Latest update: 4/4/2005; 4:07:39 AM
quidquidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca

LAST POST: At the Auctions

Well, one more major push and all the marking for report cards should (finally) be done. So I'm shutting down the computer early tonight and present another item from Christie's. The other night we showed a Roman cavalry 'parade mask' that had me wondering whether there was any connection between such things and the 'parade of the ancestors' at the funerals of the rich and famous. Here's another one, dating from the Second or Third Century A.D.. Again, I'll reproduce the official description below it (I give the 'small' version of the photo tonight ... the big one is huge ... access it via the official page):

Hammered from a single sheet, with a long idealized face, the curving brows incised with chevrons, the almond-shaped eyes also incised along the rims, the pupils indicated, the irises and sclera perforated, the nostrils and slender lips also perforated, the filtrum indicated, the round chin prominent, the thick wavy hair center-parted, with sideburns incised on the cheeks, wearing a thin fillet tied low across his forehead, punched dots along its edges, and a ridged diadem with a reclining lion on either side, their large heads turned outward, perforated along the edges for attachment, perhaps also attached by a now-missing hinge at the top of the head.

Er ... can we state the obvious? It's Alexander the Great ... you've got the tell-tale hair, the diadem, lions, sideburns ...

::Wednesday, November 26, 2003 7:34:21 PM::
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NUNTII: Jason and the Argonauts

I love Australian newspapers. For some reason they seem to cover the ancient world far, far better than any other newspaper, save perhaps the Telegraph and the Times (the latter, of course, has imposed a subscription on folks outside the blessed isle) and they cover the 'documentary' side even better than the Guardian. A case in point is the Age's  piece on the upcoming documentary The Real Jason and the Argonauts, which has not yet appeared in Canada, but has appeared on Discovery Channel in the U.S.. After the obligatory c.v. of the documentary maker, we read:

According to the legend, 3000 years ago a young man named Jason undertook an epic voyage to the furthest corner of the world. He had amazing adventures, crossed unpassable seas and mountains and battled monsters before finally discovering the legendary Golden Fleece.

In The Real Jason and the Argonauts, Trevisick brings the weight of history and archaeology to bear on a wondrous question: did Jason exist, and was his actual journey the first recorded and greatest voyage of discovery of antiquity? Trevisick's quest began when one of the researchers at Atlantic Productions, where he is a staff director, stumbled upon archaeological evidence of early communities in Georgia. Because of the troubles in this post-Soviet Union region, the timber ruins discovered beneath a riverbed could not be further examined.

But the researcher linked that evidence to a significant archaeological site in Iolkos, Greece, believed to be Jason's home. An unearthed burial chamber revealed the inscription "Jason, son of Cretheus". In the epic, Jason's father is also called Cretheus.

Large ceremonial buildings and evidence of temples, plazas and a big road leading to the sea ruled out Iolkos as the site of a Neolithic fort. Could this be the place from which Jason set out on his epic voyage?

Ancient texts by the poet Apollonius provided details of Jason's itinerary. Was the perilous passage through the Clashing Rocks a reference to the 12-metre waves that can erupt in the straits of the Bosporus? And where might he have found the Golden Fleece?

Some suggested Iceland, but the gold gatherers of Georgia provide an illuminating clue of what the legendary fleece might actually be.

Trevisick is certainly not the first to investigate the legend of Jason. In Roman times, Trevisick explains, tourists travelled to Georgia in search of signs of Jason.

"It was certainly taken seriously in the first couple of centuries BC. Educated people took the idea that it was a myth based on truth very seriously," he explains.

Working from the great library in Alexandria, Apollonius gathered many scraps of the story to provide the first full account of Jason's journey, but Apollonius had an agenda, says Trevisick, in much the same way Shakespeare had reasons to mythologise Richard III.

Apollonius's account had fewer monsters and, in the spirit of the post-Alexander age, he wanted to make heroes of the Greeks.

Not least of Trevisick's interests is in understanding the way each age writes such myths in its own particular image and the value people place in their fables.

"Who hasn't seen that Ray Harryhausen film (1963's Jason and the Argonauts) and just thought 'This is fantastic'? For me, it was one of the great films of childhood, and to find that there's some basis of truth behind it, that it's a mythologised version of real events like a trading mission, is just fantastic."

Stomping on people's values is the furthest thing from Trevisick's mind.

"You have to be careful dealing with myths because they have a lot to do often with people's sense of self and national identities, and there's no need to shatter things like that.

"What I'm looking at complements rather than undermines. It's just a different way of understanding these stories in different ages, I think.

 "These days, the modern inquiring mind requires that we find out who the real people are, but it doesn't mean those myths are any less true for the people of other ages.

