What’s A King To A Caesar?

From 27 BCE to 1946 CE, someone, somewhere in Europe has had a title “Caesar.” The czar of Russia, the kaiser of Germany...many, many European titles were just local derivatives of “Caesar.”

The last Caesar was Tsar Simeon II of Bulgaria, who was removed from office in 1946 by the Soviets. He’s still alive, too!

On January 1st, 404 CE, the city of Rome saw its last official gladiator battle. The Emperor Honorius declared the tradition finished in 399 CE.

 

Pañamarca has impressive ruins from the Moche culture, which flourished on the northwest coast of Peru between 200 CE and 900 CE. Amazingly, many murals in Pañamarca still retain their colors, over 1,000 years after the last painter laid down his brush. The site was deliberately buried sometime around 750 CE. And in doing so, the Moche unintentionally preserved their art for future archaeologists to discover.

   

This mural is on one of the pillars of the imaginatively named "Temple of the Painted Pillars." The figures hold typical Moche objects, including a plate with three purple goblets, a multicolored stirrup-spout bottle, and a feather fan.

 

Constantinople, Not Byzantium

The term “Byzantine Empire” came into common use during the 1700s and 1800s. It would never have been heard, let alone embraced, by the people who once lived in it. To them, Byzantium was still the Roman Empire, which had merely moved its seat of power from Rome to a new eastern capital in Constantinople. Though largely Greek-speaking and Christian, the Byzantines called themselves “Romaioi,” or Romans. They used Roman law, played Roman games like chariot racing, and enjoyed Roman festivals. While Byzantium evolved a distinctive, Greek-influenced identity as the centuries passed, the Romaioi continued to cherish their Roman roots until the end. When he conquered Constantinople in 1453, the Turkish leader Mehmed II even took the emperor's title as “Caesar of Rome.”

The Classic Maya political landscape was divided into more than two dozen polities, similar to city-states, with a major city and nearby allied villages and towns. Feasts sponsored by the ruling elite was a crucial avenue for securing relations among allies and negotiating new alliances. Feasts marked major state occasions, from rulers' accession rites to royal weddings to war victory celebrations to special religious observances. Eating large amounts of high-status foods, including drinks made from highly valued cacao (chocolate), was the main point of the feasts. The richness of the food, the quantity of the food -- and the beautiful vessels the food was served with -- showed off how wealthy the host was.     The banquets caused the production of elaborate, finely-made vessels. Sometimes the vessels' shapes were the attraction, sometimes the decorative images etched onto it. This vase is decorated with cacao pods, and the lid's knob is a cacao tree with a bird (sadly now broken). There are also pictorial panels with images of, among other things, the maize god as an embodied cacao tree. Is anyone else sensing a theme here? The vase's hieroglyphic text confirms that it was intended as a drinking cup for chocolate: -kakaw yuk'ib, or "the cacao drinking cup of . . . " The text goes on to name the cup's patron/owner, and his father Chakjal Mukuuy, "Reddening Dove." The artistic quality of the vessel and its detailed naming of its owner indicate the two men were members of the nobility if not a royal dynasty of the 300s to 400s CE.     courtesy of the Walters Art Museum

In Latin, what we call “doggy style” was called "coitus more ferarum," which roughly translates to “sexual intercourse in the manner of wild beasts.” In the Kama Sutra, it is known as the “cow position.”

Birds of a Feather

A new study, looking at macaw skeletons found at three prehistoric pueblo sites in New Mexico, USA, suggests that Native Americans in this arid area imported the birds from less-arid places. The bird remains which were examined date from between 300 CE and 1450 CE. The majority were tropical macaws -- definitely not native to New Mexico! There is also no evidence of macaw breeding save at one site. Put together, the evidence points to importing the birds.

In addition, there was widespread scarring along the surface of their bones, showing that humans removed their feathers. And many of the macaws' skeletons showed malnourishment, likely from being kept inside and fed a largely corn diet. Which, counter-intuitively, suggests the Pueblans were caring for them extremely well, for their society. Basically? The macaws were being imported, kept in captivity, and systematically harvested for their bright and colorful feathers.

Athenian Agora Excavations: an Interactive Guide

The city of Athens flourished in the 400s and 300s BCE, setting the course for modern European civilization and eventually for democracy's re-emergence. Even when her power waned, Athens remained the cultural and educational center of the Mediterranean until the 500s CE. And the agora, or marketplace, was the center of city life throughout this time. In it was built beautiful and functional public buildings, first by proud city citizens, then as gifts from Greek kings and eventually Roman emperors.
Since the 1930s, modern excavations have been underway to study where the agora once stood. And they have an excellent website, with an interactive map of what has been recovered and discovered, so far, of the ancient Athenian agora. 

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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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