Latest update: 4/3/2005; 2:15:05 PM
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NUNTII: Cassandras

Okay ... I was about to shut things down when I decided to check my email one more time and figured out my Spam filter was having conflicts (I suspect it's with my digital camera USB connection, but I'll figure that out when I've got a gallon or so of Guatemala's finest coursing through my veins). In any event, in my email was the usual collection of spam (moreso, of course), newsletters, lists etc. and the History News Network thing. They have an ongoing feature there called Cassandras which is a pile of articles of warning by various academic types which weren't heeded (including, e.g., McGuire Gibson on looting in Iraq). Back in February was added this, which seems worth including here in toto:

Mary McNamara, writing in the Los Angeles Times (February 17, 2003):

Cassandra, according to Greek myth, was the most beautiful daughter of King Priam, so beautiful that the god Apollo granted her the gift of prophesy in return for sexual favors. Cassandra accepted the gift but reneged on the bargain, so Apollo took away her power of persuasion: She could speak only the truth but no one would ever believe her. When she tried to warn her fellow Trojans of impending disaster -- that the wooden horse they had just wheeled into the city was full of enemy soldiers -- everyone thought she was crazy. And so fell Troy.

Nowadays, rounding up those who issued warnings has become as predictable a portion of the disaster news arc as instant replay. From the fall of Troy to the fall of the World Trade Center to the fall of Enron, there is inevitably someone who predicted it all.

This year, among Time magazine's three People of the Year were Sherron Watkins and Coleen Rowley. Enron employee Watkins wrote an internal memo warning that the company was about to fall apart like a house of cards. FBI Agent Rowley wrote a damning letter about how politics at the agency thwarted her attempts to investigate a suspect who turned out to be a key player in the Sept. 11 attacks. Newfound seer status has helped former Sen. Gary Hart return from exile. As co-chair of a commission on national security, he warned in January 2001 that the U.S. would be attacked catastrophically on its own soil. The prediction, largely ignored at the time, has given him so much political juice he might just run for president again.

The Cassandra figure permeates history -- she is Nicias trying to talk Alcibiades out of the doomed Spartan expedition to Syracuse; James Longstreet advising Robert E. Lee to keep moving past Gettysburg; Albert Einstein warning President Franklin D. Roosevelt against pursuing experiments with the potentially lethal nuclear reaction in uranium.

And, perhaps more important, she is an inexhaustible literary thread -- from her own theatrical debut in Aeschylus' "Agamemnon" to the soothsayer in "Julius Caesar" to Carol in "Oedipus Rising" to Richard Dreyfuss looking up from his grisly calculations in "Jaws" to insist to disbelieving officials that "this was no boating accident." Cassandra might have saved us had we but listened.

"Cassandra brings the fall of Troy into the realm of high tragedy," said Katherine King, associate professor of comparative literature at UCLA. "Now it's not just a bad thing has happened, it's that they've made a tragic choice."

Cassandra is used throughout literature in many ways. In Homer, King said, she is just one of Priam's daughters; in Euripides, she is half mad. Marion Zimmer Bradley, a famous feminist re-teller of myth, wrote a novel from Cassandra's perspective called "The Firebrand," and the most oft-mentioned modernization of the character is "Cassandra: A Novel and Four Essays" in which East German writer Christa Wolf uses her to speak out against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

"Cassandra should always be talking about immense important disaster, not little things," said King. "She's very political."

This is exactly why [professor Charles Bosk, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania who teaches a class called "Mistakes, Errors, Accidents and Disasters"] believes we have to be careful about labeling someone a true Cassandra. As terrible as the destruction of the Columbia was, he said, it doesn't necessarily indicate a decision to ignore the truth. "Sometimes things will line up just so to create a disaster," he said. This doesn't necessarily mean a mistake was made. "But it's hard for us to look back and judge the process when we already know the outcome, especially when the outcome is disastrous. It seems ridiculous to think the process worked.

For more Cassandras ...

::Friday, October 03, 2003 9:59:32 PM::
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NUNTII: In the Footsteps of Alexander?

