Latest update: 4/3/2005; 2:20:55 PM
quidquidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca

LAST POST: At the Auctions

Tonight we wander over to Christie's auction house, which will be putting items from the Heidi Vollmoeller Collection on the auction block. The collection spans cultures and time periods (I really like this Egyptian hippo), and media, but there's still a few items of interest, such as this Rhodian terracotta aryballos in the form of Herakles dating from the sixth century B.C./B.C.E.:

Here's the official catalogue page ...

::Wednesday, October 22, 2003 9:06:19 PM::
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CHATTER: Matters Pomegranatical

The food columnist at the Boston Globe invites us to add something 'mythic' to our food by using pomegranate seeds. Something seems wrong with his recounting of Persephone's story though:

A Greek myth links pomegranate seeds to Persephone, daughter of the harvest goddess Demeter, and to the explanation for winter, says Alan Davidson in "The Oxford Companion to Food." Hades kidnapped Persephone and Zeus demanded she be returned to her mother. Meanwhile, Demeter mourned Persephone's abscence by stopping plants from flourishing. While she was in the underworld, Persephone refused to eat, but did take some seeds of the underworld's red fruit. She coughed up all but six seeds, and once she was freed, she had to return to the underworld and stay a month for each seed. During that time, plants bore no fruit and the world became winter.

Better to read Gregory Nagy's translation of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter at the Diotima site ... (a bit heavy going ...)

::Wednesday, October 22, 2003 8:45:39 PM::
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CHATTER: Running Out of Ideas?

Apparently a columnist at the Charleston Post and Courier is. Seriously, is there anyone who hasn't seen/heard these a thousand times already? They've been making the rounds of the internet since Al Gore invented it (er ... right). Anyhoo, here's the required classical content (there's more, but the Post and Courier will send you to a registration page before you get it):

4. The Greeks were a highly sculptured people, and without them we wouldn't have history. The Greeks also had myths. A myth is a female moth.

5. Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock. After his death, his career suffered a dramatic decline.

6. Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefields of Gaul. The Ides of March murdered him because they thought he was going to be made king. Dying, he gasped out: "Tee hee, Brutus."

::Wednesday, October 22, 2003 8:34:56 PM::
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GOSSIP: Alexander the Great

Alas, they're beginning to pick on the temporally-challenged Angelina Jolie, who is playing Olympias in the Oliver Stone version of the flick. Here's a short piece that's making the rounds on  a pile of gossip sites:

Angelina Jolie is a little confused about the time lines in her new movie Alexander.

The Lara Croft uber-babe is playing Alexander The Great’s mother in the forthcoming Oliver Stone epic.

But Jolie thinks the Greek conqueror, played by Colin Farrell, died aged 19; he was actually 33.

But the 28-year-old actress, responding to criticism that she is too young to play the mother of 27-year-old Farrell, said: "I play Alexander's mother when he's seven and I age through the movie, though he was quite young when he died, about 19.

"So it's not like his mother was that old by the end. She's mid-30s."

On the plus side, it looks like the movie critics are (finally) reading some history. We'll see how much they remember when the film comes out.

::Wednesday, October 22, 2003 8:29:30 PM::
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CHATTER: Marathon Irony

So ... when they first staged the modern Olympics, the big deal was the creation of the Marathon, which supposedly traced the route that Pheidippides guy ran lo those many years ago. Now, however, according to a piece in the Age, the marathon course at Athens will not qualify to be a route on which records can be set because of rule changes:

The major elements of the guidelines cover net drop in elevation and potential wind assistance on point-to-point courses. Drop is limited to an average of one metre a kilometre, while the start and finish cannot be separated by more than half the race distance.

Thus, the finish cannot be more than 42.195 metres lower than the start, nor further than 21.0975 kilometres away.

The Marathon to Athens course, used for the first modern Olympic marathon and based on the mythical route of the Greek military messenger Pheidippides, is ineligible for records. Boston, which emulated the first Olympic race a year later with a point-to-point course from Hopkinton to central Boston, is ruled out because the start is 139 metres higher than the finish.

