Mussolini’s Quincussis: Was the Ancient Roman Coin a Fake?

Mussolini’s Quincussis: Was the Ancient Roman Coin a Fake?

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Scientists are perplexed at the origins and provenance of two very ancient and unusual Roman coins that turned up like a bad penny in the 20th century. A Quincussis - the correct scientific name of this strange find – has thus far only been mentioned in texts dedicated to the coinage of ancient times and at most only a drawing was reported, but no one has ever seen one, until one was presented to Dr Roberto Volterri of the Rome University for analyses and then its twin surfaced.

“Recto” of the coin of the private collector to natural size. It appears to be identical to that of the museum. Except for a very small detail illustrated in the text. (Image: Courtesy Dr Roberto Volterri)

The Mysterious Collector’s Coin

The coin belonged to a colleague of Dr Volterri, who inherited it from a relative who used it as a paperweight, since the coin was weighing in at five pounds. Made of bronze, with a diameter of more than 10 centimeters (3.93 inches) and a thickness of about three centimeters (1.18 inches), the coin has a ‘two-faced Janus' on the front and a 'ship's bow' on the reverse. The colleague mentioned that it originated from the Vesuvian area. Dr Volterri, who specializes in archaeometallurgy at the University of Rome, states that metals cannot be dated instrumentally, compared to organic finds (using the method of Carbon 14) or ceramic finds (using the technique of Thermoluminescence). Consequently, the task of dating the coin seemed extremely difficult, since the date would be based essentially on stylistic details, which could perhaps be supported by analyses of the composition of the alloy and the greenish patina that covered it. Dr Volterri showed the coin to a colleague of the university, who teaches ancient numismatics (the study and collection of currency), who estimated the coin could be worth an estimated one billion liras upwards.

“Verso” of the same coin, with the 'Bow of ship' and the indication of the weight, 'V', equal to five pounds, or over 1,300 grams (Image: Courtesy Dr Roberto Volterri)

While discussing the possibility that the Quincussis had actually been produced in some mint in the Vesuvian area between the fourth and third centuries BC, with his colleague specializing in numismatics, they were informed that the Quincussis had a 'twin' - a gift from a farmer to Benito Mussolini , which had been kept for decades in the medallion section of the Roman Archaeological Museum, lying there because the museum's curators did not trust to exhibit it, due to its provenance not being established.

Cast Forgeries

Sand casts are generally poor quality castings intended only for the tourist market as even novice collectors can learn to easily spot them.

A mold is constructed in two parts using sand combined with binding agent. The bottom of the coin is impressed in one part, a spacer placed allowing the parts to be separated, then the top of the coin is impressed into the top part of the mold. The coin is removed and a sprue channel is created through which molten metal can be introduced. The mold is them rejoined.

This nine minute video shows a ring copied by the sand cast method, although the video say it is a clay mold process it appears a sand clay mix was used so I consider this sand casting.

There are several characteristics objects made in sand molds will exhibit.

The joint between the mold halves is normally not perfect, leaving an impression of the joint often as a slight ridge around the edge of the casting. Metal may also leak into the joint creating a different type of ridge known as a flashing. Together these are known as casting seams and may go part or all the way around casting. A sprue which filled the sprue channel will be attached and must be cut off.

Here we see a filed edge where a casting seam or sprue were removed from this coin. Some forgers will further smooth the edge and may "worry" it to hide file marks, but will never make it look like the natural edge of a genuine ancient coin.

There are types of genuine ancient coins with filed edges due to their flan production methods, with Ptolemaic bronzes the most commonly encountered. Most ancient coins were struck on cast flans and while casting seams on them seldom go around the edge of the final coins, and are usually obliterated in striking, there are exceptions. Roman Republican Aes Grave are cast rather than struck so nearly always have a casting seam, and some later Republican bronzes struck on cast flans commonly have one. Before condemning a coin for a marks or an edge seam one must be certain that is not normal for that exact type.

The texture of sand grains will usually be replicated on the fake's surface, as seen on this sand cast Balbinus sestertius. The size of the sand grains varies so you may need magnification to see them, but their presence is the best indicator of sand casting. Even very fine sand is too course to capture the very fine details of a coin, so sand cast fakes have relatively poor details when compared to genuine ancient coins. Even worn ancient coins preserve some sharpness in protected areas, but sand castings have over all weak details.