Semi-regularly comes news of various peoples in the regions trekked by Alexander who claim to be descended from him and/or his troops. In a piece at Aljazeera (!), we read of the Kalasha people. Here's an excerpt which might cause you to sprain an eyebrow:

The origins of the Kalash have remained the subject of intense academic debate, but Anees Umar, a Kalash schoolteacher, has no doubts about his Greek roots.

“I think these people are descendents of Alexander the Great, because I found similarities in Greece. The Ancient Greek culture was similar to the Kalash people,” he says.

The Kalash are animists living in the pre-dominantly Muslim Pakistan and several local and foreign groups are endeavoring to assist their community.

They believe the earth is the real heaven; they interpret the fruit orchards, waterfalls and the snow-melt streams running through the valleys as “the god’s bounty”.

Their religion is based on nature and the major god is Koda (Sajigor).

Not sure I can see anything Greek in there, or in the rest of the article ...

::Friday, October 03, 2003 9:22:02 PM::
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NUNTII: Mises Musings

Over the past week or so, pages from the 'Ludwig von Mises Institute' keep turning up in scans because of passing Classical allusions which, alas, aren't 'big enough' to warrant inclusion here (I also don't really have time to figure out what the 'Austrian School' of economics is). Today, however, there's an interesting article which takes as its point of departure a mention in Michael Wood's book on the Delphic Oracle, to wit:

Wood writes, "…the most important of current oracles in the West is surely the chairman of the United States Federal Reserve Bank."  He does not elaborate on the observation, only making this passing comment in a chapter on the vestiges of oracles in modern society, in which he only glances at economics. He readily admits earlier in the book that he would "do more than glance if I were not so baffled by the subject [of contemporary economics]. "

The piece goes on to examine Greenspan's pronouncements in light of this and also considers the difference between oracles and sibyls (I'm not sure this bit holds water). Worth a look ...

::Friday, October 03, 2003 9:09:29 PM::
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NUNTII: Matthew Bogdanos Interview

PBS' Online Newshour has the transcript of an interview with Col. Matthew Bogdanos, which is interesting in itself but concludes on an even more (for Classicists) interesting-than-that note:

JEFFREY BROWN: A brief final personal question: What makes you so passionate about this? We were talking earlier about the fact that you have a master's in classical studies, so I know you've been at this for a long time as an interest. But we're talking about stone, we're talking about old clay, we're talking about objects, but you clearly have a passion for it.

MARINE COL. MATTHEW BOGDANOS: Since the age of 12, classical history has absolutely mesmerized me, more so because it is not my chosen profession, more so because I'm not smart enough or talented enough in that field to really have made that a career. I mean, we're talking about our history, our heritage, our cultural beginnings. I mean, those who do not remember the past are destined to repeat its mistakes. The past is what we have. It's what we bring with us into the future. I can't imagine a more important undertaking.

Dang ... I was kind of hoping he'd be beyond that 'repeat its mistakes' cliche. Oh well ...


::Friday, October 03, 2003 9:02:21 PM::
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NUNTII: Well, Perhaps THAT Explains Things

Before I started rogueclassicism, I mused on the Classics list (or somewhere similar) about how it seemed archaeological news from Athens had all but dried up in the wake of the whole Schinias rowing site and arguments about the museum to house the Elgin/Parthenon Marbles. Today eKathimerini has a piece which might suggest an answer:

Yesterday’s Greek edition of Kathimerini published an anonymous letter. The letter did not offend anyone — although, in a sense, it ought to offend everyone’s sensibilities. A young archaeologist, who has been a contract employee for a few years at the Ministry of Culture, gave a description of her life. She offered no analytical approach, she did not indicate the problems, and she did not provide an estimation of the ministry budget or how the money is spent or wasted. She did not point her finger at any specific politician, nor did she make any specific allegation. She only expressed her emotions about her work and how her work determines her life.