The irony is that neither Athens nor Boston are fast courses. Boston is quick only on the rare occasions it gets a tailwind. The race has produced only one world-best time in the past 20 years. The uphills more often than not cost runners more time than the downhills gift them.

Nor is New York fast. It is acceptable, however, with an elevation loss of 0.13 metres a kilometre and a start-finish separation of 47 per cent.

The obvious thing to do is run the race backwards ...

::Wednesday, October 22, 2003 8:25:35 PM::
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NUNTII: Professor Shortage at UArizona

The Tucson Citizen has a piece on the effects of a prof shortage at the University of Arizona. It includes this tidbit:

Associate Professor Monica Cyrino teaches a very popular course on Greek mythology. She teaches two classes attended by a total of 1,100 students - that's 1 in 25 undergraduates enrolled at the university this semester.

To teach, Cyrino draws upon her past as a southern California high school cheerleader as well as her Ivy League academic background in Greek classics.

She plays rock music before her class, shows movies and maintains a Web site for the course.

"It's a real production," Cyrino said. "You strap on the microphone you become an entertainer."

Cyrino's combination of perkiness, humor and knowledge works for larger introductory courses but teachers worry about the effect larger courses have on writing skills.

... to say nothing of the effect on professors'  (or, more likely, grad students') marking and/or free time and/or 'having a life'.

::Wednesday, October 22, 2003 8:19:29 PM::
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I came across an interview with an obviously age-phobic Brad Pitt at LAM Online (I think they're connected to the Independent). In any event, after feeling sorry for himself because he's about to turn 40, we read:

However, the realisation that he is getting older meant that when he was offered the chance to star in the upcoming epic, Troy, as demigod, Achilles, he jumped at the chance.

"When this part came along I thought, 'Alright, let's go for it, let's go all the way out on it,' because I realised this is probably the last time that I'll do that [playing a Greek god]," he admits.

"There is a little pressure playing a Greek god, but I think it's working out alright," smiles Brad. "It's been six months of physical training and preparation, a lot of reading, dissection of the character and the themes and all that nonsense we actors get into. But I was ready to get into something more difficult. I like to keep adding to the mix, because you have to keep upping the ante," he says.

"In Troy, there's a lot of things to contend with, like the dialogue, the physical aspect involved in the sword training, and the pressure of playing a classical character that a lot of people have in-depth opinions on. But I like that because I find you get more out of movies with in-depth character searches like this ­ if you put the work in. It's what I got into acting for!"

Good to hear ... let's hope he has learned to express 'wrath' a bit better than he did in the final scenes of Seven.


::Wednesday, October 22, 2003 8:13:22 PM::
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NUNTII: Anaximenes' Rainbow and a Useful Website

It's not every day you get to read about Anaximenes in the local paper (not local to me, but local to someone!) ... and yet, there it is ... in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Rainbows have been studied for at least 2,500 years. The Greek Anaximenes first claimed that a rainbow was a natural event, not a goddess.

Not a bad condensed version (pun intended ... sorry) of Anaximenes' thoughts on the post-precip spectral display. Folks who'd like to read the fragments of Anaxamenes (in translation) which are extant can look at the relevant section of Fairbanks' First Philosophers of Greece, which has been put up as part of the Hanover Historical Texts Project (links to most of the Presocratic fragments can be found at the latter.)

::Wednesday, October 22, 2003 8:02:58 PM::
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ante diem xi kalendas novembres

  • 4004 B.C. -- 9.00 a.m. ... according to Bishop Ussher, God
    created the universe

::Wednesday, October 22, 2003 5:36:00 AM::
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CHATTER: Asterix Battles On

Who would have thought the pesky little Gaul still had to do battle? From EUPolitix we learn:

The Roman Empire has had its own back on gallic comicbook hero Asterix after an Italian firm on Wednesday won a trademark battle with the otherwise indomitable Gaul in the European courts.

The EU Court of First Instance (CFI), Europe’s highest appeals court, on Wednesday ruled that Italian electronic media group Trucco can formally register ‘Starix’ as an EU-wide trademark for their products.

