25 Photos - May 1, 2014
Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Caius Iulius Restitutus, Curator of Sirona's temple in Aquae Mattiacorum (illustration from the Romanike series of historical novels)Photo: Photo: Photo: The Emonian - an almost life-size statue from Emona (modern Ljubljana)Photo: Der Mainzer GlobusPhoto: The numinous Roman spheres of twelve faces

Many who first see the spheres of twelve faces feel reminded of magnified spores. No one can tell who made them or why or what the Romans called them. We refer to them as the Roman dodecahedra, but that is a modern term, and an uncouth one, too. We may only guess that the ancients will have thought of them as a kind of spheres or orbs or balls, for that was what any regular solid was in their eyes.

Almost all consist of brass, but one is made of silver. They all have twelve faces, they are, mathematically spoken, pentagon-dodecahedra. But one has twenty faces. A hole is drilled into each face, each of a different size. But always the two widest holes are opposite each other. The holes may be surrounded by grooves or be bare. A nodule on a stem is protruding from each corner. But sometimes there are three nodules. No two dodecahedra are twins, each is unique by size, by decoration or arrangement of the holes. Some are as large as a fingernail, others are twice as large.

A hundred are known, with more very likely to show up soon. Many have been found in France, in Belgium, in England, in Germany. Two in Hungary, one in Croatia. There is not a single one in Italy. Nor in Africa or Asia or Greece or Iberia. They seem highly concentrated in southern England - and at the middle course of the Rhine, where I live. Mainz has two of them, Wiesbaden, just opposite, one, the nearby Saalburg, one. In Schwarzenacker at the river Moselle, two have been found on adjacent properties.

There are as many assumptions on their use as there are dodecahedra. None is conclusive. Were they candleholders? Measuring devices? Dice? Religious artifacts? None has come with instructions. But some were found in hoards of coins, so there owners had priced them. Alas, the classical authors have not mentioned or described them, either. Or have they?

There is a haunting quote by a man from the second century, Marcus Valerius Martialis. In one of his notorious satirical aphorisms, he referred to mysterious items he called the Pilae Mattiacae – the Mattiacian Spheres:

Si mutare paras longaevos cana capillos,
Accipe Mattiacas - quo tibi calva? - pilas.

If you want to change your highly aged hair,
use Pilae Mattiacae - why have a bald head?

No one has excavated a Pila Mattiaca or found its image. No one knows what it looked like, how it was made, where it was sold. The only clue we have is its name. The Mattiaci were the people who lived in the Roman age at the middle Rhine, right where so many spheres of twelve faces have been found. Did the Mattiaci invent the Pila? And the dodecahedra, too?

So what if – just if – the Pilae Mattiacae and the dodecahedra were one and the same thing? That is the possibility which just for fun we explored in our historical novels, turning the dodecahedra into tools of a gigantic fraud with economic and, ultimately, political ambitions. By which I do not want to suggest that I believed this were what the dodecahedra were meant for.

(Adapted from the preface of "The Lady of All", first book of the "Romanike" series, by Codex Regius)Photo: Two free sample chapters of "The Lady of All", Volume 1 of our historical novel series "Romanike", are now available here:



No one can tell who made the spheres of twelve faces or why or what the Romans called them: maybe Corpus Sacrum. Maybe something else. We refer to them as pentagondodecahedra. But that is a modern word, and an uncouth one, too. A hundred are known. Many have been found in France, in Belgium, they seem highly concentrated in southern England and at the middle course of the river Rhine. There are as many suggestions for their use as there are dodecahedra. None is conclusive. Alas, the classical authors have not mentioned or described them. Or have they? There is a haunting quote by a man from the second century, Marcus Valerius Martialis. He referred to mysterious items he called the Pilae Mattiacae – the Mattiacian Spheres. No one has excavated a Pila Mattiaca or found its image, and it was never mentioned again. The only clue we have is its name. The Mattiaci were the people who lived in the Roman age at the middle Rhine, right where so many spheres of twelve faces have been found. So what if – just if – the Pilae Mattiacae and the dodecahedra were one and the same thing? And once they may have attracted the attention of a stargazer who understood how to use them. And he made them his tools of power.Photo: This map which I have created myself covers the broader area in which the main parts of the six-volume "Romanike" series are set, centering on the modern territory of Mainz-Wiesbaden-Frankfurt at the Middle Rhine and Lower Main: a territory that has been little explored by historical novelists so far.

