Survey of Current Literature

As I have promised, from time to time, I review articles in various magazines which I think have great merit, or are newsworthy, or are particularly interesting. Although I have often cited magazines dealing with archaeology, I find articles of interest in magazines dealing with other disciplines.


For example, a most noteworthy article is in the March 2015 issue of Military History, entitled “The Myth of Masada”.  This article is written by Richard A. Gabriel.  Professor Gabriel teaches both at the Army War College and the Royal Military College of Canada.  He has written numerous books with several dealing with topics of antiquity, including, but not limited to, “Philip of Macedonia”, “Scipio Africanus: Rome’s Greatest General”, “The Great Armies of Antiquity”, and “The Great Battles of Antiquity: A Strategic and Tactical Guide to the Great Battles that Shaped the Development of War”.  Of most relevance are his two studies of ancient Israel, “Gods of Our Father: The Memory of Egypt in Judaism and Christianity”, and “The Military History of Ancient Israel”.  This clearly is a voice to be reckoned with.


His thesis is that the story of the mass murder and suicide at Masada is not only suspicious, but also has no archaeological support for it.  This alone would have made the article must-reading.  However, the article also brilliantly surveys the entire first century ad in Israel and provides a complete context of the Jewish uprisings.  He provides a pocket history of the Sicarii.  This is a thoughtful and provocative article, which is extremely well-written.  I recommend it highly.


In the July/August issue of Archaeology, there is a short article entitled: “A Spin through Augustan Rome”.  Professor Diane Favro of the Department of Architecture and Urban Design, and her team at UCLA have built a 3-D computer model of Rome during the reign of Augustus.  The model has a tremendous amount of information about the 400 known Augustan building, as well hypothetical designs and distributions of 9,000 additional buildings.  The model demonstrates how Rome changed over time.  The question Professor Favro posed in constructing this model was ‘whether Augustus really   found Rome a city of mudbrick and left it a city of marble?’  Her team’s conclusion: “The results are surprising-Rome may not have been as visibly clad in marble as Augustus claimed.”


In addition to the article, there are several web articles concerning the model, one of which can be found at:


In the same issue of Archaeology is a small article detailing the Roman city of Carnuntum, which is about 25 miles east of Vienna, Austria.  Carnuntum was established in 40 Ad.   It was a fortress on the Danube guarding both the Amber Road and the Danube, and thus the eastern border of the Empire.  Later, Carnuntum became the capital of the province of Upper Pannonia.  The importance of the site and the surrounding areas is that there are ruins of a gladiator school, one of three found to date (the others being in Rome and Pompeii) and a temple relief of the god Mithras slaying a bull.  The gladiator school comes complete with advertisements announcing the next gladiator contests, training areas, and gladiator paraphernalia.

Keep reading!  And if you find a significant article, please bring it to my attention.

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