The judgment signals defeat for Asterix’s Paris publishing house Les Editions Albert René who claimed the name ‘Starix’ was too similar to that of their global comic Gaul and infringed intellectual property law.

The trademark case reached the EU courts in Luxembourg after the appeals board of the Office for Harmonisation of the Internal Market (OHMI), the EU’s watchdog over intellectual property rights quashed the publisher’s trademark complaint over the registration of ‘Starix’.

Trucco aim to use the mark on electrical items including cameras and computer equipment.

But Asterix, or rather Les Editions Albert René, could yet be seen returning to battle in the EU courts.

German computer firm Werner Heuser (WH) lost a Munich court case against the publishers in 2001 as their data system ‘MobiliX’, used to process information on computer hardware, was deemed to be too similar to ‘Obelix’ – another character in the Asterix series.

At the beginning of October 2003 WH applied to the EU’s OHMI for ‘Obelix’ to be deleted as a community trademark.

::Wednesday, October 22, 2003 5:32:39 AM::
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OP ED: From Rome to Troy

An OpEd piece in the New York Times this a.m. suggests that some folks are starting to think outside the box and go beyond the U.S.-as-Rome thing ... here's an excerpt from the middle of the piece:

In case "The Iliad" isn't lying around the Oval Office, let me recap for our warriors in Washington. Achilles is both the mightiest warrior and a petulant, self-righteous, arrogant figure. A unilateralist, he refuses to consult with allies; he dismisses intelligence about his own vulnerability; he never reads the newspapers.

So the Greeks are nearly defeated, and while Achilles sulks in his tent, his dearest friend, Patroclus, is killed. Then the impulsive Achilles careers into action and overdoes it in the other direction, desecrating Hector's body, but in the end he returns to his tent, calms down and shows a new sense of his own limits, a new compassion, a new moderation and a new wisdom.

That is a constant theme in the classics: ancient heroes like Achilles and Odysseus do not avoid mistakes, but they learn from them. Through their errors, they come to understand moral nuance as well as moral clarity, and to appreciate moderation. Indeed, the subtitle for "The Iliad" could be "Achilles Grows Up."

Unfortunately, until recently this administration hasn't shown much signs of growing. Yet over the last few weeks, there have been a few hints of a rosy-fingered dawn, signs that President Bush may be learning from his mistakes and moderating his impulsiveness. I'm hoping that's the case, and it's reassuring to remember what happened in the last electoral cycle: Mr. Bush turned his campaign upside-down after his loss to John McCain in New Hampshire in 2000.

[... you know I just have to add this bit]

To pursue the classical parallel, Don Rumsfeld can be compared to Ajax, the Greek warrior who had great force projection — but was so deluded that he laid waste to what he perceived to be his enemies and turned out to be a herd of cattle. (But a prominent classics scholar called the comparison daft, noting that Ajax "has such nobility of spirit.")

Read the whole thing ...

::Wednesday, October 22, 2003 5:24:35 AM::
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CHATTER: The Sicilian Expedition

The wine column from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review begins a piece on Sicilian wines with a history lesson:

In his famous "History of the Peloponnesian Wars," historian Thucydides told how in 415 B.C. the leaders of Athens debated and then launched an ill-fated invasion of Sicily in an effort to "rule the whole Greek world." Even though Athenian financial and military resources had been stretched thin after incessant warfare with neighbors on the Peloponnesian peninsula over the preceding 50 years, the ambitious invasion decision was made ostensibly to ensure the consolidation of "Hellenic" -- that is, Greek -- culture and commerce under the self-proclaimed enlightened leadership of Athens, the only nominal democracy in the region.

Because Greek city states other than Athens had long ago established colonies such as Siracusa -- Syracuse -- on the Sicilian shores, Greek cultural influences, most particularly the cultivation of grape vines and winemaking, had already taken firm hold in Sicily. In fact, the Greeks referred to Sicily and the toe of Italy as "Oenotria" or "Land of the Vines."

Ultimately, the Athenians' ambitions exceeded their grasp as, over the years, they were vanquished by Sicilians with the support of the Spartans and their Persian financiers. By 404 B.C., Athens surrendered completely and was demilitarized before fading into geopolitical insignificance.

