Valentine of Rome (BHL 8465) – extracts from the Passiones of Marius, Martha, Audifax and Abacuc (BHL 5543)

I mentioned that I would not be translating the “Passio” of St Valentine of Rome, priest (BHL 8465), because it was in fact just an extract from the Passiones of Marius, Martha, Audifax and Abacuc (BHL 5543); and that these had been translated rather splendidly by Michael Lapidge.[1]  But very few people will ever see the Lapidge volume, and the interest in Saint Valentine is renewed every year.  So perhaps I might be permitted to give the St Valentine portions of that text, without footnotes, here.

I have over-paragraphed it for readability online.  I’ve also inserted the start-position of each of the 5 lectiones from the Acta Sanctorum text, although I’ve not compared the two word for word, except at the end.

[Lect. I] 6. Then Claudius arrested a certain holy man named Valentine, a priest, and shut him in prison, bound with shackles and chains. After two days he ordered him to be brought before him in his palace near the amphitheatre. When he was brought into his presence, he said to him: ‘Why do you not make use of my friendship, and live with the commonwealth of our state? I hear marvellous things about your wisdom; yet although you are wise, you cause offence by your vain superstition.’

Valentine the priest said in reply: ‘If you knew God’s gift, you too would rejoice, and your state with you, if you were to reject demons and handmade idols, and to confess one God, the Father omnipotent, and Jesus Christ, His Son, the Creator of all things, “Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all things which are in them”.’

A certain legal adviser (legisconsultor), who was standing near Claudius, replied, saying in a clear voice to Valentine, the priest: ‘What is your opinion concerning the god Jupiter, or Mercury?’

Valentine the priest said in reply: ‘I say nothing concerning them except that I know them to be wretched and foul men, who lived their lifetimes in filth and carnal delights and scorn of their bodies. And if you were to show to me their ancestry, you would see how foul they were.’

[Lect. II] The legal adviser replied out loud: ‘He has blasphemed the gods and the rulers of our state.’

7. On the same day Claudius was listening more patiently, and said in reply to Valentine: ‘If Christ is God, why do you not reveal to me what is the truth?’

Valentine the priest replied: ‘Let your majesty hear it. Listen to me, O king, and your soul will be saved, and your state will be increased, and your enemies will be eliminated, and in all undertakings you will be the victor; you will enjoy dominion in this life and in the future world. I admonish you in respect of one thing, that you repent for the blood of saints which you have spilled, and believe in Christ, and thus be baptized: and you will be saved.’

Then Claudius said to those standing near him: ‘Listen, Roman citizens and assembly of the republic, to what a sane doctrine is being revealed by this man.’

In reply, Calpurnius the prefect said aloud: ‘You have been deceived, Your Highness, by false teachings: but if it is right that we abandon what we have worshipped and adored from our infancy, you decide.’

[Lect. III] 8. At that same time Claudius changed his mind and in sadness handed him over to Calpurnius the prefect, saying: ‘Listen patiently to him, and if what he says is not sane counsel, do to him what the laws stipulate for sacrilege; if not, let his just petition be heard.’

Then taking Valentine the priest, Calpurnius the prefect handed him over to a certain Asterius, his chief officer (princeps), saying: ‘If you can reduce him by gentle persuasion, I will report your accomplishment to Claudius, and you will be his friend, and he will enrich you with riches and possessions.’

Taking him, Asterius led him to his own home. When he entered the house of Asterius, Valentine the priest fell to his knees and prayed, saying, ‘O God, Maker of all things visible and invisible, and Creator of the human race, Who sent Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ that You might free us from this world and lead us from the shadows to the true light, Who commanded us by saying, “Come unto me all who labour and are heavily laden, and I will refresh you”; convert this house, and grant light to it after the shadows, that it may recognize You as God and Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.’

[Lect. IV] 9. Hearing this, Asterius the agent said to Valentine the priest: ‘I admire your good sense, in that you say that your Christ is light.’

In reply Valentine said in a clear voice, ‘And truly, because Jesus Christ the Lord, Who was born of the Holy Spirit and Mary the virgin, is the true light, Who illuminates every man who comes into this world.’

Asterius replied, saying: ‘If He illuminates every man, I shall now establish if He is God; if not, I shall extinguish your folly. I have an adoptive daughter, whom I have loved since infancy, and suddenly two years ago she was blinded and disfigured by cataracts. I shall bring her to you; and when she is cured, I will do everything you ask of me.’ Valentine the priest therefore replied: ‘In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, bring her to me.’

