Latest update: 4/4/2005; 5:52:47 AM
quidquidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca

CHATTER: Sexagenarios de ponte!!

This one kept showing up repeatedly in scans for the past couple of days and just now the above quote popped into my head to make the thing semi-relevant. Here's the incipit of the brief Reuters piece about the event:

Four Romans braved the chill to dive 52 feet off a bridge into the muddy River Tiber to mark a New Year tradition Thursday.   

A crowd of hundreds cheered the divers as they flung themselves off the Cavour Bridge into the swirling river that winds through Rome.

Italian diver Aldo Corrieri, 40, dedicated the event, which has taken place since 1946, to world peace.

Cf. this excerpt from Warde-Fowler's Roman Festivals, p. 112 about an event which happened on the Ides of May:

But on May 15 there was another rite in which the word Argei plays a prominent part; and here the details have at least survived. The Argei in this case are not chapels, but a number of puppets or bundles of rushes, resembling (as Dionysius has recorded) men bound hand and foot, which were taken down to the pons sublicius by the Pontifices and magistrates, and cast into the river by the Vestal Virgins. The Flaminica Dialis, the priestess of Jupiter, was present at the ceremony in mourning. The number of the poppets was probably the same as that of the sacella of the same name.

Explanations of these rites were invented by Roman scholars. The sacella were the graves of the Greeks who had come to Italy with Hercules; and the puppets represented the followers of Hercules who had dies on their journey and were to return home as it were by proxy. Apart from the theories of the learned, it was the fact that the common people at Rome believed the puppets to be substitutes for old men, who at one time used to be thrown into the Tiber as victims. Sexagenarios de ponte was a well-known proverb which in Cicero's time was explained by supposing that the bridges alluded to were those over which the voters passed in the Comitia; but this view may at once be put aside. Those bridges were certainly a comparatively late invention, while the proverb was of remote antiquity.

A vestige of human sacrifice? Warde-Fowler considers it and rejects it in a rather long-winded examination (four more pages!) on the based on "the absence of convincing evidence as to the regular and periodical occurrence of human sacrifice in ancient Italy." (p. 119) He prefers to see it as a 'semi-dramatic performance'. Personally, I tend toward the human sacrifice theory, but it would be interesting if these New Year's divers could be convinced to move their rite to May 15. I'm sure it would be more pleasing to the river god ... They'd probably get more publicity too. And the water would be warmer.

::Friday, January 02, 2004 7:47:24 PM::
Comment on this post @ Classics Central

NUNTII: Cambyses' Lost Army

A pile of copies of this just flooded my mail box (thanks to all who sent them!) ... Egypt Today has a feature on tour companies hoping to cash in on the story of Cambyses' lost army in Egypt. Here's the intro:

HIDDEN BENEATH THE shifting sands of the Sahara is one of the great mysteries of archaeology. In 523 BC, according to legend, Persian King Cambyses II dispatched an army of 50,000 men to destroy the sacred oracle in Siwa that had been bad-mouthing him since his conquest of Egypt two years earlier. The soldiers marched into the desert never to be seen again.

According to an account related by the 5th century BC Greek historian Herodotus, the army left Thebes (Luxor) and after seven days reached an inhabited oasis, probably Kharga. The 50,000 soldiers continued with their guides into the Great Sand Sea towards Siwa, but met their demise in a massive sandstorm.

"A great and violent south wind arose, which buried them in the masses of sand which it bore, and so they disappeared from sight," he recounts.

The fate of Cambyses' army is one of the great mysteries of archaeology. Attempts to find traces of it have ended in failure, and some historians suspect the tale was a fabrication, or at the very least a gross exaggeration.

Tourism companies, however, see it as a potential cash cow.

"It is a great opportunity," says Hisham Nessim, manager of Aqua Sun Resort. "We will give tourists a chance to participate in solving this ancient mystery and we will sell it as a touristic product."

