How an ancient rubbish dump has given us a unique view of life 2,000 years ago
In 1897 two Oxford archaeologists began digging a mound south of Cairo. Ten years later, they had uncovered 500,000 fragments of papyri. Shipped back to Oxford, the meticulous and scholarly work of deciphering these fragments began. It is still going on today. As well as Christian writings from totally unknown gospels and Greek poems not seen by human eyes since the fall of Rome, there are tax returns, petitions, private letters, sales documents, leases, wills and shopping lists.
What they found was the entire life of a flourishing market-town – Oxyrhynchos ( the `city of the sharp-nosed fish’ ), – encapsulated in its waste paper. The total lack of rain in this part of Egypt had preserved the papyrus beneath the sand, as nowhere else in the Roman Empire. We hear the voices of barbers, bee-keepers and boat-makers, dyers and donkey-drivers, weavers and wine-merchants, set against the great events of late antiquity: the rise and fall of the Roman Empire and the coming of Christianity.
The result is an extraordinary and unique picture of everyday life in the Nile Valley between Alexander the Great in 300 BC and the Arab conquest a thousand years later.
Think that Ancient Egypt is just a load of old obelisks?
Don’t bet your afterlife on it.
Ancient Egypt should be deader than most of our yesterdays. After all it was at its height 5,000 years ago. Yet we still marvel at its mummies and ponder over its pyramids. It’s easy to forget these people once lived and laughed, loved and breathed … though not for very long.
These were dangerous days for princes and peasants alike. In Ancient Egypt – a world of wars and woes, poverty and plagues – life was short. Forty was a good age to reach. A pharaoh who was eaten by a hippo ended up as dead as a ditch-digger stung by a scorpion. Unwrap the bandages and you’ll find that the Egyptians’ bizarre adventures in life were every bit as fascinating as the monuments they left to their deaths.
DANGEROUS DAYS IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE is the first in a new adult series by Terry Deary, the author of the hugely bestselling Horrible Histories, popular among children for their disgusting details, gory information and sharp wit, and among adults for engaging children (and themselves) with history.
The Romans have long been held up as one of the first ‘civilised’ societies, and yet in fact they were capable of immense cruelty. Not only that, but they made the killing of humans into a sport. The spoiled emperors were the perpetrators (and sometimes the victims) of some imaginative murders. DANGEROUS DAYS IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE will include some of the violent ways to visit the Elysian Fields (i.e. death) including: animal attack in the Coliseum; being thrown from the Tarpeian Rock – 370 deserters in 214 AD alone (or if the emperor didn’t like your poetry); by volcanic eruption from Vesuvius; by kicking (Nero’s fatal quarrel with the Empress Poppea); from poison mushrooms (Claudius); by great fires; torturous tarring; flogging to death; boiling lead (the invention of ‘kind’ Emperor Constantine); or being skinned alive by invading barbarians.
DANGEROUS DAYS IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE looks at the back-story leading up to the victims’ deaths, and in doing so gives the general reader a concise history of a frequently misunderstood era.
‘Hugely entertaining . . . What a joy to be able to recommend a book about misery, bloodshed and grisly superstition for being funny, compassionate and clear-eyed’ Independent on Sunday
The story of Roman Britain, told by a family who lived there.
It is AD 430, twenty years since the legions abandoned Britain. Realising that the Roman world he grew up in is doomed, the senior member of a Romano-British family resolves to preserve his family’s history . . .
Brilliant historian Simon Young has invented a multi-generational family, part Roman, part Celtic, to tell the dramatic story of 400 years of Roman rule in Britain. Vivid historical detail is balanced by a real feel for the psychological depth of the individual stories.
The narrator is writing this ‘family history’ in 430 AD, realising the Romans will never return. He chooses 14 of the most interesting, but not always the most admirable, of his ancestors. The big events of Roman Britain are all here: scouting for Caesar’s expedition in 55 BC; the Roman invasion in 43 AD; Boudicca’s revolt and the massacre of 70,000 Romans; the Pict attacks on Hadrian’s Wall; the great Barbarian Conspiracy of 367; and the sudden cataclysmic departure of the legions in 410.
But there are plenty of non-military episodes: spying on the Druids; a centurion dreaming of retirement with a young slave he has bought; an ambitious wife on the northern frontier; a bad poet in Londinium; infanticide in Surrey; a young Christian girl facing martyrdom in a British amphitheatre.
‘Popular history at its best’ Financial Times
‘There is no snatch of straw so recherché, it seems, that Young cannot somehow spin gold out of it’ Tom Holland, Spectator
‘Enjoyable and ingenious, this breathes life into the period’ Scotland on Sunday
The complete and definitive history of how Roman generals carved out the greatest and longest-lasting empire the world has ever seen.
The Roman army was one of the most effective fighting forces in history. The legions and their commanders carved out an empire which eventually included the greater part of the known world. This was thanks largely to the generals who led the Roman army to victory after victory, and whose strategic and tactical decisions shaped the course of several centuries of warfare.
This book, by the author of THE PUNIC WARS, concentrates on those Roman generals who displayed exceptional gifts of leadership and who won the greatest victories. With 26 chapters covering the entire span of the Roman Empire, it is a complete history of Roman warfare.
In describing the triangular relationship among the Jews, the Romans and the Greeks, Michael Grant treats one of the most significant themes in world history.
