Category Archives: Museums

Herod “The Great’s” Sarcophagus?

Besides the naval and nature paintings (secco—on dry plaster)  and the architectural fragments of the mausoleum that I mentioned in my previous posts, the so called sarcophagus of Herod that is also on display in the Israel Museum.


The Sarcophagus of Herod? Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The  display of the reconstructed main sarcophagus found at “Herod’s Tomb” at the Herodium.  It appears to be made out of local limestone.  Please notice that it although it is nicely carved with a rosette pattern on the end along with a floral pattern under the gable of the lid it is really not all the elaborate.

Compare for example the following sarcophagus.


View of the side of the sarcophagus that depicts Abdalonymos, the person buried in the sarcophagus, fighting the Persians along with Alexander the Great!  From the 4th Century B.C.!  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.[Alexander the Great is the figure on horseback on the far left—Abdalonymos is on horseback in the center]

This sarcophagus was found at Sidon (just north of Israel) in 1887.  It dates to the last quarter of the 4th century B.C.—the time when Alexander fought the Persians at the Battle of Issus in 333 B.C.  Abdalonymos was the King of Sidon at the time.  It was originally painted, and some of the pigments still remain!  The shape of the sarcophagus seems to be representing a temple.  Note the roof tiles, the “downspouts,” and the intricate carved detail!

This sarcophagus was crafted roughly 300 years before the death of Herod—so we know that this type of technology and craftsmanship was known and available to those living in the region of Herod—including Herod himself.  Would Herod really have been satisfied with such a “plain” sarcophagus as that found at the Herodium when the technology and craftsmanship  for something much more elaborate was available?

Again, did Ehud Netzer discover the “real tomb” of King Herod?  There are significant researchers who think not.  Although Netzer found a significant mausoleum and fragments of sarcophagi, neither the size of the mausoleum nor the  sarcophagi are overwhelmingly impressive—that is fitting for a king of Herod’s ego/stature (see conveniently the summary of Shanks below—and more on the sarcophagus in the next post).

Shanks, Hershel. “Was Herod’s Tomb Really Found?” Biblical Archaeology Review 40 (2014): 40–48.

Herodium Display in Israel Museum

When visiting the Israel Museum this past summer I was pleasantly surprised to find that a number of wonderful finds from the Herodium were prominently displayed in the Second Temple Section.

These included two wall paintings from the Royal Box that was associated with the theater.


Naval Battle A wall fragment/painting from the Royal Box of the theater at the Herodium.  Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

It depicts a naval battle with two ships with sails billowing the wind. On the deck are soldiers armed with shield and spears.

“The painting may represent the victory at Actium and possibly the beginning of Augustus’s rule following the conquest of Egypt. The choice of theme supports the possibility that the royal Room was decorated in anticipation of the visit of Marcus Agrippa, Augustus’s second–­in–­command, in 15 BCE, since he was the general responsible for the victory.” — From the description of the painting in the Israel Museum.


Nature A wall fragment/painting from the Royal Box of the theater at the Herodium. Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

“In this painting the artist depicts a sea view along with a bull, trees, a temple, a palm tree, and a boat, recalling sacred scenes from the time of Augustus while also alluding to the conquest of Egypt.

“The walls of the Royal Room were decorated with wall paintings in the secco technique [painting on dry plaster] and stuccowork. They were divided vertically by stuccowork pilasters and decorated with painted ‘hanging pictures’ that were suspended by imaginary ‘strings’ and ‘nails.’ [See the picture above] The pictures imitate windows with open shutters affording views of imaginary landscapes.” — From the description of the painting in the Israel Museum.


The Royal Box in the spring of 2014.

Royal Box A view of the interior of the “Royal Box” above the theater at the Herodium. Note the well–preserved paintings on the wall.


Hagia Sophia and Loeb Classical Series

Two items that struck me of interest.  The first is that the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey—one of the most historic/grandest churches of Christendom—now a “museum”—is being “eyed” to be converted back to a mosque!  Recently the Koran was read within the “museum” and this may be the “nose of the camel inside of the tent!”

The current “Hagia Sophia” is the third structure to stand on this spot.  The first church was built by the son of Constantine the Great,Constantius.  It was burnt down in 404.  The second was built by Theodosius II, and it was burnt down in 532.


View of the exterior of the Hagia Sophia. The minarets were 1,000 years after the first church was built here! Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The present building was built by the great Byzantine Emperor Justinian and was dedicated on December 26, 537.  It took six years to build and over 10,000 men worked on it.  Although the dome has been repaired (rebuilt) a number of times, the church built by Justinian served as a Christian place of worship until Constantinople was captured by the Turk, Mehmet II on May 29, 1453.


Interior of the Hagia Sophia—without scaffolding!! The roundels were added by the Muslims over 1,000 years after the church was built. The contain the names of Allah, Mohamed, and early Califs. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Mehmet II immediately turned the building into a mosque and it served as one of the major mosques of Istanbul until the reforms of Atatürk.  It reopened in 1934 as a museum.

Harvard Loeb Classical Series — 60 Volumes!

