Category: sean-williams - Part 5

HK Fantasy Election Policy Roundup: Alexander the Great’s Manifesto

Britain might be staring a hung parliament in the face, but Heritage Key’s election has quickly become a two-horse race. And with just a few hours to go ’til the votes are counted in our grand finale (alas, no Jon Snow and his ever-brilliant green-screenery), it’s time to swot up on Alexander the Great’s manifesto.

Alexander was born in Pella, modern-day Greece, in 356 BC. His father Philip II was already one of the Macedonian Empire’s greatest kings, and was determined that his son would make the nation even greater. A rigorous education ensued, during which Alexander was even afforded personal tuition at the hands of Aristotle. Soon he was a feared military man and canny diplomat, and was handed power aged just 19 in 336 BC upon his father’s death.

Brandishing a terrifying army and unrivalled oratory skills Alexander forced his way past the Persians into Egypt, Mesopotamia and Bactria, but stopped short of conquering India. Nonetheless by his death Alexander had built one of man’s largest empires, and with it immortality.

Alexander the Great’s Manifesto


Defence is a big priority for Alexander. He spent up to double his empire’s tax revenues on the army, but in fairness the results were spectacular. Though diplomacy was the first option, anyone who would not be Greek was a ‘barbarian’ and dispatched as such.

Alexander conquered lands such as modern Iraq and Afghanistan with incomparable ease. His army were never left untrained or poorly-equipped – a residue from his father’s reign. Yet there was another reason other than the spread of empire that Alexander advanced so far east, stopping only at India. His empire fed on taxes from newly-acquired peoples, so expansion was crucial.

The Economy

Philip II of Macedon left Alexander a huge amount of national debt, helped in no way by the voracious appetites of his military. Because he needed money to bribe and appease his way eastwards, high-ranking officials and noblemen were instead given land and taxes in lieu of payments. As in today’s economic meltdown, Alexander was pledging the future of his empire, and by the time of his death that empire was descending into turmoil.

Still, noblemen were not allowed to run riot, and there are several instances where Alexander came down extremely hard on those he thought to be milking his economy a little too much. God only knows what he’d have done if one of his courtiers had spent his war chest on a duck house or a moat.


Library of Alexandria

Alexander had a profound effect on education throughout his conquered lands. Greek culture was already world-renowned when he came to power, but he made it a priority to spread the word by establishing wider democracy and building theatres, gymnasia and commerce.

Alexander’s exploits were even the foundation for the European Renaissance some 1,500 years later thanks to the mixing of Arab and Greek literary works. He even built the city and chose the site on which the legendary Library of Alexandria, the pantheon of ancient intellect, could be founded.

Foreign Affairs

Alexander’s view towards foreigners was a paradoxical one. He may have pre-dated the civil rights movement by over two thousand years with his famous speech at Opis (later Ctesiphon) in 324 BC, in which he noted no distinction between Greeks and barbarians, and that the best will govern regardless of their race. Yet Alexander’s armies maimed, killed and destroyed their way past continents of nations pursuing Greek domination. Thus it could be said that Alexander’s foreign affairs motto was something like, I accept anyone, as long as they agree with me.

Other Policies

One unsung policy Alexander introduced was to make shaving of the face compulsory among his men for the first time in history. He believed this would increase chances of survival in battle as enemies couldn’t pull on their beards during battle.

Convinced? Check out the opposition’s manifesto here, or go ahead and VOTE NOW!

AWiL Video Series: Highlights of the Ancient World in London

It’s the end of the Ancient World in London video series! We’ve travelled up and down the country getting the inside line on London’s impressive history, and we’ve seen no small number of ancient wonders along the way. So here’s a video of our best bits and what we thought of them – from the rebellion of Boudicca to the fearsome Maunsell Sea Forts.

The series has been much more than the videos, though: we’ve been running bloggers’ challenges, real-world and virtual events, a pub quiz and even a special concert. Of course you can still see Stonehenge, the Valley of the Kings and latest addition Amarna by visting our virtual experience, and you can read a round-up of the Ancient World in London’s many highlights right here.