Sand casting was an invented of the Sui Dynasty in the 6th century AD China and was not known to the ancient people in the Mediterranean region which is why a sand cast Roman or Greek coin will always be a modern fake. Once invented in China, nearly all Chinese coins from the 6th to 19th century are sand cast, and the Chinese become masters at it.

Because of all the limitations, sand cast are never used to make forgeries intended to fool knowledgeable collectors and dealers. They are widely used to make fakes to be sold into the tourist market where the buyer has no experience with what a genuine ancient coin would look like.

Minting process

The equipment to make coins included casts on which liquid metal was poured in order to produce blanks (coins with no images on them). Other equipment included two die usually made of bronze. The die had the negative of the relief image to be created. The lower die usually had the image of a deity. The upper die that of a symbol of Rome. A blank was warmed in an oven. It was then placed on the lower die. Then the upper die was put above it and struck with a heavy hammer.

Initially the minting of all coins was made in the city of Rome. Later during the Empire, the minting of bronze and of some silver coins could be made at other mints at other locations. It is worth noting that all gold coins were made by only one mint situated in the city of Rome throughout the Republic and in the first few centuries of the Empire.

Coins initially featured deities. Later during the Empire they featured the heads of Emperor, noting that Caesar is the first to have started the trend of putting the head / bust of a living person on coins. Coins often had propaganda purposes.

Italy’s foreign policy

Italy’s foreign policy under Benito Mussolini had to be robust to show the world how powerful Italy was under his leadership. As leader of Italy, Mussolini wanted to re-establish the greatness of the Roman Empire. Mussolini believed that conquered foreign territory was the sign of a great nation and a great power – hence the rationale behind the invasion of Abyssinia.

Mussolini had grievances shared by many Italians after the Treaty of Versailles was announced. He believed that Italy should be allowed a sphere of influence in the Mediterranean Sea as he believed that Italy was the most powerful of the Mediterranean countries. Mussolini referred to the Mediterranean Sea as “Mare Nostrum” – the same as the Romans had done when they dominated Europe. “Mare Nostrum” translates as “Our Sea”.

However, the nation that effectively dominated the Mediterranean was Great Britain as Britain had strong naval bases in Malta, Gibraltar and Cyprus. Britain also controlled the Suez Canal, along with the French. Therefore, there was a non-Italian presence that undermined Italy’s standing in the Mediterranean. Britain could control the Mediterranean Sea – something Mussolini wished to do.

Mussolini made it clear where his foreign policy would take Italy:

“ The Twentieth Century will be a century of Italian power.”

When Mussolini gained power in 1922, Germany was not considered a European power. Hitler’s drive for power had yet to come. Italy herself was still recovering from World War One. Therefore, Mussolini was not in a great position to demand more from the two main powers of Europe – Britain and France. For this reason, between 1922 and 1933, Italy did little to destabilise Europe. Fiume barely concerned anyone and was settled with relative speed. As Italy did not appear to be a threat in the same league as Russia, her calls for more influence in Yugoslavia did not cause too much concern. All this changed in 1933 – the year Hitler got power in Germany.

In 1933, Mussolini saw Hitler as a junior partner in the relationship between the two dictators. He also saw Hitler as a potential rival especially as Hitler had made it clear that he wanted a union with Austria – forbidden by Versailles. Austria had a common border with Italy and such a move by Germany would have alarmed Mussolini – if Hitler was a rival.

Mussolini tried to keep on good terms with France and Britain as well. In June 1933, he invited representatives from France, Germany and Britain to a meeting in Rome. They signed the Four Power Pact. This, according to Mussolini, was a sign of the growing power Italy had: these countries came to Rome Italians did not have to go to a venue out of Europe. Mussolini, so he claimed, was providing Europe with leadership.

In 1934, Mussolini met Hitler in Venice. The meeting did not go well. For some reason, Mussolini would not use his translator and he was not fluent in German. Secondly, Hitler kept quoting “Mein Kampf” which bored Mussolini – or the parts he could understand. It was after this meeting that Mussolini referred to Hitler as “a silly little monkey”. Mussolini met Hitler in military uniform. Hitler, on a rare foreign venture, wore civilian dress which would have been normal for a state’s leader. The impact of military uniform was not lost on Hitler again.

Relationships between Hitler and Mussolini reached a low when Dollfuss, leader of Austria, was murdered by Austrian Nazis.

