Birthplace of Roman Emperor Vespasian Found

Check out this story about the recent discovery of a large villa at what archaeologists believe was the location of Roman Emperor Vespasian’s birth.

The site is located near a town called Cittareale, about 130 km northeast of Rome, in the Falacrinae Valley.  Marble floors, mosaics, and ceramics number among the many artifacts recovered from the estimated 3,000-4,000 square meter villa.  

Vespasian, or Titus Flavius Vespasianus (9-79 AD), emerged as Roman emperor after a civil war in 69 which erupted following Emperor Nero’s suicide.  Along with his son Titus (who succeeded him as emperor), Vespasian commanded the Roman legions which conquered Judea and destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the First Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 (though, to be clear, it was Titus, and not Vespasian, who was commander in the field at the time of the Temple’s destruction in 70 AD).  Vespasian and Titus also befriended Josephus, the famous chronicler of 1st century Jewish history.

If you’d like to read more about Vespasian and the First Jewish-Roman War, Greensboro Public Library’s holdings include 69 AD:  The Year of Four Emperors by Gwyn Morgan; Jerusalem’s Traitor:  Josephus, Masada, and the Fall of Judea by Desmond Seward; The Jews Against Rome by Susan Sorek; and Josephus:  The Complete Works, translated by William Whiston. 

Also, Lindsey Davis’ series of novels about the adventures of the freelance investigator Marcus Didius Falco are set during Vespasian’s rule.  The preceding Falco link will take you to the author’s website and a list of the Falco books with plot summaries.

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“Another Nail in the Coffin” for the Shroud of Turin?

I suppose almost everyone has heard of the famous Shroud of Turin, a relic kept in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, and allegedly used to wrap the body of a man who was crucified.

The shroud bears an eerie image which at least fits the popular conception of how Jesus Christ may have appeared — and is in fact believed by many to be an authentic image of the same.

And, while radiocarbon dating of the shroud conducted a couple of decades ago suggests it is a Medieval forgery, it still has its adherents. 

However, recent analysis of an actual burial shroud found in a tomb near Jerusalem — known as the “Tomb of the Shroud” — casts further doubt upon the legitimacy of the Turin Shroud.

According to this National Geographic News article, the Jerusalem shroud’s “patchwork of simply woven linen and wool textiles” is completely unlike the Shroud of Turin, a “single textile woven in a complex twill pattern.”  Thus, if the Jerusalem shroud is typical for burial shrouds used during the Jesus-era, it seems unlikely the Shroud of Turin could be authentic. 

On the other hand, this is only the second time a textile has shown up in Jewish burials from this period.  So, I suppose there’s still hope for those who adhere to claims for the Turin Shroud’s authenticity.      

If you like, you can read about the Tomb of the Shroud in James D. Tabor’s The Jesus Dynasty:  The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity (2006).  Tabor was actually on hand when this tomb, partly despoiled by looters, was discovered by accident in 2000.  He is a professor of religious studies at UNC-Charlotte. 

Also on hand when the tomb was discovered was Shimon Gibson, an archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority, who ended up excavating the site.  Readers will find much more on the Tomb of the Shroud in his recent The Final Days of Jesus:  The Archaeological Evidence (2009), where he uses an analysis of this tomb from Jesus’ time to develop conjectures about Christ’s burial.  

Another good one on a similar topic is The Jesus Family Tomb:  The Discovery, the Investigation, and the Evidence that Could Change History by Simcha Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino (2007).  I’ve actually just read this one, and, though quite controversial, the authors make — at least to this layperson — a pretty intriguing case that the tomb of Jesus’ family may well have been discovered in a place near Jerusalem called Talpiot in 1980.  By the way, James Cameron, of Avatar and Titanic fame, wrote the forward for this book.  

Other recent resources Greensboro Public Library has on the historical Jesus and early Christianity include:  How Jesus Became Christian by Barrie Wilson; Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them) by Bart D. Ehrman; The Sisters of Sinai:  How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels by Janet Soskice; Digging Through the Bible:  Understanding Biblical People, Places, and Controversies through Archaeology by Richard A. Freund; The Letter and the Scroll:  What Archaeology Tells Us About the Bible by Robin Currie and Stephen Hyslop; Judas:  A Biography by Susan Gubar; Jesus:  The Missing History (DVD); A Marginal Jew:  Rethinking the Historical Jesus by John P. Meier; Who on Earth was Jesus?: The Modern Quest for the Jesus of History by David Boulton; The Masks of Christ:  Behind the Lies and Cover-ups About the Life of Jesus by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince; The Jesus Mysteries:  Was the “Original Jesus” a Pagan God? by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy; and The Case for the Real Jesus:  A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ by Lee Strobel. 

If you’d like to read more on the Shroud of Turin, you may be interested in some of the following:  Turin Shroud:   In Whose Image?:  The Truth Behind the Centuries-long Conspiracy of Silence by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince; The Resurrection of the Shroud by Mark Antonacci; The Blood and the Shroud:  New Evidence that the World’s Most Sacred Relic is Real by Ian Wilson; and Unlocking the Secrets of the Shroud by Gilbert R. Lavoie.