Latest update: 4/4/2005; 4:05:55 AM
quidquidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca

REVIEWS: Audiobooks

The Guardian's Sue Arnold reviews an audio version of Plutarch's Lives:

With judicious editing and a rollneck sweater, Plutarch would have been more than a match for the Simon Schama/David Starkey school of celebrity historians. Few, apart from classics students, read him today, which is a pity because, as these extracts from his masterpiece Parallel Lives demonstrate, he had a thoroughly modern view of the importance that psychology plays in the art of biography. Unlike earlier historians, who stuck rigidly to dates, battles, victories and defeats, Plutarch's aim was to educe his subjects' "habit of mind", thus giving us a complete picture of the man rather than the hero...

... and similiter Barry Unsworth's Song of the Kings:

Mary Renault, I used to think, was the only novelist who could successfully plunder the Greek myths and give us shining new lamps for old plots, but Unsworth, though less romantic, is edgier, funnier and more open to twists. Andrew Sachs reads it brilliantly. His Achilles is straight from The Rocky Horror Show.

::Saturday, November 01, 2003 5:07:14 PM::
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NUNTII: Cena Trimalchi ... er ... Tyconis

As many folks who follow the various news search engines have probably noticed, the big Tyco case began showing up with a Roman (or at least Romanish) context. At issue was whether jurors in the 'looting' trial of ex-CEO Dennis Kozlowski would be allowed to see video from a huge birthday party the guy threw for his wife a couple of years ago on the island of Sardinia. I waited in vain for some literate journalist to suggest Petronius or Trimalchio, or at least the Satyricon, but they seem to have settled for references to toga parties and Animal House. In any event, here's what defense lawyers were trying to prevent jurors from seeing (culled from various sources on various days this week):

According to Jacques, what it entailed was a no-expense-spared blowout at a Sardinian golf course elaborately decorated to reflect the party's theme: the luxury that was Rome.

The tape, just over 20 minutes long, included Jimmy Buffett singing - at a reported cost of $250,000 - and long-haired men in tiny briefs flexing their muscles to guests. A stage was built resembling a Roman temple, with togas and torches all around.

... among the things not shown were the full shot of an anatomically correct ice sculpture of Michelangelo's David dispensing vodka, a picture of guests "mooning" the camera, and two men dressed as ancient Romans carrying Kozlowski's wife over their heads.

Chariots and gladiators greeted arrivals, before male models wearing skin-coloured swimming costumes pranced around female guests, while women in togas fed men grapes.

Tan female models in Roman gowns tossed flower petals into the air. Tan male models in knee boots and form-fitting yellow Speedos stood on platforms striking virile poses.

As seen in the video, the party featured a laser show, tables heaped with shellfish, and a performance by ecstatically dancing men and women - again in gauzy togas, but with the more erotic dance steps edited out. A smoke machine shrouded the dancers' feet in mist.

At a pivotal moment, a gladiator shot a flaming arrow into the sky. On that cue, the words "Congratulations Karen and Dennis" ignited in flaming letters on the Sardinian countryside. The pair had married the month before.

But enough words ... CNN has a slide show and clips from the video. (for the latter, you need one of those superpass things). Sadly, this is the only thing which strikes one as vaguely Trimalchionesque:

Otherwise, much of it looks like an APA or CAC meeting ...

::Saturday, November 01, 2003 4:48:46 PM::
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kalendae novembres

::Saturday, November 01, 2003 8:59:34 AM::
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ALSO SEEN: Lucretius

As I sift though the piles of Hallowe'en pieces in the queue this a.m., a quote from one of them seems worth highlighting;

The ancient Roman Lucretius said: ''It is in autumn that the starlit dome of heaven throughout its breadth and the whole earth are most often rocked by thunderbolts, and again when the flowery season of spring is waxing.... These then are the year's crises.'' Crisis: literally, a turning point. Halloween is our annual crisis of fear. Late autumn is when the earth tilts toward the dark and, seasonal creatures that we are, we feel it shift beneath our feet. Whether or not we like it - whether we're even aware of it while we're buying candy at the mall and worrying about our kids being out alone as night falls - our world moves in a circle, and we're part of the cycle.

Here's the 'thundering' lines from Lucretius, if you were wondering (de Rerum Natura 6.357 ff):

Autumnoque magis stellis fulgentibus alta
concutitur caeli domus undique totaque tellus,
et cum tempora se veris florentia pandunt.


