Latest update: 4/4/2005; 4:07:28 AM
quidquidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca

LAST POST: At the Auctions

Back to Christie's after yet another evening getting caught up on marking (one of the curses of being a teacher is you spend so much time reading bad writing; one of the blessings is that you are in a position to do something about it). Tonight we have a late Fourth Century B.C./B.C.E Greek marble votive relief:

I'm also going to reproduce the official description from the official page tonight:

Preserving the left portion, depicting three seated woman each clad in a chiton and chlamys, holding an object, perhaps a cup, the figure in the center facing frontal, the others facing in, to the left a standing man draped in a himation, his right arm lowered, a standing woman to his left, and to the right a standing male with his right arm raised, two draped males further to the right, an overhang on the left edge suggesting a grotto

Now let's go out on a limb and suggest there's rather more going on here. This is supposed to be a 'votive marble', which suggests it had some connection with a ritual and I would suggest that it depicts a particular episode in a very well-known ritual -- the Eleusinian Mysteries. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter (excerpted from Nagy's translation at Diotima) we read (I don't think I can preserve the formatting):

185 They went through the hall, heading for the place where their mistress, their mother,
 was sitting near the threshold of a well-built chamber,
 holding in her lap her son, a young seedling. And they ran over
 to her side. She [= Demeter] in the meantime went over to the threshold and
 stood on it, with feet firmly planted, and her head
 reached all the way to the ceiling. And she filled the whole indoors with a divine light.
190 She [= Metaneira] was seized by a sense of respect [aidos], by a holy wonder, by a blanching fear.
 She [= Metaneira] yielded to her [= Demeter] the chair on which she was sitting, and she told her to sit down.
 But Demeter, the bringer of seasons [horai], the giver of splendid gifts,
 refused to sit down on the splendid chair,
 but she stood there silent, with her beautiful eyes downcast,
195 until Iambe, the one who knows what is worth caring about [kednon] and what is not, set down for her
 a well-built stool, on top of which she threw an splendid fleece.[17]
 On this she [= Demeter] sat down, holding with her hands a veil before her face.
 For a long time she sat on the stool, without uttering a sound, in her sadness.
 And she made no approach, either by word or by gesture, to anyone.
200 Unsmiling, not partaking of food or drink,
 she sat there, wasting away with yearning for her daughter with the low-slung girdle,
 until Iambe,[18] the one who knows what is dear and what is not, started making fun.
 Making many jokes, she turned the Holy Lady's disposition in another direction,
 making her smile and laugh and have a merry thumos.
205 Ever since, she [= Iambe] has been pleasing her [= Demeter] with the sacred rites.
 Then Metaneira offered her [= Demeter] a cup, having filled it with honey-sweet wine.
 But she refused, saying that it was divinely ordained that she not
 drink red wine. Then she [= Demeter] ordered her [= Metaneira] to mix some barley and water with
 delicate pennyroyal, and to give her [= Demeter] that potion to drink.
210 So she [= Metaneira] made the kukeon[19] and offered it to the goddess, just as she had ordered.
 The Lady known far and wide as Deo[20] accepted it, for the sake of the hosia.[21]
 Then well-girded Metaneira spoke up in their midst:
 "Woman, I wish you kharis [= I wish you pleasure and happiness from our
 relationship, starting now]. I speak this way because I think you are descended not from base parents
 but from noble ones. You have the look of aidos in your eyes,
215 and the look of kharis, just as if you were descended from kings, who uphold the divine ordinances [themistes].
 We humans endure the gifts the gods give us, even when we are grieving over what has to be.
 The yoke has been placed on our neck.

Returning to our marble, we likely see Demeter 'mourning' on her fleece-covered stool. Iambe and Metaneira are also sitting, each holding a cup and they're cracking jokes. In the background are initiates to the Mysteries, led by the Iacchagogos (the guy with his arm raised) ... we're on the fifth day of the Mysteries, when the procession of the 'Holy Things' returned from Athens to Eleusis and on the way stopped at various sites of ritual importance.  I need to track down a copy of Mylonas to take this further, though ...

::Tuesday, November 25, 2003 9:42:07 PM::
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NUNTII: Latin Thriving at Nokomis Regional

From the Kennebec Journal:

Latin? Why Latin? One rarely hears it spoken, and even for the many area Roman Catholics, it's been decades since it was regularly used in Mass.

Yet Latin and the classics have enjoyed a remarkable renaissance of interest and enrollment in American schools. In Maine, that rebirth is most widespread south of Waterville. But Waterville and Messalonskee high schools offer the language of Caesar, and the trend is creeping northward.

Educators might offer many intangibles for the inclusion of Latin in the curriculum. It hones thinking skills. It refers students to great primary sources, like Cicero and Julius Caesar. There are many historical crossovers.

But teacher Patricia Mullis can give a more concrete reason that Nokomis Regional High School is offering Latin for the third year.

More ...

