Proceedings From the International Conference Sources to Study Antiquity: Between Texts and Material Culture


coordinated by Maria Helena Trindade Lopes, Maria de Fátima Rosa & Susana Mota

Editor’s note

Introduction to the Volume

Published online: May 2019, pp. 4-13

  • Abstract

    A portrait of the Other can be seen throughout the literature of classical antiquity, from Homer to the Roman authors, in an implicit awareness that identity cannot exist without alterity. This is a core question in the Iliad, in the conflict that pitted Greeks against Trojans. It is also a recurring subject in the Odyssey, in the Other’s (Ulysses’) wanderings, from Troy to his return to Ithaca. The quest for the Golden Fleece also contemplates the confrontation between Argonauts and the arrival to Colchis. This issue is taken up in Greek historiography with Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon, but now with a focus on historical truth, with the internal conflict between Athenians and Spartans (Thucydides) and the external conflict between Athenians and Persians (Herodotus, Xenophon).

    In the same way that Virgil directs his attention to Carthage and Queen Dido in his epic poem the Aeneid, foreseeing a future conflict, the Punic Wars, Roman historiography, with Titus Livius, Sallust, and Julius Caesar’s memoirs of the conquest of Gaul, dedicate particular attention to the portrait of the Other as a counterpoint to the awareness of identity.

    Historical truth, in terms of heuristics (documentum) and exemplary Ciceronian pedagogy (monumentum), is, on the other hand, the main concern of Roman historiography, as a favored form of civic intervention to attain a national identity (res romana).

    Having inherited this methodological approach from Classical Antiquity, 16th century Portuguese chroniclers like João de Barros, Fernão Lopes de Castanheda, Gaspar Correia and Diogo do Couto, and others, link historiography sources to the issue of national identity and alterity.

    The objective of this paper is to examine how the 16th century Portuguese chroniclers assimilated Classical Antiquity, in an explicit and implicit way.



The Other’s portrait and historical truth in classical authors and Portuguese 16th Century chroniclers

Published online: May 2019, pp. 14-28

  • Abstract

    The aim of this paper is to present new literary evidence to understand the relationship between ancient Greek painting and some of the most important pictorial advances performed in the Roman Renaissance. In particular, I will focus on the classical tradition in the painting of Giovanni da Udine (1487-1564). For this purpose, I have used the testimony of George Turnbull (1698-1748). In one of his treatises, A Treatise on Ancient Painting (1740), he compares the painting of Pausias of Sicyon (IV century BC) and the Italian painter Giovanni da Udine. The observation and study of the Nero's Domus Aurea was a clear inspiration for Giovanni da Udine in his desire to create a painting all´antico. In addition, we discuss specifically the Loggia of Cardinal Bibbiena to see how the classically inspired Giovanni da Udine.



Classical Tradition and the Painting of Giovanni da Udine

Published online: May 2019, pp. 29-44

  • Abstract

    When approaching the nature of things, Galen of Pergamon tends to use an analytic process based on the relation between different elements interacting in a particular system. With respect to ancient eating habits and health, this way of collecting information and formulating hypotheses has a kind of potential for generating hierarchies and is attested to in De alimentorum facultatibus I, in which foodstuffs are evaluated considering the particular result expected on a subject’s metabolism. This paper aims to describe the manner by which a hierarchical construction is made in respect to the qualities of grains. In order to understand how such a method serves Galen’s science, it offers a systematization of his commentaries and notes on the different kinds of grains and their nutritional properties in the equation: human body condition + (cereal + type of processing) = body reaction.



The hierarchy of cereals by an ancient scientist in De alimentorum Facultatibus I: the properties of grain for bread making

Published online: May 2019, pp. 45-62

  • Abstract

    In ancient Egypt the deceased were an integral part of the world of the living. The dead kin were perceived as extended family members and a bilateral relationship was developed between the two worlds. The deceased expected to receive from the living all the due rituals and offerings in order to ensure their well-being. Fulfilled all the needs of the dead, the living might expect their assistance and protection in everyday life problems.

    It’s in the context of this relationship that we see emerge the ancestors’ cult as an integral part, and with high relevance, of household religion, attested since the Middle Kingdom.

    The possible knowledge about this domestic religious practice results from both textual and material sources. It is the combination of texts, objects, and structures that makes possible for us to understand the motivations underlying this practice and where and how it was accomplished.



Ancestors’ worship at home: An example of texts and material sources working together

Published online: May2019, pp. 63-81

  • Abstract

    It has long been known that Chinese records provide a considerable amount of information on Daqin大秦 i. e. Great Qin [synonym of Roman Empire in Chinese records]. Nevertheless, interpretation of these accounts requires a more coherent nexus. Apart from problems of authenticity of written works, characteristics of Chinese historiography and other genres should also be considered. In light of such complexities, grouping Chinese sources on Daqin by relevance, type (e. g. historiographies or geographical treaties etc.) and date (referring to events before or after the 5th/6th century) might lead towards a better understanding of multifaceted perceptions defined by their description.