During the video series we’ve been digging up London’s history, and found there’s an entire world beneath our feet (or above if you’re on the tube). Take our trip round Roman London with Ian Smith, for example, when we learnt how amazing ancient artefacts like the Battersea Shield are being found on the banks of the Thames all the time – or that there’s a layer of burnt earth up to a metre thick, left by Boudicca and her bloodthirsty hoards almost two thousand years ago.

But if some of our videos were eye-openers, others were truly spectacular – like our video from the Illuminations at Hadrian’s Wall, the frostbitten tip of the Roman Empire. The size and beauty of the wall gripped us more as each lamp sparked into life in the distance. Finally the chain was complete, and we got a breathtaking look at the wall, a floodlit harness around Roman Britain. See how Hadrian’s Wall and London Wall face up here.

Another fantastic adventure was our video from Stonehenge at this year’s Spring Equinox. Not only did we get to step inside the stone circle, one of only four times a year it’s possible, we got to meet Druids and pagans as they saw in the summer in style. Nicole even joined in!

Fast forward almost four thousand years and we were sent into the heart of the Second World War effort at some of London’s strangest landmarks: the Maunsell Sea Forts: six spidery towers sticking out of the Thames Estuary like rusty Triffids. The water may have been choppy but Jamie was in his element, and saw how the city has relied on the river since time began.

But while we’ve already given away tons of great prizes, our main prize is still to be won. For those of you who managed to reach the heady heights of 1066 points, visit this URLto find out if you’ve bagged an amazing seven-night holiday for two to the stunning shores of Dalaman, Turkey, where you’ll embark on a two-day tour of the region’s ancient Lycian sites.

HD Video: Episode 13 – Recap Vlog

(Transcription of this video.)

It may be the end of our video series, but don’t forget we’ve got a whole host of other videos, from King Tut’s treasures to the landscape of Stonehenge, on our dedicated video page. What did you think of the Ancient World in London? To let us know, and to have your say on the world’s hottest heritage topics, or email us direct. You can also follow us on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and iTunes. Heritage Key – Unlock the Wonders.

AWiL Video Series: Egyptomania in London

Dr Jasmine Day takes Nicole Favish on a tour of London, looking at how Ancient Egypt has influenced the city. Click the image to skip to the videoLondon’s skyline today may be better known for a gherkin, a big wheel and Big Ben, but the city’s past has been littered with Egyptomaniacs, bent on saluting ancient Egyptians in Britain’s capital. And who better to lead us on a tour round London’s hidden Egyptian architecture than Dr Jasmine Day, self-confessed Egyptophile and author of TheMummy’s Curse: Mummymania in the English-speaking World. “For me the fascination with ancient Egypt,” says Jasmine, “is the way that it continues to exert its power on us today. We can see the tremendous influence that ancient Egyptians have on our own architecture, our own art styles.”

The first stop on our tour is a genuine 3,500-year-old Egyptian obelisk on the Victoria Embankment, better known as Cleopatra’s Needle. But, as Jasmine explains, the needle has nothing to do with Cleopatra herself. “It was given as a gift to the British government, but they unfortunately didn’t have the money to bring it to the UK.”

Eventually famed physician Sir Erasmus Wilson coffed up the cash to bring the needle to London, and it was towed behind a ship in a cigar-shaped container called the Cleopatra (hence the name). However the story took a tragic twist of fate near the Bay of Biscay. “There was a terrible storm and the Cleopatra came loose,” says Jasmine, “and in trying to retrieve it six men lost their lives…These men’s names are commemorated on the plaque on the base of the needle.”

Egyptian Obelisk - Cleopatra's Needle - 3500 years old

It’s a long journey to our next site, the Kilmorey Mausoleum in Twickenham. It’s a fearsome sight, a lot bigger than I’d imagined, with its temple-like sides shimmering eerily in the spring sun. It was built by Francis Jack Needham, the 2nd Earl of Kilmorey, who was better known by his nickname ‘Black Jack’. To call the Earl an eccentric is something of an understatement, and one of his favourite hobbies was downright mad. “There is a tunnel discovered in the 1960s which runs right through from the grounds of Gordon House to the grounds of the mausoleum,” says Jasmine. “We know that Lord Kilmorey used to lay down like a corpse in his coffin and got his servants to push him along on a trolley up here to this tomb.”

