Latest update: 4/5/2005; 4:33:25 AM
quidquidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca

GOSSIP: Say what?

On the pop culture front, folks might have caught a program on television called Queer Eye for the Straight Guy in which 'straight' males are given makeovers by their more fashion-conscious brethren. A brief item in Ad Age comments thus:

Someone (screenwriting guru Robert McKee?) once said there are only two stories in the world: Man goes on a trip and stranger comes into town. Clearly, the success of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy can be attributed to the fact that it blends these two narrative devices. It's The Odyssey with a makeover. When you consider how long Homer has lasted, it may turn out that NBC has found its replacement for Friends.

The Odyssey? Next you'll be telling me Big Brother is like, say, a Greek tragedy of some sort..

::Monday, September 15, 2003 8:28:30 PM::
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GOSSIP: Big Brother in Uganda

Okay ... one finds classical references in the oddest of places and with a potentially very obscure context. As folks might be aware, the program Big Brother is immensely popular among the voyeuristic set. There is a US version and a UK version (and probably others). Anyhoo, it appears that the latest UK version is a big hit in Uganda because one of the 'shut ins' is a guy named Gaetano who hails from Uganda. Another housemate was a certain Abby from South Africa (I've pieced this together from a pile of web sources ... too many to cite directly, but the idea can be had from this BBC piece.) Now it appears that Gaetano and Abby had a 'thing' for each other and both were evicted, with Abby returning to Uganda with Gaetano.

So much for context. Now Gaetano and Abby return to Uganda and the Monitor (Kampala) has a columnist who notes:

There has been no shortage of celebrities of world renown, passing through our fair country.

Madiba Nelson Mandela has been here a couple of times. Ex-presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, actress Emma Thompson, and even Prince William of Great Britain have all visited in the recent past.

The great shwento (uncle) from Libya has graced our beloved country with royal visits from time to time.

But none of them took four hours to travel the 21 or so miles between Entebbe and Kampala on account of throngs of enthusiastic people rendering the highway almost impassable.

None of them. Not even their Holiness Pope Paul VI (RIP) and Pope John Paul II ever succeeded in bringing Kampala to a complete halt. Ten Mercedes Benz limousines?

A hundred or so UTODA coaches? Hundreds of Toyota Prados and Rav 4s?. Dozens of Mitsubishi Pajeros?

A thousand boda boda motorcycle outriders? And a million 'Footsubishi" infantrymen, women and children! Why didn't somebody declare a national public holiday to mark Gaetano's return?

Pilgrims came from as far afield as war-ravaged Soroti! According to sources which the Sunday Monitor has seen, many in the crowd carried palm fronds that they reportedly spread on the ground in front of Gaetano's donkey-sorry! - I mean to say limousine, as he made his triumphal entry.

Okay, so we've established the hype that this couple has caused in Kampala. What does it have to do with Classics? Here's how the column ends:

There is nothing terribly startling about a stranger in transit making off with the local princess.

In 431 B.C the Greek dramatist, Euripides, produced Medea.

The play is based on an ancient Greek myth. Jason, the rightful heir to the throne of Iolcos, is ordered by his wicked uncle, Pelias, to accomplish an impossible task; namely to procure the golden fleece owned and jealously guarded by Aeetes, King of far-off Colchis.

This is a sophisticated assassination ploy. Nobody who had been foolhardy enough to attempt to steal the golden fleece had ever returned alive.

Jason gathers a band of heroes and demi-gods, builds the Argo, the first ship of Greece, and sails for Colchis.

Jason gains possession of the fleece and gets away successfully, but only through the assistance of the Colchian princess, Medea, who has fallen deeply in love with him.

She is endowed with the supernatural powers of a sorceress, which she has used on Jason's behalf to deceive her father and kill her own brother who endeavoured to thwart her spectacular elopement with the stranger.

Our local Jason has not quite brought home the golden fleece, i.e. the US 100,000 dollars. But, countrymen, he has won the princess! Isn't that something?