Good news, the authoritative Loeb Classical series is now ON LINE.  Bad news, it is expensive!  For individuals $150 for the first year, and $65 for subsequent consecutive years.  However, some of you may be able to have your Institution subscribe to the Institutional version—Free 60 Trial Here.

Key features include:

  • Single- and dual-language reading modes
  • Sophisticated Bookmarking and Annotation features
  • Tools for sharing Bookmarks and Annotations
  • Greek keyboard
  • User account and My Loeb content saved in perpetuity
  • Intuitive Search and Browse
  • Inclusion of every Loeb volume in print
  • Regular uploading of new and revised volumes

Please note that some of the site’s most useful tools are features of “My Loebs,” the personal accounts available to all authorized users. We’d encourage you and your patrons to create your own accounts (via the “Sign up” link at the top of each page on the site) so as to utilize the digital Loeb Classical Library’s full capabilities.

Many of the questions about the digital Loeb Classical Library’s functionality, for example, or its relation to the print books of the series—are answered at

Ennion — The Master Roman Glassmaker

Haaretz, an Israeli daily newspaper, has a wonderful article in its English edition describing  the exhibition at the N.Y. Metropolitan Museum that showcases over 20 Roman glass masterpieces—most by the famous Ennion of Sidon.  In this article there are images of 5 of Ennion’s creations.


A Glass Goblet produced by Ennion and found in one of the palatial structures excavated by Nahum Avigad in the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem.

A “jug”/goblet  found in the excavations of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem—the wealthy Upper City quarter of Second Temple Jerusalem.  It dates to the first century A.D. and was “blown” by the famous artisan from Sidon—Ennion.  The first two letters (in Greek) of Ennion are visible just right of center.

The small goblet (a drinking cup with a stem and base), along with other glass objects indicates the “sophistication” of the inhabitants of the Upper City of Jerusalem (= on the western hill).

“Artisans eventually discovered that fashionable tableware could be produced with relative ease by blowing glass directly into molds similar to those employed for casting metal objects.  The technique, called mold–blowing, was developed in the 1at century CE in Sidon, an important glassworking center on the Eastern Mediterranean coast.  Similar vessels were also manufactured in Italy, possibly by Sidonian expatriates.  Using this technique artisans could produce a series of vessels bearing the same motifs with a single mold.” (from the description in the Israel Museum).

The Ephesus Museum in Seljuk is Open

Good news!  The Ephesus Museum in nearby Seljuk is again open—after having been closed for several years!#$@!


The first gallery of the newly re-opened Ephesus Museum in Seljuk Turkey.

The layout of the museum is very “fresh” and appealing.  All the familiar items are there and in many instances are better lit.  They all are well-displayed with clear, extensive explanations in Turkish and English.

Hercules Farnese of Perge and . . . .


Hercules Farnese From the Baths at Perge
Second Century A.D. — Antalya Museum

A beautiful second century A.D. statue of Hercules was found in the baths of Perge.  The Boston Museum of Fine Arts returned the top portion of the statue to Turkey in September 2011.  Prime Minister Mr. Recep Tayyip Erogan personally brought the important portion to Turkey himself.  Portions of over 60 such statues are known and are called the “Hercules Farnese” (named after a famous Italian collection now housed in the Naples National Archaeological Museum).  This is a Roman copy of a bronze original.  Note the positioning of the head, arms, and legs, and especially the body muscles.  The skin of conquered Nemean Lion flows down on his left side as it tumbles to the ground.

Antlaya Museum Deities and Emperors

It has now been reunited with its body and is on display in the wonderful Antalya Museum.

Below is THE Hercules Farnese that is displayed in the Naples National Archaeological Museum.

Below is a five (5) in. high image of a “Hercules Farnese” found at Pergamum and displayed in the museum in Bergama.


A Bronze Five (5!) Inch High “statue” of Hercules
From Pergamum — In the Museum at Bergama

Heracles was the son of the god Zeus and a mortal Alcmene. Although originally a mortal, he eventually attained divine status and was widely worshiped throughout Greece. As punishment for killing six of his children he had to perform 12 “labors” (= very difficult tasks). The first of which was to kill the Nemean Lion. He wrestled with the lion, strangled it, and subsequently used its pelt as a cloak. (Nemea is a site in the Peloponnese region of Greece).

The Winners’ Prizes — Dead Vegetation?

In a previous entry I shared some pictures related to “Running the Race.”  The winners of such competitions were awarded, among other things, victory crowns—the composition of which depended upon the games.


Modern Recreation of Victory Wreaths — On the left a Pine Wreath for the winner of an event at the Isthmian Games and on the right a Laural Wreath for the winner of an event at the Olympic Games — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The games at Isthmia were held twice during the four year Olympic cycle.  The city of Corinth was in charge of these games and Isthmia was only 6 miles from Corinth.  The games included athletic as well a music contests.  It is very probable that the games were held during Paul’s stay at Corinth.  Indeed, he writes to the church at Corinth:

1Cor. 9:24     Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (NIV)

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