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Maxentius' sceptre on exhibit
The only Roman emperor's sceptre to have been found has gone on public display in Rome for the first time.
The sceptre, which is topped by a blue orb that represents the earth, was discovered at the end of last year and is believed to have been held by Emperor Maxentius, who ruled for six years until 312AD.
Maxentius, who was known for his vices and his incapacity, drowned in the Tiber while fighting forces loyal to his brother-in-law, Constantine, at the battle of the Milvian bridge. Archaeologists believe that Maxentius' supporters hid the sceptre during or after the battle to prevent it from falling into enemy hands.
It was found at the base of the Palatine hill, carefully wrapped in silk and linen and then placed in a wooden box. Alongside it were other boxes holding two other imperial battle standards and ceremonial lance heads. The depth of the burial allowed archaeologists to date the find to Maxentius' rule.
Sceptres, often two to three foot ivory rods topped with a globe or an eagle, were introduced by Augustus as a symbol of Rome's power. They would be carried by emperors while riding in chariots to celebrate military victories.
While emperors were often pictured on coins and in paintings holding a sceptre, no example of the real thing had been found up until last year. "We have never seen them for real before, there have been no similar findings," said Angelo Bottini, the head of Rome's archaeology department.
Clementina Panella, the archaeologist at Rome's La Sapienza University who made the find said that the grip of the sceptre was made of Orichalcum, a legendary gold-coloured brass alloy which parts of the sunken city of Atlantis were said to be forged from.
"These artifacts clearly belonged to Maxentius, the sceptre is very elaborate," she said.
Darius Arya, a professor at the American Institute for Roman Culture, said it was an "amazing" find. "You don't find that kind of wealth in Rome, you find fragments and pieces, but not in such good condition." The sceptre is now on display at the National Museum of Rome.
The Palatine Hill has yielded several important discoveries in the last few months, and is the focus of a major reconstruction plan.
The Italian government has stepped up attempts to preserve its cultural heritage, and has earmarked €20 million to save the hill from crumbling. More money will be raised in a telethon on Italian television.
Gladiators' graveyard discovered
Scientists believe they have for the first time identified an ancient graveyard for gladiators.
Analysis of their bones and injuries has given new insight into how they lived, fought and died.
The remains were found at Ephesus in Turkey, a major city of the Roman world, BBC Timewatch reports.
Gladiators were the sporting heroes of the ancient world. Archaeological records show them celebrated in everything from mosaics to graffiti.
Motifs of gladiators are found on nearly a third of all oil lamps from Roman archaeological digs throughout the Empire.
But how much did they risk every time they stepped into the arena? Did they have much chance of getting out alive?
The discovery of what is claimed to be the first scientifically authenticated gladiator graveyard has given researchers the opportunity to find out.
Diggers begin Herculaneum task of finding masterpieceslost to volcano.
Archaeologists have resumed their search for a library of Greek and Latin masterpieces that is thought to lie under volcanic rock at the ancient Roman site of Herculaneum.
The scrolls, which have been called the holy grail of classical literature, are thought to have been lost when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79, burying the wealthy Roman city of Herculaneum and neighbouring Pompeii.
Previous digs have unearthed classical works at a building now known as the Villa of the Papyri, thought to have belonged to Julius Caesar’s father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso, who was known to be a lover of poetry.
The villa was found by chance in the 18th century by engineers digging a well shaft. Tunnels bored into the rock brought to light stunning ancient sculptures — now in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples — and 1,800 carbonised papyrus scrolls. The writings were mainly works by the Epicurean Greek philosopher Philodemus, who was part of Piso’s entourage.
Ancient Roman graveyard found in suburban Copenhagen
Archaeologists have discovered a Roman cemetery from about 300 A.D. in suburban Copenhagen with about 30 graves, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
"It is something special and rare in Denmark to have so many (ancient Roman) graves in one place," archaeologist Rune Iversen was quoted as saying by the Roskilde Dagblad newspaper.
The graveyard's exact location in Ishoej, southwest of downtown Copenhagen, was being kept secret until the archaeologists from the nearby Kroppedal Museum have completed their work, the newspaper wrote. No one at the museum could be immediately be reached for comment.
Archaeologists found necklaces and other personal belongings, as well as ceramics for containing food.
"It shows that we're dealing with the wealthy segment of that population," Iversen was quoted as saying. The objects were buried with the deceased "to show that one could afford it, show one's social status."
Unearthing Rome's king
Italian archeologists have uncovered the ruins of a 2,700 year old sanctuary which they say provides the first physical evidence of Rome at the time of Numa Pompilius, Rome’s legendary second king, in the 8th century BC.
Numa Pompilius, a member of the Sabine tribe, was elected at the age of forty to succeed Romulus, the founder of Rome. He reigned from 715-673 BC, and is said by Plutarch to have been a reluctant monarch who ushered in a 40-year period of peace and stability. He was celebrated for his wisdom, personal austerity and piety.
Clementina Panella, the archeologist from Rome’s Sapienza University who is leading the dig, said Numa Pompilius was also known to have established religious practices and observance in the emergent city state, instituting the office of priest or pontifex and founding the cult of the Vestal Virgins. She said the temple or sanctuary her team had uncovered lay between the Palatine and Velian hills, close to the Colosseum, the Arch of Titus and Via Sacra, and had probably been dedicated to the Goddess of Fortune.
The dig began a year ago, with the help of 130 students and volunteers. The wall of the temple was found seven metres below the surface, together with a street and pavement and two wells, one round and one rectangular. Both wells were “full of thousands of votive offerings and cult objects”, including the bones of birds and animals and ceramic bowls and cups.
Dr Panella said there was no doubt that the objects dated from the period of Numa Pompilius. However there were no statues or figures because Numa forbade images of the gods in his temples, arguing that it was “impious to represent things Divine by what is perishable”.
Numa Pompilius is also credited with dividing Rome into administrative districts, and according to Plutarch organised the city’s first occupational guilds, “forming companies of musicians, goldsmiths, carpenters, dyers, shoemakers, skinners, braziers, and potters”.
ARCHAEOLOGISTS TO COLOUR IN TRAJAN'S COLUMN
(ANSAmed) - Roman history fans may get a chance to admire the marble of Trajan's Column in its original colour version, the city's archaeology department said today. The department is in talks with electricity company Acea and researchers from Rome university to create a beam of light that will shine up the column and superimpose colours that originally enlivened the battle scenes carved on the monument but that are now lost.
Most scholars agree that Roman statues and triumphal arches that survive today in white marble were once highly coloured (like the frescoes decorating the walls of Roman houses), but that the pigment has worn off over the centuries. The illumination of the column, which celebrates the Emperor Trajan's successful military campaigns, would be a way of restoring the colours in a non-intrusive and reversible way, the archaeological department said. It added that the plan is to beam the light up the column for a few minutes every hour, but only at weekends. "Nothing acts like light to deepen our understanding, activating our emotional brain," said Maurizio Anastasi, head of the archaeology department's technical office.
The illumination of Trajan's Column is planned for 2009 as part of a larger project to light up the entire Roman Forum. By illuminating sections of the sprawling ruins, visitors will be able to get a better idea of what was built when, the department said. (ANSAmed).
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