The time, the early 10th century A.V.C. (ab Urbe Condita) or mid 2nd century A.D., corresponds to the period of outward peace between the vanquishing of the second Jewish Uprising and the outbreak of the Marcomannic Wars when it is just becoming visible for those who have eyes to see how the Romanike - the Roman Empire - has begun to rot in her core. Right through the map runs the upper Germanic Limes , the fortified border between the Roman Empire and the Barbaricum that has never been contested - so far.

Most names on the map are archaeologically attested except for Castellum Taunensium, Mount Dounobriga and Cirmacium that I have made up because it is not known what these places were called by the Romans.Photo: Another map I have created for the "Romanike" series, this time historically accurate, without any added fictional names. We see the territory of the lost kingdom of Commagene that few people have ever heard of these days though its royal house has produced world-famous artifacts: the Hierotherion on the top of #Nemrud #Dagh, a mountain in eastern Turkey, the #Philopappus #Monument in #Athens and the cults of #Mithras and #Jupiter #Dolichenus. Its ancient royal capital, #Samosata, also produced a classic author: the satirist #Lucian.

In our novels, the kingdom has fallen and been absorbed by the Roman Empire in which it constitutes just a far-away district of a far-away province. But its power lives on, hidden, though not vanquished. And in a time of crisis, when Rome is facing a major war with the Parthian kingdom in the east, the Realm that Is No More raises its head again to reclaim the power it has once had - over the Imperial throne.

The entire series is available on paper or digitally here: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Romanike 
And more background information is available on our blog: http://www.corpus-sacrum.dePhoto: This man is T. Caesernius Statianus, of the House of Caesernii from Aquileia, northern Italy. He belonged to the closer circle of emperor Hadrianus and most likely to his entourage on the emperor's travels. In 150 A.D., under Antoninus Pius, Statianus was provincial governor in Mogontiacum, a few kilometres from my native place.

In the company of emperor Hadrianus, Caesernius Statianus must also have been acquainted with Princess Iulia Balbilla of Commagene, a close friend of empress Sabina, who left several poetic graffiti in Egypt. This acquaintance is an important plot element in our historical novel series (http://www.corpus-sacrum.de) where both get involved in the death of Hadrian's favourite, Antinous. Later, during his time as governor in Mogontiacum, he is looking in vain for the last surviving sibling of the Antikythera Mechanism that for good reasons he is suspecting very close nearby.

A lesser branch of the Caesernii dwelt in Colonia Iulia Emona, modern Ljubljana, which is attested by several gravestones. For the purposes of our narrative, we have assumed that the unidentified golden statue presented earlier, known as the Emonian, depicts a member of the Caesernii of Emona.

The bust of T. Caesernius Statianus is on display in the Glyptothek in Munich, Germany.Photo: The House of Balbilli and the last kings of CommagenePhoto: We had entered the #Saalburg ( http://www.saalburgmuseum.de/francais/sb_fr_home.html ), the only fully reconstructed #Limes fort, near Bad Homburg, Federal State of Hessen, Germany, in sunshine - when we left, it looked like this.Photo: The #Roman Gate in #Wiesbaden , Germany, due opposite of the former provincial capital of #Mogontiacum /#Mainz. Matter of fact, the bridge merely represents a 19th century vision of what a Roman city gate might have looked like: it is neither at the edge of the town nor was there ever a gate under the Romans.

The gate is, however, part of a vast wall known as the #Heidenmauer or Pagans' Wall that was, ironically, erected under the Christian emperor #Valentinianus I. No one knows why: The Pagan's Wall once bisected the core of #Wiesbaden across a length of 500 m and meant a considerable obstacle for traffic. But it cannot have been a fortification because it does not enclose anything and any attacker might just walk around it. A local amateur researcher fervently defends his idea that it might have been an #aquaeduct - but it does not look like one, and what sense does an aquaeduct make in a town that is fed by 26 hot springs, and a cold one, too?

