Latest update: 4/3/2005; 2:39:40 PM
quidquidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca


Source ...

::Thursday, December 11, 2003 8:17:41 PM::
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NUNTII: Ancient and Modern

Peter Jones' latest in the Spectator begins:

Since Christmas is the season of good cheer but seems to leave millions squabbling, resentful and as miserable as sin, it is an appropriate time to consider what the key to happiness is. The ancients provided two distinct but highly practical theories, easily condensable into the average cracker.

The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (341–270 bc) is popularly associated with the philosophy of hedonism (Greek hêdonê, ‘pleasure’), but this is a misunderstanding. For him, happiness was ataraxia, ‘freedom from anxiety’: it was the absence of physical and mental pain that counted. In other words, pleasure was fine, but only on certain conditions. For example, eternal self-indulgence sounds great, but think of the nasty after-effects; eternal law-breaking too, but it could land you in serious trouble, and even if you were never caught, the fear that you might be would make life a constant misery. The key lay in avoiding a desire for anything that might cause anxiety, especially anything that had no limits, like wealth or status, because these could never be satisfied.

To help the budding Epicurean, Epicurus defined desire in three categories:
1. Natural and necessary (subdivided into necessary for happiness, for freedom from disturbance, and for life), e.g., food, drink, sex and security.

2. Natural and unnecessary, e.g., specific types of food and drink.

3. Unnatural and unnecessary, e.g., fame, power.

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::Thursday, December 11, 2003 6:58:32 PM::
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NUNTII: Christmas Origins

The Arbiter wins this year's 'Oh No, Not Again' award for being first off the mark with this year's 'origins of Christmas' article. It begins thusly:

America’s modern day celebration of Christmas has its roots in age-old traditions. Christmas is a holiday born out of a complex combination of differing religious ideas, customs and traditions. The celebration was even outlawed at one time in the nations’ early years.

Many early religions placed great emphasis on the sun, seeing it as the source of light and life. Sun worship became prevalent among many groups. Winter Solstice became a popular time of celebration, a time in which most looked forward to the coming of spring.

The Romans, in honor of their deity Saturn, the god of agriculture, observed a holiday called Saturnalia. Festivities were held from mid December through beginning of the new year. Public buildings throughout the empire were decked with flowers and greenery, gifts were exchanged with loved ones, and wars with other nations were put on hold. The Roman holiday became characterized by peace, brotherly kindness and life.

Also popular among the Romans was the annual festival of the Kalends. This celebration marked the start of a new year as well as the induction of new officials into public office. Kalends celebrated three days of feasting and gift giving.

In northern Europe, Germanic tribes observed Yule, a two-month period spanning from mid November through mid January. The approach of winter forced the closing of pastures; to avoid losing large numbers of animals to starvation, the tribes would slaughter large numbers of their flocks. Great feasts quickly became associated with the Yuletide tradition.

In A.D. 353 the Christian religion declared Dec. 25 the feast of the nativity. First observed in Rome, the new holiday quickly gained popularity. Many converts to the religion, including Roman citizens and Germanic tribes, were unwilling to part with their previous celebrations associated with this time of year. Not wanting to antagonize new members, church authorities incorporated parts of their customs into the observance of Christmas.

That's about it for Classical content (the article continues, though)... if you want to see an ancient 'New Year's' present, scroll down to last night's last post.

::Thursday, December 11, 2003 6:55:32 PM::
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CHATTER: Warm Up the VCR ... or Not

A bit of Classical detritus picked up in the scan today:

Die Mommie Die! (part of the Sundance Channel Film Series) is roughly based on the Orestiae of Aeschylus (mother kills father, obsessive daughter urges brother on to vengeance) but with several notable adjustments: Clytemnestra never killed Agamemnon with an arsenic suppository, for instance, and it's that kind of delicate detail that gives Die Mommie Die! its particular bouquet.

As the washed-up, negligent, promiscuous, homicidal but strangely sympathetic Angela Arden, Busch is playing an ex-big band singer and surviving half of a sister act whose music (it's now 1967) is as antique as her dialogue and delivery. It's hard to say just how Busch gets some of the sound Angela makes; it's Eve Arden, predominantly, but only if Eve had a chunk of Ida Lupino lodged in her cheek.

More (believe it or not) ... Why do I have this feeling this will be turning up on IFC in Canada, if not Showcase?

::Thursday, December 11, 2003 6:50:45 PM::
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NUNTII: Learning About the Universe

Physics Today has a piece entitled "The Growth of Astrophysicial Understanding" which begins, naturally enough, with some DWEM's we all can name drop if we have to:

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.1

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."2

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.

