual. It draws the eye at once, as if the speech sign emanating from the Lord’s mouth was calling to you directly.
Along the far wall, under the geometric ceiling, which gives the impression of a portico, late Classic Mayan door lintels from a royal structure in Yaxichilan, Chiapas, hang for visitors to observe.
Rated without exaggeration as amongst the finest works of high Mayan art, it is hard not to be moved by the power exuding from the succeeding cut stone images. Among the most understandable is Bird Jaguar IV dominating a prisoner, holding him in thrall as much by his ferocious stare as his spear.
In another lintel (not pictured) Shield Jaguar the Great looks on as his wife, Lady K’ab’al Xook, threads a thorned rope through the tip of her tongue in a bloodletting ceremony. Try thinking about doing that without flinching.
Although it must be admitted that the British Museum’s Mexican Collection is tiny beside that of Egypt and accumulated by private means and by early archeologists rather than soldiers and tourists, the methods by which some of the items were gathered leaves something to be desired.
Addressing the Royal Geographic Society in 1883, Maudesley displayed one of the lintels now hanging in room 27 and described how he came by it:
’The other difference [to Tikal] is an important one, namely the employment of stone instead of wood for lintels. Many of the these lintels are carved on under the surface and I have succeeded in bringing to England one of the best preserved of these carved stones. I took it from a half-ruined house, where it had fallen from its place, but was luckily resting with the carved side against the wall, and had thus been protected from the weather. The stone, when I first saw it, weighed about half a ton, but by keeping the men constantly at work on it with the point of a pickaxe and some chisels which I had luckily brought with me, at the end of the week we had chipped it down to half it’s original thickness and cut off the two ends. Afterwards … we cut it down to it’s present size with hand-saws.’
Explorations in Guatemala, and Examination of the Newly-Discovered Indian Ruins of Quiriguá, Tikal, and the Usumacinta A. P. Maudslay. Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography Vol. 5, No. 4 (Apr., 1883), pp. 185-204 (26 pages) JSTOR.
Though all of the cities that formed the classic Mayan civilisation ceased to be a meaningful political entities by the time of the 15th century, a great Nahuatl speaking power grew in their stead in the valley of Mexico.
Room 27: The Mexica.
The heart of the British Museum’s Mexica Collection are the Turquoise Mosaics. A selection of nine intriguing and sometimes disturbing works of religious, royal and historical significance, there being only 25 Mexican mosaics in Europe.
Famously the Mexica placed great importance on ceremonial masks. This one, with its studded turquoise face, and frozen grimace stares out from a darkened glass case.
It depicts the ancient fire god Xiuhtecuhtli, and probably something out of your more vivid nightmares. This particular mask might even have played a part in some of the great moments of Mexica history as high quality masks like this would most certainly have been worn by the Tlatoani on the occasion of his investiture.
Safely locked behind glass under watery lights that play softly on their subjects, the turquoise fractals gleam with otherworldly beauty, and in some cases, quiet menace.
Not far away, the tarnished design on a shield-like object, never meant for war but for ceremony, suggests the four quadrants of the Mexica world in almost unimaginable detail.
Beside the disc is a finely made atlatl, or spear thrower, a small device a hunter or warrior could use to project his weapon great distances towards his target. Such weapons were commonly included in religious and royal iconography and this one appears to be uncommonly well made.
Highly significant but at the same time quite reluctant to offer any definitive clue as to it’s significance, the painstakingly inlaid double headed serpent represents the pride of the nine Mexica Mosaics in the British Museum.
The skill and craftsmanship involved in making and detailing this object is breathtaking to think about and due to it’s uniqueness it might be considered one of the most important pieces in the museum’s entire collection.
See you again for another Adventure in Historyland. Josh.
Back in 2012 I offered my small pool of followers the chance to take part in a small experiment I called “What’s Your Civ?”. A kitch hashtag I thought up which tells you as much about my own social media naivety back then as it does anything else. But the idea was to then do a post about the results, highlighting people’s perceptions of past civilisations. Continue reading “By harking back to Greece and Rome we are winking at the Spynx.”
Had this man been Greek, he’d have been turned into a Demi-god to rival some of the greatest in the heroic pantheon.
The Greatest Warrior.