Mussolini Slept Here: Unearthing a Roman Villa’s Uneasy Past

ROME — Deep beneath the historic Villa Torlonia, where Benito Mussolini lived for nearly two decades, a wine cellar repurposed in 1941 as a bunker to protect the Fascist leader was recently opened to the public. Even in a city stratified with centuries of history, where archaeologists are digging up the remains of an ancient empire, the damp underground space is a telling sign of how deeply Italy’s relatively recent past can stay buried.

The opening of the bunker last fall was the latest step in the ongoing restoration of the sprawling villa compound, which the aristocratic Torlonia family rented to Mussolini and his family from 1925 until his arrest in 1943. Inside what is now a popular park, the complex of nine buildings erected between 1797 and 1920 also provides a unique window on the history of taste — and the Torlonias’ ability to cozy up to whomever was in power, reaching back even before the family’s bank, which was favored by the Vatican.


After World War II the villa fell into ruin, a result of family inheritance battles but also of Italy’s uncertainty about what to do with a site so closely linked to the dictator. In 1977 the compound, in a residential area just outside Rome’s historic center, was claimed by the city, which opened the grounds to the public the next year and, starting in the 1990s, mustered the funding and political will to restore the buildings.

“It took a long time — people weren’t ready for it,” said Alberta Campitelli, an art historian who, as director of Rome’s historic villas and parks, has overseen the restoration. “There had been a cancellation of history,” she said as she toured the compound on a sweltering afternoon. “It was still too painful.”

Rome boasts some impressive Fascist-era architecture and landmarks. A plaque in the former Jewish Ghetto marks the deportation of around 1,000 Jews to Auschwitz in 1943 by the Nazis, who occupied part of the country, and in recent years commemorative cobblestones have been placed by the houses of deported Jews. But generally, Italy has been reluctant to come to terms with and call attention to Fascist sites, including Mussolini’s headquarters in the Palazzo Venezia in downtown Rome. Partly that is a result of fears that neo-Fascists would flock to such sites, as happens regularly in Predappio, Mussolini’s birthplace in northern Italy. Even if the bunker exhibition is fairly modest, Villa Torlonia has become a notable exception, especially the restoration of the Casino Nobile, the main house where Mussolini lived, which opened as a museum in 2006 under the left-wing Mayor Walter Veltroni.

“When it comes to actually talking about the history of Rome under Fascism and of Rome under Mussolini personally, there is nowhere like the Villa Torlonia,” said Anthony Majanlahti, a historian and the author of two books on Rome under Fascism and one on the city’s noble families. “It’s the only place where you can find the city trying to come to terms with it, or bravely saying, ‘Yes, we are talking about this.’ ”

The villa’s grounds also contain ancient Jewish catacombs discovered in 1918 and not open to the public. It was at Villa Torlonia in 1938 that Mussolini announced racial laws stripping Jews of citizenship and removing them from many professions. The Casino Nobile now features a small museum dedicated to the Roman School of anti-Fascist artists active between the 1920s and 1940s, including the writer and painter Carlo Levi. Today, plans are in the works to build a Holocaust museum in a lot adjacent to the villa.

Mussolini’s bunkers, which were never used, can be visited only by appointment in groups of fewer than 20 on regular guided visits organized by Sotterranei di Roma, a cultural association to which the city outsourced the tours for lack of funding, Ms. Campitelli said. While workers were restoring the bunkers — one had been opened to the public several years ago — they found three skeletons from the second century. “That’s Rome, from the second century to 1943,” Ms. Campitelli said.

The newly restored bunker features a small exhibition with gas masks, leaflets sent ahead of rare Allied bombing raids during the war and recordings of the sounds of air raid sirens. More than 1,500 visitors have come since it opened last fall, often older Romans who remembered the war, said Lorenzo Grassi of Sotterranei di Roma.

The villa was built between 1797 and the 1860s. The Torlonia family, originally the Tourlonais, were French arrivistes who became wealthy through an exclusive contract to supply uniforms to Italy’s French occupiers during the Napoleonic years and grew richer after 1782 when they opened a bank that catered to the nobility and eventually the Vatican, which still has ties to the bank.

Construction of the Casino Nobile started in 1835, and it includes reliefs by the sculptor Antonio Canova and rooms frescoed in various styles, from the Egyptian to the Gothic. The bedroom used by Mussolini has an ornately carved wooden headboard and a ceiling painted with faux drapery.

