Friday, March 29, 2013

The Dead Sea Scrolls

March 15th, 1952
Dear W.F. Albright,
It pains me that you cannot be with us on our breathtaking dig as you are still visiting The John Hopkins University (Crawford 82). As you already know, The Dead Sea Scrolls, as the Bedouins refer to them, originally came from what is known as Cave 1 at Qumran (Reed 45). We are currently scouring the caves near the Northwest area of the Dead Sea shore looking for remaining fragments of the original scrolls the locals brought to us. As you will remember, we were originally given two copies of Isaiah, a Hymn scroll, a War scroll, a pesher (or commentary) on Habakkuk, a Genesis apocryphon, and a rule for the community from a Bedouin shepherd (Reed 45).
In summary, I am writing to you to explain the progress we have made. After studying these scrolls and the correspondence you sent to us, Brownlee and I have ascertained that these scrolls are written mainly on parchment, with a handful on papyrus (Cooper 88). That being said, they appear to be copies of the original biblical books, perhaps scribed by the Jewish sectarians from as early as 400BCE to as late as 300CE (Crawford 84). Ah! And how can I forget this next bit of information? The Bedouins, being so eager for their wages, have made almost all of the discoveries; however, a group of archeologists were able to uncover a scroll in Cave 3, written on copper (Crawford 82)! We have uncovered over two hundred and twenty-five caves to date, and Father Roland de Vaux is confident there are more to be found (Crawford 82).
            Speaking of Father de Vaux, the leader of this expedition is everything we hoped we would be working with. We are so lucky to have been invited by him to the dig site. His charisma precedes him, and his benevolence is plenty. Speaking with him recently, Fr. de Vaux confirmed that a Bedouin treasure hunter just found about five hundred scrolls in Cave 4 (The Dead Sea Scrolls). He fears that he will have to pay a large sum to the man in order to receive them. How do you put a price on fragments of precious documents? Fr. de Vaux tells us, however, that his fears run deeper than money. He is worried of the controversy these discoveries will bring, particularly involving the authorship of the scrolls (Cooper 88). Having been translated and re-written, these scrolls may have been changed to depict relationships between the Romans and Jews, the Jews and Christians, and the Jews and themselves in a more political light (Cooper 88). He also fears that some scholars may prove too greedy to give up ownership of the scrolls, particularly if they host controversial information (Cooper 88). I guess you can say our publication The Dead Sea Scrolls of St. Mark’s Monastery has caused quite the stir amongst religious scholars.
            To summarize, in all we have collected fragments and manuscripts covering over nine hundred texts (The Dead Sea Scrolls). Of these, we have grouped them into texts from the Hebrew Bible, which cover about forty percent: texts from the Second Temple Period that were not included in Bible, which cover about thirty percent: and sectarian, religious texts, which round out with another thirty percent (Abegg, Flint, and Ulrich). These discoveries will modernize the way we view the Bible. Now we can have much more accurate translations, giving people the real word of our Lord. We have longed for a lens to view a more accurate depiction of the Bible, and we have been granted one. For as it is written in Matthew 7:7-8, ““Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

God Bless,
John C. Trever
(Bryce Conway)

P.S. Attached below is a photograph of one of the scrolls we uncovered.

Works Cited

Abegg, Jr., Martin, Peter Flint, and Eugene Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest
Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English, San Francisco: Harper, 2002. Retrieved from

Cooper, Ilene. American Libraries. Vol. 28, No. 4. (Apr., 1997). p. 88. Retrieved from <>

Crawford, Sidnie White. Near Eastern Archaeology. Vol. 65, No. 1. The House That Albright
Built (Mar., 2002). pp. 81-86. Retrieved from <>

Davies, Philip R. “Dead Sea Scrolls.” Photograph. “The Dead Sea Scrolls.” Faclan. Web. 28
March 2013. Retrieved from

"Discovery and Publication." The Dead Sea Scrolls. Web. 28 Mar. 2013. <>.

Reed, Stephen A. The Biblical Archaeologist. Vol. 54, No. 1. (Mar., 1991). pp. 44-51.
Retrieved from <>

Thursday, March 28, 2013


        When first established around 300 B.C., Dura-Europos stood as a Hellenistic settlement created by the Macedonian Greeks. The city, located in the Syrian desert alongside the Euphrates River, remained in service for more than four centuries as first, an extension of the Iranian Parthians followed by a campsite for Roman troops to guard the eastern side of their growing empire. Midway through the third century, however, the grounds were taken over by the invading Persian Sasanians. This annexation left the once flourishing city in ruins, depopulated, and deserted. Over the years to follow, Dura-Europos became nothing but a large area of land buried beneath wind-blown sand and rubble. 