How a man in his eighties could have the strength to engage, let alone capture, a Syrian chariot and its crew was beyond most of the new recruits. But then again Ahmose son of Abana had always defied simple explanation, for what it was worth he never gave any, for he proved his worth in deeds. The ancient old warrior, still lean and driven by an inner force that might have rivalled Pharaoh’s own divine spirit, lead his captives bound in their chariot to the presence of Thutmose I with the confidence of one used to being in the close proximity of royalty.
But he was tired. It was his boast, for he was not a humble man just a simple one, that he was in the front rank in all Pharaoh’s battles, and further that three monarchs, including the present incumbent of the throne of Horus, had witnessed his deeds at first hand. Such stress and hardship were bound to take their toll and as Ahmose watched the victory stele installed on the far bank of the Euphrates, he knew that this would be his final campaign.
He was descended from a military family, though he preferred to call himself the son of his mother, his father, Baba son of Rainet had been a soldier under Sekenra and was a scion of the nomarchs of Nekheb. As a boy Ahmose therefore was destined for a career in arms, and had taken his father’s place as a boy, sleeping in the hammocks of the ship Wild Bull during the reign of Ahmose I.
In those days Egypt was a nation under occupation. The whole of the North, the fertile delta, was under the control of the Hyksos, a mysterious “asiatic” people who had devastated the country. However the Warrior Kings of the 18th dynasty were of a different stamp to those that had come before them, Ahmose I was such a king and he was on the lookout for active young men to help him drive the invader out and liberate Egypt.
In the year Pharaoh besieged the city of Avaris, Ahmose was a chariot runner to the king, and in the initial skirmishes he distinguished himself in hand to hand combat under his master’s eye. Avaris was situated on one of the easternmost tributaries of the Delta, the lush head of papyrus that surmounts the winding stem of the Nile. Ahmose was soon transferred to the Rising in Memphis, and took part in the bitter struggle to seize the canals, as the fleet strove to cut the city off from supplies. In this action he took his first hand, earning him the “gold of valour”, a feat he would repeat 7 times in his career.
Although he would fight the Hyksos again, the majority of his career would be spent fighting Kushites in Nubia and suppressing rebels and invaders from the desert. Under Ahmose I, Amunhotep I and Thutmose I Ahmose found himself in the thick of Egypt’s territorial wars against the powerful Kingdom of Kush, whose formidable bowmen were often incorporated into the Egyptian army, but whose kings rose in perpetual wars against Egypt’s southern border. In suppressing a southern rebellion Ahmose dove into the Nile to pursue a fleeing enemy chief who he then dragged in puddle of dripping defeat before Pharaoh.
By the Nubian campaign of Thutmose I, Ahmose was the greatest warrior in the land, endowed with land, slaves and titles. The new pharaoh made him commander of his war barge. In the main battle of the campaign Ahmose fought courageously in the presence of his king, and presented him with two hands after the pursuit had obliterated the enemy field army. Ahmose was raised to the rank of Crew Commander (which is interpreted to mean admiral). The Kushites then met the Egyptians on the water and were broken. Pharaoh had Amhose steer his ship against the enemy flagship and the old admiral watched from Pharaoh’s side with satisfaction as Thutmose took a javelin, drew back his arm and with a sure eye flung his spear (some translate arrow), which a moment later resolved itself as a quivering shaft in the chest of the enemy chief. After processing to the 3rd cataract, with the Nubian’s corpse dangling by his feet from the prow, Thutmose returned to Karnak and then campaigned in Syria.
The 90 year old legend, Ahmose put down his weapons and lived out the remainder of his life in comfort, perhaps able to see his grandchildren before having “reached old age. Favoured as before, and loved, I rest in the tomb that I myself made”.
Sources: Lives of the Ancient Egyptians: Toby Wilkinson. The Splendour that was Egypt: Margaret Murray. Funerary inscriptions respective to subject found at reshafim.org . The Nile and Egyptian civilisation: A. Moret. Ancient Records of Egypt: James Breasted. The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt: Toby Wilkinson. Soldier of the Pharaoh: Nic Field.
See you again for another adventure in Historyland.