From 1944 to 1947 the villa was occupied by American soldiers. During the restoration, workers found circles of pockmarks on one frescoed wall they turned out to have been caused by errant darts from the Americans’ games. The wall paintings were restored, but the pockmarks were retained. “All the history should be documented,” Ms. Campitelli said.

By 1840, the Torlonia family was established enough for Alessandro Torlonia to marry Teresa Colonna of the aristocratic Roman family. To celebrate, the family started building a cozy 150-seat theater decorated with images of famous couples from mythology. Its décor also features frescoes by Constantino Brumidi, a Greek who was imprisoned after supporting a short-lived Roman republic and later fled to the United States, where he painted frescoes for the Capitol building in Washington. In 2013 the city of Rome finished a restoration of the theater, and it now presents programming there.

After he gave Mussolini the run of the Casino Nobile, Prince Giovanni Torlonia moved into the Casina delle Civette, a somewhat kitschy folly on the grounds that reopened in 1997 as a museum of stained glass. Considered eccentric, the prince was known to stay up late and sleep by day, and his bedroom ceiling was decorated with bats sculpted in stucco.

The gardens are still a popular public park, but the lawn hasn’t been mowed or the plants watered in months because the company that would do the work is under investigation as part of a corruption scandal in Rome.

Ms. Campitelli, who will retire next year, fretted over one of the dying rose plants outside the Casina delle Civette. “I’m very happy and proud to have brought these things to life,” she said wistfully. “My only interest is that they will be maintained in a dignified way for future generations.”

Gold Roman coins, called aurei, contained about 95 percent pure gold, and the silver coins, called denarius, were made with roughly 85 percent silver. Many collectors know that age does not often equate value. Gold and silver coins are usually worth what the precious metals market is currently bearing. Bronze Roman coins can be bought for just a few dollars. Uncleaned coins are plentiful online and from collectors.

About the only way to spot a fake Roman coin is with a gold and silver testing kit. Other telltale signs of fakes include incorrect lettering on the coin, incomplete mint marks or if the thickness of the coin is uniform. Another way to spot a fake is to compare the coin with its genuine counterpart from a reputable source.

Collecting Ancient Roman Coins Part III: Dating

How to identify the Roman coins. The dating.

After you find out the coin’s issuer, you must find as much information as you need about the exact minting date. The emperor’s reign years are fine to start with, but this is only general.

The emperor’s official name has enough clues to help you. In some cases you can figure out even the month. In other cases, you can only find out a certain period of time, shorter then the reign years however, this is better than nothing.

Every part of the emperor’s name is taken by him in specific events. The presence or the absence of one name is a clue.

Let’s take one silver denarius of Septimius Severus, 193-211.

On one side, the head and the legend L SEPT SEV PERT AVG IMP X. on the other side P M TR P V COS II P P.

The name starts with the formula IMP CAES, but here it can be understood without being written. The letter L is the standard abbreviation for Lucius, the first name of the emperor and SEPT SEV for Septimius Severus. PERT is the name of the adoptive father, Pertinax, emperor for 63 days in 193. AVG means Augustus and it represents his title taken in 193, at the beginning of his reign.

Ancient Roman Provincial Coins

IMP has an interesting situation, it means Imperator. Imperator was his first name but it also indicates a function, similar to the general (or better said fieldmarschal), a glorious title given to a soldier after a great victory. The first Imperial title is taken at the moment of rising to power and after this moment it can be given frequently. Septimius tenth imperial title was taken in 197 and before 198, his eleventh imperial title.

PM means Pontifex Maximus and it is a title took in 193 and kept until his death in 211.

TR P V means his fifth tribunate, started at 10 december 196 and ended at 9 december 197. The next day he started his sixth tribunate.

COS II means consul for the second time. The first one took place in 194 (actually in year 189 he was consul suffectus or temporary, a secondary function) and the second in 194. The third started in the year 202 so by this title, the coin is minted between 1 january 194 and 31 december 201.

PP stands for Pater Patriae, the father of the country, and it is taken in 193.

All this information gives a precise date. This coin was minted somewhere between 197 and 198.

As I said, the absence of some elements can be a clue. For example, Septimius took the title Parthicus in 198. The absence of this title means that the coin is minted before 198. Or after 202, his name starts as SEVERVS PIVS AVG…. that can also be a dating clue.