Running off in some anxiety, Asterius brought the blind girl to Valentine the priest. Raising his hands to the heavens, Valentine, his eyes flowing with tears, said: ‘O Lord God Almighty, Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies, Who sent Your Son Our Lord Jesus Christ to earth, so that You could lead us from the shadows to the true light, I call upon You as an unworthy sinner. But because You save all souls, and wish no one to perish, I therefore beseech Your mercy, so that all people may recognize that You are God, and the Father of all things and their Creator, Who opened the eyes in a man born blind, and even raised up Lazarus from the tomb when his corpse was already rotting. I invoke You, Who are the true light, and the Lord of Principalities and Powers; let not “my will but Yours be done” over this girl Your servant, that You may deign to illumine her with the light of Your intelligence.’ And he placed his hand on her eyes, saying: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, illuminate Your servant, because You are the true light.’ And when he had said this, her eyes were opened.

[Lect. V]  10. When Asterius saw this, he and his wife fell at the feet of the blessed Valentine, and spoke as follows, saying: ‘Let us pray through Christ, through Whom we recognize the light, that you do what you know how to do, so that our souls may be saved.’

Valentine replied and said, ‘Do, therefore, what I say, and if you believe with all your heart, destroy all idols, and fast, and drop the charges against all (prisoners); let someone be baptized in making confession, and he shall be saved.’

Then he enjoined upon them a three-day fast. And because Asterius had many of the Christians in custody, he released them all. And when the three days of the fast were finished, and it was Sunday, Valentine baptized Asterius, together with all his household. And he summoned Callistus, the bishop, to him; when he arrived, he made the sign of the Cross on Asterius and his entire household—nearly forty-six persons of both sexes.

11. When Marius and his wife Martha, together with their sons, Audifax and Abacuc, heard of this event, that a blind girl had been illuminated by St Valentine and that as a result of the healing the entire household of Asterius had become believers, they came with great joy to the house of Asterius, giving thanks to God, and they remained there thirty-two days.

At the end of this time Claudius summoned Asterius, the chief officer (princeps). And it was reported to him that a girl had been healed of blindness in his house, and as a result of this miracle he had been baptized by Valentine in the name of Christ, together with his entire household.

Enraged, Claudius sent soldiers, and arrested all those whom he found in the house of Asterius. When they were brought before him in chains, among them being Marius and Martha, Audifax and Abacuc, all aristocrats from Persia who had come to pray at the shrines of the apostles, he ordered them to be separated from the assembly of other Christians, commanding that Asterius, with all his household be led in chains to Ostia, there to undergo trial with interrogation by means of torture.


15. The emperor [Claudius] ordered that Marius and Martha, Audifax, and Abacuc should be kept for him, so that he could hear them in private audience; but he ordered that Valentine the priest should be beaten with staves and then undergo the sentence of capital punishment. He was beheaded on the Via Flaminia on 14 February. A certain matron, named Savinilla, recovered his body and buried it in the same place where he was beheaded; ** the Lord performs many miracles there, to the praise and glory of His name.

The section that I have omitted from the Passio of Marius etc, marked with *, is likewise omitted from the extracts.  But the text of the Valentine material does change, after the **.  Instead of the “the Lord performs many miracles there, to the praise and glory of His name.”, we have:

accipiens coronam vitae, quam repromisit Deus diligentibus se. *** Ibi postea a Iulio Papa fabricata est ecclesia in honorem S. Valentini Presbyteri et Martyris, [ei ecclesia construitur.] et mirifice decorata, in qua devote petentibus beneficia Domini praestantur usque in hodiernum diem.

receiving the crown of life, which God has promised to those devoted to him.  *** There afterwards a church was built by Pope Julius in honour of St Valentine, priest and martyr, [the church was constructed for him] and adorned marvellously, in which the blessings of God for those who seek them devoutly shine forth until our own day.

Even in this, there are variations.  The text above is given only in the “Roman” manuscript used by the Acta Sanctorum editors; many of the breviaries that they used have yet another piece of text instead:

capite plexum iuxta pontem Milvium, ubi postea S. Theodorus Papa ecclesiam Martyris nomine aedificavit, multisque locupletavit donis.

capite plexum near the Milvian Bridge, where later Pope Saint Theodore built a church in the name of the martyr, and enriched it with many gifts.

Not sure what “capite plexum” can mean – is it something about the head being buried there?

All this chopping and changing suggests that this “St Valentine” text, BHL 8465, being merely a set of extracts, was amended as those copying it saw fit.  But then we are not dealing with a literary text here, after all, but a hagiographical one, where such tampering is routine.

