Category Archives: Websites

A manuscript from Cologne

The other day, I had the happy task of collating a manuscript from Cologne — Erzbischöfliche Diözesan- und Dombibliothek, 213 (olim Darmstadt 2336). It can be accessed via this website. As with the vast majority of manuscripts I come into contact with in my research, it is a manuscript of canon law. Ms 213 contains the Collectio Sanblasiana (in some literature Italica), an early sixth-century ‘canonical’ collection. A canonical collection is a collection of documents pertaining to canon (that is, ecclesiastical) law. Sanblasiana is one of the earliest surviving canonical collections, and amongst the canons (that is, brief regulations) of church councils and letters from popes, we find four of Leo the Great’s letters in it, Epp. 167, 12, 1, and 2 (not available online due to extreme similarity to Ep. 1).

Most manuscripts of canon law are pretty boring. They will simply be written out in black or brown ink with rubrics in red (technically a redundant statement). An ‘exciting’ day is perhaps when they have multiple colours in the rubrics (so are they rubrics anymore?). Some of the 15th-century manuscripts I’ve hung out with include very beautiful opening pages with paintings and flowers and all sorts of loveliness. Usually they drop the fancy fairly soon.

So, Cologne 213. It is written in an insular half-uncial (insular hands emerge in Britain, Ireland, and the surrounding isles) that Codices Latini Antiquiores says is Northumbrian (so, the North of England) — although I think it was written in Germany either by a Northumbrian or by someone under Northumbrian influence, since Anglo-Saxon missionaries were active in Germany around the time the manuscript was written (8th c), and it’s in Germany (Cologne) within the century.

Its first page is quite lovely, and various illuminated letters are found throughout, although they start to peter out by the time we reach Leo — he’s towards the end of the collection. Here’s a wee gallery. Enjoy!

Discover Late Antiquity: Discover Rome first!

To keep from getting entirely lost when looking at Late Antiquity, it’s best to have some grasp of Roman history. Now, I’m not saying you need to know everything there is in great detail, but knowing about the Roman Empire and how it functions and what life was like is a good backdrop for knowing Late Antiquity.

When Augustine discusses minor Roman deities, it’s notably helpful to know a thing or two about Roman religion. When everyone references Virgil, it’s good to know about the Aeneid. When disaster strikes and late antique Romans read their Livy, it’s good to know about the history they reference. Many things changed in Late Antiquity, but the Empire was still Roman: it operated in the technical, legal Latin of earlier centuries, people went to the baths, people watched chariot races, emperors built monuments, they wore togas when required, and so on and so forth.

To facilitate navigation, I am giving a list of a few resources to help people navigate Roman history. I thought about giving a one-post run-through of Roman history, and then I realised it was impossible. Nevertheless, these resources, both online and offline, should help the reader interested in ancient Rome navigate the world of Roman history so as not to get lost by any back-references from Late Antiquity.

If you know of better resources, especially online ones, let me know in the comments!

3 books on history (not that I think you need to read all three to get the lay of the land; the first is probably the quickest read of them):

Greg Woolf, Rome: An Empire’s Story. Woolf gives the reader the big, sweeping story of Rome from the perspective of imperium, the power to command, from city-state to Mediterranean power and then loss of power. A lot of interesting facts in here I’d not known before, and it helps provide the backdrop for more narrow reading into Rome’s story.

Chris Scarre, The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome. This was a required textbook for the Introduction to Roman Civilization class I took in my first year of undergrad at the University of Ottawa. It gives you a succinct overview of Roman history with the geography to make it all make sense.

Ward, Heichelheim, and Yeo, A History of the Roman People.  This was my Roman history textbook in second-year undergrad and a great place to go to read the history of this great city from foundation to fall and legacy, from regal period to late antiquity. It is a bit textbooky, I admit, but its also fairly comprehensive.

Online history resources:

BBC History on the Romans. A brief overview of Roman history, with a special British focus.

Illustrated History of the Roman Empire. Another online runthrough of the history of Rome, with pictures!

Roman Emperors — The Imperial Index. A good reference listing every Roman Emperor from Augustus in 31 BC to Constantine XIII in AD 1453.

The Consular List. Like the above, this lists the consuls from L. Junius Brutus & L. Tarquinius Collatinus in 509 BC to Fl. Anicius Faustus Albinus Basilius Iunior in AD 541. Handy.

Here’s a map of the Roman Empire. History without geography is vague and almost meaningless.

A Timeline of the Roman Empire — This may be one of the more helpful reference tools, beginning in 753 BC and giving pretty good detail up to the 600s AD.


Rome: Engineering an Empire. This is a pretty good doc if you’re not looking for Late Antiquity. I’ve reviewed it here.

