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Author Topic:   Roman scepter found

Posts: 2132
Registered: Nov 2002

iconnumber posted 03-01-2007 11:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Interesting article about the discovery of Emporer Maxentius' scepter, who ruled for six years until 312AD. The scepter is made of Orichalcum, a legendary gold-coloured brass alloy which parts of the sunken city of Atlantis were said to be forged from. Not really a silver thing, but interesting in showing the antiquity of our subject.

Sceptre from Roman emperor exhibited
By Malcolm Moore in Rome
Last Updated: 1:19am GMT 27/02/2007

    The Roman emperor's sceptre found at the Palatine hill

The only Roman emperor's sceptre to have been found has gone on public display in Rome for the first time.

The sceptre, which is topped by a blue orb that represents the earth, was discovered at the end of last year and is believed to have been held by Emperor Maxentius, who ruled for six years until 312AD.

Roman sceptre, sceptre believed to be held by Emperor Maxentius

Maxentius, who was known for his vices and his incapacity, drowned in the Tiber while fighting forces loyal to his brother-in-law, Constantine, at the battle of the Milvian bridge. Archaeologists believe that Maxentius' supporters hid the sceptre during or after the battle to prevent it from falling into enemy hands.

It was found at the base of the Palatine hill, carefully wrapped in silk and linen and then placed in a wooden box. Alongside it were other boxes holding two other imperial battle standards and ceremonial lance heads. The depth of the burial allowed archaeologists to date the find to Maxentius' rule.

Sceptres, often two to three foot ivory rods topped with a globe or an eagle, were introduced by Augustus as a symbol of Rome's power. They would be carried by emperors while riding in chariots to celebrate military victories.

While emperors were often pictured on coins and in paintings holding a sceptre, no example of the real thing had been found up until last year. "We have never seen them for real before, there have been no similar findings," said Angelo Bottini, the head of Rome's archaeology department.

Clementina Panella, the archaeologist at Rome's La Sapienza University who made the find said that the grip of the sceptre was made of Orichalcum, a legendary gold-coloured brass alloy which parts of the sunken city of Atlantis were said to be forged from.

"These artifacts clearly belonged to Maxentius, the sceptre is very elaborate," she said.

Darius Arya, a professor at the American Institute for Roman Culture, said it was an "amazing" find. "You don't find that kind of wealth in Rome, you find fragments and pieces, but not in such good condition." The sceptre is now on display at the National Museum of Rome.

The Palatine Hill has yielded several important discoveries in the last few months, and is the focus of a major reconstruction plan.

The Italian government has stepped up attempts to preserve its cultural heritage, and has earmarked €20 million to save the hill from crumbling. More money will be raised in a telethon on Italian television.

Meanwhile, the government has ordered a police investigation into the disappearance of an ancient statue, which is thought to have gone missing when the famous Riace warriors were dredged from the sea in the 1970s.

The 6ft 6in warriors were one of Italy's most important archaeological finds, and attracted over a million visitors when they first went on display.

The two existing statues were spotted by Stefano Mariottini, a scuba diver on holiday. However, Giuseppe Bragho, an art detective, said a third statue "completely different from the other two", as well as two shields and a lance, were seen on the sea bed by Mr Mariottini.

The statues are so lifelike that when Mr Mariottini first saw them, half-buried 300 metres from the Calabrian coast, he thought he had found a set of corpses.

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iconnumber posted 03-02-2007 11:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FWG     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Very cool, and I hadn't seen it -- have circulated it to our archaeology faculty!

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iconnumber posted 03-04-2007 08:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for vathek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I notice on the site that it says that the orb on the top represents the earth. Did the Romans know the earth was round and if so, how did we get to it being flat?

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iconnumber posted 03-04-2007 09:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FWG     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The fact that the earth was not flat was generally known even before the Romans -- see, for example, The Round Earth and Chistopher Columbus. The Romans used orbs in many ways, though, and this representation might have been something else for all we know. I was most curious about the material of that orb, as it appears not to have weathered as badly as the rest, and if they identify it as blue it's orginal color must be apparent.

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iconnumber posted 03-06-2007 11:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kimo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My guess is that the sphere is not intended to represent the earth, but instead the cosmos which both the Romans and the Greeks thought of as a sphere. If there are any markings on the sphere I would think they would be either stars/constellations or if there are lines they would represent the apparent paths of the sun, moon, major constellations across the sky. When it was made it could even have had some inlaid gold or silver or even jewels, or perhaps just some paint to represent the stars and planets. It would be interesting to do a really detailed inspection/analysis in a well equiped lab to see if this were the case.

My thinking that it is the universe is based on my thinking that any self respecting emperor would never be happy with having dominion of just the earth. After all, he was divine and was due the entire cosmos.

One other thing that makes me think the orb is the universe is that it is made of a blue/black colored alloy. That is the color the night sky appears to be. Why would they make it that color if it were only the earth?

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Scott Martin
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iconnumber posted 03-06-2007 05:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I tried to enlarge the image attached to the article.... Maybe someone has a better image?

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iconnumber posted 03-07-2007 12:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kimo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are incredibly effective ways these days to examine old 3-dimensional objects that bring out subtle markings that have been eroded or worn away. They take laser images and use computers to enhance the smallest of details that are otherwise not visible to the eye.

Also there are techniques to do microscopic assays and such on what something is made of and that can detect old paint residues or inlays. I am surprised there was no mention of this kind of analysis being undertaken on this fascinating and important object.

Maybe the article was just too brief to mention it or maybe the archaeologists didn't have a budget to do it. I am a bit surprised the archaeologists seemed to think it was a representation of the earth and not the cosmos though.

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