His romance with the South Africa Medea has fired the national imagination and helped to redefine some of our concepts of heroism. What the heck: GAETANO FOR PRESIDENT IN 2006!

From Big Brother to Medea. Who'd'a thunk it? The full article ...

::Monday, September 15, 2003 8:20:03 PM::
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NUNTII: Other-Nations-As-Rome

For the past week I've been getting little hints in my daily scans that the something-as-Rome comparison is not confined to the U.S.. Indeed, I've been increasingly seeing such comparisons being made on a smaller scale in various newspapers from the Philippines, of all places. Today, e.g., comes this opinion piece which merits a rather lengthy excerpt:

The only way to appease the public, the senator allegedly told a reporter in so many words, would be for accuser Panfilo Lacson to substantiate his charges. Lacson, said Arroyo, should attend the joint Monday meeting of the Senate committees involved in the by now two-week hearings on Lacson’s claims.

“While Lacson, like Nero, is abroad fiddling in his lair [sic], we are treated like Roman gladiators in the Senate coliseum,” said Arroyo.

For the information of the uninitiated -- or those who were napping in their Western civilization classes at the University of the Philippines -- Arroyo was alluding to certain events in ancient Roman history, among them the Emperor Nero’s supposedly fiddling while Rome burned, and the empire’s preference for blood and gore for entertainment via gladiatorial combat.

Nero, whom historians say ordered the burning of Rome in the first place, has since given the English language the expression “fiddling while Rome burns.” It means, among others, ignoring serious issues while focusing attention on the inconsequential. One presumes, therefore, that it is in that sense that Senator Arroyo referred to Lacson’s “fiddling.”

On the other hand, the reference to gladiators comes from the displays of bloodletting known as the “games,” for which the Romans erected coliseums all over the empire, the 50,000-capacity Colosseum in Rome being the most famous.

In that setting as many as 10,000 men (and women) have been recorded to have fought in one day to the delight of the crowds. These men and women -- most of them slaves and criminals, others adventurers in search of fame and fortune -- were pitted against each other as well as against animals like lions, tigers, bears, buffaloes and whatever else could be imported from the outlying regions of the empire.

The outcomes were seldom as glorious as the Hollywood movies (for example, Gladiator) suggest. The Roman “games” were arguably the bloodiest ever recorded in Western history, and all for the sake of keeping the Romans -- both the high-born and the lowly -- entertained.

But the entertainment had a political purpose. It has been argued that the killings encouraged and preserved a martial culture of conquest by desensitizing ordinary people to violence and death. Even more crucially, they were also political in that they distracted the people from looking into such political issues as who may be granted Roman citizenship, or whether Rome should remain a republic or acquiesce to dictatorship. In this sense the killings helped stabilize Roman society by helping keep discontent within manageable norms.

The glosses/analogies continue at ABS-CBN news ...

::Monday, September 15, 2003 7:59:10 PM::
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DVD: Helen of Troy

The scan just picked this one up ... apparently that miniseries about Helen of Troy (the one with Selena Guillory as Helen and John Rhys-Davies as Priam) is now available on DVD. Here's someone else's review until I get a chance to see if this one turns up at Walmart (or Blockbuster)

::Monday, September 15, 2003 7:50:04 PM::
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NUNTII: Greeks "borrowed Egyptian numbers"

Here we go again ... and I come home and my email box is filled with this one from the BBC  (thanks to all, by the way). Let's get right to the excerpt:

An analysis by Dr Stephen Chrisomalis of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, showed striking similarities between Greek alphabetic numerals and Egyptian demotic numerals, used in Egypt from the late 8th Century BC until around AD 450.

Both systems use nine signs in each "base" so that individual units are counted 1-9, tens are counted 10-90 and so on. Both systems also lack a symbol for zero.

Dr Chrisomalis proposes that an explosion in trade between Greece and Egypt after 600 BC led to the system being adopted by the Greeks.

Greek merchants may have seen the demotic system in use in Egypt and adapted it for their own purposes.

