Empire, Oil, and Disaster - blog about my new book

A religious sect getting more and more attention of the world. Jews in the Middle East already have problems with them. Coincidentally, a terrible terract happens in the largest city of the empire. The same religious sect is blamed for it. The year is 64 AD. The sect is Christians. The place is Rome of the emperor Nero.
Beware of September Ides!

Location: United States

Monday, February 01, 2010

Legio XV Apploinaris

More on Legio XV Apploinaris: under Titus (?) command that was stationed after Parthian War in Alexandria but was sent under Vespasian command to Judaea (also took Jamala). Fought with Legio V Macedonica on the Western front, while X Fretensis took care of the valley of Jordan river.

(?) Participated in the sige of Jerusalem in 70 (captured the city), winter 70/71 Legio XV is sent to Zeugma on Euprates, then shipped back to Carnuntum in Pannonia.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Yosef bio details

Born 37 BC in Jerusalem. One version: Father of a priestly descent, mother claiming royal blood. Second version: a sadducee and aristocrat. Supposed to be very well educated. Assumed to live in a desert with a hermit Bannus for three years (until age of 19). Claimed to be a Pharisee in his autobiography, but showed dislike to them in his books.

In 64 at the age of ~27 (64-37=27) he went to Rome and negotiated the release of Jewish priests. Upon return found the country on a brink of revolt. Claims to be moderate, but joined (or was forced to join?) Zealots and Sicarii rebels once they killed Roman garrison of Jerusalem. Then he was sent North to organize resistance to Romans in Galilee,

John of Gischala (Yohanan mi-Gush Halav) was another leader there, who organized a privae militia of peasants. John and Joseph had a lot of quarrelling resulting in seize the city of Sepphoris. In the Spring 67 Joseph's men were defending Jotapata (Yodfat) that stood on the road to Sepphoris (on the plains of Zebulon?)

Surrendered to Legio XV Apploinaris under questionable circumstances.

Whatever the truth of this implausible story, Josephus was brought before Vespasian and his son Titus. To Vespasian, he explained about an ambiguous oracle that said that

a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab, and break down all the sons of Sheth.
[Numbers 24.17-19]

Almost every Jew believed that this prophecy referred to the coming of the Messiah. However, who said that the ruler who was to rise out of Israel was to be a Jew? Why should Vespasian not become king or emperor? Ridiculous though this may seem to a modern reader, Vespasian was impressed. After all, in Gaul and Hispania an insurrection had started against the emperor Nero, and it was clear to any intelligent observer that civil war was bound to break out. Besides, everybody had observed the comet, resembling a sword, that had stood over the country during the preceding months. Instead of having Joseph crucified, the Roman general kept him in detention. The former Jewish commander became friends with Titus, who was of the same age.


House of Yosef in Jerusalem

First of all - about the material. Most stone building in Jerusalem were constructed from limestone or dolomite. Now, there were several kinds of limestone: Senonian limestone - located east of Jerusalem and most available and cheap stone, Cenomanian a.k.a. mizzi ahmar and mizzi yahudz (arabic) limestone - more expensive and hard to handle, and Turonian layers providing mizze helu and meleke. Meleke is soft and easy once digged, but hardens on contact with the athmosphere, It was also most often used with religious structures and very rare now. I have no more details, but I'd expect that house of a priest would be made of the most appropriate stone - meleke.

The color. Limestone in area has multiple colors -- pale, sand, golden, pink and off-white. With the time meleke stone of the Western wall became nearly bright white -- phenomena noticeable with some Greek monasteries made of limestone too. So, I'd assume Yosef's house was made of pale of off-white meleke limestone.

Floor Plan. It seems that normal plan for a house in the area includes 4-6 rooms on the first floor, two floors and flat roofs with the space on them to dine or relax in the evening. Four room floor plan was pretty straightforward: entrance room, back room, another room on the right or left of the entrance room, and another room behind it with or without a door to the back room. Not much privacy. On another hand, if one sent the servants away (was it even possible?), they could have enjoyed relative privacy on the roof, provided they did not talk out loud and noisy like a bunch of Americans in a Parisian cafe these days. But other than that, all conspiracy has to be done either in eateries, or in even more private places outside. Gethsemane garden comes to mind...

The guests more likely were provided with the second floor room, likely above the main or secondary back room, because front ones could have been non-existent and providing access to the roof (stairs take place too).

Misc links:
And, of course, all-knowlegdable wikipedia...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jotapata (Yodfat)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Book 2 Chapter IV: Flute players on the streets of Rome

“As if celebrating in honor of Yosef’s victory, some flute players on the street entertained the crowd, and the sounds of music filled him with joy.”