::Tuesday, November 25, 2003 6:46:48 PM::
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NUNTII: Latin Students Build Roman Models!

This, from a Massachusetts paper:

On November 19, Latin students of Pine Cobble School, taught by John McCormick, held their tenth annual Roman Model Contest. The projects were presented to the entire school during the Wednesday assemble period.

In conjunction with the textbooks, Cambridge Latin Project, Latin IA students study a family who lived in Pompeii in A.D. 79. The first project is to design and build a Roman house. Latin IB students study the travels of Quintus whose parents were killed in A.D. 79 in Pompeii.

He travels for half the time in Britain and then to Alexandria. One of the things which impresses him in his travels, is the similarity in design and lay out of Roman cities. Their project is to design and build a Roman public building. Latin II's project is to design and build a Roman public building. Latin II students chose to build catapults with one student choosing to build a virtual Roman house.

More ...

::Tuesday, November 25, 2003 6:36:15 PM::
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CHATTER: Iliad Adaptations

The New York Press has a bunch of suggestions for DVD's to give as Christmas presents and among them is this brief blurb:

Dip into action cinema’s past instead. Consider Richard Brooks’ 1966 western The Professionals (Columbia-Tri Star, $24.95) a riff on Homer’s Iliad in which Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Woody Strode and Robert Ryan play American mercenaries dispatched to Mexico to rescue the kidnapped wife (Claudia Cardinale) of an American tycoon (Ralph Bellamy).

I can't recall ever having seen this one and had certainly never heard of the 'Iliad riff'. A little poking around at RottenTomatoes adds a few details:

On their mission to return Carter's highly prized wife, they track the Mexican revolutionaries through rough and rugged desert terrain, determined to outsmart, outshoot, and outride anyone they come across--until they meet the the charismatic Rasa and discover that Carter's seductive wife is in love with the Mexican outlaw and has no intention of returning with the band of "professionals." Based on the novel A MULE FOR THE MARQUESA by Frank O'Rourke, this beautifully rendered Western features a star-studded cast delivering finely crafted and charismatic performances. Burt Lancaster is at his acrobatic and mercurial best as the rowdy gunslinger.

Sadly, I can't find whether Frank O'Rourke based his novel on the Iliad (he seems to have written for a pile of magazines, though) ... maybe something worth renting over the holidays.

::Tuesday, November 25, 2003 6:30:34 PM::
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NUNTII: Desecration of Archaeological Sites

Seems the Olympic organizers aren't alone when it comes to sacrificing archaeological sites for more modern structures. Here's an AP piece via Canada's very own Globe and Mail, which says, inter alia (this is practically the whole thing):

Frustrated archeologists said Monday that a sprawling area of recently discovered early third-century warehouses will soon be topped by a 200-car parking lot in the Trastevere area near the Tiber River.

Archeologists had to put down their tools after exploring only a small slice of the approximately 420-square-metre expanse of storehouses that once served as busy port when Roman traders and armies sailed the Mediterranean during the Imperial era.

While there is money available to build parking spots in this car-choked metropolis, the coffers for archeological exploration are practically bare.

But archeologists expressed relief that they will at least be able to rescue three stunning mosaics from what could be thermal baths from the start of the fourth century.

The mosaics were found some three metres above the level of the storehouses, thought to date about a century earlier.

It is not the first time Romans' hunger for more parking lots fared better than archeologists' thirst for more knowledge. A frescoed, second-century Imperial villa was razed on the Janiculum hill to make way for a multi-storey Vatican garage for its 2000 millennium celebrations.


The mosaics and the storehouses came to light when Rome's public transport company, ATAC, asked archeologists to do some excavation at the site.

Discoveries of ancient columns, statues and other antiquities are common during construction in Rome, and many companies invite archeologists to do sample digs in hopes of avoiding surprises that can hold up projects for years.

The mosaics were described as an extraordinary find.

Fiorenzo Catalli, the archeologist who led the excavation, said the largest of the three mosaics measures nine-by-nine metres and depicts romping, mythical sea animals in black and white tiles.

Another well-preserved but smaller mosaic that is also black and white features a lion's head with a flowing mane and a manlike face, surrounded by fish.

The third mosaic, made of bits of coloured glass, was done in a geometric design. It has been removed, restored and put in a storehouse in a Rome park until it can be installed in a museum.

But the other two mosaics have been plastered over until a safe home can be found for them.

“We preferred to bury them rather them leave them exposed and not properly cared for,” said Mr. Catalli, adding that the government's chronically skimpy budget for cultural heritage makes it difficult to guarantee security and upkeep.

In the unlikely prospect that generous funding should come through for extensive excavations, ATAC will have to allow some digging in the parking lot area, Mr. Catalli said.

ATAC originally planned a depot for trams but abandoned that because it would have involved underground foundations that could have destroyed the ancient finds.

“The mosaics could belong to a thermal baths area, but that's only a hypothesis,” Mr. Catalli said. “We can't say for certain because we couldn't complete our exploration of the whole area.”