Returning to the main text, it is interesting to see that the Latin “Seductus es” is rendered as “You have been deceived”.  I’d wondered how to render this myself, perhaps as “You have been led astray”?

It is notable that in this text also, there is no romantic element.

  1. [1]Michael Lapidge, The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary, Oxford University Press (2017), 420-435.

From my diary

This evening I spent some time upgrading the software on my personal Wiki.  It was a project for Syriac literature that I did many years ago, and I only discovered today that it was no longer functioning.  Thankfully the upgrade was smooth and I got everything back.  But it does make you realise that websites created with document management tools will just rot, naturally, over time.  As the PHP version increases, they will cease functioning.  This is a rather serious problem for the future-proofing of content.

While looking around the web for material on St Valentine of Rome, I realised just how important the BHL and BHG numbers are for the researcher.  I’ve modified the header of my post with the St Valentine of Terni translation accordingly, to make it easier to find.  In the process I discovered that an Italian translation of it exists, albeit in a book that nobody has or can access, so I modified the post with that info and updated my files also.  I’ve just finished putting those new versions on as well.

I’ve been looking for a new contract for a month now – it usually takes 6-8 weeks – and by God’s providence an old client contacted me on Friday asking me to return.  The role is local as well, which is good news.  This will involve starting very soon, as soon as Thursday.  So … all my projects will go back on hold again.  I shall need to spend the next few days revising what I know about that client, and sorting out paperwork, so expect reduced blogging.

How to approach translating hagiography; St Valentine of Rome; and why I won’t translate his “Life” (BHL 8465)

I pressed “Publish”.  My post with my translation of the Passio of St Valentine of Terni shot out onto the internet.  What now?

I found myself thinking about the “other” St Valentine, Valentine of Rome, the priest.  I went back to the Acta Sanctorum, February vol. 2, for February 14th, and looked at the material there.  I obtained the electronic text, including introduction and footnotes, and created a Word file; then fixed up the Latin by getting rid of ligatures, and the Word file by setting the paragraph margins to zero, left and right.

The text was in five Lectiones.  It was printed from two manuscripts and a breviary.  There was reference to a “Ms. Ultraiectinum S. Salvatoris”.  After a bit of guesswork, this turned out to be the church of St Saviour, part of the Cathedral of Utrecht.  Another manuscript was mentioned, which I could not identify.

But clearest of all was that this “passio” was merely a selection from a long work, the Acts of Marius, Martha, Audifax and Abachum, printed in the Acta Sanctorum under January vol. 2, for January 19!  If so, why bother with it?  No wonder it was just extracts from breviaries.  It would be better, surely, to translate the full Acts.

So off I went to the January vol. 2, and did the process again with the Acts of Marius &c.  Luckily for me, the electronic text that I had found had the BHL number for the work at the top – the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina index number, which was BHL 5543.  Had it not been there, of course, the BHL volume is at, for it is a century old.

Now once I have a BHL or BHG number, I always google for it.  It’s always a good idea to see what is out there.  Has somebody written a study on it?  Can I get an idea of its contents, its age, the scholarship?

So off I went and googled “BHL5543”.

Initial results were discouraging.  All dross really.  But I have found by experience that I need to keep going through several pages, and even redo the search in Google Books.  So I did.  And…. boy did I get this right.  I hit jackpot.

In fact I found this: Michael Lapidge, The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary, Oxford University Press (2017), present on Google Books preview here.  It contained 800 pages of pure gold: translations and commentary and a sterling introduction to every single Passio relating to a Roman martyr.  This included a full translation of the Acts of Marius, Martha, Audifax and Abachum, complete with the bits that are about St Valentine of Rome.

So there is in fact no need for me to make a translation of this work at all; Dr. Lapidge has done it, and with the aid of his publisher probably better than I could.  The only fly in the ointment is the extraordinary price of the volume – $140 at Amazon, and £115 at Amazon UK (discounted from a p***-taking £140).  This places it firmly outside of the hands of the general reader.

It is a remarkable book.  The sheer labour in translating 800 pages of passiones is awe-inspiring.  But that is only part of what it achieves.  This is not just a translation but a study.

I learned – from what I could see of the introduction – that it soon becomes clear that all these Roman passiones correspond exactly to places of pilgrimage in Rome!  There is a church dedicated to each and every one of them, all of much the same period.  The conclusion, that the passiones were composed by the clergy of these churches is hard to resist.  But without working on the entire body of saints for Rome, Dr. L. might never have noticed this.

