Item: the law of the sea

coin Antoninus Pius head and helmeted Nike

Volusius [Maecianus  ] reports that the Emperor Antoninus [Pius], responding to a petition about a shipwreck, replies,

“I am indeed the Lord of the World, but the Law is the law of the Sea; and this affair must be settled by the Rhodian Law adopted with reference to maritime questions, provided no enactment of ours is opposed to it”

  • quoted in Gerard J. Mangone, ‘Introduction’ to his United States Admiralty Law, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers (1997) p.4

– Mangone’s book contains a typographical error here, having  ‘Maemanus’ for .Maecianus.  For more on Volusius and his environment see Ewen Bowie,  ‘Libraries of for the Caesars’ in Jason König, Greg Woolf,  Ancient Libraries, CUP (2013) pp.237-260.


Postscript. Ewen Bowie’s chapter can be read online as a pdf through University Publishing online, if you are willing to register.


12 Replies to “Item: the law of the sea”

    1. I’m not sure that the original object was a ring. The ‘nike’ type is interesting, but not usually given a band-and veil (or crown and veil) as the ‘bathy-‘ ladies are. I thought them far closer to the ‘tyche’ type. Perhaps I should repost that material sometime.


      1. Yes, I would be very interested to read that. I just got to know Tyche myself while researching my last post. I get the impression that the mnemonic makers were quite familiar with her.

        Oh, and what I mean about the ring is that this coin shows how easily a circular object (a wreath in this case) can evolve or be redrawn as a ring.


      2. A Tyche was the patron, almost the ‘patron saint’ of a particular city, so there are many tyches. Not all of them were clearly differentiated, but those which were had different forms of ‘battlement’ crown, and sometimes their own emblematic object. This is one of the list of reasons why I associate the ‘bathy-‘ ladies not only with stars, but with a place along the maritime routes. In other words, each (I think) marked a point both on earth and the equivalent point in the heavens – Ptolemy’s co-ordinates perhaps, but since his are based on Marinus’ so the system may well be older. If that makes sense.:)


      3. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I also saw the other Tyches with their “wall crowns”. Yesterday I wrote about the Alexandrian Tyche, who – because of the Isis merger – has a different type of crown that sets her apart. But what you say about the nymphs as cities makes a lot of sense now.

        Though I don’t understand yet how it would work to have a nymph refer both to the “Tyche-city coordinates” and a star. Or would the emblem of a particular Tyche be associated automatically with the relevant points in the sky?


      4. Koen,
        The vagaries of wordpress and the international dateline put my reply about the ‘ring’ before your question. Sorry about that.

        I haven’t had time to do the necessary research, but the short answer is yes: I think that the ladies in the ‘bathy-‘ section are meant to represent sites along the sailing line from the head of the Red Sea (our terminology, not the classical ‘Red Sea’) through to the Persian gulf and perhaps including southern India – maybe. I would expect Muziris and Barygaza, certainly and perhaps Siraf and Berenike at least. At the moment I’m not willing to invest the time, because testing this would take an enormous amount of work, and would necessarily involve using archaeology texts and journals, not anything easily accessed online. Life has many other things to offer.


      5. Diane, thanks for the clear answer 🙂 I think you are right. This is the best explanation for the section. Don’t worry, I’m not planning to look into this, seems almost impossible and in any case unrewarding.

        How often have I thought that this MS would have been solved already if we had the necessary manpower. I am utterly convinced that if all the effort that is being spent comparing it to European sources instead went to useful avenues of research, it would be partially translated by the end of this year.

        I was rather disappointed to see how many people still think the Balneis is a good parallel for the VM nymphs.

        Ah well. I for one am immensely appreciative of your work, and often find myself coming to some conclusion only to realise you had written about it already before I even knew about the VM. I find your framework very useful as a base for further research, and more often than not find my own conclusions pointing the same way. It allows for a much more consistent and plausible analysis than the Latin European dogma.


      6. Koen, I know exactly what you mean about working a line of investigation, only to find it’s already been done. For the first couple of years, or maybe three, that I was writing online, every post seemed to co-incide with something Pelling had written earlier. Then I started checking his blog first before writing anything up.

        I’m not sure if Voynich ninja is contemplating a folio-by-folio key to previous researchers and research, but it would be great to be able to look at who first said such-and-such, and read their evidence and reasoning. My bet is that we’d find most of the theoretical ‘histories’ are based on nothing very solid, and that a staggering amount of genuinely useful material was ignored because it didn’t suit a theory or suit the temper of the times.


      7. Yeah, that’s definitely happening, David is working on it. I’ve seen a preview and I think it’s looking good. Personally I’d find it most interesting to be able to get an overview of what’s been written about something – If I had read your Artocarpus post before, it would have saved me a lot of Borneo-related worries 😉


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