The sound and aroma of three hundred mules was a shocking assault of noise, dust and smell. The braying line of animals were still arriving behind the arrayed ranks of Egyptians and the Yamites, when the Chiefs of Irthet, Sethu and Wawat submitted. Privy Councillor of Southern affairs, Sole companion to Pharaoh, Harkhuf had many Impressive titles with which to awe the southern Chiefs. Quite apart from the lavish goods his mules were carrying, and the glinting spears of his army, this emissary carried the writ of the King of Egypt. Yet for all that he was probably most proud of his title as Caravan Conductor (Though Wilkinson calls him Chief of Scouts). It was a difficult job, requiring initiative, sound judgment, military capability and diplomatic tact. The Egyptian state joyed in endowing multiple functions to one body, the Old Kingdom especially loved to bestow cart loads of titles on efficient bureaucrats. A conductor’s prime objective was to take caravans of trade goods to foreign nations and return with tribute, to show the flag and assert dominance, and make exchange for tokens of good will, showing Egypt’s vested interest in a country. If the recipient was not inclined to go through this formalised sucking up ritual, the conductor was always given a hefty bodyguard with which to convince him.
Harkhuf’s father had been a conductor, and though it was challenging work, it was a position of great trust, as it was also essentially a security job, and so if a man was good at it he could expect rewards commensurate with the responsibility. Harkhuf could say that in addition to his academic exploits, (he was a Nekhen Judge), he had seen much more of the world, and embarked on more adventures than many Egyptians. At first he had learned on the job, watching his father, then Harkhuf had led his own convoys to explore the desert roads, watched over by the paternal eye until, Pharaoh Merenra deemed him competent enough to make the expedition to the land of Yam without supervision. As a large part of his job was to sniff out trouble and spy out the land, he had got wind of trouble brewing in lower Nubia. This was his third expedition, but in order to avoid the hostile tribes Harkhouf had taken the desert route reaching Yam only to find the chief was off on campaign in Libya. After tracking him down and collecting extra troops he made his way back via the regular route, to overawe the troublemaking, Chiefs, who now, seeing his assembled forces and rich baggage, submitted to him.
The chief of Irthet had his people gather the herds, and from them they cut out some Bulls and young cattle for Harkhuf to take with him, perhaps as exchange for the gifts of ebony, panther skins and Ivory offered by the conductor. After they had rested the chief guided them into the highlands.
Harkhouf was a pious, fair and serious man, who never spoke nonsense but was temperate in nature, subordinates would be unlikely to fear a tongue lashing from the boss. Harkhouf was probably one of those leaders who’s gentle reprove was worse than a dozen beatings, because he treated everyone fairly.
The journey to Yam became something of an annual event to ensure good relations. And a profitable exchange of goods took place between Harkhouf and the Chief. During his fourth expedition he sent a letter back to the 8 year old Pepi II, telling him of the dancing dwarf he had obtained. The young boy was filled with excitement which spilled over the royal reserve of a king god in his return letter, which promised rich rewards if Harkhouf returned with the the diminutive hoofer alive and well.
At his death Harkhouf was interred in his own tomb, upon whose walls he wrote of his life, and promised that passers by who respect its owner would be looked on favourably from the reaches of the other world.
Sources: Lives of the Ancient Egyptians: Toby Wilkinson. The Splendour that was Egypt: Margaret Murray. Funerary inscriptions respective to subject found at reshafim.org . The Nile and Egyptian civilisation: A. Moret. Ancient Records of Egypt: James Breasted. The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt: Toby Wilkinson. Soldier of the Pharaoh: Nic Field
Thanks for reading. See you again for another adventure in Historyland. Josh.
Ancient Egyptian history is much more than just Pharaoh’s. Tomb discoveries have revealed the professional lives of many of officials, soldiers and nobles, some born into positions, some who worked their way up the ladder, most of whom are not known outside of Egyptological circles. I hope this will turn out to be a semi regular series, which I will add to as I research and discover more.
The Privileged One.
Overseers and construction chiefs charged with nurturing the growth of Pharaoh Merenra’s pyramid at Saqqara were assembled and waiting with their labourers at the dockside as the flotilla of boats, rafts and lighters came into view. It was an important delivery. The sarcophagus, it’s carved lid, its attendant substructure and numerous other granite objects vital to the creation of Pharaoh’s last resting place, including the basements of the upper chamber were about to be unloaded.
Tendered by the lighters, and escorted by the boats the rafts were tied up and the hard work began. The reason for so many bosses to be present for the unloading was the man disembarking onto the dock from the principle boat.