Despite the Athenians' utter debacle in Sicily, Hellenic cultural influences in Sicily remained strong even without Athenian governance. For example, to this day, Sicily's annual production of more than 215 million gallons of wine exceeds by far any other region in Italy.  


::Wednesday, October 22, 2003 5:18:57 AM::
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NUNTII: Where Jesus Bathed? Or at least some Roman guys ...

While a pile of readers, "explorator" and otherwise, have passed this one along to me, it really is a bit of a followup. Last year, in the week before Christmas, there was a pile of press coverage -- most of it expired now, alas -- about a Nazareth souvenir shop owner's belief that he had the remains of a Roman bath in his basement. The Ananova coverage from December, 2002 is still around and sums much of the other coverage up:

Archaeologists and Bible scholars have refuted claims a bathhouse unearthed in Nazareth may have been used by Jesus.

The remains of the vaulted and tiled room were found under a Nazareth souvenir shop.

The structure lies a few paces from a well where Eastern Orthodox churches believe the Angel Gabriel told Mary she would give birth to Jesus.

Owner Elias Shama is convinced the edifice is classical Roman and that Jesus himself may have visited it.

But Tel Aviv Antiquities Museum archaeologist Tzvi Shacham says all the evidence indicates it was built at least a millennium after Christ.

In the edition of Explorator for that week, I noted that the Al Ahram coverage of the story was quite different. What it was focussing on was how Nazareth had been generally ignored as an archaeological area and this bath discovery was a case in point/point of departure:

When the couple opened the shop in 1993, they found a damp problem in the storage room at the rear. Elias tried to remedy it by digging down through the earth floor. He dug down several metres to an older stone floor but the problem persisted and led him into a space under his shop. Soon he was coming across old stones, tiles and eventually pillars.

Elias stopped and called in the Antiquities Authority whose local officers examined the site and told him he had found an Ottoman bathhouse little more than a century old and of minimal interest. So Elias continued digging.

After three years he had dug out all of the storage room and under the shop. He had a beautiful high-vaulted room where he offered visitors coffee before guiding them under the shop through the narrow avenues of the hypocaust, the underfloor heating channels, to see the remains of a white marble floor supported by tile columns meeting in a complex array of arches. The story might have ended there but for Elias's unshakeable conviction that what he had found was no legacy from the Turkish invaders. He visited neighbouring ancient sites, including a famous Roman bathhouse in the Jewish town of Beit Shean, to compare notes. The Antiquities Authority's verdict looked more and more implausible.

He found an ally in a senior archaeologist, Tzvi Shacham, of Tel Aviv's Antiquities Museum, who advised the Authority that Elias had found a much rarer bathhouse, from the Crusader period and some 1,000 years old. Shacham said further excavation was needed and advised that the bathhouse was large, extending under neighbouring shops.

Word spread and slowly foreign archaeologists started visiting. They told Elias the site was older still, possibly classical Roman -- from the time of Christ himself. They lobbied Israel for licenses to excavate the site, prompting the Antiquities Authority to take Elias's story seriously for the first time. Last month a large delegation arrived to look at the site anew and admitted that they had got it wrong. They now say the site looks Roman and that more excavation is needed.

Shama believes that not only could the bathhouse be a major tourist attraction but that it may rewrite the history books. "If it's that old, it shows that there must have been a huge water source to feed the bathhouse at the time of Christ, confirming the story that nearby was the site of Mary's Well and therefore the Annunciation itself."

He says the significance of the bathhouse has only come to light because of his seven-year battle with the authorities and the intervention of foreign archaeologists. Much of the rest of the city's Christian past is simply being overlooked, he says.

"I worked as a builder on the Nazareth 2000 project and know how rushed it was. For the first time the authorities had the chance to dig down around the church and find out about Christ's life. Instead they slapped concrete and pretty paving stones over everything. Who knows what secrets lie underneath?"