    In this manner, through a comparison of Daqin-picture(s) given by these accounts with a review of Roman and Roman-related archaeological finds discovered in China, the paper aims to give a more sophisticated interpretation of the reception of Rome in the Middle Empire and also intends to highlight problems on understanding Sino-Roman relations.



Chinese Historical Records and Sino-Roman Relations. A Critical Approach to Understand Problems on the Chinese Reception of the Roman Empire

Published online: May 2019, pp. 82-103

  • Abstract

    Maritime commerce connected distant geographies during Late Antiquity, through networks that surpassed different political entities. The Atlantic shores of Iberian Peninsula played a relevant role on the process, and archaeological data provided by ancient harbour capacity regions is crucial for the reading of rhythms over time.

    The Tagus Estuary was a long term key-point in navigation, linking this part of Western Hispania to Mediterranean and North Atlantic trade routes, therefore facilitating supply of imported goods, and the export of local and regional commodities. Between the 5th and 6th centuries AD oriental tablewares produced in Phocaea and Cyprus were a relevant cultural habit, strongly widespreaded in coastal Western Europe and Maghreb, becoming one of the most distinguishing elements of the material culture present in the archaeological record of such chronologies.

    The authors present an overview on the presence of this specific oriental commodity in the Tagus Estuary region, and discuss the historical significance of time scale rhythms observed, namely the known floruit registed in Britannic and Lusitanian contexts c. 475-525 AD.



An overview on oriental commerce in the Tagus estuary region: 5th and 6th century AD late Phocaean (lrc) and Cypriot (lrd) tableware

Published online: May 2019, pp. 104-127

  • Abstract

    From 1998 up to 2012, an unexplored area affiliated to the Early Dynastic cemetery of Helwan located about twenty kilometres south of Cairo was excavated (Fig. 1–2). This area was called Operation 4. It mainly housed private burials from the lower and middle classes of the nearby city of Memphis and dates from 2950 to 2600 B.C. 218 tombs were excavated and are currently being analysed regarding archaeological, architectural, physical anthropological, zoological, and botanical aspects. The ceramic vessels discovered in these tombs form the basis of the present paper. It attempts to exceed the material aspects of pottery vessels to learn more about ideational and practical circumstances leading to the selection, utilization, and deposition of certain objects focussing on Operation 4 as a case study. For this purpose, particular phenomena were chosen and exemplarily illustrated, partly considering selected similar pieces deriving from contemporary Egyptian cemeteries.



On the significance of pottery vessels in private burial contexts of Early Dynastic Egypt. Selected case studies from the necropolis area Operation 4, Helwan

Published online: May 2019, pp. 128-142

  • Abstract

    According to the Epic of Gilgameš, the Anunnakki reserved eternal life for themselves, bestowing mortality to Humankind, at the moment of its creation. This distinguished unequivocally the superiority of the first over the latter.

    However, Mesopotamian deities showed feelings, sensibilities and behaviors similar to those experienced by their worshippers. Numerous narratives present evidences for this humanity, allowing the possibility to analyze the questions deities had to deal with on different stages of their existence. The mirrored effect between the divine and human actors can even be identified in the possibility of divine death, which obviously, was never definite.

    Based on the analysis of mythopoetic and iconographic sources, we aim to reconstruct a narrative which displays the Mesopotamian divine pathos, exploring the several levels of deities’ existential cycle.



The Pathos of the divine existence in Mesopotamia: Reconstruction of a cycle through text and image

Published online: May 2019, pp. 143-157

  • Abstract

    In ancient Egypt, Time was part of the whole “being” that was brought into existence in the “First Time” (sp tpj). Following a linear conception (D.t) of Time we might ask: if Time had a beginning, should we expect for it to come to an end? However, the simultaneous Egyptian circular approach to Time (nHH) turns each end into a new beginning. How should we approach Time before its existence? Can we refer to a “post-Time”? Is the “end” definitive or temporary, awaiting for the (re)start of a new Demiurge’s action? Is the immobility of the pre-Creation similar to one after the “end of the world”? This paper intends to be a preliminary approach to this issue. We will follow the traces suggested by some textual sources, focusing on the Demiurge, an entity connected to Time by means of creation and destruction.



