A Review of Current Literature

As I do from time to time, I review current literature for interesting stories that bear upon topics dealing with Early Christianity, the Roman Era, or Biblical literature.

The September/October issue of Archaeology has a story entitled: “Inside Nero’s Golden Palace”.  Some background is necessary here.  Nero built what can only be called a massive, sprawling residence and park covering hundreds of acres between the Palatine and Esquiline Hills.  This palace was called the Domus Aurea or Golden House.  It size is incredibly impressive with some of its hundreds of rooms having vaulted ceilings of over 36 feet high.  Frescoes of birds, plants, and mythical creatures in vibrant colors by the artist Fabullus span the walls and ceilings.  Often polychrome marble sheath walls and columns.  Although it was never completed and  although after the death of Nero, the palace was obliterated and covered over, it is an extremely impressive edifice.  Its fate of being covered over helped to protect it.  It was only found when a shepherd boy fell into it in the 15th century.  Thereafter, artists such as Raphael were lowered into it because it was thought to be a cave; however, this ‘cave’ became the main source of learning of Roman art.  The palace is now undergoing restoration.  The photographs that accompany the artyicle are nothing short of marvelous.

In my blogs of April 12th and April 18th, I discussed the battle of Kadesh in details.  Ancient Warfare’s  Volume IX, Issue 3, is devoted to the Rulers of Anaoltia and has several important articles about the Hittities.  Two that are relevant to the Battle of Kadesh are “Kikkuli: A Horse Master from Mitanni” and “Hittite Chariot”.


Turning to “Kikkuli”, it appears that Kikkuli was a horse master who entered the Hittite service in the late 14th century BC. He trained horses for the Hittite chariots, but more importantly, he wrote a manual for training horses that exists today.  While his manual was apparently written in his Mitanni homeland in Indic and Luwian, it is clear that Kikkuli spoke Nesite to his Hittite  subordinates.  The manual covers in depth training intervals, gaits, distance measurements, and classification of horses at the various training stages.  Kikkuli apparently did hands on training, even though he refers to himself in the third person in his book.  The article vividly takes the reader through the opening day of the training of the horses.  The book details interval training  to make the most beneficial work-out for the horses.  This interval training has been validated by modern science as being the optimal way to train for aerobic or endurance training.

The Hittite Chariot advances the field somewhat but does not resolve the central disagreement as to how chariots were used in battle.  My blogs have taken the viewpoint espoused by most but not all scholars in the area.

The article “Predilections: Is the ‘Brother of Jesus’ Inscription a Forgery?” in the September/October issue of Biblical Archaeology Review is about as comprehensive review of the subject as one could possibly want.  The findings of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) are reviewed in depth.  The composition of the committee of the IAA and its potential prejudices are analyzed.  The findings are critically analyzed  by Pieter an der Horst, who is quoted extensively. The author notes that a CNN televisions program reviewed the ossuary and its inscription.  The expert interviewed for the television program was called as an expert witness in the trial.  At that time, he was unable to give an opinion; however, for the CNN program he claims that schooled himself in Second Temple inscriptions and that he concluded the inscription was a forgery. The article also recounts the criminal trial of Oded Golan, the owner of the ossuary, which spanned seven years and finally ended in his acquittal.   138 witnesses were called in that trial and over 400 exhibits were examined. The analysis of why he was acquitted leads the author, Herschel Shanks, to conclude that the ossuary is authentic.  The issue must be considered as being unresolved, although there is scholarly support for the authenticity of the inscription.

My suggestion: Keep reading!

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