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Article

Sophie Page

Astrology is the art of predicting events on earth as well as human character and disposition from the movements of the planets and fixed stars. Medieval astrology encompassed both general concepts of celestial influence, and the technical art of making predictions with horoscopes, symbolic maps of the heavens at particular moments and places constructed from astronomical information. The scientific foundations of the art were developed in ancient Greece, largely lost in early medieval Europe and recovered by the Latin West from Arabic sources in the 12th and 13th centuries. Late medieval astrological images were successfully Christianized and were adapted to particular contexts, acquired local meanings and changed over time.

Astrology developed into a scientific branch of learning in ancient Greece, but because of the opposition of the Church Fathers it was transmitted to early medieval Europe in only fragmentary form in technically unsophisticated textbooks and popular divinatory genres. Literary and scientific texts provided more general ideas about the nature and attributes of the planets which were influential on later iconography. The first significant astrological images appear in 11th-century illustrated astronomical texts (e.g. London, BL, Cotton MS. Tiberius BV), which were acquired and produced by monasteries to aid with time-keeping and the construction of the Christian calendar....

Article

Thorsten Opper

Roman town in Italy on the southern slope of Mt Vesuvius immediately to the north of Pompeii, sometimes identified with the ancient Pagus Augustus Felix Suburbanus (one of the town's outer districts). Excavations carried out mainly in the later 19th century brought to light some thirty villae rusticae, part of an intense network of smallholdings situated on the lower slopes of the volcano and the adjacent Sarno plain, and plentiful evidence of intense agricultural activity, principally the production of wine and olive oil. Probably due to its fertility, the area was resettled after the eruption; baths dating to the 2nd or 3rd century ad were discovered in Via Casone Grotta. Most of the villas were reburied after the excavations and documentation tends to be sparse. Finds are now mostly in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, the Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, as well as a number of private collections; more recent discoveries are exhibited in a new local museum. The nearby Villa Regina is the only structure that can be visited; it has wine production facilities and large storage areas....

Article

Gordon Campbell

In 55 bc Julius Caesar landed in Britain, and the following year returned with a substantial army. He did not attempt to conquer territory, but on his second expedition he installed a client king, and so inaugurated the process whereby Britain established ever closer political and commercial relations with Rome. Caligula attempted an invasion in ad 39 or 40, but it was aborted before his army left Gaul. In ad 43 the army of Claudius invaded successfully, and gradually large tracts of Britain were conquered and incorporated into the Empire. The Roman province was known as Britannia. The northern limit of Roman expansion was achieved in ad 84, when Agricola defeated the Caledonians at the Battle of Mons Graupius, the location of which is unknown. Thereafter the Romans retreated to the narrow expanse of land between the Clyde and the Forth (later to be fortified with the Antonine Wall). Some 30 years later the Romans retreated south to another isthmus, this time between the Solway and the Tyne. When ...

Article

Thomas J. McCormick

(b Paris, baptAug 28, 1721; d Auteuil, Jan 19, 1820).

French architect, archaeologist and painter. He was an important if controversial figure associated with the development of the Neo-classical style of architecture and interior design and its dissemination throughout Europe and the USA. He studied at the Académie Royale d’Architecture, Paris, under Germain Boffrand and won the Grand Prix in 1746. He spent the years 1749 to 1754 at the Académie Française in Rome but left after an argument with the director Charles-Joseph Natoire over his refusal to make his Easter Communion; this may have been due to his Jansenist sympathies. He nevertheless remained in Italy until 1767. During these years he became a close friend of Piranesi, Winckelmann, Cardinal Alessandro Albani and other members of the international circle interested in the Antique.

In his early student days in Rome, Clérisseau became acquainted in particular with English travellers and began to sell them his attractive topographical drawings of Roman architecture. Initially these were influenced by his studies with ...

Article

Dimitris Plantzos

Greek city situated at the foothills of Mt Olympus in northern Greece (district of Pieria), 14 km south of modern city of Katerini. It was an important Macedonian political and cultural centre from the Classical to the Roman periods (6th century bc–4th century ad). By the 6th century bc it seems that the Macedonians were gathering at Dion in order to honour the Olympian gods, chiefly Zeus; according to myth, Deukalion, the only man to survive the flood at the beginning of time, built an altar to Zeus as a sign of his salvation. His sons, Macedon and Magnes, lived in Pieria, near Olympus, and became the mythical ancestors of the Macedonians. The altar allegedly erected by Deukalion remained the centre of the cult life at Dion throughout its history.

King Archelaos of Macedon (c. 413–399 bc) organized athletic and dramatic contests in the framework of the religious celebrations, following the practice of the Greeks in the south, such as at the great sanctuaries of Olympia and Delphi. Philip II (...

Article

Dimitris Plantzos

[Satra]

Greek city situated on the island of Crete, by the north-west foothills of mount Psiloritis (anc. Ida), 30 km south-east of the present-day city of Rethymnon. It was a centre for Aegean and Greek culture from the Prehistoric to the Byzantine periods (4th millennium bc–7th century bc).

Ancient Eleutherna is a typical example of a Cretan polis (city) inhabited continuously from at least from the 9th century bc (the so-called ‘Dark Age’ of Greek history) to the late Roman and Byzantine period (6th–7th century bc). Even before that, archaeological finds suggest the existence of a continuous presence on the site from the late Neolithic (4th millennium bc) through to a flourishing Minoan site of the 3rd to 2nd millennia bc. Although later construction all but eliminated traces of prehistoric architecture, there is still significant evidence to confirm unbroken habitation. In historical times (9th century...

Article

Thorsten Opper

[now Torre Annunziata]

Roman settlement on the seaward slopes of Mt Vesuvius about five km north-west of Pompeii, in what is now Torre Annunziata. The name Oplontis is attested in the Tabula Peutingeriana, a 13th-century copy of an ancient map of the Roman Empire (Vienna, Österreich. Nbib., Cod. 324). Baths were discovered at the locality of Punta Oncino in 1834 while systematic excavations between 1964 and 1984 unearthed two villas and remains of a portico in the nearby area of Mascatelle.

Villa A is a grand residence with origins in the 1st century bc and extended in the Claudian period (mid-1st century ad). It is also known as Villa of Poppaea, after Poppaea Sabina, second wife of the Roman emperor Nero (an amphora inscribed with the name of one of her freedmen was found on the site). The villa was empty and undergoing restoration work at the time of the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in ...