More ... Here's the story of the expedition from book III of Herodotus (Project Gutenberg ... MacCauley trans.):

26. Thus fared the expedition against the Ethiopians: and those of the
Persians who had been sent to march against the Ammonians set forth
from Thebes and went on their way with guides; and it is known that
they arrived at the city of Oasis, which is inhabited by Samians said
to be of the Aischrionian tribe, and is distant seven days' journey
from Thebes over sandy desert: now this place is called in the speech
of the Hellenes the "Isle of the Blessed." It is said that the army
reached this place, but from that point onwards, except the Ammonians
themselves and those who have heard the account from them, no man is
able to say anything about them; for they neither reached the
Ammonians nor returned back. This however is added to the story by the
Ammonians themselves:--they say that as the army was going from this
Oasis through the sandy desert to attack them, and had got to a point
about mid-way between them and the Oasis, while they were taking their
morning meal a violent South Wind blew upon them, and bearing with it
heaps of the desert sand it buried them under it, and so they
disappeared and were seen no more. Thus the Ammonians say that it came
to pass with regard to this army.


::Friday, January 02, 2004 7:26:31 PM::
Comment on this post @ Classics Central

CHATTER: Tolkien's Modernism

A piece in the Australian looks at Tolkien's works and influences and concludes with something which is a good potential essay question on an exam, or at least would make a nice conversation accompanied by alcohol-infused coffee beverages after dinner:

At least one delightful irony embroiders Tolkien's tale: its modernism inheres in its atavism. The impulses that drove the literary modernism of Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot and James Joyce are precisely those that drew Tolkien into the forest. Pound tried to restore the dead languages of antiquity (Latin and Greek); Eliot's guides included Dante and the Psalmists; while Joyce grafted Homer on to a day in the life of Dublin. The Lord of the Rings turns out to be a great work of modernism - its antique dreaming is what makes it modern.

::Friday, January 02, 2004 4:30:51 PM::
Comment on this post @ Classics Central


ante diem iv nonas januarias

::Friday, January 02, 2004 9:11:50 AM::
Comment on this post @ Classics Central

TOP XX: XVI Brain Surgery from Chios

Resuming our "Top Twenty Archaeology Stories of 2003" feature, we consider the discovery of a skull on the island of Chios which showed evidence of trepanation. Here's the coverage from Kathimerini:

An archaeological dig on the island of Chios has unearthed evidence of a successful head operation carried out over 2,000 years ago in accordance with the writings of Hippocrates, the most famous of ancient doctors.

According to a Culture Ministry announcement yesterday, the operation — a process known as trepanning that involved the removal of a disc of bone from the skull — had been carried out on a man who died aged 50, between 150 and 100 BC. He was buried in a large cemetery on the fringes of the island’s ancient capital, in the area now known as Atsiki.

The grave, a simple rectangular affair bereft of any offerings and providing no clue as to the identity of its occupant, was found earlier this year during a rescue excavation ahead of a building project on the site.

Excavators were intrigued to find a round hole 1.62 centimeters in diameter to the rear of the skull, in the left parietal bone. Anthropologist Asterios Aidonis, who works with antiquities officials, identified the small opening as the result of a trepanning. As the edges of the bone showed signs of growth and healing, it is believed that the patient survived for five or six years after the operation.

Trepanning is known to have been practiced at least 10,000 years ago, and in primitive societies the operation was probably seen as a way of releasing evil spirits from the head. In ancient Greece, it was performed to save patients with severe head wounds from death by internal bleeding or infection.

Hippocrates recommended trepanation for wounds that involved indentation of the skull accompanied by fracture or contusion. He wrote a detailed manual on the delicate operation, instructing surgeons to frequently cool their saws to prevent overheating the bone. Several other trepanned skulls have been found in ancient Greek graves.

Folks who want to track down what Hippocrates said on this sort of thing should seek out a version of his On Injuries of the Head which is available all over the web but is in its most readable form at the University of Adelaide  Electronic Texts Collection. Sections 1-8 deal with the various types of head injury and section 9 deals with those which Hippocrates believed required trepanation. Jumping down to section 21, which deals with the actual process, one gets a genuine appreciation for Hippocrates' skills:

With regard to trepanning, when there is a necessity for it, the following particulars should be known. If you have had the management of the case from the first, you must not at once saw the bone down to the meninx; for it is not proper that the membrane should be laid bare and exposed to injuries for a length of time,as in the end it may become it may become fungous. And and there is another danger if you saw the bone down to the meninx and remove it at once, lest in the act of sawing you should wound the meninx. But in trepanning, when only a very little of the bone remains to be sawed through, and the bone can be moved, you must desist from sawing, and leave the bone to fall out of itself. For to a bone not sawed through, and where a portion is left of the sawing, no mischief can happen; for the portion now left is sufficiently thin. In other respects you must conduct the treatment as may appear suitable to the wound. And in trepanning you must frequently remove the trepan, on account of the heat in the bone, and plunge it in cold water. For the trepan being heated by running round, and heating and drying the bone, burns it and makes a larger piece of bone around the sawing to drop off, than would otherwise do. And if you wish to saw at once down to the membrane, and then remove the bone, you must also, in like manner, frequently take out the trepan and dip it in cold water. But if you have not charge of the treatment from the first, but undertake it from another after a time, you must saw the bone at once down to the meninx with a serrated trepan, and in doing so must frequently take out the trepan and examine with a sound (specillum), and otherwise along the tract of the instrument. For the bone is much sooner sawn through, provided there be matter below it and in it, and it often happens that the bone is more superficial, especially if the wound is situated in that part of the head where the bone is rather thinner than in other parts. But you must take care where you apply the trepan, and see that you do so only where it appears to be particularly thick, and having fixed the instrument there, that you frequently make examinations and endeavor by moving the bone to bring it up. Having removed it, you must apply the other suitable remedies to the wound. And if, when you have the management of the treatment from the first, you wish to saw through the bone at once, and remove it from the membrane, you must, in like manner, examine the tract of the instrument frequently with the sound, and see that it is fixed on the thickest part of the bone, and endeavor to remove the bone by moving it about. But if you use a perforator (trepan?), you must not penetrate to the membrane, if you operate on a case which you have had the charge of from the first, but must leave a thin scale of bone, as described in the process of sawing.

::Friday, January 02, 2004 8:44:42 AM::
Comment on this post @ Classics Central

NUNTII: Roman Empire II ... or maybe III or IIII

The introduction to a piece in The Economist on the ultimate goals of the European union begin thusly:

A FEW months ago, George Bush gave a lunch at the White House for Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission. Mr Prodi, keen to impress upon his host the grandeur of the European project, launched into a description of the enlargement of the European Union. By 2004, he pointed out, the EU would have 450m citizens and its territory would stretch from the Atlantic to the borders of Russia. “Sounds like the Roman empire, Romano,” remarked Mr Bush. Other lunchers guessed that the American president was being gently satirical. But Mr Bush, wittingly or not, had touched upon a serious point. The drive for “European unity”, which will proceed further next year when the EU's membership expands to 25 countries, has deep historical origins. Indeed, they do stretch back to the dissolution of the Roman empire.

Ever since the fall of Rome, a strain in European thought has longed for the re-creation of an over-arching political structure for Europe, and used the Roman empire as a model. In 800AD—more than three centuries after the fall of Rome—Charlemagne, the king of the Franks, had himself crowned in Rome by the pope. His new empire stretched from the Pyrenees to the Danube and from Hamburg to Sicily; and his imperial seal bore the words Renovatio Imperii Romani, “the Renewal of the Roman Empire”.

Charlemagne's empire fell apart fairly swiftly after his death. But the memory of Charlemagne—and of the empire that he wished to renew—continued to inspire those who sought to unify Europe by fair means or foul. Napoleon created the Legion of Honour, an order of distinction, in 1802 on the model of the Roman Legio Honoratorum and invoked Charlemagne at his imperial coronation in 1804. Hitler's loyalists gave the Roman salute and their cry “Heil Hitler!” was modelled on “Hail Caesar!” When the Nazis formed a new SS division for French volunteers they called it the Charlemagne division.

Of course, the Romans have inspired not only despots but also democrats, among them the architects of the Capitol in Washington, DC. And the Romans and Charlemagne also inspired the fathers of the EU, whose objectives were the exact opposite of war. The founding treaty of their creation was signed in Rome in 1957 and their successors were hoping—until this month'st failed summit—to return to the eternal city in 2004 to put their names to a new constitution. Meanwhile the expansion of the club is being managed from the Charlemagne building in Brussels.