Meet the Romans with Mary Beard. Art historians tell me that some of Mary Beard’s interpretations of stuff are contested, and everyone who watched this three-part documentary on the BBC cringed when she kept manhandling ancient objects. Otherwise, quite good and a nice, three-hour entry into Roman culture.

Treasures of Ancient Rome by Alastair Sooke. Although I’m not an art historian and my study of material culture mostly involves books, I think it’s very important to know the art and precious objects of a culture if we are to know their history. In this fantastic three-part doc, Alastair Sooke blasts away the myth that Roman art is totally lame and derivative, showing us the splendours that await those who take a look.

Flickr! Check it out!

Okay. So. Pre-Tübingen photos are all on Flickr now!! Huzzah! There is even organization going on. You may recall that I had a slow start going on the Paris photos, with the result that hundreds of photos have appeared in our photostream over the past few weeks. Hundreds of photos covering months of travels and whatnot. So, here are some links to some sets and tags and what-have-you, for your viewing pleasure:

Jenn’s parents in November — including Dunnottar Castle and Stirling Castle.

Photos from various trips to Roman sites in Britain, including February’s trip to Hadrian’s Wall, October’s very brief trip to a different part of Hadrian’s Wall, and October’s fabulous trip to the Antonine Wall. Also two photos from Cramond.

Cramond, to mention it, has its own tag now.

If castles are your thing, I have uploaded eight photos from Blackness Castle near Edinburgh, and many from Caerlaverock in Dumfries — it has an ACTUAL MOAT. Near Caerlaverock we visited the Ruthwell Cross, a fantastic piece of Anglo-Saxon sculpture with Old English runes carved in it that recount a poem.

And if abbeys and church architecture are more your style, don’t miss out on Sweetheart Abbey, South Queensferry Priory Church, Inchcolm Abbey (which is totally AWESOME), and the various bits of ecclesiastical architecture highlighted in the very important set of photos from my trip to Cyprus!!

Having viewed the Cyprus photos, don’t miss Florence. Different style of churches, different era of art. Worth a look.

And don’t forget LONDON!!! We went there in September 2012. Take a look at our magnificent photos. And be jealous.

Having viewed these recommendations, you will have seen most of our recent (or, rather, post-Paris) photos on Flickr. There are still others lurking out there. You can search our photostream for other wonders such as ‘Glasgow’ or ‘Christmas’ or ‘Edinburgh Castle’. Perhaps you missed out on my Paris photos. Well, now is your chance, before the whole thing gets clogged with photos of Germany!!!

Exciting goings-on in my digital life

I must confess that my digital life is not necessarily that exciting. Nonetheless, there have been goings-on. If you are at all interested. So, here they are:

There are new Pages on Opening Up My Wordhoard! That’s right, I’ve removed the lists of books and movies and replaced them with three, snazzy new pages devoted to those topics I most often blog about: Classics, Mediaeval stuff, and Science Fiction & Fantasy. Go check them out … if you dare!!

Also, new categories have arisen here. Such exciting categories are now available as ‘My Travels‘ (for journeys outwith Edinburgh), ‘Ancient World‘ (to catch not just Classics but those occasional appearances of Mesopotamia and Egypt as well), and ‘Mediaeval‘ (after all, it needed one).

Now, you can subscribe to this blog! Just input your e-mail in the box on the sidebar, and new posts will be magically sent to your inbox. So if I ever give up Facebook for Lent again, you can still follow my random ramblings as I open up my wordhoard!

I wanted to add a Flickr widget in the sidebar, but I don’t know how. I used to have one, back in, like, 2006. Oh well. But Jenn and I have been uploading to Flickr like banshees, so go check out our photostream!

Observing the Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries in Stirling Castle

Observing the Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries in Stirling Castle

The Eldest Olympian . . .

On Tuesday, I got out of the library (and read) Zeus: King of the Gods by George O’Connor.  It’s the first in the series of graphic novels OLYMPIANS by O’Connor, published by First Second.  In this excellent graphic novel, O’Connor recounts for his readers in dramatic fashion Hesiod’s Theogony, specifically the succession of Ouranos, Titans, Olympians.  Thus it is an origins story, telling the rise of Zeus to becoming King of the Gods.

Having read it while my charge slept, I left it at work because his dad was interested.  After he read it, then the older son read it.  The older son and I were talking about Greek gods this morning (a topic I enjoy but rarely get to dig into), and upon examination of the family tree provided in the graphic novel, he asked by Aphrodite had no parents.  So I referred him to the part of the story that talks about Kronos cutting Ouranos with his sickle, and how some of it fell into the sea, and turned to foam.  Aphrodite was born from the foam on the island of Cyprus, where I used to live.  (O’Connor leaves out that the foam was created by Ouranos’ severed testicles, but we’ll let him fiddle with Hesiod a little bit.)

