Latest update: 4/4/2005; 5:48:09 AM
quidquidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca


John M. Dillon, The Heirs of Plato: A Study of the Old Academy

David Kovacs (trans.), Euripides. Bacchae, Iphigenia at Aulis, Rhesus.

Sarah Ruden (trans.), Lysistrata.

Hilary Mackie, Graceful Errors: Pindar and the Performance of Praise.

::Wednesday, December 31, 2003 7:02:33 PM::
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CHATTER: End of Year Muttering

It's no wonder, actually, that Classics and Ancient History are so low on the totem pole in Canada. Today I made my monthly trip to Chapters (the Canadian equivalent-but-superior-to-Borders bookstore) intending on picking up assorted items of ancient interest. Even though things were advertised as being 30% off (all hardcovers), it was genuinely shocking to note that someone would, in theory, have shelled out $40.00 (yes, it's Canadian, but remember that the Canadian dollar has gained 20% on the U.S. dollar this year) for Robert Harris' Pompeii. $40.00 (or more corrrectly, $39.99) seems to be the going rate for practically anything one would want to pick up ... including that thing by Cahill! Now I'm used to paying such prices for textbooks and rather-shorter-print-run pieces, but shouldn't the popular pressings be cheaper? For the record, I ended up buying some computer magazines and Lindsey Davis' The Jupiter Myth ($12.00 for a paperback!). Grumble ... come the revolution ...

::Wednesday, December 31, 2003 2:55:43 PM::
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CHATTER: Toga, Toga, Toga

The Age has a piece on the history of partying and, of course, cites ancient precedents which are here presented without comment:

As with most things, the ancients did it first. Archaeologists claim to have found evidence, albeit inconclusive, of prehistoric hallucinogen use. What is certain is that by the time of the first cities, in what is now the Middle East, brewing was well established. The Sumerians and Egyptians loved a beer. Later, the Greeks and Romans had a god of wine and various demigods renowned for their drunkenness.

While the Greeks invented hedonism as a concept, the Romans did a lot of essential groundwork on the art of partying. Emperors such as Tiberius, Caligula and Nero were good at debauchery.

Private citizens gave it a red-hot go as well. On a big night out, it made good sense to have a slave tickle the back of your throat with a feather to make room for more wine and delicacies such as dormice (a small mammal) cooked in honey.

Rather than allow drunken brawls to spoil the evening, gladiators would be brought in to hack each other to death between courses. The Romans were a practical people.

A lot of what we know as Christmas tradition began with the Romans. The Saturnalia was an end-of-year festival that involved revelry, gift giving and a temporary suspension of the social order, during which servants mocked their masters.

So, now you have a historical precedent for giving the boss a free-wheeling critique of management strategies at the office bash.

Nominating the Greatest Party Animal of All Time is difficult. Princes and potentates should really be left out of the running because conspicuous consumption is part of their job. The Roman Emperor Heliogabalus (AD 204-22) deserves an honourable mention though.

Always on the lookout for a new effect, he accidentally suffocated guests at one memorable shindig with showers of rose petals. His decadent partying was too much even for the Romans, and the Praetorian Guard put a permanent end to his socialising just as he reached today's legal drinking age.

The rest ....

::Wednesday, December 31, 2003 2:36:54 PM::
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CHATTER: Cold Mountain

Hmmm ... I still think it has 'chick flick' written all over it, but The Age suggests Cold Mountain might be worth at least renting (when the time comes):

The story has been said to have Odyssean resonances: Inman is Odysseus, journeying home, facing tribulations and temptations; Ada is Penelope, fending off suitors and freeloaders, keeping faith and waiting. It's more like The Odyssey, it must be said, than the Coen brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou? which cheekily gave Homer a screenwriting credit. But what drives Cold Mountain is a longing for something entirely elusive, possibly nonexistent: a relationship that exists in the imagination, that has no tangible history.

Full review ...

::Wednesday, December 31, 2003 2:10:55 PM::
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pridie kalendas januarias

::Wednesday, December 31, 2003 8:45:14 AM::
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AUDIO: Father Foster

The problem with being on holidays is one tends to forget what day it is. Last night I should have posted the latest bit from Father Foster, who has much to say about matters dealing with the New Year.


::Wednesday, December 31, 2003 8:39:26 AM::
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NUNTII: Prodigia Explained

This is the sort of thing I love about doing what I do. Today the scan picks up a passing an otherwise utterly-ignorable mention in a touristy thing in a New Zealand newspaper about the "Craters of the Moon" (A geothermal sort of place). The article begins thusly:

For a few months of 186AD, Roman days darkened early against a backdrop of extraordinary blood-red sunsets.

Meteorologists made careful notes in their journals. Halfway round the world, their Chinese counterparts were pondering it too.