           Dura-Europos, overlooking the Euphrates River (top right)

A view of Dura from the air (Yale University Art Gallery)           
         In April 1920, just after the conclusion of the first World War, a group of British soldiers stumbled across pieces of a mural painting in, what they thought to be, the middle of nowhere. After scraping off excess dirt and grime around the area, the troops realized that they might be standing upon something greater than just a painting left out in the middle of the desert. Archeologists from both France and America were called to the scene to find what would become one of the most famous archeological discoveries of the twentieth century.
         As it turns out, those smaller pieces of paintings were originally from the Temple of the Palmyrene Gods, a large sanctuary on the far northwest edge of the city, and there were many more paintings to be found. By 1928, the primary exploration of Dura-Europos was handed over to Yale University with the collaboration of the French Academy of Inscriptions. One Yale faculty member on the expedition was Mikhail Rostovtzeff, a professor of Ancient History, who recalls the early discoveries in his book, Dura-Europos and its Art. Rostovtzeff writes from his point of view, recalling his reactions to discoveries and the beauty that was lost beneath the dust. In one portion of his book, specifically recalling the paintings found, he states,

        “I may add that at Dura, as at Pompeii, the walls of public and private buildings, whether painted or not, are literally covered with inscriptions and drawings scratched or traced upon them. No excavated city, except once more Pompeii, has yielded these in such numbers and variety” (Rostovtzeff, 3). 

This synagogue wall painting shows Mordechai and Esther,
biblical heroes who rescued the Jews  from the wrath
of the evil Persian Haman. (Yale University Art Gallery)

The Roman god Mithras, as seen in his temple at Dura
(Yale University Art Gallery) 

        Just as the amount of discovered art was great in number, so was the number of discovered buildings, sculptures, and other remnants of ancient architecture. In an article published in ArcheologyA Publication of the Archeological Institute of America,Susan Downey, an Art History professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, spoke to the journalist on the subject matter. She included that the two most interesting finds at Dura, in her mind, were the town’s synagogue and a house church, both of which were constructed under Roman rule. “Dating from the end of the second century, the synagogue is the earliest synagogue we know of, except for the ones in Israel,” Downey says.

        “Originally part of a house, the synagogue also had a “Hall of Assembly,” which may have contained a Torah niche. Interestingly, no artifacts, except for a small papyrus fragment, were found in the synagogue. The assumption is that the people who worshiped there knew that the city was under siege and they took things, like the Torah rolls, out with them when and if they left the city” (Downey, Archeology Magazine 2010).

Dura's Palmyrene Gate 

        Though it went through turmoil during the time of its final conquering and was left in the dust (literally), Dura-Europos still remains to be a location of pure architectural and artistic stability. I know for a fact that I would absolutely love to visit the grounds in Syria to experience just how intact the city still is to this day. The history behind the, now uninhabited, city dates so far back and yet creates such a parallel between the arts, building tactics, and life then and now. Many explorers have ventured to and through Dura, scholars have studied it, and have even written so much about it that the information is nearly endless – and to think… if it hadn’t been for the fortunate discovery of that buried mural, the world may have never known.

Works Cited 

"Dura-Europos." New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 945-
946. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.

Hopkins, Clark, and Bernard Goldman. "Foreward/The Paintings." The Discovery of Dura-Europos. New Haven: Yale UP, 1979. Print. 13 Mar. 2013.

Matheson, Susan B. Dura-Europos: The Ancient City and the Yale Collection. New Haven: Yale Univ. Art Gallery. Print. 13 Mar. 2013

Perkins, Ann Louise. The Art of Dura-Europos. Oxford [Eng.: Clarendon, 1973. Print.

Rostovtzeff, Michael Ivanovitch. Dura-Europos and Its Art. Oxford: Clarendon, 1938. Print. 15 Mar. 2013.

Silver, Carly. "Dura-Europos: Crossroad of Cultures." Archaeology Magazine. Dura-Europos: Magazine Archive. 2010. Web. 20 Mar. 2013.