A little bit later, while he was perusing, First Second’s accompanying website, this observant ten-year-old noted that if Aphrodite is older than the Olympians, why does she live with them?  I said I wasn’t really sure.  But it’s an interesting fact, if we go by Hesiod rather than references in Homer and elsewhere to Aphrodite being Zeus’ daughter.  Aphrodite was born of Ouranos’ testicular foam before Rhea gave birth to the Olympian gods.  She is, therefore, of the same breed and generation as the Giants, Nymphs, Fates, Furies.

Aphrodite’s “siblings” are all primal.  They are beings of force, divinities that are sometimes characterised as impersonal forces, beings that could be characterised as the metaphysical or spiritual essence of what they represent.

Aphrodite is, herself, primal as well.  It makes sense that she would pre-date the Olympians, especially the over-amorous Zeus and his ever-multiplying offspring.  She is the goddess of “love”, as I told this young boy today.  By love we mean sex and sexual reproduction and the romantic trappings that go with it.  If the world is to be populated, then its inhabitants must copulate.  If Zeus’ children are to be born, he must have a sexual drive.  Aphrodite provides this.

Since Aphrodite is so important to the population and development of the world, it makes sense that she would reside with the Olympians, who are also highly important, governing weather, marriage, childbirth, celestial bodies, crops and plant growth, death, the sea, music, poetry, wisdom, battle, and so forth.

Another primal god along similar lines is Eros.  In Hesiod, Eros is one of the oldest deities around.  He came forth from Chaos at the beginning of all things, self-formed with neither father nor mother.  No sea foam for Eros!  The website Theoi makes a distinction between this Eros and the son of Aphrodite.  I do not.  They are the same driving force, the same primal urge to desire, to grasp, to lust, to long for something or someone else.  It is perfectly logical that this being of desire would be one of the beings lying at the root of the universe.

Note the Links

As you may have noticed, the blog has undergone various updates.  First, Andrew got the theme I liked working for me, along with that nifty picture at the top.  Then Janna updated me to WordPress 2.5.1, so now I’ve added some widgets in the sidebars, including the return of the links on the left!

Why are these links there?  What would you find if you were to click on them?  Who cares what websites Matthew recommends?  I’ve decided that, to answer questions of that nature, I shall make a few posts about the websites the blog links to.

Today I added two new links, so I thought I’d begin there, and then work my way through from top to bottom (or as whim carries me along).

Nordic Nonsense

This is Sven’s blog.  Some of you know Sven.  Some of you don’t but are, nonetheless, his friends on facebook.  Sven is a Viking warrior whom I rescued from Les Galeries de Hull, and he stands beside my desk, around six feet tall, carrying an axe and a shield, a helm on his head.

His blog, I imagine, will be about what it’s like being a Viking in the modern world.  An urban Viking.  He has only made one post thus far, but I imagine there shall be more.  I recommend his blog to you for its insight into Vikings, its commentary on Canada, and just pure fun!


This website is run by Bosco Peters, a NZ Anglican priest who’s a big fan of (surprise surprse!) liturgy.  He has a blog, as well as resources about Eucharist, for worship services, the church year, spirituality, prayer, lectio divina, and the liturgy of the hours.

His perspective will probably feel too “catholic” for many evangelicals, but he is trying to cut through the baggage of the age, finding a common rootedness for us all in the Eucharist itself, in the body and blood of Jesus.  Apparently some find him to be liberal, others to be conservative.  Because of the connotations accompanying both, he likes to think of himself as contemplative and missional.

I’m not sure I’ll agree with everyone on his website.  But I’ve perused it in chunks and have found that I agree with enough to feel comfortable putting the link on my sidebar.  Furthermore, I find myself agreeing with the spirit of things at Liturgy often enough that I know he is doing something good.

For example, he calls us away from “seeker-friendly” services to a more missional approach in our daily lives, of seeking to draw friends into the path of discipleship, to make worship and the eucharist more like the gathering of a family and less like a show put on to attract people through the doors.

I agree with this, especially because most churches that engage in attractional church growth end up attracting sheep from other churches, not unbelievers.  The world mostly doesn’t give a rat’s ass what’s going on in our churches, my friends.  We need to be the ones bringing them in, not the cool band, the great sermons, the incense, the candles, the rock worship, the coffee or any of that.  It is us, our lives, our very essence and being.

I think Bosco Peters is trying to do that, trying to see liturgy and worship as more than just endless ritual that we do because we’re Anglican, trying to help us use them for our own spiritual formation.  And when we are more spiritually mature, then we can draw more people into the worship of Almighty God!

I hope I haven’t misrepresented Peters here.  I sort of got my own thoughts that were spinning because of his entangled in this discussion.  But his website is worth checking out.  Do so.