Of course, all this information is hard to remember but, in time, with experience, it will be more and more easily to date a coin. Here are other tips:

  1. From Augustus to Trajan, no emperors have a beard. Except Nero who appears with whiskers.
  2. The first century coins, especially the ones which date from 14-69 have a head that has a long neck. Moreover, they don’t have any kind of clothes.
  3. The Flavian dynasty (69-98, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian) is easy to identify by the round heads, with wrinkles.
  4. From Trajan onwards, the emperor usually has a cloth or military armour.
  5. From Hadrian onwards, most of the emperors have a beard.

5 Cocaine Discovered in Egyptian Mummies

When Columbus and his buddies made it to the New World, aka not India, they found more than just future smallpox sufferers waiting for them. There was a whole cornucopia of never-before-seen plants and animals growing in the Americas, not to mention new and interesting ways to use beads. So while the natives came away from their first European encounter with raging infectious diseases and honeybees, Europeans were introduced to the glories of tobacco, narcotics made from the coca leaf and a whole mess of open-air nudity. If you've ever needed evidence that history is unfair, there it is.

At least that's the story we know. And if that's true, then how did some Egyptian mummies wind up with traces of cocaine in their bodies?

In 1992, German scientists were testing their mummies when they found remnants of hashish, tobacco and cocaine in their hair, skin and bones. Now, hashish comes from Asia, so it's not unfathomable that a royal Egyptian would know a guy who could get him the hook-up. But tobacco and cocaine were strictly New World plants at the time of the mummification. It'd be like if some celebrity today tested positive for heroin that could only have been grown on Venus.

So how did it happen? All we have are theories. Maybe the sites were contaminated by hard-partying archaeologists (although you'd think that if somebody had old pics of themselves snorting coke off of a mummy's ass, they'd have uploaded that shit to Facebook by now). Or maybe the mummies themselves were fake, like maybe they were disco-era archaeologists who just took their love of mummification too far.

So the German scientists did what anyone trying to protect their reputation would do -- they had an independent lab test the mummies themselves. They found the same dope. The Germans then went to work testing hundreds of ancient mummies, finding nicotine in a third of them. Not only that, but actual tobacco leaves were discovered in the guts of Ramses II (of Exodus fame, maybe). And among those leaves, an actual dead tobacco beetle was found, which means that some ancient Egyptian just smoked the hell out of his cigarettes.

Related: Mummies Got Packed With Mummy Snacks

Yesterday Nebuchadnezzar, today Saddam Hussein – Ba’Ath party propaganda during the Iran-Iraq War

Babylon was one of the world’s greatest cities from the 18th to the 6th Century BCE. It was the largest city in the world at two points in history, and perhaps the first city to extend beyond 200,000 inhabitants. It was occupied by Alexander the Great in the 4th Century BCE, and briefly flourished before it was emptied in the wars following his rule. After the 7th-Century Muslim conquest of Arabia, travellers visiting the area describe only ruins.

Determined to establish a link between his rule and that of the ancient Babylonians, Saddam Hussein commissioned this mural of himself in a chariot (Credit: Getty Images)

For Saddam, the ruined city of Babylon had always held a special fascination. He ordered an ambitious reconstruction of the city’s walls, costing millions of dollars at the height of the Iran-Iraq War. And he raised the walls to a historically-improbable 11.5m (38ft) high, drawing criticism from the international archaeological community, who accused him of turning Babylon into ‘Disney for a despot’. As a finishing touch, Saddam built an anachronistic Roman-style theatre in the ruins. When archaeologists told him that ancient kings like Nebuchadnezzar had stamped their names on Babylon’s bricks, Saddam insisted that his own name be stamped on the modern bricks used in the reconstruction. These efforts were later described by Provisional Coalition Leader Paul Bremer, who was the envoy to the new Iraqi government following Saddam’s fall in 2003, as “a travesty… ersatz monstrosities”.

John Warwick Smith painted the Colosseum’s interior as it looked in the early 19th Century with its lush greenery flourishing and new buildings that had been added (Credit: Alamy)

For the theatre of totalitarian rule, the ancient ruins were an indispensable backdrop. In 1981, Babylon was where celebrations took place to commemorate the first anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Iran, with officials using the slogan, Nebuchadnasar al-ams Saddam Hussein al-yawm (yesterday Nebuchadnezzar, today Saddam Hussein). At one point, Saddam built a giant plywood model of himself standing over the Ishtar Gate in Baghdad, and in the 1988 festival, an actor representing Nebuchadnezzar handed a banner to the Iraqi Minister of Culture, declaring Saddam Hussein to be Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson and “flagbearer of the Twin Rivers.”