The light show came from a world that would remain undiscovered for another 1000 years; a giant volcanic caldera in a place that would become known as Aotearoa.

The gaping wound it left, kilometres across, would come to be called Lake Taupo.

That eruption was an event of staggering violence; the biggest on Earth in the past 5000 years (though Taupo erupted even more spectacularly 22,000 years ago) and made Krakatau (Krakatoa) look like a Tom Thumb on Guy Fawkes night.

186 A.D. eh? That would mean it happened during the reign of Commodus, and I'll be darned, there is something mentioned in a list of prodigies from the Historia Augusta's life of Commodus 16 which just might fit (Latin text from the Latin Library; translations my own):

Et ante bellum desertorum caelum arsit.

"And prior to the war of the deserters, the sky was on fire."

This bellum desertorum is explained in a footnote to the Loeb edition with more references to track down! Woohoo! Elsewhere in the HA we find that the guy sent to deal with this uprising was none other than Pescennius Niger, who would in a few years challenge Septimius Severus for control of the empire -- ecce from the life of Pescennius Niger 3.3-4:

Et Pescennius quidem Severo eo tempore, quo Lugdunensem provinciam regebat, amicissimus fuit; 4. nam ipse missus erat ad comprehendendos desertores, qui innumeri Gallias tunc vexabant.

And indeed, Pescennius was on most friendly terms at the time with Severus, who was in charge of the province of Gallia Lugdunensis; for he (Pescennius) was sent to arrest the deserters who were at the time ravaging the Gallias in great numbers.

Now we know that Severus was propraetor in Gallia Lugdunensis from 186-189 or thereabouts, so the date fits. [cf. Herodian 1.10 for more details on the uprising if you have the text handy; no Herodian on the web yet!] And now you know -- Paul Harvey-like -- the rest of the story: the prodigia prior to the war of the deserters in 186 was actually the result of a volcanic eruption half way around the world! Good stuff!

::Wednesday, December 31, 2003 8:22:53 AM::
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NUNTII: Roman Genocide?

An Explorator reader sent this one in ... (thanks AM!) ... Archaeologists have found evidence that the Romans pretty much wiped out a major number of Scots tribes during the invasions between the first and third centuries A.D.. According to the Herald:

Archaeologists investigating one of the largest campaign camps in Britain have suggested that the military might of Rome may have drastically reduced the numbers of the indigenous people, leaving large swaths of the country empty for hundreds of years.

Excavations at Kintore in Aberdeenshire have revealed that the occupation lasting between the first and third centuries AD was followed by a hiatus of site activity for more than 300 to 400 years.

The findings also hint that the legions may have brought vast stores of treasure from Europe in an attempt to bribe unruly local tribes.

Murray Cook, senior project officer for AOC Archaeology, who led the investigation, said: "One of the most interesting things is the fact that this settlement had a serious impact on the population.

"There may have been a folk memory of the invading army making people reluctant to stay in that area. It could have been thought taboo to stay in that area because of its association with an invading army.

"It also may be that the population was decimated. We have to remember this was a conquering army.

"We know the site had a negative impact because there is no evidence of it being occupied for about 400 years. We don't have evidence of burnt houses or anything like that but there is no gap before (the Roman occupation) and then a run of activity for 600 years after the big gap left by the Romans."

A number of intriguing artifacts and buildings were also discovered in the recent dig, including a beaker decorated with crushed bone and a sequence of 30 roundhouses from 1500BC to AD100 where the entrances move in anti-clockwise directions over time.One of the most fascinating finds was a Roman casket, the first of its kind to be found in Britain. Archaeologists think it may have carried a vast bribe to pay off local tribal leaders.

Work at the site is taking place ahead of the construction of a new primary school and has been commissioned by Aberdeenshire Council. The current work covers around three hectares.

In 2002, analysis of Roman army latrines and remains of keyhole-shaped ovens at the site revealed that the Roman legions went to war on pizza.

The Kintore camp would have been home to several thousand men and was on the line of the Roman advance into north-east Scotland.

It is thought the Kintore troops may have been a staging post for troops heading for Mons Graupius in AD84 where they won a bloody victory over Caledonian tribesmen.

More ...

::Wednesday, December 31, 2003 7:33:53 AM::
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AWOTV: On TV Today

8.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Vesuvius: Deadly Fury

8.00 p.m. |HISTU|Ancient Civilizations
"In this hour, we study sex in the ancient world--from
Mesopotamians, who viewed adultery as a crime of theft, to
Romans, who believed that squatting and sneezing after sex was a
reliable method birth control. We also look at revealing
Egyptian and Greek practices--from the origins of dildos, to
intimate relations between Egyptian gods and goddesses, to the
use of crocodile dung as a contraceptive."

DCIVC=Discovery Civilizations (Canada)

HISTU = History Channel (US)

::Wednesday, December 31, 2003 7:11:22 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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