Our letter makes it into The Sunday Times!

ND's letter to The Sunday Times, 23rd February 2014

ND’s letter to The Sunday Times, 23rd February 2014

Our passion here at “Nonne delectamini?” for all things ancient has meant that we, along with many, many others, are perplexed by the exclusion of Classical Civilisation GCSEs from the list of subjects approved for the English Baccalaureate.

Last summer, Classical Cilivisation GCSEs were the only Classics-related courses to experience a downturn (Latin, Greek and Ancient History all increased in their uptake). If we are to arrest this decline in the subject, then we must do everything we can to promote the subject, highlight its myriad qualities and have it accepted as a subject worthy of inclusion in the English Baccalaureate.

To this end, the first step (of many!) in our campaign was to submit the above letter to The Sunday Times drawing attention to the subject’s role in enlightening our young people and to the breadth of support it has both within academia and beyond.

You can see the full letter with the full list of all 135 signatories (including such names as Paul Cartledge, Michael Scott, Bettany Hughes, Edith Hall, Lorna Robinson, Paul Jones, Tim Whitmarsh) on our LETTER TO THE TIMES page.

The fight has only just begun! Together, we can make a difference!

Teacher’s 1,700 year old lesson found!

Originally unearthed in 2001, a 1,700 year-old classroom has been generating new buzz in recent days due to new work that has been undertaken on the site.

The classroom was originally part of larger, high-status home at Trimithis, 200 miles west of the Nile and it dates back to a time when Egypt was ruled by the Romans and Greek was widely spoken.

As well as stone benches for the pupils to sit on, upon the walls were found examples of passages from Homer’s Odyssey that the boys would have been expected to copy in perfect hand-writing and to commit to heart.

In a different room of the school, the team discovered another text composed by a teacher telling students to bring their rhetorical skills up to the level of several deities, including the ancient Greek god Hermes. It also urged the students to work hard. “Be bold, my boys; the great god will grant you to have a beautiful crown of manifold virtue,” part of the text reads. “Work hard for me, toils make men manly …”

To learn more about this intruiging insight into schooling in Classical Egypt, click the link below:



2,000 year-old bronze Apollo appears…then disappears!

A precious, 2,000 year old bronze sculpure of Apollo has mysteriously appeared in the Gaza Strip…only to just as mysteriously disappear again!

Fisherman Joudat Ghrab claims to have dragged the treasure from the sea last August, but, after the statue appeared on eBay for $500,000, the local Hamas authorities descended on Ghrab and took it into custody.

As a result, archaeologists are yet to come face to face with the statue and have had to rely on a handful of photos to try to come to some initial conclusions about the find. Some, such as Jean-Michel de Tarragon, a historian with the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem, are doubtful that the statue really did come from the sea, citing the lack of erosion and barnacles. There is rising suspicion that the statue was acquired illegally on land. Somehow. Somewhere.

Hopefully, though, the tale will have a happy ending:

Officials at Gaza’s tourism ministry told Reuters the statue would not be shown to the public until a criminal investigation into who tried to sell it was completed.

However, Ahmed al-Bursh, the ministry’s director of archaeology, said he had seen it and promised that Ghrab would receive a reward once the issue had been resolved.

“It is a precious treasure, an important archaeological discovery,” said Bursh. Once the statue has been released by police, his ministry plans to repair it and put it on show in Gaza.

To learn more about this mystery, click the link below:


To learn more about the god Apollo, click the link below:



Assumptions about Roman infanticide being revised

An analysis of the bones of 35 infants found in 1912 at Yewden Villa, Hambleden, England, suggests that the Roman didn’t kill their baby girls more often than boys, as has long been assumed.

The DNA of 12 infants was extracted and analysed by Simon Mays of English Heritage and revealed a ratio of seven girls to five boys, a relatively even spread.

The 12 babies studied in the new paper bring the total number of ancient Roman babies thought to be victims of infanticide who have undergone DNA testing to 25. Overall, there is no evidence that baby girls were killed more often.

“It seems as though they weren’t using infanticide to manipulate the sex ratio,” Mays said.

To learn more about this fascinating study, click the link below:


Two new poems by Sappho discovered!

Greek Sappho papyrus

Two new poems by seventh century BC poet Sappho have been unveiled to the world!

They came to light this week when a private collector consulted renowned Oxford Classicist Dr Dirk Obbink about the possibility of identifying and translating some papyrus fragments they had in their possession.

“The new Sappho is absolutely breath-taking,” said Albert Henrichs, a Harvard classics professor who examined the papyrus with Dr. Obbink. “It is the best preserved Sappho papyrus in existence, with just a few letters that had to be restored in the first poem, and not a single word that is in doubt. Its content is equally exciting.” One of the two recovered poems, Prof. Henrichs notes, speaks of a “Charaxos” and a “Larichos,” the names assigned by ancient sources to two of Sappho’s brothers but never before found in Sappho’s own writings. It has as a result been labeled the Brothers poem by Prof. Obbink.

Despite Sappho’s wide acclaim during antiquity, only one complete poem by her has survived! Scholars also have many fragments of her other works but these new discoveries are being welcomed enthusiastically as a rare opportunity to gain a further insight into, and understanding of, this enigmatic woman.

To learn more about the discovery, click the link below:


To learn more about Sappho and her place in world literature, click the link below:


Sensational eagle and snake statue is wowing experts around the world!

Archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) have unearthed a sensational funerary statue which they are hailing as “the finest of its type in the world”!