Before Time, after Time: existential time markers in Ancient Egypt - beginning, end and restart. A preliminary approach (with a special focus on the Heliopolitan conception)

Published online: May 2019, pp. 158-167

  • Abstract

    Bronze Age was a dynamic period in southern Levant history marked by the emergence of urban centres followed by their collapse and subsequent re-emergence. Reconstructing the processes of

    urbanization implies understanding the interactions between the different components of society (rural sedentary, nomadic and semi-nomadic). The problem with the pastoral nomadic society is that it was not explicitly mentioned in the written records. Most written sources came from the urban centres and were written by biased scribes. The second problem with the pastoral nomads is that they did not leave much archaeological traces. By using analytical methods in comparing all of the available data, both written records and material remains of the Bronze Age sites as well as the anthropological models of the cultural contacts between nomadic and sedentary populations in different region and in different times it is possible to re(construct) the history of nomadic population during Bronze Age southern Levant.



(Re)constructing the history of the nomadic population in Bronze Age southern Levant

Published online: May 2019, pp. 168-181

  • Abstract

    Children in antiquity, having long been rather overlooked in modern scholarship, rightly received increased attention by archaeologists, historians and philologists in recent years. Despite few exceptions, however, most studies have not addressed how to deal with the divide between archaeological and textual data. This is also true for ancient Mesopotamia, where the separation of Assyriology and Near Eastern Archaeology has created reluctance in integrating both types of sources. While combined approaches have been successfully applied to specific topics in recent years (e.g. Neo-Assyrian expansion, climate change), childhood and other aspects of social history generally lack such treatments.

    In this paper, I review different types of data available for studying children in the Old Babylonian period (2000-1600 BC) and I outline opportunities and challenges in integrating material culture and texts by discussing two thematic case studies, infant mortality and child socialisation.



Childhood in Mesopotamian texts and archaeology: finding a common ground?

Published online: May 2019, pp. 182-192

  • Abstract

    This work presents some partial reflections on a post-doctoral project aiming to study epigraphy from Egyptian collections in Portugal. A quick view of some catalogues and expositions combined help us to picture how museographic strategies in use in Portugal portrait Egypt to the non-academic public. As the main focus of this work lies in epigraphy, an especial approach to selected objects will be also part of the debate.



Ancient Egyptian Collections in Portuguese Museums – Building an Image of Ancient Egypt

Published online: May 2019, pp. 193-207

  • Abstract

    The study of Antiquity presents theoretical and practical challenges to the researcher in every investigation. Studying, however, a source that not only contains potential information about the Past, but that also produces an historical investigation, confronts the researcher with a whole different kind of challenge, one that necessarily calls into question the understanding of the discipline and its praxis. This article aims to analyse this subject by considering the case of the Histories.

    Not long after Herodotus wrote it (around the 5th century BC), the Histories generated much debate, either about the way in which the narrative was constructed, the subjects the author took closer attention to, or the methods used throughout the research. This article provides some study perspectives on both content and form of this source, in order to understand how have historians approached and interpreted Herodotus’ work since then.



Sources that study Antiquity: study perspectives on Herodotus’ Histories, or how have the historians interpreted the father of History

Published online: May 2019, pp. 208-213

  • Abstract

    The intimate nature of Sappho’s poems has led to different conclusions about her life and her feelings, though few are certain. Plato considered her the 10th muse, marking her importance in Ancient Greek literature. Yet, we only know a few of her fragments. Are these fragments a reflection of the feelings of the poetess towards some of her disciples? Or are they related to what has sometimes been thought her last passion – an old sailor, whose disappearance may have been the cause of her death?

    Fernando Campos’ recent novel – A Rocha Branca – is based on her life using several fragments by Sappho. Are these fragments sufficient to document the poetess’ life? Is Campos’ analysis adequate? Does he use these fragments with the specific purpose of offering an image of Sappho distinct from the usual one, which associates her with lesbian love?

    The purpose of this paper is to examine Sappho’s fragments, comparing them with Fernando Campos’ readings, and to test how effective they may be as the basis for an historical novel rather than as a true portrait of Sappho in Antiquity.



Sappho’s poems – Portraits of a poetess

Published online: May 2019, pp. 214-229

  • Abstract

    Religious writings are usually treated in the same way as mythological narratives. It is consistently forgotten that they express faith. They were testimonies of people’s beliefs. They were designed to verbalise transcendental reality – to express the Inexpressible. When one comprehends and digests these facts, a scholar is far better able to perceive the predicament, the arduousness of the scrutiny of this genre of written sources.

    While studying the written sources the image we would like to recapture is an image scattered in words and phrases, in language. It is embodied in language itself. Thus, the author of the paper scrutinised the world’s oldest religious texts – the Pyramid Texts and the Coffin Texts, against a backdrop of general remarks, to show the uniqueness and specificity of analysis and interpretation of this type of sources.



Religious texts as a source of a contemporary study of Antiquity – linguistic interpretations of the Pyramid Texts and the Coffin Texts

RES ANTIQUITATIS is a not-for-profit e-journal committed to the principles of Open Access. This journal provides immediate open access to its content on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge.

Copyright © Marta Fiolić | CHAM - Centro de Humanidades 2019.