All Hail The Butterfly God

A Zapotec figural ceramic of the Butterfly God found at Monte Alban in Oaxaca, Mexico. 200 - 600 CE.

An Unusual Roman Trial in Turkey

In autumn of 284 CE, the Roman army returned home after a successful campaign against the Persian Empire. Unfortunately, their emperor Carus had died while the army was returning west. The army was now led by Carus' son, Numerian. But Numerian was mysteriously missing. His attendants claimed he had an eye infection which he had to protect "from the wind and sun." But the soldiers became suspicious, especially when an increasingly strong smell was coming from the coach supposedly carrying Numerian. When the army reached Nicomedia on November 20th it all came out. Numerian was found dead, and some said he was murdered, possibly by his own father-in-law Aper!

The soldiers "fell upon Aper, whose treachery could no longer be hidden, and they dragged him before the standards in front of the general's tent" the Historia Augusta tells us. The army assembled and a tribunal was held. By this point, the man proclaimed by the army was almost certain to be the emperor. So the army was deciding two questions: who could avenge Numerian, and whoever that was, could they be given the empire as a good emperor?

The solution was a 40-year-old officer from Dalmatia, Diocletian. He was already prominent, having commanded Numerian's household troops. After the tribunal was over, Diocletian stepped forward, and drew his sword. History tells us he then pointed at Aper and proclaimed loudly enough for the troops to hear "It is he who contrived Numerian's death!" Diocletian then sunk his sword into Aper's chest. Diocletian's reign marked teh end of the Crisis of the Third Century, stabilizing the empire after he defeated Carus' other son Carinus.

Ancient Kingdom's Lost City, Re-Discovered

Archaeologists have recently rediscovered remains of a trading and religious center of Aksum. Aksum, a kingdom principally located in today's Ethiopia, thrived from the 1st to 8th centuries CE, and was the state which saw the region converted to Christianity. It traded with the Roman Empire and India, minted its own coins, and took over the declining kingdom of Kush which had long rivaled ancient Egypt. The newly found city lay between the capital (also called Aksum) and the Red Sea.

The city has been renamed Beta Samati, which means "house of audience" in the local Tigrinya language. It was discovered in 2011, hiding more than 10 feet below the surface, in Ethiopia's Yeha region. The remains are already changing what we think we know about Aksum. It had previously been believed that societies in the region collapsed in the period before the rise of the Aksum Kingdom. But Beta Samati continued through the period of supposed abandonment just fine, functioning as a major connection on trade routes linking the Mediterranean and other cities which would end up under Aksum control.

Bust of the Roman Empress Tranquillina (reigned 241 - 244 CE). She was wife of Emperor Gordian III thanks to her father, the prefect of the Praetorian Guards, who were the emperor's personal bodyguards and by this point controlled who ran the empire. Empress Tranquillina reigned with her husband for just three years before her father died and the emperor lost power -- and his life.

The Sasanian Empire (224 CE – 651 CE), which was a contemporary of the Roman and later Byzantine Empires, was once a great power. And like other great powers it built great walls to mark and control its borders. These included the Wall of the Arabs (in the southwest), Walls of Derbent (in the northwest at the Caspian Mountains) and Great Wall of Gorgan (in the northeast). Remains of the Sasanian border walls still exist, particularly in Derbent where they are a UNESCO world heritage site.

A Long, Long Wall Found in Iran

A poorly preserved stone wall stretching southward 71 miles from the Bamu Mountains have been identified in western Iran. Yes, you read that right: a 71-mile-long wall. Similar structures have been found in northern and northeastern Iran. Pottery found along the structure, known to locals as the “Gawri Wall,” has been dated to between the 300s BCE and the 500s CE. The archaeological examination also found that there may have been turrets or buildings placed along the wall, which was made with local materials such as cobbles and boulders fixed with gypsum mortar. Archaeologists estimate the wall may have stood about 10 feet tall and 13 feet wide. But why was it built? Based on the location and the length, Gawri Wall may have been built as a border wall by the Parthians or the Sassanians. But because it is so poorly preserved, whether it actually functioned to keep things out, or was more symbolic, is unknown.

New Nazca Line Figure of a Person

Discovered with AI via collaboration with IBM Japan and Yamagata University. It has been dated to between 100 BCE and 300 CE. This is one of 143 new geoglyphs that the researchers found!

Lapis lazuli enjoyed great popularity in the late Roman and Early Byzantine periods; its rich purple-blue color was associated with royalty. From the 200s on, coins and medallions often showed the emperor carrying a scepter topped with an eagle, emblem of victory and authority. This particular lapis lazuli eagle was found in Italy and dates to the 300s or 400s CE, meaning it may very well have once perched on a Roman emperor’s scepter.

Well-done video showing where in the ancient world the Chinese historians were describing, and examples of what they were (probably) describing. It's rather amusing what the Chinese thought were important: being able to breath fire and juggle 10 balls, relay sheds for postal stations, and many, many types of cloth.

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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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