Likewise the clearly fictional nature, and even the stereotyped nature of the stories becomes clear.  Flicking through the introduction, I found page after page of solid hard information about hagiographical literature, about why it was written, when it was written, the history of printing them, and much else.  It’s almost a primer on hagiography, although at 42 pages, all too short, and one studded with up-to-date bibliography.  To read it is to feel the crying need for workers in this field.

But …. it is a book that nobody can afford to read.  I wish I had a copy.  I have a feeling that it would repay reading right through.

St Valentine – his “Passio” (BHL 8460) now online in English

St Valentine’s Day is February 14.  But who was St Valentine?  Well, he was bishop of Terni, or Interamna.  His (fictional) “Life” or “Passio” is now online in English.  This has the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina (BHL) number 8460.  The work probably dates from the 6th century AD.  It’s fairly short, and it has – sadly – nothing to do with romance.  The romantic connection with St Valentine’s Day goes back no further than Chaucer.

I’ve also included the Latin text and a short introduction.  As usual, the material is placed in the public domain – use it as you like.

Here it is:

I’ve also placed the files at here.

There is another Life of a saint Valentine on 14th Feb – a “St Valentine of Rome”, who was a priest.  He might be the same chap, actually.  The Life is not so well attested, or widely known.  I might look at translating this next.

Update (15/07/2019): Via this site I learn that an Italian translation does exist of BHL 8460: E. d’Angelo, Terni Medievale: La Città, la Chiesa, i Santi, l’Agiografia, Spoleto (2015), p.243-7.  But this I have not seen.  I have updated the files and re-uploaded them.

Still working on the translation of the “Life” of St Valentine of Terni

The two pages of the medieval Life of St Valentine have taken me rather more time to translate than I had realised.  But we’re getting there!

When I decided to make this translation, I first located the text in the Acta Sanctorum (AASS) volume for February 14.  I was preparing to transcribe this, but I was then was directed to an online transcribed version.

I split the text into sentences, sometimes phrases, and interleaved it with the output from Google Translate for those same phrases.  Google Translate is not that good for Latin, but it often picks up when the text is that of scripture, and generally offers some vocabulary.  This works best for short bits of Latin, which is another reason why I proceeded as I did.

Having created this file in Word, I proceeded to work through it, translating each bit, and looking up words in QuickLatin or other tools.

On getting to the end of the first pass – a few knotty bits aside – I had intended to revise.  But in fact I then obtained a copy of the modern critical text by D’Angelo.  I could hardly ignore this, so I scanned this to create an electronic version.  Then I coloured it red, and interleaved it into my working document, placing D’Angelo first, the AASS next, and my draft translation after that.  This gave me something like this:

It was, inevitably, tedious to go through the whole thing comparing three lines at each point.  But I have just reached the end of this.

My principle, naturally, was to use the modern text wherever possible.  I found, in fact, very few differences, and almost none that made any significant difference to the meaning.  A couple of examples appear above, but these were rare.  This validated D’Angelo’s remark that the AASS text was basically sound.

I did modify D’Angelo in a couple of ways.

Firstly he used strange medieval spellings, like “nichil” for “nihil” and “michi” for “mihi”.  He admits that the spelling of the author’s copy is not recoverable, so I could see no reason to preserve the corruptions of the copyists.  His policy led him, in fact, to give the name “Ephebus” in two different spellings, which is simply confusing.  These features would merely be a barrier to any seeking to read the Latin.  I normalised the text, therefore.

Secondly he followed the modern practice of replacing “v” with “u”.  This fad came in during the early 20th century, and was justified on the grounds that no such letter ever existed in lower case Latin.  But this is the same issue.  Roman books were written in capitals, without word division or punctuation.  There were no lower case letters.  There is no obvious reason to reproduce this today.  We do not reproduce the incompetent spellings and renderings of the age of Shakespear or even Jane Austen in our modern editions, because to do so is to interpose a barrier between the text and the reader.  The old approach is of interest to specialist scholars, but to nobody else.  My purpose is always to encourage the general reader to look at the text.  Such a reader has no interest in the oddities that we have discussed.  So once again I restored a more normal spelling.

The process of reading through the whole translation again was useful in improving it.  It was burdensome to do, but it did produce real improvements.  We have to allow for the fact that translators get tired, and make mistakes; and a second pass will pick these up.