Unlike almost all the other subject nations of the Roman empire, the Jews have survived and have maintained a religious and cultural identity that is substantially unchanged. They provide a unique bridge with the ancient world and can bring us into peculiarly close and intimate contact with life in the Roman empire.
This book embraces the period in which the Jewish religion assumed virtually its final form, and in which Jews launched their two heroic, but disastrous revolts against Roman rule. This was, moreover, the time when Judaism gave birth to Christianity. Within a century after the death of Jesus, his followers had become completely independent of Judaism. Michael Grant describes the grandeur of the great multiracial Roman empire, beneath whose rule these stirring and unique developments took place.
First published in the 1950s, this is a classic account of the discovery in 1911 of the lost city of Machu Picchu.
In 1911 Hiram Bingham, a pre-historian with a love of exotic destinations, set out to Peru in search of the legendary city of Vilcabamba, capital city of the last Inca ruler, Manco Inca. With a combination of doggedness and good fortune he stumbled on the perfectly preserved ruins of Machu Picchu perched on a cloud-capped ledge 2000 feet above the torrent of the Urubamba River. The buildings were of white granite, exquisitely carved blocks each higher than a man. Bingham had not, as it turned out, found Vilcabamba, but he had nevertheless made an astonishing and memorable discovery, which he describes in his bestselling book LOST CITY OF THE INCAS.
Myths of the Greeks and Romans is an essential guide to ancient literature
The myths told by the Greeks and Romans are as important as their history for our understanding of what they believed, thought and felt, and of what they expressed in writing and visual art. Mythology was inextricably interwoven with the entire fabric of their public and private lives.
This book discusses not only the purely fictional myths, fairy-tales and folk-tales but the sagas and legends which have some historical grounding. This is not a dictionary of stories, rather a personal selection of the most important and memorable. Michael Grant re-tells these marvellous tales, and then explores the different ways in which they have appeared throughout literature.
It is an inspiring study, filled with quotations from literary sources, which gives the reader a fascinating exposition of ancient culture as well as an understanding of how vital the classical world has been in shaping the western culture of today.
The Pax Romana is famous for having provided a remarkable period of peace and stability, rarely seen before or since. Yet the Romans were first and foremost conquerors, imperialists who took by force a vast empire stretching from the Euphrates in the east to the Atlantic coast in the west. Their peace meant Roman victory and was brought about by strength and dominance rather than co-existence with neighbours. The Romans were aggressive and ruthless, and during the creation of their empire millions died or were enslaved.
But the Pax Romana was real, not merely the boast of emperors, and some of the regions in the Empire have never again lived for so many generations free from major wars. So what exactly was the Pax Romana and what did it mean for the people who found themselves brought under Roman rule?
Acclaimed historian Adrian Goldsworthy tells the story of the creation of the Empire, revealing how and why the Romans came to control so much of the world and asking whether the favourable image of the Roman peace is a true one. He chronicles the many rebellions by the conquered, and describes why these broke out and why most failed. At the same time, he explains that hostility was only one reaction to the arrival of Rome, and from the start there was alliance, collaboration and even enthusiasm for joining the invaders, all of which increased as resistance movements faded away.
A ground-breaking and comprehensive history of the Roman Peace, Pax Romana takes the reader on a journey from the bloody conquests of an aggressive Republic through the age of Caesar and Augustus to the golden age of peace and prosperity under diligent emperors like Marcus Aurelius, offering a balanced and nuanced reappraisal of life in the Roman Empire.
A visceral history of Pompeii – the living city brought back to life.
This startling new book concentrates on the twenty years between 59 and 79AD, thus beginning with the earthquake which all but destroyed Pompeii and ending with the volcanic eruption which has become part of our collective popular imagination.
Alex Butterworth and Ray Laurence have synthesised the latest research into Pompeii to bring this period of flux and instability back to life. By concentrating on key members from each strata of Pompeiian society we are plunged into the everyday life of a city rebuilding itself, in the knowledge that it will all be for nothing when Vesuvius erupts.
So we follow Suedius Clemens who has been sent by Vespasian to settle disputes over land; Decimus Satrius Lucretius Valens who is set to join Pompeii’s elite magistrates following the death of his protector; the Vettii brothers who were fabulously rich and ostentacious dealers in wine and perfume; Pherusa, the runaway slave; lusty young Rustus who is contemplating parricide…
Terracotta Warriors provides an intriguing, original and up-to-date account of one of the wonders of the ancient world. Illustrated with a wealth of original photographs, this is the first book available for the general reader. In one of the most astounding archaeological discoveries of all time, the Terracotta Warriors were discovered by chance by farmers in 1974. We now understand that the excavated pits containing nearly eight thousand warriors and hundreds of horses are only part of a much grander mausoleum complex. There is a great deal still to be discovered and understood about the entire area whichis now thought to cover around 100 square kilometres. And there is the tantalising possibility of the opening of the imperial tomb.
The story of the Athenian Golden Age by one of the world’s pre-eminent classical historians.
The Golden Age of ancient Greek city-state civilization lasted from 490 to 336 BC, the period between the first wars against Persia and Carthage and the accession of Alexander the Great. Never has there been such a multiplication of talents and genius within so limited a period and Michael Grant captures this astonishing civilization at the height of its powers.