A Lover's Lament

She who is always in my thoughts prefers

Another man, and does not think of me.

Yet he seeks for another’s love, not hers;

And some poor girl is grieving for my sake.

Why, then, the devil take

Both her and him; and love; and her; and me.

A poem by Bhartrhari, circa 400s CE. Translated from Sanskrit by John Brough

Coin Collection From Classical Corinth Presents A Conundrum

A hoard of about 119 coins, together with an iron lock that may have locked the container holding the coins, have been found inside a collapsed building in the harbor of the ancient city of Corinth in Greece.

The earliest coin in the hoard dates to shortly after the death of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (who reigned from 306-337 CE), while the most recent two coins in the stash date to the reign of Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I (who reigned from 491-518 CE). Based on their weight and size, the coins from Anastasius I's reign likely date to sometime between 491 and 498 CE, before Anastasius I reformed the Byzantine Empire's coinage system. So the building collapse no sooner than the 500 CE. When the coins come from is not the conundrum, however.

Why didn't anyone come to collect the stash after the building collapsed? That's the big mystery that has archaeologists scratching their heads. The coin collection represents significant wealth at the time, and the lack of bodies suggests the collection's owner wasn't killed when the structure collapsed. The coins were found just 12 to 16 inches (30-40 centimeters) below modern ground level. It wouldn't have been much work to retrieve the coins. But instead they were left, to be discovered by modern archaeologists. Not that the archaeologists are complaining!

Map of Cities the Romans Founded, Outside of Italy

It says a lot about the state of western and northern Europe, that those are where the Romans founded new cities. In Asia and eastern Europe, they conquered cities, they didn't need to build them.

How To Revive A Dead Language

As you probably know, Hebrew is the only language that has been brought back from the dead. It was not spoken as an everyday language since 200 to 400 CE, kept alive only as a sacred language used for prayers and writing. In the late 1800s it was revived as a common language, used among Jewish immigrants to the British colony of Palestine.

The problem with bringing a dead language back is that a lot of words are suddenly needed for things that didn't exist the first time around. Like electricity. And tomatoes. At first there was a Hebrew Language Committee, established in 1890 by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, which created literally thousands of new words that are used everyday in modern Hebrew. Everyday words, like ice cream, polite, art, and clock. In 1953 the committee was replaced by the Academy of the Hebrew Language, an official institution created by the Israeli government, which is the final authority on modern Hebrew. It has continued to create new words, publishing official additions every year (like the Oxford English Dictionary). Some of its creations include Hebrew-rooted words for junk food, gentrification, and sexism.

What Is An Ice Age?

When you read that, an image probably came to mind: giant glaciers, people huddling for warmth, maybe a giant woolly mammoth or two. The problem with that definition of "Ice Age" is it defines what life is like now on Earth as "normal" and giant glaciers over the north and south pole as "abnormal." But is that true? Are we, in fact, living in a period of relative coolness? Is right now an "abnormal" Earth?

A better description of an ice age would be that it’s a long stretch of time in which both the atmosphere and the planet’s surface have a low temperature, resulting in the presence of polar ice sheets and mountainous glaciers. An Ice Age can last for several million years. Within the Ice Age period, the Earth isn't uniformly covered in snow. There are periods of glaciation, characterized by ice sheet and glacier expansion over the face of the planet, and interglacial periods, where we would have an interval of several thousand years of warmer temperatures and receding ice. Turns out just the presence of ice caps on the north and south pole is abnormal! What we currently live in is an "interglacial period" in the middle of an Ice Age!

Dice Have Gotten More Fair Since Ancient Times

A survey of cube-shaped dice dating back to the Roman era finds that they were not designed to have an equal chance of landing on different numbers until the Renaissance, according to researchers from UC Davis and the American Museum of Natural History. Roman-era dice, the researchers found, were a mess when it came to shape. They were made from a variety of materials, such as metal, bone and clay, and no two were shaped entirely alike. Many were visibly lumpy and lopsided, with the 1 and 6 on opposite sides that were more likely to roll up. In the Dark Ages after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, between 400 CE and 1100 CE, dice seem to have grown rare. Relatively few have been found from this period. Dice reemerged in the Middle Ages, and at that point were a little more regular in shape. But they still weren't fair -- anyone playing dice would have had slightly higher chances of getting certain numbers, depending on how uneven the dice were made.

The researchers suggest that the popularization of "scientific" thinking may have helped dice rolls become near-chance during the Renaissance. "People like Galileo and Blaise Pascal were developing ideas about chance and probability, and we know from written records in some cases they were actually consulting with gamblers," Jelmer Eerkens of UC Davis said. "We think users of dice also adopted new ideas about fairness, and chance or probability in games."

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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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