The translation document at the moment is as shown above.  The next stage is to produce a proper word document, and read through it all again, looking for bugs.  We’re not too far away, I feel.

Ignorant musings about saints

This evening I was thinking about saints.  As a protestant I know very little about them, and how the institution works.  That makes me admirably suited to make some ignorant remarks on the subject.

What sparked my interest was the question of whether there was a patron saint of cats.  There seems to be a popular idea around that it is an obscure lady named Gertrude of Nivelle.  But … it seems to be a confection of time and imagination and the internet.  In fact I wonder if the cult of various saints might arise in a rather similar way, by popular tradition, invention, imagination.  Certainly the saints’ lives in medieval literature arise in this way – they are a form of folkstory, like the ballads of Robin Hood, not history.  So the creation of a cult by a gradual process is not a modern thing.

So… is it valid?  What does it mean, if it just appears over time?  One could say that perhaps this is an example of the work of God, to reveal an idea to the people.  But does anybody say that?

This led me to think about saints that actually probably never existed.  Their cult grew up over time, in a more or less popular, or even superstitious way.  But then in modern times the investigations by people like the Bollandists reveal that Saint Rastus – or whoever – never actually lived.  We could say this of St George; if he lived, he certainly was not responsible for a line of the various hagiographic stories, which themselves were condemned as “silly” in the Decretum Gelasianum in late antiquity.

St George is a good example of another phenomenon.  He gets adopted as the patron saint of England during the crusades.  So … how does this work?  How does anybody know that the saint, if he existed, and is in heaven, has the slightest interest in England?  How is this real?  Can patron saints just be created?  Or is it the case that, in reality, the distinction is an earthly one: that any saint may be prayed to about anything, but that for convenience the church, official or otherwise, suggests that people pray to this saint or that for specific things?

I have no answers on this, but suggestions of things to read would be welcomed.  It is, after all, rather embarrassing to produce material about the saints while having so little understanding of the subject!

A good portrait of Constantius II?

I’ve been googling online, and I have been unable to locate a good likeness of Constantius II, who succeeded his father Constantine, murdered all his cousins, then his brothers and left only a nephew, Julian the Apostate, to succeed him.  His reign is described vividly by Ammianus Marcellinus, and the church remembered him as an Arian.

Long ago I placed online the Chronography of 354, a magnificent collection of documents illustrated by a famous artist and presented to a nobleman in that year.  The original is lost, but copies have reached us.  One of the illustrations is of “our emperors”, Constantius and his nephew, the luckless Gallus.

Since then the Barberini manuscript (Vatican barberini latini 2154B) of the Chronography has come online.  Here’s the portrait of Constantius from it, online here:

Constantius II in 354 AD. From Ms. Vatican Barb. lat. 2154 B, folio 13.

It is a splendid portrait, isn’t it?  What a face!

But I was surprised to discover that the illustrations were monochrome.  The printed version was monochrome but I had always assumed that was just to make it possible to print.

Another manuscript of the Chronography is also online,  in Vienna, here.  But this does not include the portraits of the emperors, although it does include other illustrations.

I wanted to see if other representations matched the one above.  The first item that I found was a bust of a young prince, almost 3 feet tall, and identified as either Constantius II or possibly his brother Constans.  It’s at the Capitoline Museum in Rome, inv. MC2882:

Colossal head of Constantius II or possibly Constans. Musei Capitolini, Roma, inv. MC2882.

The Last Statues database catalogues this as LSA-561, and gives a reference to a catalogue, sadly offline.[1]  I must say the portrait is not obviously similar to that of the Chronography.

Another portrait at Wikipedia is this:

Presumed bust of emperor Constantius II (317 – 361), son and successor of Constantine the Great. Temporary exhibition in Colosseum (aug.2013), Rome, Italy.

I don’t know anything else about this, but I can see that the nose seems to be restored, and much else; so I fear this is not a likeness.  There is also a widely miscaptioned picture of Theodosius II under the name of Constantius.

The next item I found on Tumblr:

Emperor Constantius II (?). Second third of IV century AD. Bust is modern. Marble. Musée du Louvre, Paris. Inv. Cp 6399 / Ma 1021

The head is ancient but the darker bust material is modern.  But again is this Constantius?

Also on Tumblr, was this silver bowl from the Bosporan kingdom, i.e. the Crimea.  I think that it is from Kerch, and is probably held in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia.[2]

Bowl: the triumph of Constantius II. Place of origin: Eastern Mediterranean. Date: A.D. 4th century. Archaeological site: Bosporan Necropolis, vault on the Gordikov estate.

