A Brief History of Han Purple

Han purple was an ancient Chinese pigment which is thought to have been created as early as 800 BCE, but the most famous examples of its use date back to around 220 BCE when it was used to paint the Terracotta Army and murals in the tomb of the first emperor Qin Shi Huang at Xi’an. It peaked in usage during the Han Dynasty, then declined, and then vanished from the historical record entirely -- along with knowledge of how to make the color.

It was not until the 1990s that scientists were able to replicate it. The process to make the copper barium silicate pigment was extremely intricate. For one thing, it involved the grinding of precise quantities of various materials. And for another, it required heating to between 900 and 1,100 degrees Celsius. Amazing that the process was discovered so long ago!

Ancient Mayans Were Beekeepers

Archaeologists in the ancient city of Nakum in northeastern Guatemala recently made a big discovery. Beneath a vast ritual platform dating from around 100 BCE to 300 CE they discovered a foot-long, barrel-shaped ceramic tube with covers at each end. It is nearly identical to wooden beehives still made from hollow logs by Maya living in the region today. Their discovery is the only known Maya beehive. Since most beehives would probably have been wooden, they probably would not have survived.

Bust of Ptolemy of Mauretania. He was the grandson of Cleopatra VII and Marc Antony, son of their daughter Cleopatra Selene, queen of Mauretania. He was last Roman client king of Mauretania before it was completely incorporated as a Roman province. Bust is circa 1st century CE.

How Big Was That Empire?

Now you can compare all the largest empires that have ever existed, by geographic area. Thank you modern geography!


"It is the duty of a good shepherd to shear his sheep, not to skin them."

Tiberius, Roman Emperor (14 CE to 37 CE). It was rephrased by the Sicilian mafia in the 1800s as "You have to skim the cream off the milk without breaking the bottle" -- the mafia took what they needed, without harming their source of income.

Morocco Used To Be European?

Morocco -- and indeed, all of northern Africa -- used to be considered part of the European cultural world. The region, then called Mauretania, was colonized by Phoenicians, then Phoenicia's descendent Carthage. After the Punic Wars there were a number of independent kingdoms in the region. They were weak, and the later ones were client-kings for Rome. Mauretania was eventually officially annexed by the Roman Empire in 46 CE and made a province. The region was conquered by the Vandals in the 400s CE, along with Spain. The whole time, Mauretania and its Berber tribes were considered the very edge of European culture, but European nonetheless.

It was the Arabic Empire that changed the cultural makeup of Morocco. The region was conquered by Muslim Arabs around 685 CE and incorporated into the new Umayyad Caliphate, ruled from Damascus. Its native Berber tribes slowly converted to Islam. Ever since, the country has been considered part of the wider Middle East sphere.

The Unlucky Once-Heir of Emperor Augustus

Emperor Augustus had one living child, a daughter, and she had one living son, Agrippa Postumus. (The name "postumus" means he was born after his father had died.) Agrippa was once considered a potential heir for Emperor Augustus. Historians believe that although Augustus adopted his grandson in 4 CE, Agrippa was supposed to only be his family heir, not his political heir. Tiberius, Emperor Augustus' second wife's son by her previous marriage, was intended to become the next emperor.

But something went wrong for Agrippa Postumus. The reason has not come down in history. But in 6 CE, Agrippa was banished from Rome and effectively un-adopted. On August 19th, 14 CE, Emperor Augustus died. On August 20th, 14 CE, Agrippa Postumus was killed by his own guards. Tiberius publicly disavowed the killing, saying it was Emperor Augustus' orders that Agrippa Postumus not survive. We do not know who actually ordered the assassination. But we do know that a living, male, blood descendent of the first emperor was a huge threat to the next emperor.

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

This arch and the attached façade are the only remains of the once-great metropolis of Ctesiphon. Perched on the banks of the Tigris River, for eight hundred years, Ctesiphon reigned as the capital of first the Parthian and then the Sassanian Empire. But the city quickly declined after the Arabic conquests in the mid-600s CE, and was completely abandoned by the 700s. As new empires rose and fell, and the world moved on, Ctesiphon slowly crumbled into the desert.

Immortality Through Death

Publius Ostorius, a gladiator at Pompeii, was famous for surviving 51 fights. Or should it be "is famous"? After all, we still know his name and his deed today.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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