From the ridiculous to, well, the ridiculous again, and our last stop is the gigantic Black Cat Factory, now Greater London House, in Camden. Architecturally somewhere between Cairo and Gotham City, the massive art deco depot, once a cigarette factory, oozes glamour and excess. “It was built in the 1920s when King Tut’s tomb had only just been discovered, and that set off Egyptian fever of architects everywhere,” says Jasmine. “The day it was opened they put sand down in front of it to make it look like an Egyptian temple out in the desert…they even had chariots racing in front of the building.”

With the sun fading it’s time to end our Egyptian tour of London. But it’s been an amazing day, and fascinating to see that while London may be thousands of miles from Cairo, ancient Egypt flows through its veins. Watch the video to see other Egyptian-themed landmarks in the capital, like Highgate Cemetery and Harrods’ Egyptian Hall.

HD Video: Episode 12 – Egyptomania in London!

Click here to view the transcript of this video.

We have many more Ancient World in London videos right here at Heritage Key, from the bloody rebellion of Boudicca to the magic of Hadrian’s Wall – you can even explore Stonehenge for yourself in Stonehenge Virtual. The Ancient World in London is much more than the videos – we’ve got hundreds of great articles to read, and you can join the debate on the many issues raised throughout these three months.

New Evidence Suggests Silchester Burned to the Ground by Boudicca

Silchester wall walk: 44Boudicca’srampaging Celts tore through Calleva Atrebatum, now Silchester, killing thousands of Romans and leaving the town a smouldering wasteland. That’s what 13 years of excavations at the Berkshire town suggest, say a leading expert. Professor Michael Fulford of the University of Reading claims Silchester bears all the scars of the AD60 rebellion, in which up to 80,000 people were massacred by Boudicca and her Britons.

An Iron Age settlement was found at Silchester just last year – and though it is often overlooked in the pantheon of Roman British towns Prof. Fulford insists it was at least as important than its popular neighbour Winchester. “Winchester became an important military location for the Romans and so was Silchester,” he says. “There’s more to see at Silchester than there is at Winchester.”

“The settlement is completely wiped out somewhere between 60AD and 80AD.”

Prof. Fulford and his team’s endeavours have concluded that there was a major military presence at Calleva from around AD40, then destruction and burning between AD60 and AD80. And while it may be 50 miles from London, Prof. Fulford believes it could have fallen victim to Boudicca’s bloody revolt before she was defeated at the Battle of Watling Street by Roman general Suetonius Paulinus, the location of which remains a mystery. “The settlement is completely wiped out somewhere between 60AD and 80AD, and it starts again in 70AD,” he says.

Boudicca (not Boadicea) was an queen of the Iceni tribe from modern-day Norfolk, who fought her way through southern Britannia after the ruling Romans took her people’s land and raped her daughters. Her ephemeral existence after Watling Street has led to a host of theories surrounding her final resting place – some have even suggested she is buried beneath King’s Cross station.

Watch our special Ancient World in London video on Boudicca below, and click here to discover more about Roman London and Colchester, both of which were torched during the revolt.

HD Video: Episode 6 – Boudicca, Warrior Queen

(Transcription of this video.)

May Day’s Pagan Roots (and why Anti-Capitalist Protesters Have Got it all Wrong)

May Day in Vienna AustriaIt’s May Day this Saturday. And while to most of us all it means is an extra day off work, to some it’s one of the year’s biggest dates. A menagerie of anarchists, anticapitalists and fairweather philosophers will descend on London intent on burning down burger bars and breaking the system. But among the madness and the rolling news stories, most of them won’t realise they’ve hijacked an ancient festival going back thousands of years – and they’ve all got it hopelessly wrong.