The long face is very like that of the Chronography.

Here’s another item, the Missorium of Kerch, preserved in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg in Russia.  Wikipedia has a monochrome image here.

The Missorium of Kerch is a ceremonial dish depicting the Emp. Constantius II on horseback, leading a soldier and being crowned by Victory.

This also depicts a long-faced Constantius.  So I think we may treat the depiction in the Chronography as fairly accurate.  Not bad for a renaissance copy of a Carolingian copy of an ancient book!

  1. [1]Fittschen, K. and P. Zanker, Katalog der Porträts in den Capitolischen Museen und den anderen kommunalen Sammlungen der Stadt Rom, Band I, Mainz 1985, 156-7, no. 125, pl. 156
  2. [2]This I infer from a snippet view of a book on Google Books: Bernard Samuel Myers, Encyclopedia of world art, – Volume 9 – Page xcvi: “Two dishes found at Kerch (Leningrad, The Hermitage) refer to an anniversary of Constantius in 343. The style of these dishes … The third, and most splendid, piece of this type is the Missorium of Theodosius I (II, PL. 487), which celebrates …”

Tutorial: How to download the LIDAR datasets from the UK Environment Agency website

Lidar is a technique for displaying the shape of the ground using pulses of laser light.  The results have been widely used to discover Roman monuments, as they can process them to omit modern buildings, trees, etc.  I have been interested in this ever since I discovered some Lidar images of the seabed showing the submerged ruins of the Roman fort of Walton Castle at Felixstowe.

Most of the United Kingdom has been surveyed using Lidar, and the resulting datasets are now freely available for download on the Environment Agency / DEFRA website.  If you can download them, then you can pull them into a tool like QGIS, and turn the data into images.   But this website is not well organised.  I have never been able to work out how to download anything!

Partly this is because I used my Android mobile much of the time.  Just don’t.  You won’t be able to get it to work.  Instead go to your trusty PC and open your browser.

1. Go to the Defra Home page, and search for LIDAR

Go to and put LIDAR in the search box.  You currently (July 2019) get 20 results, which look like this.  (Click on the image for a larger image)

The LIDAR Composite DTM and DSM materials are what you want, taken at various resolutions.  DSM is the raw data.  DTM removes surface objects like trees and houses.

2. Click on LIDAR Composite DTM – 1m

This takes you to a waffle page.  At the bottom are various links:

The “Dataset links” do not work – any of them.  On enquiry I was told that:

You need to open the WMS/WFS links within the GIS software in order for the data to load, please refer to the following FAQ:

Apparently “WMS” is is a way to get the datasets from the GIS tool directly.  Not what I have in mind here at the moment.

The one you want is the “Survey Download” icon, which I have highlighted in red.

3.  Click on Survey Download

This takes you to, which after a long pause builds the following inscrutable screen:

Note how, cunningly, the pane marked “Download your data” only refers to *uploading*!

Ignore everything in the grey box under “Select your area”.  I have no idea what it is for, other than to confuse.

The bit you need is the square.  But… NOT YET!  If you hover over it, the mysterious tooltip “Polygon” will appear.  It is, in fact, a tool to draw an area on the map.  We’ll use it in a moment.

4.  First, zoom into the area that you want to look at

This bit is fairly obvious.  Use the “+” icon to zoom, and drag the map around.  Once you get far enough in, a grid will appear with references on it. If you know the reference, you can enter it in the search box, although I notice this sometimes does not work.

I’m using the area off Felixstowe, so I get to this.

Until you are zoomed in, you can’t do anything.  You can only download datasets for small areas, you see.  But this is probably enough.

5.  Draw a polygon on the map of the area for which you want Lidar

Now at last you can click on the “polygon” button.  It turns blue.  Now you can draw.  (This frankly can be pretty tricky too.)

  • Hover over the map at one corner of wherever you want to draw.  A tooltip will come up telling you to click to start.  Do so.  Nothing will seem to happen.
  • Now move the mouse.  A red line will follow you.  Click again for that corner.
  • Repeat until your polygon looks right, then double-click to save.

It will now look like this:

Note my polygon on the map.  But … also note that, cunningly, some extra stuff has appeared underneath the drawing tool, where you were not looking!  And partly off the page – so scroll down.

Now, at last, you have something you can download.  Hit the down arrow underneath “Download your data”.

There will be quite a pause – and then a new menu will appear!

What this lists is the various different types of dataset.  In fact it lists the lot, of all sizes and resolutions.  Whatever you choose, you get a link in blue, which I have highlighted.

