Editeur : TLS (The Times Literary Supplement)
Fanatics have regularly attacked their enemies’ heritage and the destruction of antiquities in Northern Iraq by ISIS is not a phenomenon with a uniquely Islamist history. Nor is all destruction equally destructive to knowledge, as Eleanor Robson points out this week in her Commentary on the few facts and fierce propaganda that have emerged from the Assyrian and Parthian sites in the past few weeks. She notes the capacity of relics to survive, ready for successors to John Aubrey to find them, in the manner made vivid by Ruth Scurr’s biography, reviewed by Stuart Kelly last month. She notes too the greater significance of that which remains safely unexcavated. Some of the less studied and less fashionable archaeology of the area is, however, under real threat. Those who denounce ISIS now, she says, should not forget the claims of Near Eastern scholarship when the media furore is over.
Andrew Wallace-Hadrill ends his review of Aphrodias VI: The marble reliefs from the Julio-Claudian Sebasteion with reflections on the damage done by Christian wreckers at the Greco-Roman city in southern Turkey once dedicated to the love goddess Aphrodite. Romans were skilled at “mythologizing their power” with images of naked emperors on the back of women representing subject states. Christian extremists removed nipples and penises for their own reasons.
Edith Hall evokes the richness of the rubbish pits of Oxyrhynchus in Egypt, source not only of lost poetry by Sophocles, Euripides and Sappho, but of the financial disputes of farmers, notes on the use of fleas for magic and the fashion demands of a daughter seeking a saffron robe. Peter Thonemann considers the archaeology of Troy and the desire to make fantasy a physical reality, from Hecuba to Harry Potter.
Only one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world has survived the vicissitudes of the modern. Peter Green reviews Jessica Priestley’s Herodotus and Hellenistic Culture, noting the Ptolemaic giganticism that flourished at the same times as the minimalism of the poet Callimachus. The great lighthouse of Alexandria has gone, but we are still finding little poems in the sands of the Egyptian desert,
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