Mussolini’s museum pieces

Saddam simply followed Mussolini’s blueprint. In Italy at the start of the 20th Century, the self-proclaimed Il Duce saw the ruins of Rome as an especially powerful instrument. While previous governments had also claimed to be the inheritors of ancient Rome, Mussolini’s Fascists took this idealisation to a new level. Mussolini himself was frequently described in propaganda dispatches as “a new Augustus”, evoking the Roman Emperor who rebuilt much of the city during his reign.

Inspired by Mussolini’s own reconstruction of ancient Roman architecture in the present day, Hitler embraced a faux Classical architectural style (Credit: Getty Images)

“Rome is our point of departure and reference,” Mussolini told a crowd at the Birthday of Rome Celebration in 1922, shortly after taking power. “It is our symbol or, if you wish, our myth. We dream of a Roman Italy, that is wise and strong, disciplined and imperial. Much of what was the immortal spirit of Rome, resurges in Fascism.”

But the Fascists encountered a problem: since ancient times, Rome had grown and covered its ruins, absorbing them into the fabric of the ever-changing city. People lived among the crumbling capitals and pillars, built their houses against them and took stones for their own building projects. Whole districts had grown up by covering the ruins and obscuring the legacy that the Fascists depended on.

The Nazi parade grounds in Nuremberg were meant to be imposing enough to suggest the Third Reich would last as long as the Roman Empire (Credit: Getty Images)

To solve this problem, Mussolini ordered grand excavations, clearing away houses and whole districts, relocating the populations that lived there. He excavated the mausoleum of Augustus, building a Fascist piazza around it, cleared the buildings that clustered around the Theatre of Marcellus and also dug up the floor of the Colosseum’s Arena, exposing the hypogeum beneath and stripping it of its once verdant plant life.

In May 1938, only 16 months before the outbreak of World War Two, Hitler visited Rome. During his visit, Mussolini showed the German dictator a transformed Italian capital, its ruins exposed and finalised. Hitler toured the city at night, and Mussolini’s technicians lit the newly-exposed ruins with red flares so they stood out more prominently than the modern buildings around them. The tour passed all of the most significant ruins of Rome, ending at a brightly-lit Colosseum.

Germany’s Führer was as impressed as Mussolini had hoped. But Hitler had always been fascinated by ruins. A painting of the Roman Forum by the 18th-Century French artist Hubert Robert already hung on the wall of Hitler’s office at the Reichstag, and he had painted many ruins during his career as a painter. Hitler had often expressed his hatred of modern architecture and his love for the classical architecture of ancient Rome. “If Berlin were to meet the fate of Rome,” Hitler fretted in 1925, “the coming generations could one day admire only the department stores of Jews and the hotels of some corporations as the most imposing works of our time, the characteristic expression of the culture of our days.”

For Hitler, the ruins of the past pointed to an idealised version of history, one he hoped to emulate in his Third Reich. “Hitler liked to say that the purpose of his building was to transmit his time and its spirit to posterity,” the Third Reich’s chief architect Albert Speer recalled in his memoirs. “Ultimately, all that remained to remind men of the great epochs of history was their monumental architecture,” he remarked. “What then remained of the emperors of the Roman Empire? What would still give evidence of them today, if not their buildings […] So, today the buildings of the Roman Empire could enable Mussolini to refer to the heroic spirit of Rome when he wanted to inspire his people with the idea of a modern imperium.”

In response to this anxiety, Hitler and Speer devised the theory of Ruinenwert, or ‘Ruin Value’. The idea was to create architecture that would leave, even in its decaying state, an inspirational example to future generations. This philosophy of architecture is visible in grand architectural projects like Speer’s Zeppelin Field grandstand at Nuremberg, which was based on the ancient Pergamon Altar still on display in the same museum as the Ishtar Gate of Babylon.

Ultimately, the buildings the Nazis built would never leave behind monumental ruins. Like Saddam’s palace at Babylon, when Speer's buildings were destroyed only a few years later, they were reduced to crumbling rubble just as he feared.