The link is to a zip file.  In Chrome, just click on it to download to the Downloads folder; in IE, right-click and choose “Save target as” in the usual way.  Either way you will end up with a file on your PC.

I’m more interested in the DTM 1 meter stuff, so I will redo this for that:

What are these various types of file?  Well who knows?!  I believe I want DTM anyway.

6.  Unzip the dataset

How you use the dataset is a different question, but I will give you what I found out.

First, you need to unzip the dataset.  I use 7Zip on my PC, and right-click, 7-Zip, and extract to folder.  So…

That created a folder Bathy-Coastal-Multibeam-2013-TM33nw in that directory.

I’m more interested in the DTM 1 meter stuff, so I get a download of, and unpack it to a folder LIDAR-DTM-1M-TM33nw.

Inside the new folder are a bunch of .asc files.  These together make up the dataset.

Next, you need a GIS tool to view this stuff.

7. Import into QGIS

I found this very hard to do, but here’s some notes on what I did.  I worked it out based on this tutorial for an older version:

First, I installed the latest version of QGIS from the download site, which for me was 3.4.5.  Look for the “long term stable release” stuff, and ignore the rest.  This installed fine, and created a folder on my desktop, labelled QGIS 3.4, and an icon, “GRASS GIS 7.6.0”.  Now … do NOT try to start that icon.  Instead drag it into the folder, and forget about it.

Next open the folder, and double-click on the QGIS Desktop icon, again ignoring the GRASS thing.  This will open something you can work with.

Next, create a project by Project -> New.  Then do Project -> Save, and choose a name for your QGZ file – I used my own name.

Next, you need to import the dataset.  Raster -> Miscellaneous -> Merge brings up a daft dialog box headed “Merge”.

Click on the “…”, and you get another daft dialog box headed “Multiple Selection”.  Click on “Add”, and browse into the folder LIDAR-DTM-1M-TM33nw.

Select all the files in the folder, and hit “Open”.  They will all appear in the “Multiple Selection” box.

Now hit “OK”.  You’ll be back at the Merge dialog box.

You’ll want to save the resulting .tif file, so under “Merged” there is “Save to temporary file” – hit the “…” next to that and choose “Save to file”, and then pick a name.

Your “Merge” dialog will now look like this:

Don’t twiddle anything else.

Now hit Run, and go and make a cup of coffee.  It takes a while.

When it finishes, it will pop up “Algorithm ‘Merge’ finished”, and look like this:

Hit “close” to get rid of the dialog box.  You now have some results.

You can use the mouse to drag it around, and zoom in.  The results are likely to look… disappointing.

On the left side is a box “Layers”.  If you right-click on “Merged”, and choose “Properties”, you get stuff that you can play with.  Select “Symbology”, and you can change the “Render type”.  You can change it to “Hillshade” (whatever that is), and hit “Apply” and you get more details:

But that’s as far as I could get.

However, it IS more than I knew before.


Some links that I found useful:

  • – overview of the datasets
  • – the datasets are “shape files”
  • – possible viewers
  • – Easily the best way to  view Lidar.  Only works on Chrome tho.  Based on the 1m DSM data.  Actually better than anything I got from this!

Underwater archaeology beneath the pyramids of the Black Pharaohs

A simply amazing story has appeared in National Geographic magazine this month (July 2, 2019, by Kristin Romey).  It’s online here.

An expedition is investigating the burial chambers under some of the pyramids of Nuri in Sudan.  Rising ground-water means that these are drowned in water, and so inaccessible.  Indeed some may never have been accessible since ancient times.  The expedition website is

Dive beneath the pyramids of Egypt’s black pharaohs

Somewhere below the surface of the kiddie-pool sized patch of brown water is the entrance to the 2,300-year-old tomb of a pharaoh named Nastasen. If I crane my neck back far enough, I can just make out the eastern flank of his pyramid rising nearly three stories above me.

It’s a sweltering morning in the desert of northern Sudan, the land of Nubia in the time of the pharaohs. Sweat drips into the dive mask hung around my neck as I negotiate my way down a narrow, ancient staircase cut deep into the bedrock. Waterproof flashlights clank from each wrist, and a 20-pound weight belt is slung commando-style across my chest. An emergency container of air, no bigger than a can of hairspray, is secured uncomfortably in the small of my back.

At the bottom of the stairs, archaeologist and National Geographic grantee Pearce Paul Creasman is standing chest-deep in the muddy water. “It’s really deep today,” he warns. “There’s not going to be any headroom in the first chamber.”

