Richard Miles: A Graphic History


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Ancient Worlds - BBC Two 

Episode 5 “The Republic of Virtue”

Byrsa was the walled citadel above the harbour in ancient Carthage. It was also the name of the hill it rested on (Byrsa Hill). The citadel dominated the city below and formed the principal military installation of Carthage.

Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam" or "Ceterum autem censeo Carthaginem esse delendam" often abbreviated to "Ceterum censeo”, “Carthago delenda est”, or “Delenda est Carthago" is a  phrase which was in popular use in the Roman Republic in the 2nd Century BC during the latter years of the Punic Wars against Carthage. The senator Cato the Elder was the most persistent advocate for the total destruction of Carthage, and most famously associated with repeated use, in or out of its proper context, of the phrase Delenda est Carthago.

The scorch marks made during the Romans’ destruction of Carthage in 146BC (Third Punic War) are still visible in the ruins today. Roman Carthage was built over what was left of the annihilated city so that most of what remains today is from the later Roman period.


-Carthage- Tunis, Tunisia

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Ancient Worlds - BBC Two

Episode 4 “Return of the King”

The Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara is considered to be the evolutionary basis of all later pyramids in ancient Egypt.

During the Third Dynasty of Egypt (c. 2650 - c. 2575) Imhotep, the great architect of the time, designed Egypt’s first step pyramid as a tomb for the pharaoh Djoser.

Djoser’s pyramid was a revolutionary design for its time. Previously, pharaohs were buried in mastabas but Djoser wanted something different, something that would have him not only remembered, but as a symbol of his power and influence over his people (his intentions were to make the royal tomb visible from the Nile Delta). Imhotep originally planned building a mastaba, but the plan soon changed. In the end the original mastaba had 5 smaller ones stacked on top of it, one on top of the other. The pyramid originally stood 62 metres tall and was one of the greatest architectural achievements of its time. It is also remarkable for the use of limestone as construction material, instead of mud brick, which had been used before.

Saqqara, Egypt

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Archaeology: A Secret History - BBC Four
Episode 2 “The Search for Civilisation”
The Rosetta Stone is today an archaeological icon and one of the treasures of the British Museum. It provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Soldiers in Napoleon’s army discovered the stone in 1799 while digging the foundations of an addition to a fort near the town of el-Rashid (Rosetta). On Napoleon’s defeat, the stone became the property of the British under the terms of the Treaty of Alexandria (1801) along with other antiquities that the French had found.

Before being put on public display, The Rosetta Stone was sent to the Society of Antiquaries in London to be copied. Four plaster-cast copies were made and distributed to four universities: Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Dublin. Hundreds of prints were produced and spread across Britain, sent to both individuals and to institutions. And the copying didn’t stop there; direct copies were also made from the stone itself, with ink being smeared over its surface before paper was laid down on it. 

It was 20 years, however, before the transliteration of the Egyptian scripts was announced by Jean-François Champollion in Paris in 1822.

The decoding of the Rosetta Stone was a massive advance. For the first time, scholars could now work out a chronology of Egyptian history, and what they had long suspected now became clear; that Egyptian civilisation was far, in fact, thousands of years older than anything in Greece and Rome. Academics had discovered a new age, one in which clues to ever earlier civilisations could not only be discovered but deciphered from their mysterious writings.

Pictures 1-4-5-6: A copy of an engraving of the Rosetta Stone, done in the Society of Antiquaries in 1801.

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Archaeology: A Secret History - BBC Four 

Episode 2 “The Search for Civilisation”

Roque Joaquín de Alcubierre was a  Spanish military engineer, pioneer of archeology, famous for his work on the sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

In 1738 the world’s very first large-scale archaeological dig began; Alcubierre stumbled across some remains of the Roman city of Herculaneum. With many difficulties, he finally discovered the city’s theatre and following this, various murals. After these two key discoveries, he managed to excavate the rest of the city without large obstructions.

Alcubierre’s original diaries are kept at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. This is a fascinating document (in Spanish) and it sets out in really blunt and ruthless terms quite what his mission was:

"All stones of utility and provecho (greatness, benefit)
were immediately to be removed.”

In other words, anything precious like statues, or anything that could be re-used for the multitude of building projects which were going on in the area.

And if they didn’t find anything like that, then excavations were to be “abandone” (abandoned).

There’s all sorts of references to objects which they considered not to be of value, little things, small things from everyday life, which archaeologists now consider to be incredibly precious. They just threw those objects away.

These documents reveal the sheer ambition of the excavation; hundreds of workers digging to a plan and on a scale that had never been seen before.

Naples National Archaeological Museum, Naples, Italy

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Ancient Worlds - BBC Two

Episode 1 “Come Together”

Uruk was one of the most important cities (at one time the mot important city) in ancient Mesopotamia.

Uruk is considered the first true city in the world, the origin of writing, the first example of architectural work in stone and the building of great stone structures, the origin of the ziggurat, and the first city to develop the cylinder seal which the ancient Mesopotamians used to designate personal property or as a signature on documents. Considering the importance the cylinder seal had for the people of the time, and that it stood for one’s personal identity and reputation, Uruk could also be credited as the city which first recognized the importance of the individual in the collective community.

Starting just under 6.000 years ago, the archaeological record of Uruk reveals a period of intensive building and rebuilding, which went on for four or five centuries. In that period, a dozen or more large public buildings were built; temples, palaces, assembly halls. They used novel building techniques, like -colored stone- cone mosaics (pictures 3-4-5).


Uruk, Iraq

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Ancient Worlds - BBC Two

Episode 1 “Come Together”

Uruk - "the mother of all cities"

Uruk was one of the most important cities in ancient Mesopotamia; an ancient city of Sumer -and later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates river.  According to the Sumerian King List, it was founded by King Enmerkar sometime around 4500 BCE.

Uruk is considered the first true city in the world. It was home to 40.000 or perhaps 50.000 people, a population density unprecedented in human history.

In myth and literature, Uruk was famous as the capital city of Gilgamesh. The great epic poem The Legend of Gilgamesh contains a proud description of his city:

Go up, pace out the walls of Uruk.
Study the foundation terrace and examine the brickwork.
Is not its masonry of kiln - fired brick?
And did not seven masters lay its foundations?
One square mile of city, one square mile of gardens,
One square mile of clay pits, a half square mile of Ishtar’s dwelling,
Three and a half square miles is the measure of Uruk


Uruk, Iraq

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Ancient Worlds - BBC Two

Episode 1 “Come Together”

Mycenaean art.

The Mycenaean civilization flourished in the late Bronze Age, from the 15th to the 13th century BCE.

The Mycenaeans were influenced by the earlier Minoan civilization (2000-1450 BCE) which had spread from its origins at Knossos, Crete to include the wider Aegean. Architecture, art and religious practices were assimilated and adapted to better express the perhaps more militaristic and austere Mycenaean culture.

Quite unlike the Minoans, whose society benefited from trade, the Mycenaeans advanced through conquest. Mycenaean civilization was dominated by a warrior aristocracy. Their kings lived in heavily-fortified fortresses, they hunted lions in the mountains and they went into battle in helmets made from boars’ tusks.


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Ancient Worlds - BBC Two

Episode 1 “Come Together”

Mycenaean art.

Mycenaean is the term applied to the art and culture of Greece in the late Bronze Age, from the 15th to the 13th century BCE. The name derives from the site of Mycenae in the Peloponnese, where once stood a great Mycenaean fortified palace. Other major sites included Tiryns in Argolis, Pylos in Messenia, Athens in Attica, Thebes and Orchomenus in Boeotia, and Iolkos in Thessaly, while Crete and the site of Knossos also became a part of the Mycenaean world.

Mycenaean civilization originated and evolved from the society and culture of the Early and Middle Helladic periods in mainland Greece. It emerged in circa 1600 BC, when Helladic culture in mainland Greece was transformed under influences from Minoan Crete. Contact with the Minoan civilization played a decisive role in the shaping and development of Mycenaean culture, especially in the arts.

Minoan artists and painters paid regular visits to the Greek mainland, and the Mycenean artistic style became a balance between the exuberant naturalism of Crete and the formality of the mainland.

Mycenaean art was much more naive than the sophisticated Minoan art and it was not apparently religious in character.


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Archaeology: A Secret History - BBC Four 

Episode 1 “In the Beginning”

John Frere (1740 - 1807) was an English antiquary, founder of prehistoric archaeology. He was a pioneering discoverer of Old Stone Age tools and a member of both the Royal Society of Antiquars and the Royal Society.

Frere was the first person in Britain to recognise palaeoliths for what they were. In June 1797, he paused to watch workman digging clay for bricks in a pit at the site of the Hoxne (Suffolk) clay brick pit. His attention was caught by the regularly shaped triangular flints which the workmen were using to fill up potholes in the road. Frere recognised the flints as human tools which we now call hand axes. This was the earliest recognition that hand axes were the work of early humans - rather than the widely held view that they were the result of thunderbolts or meteorites. The flints had come from a layer of gravel 12 feet below the surface, underneath layers of sand and brick-earth. Frere correctly interpreted the overlying deposits as riverine.

Frere wrote a letter to the Royal Society of Antiquars (illustrated with two fine engravings above and two samples of hand axe) which would later set the stage for Palaeolithic Archaeology as we know it today. -One of the hand axes is on permanent display at the British Museum.

In his letter, he came to the conclusion that the flints were “weapons of war, fabricated by a people who had not the use of metals” and that “the situation in which these weapons were found may tempt us to refer them to a very remote period indeed: even beyond that of the present world”. Frere’s article was in effect publically challenging Archbishop Ussher’s date of creation of 4004 BC which most authorities accepted as the literal truth of the Bible.

Royal Society of Antiquars, London, UK

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Ancient Worlds - BBC Two 

Episode 6 “City of Man, City of God”

In the Roman city of Oxyrhynchus (Upper Egypt), archaeologist found Papyri, thousands and thousands of them. So many that it’s going to take generations of scholars to decipher and publish them all.

The manuscripts include thousands of Greek and Latin documents, letters and literary works, dating from the third century BC to the seventh century AD. Among the texts discovered are plays of Menander, fragments from the Gospel of Thomas, and fragments from Euclid’s Elements.

Oxyrhynchus was the capital of the 19th nome; Egyptian society under the Greeks and Romans was governed bureaucratically so vast amounts of paper have been found: accounts, tax returns, census material, invoices, receipts, correspondence on administrative, military, religious, economic, and political matters, certificates and licenses of all kinds. Private citizens added their own piles of paper.

Picture 2: This one addresses the serious problem of donkeys being driven too quickly through the busy streets of the city.

Picture 3 & 4: This little note was written by two friends, Apium and Epimus, to a school mate of theirs, Ephroditos. And it contains the most extraordinary suggestion.
”If you let us bugger you, if it’s okay with you, ”we shall stop thrashing you.” And there’s even a helpful little illustration here (picture n. 4).

Picture 5: This is a letter by Diogenes, to one of his employees.
”A thousand times I’ve written to you to cut down the vines of pohaya.
”But today again I get a letter from you asking what should be done.
”To which I reply - ”Cut them down.
Cut them down.
Cut them down.
Cut them down ”and cut them down.

Oxyrhynchus, Al Minya, Egypt

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