For whatever reason, the Pagan's Wall was erected rather quickly, recycling lots of building material from the Roman town of #Aquae #Mattiacorum , everything from gravestones to temple walls which have been preserved this way though not in their original place. The wall was for the most part torn down in recent centuries, this is the only section that survives, and it is the only visible Roman monument in the modern city of Wiesbaden. Next to it is a small open-air museum where copies of several #spolia (artifacts put to secondary use) found in the Heidenmauer are displayed. Admission free.Photo: Encore une fois: ici est une veritable collection des dodecaèdres mysterieux des Romains!Photo: Photo: Photo: Caius Iulius Restitutus, Ureinwohner Wiesbadens und Romanheld

Iulius Restitutus war ein offenbar begüterter Einwohner von #Aquae #Mattiacorum , wie Wiesbaden im Altertum hieß. Mutmaßlich war er mattiakischer oder keltischer Abstammung; sein Familienname spricht dafür, dass es sich bei seinem Haus um eine lokale Adelsfamilie der ersten Generation handelte, er könnte jedoch auch von Freigelassenen einer solchen Familie abstammen.
Die Inschrift stellt eine Widmung an die gallische Göttin #Sirona dar, die einen Tempel im Bereich der Schützenhofquelle hatte; heute ist der einstige Standort durch Plaketten an den Hauswänden ausgewiesen. Restitutus bezeichnet sich als C(urator) Templ(um), eine selten nachgewiesene Tätigkeit, deren Funktionen und Aufgaben nicht geklärt sind. Die Abkürzung D(e) S(uo) P(osuit) bedeutet "selber finanziert".

Das Original des Restitutussteins ist Teil der Sammlung #Nassauischer Altertümer in #Wiesbaden und aufgrund der langen und schweren Leidensgeschichte dieser Sammlung selten zugänglich. Der hier gezeigte, in originaler Bemalung rekonstruierte Abguss ist im sehenswerten "Kult-Ur-Institut" in #Bettendorf ausgestellt (http://www.bettendorf-rlp.de/Freizeit/Museen_Kunst/Kult-Ur-Institut/kult-ur-institut.html ). Nach Auskunft seines ehemaligen Leiters Prof. H. Braem gibt es nur sehr wenige Exemplare dieses Abgusses, leider ist er deshalb nicht als Replikat für interessierte Museums- oder Stadtbesucher erhältlich.

Die Sammlung Nassauischer Altertümer enthält ein zweites Dokument, das etliche Namen Wiesbadener Bürger der Römerzeit festhält, darunter offenbar auch Restitutus. Er wäre damit der einzige Einwohner Aquae Mattiacorums, der mehr als einmal nachgewiesen ist. Aus irgendeinem Grund blieb mir diese Information im Gedächtnis, als wir das Handlungsgerüst für unseren ersten Roman "Corpus Sacrum" entwarfen, und wir machten Restitutus zu einem der beiden Protagonisten: einen 52-jährigen, desillusionierten Mann, der sich aus dem aktiven Leben zurückgezogen hat und darauf wartet, dass mit seiner Person auch sein Stammbaum erlöschen wird. In der jetzt erschienenen Fortsetzung "Gesetzbuch des Kosmos"* erweist er sich als einziger Mensch, dem bekannt ist, wo sich die letzte existierende Kopie des #Mechanismus von #Antikythera befindet - bedauerlicherweise ist Restitutus jedoch bereits seit Monaten verschwunden ...

* http://www.amazon.de/Gesetzbuch-Kosmos-Opus-Gemini-Romanike/dp/1517363454/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1444894571&sr=8-1&keywords=Gesetzbuch+des+Kosmos
Nachbildungen des Mechanismus von Antikythera sind derzeit in der sehr empfehlenswerten Ausstellung im #Antikenmuseum #Basel zu besichtigen: https://www.facebook.com/antikenmuseumbasel?fref=tsPhoto: