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Common errors about Antiquity
#1
I am writing a little book on common errors about ancient history. Not the lunatic fringe, but common opinions, like:

* Ancient ships were rowed by slaves
* The Phoenicians invented the alphabet
* Caracalla gave Roman citizenship because he needed more taxes
* Until the battle in the Teutoburg Forest, the Romans tried to reach the Elbe
* The Romans wrote four as IV
* There were camels in the ancient Near East
* Cleopatra was killed by an asp
* VIIII Hispana disappeared in Caledonia
* There was a gate in Jerusalem called "eye of the needle"
* Vespasian died with the word "I am afraid I am becoming a god"
* Archimedes fought against the Romans with burning mirrors
* Muslims destroyed the library of Alexandria
* Carrhae is in the desert
* Homer was blind

Et cetera. Any suggestions?
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#2
*Hannibal's father made him swear eternal hatred towards Rome

*Constantine made Christianity the state religion

*Julius Caesar was Rome's first emperor

*Egypt was considered a personal fiefdom of Roman Emperors

*Carthage was symbolically covered with salt after the Third Punic War

*The Roman Empire fell in 410, 455, 476....etc.

Just a few off the top of my head...

~Theo
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#3
*Romans wore leather armor,
*wore lorica segmentata from the beginning to the end
*Roman officers wore also bracers.
*Nero burned down Rome.
*virtually all gladiatorial combats ended with death of the defeated

... but the Romans never wanted to reach the Elbe until Varus? ... Why is this a common error, Jona? I'd say debatable, but really wrong :?
[size=85:2j3qgc52]- Carsten -[/size]
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#4
* thumbs down on end of gladiator match (although this could also classify as 'debatable')
* a centurio has command over 100 soldiers
* a soldiers tunic is red as it will not show blood on it (no discussion about that subject in this topic)
________________________________________
Jvrjenivs Peregrinvs Magnvs / FEBRVARIVS
A.K.A. Jurjen Draaisma
CORBVLO and Fectio
ALA I BATAVORUM
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#5
That's a great idea, Jona. Chapeau!

* Ancient ships were rowed by slaves
Not regularly, but in extreme cases they were.

* The Phoenicians invented the alphabet
Please define alphabet. In the narrow sense (alpha, beta, ...) it was a Greek invention, and they were also the first to represent the vowels with symbols, which is the true alphabet. I know you are referring to the early 'alphabetic' finds in Sinai and proper Egypt of Semitic mercenaries and guest workers, but I am not sure how to call this.

* There were camels in the ancient Near East
Weren't there? I am constantly confusing dromedars and camels, but Forbes has a chapter on those two in his History of Technology, according to which one of them (or both) were introduced to North Africa in Roman times - from the Near East.


Further suggestions from the history of technology:
*Ancient civilization failed to develop because of its extensice use of slave labour.
Still, no one can explain why the greatest technological and scientific advances were made when slave labour was presumably at its peak (3rd c. BC-2nd c. AD). Also, in late antiquity, when slavery went into a decline due to the rise of christianity, this development by no means resulted in unleashing of productive forces.

*The Greeks did not put their scientific knowledge to practical use, they were just content knowing something.

*The Romans suffered from lead poisoning through their lead pipes.
All-time classic disproved by a heap of literature.

*The Roman harness was inefficient as it strangled the horses.
1930s myth of LeFebvre.

*The Romans employed built only semi-circular arch bridges and knew no segmental arch bridges.

*The Greeks and Romans knew water mills, but did not employ it.
Already sounds like nonsense, but a fashionably view until at least the 1970s-1980s.

*The Greeks and Romans knew no machinery which converted rotary motion into linear one (such as trip-hammers).

*The Greeks and Romans knew no crank.
In the JRA there was recently a thrilling report on a new find of a 3rd century water-powered saw mill which even employed a crank with a connecting rod.
Stefan (Literary references to the discussed topics are always appreciated.)
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#6
- Until fairly recently people used to think the earth was flat.

- Columbus was the first person to discover the Americas.

- The Vikings were first to discover the Americas.

- In Paleolithic times humans lived permanently in caves.

- Prehistorical dress consisted solely of animal hides (and were almost always very poorly constructed).

- Neanderthals are the ancestors of modern humans/modern Europeans.

- Neanderthals and other hominids didn’t walk fully upright, but rather moved about as if they had a permanent backache.

- The phrase "survival of the fittest" comes from Charles Darwin

- Humans descent from monkeys/apes

Jona, I fear this list of yours could go on for ever.

Best wishes,

Martijn
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#7
Thanks for the input; some of them were not on the list yet. Anyone else?
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#8
I thought of a couple more :

* St. Patrick was Irish

* Belisarius was blinded and left destitute on Justinian's orders

* Romulus Augustulus was the last emperor of Rome

* Jews dressed like Arabs in Roman times

* The earth was thought to be flat until the Renaissance ( I know Martijn mentioned this but it was on my list )

Good luck with your book, Jona.

~Theo
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#9
Before 1 AD, the Romans figured time backward.
Pecunia non olet
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#10
Quote:* Jews dressed like Arabs in Roman times
Yep, that's my favorite as well. I even saw a movie (Esther), in which at some point you here the people shouting "Jalla jalla". And when they are counting, they use Arabic numerals... Not the worst movie, BTW.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#11
What language will you be using?
David J. Cord
http://www.davidcord.com
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#12
Quote:What language will you be using?
Dutch, as always. I am a historian, that means: I am also a story teller. That is something I can do best in a language of which I know all the ins and outs. The idea that a Dutchman might be able to write a good book in English, strikes me as absurd. But maybe I will make English webpages, if I find some time, because in a short article, my simple English will be sufficient.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#13
Quote: The idea that a Dutchman might be able to write a good book in English, strikes me as absurd.

You might like to add this to your list :?

I belonga lotta forum and di Engrish bofe ritten and speaked on video klips aint as gud as de likes a Vorti and yer gud sewf :wink: i fink you lot might av been taut betterer than wot we are ere :roll:
Conal Moran

Do or do not, there is no try!
Yoda
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#14
Jona has a point though. There's a difference between writing proper English, grammar, syntax and perhaps even style, to get your point across and, on the other hand, telling a proper story that is engrossing to read. The latter requires a very good grasp of a language that goes beyond its rules and regulations. You have to find ways to impart meaning, differentiate subtleties and nuance that are extremely difficult to pick up if you're not a native speaker.
That said, there is a second factor, something I see across all the articles I get for ancient warfare. Some people simply know how to bring a story and an argument across. Such a talent can transgress the barriers of language and makes the first problem fixable by a good editing job. Having heard you speak in both Dutch and English and having read several of your books, Jona, I think you're selling yourself short. So there... Tongue
Greets!

Jasper Oorthuys
Webmaster & Editor, Ancient Warfare magazine
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#15
A quote from Mr. Charlton Ogburn, Jr. (1911-1998), published in Harper's Magazine in 1957, often apocryphally attributed to Gaius Petronius Arbiter (ca. 27–66):

Quote:Actual 1957 quote: "We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. Presumably the plans for our employment were being changed. I was to learn later in life that, perhaps because we are so good at organizing, we tend as a nation to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization."

Falsely attributed "ancient" quote: "We trained hard ... but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization." (and variants of this misquote.)
AMDG
Wm. / *r
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