Simple words about human issues cannot be accommodated in any statistics or budget, in any convergence charter or social package — perhaps this is the reason why we tend to overlook them as we focus on a macroscopic view of the situation. Simple words: “Each time a 1,390 hour-contract nears its end, I start thinking about the next one. It is a nightmare that recurs every year.” “Fortunately, I have gained weight so I need not buy new clothes.” “This year I am thinking of taking on a second job.” “I do not go on strike, because I am afraid... I would be blacklisted if I went on strike...” “People tell me about recruitments and competitions. Where will I find the time to study? How can I concentrate? I am not 22 anymore...”

There's a couple more paragraphs too. I'm not sure how life as an archaeologist in Greece would compare to being an archaeologist elsewhere, but it sounds as if there is some sort of "cultural" problem (in the same sense that there was a "cultural" problem at NASA). Something to keep my eye open for ...

::Friday, October 03, 2003 8:52:17 PM::
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CHATTER: One Night at Chapters

So my ISP is wonky and won't let me access my email (still won't), so I decide it's a good time to go to Chapters (the Canadian equivalent of Borders, only better) to purchase a trilogy of books which I (semi-foolishly) allowed one of my gifted students to select as the subject of a novel study (by Philip Pullman) we'll be doing together while the rest of the class is doing more 'grade-level' stuff. No problem finding the trilogy, so I wander around, only to discover the ancient history section had disappeared. After my initial shock, I wandered around and discovered that they had merely moved everything mirror-image style for reasons unknown (although they did get rid of software) and while wandering I did come across an interesting-looking bit of fiction by Margaret Doody called Aristotle and Poetic Justice, which also made it into my shopping cart (I'll tell you about that one once it's read). Anyhoo, this long, meandering intro is sort of a lead-in to something that being a classicists seems to train you to do, namely, to see those learned allusions in pop culture which many folks do not see (culture mavens who watch the Simpsons know what I mean). I'm standing at the cashier, letting my mind wander -- as it is wont to do -- while the cashier is explaining to me how the 'points' system has changed and while he's trying to figure out my bill, which I'm paying with a combo of gift certificates, a gift card, and interac. My eye catches the DVD of a movie my kids have been dying to see -- the Bionicle Movie. Bionicles are these sort of robot type things made by the Lego folks who have a cartoon, I believe, in the UK. This movie is out and is getting a fair bit of advertising. But let's compare the cover of the DVD to another, more Classical  sort of thing:

Apologies for the 30% tag there ... Amazon's site was the only one which seemed to have the exact cover ... Notice the similarity not only in the pose, but in the slogans, to with "A Hero Will Rise" and "A Hero Will Be Revealed". I could probably also point out that the mask looming over the Bionicle does resemble one of the masks Russell Crowe wore in at least one match, although all the Bionicles have masks of some sort. I pointed this out to the clerk and he noted the Bionicle thing was a Buena Vista (i.e. Disney) production and he thought Gladiator might have been Touchstone. Not the case, alas, but the Bionicle thing still strikes me as a visual allusion to the other ...

::Friday, October 03, 2003 8:39:39 PM::
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Just as I'm about to sign off for the a.m., I come across an interesting site/product. It's a group called Ludi Scaenici, a "group dedicated to the performance and research of music and dance in ancient Rome". They do have a CD, and at the risk of maxing out their bandwidth on their Geocities site, I give y'all the url ...

::Friday, October 03, 2003 6:02:47 AM::
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ante diem v nonas octobres

  • ludi Augustales scaenici (day 1 -- from 19-23 A.D.) -- a festival
    of sorts involving primarily mime and pantomime theatrical
  • 257 A.D. -- martyrdom of Dionysius during the 'Coptic Persecutions' of Valerian

::Friday, October 03, 2003 5:58:33 AM::
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The Guardian has a sort of alphabetical guide to help folks understand things in the upcoming World Cup of Rugby. It includes:

B is for backs. These are the princes of the game - the creative space-exploiters and try-scorers. There are seven of them and, not surprisingly, they play at the back, behind the eight forwards. Traditionally, forwards are very fat and drink huge quantities of beer (or, in the case of former England "prop" Colin Smart, aftershave), and backs are willowy, sylph-like and probably studied classics at Peterhouse, Cambridge.