The wonderfully preserved piece, which depicts an eagle with a snake in its beak, was found on the very last day of the recent excavations in the City of London. It is made from stone from the Cotswolds region to the west and is thought to have adorned the tomb of a wealthy Londoner in either the 1st or 2nd century AD.

Michael Marshall, finds specialist at Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), added: “The eagle is a classically Roman symbol and this new find provides a fascinating new insight into the inhabitants of Roman London and demonstrates their familiarity with the iconography of the wider classical world.

“Funerary sculpture from the city is very rare and this example, perhaps from inside a mausoleum, is a particularly fine example which will help us to understand how the cemeteries and tombs that lined the roads out of the city were furnished and the beliefs of those buried there.”

To learn more about this jaw-dropping discovery (and to watch a short video on it), click on the link below!



Etruscan Prince’s 2,600 year-old tomb opened for the first time!

Finds like this don’t come along every day! Archaeologists from the University of Turin, led by Alessandro Mandolesi, have cracked open the tomb of an Etruscan prince, possibly a relative to Tarquinius Priscus, the legendary fifth king of Rome from 616 to 579 B.C.!!

Unearthed near Tarquinia, a small town north west of Rome, the 2,600 year old intact tomb was jam-packed with grave goods and, of course, the remains of the prince for whom it had been cut.

“As the heavy stone slab was removed, Mandolesi and his team were left breathless. In the small vaulted chamber, the complete skeleton of an individual was resting on a stone bed on the left. A spear lay along the body, while fibulae, or brooches, on the chest indicated that the individual, a man, was probably once dressed with a mantle.

At his feet stood a large bronze basin and a dish with food remains, while the stone table on the right might have contained the incinerated remains of another individual.

Decorated with a red strip, the upper part of the wall featured, along with several nails, a small hanging vase, which might have contained some ointment. A number of grave goods, which included large Greek Corinthian vases and precious ornaments, lay on the floor.”

To learn more, and to see a jaw-dropping slideshow of the discovery, click the link below!


Evidence of Roman massacre found at Ham Hill?

We all know that the Roman’s conquered southern Britain in the years after AD 43 in what must have been a gruesome and savage campaign but actual evidence of that violence in the archaeological record is really quite rare. Perhaps the most famous example is this ballista bolt-head found lodged in a Briton’s spine at Maiden Castle by Sir Mortimer Wheeler way back in the 1930s.

However, now archaeologists from the Univesity of Cambridge believe they may have found evidence of a massacre of the inhabitants of Ham Hill hillfort in Somerset. The disarticulated remains of hundreds of men, women and children have been found dating to the first or second century AD. The only, yet considerable, conundrum for the archaeologists is that the bodies display evidence of having been deliberately defleshed and dismembered, a practice not readily associated with the Romans but with the Iron Age natives themselves.

So, what went on here? Did one tribe of native Britons collaborate in the slaughter of their neighbours? Did one tribe seek revenge on another for collaborating? Let’s hope the archaeologists can get to the bottom of this chilling mystery.

To learn more, click on the link below:


Is Egypt younger than we think it is?!

The origins of this awe-inspiring civilisation have been, and always will be, shrouded in mystery. When archaeologists go this far back in history, things start to get a little hazy to say the least!

Still, a team from the University of Oxford led by Dr Michael Dee have now employed cutting edge radiocarbon dating technology to reshape the established timeline for Egypt’s emergence into statehood. The conclusion they’ve reached is that Egypt’s first nomadic communities first began to coalesce later than thought, around 3800 BC, and that its first king, Aha, came to the throne around 3100 BC. This radical reinterpretation of events means that Egypt’s transformation into statehood took place 300 or 400 years faster than previously thought.

“The time period is shorter than was previously thought – about 300 or 400 years shorter. Egypt was a state that emerged quickly – over that time one has immense social change…This is interesting when one compares it with other places. In Mesopotamia, for example, you have agriculture for several thousand years before you have anything like a state,” said Dr Dee.

To find out more about this sensational reshaping of Egypt’s early history, and to see the new dates for her First Dynasty rulers, click the link below:


“Pompeii” movie gets its first trailer!


Well, here it is! Starring “Game of Thrones” heartthrob Kit Harrington in ever-so-slightly less clothing than we’re used to seeing him in, Paul W. S. Anderson’s blockbuster looks set set to, quite literally, blow us away next Februrary.

Whilst the events of AD 79 certainly hold a great deal of cinematic appeal as far as visuals go, here’s hoping the characters are as well realised and the narrative as well staged as the real main attraction, the eruption itself…

Official site: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/pompeii/

Set in 79 A.D., POMPEII tells the epic story of Milo, a slave turned invincible gladiator who finds himself in a race against time to save his true love Cassia, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant who has been unwillingly betrothed to a corrupt Roman Senator. As Mount Vesuvius erupts in a torrent of blazing lava, Milo must fight his way out of the arena in order to save his beloved as the once magnificent Pompeii crumbles around him.

Directed By:

Paul W.S. Anderson

Written By:

Janet Scott Batchler & Lee Batchler and Michael Johnson

Produced By:

Jeremy Bolt, Paul W.S. Anderson, Robert Kulzer, Don Carmody

Executive Producers:

Martin Moszkowicz, Peter Schlessel, Jon Brown


Kit Harington, Carrie-Anne Moss, Emily Browning, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Paz Vega, Jessica Lucas with Jared Harris and Kiefer Sutherland