Your article about Palmyra and Zenobia in CWA 111 was very interesting. According to the Historia Augusta, an admittedly dodgy source, Zenobia claimed to be descended from Cleopatra (impossible) and from Dido, Queen of Carthage, who features in Virgil’s Aeneid (doubly impossible, being descended from a myth).
She also claimed descent from Julia Domna, second wife of Septimius Severus. This is possible, as Julia Domna was a member of the royal family of Emesa (modern-day Homs) and a fellow Syrian. Zenobia appears as ‘Julia’ in inscriptions.
Whatever is true, Zenobia is portrayed as someone claiming descent from figures known to Romans and as their equal. As her husband had been the Roman governor of the province, she would have had access to Roman culture; she spoke and wrote Greek and could converse in Latin, again according to the Historia Augusta.
Academic mass production
Reading Neil Faulkner’s column in CWA 111, I was reminded of OGS Crawford, writing in Man and His Past, published in 1921: “Already we are beginning to suffer from a surfeit of trifling articles, nine-tenths of which lead nowhere and are as tedious and unnecessary as the extravagances of lawyers’ English…” Crawford, of course went on to become founding editor of Antiquity, thereby adding to the papermill!
Snake or eel?
The object on the last page of CWA 109 – Object Lesson – may resemble a snake, but it is a perfect eel.
Archaeology in Japan
I thought you might enjoy this picture (photo by Andi Sapey). On Friday, we had the Japanese Ambassador, Mr Hajime Hayashi, visit the Sainsbury Institute in Norwich, and I could not resist showing him the article in CWA 109.
Akhenaten’s new religion
Elaine Knight (Forum, CWA 111) writes regarding Akhenaten, the pharaoh who instituted the worship of one sun god, Aten. Contemplating the empty landscape at Amarna, Elaine notes that his radical 17-year reign failed to overturn the practice of worshipping multiple gods for millennia (together with the vested interests this embodied in the priesthood). Yet, the real Ozymandias moment truly lies elsewhere. The extraordinary feature of Akhenaten is his paradigm-busting thought, one which enabled him to stand almost totally outside his time. This achievement has surely not been equalled by anyone at any other point in history (has it?). And Akhenaten’s Great Hymn to Aten is surely more attuned to modern thought than any other scripture produced in Ancient Egypt. One couplet reads: “You yourself are lifetime, one lives by you / All eyes are on [your] beauty until you set.”
Cathy Rozel Farnworth
Warleggan, Cornwall, UK
Please note: letters may be edited; views expressed here are those of our readers, and do not necessarily reflect those of the magazine.
200 years ago…
Jean-François Champollion unlocked the key to deciphering the Rosetta Stone. The ancient Egyptian stone was discovered by Pierre-Francois Bouchard in the city of Rosetta (modern-day Rashid) in 1799. It bears an inscription repeated in three writing systems: Egyptian hieroglyphic and demotic scripts, and the Greek alphabet. At the time of its discovery Egyptian hieroglyphs were little understood, so the Rosetta Stone offered a unique opportunity to decipher the ancient writing system. Thomas Young and several other scholars also made efforts to translate the Stone’s hieroglyphs, but Champollion was responsible for the discovery that cracked the code in 1822, when he determined that the writing system was made up of a combination of both phonetic and ideographic signs. Champollion published this breakthrough in September 1822, and went on to make further discoveries, including the realisation that phonetic signs were used for Egyptian names as well as foreign names. He continued to work on the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics until his death in 1832.
Find the crossword here
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