May Day today is the sibling of International Workers’ Day, an anti-establishment bash dating back to the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago in 1866, when police fired on workers demonstrating in support of the eight-hour day. But May Day itself goes all the way back way to pre-Roman Europe.

Beltane is the Celtic name for May, or the festival that was held at the beginning of May each year (and which is still held each year in Edinburgh). But while Celtic pin-ups like Boudicca were famed for their bloodlust, Beltane, like the solstices and equinoxes, was based on the shifting seasons, and marked the dawn of summer.

Click To Watch Video
Episode 6: Boudicca, Celtic Warrior Queen
The Romans hated her, the Celts fought for her and now she is immortalised with a statue in Westminster. But who was Boudicca?

Sadly for us Brits that’s not always the case. But Beltane was one of the year’s most significant dates, when livestock were ushered out to graze on fresh green grass and mate. Likewise it was a time to celebrate human fertility, and marriage ceremonies would have been commonplace. Today Wiccans, Druids and pagans still honour Beltane by holding hand-tying services and burning ritual bonfires.

Romans were no strangers to festivals, and promptly hijacked Beltane as they swept through Europe. Flora (not the goddess of brightly-coloured butter but of flowers and vegetation) was worshipped as best the Romans could; drinking and dancing for no less than five days, between April 28 and May 3 (god knows what the hangover was like – the Egyptians had partying covered too, mind). Floralia joined Saturnalia (Christmas), Gamelion (Valentine’s Day – watch our romantic video here) in the pantheon of Roman royal knees-ups.

Click To Watch Video
Episode 8: Spring Equinox at Stonehenge
Nicole Favish heads to Stonehenge to experience the Spring Equinox – the point in the year where the day and the night are of equal length.

The Chrisitanisation of the Roman Empire in 313AD not only watered down pagan festivals but cleared the way for a new May Day, this time when Emperor Constantine’s 80-year-old mum Helena claimed she’d discovered the Holy Cross in Jerusalem in 326. Thus began the Feast of the Cross, or Roodmas in Old English, celebrated on May 3; later on September 14 to glorify Byzantine Emperor Heraclius’ retrieval of the cross from Persian invaders in 628.

Nonetheless May Day has always been a peaceful affair, a day on which to pay tribute to the seasons and pastoral traditions. I guess you could argue that this weekend’s May Day events are a paean to the bucolic past. But it does seem that smashing seven shades out of a Starbucks isn’t the best way to celebrate fertility…

‘Noah’s Ark’ Discovery: Views from the Blogosphere

‘Evangelist explorers’ called Noah’s Ark Ministries International, (a name half-Orwell, half Playdays), search for the legendary vessel. Said explorers then ‘discover’ the ark up a Turkish mountain.

Naturally not everyone welcomes the news without a hint of skepticism, and the blogosphere’s been buzzing with hoax stories, images, background info and videos – one of which you can see right here. So here’s a snippet of what the web’s been saying about this ‘breakthrough’ –

Hot From NIMA

The NIMA site itself gives little more than a few newspaper cut-outs (nearly all in Chinese) and an expedition timeline.

Quote:March 2010 – “The We Touched Noahs Ark: The Search for A Carpenters Heart Evangelistic Campaign was launched. Worldwide press conferences, exhibitions and sharing are carried out to spread the Gospel through the Noahs Ark discovery.”

Where’s This Flood, Then?

The Daily Mail has been in touch with two experts. The first, US security analyst Porcher Taylor, confirms there is an ‘anomaly’ on the side of Mount Ararat. However British archaeologist Mike Pitts, who took archaeology to London’s Fourth Plinth last year, questions the team’s find.

Quote: Mike Pitts – “If there had been a flood capable of lifting a huge ship 4km up the side of a mountain 4,800 years ago, I think there would be substantial geological evidence for this flood around the world. And there isn’t.”

Ark Gets Around

The Gaea Times points to several unnamed ‘historians’, who it says are skeptical of the discovery, pointing out that ‘discoveries’ of Noah’s Ark are frequent ocurrances.

Quote: It is being claimed…that the evangelists…may only have been misled. The historians base their skepticism in the fact that so-called evidences of Noah’s Ark pop up almost every other day…generally in different parts of the world.

