The romance of archeology: extract – II

Magoffin, R.V.D, Davis, Emiy C.The romance of archeology, Garden City Publishing Company Inc., 1929, New York

Chapter 3: The Glamor of the Gift of the Nile, p 58

Queen Hatshepsut’s temple architect, Senmut, seems to have been this Egyptian Elizabeth’s Essex. In building the temple for his queen, he introduced his own portrait behind various doors in it. In the season 1927-1928, the Metropolitan Museum’s Egyptian Expedition found he had also dared to start a tomb for himself deep down and directly beneath her temple. Only one room of his tomb had been decorated before his downfall. Its ceiling represents a chart of the heavens, the best, and one of the earliest astronomical charts thus far found. Senmut also brought down from Assuan to Karnak two granites obelisks 97 1/2 feet high for the Queen’s jubilee. They were the tallest obelisks ever made with the one exception of that erected at Heliopolis by her enemy (and also her half-brother and nephew), Thothmes III […]

The romance of archeology: extract

 

I’m gonna put a bunch of these extracts on my blog. I fucking love this book. The writing… the entertainment value is incredible!

Magoffin, R.V.D, Davis, Emiy C., The romance of archeology, Garden City Publishing Company Inc., 1929, New York

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Chapter One: The spade is mightier than the pen, p10

The recall of the veterans to arms was sponsored by Alcibiades, handsome, aristocratic, very rich, and very clever, and quite the most gifted in effrontery of any Athenian of that time; and in the sequel he proved to be the most debonair of all the plausible rascals of history. The soldiers, and boys under military age, and the discharged veterans all leaped to the call of opportunity. Our veteran in Euboea got together what little he needed, and then, before he left his new little house, he buried in a terra-cotta pot under his floor the balance of his money, among the pieces being a number of the new coins that had been minted that very year and paid to him when he was discharged. He hurried to Athens, was enrolled, and sent on board the fleet which was so eager to go that the ships raced one another down the Saronic gulf, as all the women of Attica on top of the houses at Piraeus waved them bon voyage. The expedition was the greatest debâcle of history. The entire force was killed or captured. The pot of coins, after 2,333 years, turned up accidentally by a spade in 1921, is one of the thousands of pitiful mortalities of that ill-starred expedition now archeologically authenticated.

Lorenzetti’s allegory of good and bad government

That’s great inspiration for my setting of SiT.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti: Allegory of good and bad government, paintings at the Council Room of the Nine, Palazzo Pubblico, City of Siena, Italy, 14th century.

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Securitas flying over the City.

Below: The City with a good government. Girls are dancing, traders are coming in, there’s plenty of open shops: all is well .

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Below: The good government itself,  presided by Old Ben. You know Ben, don’t you? Ben Comune (Common Good). He holds two ropes (cordia) that links him to the 24 elected citizens (city council) and with Concordia (left, bottom, in grey) and Justicia (sitting on a throne above Concordia). Each side of Justicia, rewards and punishments are being distributed: gifts, crowning, decapitation, you know, usual judiciary stuff.

The trinity of angelic figures above Ben Comune are Faith, Hope and Charity. Besides him are six councilors. The slouched woman in a white gown is Peace (is she bored or something?). The others, in order, are Fortitude, Prudence, Magnanimity, Temperance and Justice (again).

Some guards watch prisoners, presumably from nobility (natural enemies of a Republic) that are prostrated and awaiting judgment.

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But don’t take nothing as granted. Horrible Timor (Fear) reminds us:

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Because everyone wants what’s good for themselves, in this City

Justice is subjugated to Tyranny.

And so no one can go

this way without fearing for his life,

since thievery is done both side of these walls. (1)

And so we get (Below): the City under a bad government (ironically, the painting is a lot more deteriorated!).

Thugs are molesting citizens: rapes (presumably) and murders are committed. The only shop opened is the armourer’s. Clever.

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Below: the bad government. Wouldn’t that be great if bad politicians would grow tusks and horns? No more pretending to be honest when you have those!

The leader this time is awful Tyrannia. Above Tyrannia is the Unholy Trinity: Superbia (Pride), Avaritia (Greed) and Vanagloria (Boastfulness?). The evil councillors are Crudelitas (Cruelty), Proditio (Treason), Fraus (Fraud), Furor (Anger), Divisio (Division) and Guerra (War). Damn them!

Oh, and Justitia is bound, helpless, at their feet.

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  1. Traduction is mine, there must be a better one somewhere else.

Morbidly inspiring

Poirier de Dunkerke, Les formes acerbes

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That’s a denunciation of one Joseph Le Bon, a man who oversaw with (lets be cynical) excessive enthusiasm the death sentences under revolutionary France’s Terreur. Ironically, he was himself executed not much later under charge of « abuse of power ».

The imagery is purposefully evocative in order to shock, obviously. A madman drinking the still-hot blood of its victims, having to gulp it down  fast, it seems and  standing ahead a growing pile of corpses with the Furies (to the right) at his side. Note also the crowd waiving pitifully at the cloud, waiting for divine retribution…

Put that in a fantasy world (a grim one indeed) and its no longer mere moral reprobation, it could be really happening.

Who is this guy (Mister Blood Drinker) in my setting? I don’t know yet. He must be somewhere in the past I think. Maybe he’s one of the Three Tyrants. Or more simply an agent for one of them. We’ll see.

As for divine help/retribution, in my world as well as in the real: don’t wait for it…