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::Thursday, December 11, 2003 6:47:01 PM::
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NUNTII: The Mouseion

Al-Ahram has a feature on the Mouseion ... here's the incipit:

The late American astrophysicist Carl Sagan reconstructed the ancient Library of Alexandria, the Mouseion, for his TV series Cosmos. He strolled through this replica of the ancient building, depicting some of the events that took place there. "This legendary library was the mind and glory of the greatest city on earth, and was the first centre for scientific research in the history of the world," he told the audience. "In this Mouseion lived a community of scientists who discovered the sciences of physics, linguistics, medicine, astronomy, geography, philosophy, mathematics, biology and geology. Here scientific studies reached adulthood. Here genius flourished. Here in the Library of Alexandria were the first serious trials to understand the world."

Sagan was right. The torch of science that sparkled at the Library of Alexandria between the fourth century BC and the fourth century AD was its greatest and most enduring achievement.

When the Mouseion was commissioned by Ptolemy I Soter, successor to Alexander the Great, in around 300 BC, it was to be divided into schools similar to modern university faculties. After some time the books it held grew so great in number that a second, or "daughter", library was built some distance away below the Temple of Serapis. However, the main collection of books was still held at the Great Library in the Mouseion, which was most probably situated well inside the Brucheum, the royal quarters near the shore which are now at least partly submerged. Appropriately enough, this would have been quite near the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

The Great Library contained several hundred thousand papyrus and vellum scrolls, including 123 plays by Sophocles and others by Aeschylus and Eurepides. It contained a history of the world from the time of the Biblical Flood written by Prossos, a Babylonian monk. Prossos dated the Flood to 433,000 years before his time, which is about ten times the calculation made in the Old Testament.

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::Thursday, December 11, 2003 6:43:48 PM::
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GOSSIP: Alexander Off Again?

Perhaps the Minnesota Star-Tribune is near the bottom of the gossip-feeding food chain, but today they're reporting:

The battle of the Alexander the Great movies has cooled with the report that Baz Luhrmann's $150 million version, which was to star Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicole Kidman, is on indefinite hold for lack of investors. Perhaps no potential money men have warmed to Luhrmann's vision of the conqueror as "the world's first rock star." Oliver Stone's rival production, starring Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie and Anthony Hopkins, has begun filming in Morocco.

::Thursday, December 11, 2003 6:41:31 PM::
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REVIEW: Olympics and Olympia

Kathimerini has a review of Kleanthis Paleologos, Olympia and the Olympic Games of Antiquity which includes, inter alia:

The work has a logical progression, opening with an overview of the Olympia region and the site itself, and progressing to the role of sport in antiquity, the various individual sports, and to special aspects of the Games like rules, prizes, and penalties. However, this is less a disciplined reference book than a spirited hodgepodge that cobbles together citations from ancient sources, descriptions, and gorgeous photographs. The result can be appreciated for its broad sweep, its fidelity to the original sources, and its enthusiasm for what the Games stood for, not just for the facts it conveys.

The book emphasizes the mythological origins of the area and of the Games. The sacred element is essential: The gods were not just patrons of the Games but also, it was firmly believed, the first to compete in them. Occasionally, this can get confusing because of the sheer number of legends and because, as the author points out, they can be inconsistent and sometimes were created later, in post-hoc attempts to explain the otherwise misty origins of one sport or another, notably the five-sport pentathlon. Even names weren't always consistent: the third century writer Hermippus was also known as Callimacheus, and also Peripatiticus.

The author has scoured many of the original sources, such as Pausanias, which is normally all to the good. In doing so, however, he has also overlooked the many secondary works recently published that have fleshed the story out. For there remain many gaps in our knowledge of the Ancient Games: their duration and that of its famous truce, the order of events, even the precise way sports like the discus or long jump were performed - all are ripe for learned speculation. And to this volume's credit, it acknowledges these and many other ambiguities, and stresses elements of continuity and the experimentation over time.

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::Thursday, December 11, 2003 6:38:17 PM::
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CHATTER: Rise and Fall of Civilizations

This is either a really good example of hype or I must have slept through a very important class:

The biggest threat to civilization as we know it is not whether the Medicare “reform” the president signed this week is a fraud, or whether the flu will wipe out the population of North America, or whether that chick on “Average Joe” made a huge mistake by picking the pretty boy to potentially become her first ex-husband.

No, the biggest threat to the republic is the fact that we cannot crown a champion of college football.

It’s a major crisis. Radio talk shows are abuzz. The sports commentariat are employing the kind of hyperbole usually reserved for play-off appearances by the Boston Red Sox. College football fans are shocked and appalled.

This nation — the most powerful in the world — can conquer entire countries over a long weekend, but cannot come up with a way to decide who’s No. 1 in college football. It’s a national disgrace.

It’s a travesty and an injustice and a sham of a fraud wrapped up in duplicity and deceit. It’s worse than, say, invading a country for no good reason. It lessens us as a people and a nation and a civilization.

This is what happened to the Romans. When Pompeii U. wasn’t awarded the national gladiator championship despite creaming Naples Christian in the Olive Bowl — Palermo Tech pulled a fast one, those Sicilians — it was the beginning of the end.

Source ...

::Thursday, December 11, 2003 6:33:47 PM::
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Heading to Scotland?