"We know there was an enormous amount of contact between the Greeks and Egyptians at this time," Dr Chrisomalis told BBC News Online.

Now the skinny, which we won't see, of course, in any newspaper. Dr. Chrisomalis is in the Anthropology Department at McGill. He did his doctoral dissertation there (A Cross-Cultural Survey of Mathematical Abilities in Early Civilizations), and appears to have completed/defended it this past summer. He is also fairly active, it seems on the qalam list at Yahoo, which is devoted to alphabets, syllabaries, and the like (an interesting group to peruse every now and then). In other words, he does seem to have some auctoritas in the matter. Back in January, he posted an introduction/query asking whether anyone was interested in alphabetic scripts and at the time glossed the phrase thus:

 All of them derive, directly or indirectly, from the Greek alphabetic numerals, which were developed in the middle of the 6th century BC.

As such, until very recently he seems to have been convinced of (or at least did not challenge) the 'Greekness' of the alphabetic numerals. What I'm really curious about, however, is why the movement always seems to be from Egypt to Greece. Why can't the Greek use have affected the Demotic? And why was I under the impression that most semitic alphabets have alphabetic numeral systems? That is, why would the Greeks borrow from the heiratic script of Egypt when their own alphabet already had affinities with other Near Eastern scripts?

Now if only the folks at Antiquity would make the article available online ...

::Monday, September 15, 2003 7:34:33 PM::
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ante diem xvii kalendas octobres

  • ludi Romani (day 11)
  • 490 B.C. -- the Athenian polemarch Callimachus dies during the
    Marathon campaign (one possible date)

::Monday, September 15, 2003 5:59:06 AM::
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EH? The mind's not quite boggling yet, but it's getting there

Am I the only one who finds it strange that they would put a sculpture of Venus (a headless version of Milo's) on top of a courthouse in Cleveland? Read about it ...

::Monday, September 15, 2003 5:47:31 AM::
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THEATRE: Classical Greek Theatre Festival

Utah's Classical Greek Theatre Festival this year will feature the 'sequel' to Oedipus Rex, namely Oedipus at Colonus. Unlike some portrayals of ancient theatre mentioned recently in these e-pages:

This year's director, Sandra Shotwell, said her approach to Greek theater eschews off-the-wall contemporization in favor of theater practices that ancient Greeks might recognize.

More on the festival in the Salt Lake Tribune ...

::Monday, September 15, 2003 5:43:42 AM::
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NUNTII: Antiquities Hit the Auction Block

The Sadler Collection is about to be auctioned off. It includes a fair number of Roman bronzes and marbles:

Sotheby's is to auction the collection in London on October 31, when it is expected to fetch more than £1.2 million. A Roman marble portrait head of a youth dating from 140-150 AD is estimated at £50,000 to £80,000 while a marble figure of a hound, thought to be from the Emperor Hadrian's era in the 2nd century AD, should sell for £100,000 to £150,000.

There's a photo of the portrait head mentioned above in the Telegraph, whence came the quote. I'll see if I can track down some more images.

::Monday, September 15, 2003 5:37:57 AM::
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NUNTII: What to do with a Classics Degree

Yesterday's "explorator" mentioned a review of a book by Caroline Alexander entitled, The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty. Turns out she has a classical background ... according to a piece in the Portsmouth Herald:

She studied Latin and Greek at Florida State University and philosophy and theology as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford.

Alexander taught classics at the University of Malawi in Southeast Africa before moving back to the states in 1985 for her doctoral work at Columbia University.

::Monday, September 15, 2003 5:28:09 AM::
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1. n. an abnormal state or condition resulting from the forced migration from a lengthy Classical education into a profoundly unClassical world; 2. n. a blog about Ancient Greece and Rome compiled by one so afflicted (v. "rogueclassicist"); 3. n. a Classics blog.

Publishing schedule:
Rogueclassicism is updated daily, usually before 7.00 a.m. (Eastern) during the week. Give me a couple of hours to work on my sleep deficit on weekends and holidays, but still expect the page to be updated by 10.00 a.m. at the latest.

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