Ancient Roman Shipwrecks?

A few weeks ago, surveyors were examining the Mediterranean Sea in preparation for a new gas pipeline. In the process, they discovered two ancient shipwrecks in deep waters. Did ancient sailors risk the open seas?

Ancient Roman Shipwrecks?

We talk a lot about pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact here at Guerrilla Explorer. Over the years, scholars have speculated that various civilizations traveled to America long before Christopher Columbus and even the Vikings. Other scholars have argued for travel going the other way, most notably Topa Inca Yupanqui’s legendary expedition in 1480.

So, these ancient shipwrecks take on additional interest in our eyes. If ancient Roman merchants were willing to travel outside of coastal routes, then it’s certainly possible a few of them might’ve decided to test the ocean itself.

The shipwrecks in question date back to the third century. They were found between Corfu and Italy under 0.7 to 0.9 miles of seawater. This is rather unusual as most shipwrecks from that era are discovered under just 100 to 130 feet of water.

“There are many Roman shipwrecks, but these are in deep waters. They were not sailing close to the coast. The conventional theory was that, as these were small vessels up to 25 meters (80 feet) long, they did not have the capacity to navigate far from the coast, so that if there was a wreck they would be close enough to the coast to save the crew.” ~ Angeliki Simossi, Head of Greece’s Underwater Antiquities Department

Now, its possible these ships were pushed off-shore in a storm. Plus, undersea currents might’ve caused the wreckage to shift over time. Also, these ships could’ve been helmed by unusually brave (or foolhardy) captains who were more prone to test limits. However, other ancient wrecks have been found far from land over the last decade or two, leading some scholars to question “the coast hugging theory.”

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Unfortunately, Greece has yet to release the exact location of the shipwrecks. Thus, it’s impossible to draw too many conclusions. According to Simossi, the ships had not been “sailing close to the coast.” But it remains to be seen how far away they actually got from coastal routes.

“In antiquity, ships didn’t sail around with depth finders and keep track of how deep they were. It was more how far they were on the surface in relation to land. After 30 meters of depth the boat’s safe, so if it’s 30 meters (100 feet) or 3,000 meters it’s a little irrelevant.” ~ Jeffrey Royal, Director of RPM Nautical Foundation

So, for now, we’ll wait for more information. But if these ships were found far off-shore, it’ll add a little bit of hope to the theory that ancient mariners ventured further into the seas than we once believed. Maybe, just maybe, a few of them set sail many centuries ago and headed into the ocean, hoping to discover a New World.

Gladiator Babes!

Butt-kicking female warriors are hardly a new concept. They’ve been around for centuries. Now, a recently discovered statue indicates women did battle all the way back in the ancient Roman Empire…as female gladiators.

Did Female Gladiators Exist?

Female warriors have long roots in history. Now, it appears we can trace those roots all the way back to female gladiators who lived during the ancient Roman empire. Here’s more on a recently uncovered female gladiator statue from Live Science:

A small bronze statue dating back nearly 2,000 years may be that of a female gladiator, a victorious one at that, suggests a new study.

If confirmed the statue would represent only the second depiction of a woman gladiator known to exist.

The gladiator statue shows a topless woman, wearing only a loincloth and a bandage around her left knee. Her hair is long, although neat, and in the air she raises what the researcher, Alfonso Manas of the University of Granada, believes is a sica, a short curved sword used by gladiators. The gesture she gives is a “salute to the people, to the crowd,” Manas said, an action done by victorious gladiators at the end of a fight…

(See Live Science for more on this new female gladiator statue)

A School…for Gladiators?

For centuries, gladiators entertained Roman audiences with life and death combat. But how did these warriors hone their craft? What was it like to attend a gladiator school?

Teaching Gladiators?

The exact origin of the gladiators and their games are unknown. However, its possible that they can be traced as far back as the 8th century BCE. For many years, they fought each other, wild animals, or condemned persons in front of the crowds of Rome. While some gladiators performed voluntarily, others were forced into it as slaves, Curiously, despite the vast public attention they received, most gladiators were despised and treated shabbily.

Recently, a team of archaeologists, historians, and geologists used ground-penetrating radar to reveal the ruins of an ancient gladiator school just outside Vienna, Austria. This school, the first of its kind to be discovered outside of Italy, was used to train gladiators in the art of hand-to-hand combat. So, what would it have been like to attend this school?

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The school was a mixture of “barracks and a prison.” Inside its thick walls, 40 tiny sleeping quarters surrounded a central training ring. This ring covered about nineteen square meters, held a thick wooden post which may have been used for striking practice, and was surrounded by wooden seats. A large bathing center was located nearby. Further back, several buildings (possibly administrative in nature) towered over the facility. Archaeologists also believe that a cemetery lies outside the walls. In all likelihood, it was used to bury deceased “students.”

This school, which is located in a park called Carnuntum, was used to train gladiators and to determine their worth. For the lucky and highly-skilled, it represented a shot at fame and even freedom. But for most of the forced participants, there was no happy ending. The gladiator games peaked “between the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD.” But they stayed around for much longer. The last known gladiator games took place toward the end of the 5th century AD.