SPECTACULAR gold pieces, urns and life-sized sarcophagi will go on display in Edinburgh next year when the Royal Museum’s next "blockbuster" exhibition opens to the public.

Hundreds of rare Etruscan objects are to feature in the exhibition at the Chambers Street attraction.

The display, Treasures from Tuscany, will showcase some of the region’s most stunning objects from the Etruscans, a pre-Roman civilisation whose beginnings lay in the ninth century BC.

Altogether, almost 500 objects from the finest collections in Tuscany are going on show for the first time in the UK. The exhibition is expected to attract thousands of visitors to the city and is considered a major coup.

Museum bosses hope the three-month event, opening in July, will match the success of the Dino-Bird and Game On exhibitions, which were both held at the Royal Museum this year.

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::Thursday, December 11, 2003 6:31:05 PM::
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ante diem iii idus decembres

  • Agonalia -- the fourth and final occurrence of this festival in
    the Roman calendar; like all instances, the Rex Sacrorum would
    sacrifice a ram in the Regia, but this one was apparently in
    honour of Sol Indiges.
  • Septimontium -- a somewhat obscure festival apparently originally
    only celebrated by the 'montani' (i.e. the 'hill-dwellers') which
    involved sacrifices on each of Rome's seven hills.
  • 302 A.D. -- martyrdom of Trason and his companions at Rome.

::Thursday, December 11, 2003 5:55:55 AM::
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CHATTER: Seen in Passing

An interesting tidbit from the obituary of bookprinter Anthony Rowe, in the Telegraph:

In 1942, straight from Eton, Rowe joined the submarine service, partly in order to avoid having to climb rigging (he suffered from vertigo); and in 1944 the S-class boat in which he was a junior officer was sent to the Far East.

By modern standards, S-boats were tiny; the mess for the five officers on board measured only 10ft square. Rowe had room for just three books: an 1827 Leipzig edition of Horace; Helen Waddell's Mediaeval Latin Lyrics; and Housman's Collected Poems.

He memorised most of these by heart while on watch, and became convinced that a volume alternating his favourite 30 or 40 Latin and Housman poems would produce a bestseller. (Years later, in 1967, he put the book together. After it was politely rejected by publishers, he privately printed 100 copies of For Lucasta with Rue for his friends, few of whom could read Latin or enjoyed Housman.)

::Thursday, December 11, 2003 5:40:16 AM::
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TTT: Roman London

I was saving this for a slow news day and today appears to be it. A week or so ago, someone on the Britarch list mentioned the Museum of London's Digging Up the Romans section. Very nice. As it turns out, though, the MOL has a rather extensive collection of pages dealing with various aspects of Roman London ... in addition to Digging Up the Romans, there's a page devoted to Roman waterworks, Roman Shadwell, Slavery in Roman London, and Boudicca at King's Cross Station. All (and a couple others) are accessible via the MOL's Roman Life page. Enjoy!

::Thursday, December 11, 2003 5:21:32 AM::
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Jan Opsomer, Carlos Steel (trans.), Proclus, On the Existence of Evils.
The Ancient Commentators on Aristotle

Babette Puetz, The Symposium and Komos in Aristophanes.

Alois Winterling, Caligula, eine Biographie. (review in English)

::Thursday, December 11, 2003 5:12:31 AM::
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AWOTV: On TV Today

7.00 p.m. |HINT| The Rise of Christianity: The First 1000 Years, Pt. 3
"The Eastern Roman Empire, based in Constantinople, survives in
splendor for a 1,000 years after Rome's fall. But the sands of
Arabia give birth to a new faith, Islam, that soon conquers half
of Christendom. Though Europe is mired in the Dark Ages, Irish
monks copy ancient texts, preserving them for the future."

9.00 p.m. |PBS| From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians:
"Pax Romana" and "A Light to the Nations"

""Pax Romana"--This segment traces the life of Jesus, exploring
the message that helped his ministry grow and the events that
led to his crucifixion. Born in the reign of Emperor Augustus in
the Pax Romana -- the Roman Peace -- Jesus was a subject of the
Roman Empire. This first hour looks at how scholars and
archaeologists have pieced together a new portrait of where
Jesus was born, how he lived and who he was. "A Light to the
Nations"--The second hour turns from the life of Jesus to the
period that followed his death, examining the rise of
Christianity and concluding with the First Revolt -- the bloody
and violent siege of Jerusalem and the beginning of a rift
between Christianity and Judaism. "A Light to the Nations"
explores new evidence suggesting that Jesus' followers, because
of their diversity and the differences in their cultures and
languages, looked at and interpreted Jesus and his teachings in
many different ways." [i.e. this is three episodes; as with all
PBS programming, confirm against local listings]

11.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Seven Wonders of the World

HINT = History International

PBS = Public Broadcasting System (U.S.; Canadian Cable)

DCIVC = Discovery Civilization (Canada)

::Thursday, December 11, 2003 4:41:14 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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