Latest update: 4/3/2005; 2:15:25 PM
quidquidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca

REVIEW (sort of): Choose Your Own Adventure

There's an AP wire story circulating about a revival of the old 'choose your own adventure' style novels, this time with an adult turn. What's interesting is that it mentions one adventure:

"The Classics Professor" has a more sophisticated tone, with the male professor at the center of the book making clever jokes in Latin between escapades. Bone thinks that choose-your-own-adventure books fit well with postmodern theory. "Meaning exists in the interaction between the reader and the piece of art," he said.

Elsewhere, I find this 'erotic adventure' described as:

Mark, a tenure-track history professor has accepted a position at prestigious New York university. He's looking forward to his new job as it will give him time to research material for his first book. His only regret is his former girlfriend Sarah. If only he had paid more attention to her. That's all behind him now.

At a faculty party, Mark is welcomed warmly by his fellow professors. The majority warn him to stay away from Dr. Wendy Lake, a beautiful antiquities professor. Involvement with Dr. Lake has ruined the career of several professors. What's a man to do when a gorgeous woman like Wendy Lake proposition him? What would you do?

Not my sort of read but perhaps someone else???

::Saturday, October 11, 2003 8:03:00 PM::
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NUNTII: Nobel Prize

I knew if I looked hard enough there'd be some Classical connection to this year's Nobel Prize winner for literature. South African J.M. Coetzee is the author of The Age of Iron, described thusly in one version of the Tribune:

The Age of Iron (1990) takes the form of the letter-diary of a classics professor facing an imminent death from cancer. The horrors of apartheid are revealed through her descriptions of events that turn the social fabric topsy-turvey.

Here's a nice summary cum guide that folks might find useful ...

::Saturday, October 11, 2003 7:50:45 PM::
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NUNTII: More Sarmast on Atlantis Stuff

For folks following this one ... there's more in the Boston Globe ... Personally, I'm waiting for someone to discover the 'cave' whence came the allegory. I'm sure there are still shackles or something there ... Er, of course, has already been proven to exist on U.S. television ...

::Saturday, October 11, 2003 7:40:52 PM::
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ante diem v idus octobres

  • Meditrinalia -- a somewhat obscure festival in terms of origins
    which involved tasting old wine and new wine, apparently with
    the goal of being cured of diseases old and new.
  • ludi Augustales scaenici (day 7 -- from 11-19 A.D. and post
    23 A.D.)

[apologies ... I forgot to post this this a.m.]

::Saturday, October 11, 2003 7:35:01 PM::
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NUNTII: Another Classical Precedent Cited

As folks are aware, there is an ongoing panic in the 'file sharing' community as music companies crack down on folks who download music. The Spectator (the student newspaper of Seattle University) cites a Classical precedent justifying the practice:

Thousands of years ago, people gathered 'round to hear a bard recite Homer's Odyssey. They didn't buy a copy to read at home, they just listened. The bard used epithets and structural devices so that he, as well as his audience, would remember the story.

The idea is very similar to the chorus of a song, or the hook, if you will. The bard, the artist, wants you to remember what he or she has to say. Homer did not compose Odyssey to make a quick buck. Neither did the person who finally bothered to write it down. It was about sharing the story, not finances. Poets coming down through the ages would agree—poetry is not about money, but doing something you love.

Most "real" musicians of the present day would agree. They sing because they love to make music, and if they get rich in the process, even better.

To bolster the argument, the piece concludes with:

So I say, support the bands you love. Check out,, and to learn the facts. Do not let the RIAA execs scare you out of listening to the music you love. Oh, and read the Odyssey online for free at I don't think Homer will mind.

::Saturday, October 11, 2003 7:09:32 AM::
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LUDI: Rome: Total War

Fans of PC games who have wondered when the Total War series will have something, well, Roman, will be happy to know that the Rome: Total War thing from Activision is on track for a Fall 2003 release. Screenshots available ...

::Saturday, October 11, 2003 6:56:52 AM::
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OPED: Say What?