I guess that explains why I never made it in Rugby ... physically and ingestionally a forward; mentally a classicist. Probably could have been a referee ...

::Friday, October 03, 2003 5:48:11 AM::
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NUNTII: US-as-Rome Watch

A piece reflecting on events in Palestine opens thusly:

George W. Caesar, emperor of the new Rome, likes Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). He has invited him to the White House and showers him with compliments.

As in ancient Rome, the likes and dislikes of the emperor shape the policy of the empire. All the ministers, eunuchs, officials, proconsuls and local rulers act according to his wishes, while mouthing words of flattery and praising the wisdom of Caesar—irrespective of whether he is really wise, like Julius Caesar, stupid, like Tiberius, or downright mad, like Caligula. Caesar is Caesar.

George Bush is a simple man. Like a Western, his mental world contains Good Guys and Bad Guys. His impressions are personal and come “from the gut.” They have nothing to do with logic or political analysis. Arafat made Bush angry, so he is a Bad Guy. Abu Mazen is a Good Guy—mainly because he is not Arafat.

Like King Herod, who lived in Jerusalem but whose ears picked up the slightest murmur in Rome, Ariel Sharon listens to every whisper in Washington. In order to influence Bush, he must always know exactly which way the wind is blowing. If Bush likes Abu Mazen, Sharon, too, likes Abu Mazen.

... and concludes:

But this is a sensitive job. Care must be taken to avoid suspicion in Washington. Annoying Bush must be avoided at all costs. Therefore, when Sharon hears dissatisfied murmurs from the White House, he is quick to make concessions. Not 300 prisoners will be released, but 400, including some Hamas and Jihad members. They want the removal of another “outpost”? OK, bring on the TV cameras to witness another dramatic struggle. In any case, one can rely on the settlement rowdies to come back in the night. The main thing is to satisfy Caesar and his eunuchs.

Hail Caesar, those who are about to kill Abu Mazen salute you.

The whole thing ...

::Friday, October 03, 2003 5:39:14 AM::
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Amy High, 39, a Fairfax County Latin teacher for 15 years, died Sept. 27 of a brain aneurysm at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital in Alexandria.

Mrs. High, who taught in Fairfax County public elementary schools, W.T. Woodson High School and Paul VI Catholic High School, recently launched her own preschool Latin program. She was founder of Lumina, a nonprofit publishing company of Latin materials for youngsters, and co-founder of the Alexandria Academy of Fine Arts and Science, which introduces children to foreign languages, art, math, science, music and dance.

She was the interviewer for Forum Romanum, a local access cable television show about Latin. Her classes were featured in articles in Time magazine, on the Oxygen cable television channel and on local television news.

Born in Connecticut, she earned a classics degree from Randolph-Macon College and a master's degree from the University of Virginia. She recently was a volunteer in the Howard Dean presidential campaign.

Survivors include her husband of nine years, Tim Gale, and three children, Madeline, Joshua and Phoebe, all of Alexandria; parents Jim High of West Virginia and Ann High of Burke; and brothers Jim High and Mike High, both of Alexandria.

From the Washington Post ...

::Friday, October 03, 2003 5:16:54 AM::
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UNC: Hellenist (tenure track)

... more jobs (use the calendar on the Jobs to find earlier posts)


CFP:  International Congress on Beer in Prehistory and Antiquity. (Barcelona)

CFP: Achilles in Iraq: War and Peace in Ancient Greece and the Modern World

LECTURE: Alexander the Great  (Montreal)

Summer Seminar in Papyrology at Berkeley's Center for the Tebtunis Papyri

Lectures and Seminars at University College London

... more events (use the calendar on the Events page for earlier items)

::Friday, October 03, 2003 5:12:59 AM::
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AWOTV: OnTV Tonight

7.00 p.m. |HINT| Julius Caesar: Master of the Roman World
"Profile of one of the world's greatest military minds, ancient
Rome's Julius Caesar, who romanced Cleopatra, invented the 12-
month calendar, and expanded the boundaries of the empire,
before being assassinated by senators fearful of his growing

HINT = History International


::Friday, October 03, 2003 4:46:11 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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