It’s a fascinating article, and some gorgeous photographs.  Apparently there is a TV programme too: “Black Pharaohs: Sunken Treasures”, to be broadcast today in the US.

The article ends:

On our final dive, Creasman and I float silently in water in the back chamber of the tomb, hovering above what may very well be Nastasen’s undisturbed sarcophagus. We talk about the team’s goal for 2020: to excavate the pharaoh’s 2,300-year-old submerged royal burial chambers. It’s an audacious aim and a huge logistical challenge, but Creasman is optimistic.

“I think we finally have the technology to be able to tell the story of Nuri, to fill in the blanks of what happened here,” he says. “It’s a remarkable point in history that so few know about. It’s a story that deserves to be told.”

Read it all.

(Note that the article is easier to understand if you first look at the map of where they are diving, in the middle of the page!)

A 1987 plan for the ruins of the Roman fort of “Walton Castle”

Walton Castle is the local name for the remains of a Roman fort, now submerged beneath the waves offshore at Felixstowe in Suffolk, Britain.  Resources for study of this monument are limited, and I have discussed them in other posts.

One interesting article appeared in, of all things, a popular magazine.  Such an item is, of course, not usually held by research libraries so can be very hard to locate.  The item is Julian K. Hagar, “A New Plan for Walton Castle”, Popular Archaeology Today, vol. 8, no. 1 (February 1987), p.22-25.   Fortunately today I was able to find a copy.  In view of the difficulty of locating it, I will make a scan of the article available here:

Hagar’s analysis of the sketchy evidence is deeply convincing.  He points out that by 1623, the earliest date at which we have  knowledge of the site, the eastern side of the ruins must already be long gone.  The cliff did not erode quickly, and indeed has only eroded another 50 metres in the last 200 years.

A sketch from 1623, reproduced in the Victoria County History of Suffolk, shows the west side of the fort more or less complete.  The wall was perhaps 180 metres long, if we assume the measurements given in 1754 were copied from an earlier, now lost, account.  Hagar suggests that this view is taken from the land-ward side, that the sea can be seen through the “gate”, and that we should disregard “cliffs” in the foreground as artistic license.

On this basis, he proposes this map for the castle in 1623:

By 1722 much of the remains had fallen into the sea, and the length of the west wall was only about 100 metres.


By 1750 it was all gone.

The highest point remaining, in the water, today, is still the ruin of the south-west corner tower and a fragment of each of the adjacent walls.  This tends to favour Hagar’s theory.

Another point in favour of Hagar’s reconstruction is the north alignment that he gives the ruins, which does indeed seem to be the case.  It is unfortunate that I was unable to locate the manuscript of the 1969 survey, which would have clarified this point.

But on the other hand, there are two obvious problems with Hagar’s plans.

The first is that the beach does not today run NW-SE as he shows it.  It probably never did.  It might have run N-S, but today it certainly runs SW-NE.  The northern end of the ruins is therefore closer today to the beach, not the southern end.

The only feature of the landscape that would permit more erosion at the N end is the presence of “the Dip”, the shallow valley carved by the stream that runs into the sea at that end, which is still there today.  But this seems doubtful.

The second point leads us in the same direction.  If we agree with Hagar that the 1623 drawing was made from the landward side – for how else could it be drawn? – then the drawing shows quite a bit of masonry on the north side.  This is equally obvious in what is probably the original of the drawing:

The map at the foot of the drawing is of the same period.  Hagar is probably right to treat the east wall as an artist’s guess; and to suppose that the “corner towers” drawn at that end were in reality bastion towers, mid-way along the wall.  The fort, then, was square, just like other Roman forts of the Saxon Shore.

But in Hagar’s favour, we can see that within the map are some ruins at the SW corner, possibly the remains of a demolished medieval castle keep mentioned in the sources.  These must have been visible in 1623 or they wouldn’t be noted.

I would therefore suggest that perhaps the beach in 1623 did indeed run North-South, and preserved more of the North wall than Hagar allows.  Perhaps the north side eroded faster – who can tell?  But the hypothesis that half of the wall fell first does indeed seem to be correct.

It is very unfortunate that the survey undertaken by Jeff Errington and his divers in 1969 cannot be located.  Jeff told me that his divers did indeed locate the gateway area on the sea-bed.  I have written again to the Ipswich Museum team to see if anything can be done to locate the survey manuscript.  At present the material is unclassified and therefore researchers are not permitted to access it.