Paul Levinson waxes about democracy in the Atlanta Journal -Constitution. Along the way he mentions Socrates:

Yet, there is still something disquieting in someone being elected to high public office on the basis of credentials in areas other than political accomplishment and wisdom. The concern is as old as democracy. Socrates, in his student Xenophon's Memorabilia, points out that on a ship, everyone follows the captain's orders (including the owner of the ship), because the captain presumably is an expert in navigational matters. But in a democracy such as Athens, everyone has a say in policy, and leaders arise not necessarily on the basis of their political wisdom or expert knowledge, but on the basis of their popularity with the crowd. Sound familiar?

Of course, Socrates was not trying to improve or safeguard democracy, but do away with it. In his and his student Plato's views, the ideal leader was not someone who was elected for any reason, but someone whose wisdom was such that he would rise to the top. In Plato's Republic, this "philosopher king" would have absolute authority.

... and then goes on to suggest:

In practice, in the 20th century, such self-appointed philosopher kings have come closer to Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Saddam Hussein than any democratically elected leader. Even in Roman times, the generally effective emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius disastrously chose his son, Commodus, as successor (contrary to the Roman proscription at the time on anointing one's child as the next emperor). The philosopher-king failed in his most important responsibility.

Er ... proscription's a rather misleading word, no? You have to go quite a-ways back to find an emperor who had a natural child alive at the time of this death ...

::Saturday, October 11, 2003 6:51:44 AM::
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OPED: Schwarzenegger and Nero

While pondering whether a piece in the Toronto Star was rogueclassicism-worthy (since a Classical reference in it is as rare as praise for a member of the Reform Party), I happened across something better. Philip Marchard takes as his point of departure Classicist Ed Champlin's recent biography of Nero to start making comparisons, to wit:

Of course, you can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, as an American president once remarked. Political popularity is not always rational. I could cite a certain 20th-century political leader from your native Austria, Arnold, as evidence of this, but let's not get into that ticklish subject. Better to go further back in history. A new book by a classics professor, Edward Champlin, entitled Nero, says that the common people of ancient Rome rather liked the emperor of that name. He would have topped the polls, if such a thing had existed then.

That's the same Nero we're talking about who slept with his mother and later had her executed, who kicked his pregnant wife to death and forced his former mentor, the philosopher Seneca, to commit suicide. That's the same Nero who fiddled while Rome burned. Afterwards he blamed the catastrophic fire on an unpopular minority, the Christians, and launched the first great persecution of that group. To illuminate his gardens at night, he had Christians tied to posts and turned into human torches. In response, the author of the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, more or less identified Nero with the beast that emerges from the pit of hell. After that, Nero's bad publicity just got worse.

Champlin maintains that some of these incidents were stories that were just too good for Roman historians such as Suetonius to pass up, although they may not have been true. Suetonius is one of the contributors to the "Nero fiddled while Rome burned" legend, for example — according to his account, Nero was so taken by the beauty of the flames from his vantage point on a tower that he put on his theatrical costume and recited some stirring tragic verse. That probably never happened. He probably didn't sleep with his mother, either — though he did have her killed — and he also didn't kick his pregnant wife.

Oddly enough, he himself probably encouraged these stories, for the same reason Schwarzenegger said so many outrageous things in his early interviews, about gangbangs in the weightlifting room, and so on — "to get the headlines," as Schwarzenegger put it. To create a stir. To construct a myth of oneself, as mad, bad and dangerous to know. Professional entertainers will sometimes do that. And Nero, like Schwarzenegger, was a professional entertainer.

The final three paragraphs (it's quite long):

There was also the darker side of Roman mass entertainment, which was the presentation of punishment as a spectacle — Christians really were thrown to the lions, as well as crucified and burned alive.

We haven't quite gotten to that point in our quest for compelling entertainment. Television, however, with its powerful affinity for violence, is edging closer. It has been edging closer for years, not just with "reality television" but with the nightly news, which dumps the pain and fear of human beings in our laps.