American Nation is slightly less even-handed in its approach, enlisting a phalanx of skeptics with few good words to say on the news, including Paul Zimansky and Peter Ian Kuniholm.

Quote: Paul Zimansky – “You have to take everything out of context except the Bible to get something tolerable, and theyre not even working much with the Bible.”

Stay Frosty, Guys!

The Marshian Chronicles warns its followers to ‘stay frosty’ on the story, but accepts the gravity of the story when pointing out that, if true, it blows apart disbelief of the Bible stories like no other event in history.

Quote: “If thats really Noahs Ark, this discovery is the equivalent of an Atom Bomb in the historical and spiritual world. I dont know how you could possibly not believe the Old Testament on other issues if this one is proved true.”

Have Your Say

Flag up below any other takes on the story that you spot on the blogosphere and think are interesting.

What do you think about the discovery?Do you think it’s too good to be true? Should it be added to our list of favourite hoaxes and pranks? Or is there enough evidence for us to take the team seriously? – don’t hold back!

Replica Iron Age Roundhouse Will Bring Archaeology Alive For Chester’s Kids

Round HouseA replica Iron Age roundhouse is to be built in Chester, England, to teach local people about how people lived over two thousand years ago. Cities all over the country hold fascinating Iron Age secrets – watch our Ancient World in London video below to learn about pre-Roman London.

The project, to be completed in August this year, will be housed in the grounds of Burwardsley Outdoor Education Centre, near Beeston Castle and Maiden Castle.

The sheme, commissioned by Habitats and Hillforts, is part of a three-year landscape partnership between Cheshire West and Cheshire Council (CWaC), Chester Renaissance and the Heritage Lottery Fund. A CWaC spokeman tells the Ellesmere Port Standard the project will help bring archaeology to life in the region: “This is just one project of many that the Habitats and Hillforts project is undertaking. Over a three-year period, Habitats and Hillforts aim to conserve and enhance the string of six important Iron Age hillforts along the sandstone ridge and their associated habitats.

“The involvement of local people in the project is key to its success and there will be lots of opportunities to get involved,” the spokesman adds. Iron Age forts and roundhouses are a common feature of the Cheshire landscape – indeed Britain’s Iron Age past is constantly being discovered across the country – even Bob Geldof’s back garden is being excavated for ancient treasures.

The Battersea Shield in the British Museum is one of the nation’s most famous Iron Age artefacts. Dredged from the River Thames in 1857, it offers a fascinating insight into London’s pre-Roman past. A replica of King Tut’s tomb is also being proposed, but what value do replica heritage sites and artefacts hold? , or via our discuss page.

HD Video: Londinium Tour (Part 1)

(Click here to read a transcript of this video)

Noah’s Ark Discovered on Mount Ararat in Turkey?

A Chinese-Turkish group of explorers have announced their discovery of Noah’s Ark, 4,000 metres up a mountain in eastern Turkey. The team, named Noah’s Ark Ministries International (NAMI), claim to have taken photographic and physical evidence of the remains on Mount Ararat, near the Turkish-Armenian border.

The ‘evangelical explorers’ even say they have carbon-dated the ‘ark’ to around 4,800 years, bringing it in line with most historians’ views on the Biblical flood story. The group, comprising 15 adventurers from Hong Kong and Turkey, have also shown reporters wooden fragments, rope and nails they claim to have brought from the wreckage.

Local officials will ask the Turkish government in Ankara to apply for UNESCO World Heritage status for the site, so it can be excavated further. NAMI member Yeung Wing-Cheung is confident his team have finally cracked one of the Bible’s biggest mysteries. “It’s not 100 percent that it is Noah’s Ark, but we think it is 99.9 percent that this is it,” he says.

Buy Related Books

Picturing the Bible: The Earliest Christian Art by Jeffrey Spier, Mary Charles-Murray, Johannes G Deckers, Robin M Jensen, Steven Fine, Herbert L Kessler

Dutch expert Gerrit Aalten is also upbeat about the discovery. “The significance of this find is that for the first time inhistory the discovery of Noahs Ark is well documented and revealed to the worldwide community,” he says. “Theres a tremendous amount of solid evidence that the structure found on Mount Ararat in Eastern Turkey is the legendary Ark of Noah.”

