October 13, 2003

NUNTII: Been There, Done That

A brief editorial in the Washington Post suggests:

The modern American practice has been to reduce our presidents to their initials or a very short nickname: JFK, FDR, Ike. Alexander the Great would in our time be known to readers of The Washington Post as ATG and to readers of the New York Post as Big Al.

Well, folks have been using the "ATG" moniker for years (see, e.g., the archives of the Classics list or Ancien-l passim); "Big Al" is also somewhat frequent on the web (although not among Classicists, interestingly enough). Of course, JC to a Classicist refers to Julius Caesar more often than Jesus Christ, I've seen Auggie used to refer to Augustus, and Tony and Cleo just sounds better than Antony and Cleopatra.

Clearly, this is another case of Classicists infiltrating 'real life' and applying their own ways of doing things to 'regular society'. ClassCon ... Classical Content or Classical Conspiracy?

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NUNTII: More Classicists in Unexpected Places

Off and on for the past month or so Explorator has linked to reviews of Caroline Alexander's The Bounty. Turns out she's got a Classics background, according to a lengthy piece in the Boston Globe. Here's some snippets:

Despite her faintly British accent, she grew up in Tallahassee, Fla., of British parents who frequently traveled abroad. She graduated from Florida State University in 1976, majoring in classics, then added degrees in philosophy and theology on a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford.


One doesn't associate classics, philosophy, and theology, or insect collecting, with Olympic-type sports. But in 1982, Alexander returned to Florida to train full time for the US world team in modern pentathlon, an event combining running, swimming, shooting, fencing, and equestrian show jumping. She ended up as one of two alternates, just missing the team, but soon turned to other adventures.


"She is this most amazing combination of modesty and self-assurance," says Laura Slatkin, Alexander's adviser at Columbia and now professor of classics at New York University and the University of Chicago. "Most classics scholars make trips to the stacks, if anywhere. Here was Caroline wanting to go up the Ogooue River. I would say, `You know, it's rather strenuous to make this trip,' and she would say, `Have I mentioned that I was a pentathlete and that I ran a school in Malawi?' "

She got a PhD in 1991 and began full-time writing. Three other books came before "The Endurance," and she wrote intellectual travel pieces for The New Yorker, Smithsonian magazine, National Geographic, and Granta. "The Bounty" is her longest, most ambitious work, and it put her skills at research and historical sleuthing to good use.

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ante diem iii idus octobres

  • Fontinalia -- a festival in honour of the divinity Fons, who
    presided over springs and wells; such sources of water were
    festooned with garlands for the occasion (I love that word "festooned")
  • 54 A.D. -- death of the emperor Claudius, purportedly succumbing
    to a plate of poisoned mushrooms dished up by his niece/wife Agrippina;
    dies imperii of Nero (son of Agrippina)

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HYPE: Greek Tragedy

My fellow Canucks will be aware of a satirical rag in the Great White North called Frank (which recently changed ownership, by the way), which generally pokes fun at politicians, bureaucrats, and pompous media types (not always very effectively, alas). Another thing it regularly does is track the use of hyperbolized and/or hackneyed phrases in various contexts, so I thought it might be worth trying with some 'classical' phrases. Today's phrase is "Greek tragedy":

But the end of Minaki Lodge's 76-year history was more fitting of a Greek tragedy than the fairy tale it began as, said area resident Jack Charlesworth [on a fire at a resort]

"It's a wacky Greek tragedy," said Suann Pollock ... [on Bat Boy: The Musical]

"Greek Tragedy for Irish" [on being defeated for World Cup 2004 qualification]

``He had the potential to be a wonderful president of the university. It is almost a Greek tragedy.'' [on fallout from Classicist John Schumaker's activities while president of the University of Tennesee]

History has not been kind to Spiro T. Agnew, the self-made son of an immigrant Greek peddler whose precipitous rise from obscurity -- and just as sudden fall back into anonymity -- reads like Greek tragedy. [self-explanatory]

"Out of all this, the most heartbreaking thing to me is I've lost one of the two or three best friends I've ever had in my life," Cummings said. "This whole thing is like a Greek tragedy."  [on recent events/charges surrounding Las Vegas assembly guy Wendell Williams]

"There's an element of Greek tragedy about this." [on Gray Davis' recall]

The Roosters were laid low, Greek tragedy style, by a wounded Achilles; Fittler, their captain, could not compose or co-ordinate them.  [on a rugby final in New Zealand]

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REVIEW: Catulli Carmina

From the Anchorage Daily News:

For a moment, Anchorage Concert Chorus conductor Grant Cochran wondered if he'd made a mistake. He'd chosen a little-known piece, Carl Orff's "Catulli Carmina,'' for the first concert of the season. Then Cochran read the translation of the original Latin text, based on the love poems of a Roman, Catullus, who lived during the time of Julius Caesar.

The lusty tale, a story within a story of wise old men counseling naive youngsters about the perils of love by recounting the poet's betrayal, contains a fair number of equally lusty words. Metaphor runs rampant throughout the piece's prelude, with references to serpents, twin apples, naughty little hands and anatomical words unlikely to appear in a family newspaper. Or to spring, albeit in Latin, from the lips of a concert chorus.

"I knew it was going to be eyebrow-raising,'' Cochran, 41, acknowledged, adding that with the inclusion of "Sweeney Todd," the musical tale of a murderous barber, later in the chorus's season, he might be pushing the propriety envelope.

The rest ...

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The Scotsman has a television column which (p)reviews something which I hope will make it to these shores soon (if it hasn't already ... still waiting for coffee). Colosseum: Romeís Arena Of Death appears to have had a rather large budget and the concluding paragraphs of the Scotsman article make it look very interesting:

The history carries its authority well. Itís unusual to hear Latin spoken, and it sounds stilted and self-conscious (especially when the ailing Vespasian looks at a model of his projected Colosseum and murmurs "splendidissimus", proper Latin, but somehow comical), but the script resists the temptation to "modernise" history, to give it a forced "relevance".

Those who insist on looking for contemporary references might be tempted to make comparisons between gladiators and modern-day footballers. The best gladiators could be transferred between schools. There was no shortage of women ready to throw a party for the young warriors, and ply them with aphrodisiacs. After a fight, Verus and his chums are treated to the finest physiotherapy that Latin science could provide, as well as Roman medicineís surprisingly sophisticated treatment of flesh wounds. The doctors used opium-based anaesthesia a gladiator had a 90 per cent chance of surviving a bout in the arena. It is also enlightening to find that certain piquant social aspects simply havenít changed over the last 2,000 years. Verus introduces us to a colleague at gladiator school: "Priscus was a Celt; heíd never seen a bath before."

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JOBS: Latest Posts

UNION COLLEGE: Two Positions in Ancient Literature (tenure track/Chair)

BOSTONU: Greek Art (tenure track)

See all the recently-posted jobs (use the calendar on the jobs page)

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AWOTV: Weekly Listings Available

The television listings for the whole week are now available, online and ad-free!

5:52:06 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

AWOTV: On TV Today

4.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Rome: Power and Glory: The Rise

8.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Tomb Of The Warrior Prince
dna [but I believe it's about a Scythian burial]

DCIVC = Discovery Civilization (Canada)

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Click for Athens, Greece Forecast

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