Now it appears that we've got another potential bone box brewing ... today's Guardian (note in passing ... the Guardian's original coverage of this from a year ago appears to have expired) gives us the next chapter of the story:

This summer, though, Shama's shop, Cactus, attracted a handful of visitors prepared to brave the violence. A team of forensic archaeologists and biblical scholars have been poring over a network of tunnels Shama unearthed under his shop several years ago. They believe he has made a discovery so remarkable it will rewrite the history books, changing our understanding not only of the Holy Land but of the life of Jesus himself.

Shama began excavating the tunnels after he and his Belgian wife, Martina, bought the shop in 1993, and found a series of 4ft-high passages, separated by columns of small bricks supporting a white marble floor. In one corner they found a walled-off room where a residue of wood ash revealed it once served as a furnace.

The American excavators are convinced that what Shama has exposed is an almost perfectly preserved Roman bathhouse from 2,000 years ago - the time of Christ, and in the town where he was raised. In a piece of marketing that is soon likely to be echoing around the world, Shama says he has stumbled across the "bathhouse of Jesus". The effects on Holy Land tourism are likely be profound, with Nazareth becoming a challenger to Jerusalem and Bethlehem as the world's most popular site of Christian pilgrimage.

Professor Richard Freund, an academic behind important Holy Land digs at the ancient city of Bethsaida, near Tiberias, and Qumran in the Jordan Valley, says the significance of the find cannot be overstated. Over the summer he put aside other excavation projects to concentrate on the Nazareth site. "I am sure that what we have here is a bathhouse from the time of Jesus," he says, "and the consequences of that for archaeology, and for our knowledge of the life of Jesus, are enormous."


Freund, of the Maurice Greenberg Centre for Judaic Studies at Hartford University in Connecticut, says the discovery means that historians will have to rethink the place and significance of Nazareth in the Roman empire and consequently the formative experiences of Jesus. It has been assumed that the Nazareth of 2,000 years ago was a poor Jewish village on the periphery of the empire, where local families inhabited caves on the hillside that today contains the modern Israeli-Arab city. On this view, the young Jesus would have had little contact with the Romans until he left Nazareth as an adult; his father, Joseph, one of many craftsmen in the town, may have worked on a Roman palace at nearby Sephori.

But the huge scale of Shama's bathhouse suggests that Nazareth, rather than Sephori, was the local hub of military control from Rome. The giant bath could only have been built for a Roman city or to service a significant garrison town. That would mean Joseph and Mary, and their son Jesus, would have been living in the very heart of the occupying power. This is likely to have huge significance for New Testament scholars in their understanding of Jesus's later teachings.

Even more significantly, the bathhouse opens up the possibility of discovering a treasure trove of artifacts from the time of Jesus in his hometown. Surprisingly, given its central place in Christian heritage, Nazareth has been little mined for archaeological evidence in recent times. Israeli officials, possibly intimidated by the thought of trying to dig under an overcrowded city of 70,000 Arabs, have mostly sealed up and forgotten its subterranean world of secret passages and tombs. Other areas, including around the Cactus shop, have never been properly excavated

More  from the Guardian...

::Wednesday, October 22, 2003 5:01:37 AM::
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AWOTV: On TV Tonight

8.00 p.m. |DISCU| High Priestess
"Ancient Greeks who found themselves in a quandary often
consulted the oracle at Delphi, whose responses were revered as
deep and profound. More than 1,600 years after the oracle was
shut down, the source of its power has been uncovered."

9.00 p.m. |HINT|Time Team: Birdoswald, Cumbria
"First occupied by Roman troops in around 122 AD and completed
in 138, Birdoswald is the 11th fort out of 17 from the east end
of Hadrian's Wall. The cemetery area was first identified in
1959, when a tenant farmer unearthed a number of Roman pots.
Time Team was given a once in a lifetime opportunity to
investigate at Birdoswald because the cemetery area had already
sustained serious damage. But Time Team's investigation soon
turned up more than expected."

10.00 p.m. |DISCU| The Real Disciples of Jesus
"Experts investigate the disciples of Jesus, examining new
information about their backgrounds and their relationships to
each other and to Jesus. Find out what Judas' role was among the
Twelve; was he truly a traitor, or just a scapegoat?"

DISCU = Discovery Channel (US)

HINT = History International

::Wednesday, October 22, 2003 4:35:11 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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