Mulri-storey car park versus Roman wall – who wins?

As it's Germany, the Roman wall wins. This tourist newspaper story came my way when I was in Bingen.

Roman fort wall is new park feature

Important Boppard finds from Roman times feature in a new archaeological park in the town.

Dominating the site and the top of Kirchgasse is a massive fortress curtain wall, some 60 metres long and eight metres high.

The wall linked two towers of a huge Roman fort that once stood at the side of the Rhine.

Astonishing experts by its excellent preservation, the wall came to light when workmen began digging for a multi-storey car park – a project soon abandoned.

Apart from similar remains in the UK, the finds were judged to include the best section of a Roman wall of this period uncovered anywhere north of the Alps.

Other items found included 12 graves made from stone tiles. Cloth fragments indicated that the graves were of Christians buried in the 7th or 8th centuries.

Also uncovered was the cellar of a fortress-house, with wall apertures for archers, from the 12th and 13th centuries, and the remains of a horse-mill.

Latin GCSE at 80

Look what the Romans have done for her

From News Shopper

PROBABLY the Bexley borough's oldest GCSE achiever was Mollie Hills. Aged 80, she lives in Welling and has just achieved a C grade in GCSE Latin.

Mrs Hills told News Shopper she had decided to take the subject because she has always been interested in the Romans.

Orginally from Greenwich, she studied Latin at school for a couple of years. But her education was disrupted by the Second World War and she has always felt she missed out.

So she took up the subject in an adult education class at Brampton Road adult education centre in Bexleyheath, taken by tutor Clive Madel who teaches at Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School in Sidcup.

She said: “I didn't think I would pass the exam because I only just passed the mock.”

In fact, everyone in the class passed, including fellow student Peter King from Bexleyheath, who is a mere 74.

Mrs Hills is now planning to take up the AS level Latin course but she says she probably won't take the exam this time.

She explained: “My daughter says she will disinherit me if I do. She says she cannot stand the strain.”

Numbers taking Classical GCSEs and A levels are up on last year

According to the Times, 16,305 UK cendidates took Classical subjects at GCSE this year. Last year there were 15,685.

The Times listing does not list Latin, Greek and Classical Civ separately.

At A level there were 6186 cendidates this year, up on last year's 5967.

Compare numbers taking French GCSE: 2006 – 236,189 (2005 – 272,140)
and Spanish GCSE: 2006 – 62,143

Pictures of the Parthenon triglyphs and metopes

Dorothy King (PhDiva) has three photos of Parthenon details, which will be useful for the study of building methods.

What's in the latest <i>Britannia</i>?

A nice rumination on the latest edition of 'Britannia' from Borders Today

One of my treats is the annual thump on the mat of the exceedingly learned journal Britannia, the harvest of scholarship of studies of our Roman past in Britain.

By excavation of sites and refining understanding of texts we continue to be able to piece together ever more of the shattered remnants of the astonishing achievement that was the Roman Empire. Britannia is compiled by the clever people at the Hunterian in Glasgow.

I cannot help myself but form the false assumption that Selkirk must be an echo of the Borders tribal name Selgovae. The other tribal entities, the Damnonae, the Novantae and the Brigantes are difficult to place with any precision. Perhaps their boundaries were quite fluid.

The journal attributes names familiar to us to the names employed by the Romans. Castledykes = Clindum or Lindum. Broomholm = Croucingo. Easter Happrew at Lyne = Carbantium. The Roman name for Berwick is new to me – Olei Clavis, itself a corruption of Horrea Classis, meaning a naval stores base. Truculensis ought to be Hawick, home of the ever-truculent Cymrae, but it seems it is not.

Britannia lists some recent Borders finds. In Peebles they discovered a copper alloy statuette of Jupiter. At Wolfelee, near Roxburgh, a trumpet brooch and iron axe head were found by metal detectors. At the Lyne fort a piece of slabbing was unearthed, showing how Roman stonework was dismantled and used by the natives for their less elegant structures. At Oxnam a broken silver brooch was found by the road at Cappuck fort.

My favourite is of a wild boar tablet found near Melrose. The boar was the regimental symbol of the Legion Victoria Victrix. The XXth was raised in the sunshine of Provence. What can they have thought of a Borders winter?

Because we know so much more about the military spine to the Roman presence, I think we see it through false eyes. The day-to-day reality must have been trading rather than fighting. The Romans would scarcely bother with the Borders if it was not profitable for them. No doubt Selgovae women were handsome, but Empires depend on transactions. Our pretty counties do not represent mineral wealth. It can only have been food we traded.
We have almost no insights into the Borders mind of the past. I suspect there was a great quantity of superstition and religion, and of great dexterity at skills we no longer have.

We know the Romans termed our hairy unsophisticated ancestors as the 'Britaniculae' and thought their Latin less than accomplished – implying but not proving – the schools were run by local authorities even then.

Without copies of The Southern Reporter how did they know what was going on? It has to have been gossip.

Astronomy and Greek mythology

A pleasant retelling of a myth in Record on Line.

COSMIC CALENDAR: Matchmaker dolphin swimming in the sky

By Jim McKeegan

August 27, 2006

Many stories about the stars come to us from classical mythology.

Unfortunately, those Greeks and Romans liked the kind of R-rated tales better left untold in family newspapers! But here's a story that's definitely no worse than PG — a Greek legend concerning Delphinus, the pesky dolphin.

In Greek mythology, Delphinus (del FINE us) was a dolphin employed by Poseidon (poh SIGH dun), king of the sea. Poseidon had dozens of undersea palaces and thousands of servants. He controlled the bounty of the entire ocean, and he had riches collected from countless seagoing vessels that had sunk in his domain. Still, Poseidon was lonely and wished to find the perfect mate.

One day, Poseidon came upon a beautiful young woman near the shore. He rose out of the sea, spear in hand, water streaming from his long hair and beard, and announced himself, “Hail, O beautiful maiden! I am Poseidon, Lord of the Ocean! Would you deign to be my wife?”

The young woman, Amphitrite (am fih TRY tee), was a bit surprised, but unimpressed. She was a minor water goddess herself, and accustomed to seeing some strange things. But really … a spear? Live hermit crabs in the beard? And what did “deign” mean anyway? Amphitrite quickly hurried away inland.

Poseidon realized that he'd blown it, so he sent Delphinus to sing his praises. No matter where she swam, Amphitrite heard the little dolphin.

“Did I mention how many palaces he has? What a nice guy! How about those broad shoulders?” Finally, she agreed to meet Poseidon, they fell in love, and the rest is ancient history.

Delphinus is easy to find in the summer sky. Around 10 p.m., face southeast. The brightest star in that area of sky, about halfway between the horizon and overhead, is Altair. Delphinus is a little to the left of Altair. Look for four or five stars in the shape of a flattened diamond.

Jim McKeegan is an educator and host of “Radio Catskill Cosmic Calendar,” a weekly almanac of astronomy on NPR affiliate WJFF, 90.5 FM in Jeffersonville. He teaches astronomy at Sullivan County Community College. E-mail him at