It is easy to see common elements in the Roman and the Carolingian empires that might appeal to modern-day builders of Europe. Most obvious is sheer territorial expanse. To that may be added the creation of a common legal code, the issuance of a common currency as a symbol of imperial rule, the building of roads linking the empire (or trans-European networks, as they are unsmilingly called in Brussels). And all this is based upon a new, and supposedly lasting, peace within the empire—for the Romans, the Pax Romana.

After a bit, they conclude thusly:

Naturally, it has ambitions. If pressed, few of the architects of the modern Europe venture would deny that they hope that one day the EU will be a great power—a peaceable, liberal, law-based and generous great power, no doubt, but one capable of looking the United States or China in the eye. Mr Bush caught an authentic whiff of this ambition when he teased Mr Prodi about the new Roman empire. Perhaps, nursing some imperial ambitions of his own, he recognised it. Not long before their lunch, Joseph Nye, a Harvard professor, was writing of the United States, “Not since Rome has any one nation loomed so large above the others.” The Roman empire has indeed been re-created, it seems, but its capital is Washington, DC—for the time being, anyway. Maybe, after a while, the new division of the West will mirror the old division of the Roman empire, with Rome and Constantinople replaced by Washington and Brussels.

Oh I'm an empire, he's an empire she's an empire! Wouldn't you like to be an empire to? Be an empire, the Roman empire, be an empire, the Roman empire ...

The rest ...

::Friday, January 02, 2004 7:51:06 AM::
Comment on this post @ Classics Central

again we appear to be having transmission difficulties ... or maybe not

::Friday, January 02, 2004 7:40:30 AM::
Comment on this post @ Classics Central

AWOTV: On TV Tonight

7.00 p.m. |HINT| Augustus: First of the Emperors
"Story of the bloodthirsty leader who was also one of the most
able statesmen in world history. His rule launched the "Pax
Romana" (Roman Peace) that marked the high point of the empire."

8.00 p.m. |HINT| The Great Empire: Rome: The Republic of Rome
"A sweeping chronicle of one of history's most dynamic empires.
Part 1 features the city's founding by Romulus and Remus;
overthrow of the Etruscan monarchy; and the republic's formation
and ultimate undoing with the rise of Imperial Rome. Host Joe
Mantegna introduces Rome's great faces--Pompey, Cicero, Caesar,
Antony, and Cleopatra."

9.00 p.m. |HINT| The Great Empire: Rome: Age of Emperors
"After Caesar's murder, his great-nephew Augustus was
victorious in the civil wars that followed, becoming the first
emperor. Host Joe Mantegna explores this sensational, scandalous
age when the proliferation of palace plots, hostile takeovers,
and imperial family intrigues became humdrum. Features Augustus,
Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, among others."

9.00 p.m. |DTC| Secrets of the Colosseum
"Visit the ruins of this massive triumph of Roman building and
engineering for clues to its ingenious design. Built in a
remarkably short span of 10 years, the structure combined
travertine stone, iron, concrete, brick and lava rocks from
nearby Vesuvius."

10.00 p.m. |HINT| The Great Empire: Rome: Building an Empire
"Host Joe Mantegna visits the vast territories conquered by the
imperial army--by the 2nd century AD, the empire spanned three
continents. The over-4,000 Roman cities were cultural melting
pots, where diverse customs and beliefs blended. Features life
in Pompeii, the flamboyant Emperor Hadrian, and religious
revolts in Judea."

10.00 p.m. |DTC| Vesuvius: Deadly Fury
"In 79 AD, eruptions from Mount Vesuvius buried the city of
Pompeii. A burning wave of gas shot out from the side of
Vesuvius killing the inhabitants of neighboring Herculaneum in
just four minutes. Archaeologists look to these bodies for
historical clues."

11.00 p.m. |HINT|The Great Empire: Rome: The Enduring Legacy
"The final episode reveals the birth of Christianity and how
this religion that the emperors initially tried to destroy
ultimately passed on the empire's legacy. Highlights include:
the crucifixion of Jesus; religious persecutions; rise of
Constantine, the first emperor to embrace Christianity; and
Justinian, Rome's last emperor."

HINT = History International

DTC = Discovery Times Channel (US)

::Friday, January 02, 2004 7:36:45 AM::
Comment on this post @ Classics Central

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.

Valid HTML 4.01!

Valid CSS!

Site Meter