::Saturday, November 01, 2003 8:37:51 AM::
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ALSO SEEN: The Growth of Astrophysical Understanding

If you're up for some heavier reading on this All Saints' Day, check out the piece in Physics today under the above title ... it begins:

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the growth in our understanding of the universe is that we understand anything at all. Beyond the obvious regularities of the seasons, the Assyrians noted, as early as 700 BC, that the planets appeared to move in a complex semiregular pattern and that solar eclipses were possible only at the new moon, whereas lunar eclipses occurred only at the full moon. But what did all that tell the ancients about the structure of the universe?

Around 250 BC, the Greek natural philosopher Aristarchus of Samos worked out the distance of the Moon and its size. He proposed a method for determining the Sun's distance, but he was able to conclude only that the Sun was much farther away than the Moon and much larger than Earth. That led him to postulate, 18 centuries before Nicolaus Copernicus, that Earth revolves around the Sun.

Aristarchus's theory was largely discredited, especially by Claudius Ptolemaeus of Alexandria. Ptolemy's Almagest, which appeared in about 150 AD, dominated Western astronomical thought for a millennium and a half. Ptolemy argued that Earth could not be rotating. Rotation, he thought, would throw anything not firmly attached off the surface, and "animals and other weights would be left hanging in the air." Moreover, Earth's rotation would be so fast that "never would a cloud be seen to move toward the east."

That sounds quaint today, but it wasn't illogical. Ptolemy was a great scientist. The first lesson in astrophysics, however, is that every cosmic phenomenon is governed by competing effects--in this case, gravity, centrifugal forces, and friction. Unless we know the order of magnitude of each, we are likely to draw wrong conclusions.

The article then proceeds through the centuries to the 'state of the question' and 'where to we go from here' ... (you will see mathematical formulae ... you have been warned)

::Saturday, November 01, 2003 8:24:57 AM::
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I was kind of wondering if this sort of thing would come in the wake of the 'Ten Commandments' court case of a month or so ago. As reported (vaguely and briefly) in the Grand Forks (ND) Herald:

 The UND Law School will treat the request to represent a Fargo Christian activist in his complaint against a Grand Forks statue like any other potential case.

Martin Wishnatsky said he wants to sue Grand Forks County and other relevant parties to get the Themis statue removed from the top of the Grand Forks County Courthouse.

Director of clinical education at the UND Law School Laura Rovner received a letter from Wishnatsky dated Oct. 29 requesting the assistance.

I wonder whether this (or similar) cases will get as much television coverage ...

::Saturday, November 01, 2003 8:18:34 AM::
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NUNTII: More Olympian Moronics

After my little tirade the other day against the idea of holding the shot put event at the ancient stadium of Olympia, it was a good thing to read in yesterday's Kathimerini:

The Association of Greek Archaeologists yesterday attacked plans, leaked by Athens 2004 officials on Wednesday, to relocate an Olympic track and field event from the capital to Ancient Olympia, and appealed to Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos to intervene. Holding the event at Olympia would cause irreparable damage to the ancient stadium and the site at Olympia, archaeologists complained, adding that the stadium was not a practical venue in which viewers could be seated. “Not one stone of the stadium should be touched,” they warned.

Perhaps it was just a 'trial balloon', I mused. Sadly, if the 'leaked announcement' about using Olympia as an actual Olympic venue was a 'trial balloon', that notion appears to have popped ... as seen in today's Kathimerini:

Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos — after Premier Costas Simitis, the Cabinet’s top Olympics planner — said the initial idea, made public just 10 months before the Games are due to start, belonged to Athens 2004 Organizing Committee president Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki.

“Each country can have a great Olympic stadium... a swimming center, roads, a tram and metro network,” he told journalists. “But only we have ancient Olympia to show. And we are obliged to show this to billions of spectators worldwide.”

The proposal has to be approved by the International Olympics Committee — which is currently more concerned about progress on key Athens public transport projects and work to build a roof for the main Olympic Stadium.

Venizelos took care to stress that the event would not cause any damage to the 2,400-year old stadium of Olympia, dismissing warnings to the contrary by Greek archaeologists.

“We did not choose this event by chance,” he said. “It can be carried out without any intervention to the stadium and with full respect to the archaeological site, as very few stands for the athletes are effectively needed, and the measuring equipment is the same as that used by topographers. The television coverage will be exactly the same as in important cultural events that have repeatedly been hosted in the ancient stadium.”