"Simon James: School of Archaeological Studies, University of Leicester." Simon James: School of Archaeological Studies, University of Leicester. 5 Sept. 2005. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pompeii: The Rediscovered City

Allison Reed

Buried beneath volcanic ash from the eruptions of Mt. Vesuvius, the ancient Roman city of Pompeii was lost for 1500 years before its discovery in the late 16th century (“Pompeii”).  Pompeii's sociopolitical landscape of the city changed over the centuries and although it appears to have been a destination for the Roman wealthy, there were also permanent inhabitants of the city that belonged to lower social classes that contributed to city’s economy.
As the Greek empire expanded, it took control of the area surrounding Pompeii and asserted its practices on the town during the 6th century BC (“Pompeii: 27 Centuries” 8).  For nearly two centuries, Greek influence dominated in Pompeii as seen by a Doric Greek temple built in the mid-6th century (“Pompeii: 27 Centuries” 8) and evidence that the Greek gods were upheld.  Shelly Hales discusses how the Greek gods were represented in her essay “Dionysos at Pompeii”.  For the wealthy, Pompeii was a city of luxury and extravagance; it’s only fitting that those who could afford the pleasures of the city held the Greek god Dionysos with high regards.  According to Hales, Dionysos’ “imagery as a motif of the pleasures of life” supports the ideas of luxury and indulgence so it’s not surprising that many relics found in wealthy homes are decorated with images of the god (335).
Around 310 BC, Roman forces plundered the area surrounding Pompeii and took political control of the area.  Pompeii’s inhabitants now lived in a unique city; one that combined the culture of Ancient Greece with the social, political, and economic landscape of the emerging Roman Empire.  One of the biggest changes in the city under Roman order was the widespread use of water (Jones 695).  While water was publicly accessible in many Greek cities, the presence of an organized and constant supply of water to the masses in large cities was a “striking feature of the Roman ability to provide an urban infrastructure” (Jones 695).
Jones and Robinson examine the distribution and display of water in the city as a symbol of status by examining the House of Vestals.  According to Jones and Robinson, Pompeii contains many Hellenistic mansions that displayed the wealth of its inhabitants through architectural style and interior décor rather than by size of the property (697).  Distribution of water changed the way the upper class could display their wealth in Pompeii.  While water remained accessible through street fountains, indoor plumbing became a symbol of status in Pompeii around the 1st century BC (Jones 696).  At the House of Vestals archeologists uncovered a complete system of indoor water pipes, drains, and cisterns which support the level of luxury upheld in the home (Jones 697).  You know you’re well-off when you don’t have to bathe in public!
Water was also used for economic purposes.  Because Pompeii was a luxurious destination for the wealthy, lower class inhabitants created an economy that appealed to their wants through commercial flower growing.  Wilhelmina Jashemski states that remnants of commercial flower gardens are scattered throughout the Campania area including Pomepii (403) in her essay “The Garden of Hercules at Pompeii: The Discovery of a Commercial Flower Garden”.  Near the Garden of Hercules there are “wall paintings at Pompeii [that] picture the procedures of making garlands and perfume” as well as rough plans displaying soil planting patterns, provisions for watering, and perfume bottles (Jashemski 403).
This depiction of daily life in Pompeii shows the interactions of the wealthy with individuals of the lower class.

Just as Pompeii was fitting into the Roman Empire, tragedy struck.  Although the city quickly began rebuilding after an earthquake in AD 62, the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius on August 24, AD 79 set the city’s fate in stone quite literally.  An excerpt from the article “Pompeii: 27 Centuries” summarizes the event:
“Vesuivus erupts.  Pompeii and nearby villas are buried in ashes and pumice; Herculaneum is engulfed in hot volcanic mud,” (10).
An entire society was completely lost.  Pompeii’s rediscovery uncovered the city’s unique combination of the Ancient Greek and Roman worlds.  In discussing the importance of the site, Barry Burnham calls Pompeii a “working laboratory where new insights are constantly being gleaned” (540).  Pompeii is no longer the once-lost city but an interactive doorway into the ancient world.

Works Cited
Burnham, Barry C.  “Review of ‘Pompeii: Public and Private Life’ by P. Zanker.”  The Classical Review.  50 (2000):540-542.  JSTOR.  Web.  3 March 2013.
Hales, Shelly.  “Dionysos at Pompeii.”  British School at Athens Studies 15 (2007): 335-341.  JSTOR.  Web.  3 March 2013.
Jashemski, Wilhelmina F.  “The Garden of Hercules at Pompeii: The Discovery of a Commercial Flower Garden.”  American Journal of Archeology 83 (1979):403-411.  JSTOR.  Web.  4 March 2013.
Jones, Rick, and Damian Robinson.  “Water, Wealth, and Social Status at Pompeii: The House of the Vestals in the First Century.”  American Journal of Archeology 109 (2005):695-710.  JSTOR.  Web.  3 March 2013.
“Pompeii: 27 Centuries.”  Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago (1973-1982) 72(1978):8-13.  JSTOR.  Web.  4 March 2013.
“Pompeii.”  Britannica Concise Encyclopedia.  Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2009.  Credo Reference.  Web. 03 March 2013.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Government in the Roman Empire

Mackenzie Huth
Honors 201

Government throughout Roman history is an immense subject, ancient Rome going through many transitions evolving from a city, to city-state, kingdom, republic, and finally an empire.