Weni, Prince Governor of Upper Egypt was a man who knew how to get things done. He was the first commoner to hold the governorship and he had overseen the entire operation of collecting and shipping the cargo in one great expedition from Ibhat and Elephantine, an unprecedented feat until then unseen during the reign of any King.
This most trusted administrator had earned his lofty title. He had served under 3 Pharaoh’s. Starting as a young storehouse custodian under Teti, he had risen to Overseer of the robing room under Pepi I, who noticed the young Weni as a Natural organiser, with a sharp mind and good judgement. More impressive appointments had followed to the rank of Nekhen Judge, and he was soon indispensable to Pharaoh, who now had him consulting on the matters of the self contained universe of the royal Harem and the six courts of justice. This stood him in good stead when he uncovered a plot in the intrigue ridden harem. Pharoah instantly closed the lid on the investigation and Weni was ordered to investigate the matter quietly. When the Great Royal Wife Amtsi was interviewed Weni was the sole judge in the room to hear the case.
Qualifications for rank in the Old Kingdom Pharaonic system was that a man be sufficiently educated in calligraphy and mathematics. Merit, connections and loyalty was often the passport to high office. In the case of Weni, a commoner by birth, Pharaoh appointed his newest “Sole Companion” to the post of a commander in a punitive expedition against what scholars either call Bedouin, but who were known by the Egyptians as the “Sand Dwellers”. Here he put his skills as an organiser to the test, the army was a conglomeration of Egyptians, conscripts and Nubian mercenaries headed by a confusing array of princes, nobles and scribes. Weni proved a capable commander, he organised the army so that the arguments and rivalries inherent to such a force were negated, and plundering was kept to a minimum. His fleet sailed up the Red Sea while his army fixed the enemy in place, resulting in a crushing vicotry. However glamorous the dust and gore of the battlefield victories, he was unable to ensure a stable peace. Pharaoh sent him five more times, defeating the enemy each time, which raised his name to such a degree that a song was composed about his ability to defeat foes in multitudes of ways and return armies in safety.
There was no better man in Egypt to organise the transport of royal funerary goods, and this would prove the pinnacle of his career. When he came ashore everyone would have felt his searching gaze as he observed their reports. Fortunately for them he was off like the wind to Hetnub to fetch an offering table, which he duly returned with in a purpose built acacia lighter in 17 days, before hitting the road once more to oversee the construction of canals in Upper Egypt.
Soon after his appointment as Judge and Sole Companion to Pepi I, Pharaoh had bestowed on his faithful Weni a white stone tomb from Tura. Upon his death he was interred with honours and goods as befitted such a brilliant administrator. His epitaph reads true “I then, I was beloved of his [Pharaoh] father the object of the great praise of his mother, the charm of his brothers. [I] the Prince, active director of upper Egypt, the privileged one (imakhu) of Osiris, Weni”
See you again for another Adventure in Historyland, Josh.
Sources: The Splendour that was Egypt: Margaret Murray. Funerary inscriptions respective to subject found at reshafim.org . The Nile and Egyptian civilisation: A. Moret. Ancient Records of Egypt: James Breasted. The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt: Toby Wilkinson. Soldier of the Pharaoh: Nic Fields.
From about 2,000 BC onwards buildings called Nuraghe’s dotted the Sardinian landscape. Their robust archaic forms arose from hilltops and bluffs, dominating fertile plains and guarding river crossings, trade routes, ports and sacred sites across the island. Wherever there was importance connected to the land these structures castled the ancient countryside. They stood as single towers or as groups connected by ramparts, standing like mounds of perfectly manicured rubble from which protruded anything from 3 to 5 towers up to 3 stories high surrounding a larger central one. Around the Nuraghe grew hut villages with thatched conical roofs, expanding outwards in bewildering wheels of concentric roundhouses, cramped together, connected by winding lanes that snaked between the labyrinth of homes. These were sometimes protected by a town wall, but even then they tended to spill past boundaries.
The appearance of a Nuraghe, seemingly rising out of the rugged landscape, gives the impression of deep antiquity, of an organic, rough hewn civilisation, and of the land being slowly tamed. Sardinia was the beginning of the Mediterranean Wild West, & this is it’s story. Continue reading “Ancient Sardinia: The Mediterranean Wild West.”