The whereabouts of Noah’s Ark is one of Biblical archaeology’s greatest conundrums. Noah famously built his ark to accommodate two of every animal, to escape a worldwide flood caused by God after having seen how corrupt humans had become. The Bible then says the ark came to rest on a mountain, of which Ararat is the region’s largest.

This isn’t the first time someone has claimed the discovery of the ark on Mount Ararat. American archaeologist Ron Wyatt found a boat-shaped object stretching across the region in 1987, that was promptly labelled a national park by Ankara. Check out this video of the discovery:

The Future of Tourism is Virtually Here


More and more of us are travelling each year, but are we getting the most for our money? I’d say probably not, but the future’s looking brighter. As the latest Ancient World in London bloggers’ challenge suggests, travel continues to buck the economic meltdown. And it’s not surprising: at a time when it takes longer to get across London by car than to fly to the far end of Europe, and for less cash, why not globetrot?

Much more of us are looking to infuse some culture into our foreign sojourns. But old-school P2P websites and shoddily slapped-together online guides are doing little to help anyone get the most out of their trips. But that’s not say the web won’t play a key role in the future of travel. The next generation of cultural guides are here already, and they’re a heap more interactive than your average Eye-Spy.

The virtual world is so much more than chatter and armchair affairs

People are beginning to realise that virtual spaces can mean a lot more than breathless chatter and armchair affairs. They can also be honed as tools to explore the world. Some may be little more than a montage of snaps roaming around the Mayan morass. But now things are a lot more advanced, and one university even offers culture vultures the chance to relive a seventh century Cambodian temple online. Today Heritage Key is pushing the virtual vanguard, offering the chance to get up close and personal with two of the ancient world’s greatest landmarks: the Valley of the Kings and Stonehenge.

Plenty of prospective explorers will still choose to pick up a book to learn about where they’re going. But visiting virtual sites means we can discover great places at our own pace, play games and interact with the online environment and dig deeper into the history and people who’ve made that spot what it is today. Of course there’s nothing quite like visiting somewhere famous in the flesh – from Angkor Wat to ancient Rome. But the future of virtual spaces means we’ll all know what we’re looking at when we get there.

Boudicca Cruise Ship hit by Norovirus and title of ‘Worst Ship Name Ever’?

 The warrioress, not the ship.

Boudicca is a stupid name for a ship. Naming a Liverpool-based cruiseliner after one someone who murdered around 80,000 Romans in antiquity is hardly a great idea, especially when said ship is supposed to be travelling round the Mediterranean – you know, the sea that’s right next to Italy.

The Boudicca’s management are in hot water today, but not the balmy waters of the Med. Rather the ship has had to return to Liverpool early after passengers were struck with the nasty norovirus, an intestinal problem which causes vomiting, nausea and diarrhea, for the sixth time in as many months. Maybe they should get the message and change the ship’s name: you can hardly imagine a Mongolian cruiser being named the Genghis Khan, or a German vessel called the Hitler floating round the Black Sea. At least they spelt Boudicca’s name properly.

Boudicca was a bloodthirsty Celtic battle-axe who rebelled against Rome destroying London (watch a Roman London video), Colchester(watch the video) and St Albans. Her bloody rampage tore a hole in Roman Britannia, but she was soon defeated at the Battle of Watling Street and order was restored. Her current whereabouts is packed with ephemera, though some people think she’s buried under King’s Cross Station. Watch our special Ancient World in London video below to get a taste of the woman behind the many myths.

HD Video: Episode 6 – Boudicca, Warrior Queen

(Transcription of this video.)

It’s not the first time a British ship has been named after a famous ancient figure: interestingly London’s Cleopatra’s Needle has nothing to do with the legendary queen. Instead the obelisk was named after its cigar-shaped container vessel, which arrived from Egypt in 1878.