If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.

Mussolini’s Quincussis: Was the Ancient Roman Coin a Fake? - History

Ancient Seals and Signets

Signet Cylinder
(Original is in British Museum)

The ancient seal was a stamp or engraving set in stone, metal or some hard substance like crystal. It was usually a symbol or a figure that was used to make an impression on clay or wax, or some other soft substance.

It was usually attached to an object like a possession or a document, in order to give it authenticity, ownership or authority. It was used often in the ancient world, especially in Egypt, Babylonia and Assyria and surrounding nations including Israel.

"Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm."
- Song of Solomon 8:6

"And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot for it is sealed."
- Isaiah 29:11

"And Abraham received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe."
- Romans 4:11

"And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."
- Ephesians 4:30

"In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory."
- Ephesians 1:13-14

Signet Cylinder
(Original is in British Museum)

Signet Cylinder of Sennacherib
(Original is in British Museum)

Seal of Chalcedony, with Phoenician Inscription
(Original is in British Museum)

Seal of Sapphire Chalcedony, with Assyrian Inscription
(Original is in British Museum)

Seal of Chalcedony, with Persian Inscription
(Original is in British Museum)

Seal in the form of a duck, with her head resting on her neck
(Original is in British Museum)

Clay Impression from Seal of Esarhaddon
found at Kouyunjik (Original is in British Museum)

Clay Impression from Seal - Ear of Wheat
found at Kouyunjik (Original is in British Museum)

Clay Impression from Seal - Scorpion
found at Kouyunjik (Original is in British Museum)

The signet makes a deep impression in clay forming an official seal. The imprinted seal carries the full authority of the office it represents and no one dare question it. His design is well known, his symbol without any doubt authentic, his mark indelibly declares the full authority of royal ownership. There is the pain of death to those who violate it.

Graphics, like drawings on a cave wall, look primitive and now sit safely on shelves in museums, yet were we the ones bearing up under the ancient powers, we would know well the authority of the imprint left in wax. Perhaps we might disguise our tremble when encountering a magistrate able to open an emperor's seal providing him legal right to tax our possessions, drag us to court, or conscript us into his service.

In scripture we find, somehow we are sealed. A metaphor which would ring powerfully to those under Roman rule. Yet God's sealing is never coercive. Never forced. A free will decision is made. An imprint is then formed within us. Our souls bear his mark, His letters, His image, and all powers are duly informed: we belong to God. In His timing, many times unknown to us, He opens us as a scroll, and reads aloud what He has written inside, we become a living decree, a love letter and invitation for others to receive the forgiveness offered in Christ, and to be sealed forever by the gentle all-powerful Holy Spirit of God.

The Signet is hard and makes a deep impression, but only on soft substances like clay, wax or humility. It cannot leave its mark on stone, or metal or pride.

The Bible mentions a lot regarding the word "seal":

Revelation 10:4 - And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.

Esther 8:8 - Write ye also for the Jews, as it liketh you, in the king's name, and seal [it] with the king's ring: for the writing which is written in the king's name, and sealed with the king's ring, may no man reverse.

Jeremiah 32:44 - Men shall buy fields for money, and subscribe evidences, and seal [them], and take witnesses in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, and in the cities of the mountains, and in the cities of the valley, and in the cities of the south: for I will cause their captivity to return, saith the LORD.

Daniel 9:24 - Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

John 3:33 - He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.

Revelation 6:7 - And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.

1 Kings 21:8 - So she wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed [them] with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that [were] in his city, dwelling with Naboth.

Romans 4:11 - And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which [he had yet] being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

Revelation 20:3 - And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

Revelation 6:12 - And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood

Revelation 7:2 - And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,

Revelation 6:5 - And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.

Daniel 12:4 - But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, [even] to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

2 Timothy 2:19 - Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

Revelation 9:4 - And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.

Revelation 6:9 - And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:

Revelation 8:1 - And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.

Nehemiah 9:38 - And because of all this we make a sure [covenant], and write [it] and our princes, Levites, [and] priests, seal [unto it].

Revelation 22:10 - And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.

1 Corinthians 9:2 - If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.

Job 38:14 - It is turned as clay [to] the seal and they stand as a garment.

Job 41:15 - [His] scales [are his] pride, shut up together [as with] a close seal.

Isaiah 8:16 - Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.

Revelation 6:3 - And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.