"There's a fine balance between literal truth and artistic truth, and often we learn more about ourselves from artistic truth than literal truth. This trading voyage to Georgia was romanticised into this great quest for a golden fleece and all the elements sort of fit, but we'll never have absolute, definitive proof. You can only look for the circumstantial evidence around it.

"But at the time it must have been a huge breakthrough in the Greek world to reach the far corners of the Black Sea, and it's interesting that this feat becomes this legend of Jason, or at least one of the ways that contributes to the legend of Jason."

::Wednesday, November 26, 2003 6:48:55 PM::
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NUNTII: Xenophon in the News

It's not often we get to see Xenophon being mentioned in our daily scan (I don't think he's ever been mentioned in these webpages), so when an editorial brings him up, even if it has more subordinate clauses than I, your humble editor, generally write, although I try to be careful about such things, one has to make note of it. Here's the incipit:

With over 13,000 Greeks in danger of moral peril and penned in by Persia’s less than welcome terrain, Xenophon, a student of Socrates and one who had earlier implored the Delphic oracle for guidance, successfully retreated to Greece through 1,500 miles of treacherous mountains, all endlessly inhabited by countless hostile tribes. He recorded the journey in his legendary writing called “The Anabasis.” That was 400 B.C., but even to this day his genius and strategies are the subject for war colleges throughout the world.

Now Asia Minor has long since been forgotten, but Iraq remains in a wash of oil and is unhappily occupied by 130,000 American troops. Fatalities are an integral part of war but hardly a subject to be dealt with in a cavalier fashion. There are those would-be semanticists who will claim we are not occupying Iraq, rather we are the third millennium conscience or Red Cross or something.

In no way am I recommending retreat ...

Sadly, the rest of the editorial has little, if any, connection with Xenophon until the last line:

Where is Xenophon now that we need him?

Er ... can you say non sequitur?

::Wednesday, November 26, 2003 6:40:08 PM::
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ante diem vi kalendas decembres

  • 311 A.D. -- martyrdom of Faustus and friends in Alexandria
  • 311 A.D. -- martyrdom of Peter of Alexandria
  • 1857 -- birth of Ferdinand de Saussure ('father' of modern linguistics; 'uncle' of structuralism)
  • 1922 -- Howard Carter sees "wonderful things" as he opens Tut's tomb

::Wednesday, November 26, 2003 5:58:54 AM::
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AUDIO: Father Foster

Wow ... this must be really good coffee. Not only have I been able to write this a.m. in a somewhat coherent manner, I also remembered that I forgot to put up a link to the latest Father Foster thing from Vatican Radio. This week, our favourite Carmelite has some rather interesting things to say about the Domus Aurea, Raphael, the meaning of 'grotesque', and Nero ... Audi!

::Wednesday, November 26, 2003 5:52:51 AM::
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CHATTER: I Always Wondered About That

As some folks may be aware, perpetually-on-the-entertainment-gossip-shows-but-never-seeming-to-actually-do-anything-but-date-celebrities celebrity Carmen Electra recently tied the knot. I've always wondered about her name and E! Online today answers one of those long-held-questions-that-you-really-can't-be-bothered-to-check things:

Her other high-profile romances included flings with B-Real of Cypress Hill, Fred Durst and Prince--who inspired the former Tara Leigh Patrick to change her name to Carmen simply by telling her that she looked like a "Carmen." (The Electra part was chosen in honor of the mythological Greek babe.)

::Wednesday, November 26, 2003 5:35:02 AM::
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As folks who wander over to "palaeojudaica" or New Testament Gateway are aware, the big meeting's going on in Atlanta and there is assorted press coverage. Of interest to us, perhaps, is a USA Today account of a session on the James Ossuary and its discontents. This bit is particularly interesting:

In a presentation at the conference, [Yuval] Goren described the "Jerusalem Syndrome" of forged relics, a reference to a similarly named psychological ailment afflicting tourists who visit Jerusalem and then become convinced they are characters from the Bible. Focusing on four cases of dubious artifacts, including the James ossuary, he listed common characteristics of fakes from the last decade:

• Publication or planned publication of the relic in Biblical Archaeology Review.

• Authentication of the relic's age by Geological Survey of Israel scientists and the inscription by paleographer André Lemaire of Paris' Sorbonne University.

• Comments by outside experts that it's too good to be true.

"Our discipline may be contaminated to some extent by more such fakes," Goren warned. Past forgeries accepted as real suggest the science of paleography is "a fool's paradise," he said, useless for authenticating any inscriptions.

In his presentation, archaeologist Neil Silberman, a contributing editor for Archaeology Magazine, suggested the ossuary shows that scholars must divorce themselves from the demands of collectors. He called on his colleagues to make collecting looted artifacts as socially unacceptable as hunting endangered animals.