Was it possible? I mean, flute players on a street? Yes. Specifically, on the Quinquatrus Minusculae (June 12-14, three days around Ides of June) flute players in masks played throughout the city streets.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

How often gladiators died on arena

Just yesterday, I found a very interesting article, which among other things had the following statement: "Roman scholar Georges Ville recently conducted a study of ancient writings which recorded arena deaths during a short period of the 1st Century AD. He discovered that, of the 200 gladiators involved in the documented fights, only 19 of them died."

Impressive, is it? We are accustomed to think about gladiators as a sort of Japanese komikadze, while instead it was definitely a high risk occupation, but hardly a higher risk than a soldier, probably not even close to that! Only 10%, 90% of gladiators successfully lived to the old years, probably already as free Roman citizens.


Slaves prices in Greece and Rome

Found an interesting information.

Prices on slaves in Greece in around 400-350 BC.

Uneducated slave~ 2 mins (1.5-2.5 mins)
Skilled slave3-4 mins
Slave overseer, "manager"5-6 mins
Slave with special skills and knowledge10-15 mins
Beautiful girls and dancers20-30 mins

Greek money:

6 obols=1 drahma
100 drahms=1 min
60 mins=1 talant

Now, Rome.
In Republic and early Empire uneducated slave was 400-500 denarii.
Late Empire (with almost no conquest and cheap source of slaves) 600-700 denarii
(the second price seems questionable, considering inflation)

Comparing with the Greek prices, we get:

Uneducated slave400-500 denarii
Skilled slave800-1000 denarii
Slave overseeer, "manager"1000-1500 denarii
Slave with special skills and knowledge2000-3000 denarii
Beautiful girls and dancers4000-6000 denarii

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

The price of slaves in Rome

Found such information for the time of Cato, but don't know how reliable it is...
  • The price of a slave is about a two-year wage of a free man of similar skills.
  • A free field worker had between 2/3 to 5/6 of a denarius per day, that is about 500-600 in two years.
  • An unskilled, 20 year old male slave was about 500 denarius.
  • Related: expected return of 6% (25 denarii per year) and writing off the salve in 20 years.
  • Keeping a slave was about 1/3 of the wage of a free worker, about 128 denarii per year for an unskilled field worker.
  • Cost of living at the time for a freeman laborer and his wife was about 300 denarii/year.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Census data for Rome

Just found an excellent table of Roman Census data published by John Paul Adams from CSUN here.

According to it, population of Rome during King Servius Tullius was aboput 80 thousand people, while in AD 47 it became close to 6-7 millions.

I find very ineteresting a jump in population during the change from the Republic to the Empire:

70/69 B.C. 910,000 / 900,000
28 B.C. (Augustus) 4,063,000

Caveat: data are not 100% reliable, because it's hard to tell who exactly was counted (e.g., slaves apparently were not), if it was a full census, if the numbers were properly copied from manuscript to manuscript, etc. Many believe that numbers prior to 340 BC are not real.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Eestor - battery for electromobils from Texas

Eestor – Business 2.0, October 2006, p.82

Not exactly about Rome or Egypt, but closely related to getting rid of oil-dependency, which I consider relеvant to this blog and the book. Seems like not only oil-thirsty politicians are coming from Texas. Here is one very positive example that this state may be truly proud of.

A company called EEStor from Texas seems to develop accumulator batteries capable of charging in 5 minutes to store the energy enough for 500 miles of drive with the engine (battery + the motor) cost of only $5200 (the article states that similar gasoline engine is $3000-$5000, but if you ever faced a need to replace one, you know that it’s much more). Considering current electricity prices, this engine will provide an equivalent by mileage of about 45 cents per gallon or $9 to travel 500 miles (compared to $60 on average gasoline car with $3/gallon price)

Sounds really good, unless this technology will also disappear just like the technology of producing light oil from any organic waste (including city sewage) at $17 per barrel, described by Discover back in 2003 (Anything into Oil by Brad Lenley – Discover, Vol 24., No 5, May 2003.)

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina by Frank Rich - ISBN 159420098X, 352 pages, 2006.

Funny, I am not alone in drawing Ancient analogies. The title of the book obviously exploits a similarity to another book "The Greatest Story Ever Sold" considering genesis of the Christiantiy.

Also, amazingly, this book holds #2 sales rank on Amazon!