For a long time after Nero's own suicide, Champlin tells us, many people, missing the entertainment he provided in various ways, fantasized that one day he would return, like Elvis strolling into the Burger King. Perhaps his spirit is stirring even now, in the sunny hills of California.

This is a Canadian newspaper of course, so you have to explain that whole lions, crucifixion, buried alive thing. If it's in the Star it must be true. Here's the whole piece (warning ... there's a really annoying popup ad on this page which seems to be able to get past my pop-up killer) ...

::Saturday, October 11, 2003 6:38:11 AM::
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ORIGINS: Blame the Romans

From the Phoenixville Phoenix (I hate newspaper names like that):

What is the origin of the neckties that men wear? Roman and Chinese warriors wore neck cloths for protection and warmth. Then in the 1660s during the reign of Louis XIV, soldiers wore brightly colored silk handkerchiefs. In the U.S., the colonists wore colorful bandanas around their necks and they evolved into the modern necktie.

::Saturday, October 11, 2003 6:29:06 AM::
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REVIEWS: The Latest from BMCR

David Shotter, Rome and Her Empire.

Debra Nails, The People of Plato: A Prosopography of Plato and Other

Thomas Kruse, Der koenigliche Schreiber und die Gauverwaltung.
Untersuchungen zur Verwaltungsgeschichte Aegyptens in der Zeit von
Augustus bis Philippus Arabs (20 v. Chr. - 245 n. Chr
Archiv fuer
Papyrusforschung, Beiheft 11.

::Saturday, October 11, 2003 6:15:12 AM::
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NUNTII: Roman Remains at Airbase

Last week we mentioned this ongoing dig at an RAF base Mildenhall prior to construction of a baseball field (although now it's a 'football pitch' and a baseball field). Now the BBC gives it some coverage (so it won't disappear!) and mentions that the 'man buried face down' was a Roman, if I'm reading this right (coffee's still on):

The remains of the man, possibly a warrior, were found at the US airbase at Mildenhall.

The excavation is to make way for a baseball field and football pitch.

Other human remains and artefacts from the early Bronze Age through to the Roman period have been uncovered during the dig by Suffolk County Council's archaeological service field team.

The archaeologists, who have been working there since July, said the man who was found face down, would have been very muscular and about 30 years old.

In addition, the remains of a Roman horse barn, complete with buried horsehead have been found. There's a nice photo of the head being excavated in a similar article in a USAF publication.

Even caffeineless, however, I did manage to dig up this article from a recent issue of British Archaeology which looks at Roman burials in Britain and includes this tantalizing paragraph:

A substantial minority of burials, however, show a different and darker attitude to corpses. These rough burials are often written off as 'careless', but the patterns are too consistent across Roman Britain for simple negligence to be the explanation. These disturbing burials include bodies that are dismembered, mutilated, bound, buried face down, decapitated, with signs of violence other than warfare, or with evidence for defleshing and exposure. The two most common variants are prone (face-down) and decapitated burials.

The article goes on to suggest some reasons, including the possibility that the body belonged to an outcast (socially or physically) or -- just in time for Hallowe'en -- due to fear of the ghosts walking around (which doesn't quite make sense ... surely then all Roman burials would be face down). Another suggestion includes the possibility of human sacrifice/being buried alive. Whatever the case, I'd be interested to know whether any such face-down burials have been found outside of the UK ... I'm not aware of any myself.

::Saturday, October 11, 2003 6:11:12 AM::
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AWOTV: On TV Today

5.00 p.m. |DTC| Spartans at the Gates of Fire Episode 1
"For 2,500 years, the Battle of Thermopylae has been as a
fierce conflict in the history of warfare. New research brings
the ancient battlefield to life and reveals whether 7,000
Spartan and Greek soldiers could have held off the Persian

6.00 p.m. |DTC| Spartans at the Gates of Fire Episode 2
Same description as above -- n.b. this thing is on several
times on this day and the next few ... check local listings if
you miss an episode.

DTC = Discovery Times Channel

::Saturday, October 11, 2003 5:19:26 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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