And just so we're aware of the brain trust we're dealing with ... the Culture Minister continues:

“We will organize the shot put under conditions almost identical to those of the ancient event,” he said. “The result will be catalytic, sensational.”

... and happily Kathimerini points out:

The shot put was not part of the ancient Games, in which all participants were male and competed naked. It was adopted in the first modern Olympics, held in Athens in 1896. The event involves throwing a cast-iron ball that weighs 16 pounds in the men’s contest and 8.8 pounds in the women’s event.

More evidence that being Minister of Culture (or whatever title they're given) is not based on actual knowledge and appreciation of the culture involved ...

::Saturday, November 01, 2003 8:05:15 AM::
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EXHIBITION REVIEW: The Centaur's Smile

From the New York Times ... (thanks to "explorator" frequent contributor AS!):

Humans sometimes say, "We're just animals." But we never think what that means. The ancient Greeks did, creating a whole pantheon of composite creatures that were part human and part beast. These included the centaur (half man, half horse), satyr (man with equine ears and tail and the legs of a goat), a siren (bird with a human head) and sphinx (a winged lion with a human head).
These fantastic creatures captivated ancient Greek artists. They appear on vases, terra-cotta statuettes, metalwork and engraved gems.

A hundred such ancient works of art, dating from 750 to 450 B.C., are in "The Centaur's Smile: The Human Animal in Early Greek Art" at the Princeton University Art Museum (through Jan. 18). Twenty-one are from the Princeton museum and the rest from collections in the United States, France and Spain.

Much, much more (but no photos, alas ...) ...

::Saturday, November 01, 2003 7:42:20 AM::
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NUNTII: Cypriot Artifacts at the Olympics

An "explorator" reader passed this one along (thanks DS!) ... during the Olympics there will be a major exhibition of artifacts from Cyprus:

They have fat, little egg-shaped faces and wear a 2,7OO year old Mona Lisa smile.
And they come from Cyprus. Made by potters and sculptors during the same Archaic period that the Olympics were officially instigated in 776 BC, the ancient stone heads will be competing for the attention of waves of visitors next year when Greece hosts the upcoming Games.
They are part of an extensive and rarely-seen collection of important Cypriot archaeological finds to be displayed side by side for the first time with mainland Greek artifacts at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
The museum is currently under extended renovation but is expected to re-open before the Olympiad; a more permanent gallery of Cypriot art is planned for later.
Until now, most of the Cypriot objects were housed in underground storerooms there.
The museum’s Cypriot collection of about 850 pieces has been building up for almost two centuries through gifts and other donations and from more recent confiscations.

More  (it's a rather long article) ...

::Saturday, November 01, 2003 7:37:53 AM::
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REVIEWS: The Latest From BMCR

Christoph Ulf, Robert Rollinger (edd.), Geschlechter, Frauen, Fremde
Ethnien in Antiker Ethnographie, Theorie und Realitaet
. (review in English)

Anne-Francoise Jaccottet, Choisir Dionysos. Les associations
dionysiaques ou la face cache/e du dionysisme
. Vol. I: Text; II:
Documents. (review in English)

G. E. R. Lloyd, The Ambitions of Curiosity: Understanding the World in
Ancient Greece and China

::Saturday, November 01, 2003 7:34:12 AM::
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AWOTV: On TV Today

4.00 p.m. |DTC| Ancient Ancestors: Princess and the Pauper
"The discovery of thousands of skeletons in the heart of London
astonished archaeologists. It looks like hundreds of people were
struck down by something deadly and dumped in a mass pauper's
grave, along with the body of a young Roman in a sarcophagus."

5.00 p.m. |DTC| Fire Ships
"Sailing the Mediterranean was once a dangerous endeavor.
Roaming the seas for 500 years was a vessel that inspired
dread—the fireship. Invented by the Byzantines, this battleship
was stocked with incendiary firing catapults and a monster flame

6.00 p.m. |DISCU| Letters from the Roman Front
"Rome's legions met their match in the highlands of Scotland.
At the archaeological dig of the Roman garrison at Vindolanda,
countless artifacts help recreate the life of Roman armies -
from their aqueducts to their slaughterhouse."


::Saturday, November 01, 2003 7:30:10 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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