Several amphorae, the long, slender, two-handled jars that ancient Romans used for shipping and storing oil, wine and a tangy fish sauce that was popular with ancient tastes, were also found in the storehouses.

Never have figured out why the G&M uses the 'archeology' spelling ...

::Tuesday, November 25, 2003 6:19:25 PM::
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CHATTER: Sinister Business

Okay ... so the scan turns up something from the Herald Sun with a claim that turns up semi-frequently, to wit, that Alexander the Great was left handed. The claim is all over the internet, of course, perhaps most notably at Wikipedia, which also adds Julius Caesar and Tiberius to the list. Now I can't honestly claim to have read every ancient source about Alexander, or Julius Caesar, or Tiberius but I'm pretty sure I've read everything that someone making this claim would have easy access to and I cannot recall anyone ever commenting on the 'handedness' of anyone, left or right. Until someone can point to an ancient source which verifies the claim, I strongly suggest we put this in the 'internet myth' file.

::Tuesday, November 25, 2003 6:13:27 PM::
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ante diem vii kalendas decembres

  • 250 A.D. -- martyrdom of Mercurius
  • 1922 -- Howard Carter opens the first two doorways to Tut's tomb

::Tuesday, November 25, 2003 6:01:06 AM::
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CHATTER: At the Auctions

As mentioned last night, I might have to do 'two-a-days' to get in all the nice stuff that's currently up for auction at Christie's before the sale date of December 11 (I'm not sure how long Christie's keeps up their photos). So here's something else that caught my eye ... it dates from the Second Century A.D./C.E. and is a huge (it's more than two inches across!) twenty-sided Roman glass gaming die. As the official description suggests, we're not sure what sort of game it was used for, but it looks to me like we have Greek symbols, which are probably alphabetic numerals:

The official page ...

::Tuesday, November 25, 2003 5:45:33 AM::
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NUNTII: Cultura

Since we regularly feature auction items in these pages -- not to promote the auctions themselves, but to make folks aware of some of the artifacts that are circulating out there that aren't in museums or textbooks -- folks might be interested in the Telegraph's account of the Cultura Fair, a.k.a. the Basle Antiquities Fair, which was held last week. If nothing else, it's worth pointing out one of the paragraphs, which gives the basic export laws which affect the EU:

But reputable dealers now have to be increasingly careful about the provenance of what they sell as archaeologists accuse the market of providing looters and smugglers with an incentive to plunder ancient sites.

To get an export licence from the European Union, dealers now have to be able to show that an object was on the market before 1993 or that it has been legally exported since then. Wace prefers to sell pieces with a provenance predating the 1970 Unesco convention that clamped down on the illicit trade in antiquities.

... which explains why many of the items from the Christie's sale which rogueclassicism is currently highlighting, all claim provenances which predate 1970.

::Tuesday, November 25, 2003 4:53:31 AM::
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I've been remiss in posting some reviews of late, so here's a bit of catchup:

Raymond Van Dam, Kingdom of Snow. Roman Rule and Greek Culture in Cappadocia.

Trevor Bryce, Life and Society in the Hittite World.

Rabun Taylor, Roman Builders: A Study in Architectural Process.

Walter Scheidel, Sitta von Reden (edd.), The Ancient Economy.

Scheidel on Cohen on Scheidel/Von Reden.  

Ann Suter, The Narcissus and the Pomegranate. An Archaeology of the
Homeric Hymn to Demeter

Robert Dodaro, George Lawless (edd.), Augustine and His Critics. Essays in
Honour of Gerald Bonner.

Heikki Solin, Martti Leiwo, Hilla Halla-aho (edd.), Latin vulgaire / Latin
tardif VI: Actes du VIe colloque international sur le latin vulgaire et
tardif, Helsinki, 29 aout - 2 septembre 2000.
(review in English)


::Tuesday, November 25, 2003 4:40:51 AM::
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AWOTV: On TV Today

5.00 p.m. |DCIVC| The Most Evil Men in History: Attila the Hun

5.30 p.m. |DCIVC| Creatures Fantastic: Mythical Horses

8.00 p.m. |HINT| Hadrian's Wall
"Why did the ancient Romans build a stone wall across England
from sea to sea? This look at Emperor Hadrian's Wall suggests
that it had to do with military necessity and the ego of Hadrian

9.00 p.m. |HISTC| Warrior School: Gladiators
"This unique "hands-on history" series places intrepid British
and American volunteers in the role of some of history's bravest
fighters as they live, train and fight like heroes of
yesteryear. In this episode, four volunteers from the Royal
Marine Commandos and the US Marine Corps are put through an
intensive 'lanista' training with the help of the Lunt Roman
Fort before facing each other in the blood and sand of the Roman

DCIVC = Discovery Civilization (Canada)

HISTC = History Television (Canada)

HINT = History International

::Tuesday, November 25, 2003 4:25:40 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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