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Ancient Egypt by David P. Silverman – Oxford University Press

Ancient Egypt by David P. Silverman (Editor) – Oxford University Press and Dunkan Baird Publishers Ltd., 2003 (copyright 1997), ISBN 0-19-521952-X

Another excellent choice by Oxford University Press. Apparently the book was created and prepared by Dunkan Baird Publishers Ltd., and then picked up by Oxford University Press. Well, seems like that how publishing industry will work in the near future – small companies taking the risk and large companies providing large distribution for winners. But anyway, that one was a great choice by OUP editors.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Where was Legio X Fretensis and Centurion Furious in AD 65-66?

From Wikipedia:
"In 66, the X Fretensis and V Macedonica went to Alexandria for an invasion of Ethiopia planned by Nero. However, the two legions were needed in Iudaea to suppress a revolt."
It means that in 65 (Book II) it was in Judea, and it was sent to Alexadnria soon before the revolt, where it was under direct command of Vespasian.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Roman Triremes

When working on chapters VI-VII, I thought about sending Judean priests home from Rome by a military trireme. Of course, it’s not a passenger ship, but if the emperor decides they would take anything onboard, and that would bring the priests home quickly. Seems, it was not such a great idea as I cannot find any logical reason why Nero or Tigellinus would bother to do so. I still may send Nil and his company this way. Meanwhile, here is a lot of links to materials about triremes that I found trying to understand how such a travel would look like:

[1] Trireme (From Wikipedia)
[2] The Athenian fighting ship: the trieres
[3] How was a trireme built? by E.J. de Meester
[4] Ships of the Ancient Greeks
[5] The Trireme Trust
[6] Roman Trireme
[7] Athen's Triere -- Greek style triere (broken deck, no cabin)
[8] Ancient Generals: Themistocles: Master of Deception -- Speaks about Greeks, but shows a picture of a Roman trireme (not Greek triere)
[9] The Picture Gallery of Ships -- Just few more pictures of triremes and trieres
[10] X Legio v.1.5 -- Roman trireme (the page is in Russian, but contains a good picture with captain's cabin)


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Doctor Noot – did Egyptians really knew dentistry?

I probably already wrote about that, but let’s do that again.

Yes, they did.

See [1], page 53 for a photo of the first known “false” teeth in the history of the humankind. It’s about 4,500 years old (~2,500 BC). And yes, sometimes Egyptians used metals. These ancient teeth were held together by a gold wire. They also knew how to fill cavities and fight a dental infection. The first known dentist, probably, was Hesi Re, the “Chief of Toothers and Physicians”, who lived about 2,600 BC (~4,600 years ago).

[1] Science in Ancient Egypt by Geraldine Woods – Franklin Watts, 1998, ISBN 0-531-15915-9

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Book I of September Ides is coming!

Official day of publication is Feruary 25! The printed copies are coming. See more at the Galiel.Net - the publisher's site.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Ancient Mathematics in Egypt

According to [1], about 3,500 years ago (around 1,500 BC), Ahmes the Moonborn wrote a book called How to Obtain Information About All Things Mysterious and Dark. The things “mysterious and dark” was mathematics. It already covered fractions, multiplication and division (including of fractions), calculating the area of a circle (remember? pi=3.1415…), square or triangle (not just a triangle with one right angle, any triangle), volume of some shapes. See [1], page 31.

About a millennium later, some of this knowledge was popularized by a Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras. We still associate some of this knowledge with his name. By the way, did you know that Pythagoras served as an Egyptian priest for many years in the Upper Egypt?

[1] Science in Ancient Egypt by Geraldine Woods – Franklin Watts, 1998, ISBN 0-531-15915-9

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Science in Ancient Egypt by Geraldine Woods

Science in Ancient Egypt by Geraldine Woods – Franklin Watts, 1998, ISBN 0-531-15915-9

A wonderful book for children, and a funny one for adults. While I would not recommend this book as a serious reference – it’s really targeted to children – I would definitely recommend it to young people for school reading, especially if you have a school project on the science in Ancient Egypt.

As any American popular book on Egypt, it has a lot of illustrations, but most of them are relevant, which is a great advantage over similar books. Also, the set of facts to describe is done very intelligently. Apparently, 64 pages book could not really go into details and cover everything, but what to cover and what to leave is picked up well.

Here are a few things mentioned in the book: using triangulation for measuring land, Egyptian ships, building pyramids (sure, how you can miss this one…), using levels, and more. By the way, did you know that Egyptians employed binary base system for multiplication and division (like we use in computers now). By the way, they also put the foundation to the modern decimal system, while alternative civilization of Mesopotamia used 64-base system instead (some traces of it we can see today in a 16-base system popular in the software development).

Also, pay attention to bibliography and links, especially, Egyptology Resources: http://www.newton.cam.ac.uk/egypt/