Senatus Populusque Romanus
The People and Senate of Rome

As stated in The Histories, by Polybius, Government in Rome was an amalgamation of despotism, aristocracy, and democracy and could not necessarily be constricted to one way of governing (Polybius). When looking at the government before Caesar, also known as the “republic”, Rome was clearly defined by two social classes; the patricians, a smaller group made up of aristocrats, and the plebeians, the middle and working class. Within the Roman senate, only members of the patrician class were chosen to participate. Deeper inside the Roman senate was a combination of both legislature and general advisory councils both with the job of deciding and setting policy for the Consuls, the chief executives of Rome (Stout 430).
Two consuls were chosen every year from among the senate, the power placed on two to allow for a system of checks and balances. One consul was placed in charge of Rome domestically while the other could advance outside of Rome to fight in wars as well as conquer new territory (Green). One check the senate had on the consul was the general rule of a one-year term, leading into another check stating that once a person served as consul, they could not serve again for another ten years (Stout 430). While these checks were laws, they were not strictly enforced by the senate, some consuls ruling for many years in a row, which brings up the debate of whether or not Rome was a true republic before Octavian Augustus dubbed it an empire and furthers Polybius’ idea that when surveying the power of the consul it would seem as if Rome was under despotic rule (Polybius).

Veni, Vidi, Vici
I Came, I Saw, I conquered

Gaius Julius Caesar was one of the most profound leaders throughout Roman history and marks the specific transition between republic and empire.
Caesar came from a small patrician family and held positions in both the empire and the military. He rose through ranks quickly in both, was given governorship of Spain, and was elected consul in 59 BCE (Taylor 14-16). During his consulship he aligned himself with two of the most powerful and wealthy men in Rome, Crassus and General Pompey, creating the First Triumvirate, which was “marked by violence, illegality, and the arbitrary use of power” and ultimately the demise of the ‘republic’ (Millar 50).
During Caesar’s first year as consul he was able to encourage the senate to pass various laws (mainly through intimidation of Pompey’s army) and was eventually granted governorship of Southern Gaul, which he went on to conquer the rest of with his four legions (armies which came to be his main source of power) (Taylor 15). While gone on his campaigns, Crassus was killed and General Pompey became consul of Rome, where he stripped Caesar of command for containing too much power and proclaimed him an enemy of the state (Taylor 18).

Alea Iacta Est
The Die is Cast

Upon hearing of Pompey’s reign Ceasar returned with his thirteenth legion famously crossing the Rubicon onto Roman soil and took the city under his dictator and consulship (Green). After serving for five years Caesar was assassinated and Octavian Augustus, Marc Antony, and Lepidus forming the Second Triumvirate which concluded as a failure and started Rome’s second civil war where Octavian won and declared himself emperor, officially making Rome into an empire, where both the senate and the power of the people were seemingly irrelevant (Millar 52).

Omnium Rerum Principia Parva Sunt
The Beginnings of all Things are Small

Did Caesar destroy the Roman Republic?

While Caesar’s dictatorship and Octavian’s declaration of emperor marks the exact period of Rome transforming from a republic into an empire, it only counts as Caesar’s fault if he was the first person to do it. Before Caesar there were countless other leaders that had despotic rule; General Marius who raised an army of plebeians that were loyal to only him rather than the Roman state, and General Sulla, a leader who marched against Rome and proclaimed himself dictator in 81 BCE (Barlow 204). Due to the concentration of power into the hands of one individual Rome technically could have been considered and Empire for decades and even centuries before Caesar. 

Barlow, Charles. “The Roman Government and the Roman Economy.” The American Journal of Philology 102.2 (1980): 202-219. Web. 16 Mar. 2013. Accessed from
Green, John. “The Roman Empire.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 29 Mar. 2012. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.
Millar, Fergus. “Triumvirate and Principate.” The Journal of Roman Studies 63 (1973): 50-67. Web. 16 Mar. 2013. Accessed from
Polybius. “The Histories.” The Latin Library. n.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.
Stout, S. “Rotation in Office in the Roman Republic.” The Classical Journal 13.6 (1918): 429-435. Web. 16 Mar. 2013. Accessed from
Taylor, Lilly. “The Rise of Julius Caesar.” Greece & Rome 4.1 (1957): 10-18. Web. 16 Mar. 2013. Accessed from