Sitting in the second row of the session was BAR editor Hershel Shanks, who afterward called the presentations "pretty one-sided" in dismissing the James ossuary. Shanks has opposed calls for scholars to shun collectors, saying it would drive important relics into hidden collections beyond the reach of archaeologists.

The whole thing ... Neil Silberman, of course, is reflecting the view held by the AIA. Personally, while I (obviously) do not approve of looting of sites, etc., I find it difficult to believe that if scholars 'divorce themselves' from collectors it will have the desired effect of making collecting itself a socially unacceptable activity (and, presumably by implication) and therefore remove the impetus for looting in the first place. A far more realistic stance would be to 'embrace' the collectors so they are rather more willing than they might otherwise be to share their recent purchases and at least make them available to the scholarly world for 'verification' (i.e. study) and publication.

::Wednesday, November 26, 2003 5:19:54 AM::
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From the Telegraph:

Were it not for the extensive programme notes accompanying Femi Elufowoju's revival of Medea, it would be hard to tell that this young director had boldly ventured to plant Euripides's tragedy within the precise context of Nigerian Yoruba culture.

Indistinct jungle noises may lurk in Mic Pool's ominous, throbbing sound design, and Ruari Murchison's imposing set, which situates much of the action on a stone platform - circular, raised and raked - may have the aura of a sanctified space in the midst of a clearing. But, when the black British cast, dressed mainly in simple, uncolourful robes with occasional tribal adornments, open their mouths, it's Euripides's words, as translated by Alistair Elliot, that issue forth.

Interesting though it is to note that the Yoruba lived in independent city states and honoured a vast pantheon of deities, much like the ancient Greeks, such affinities have little direct bearing on the plight of Medea and her terrible act of revenge upon the perfidious Jason.

Appeals are frequently made to the gods in this play, and the distinction between Jason, the mortal warrior, and Medea, the Sun-descended follower of Hekate who forsook her supernatural nature out of love, is an important one; yet the cruel crux of the acrimonious division between them couldn't be more down to earth. Jason has sexually betrayed the woman who gave up everything, even sacrificing her own brother, on his behalf - and the infanticidal rage that sweeps over Medea as a consequence finds its echo in break-ups and divorces the world over.

More ...

::Wednesday, November 26, 2003 4:55:38 AM::
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NUNTII: Roman Pottery In India?

Keralanext reports on the analysis of some pottery found at the ancient Indian port of Muziris, inter alia:

For the normal eye, they are just fragments of pottery. But for the specialist eye of Southampton varsity scholar Roberta Tomber, these pieces of clay are first fragile indicators that may help archaeologists solve the mystery of the ancient Indian port of Muziris.

Roberta claims that the pottery pieces found by K P Shajan, a marine geologist, from Pattanam near Paravoor, are parts of Roman wine amphora, Mesopotamian torpedo jar and Yemenite storage jar. "It is the first time that we have found evidence in Malabar coast. The clay is very different from what was used in India during the same period. A lot of black minerals are present," she says.

If this claim is true, then the pieces are the first evidence of Roman pottery to be found in Kerala. It also strengthens the theory that the port of Muziris was in the belt of Kodungallur-Chettuva.

"These were found in Pattanam, north of Paravoor. The whole area is strewn with pottery samples. Though many of them are of Indian origin, a few pieces of Indo-Roman era were also found. A detail exploration of the area will alone help establish this fact," Shajan, who chanced upon the evidence during a geological survey, said.

There are several factors that strengthen our belief that these are remnants of first century Roman trade. "Pottery is considered a very important evidence to solve an archaeological enigma. Here we work on typology. Such examples have also been found during excavations in Egypt," Roberta says.

More ...

::Wednesday, November 26, 2003 4:46:19 AM::
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AWOTV: On TV Today

9.00 p.m. |HINT| Time Team: Cirencester
"Around 1,700 years ago, Corinium--modern day Cirencester--was
the second-most important city in Roman Britain after Londinium.
By about 300 AD, it had developed into a bustling, wealthy city.
Time Team was drawn to Cirencester by the opportunity to
excavate in the gardens of a number of properties near the
center of old Corinium. Though it has been said that you can't
put a shovel into the ground in Cirencester without unearthing
Roman relics, Time Team adds their 2-spades worth!"

10.00 p.m. |DISCU| Who Killed Jesus?
"Explore the figures, events and political climate surrounding
the execution of Jesus of Nazareth. Experts examine the
motivations and methods of Herod, Pontius Pilate, the temple
priests, the judicial system and the crowd calling for Jesus'

HINT = History International

DISCU = Discovery Channel (U.S.)

::Wednesday, November 26, 2003 4:31:57 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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