Latest update: 4/4/2005; 5:53:21 AM
quidquidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca

NUNTII: Archaeological Finds at Athens Airport

Finally we get to read some details! This just in from the Scotsman:

A CLOUD of white dust hovers over Athensí former international airport as crews using heavy equipment build sports facilities for the upcoming Olympics.

A few paces away, another team of workers, with only brushes and garden tools, carefully digs into the past.

Itís part of an unexpected gift for archaeologists - Olympic projects clearing the way for the single biggest antiquities treasure hunt in Athens and the surrounding areas.

Work on dozens of Olympic-related sites, from venues to highways, has touched off a flurry of archaeological excavations attempting to beat the bulldozers.

The finds so far range from prehistoric settlements to 2,500-year-old cemeteries to ruins from the Roman period, when Emperor Theodosius abolished the Olympics in 394 after Christianity took root. He deemed them pagan.

"I donít believe there was ever such a large-scale archaeological excavation in Athens," said Dina Kaza, who heads the excavation at the old seaside airport.

Extra archaeologists and specialised researchers have been hired. Crews have worked round-the-clock shifts to keep pace with Olympic construction, which is moving at full speed to compensate for years of delays. The Games are to begin on 13 August.

Ms Kaza, who oversees excavations in five Olympic-related sites, says the finds so far have not been headline-making - like the back-to-back discoveries in 1997 of sites believed to be the lyceum, or school, of Aristotle, and an ancient cemetery mentioned as the burial place of the statesman Pericles.

But the quantity of finds adds richness to the understanding of how Athens developed over the centuries. "We never know what the ground is hiding from us," explained Ms Kaza.

One site, at the new tram-line storage shed, offered up 150 graves from the 7th century BC.

Another archaeologist, Maria Platonos, uncovered a ceramic vessel depicting a victorious javelin thrower at a cemetery from the Classical period, spanning from 500 BC to 323 BC, on a road to the Olympic Village north of central Athens.

The athlete is being crowned with ribbons by two messengers from Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, said Ms Platonos, who heads excavations at the Olympic Village. The artefact, dating from 470BC, had been used at a victory ceremony and was later placed on the grave of the man awarded the prize.

"Finding this in the area of the Olympic Village was truly something unexpected and very fortunate," she added.

At times, the antiquities were so massive that relocation was not an option.

Ms Platonosís team at the village discovered an extensive system of underground pipelines from the Roman period used to supply Athens with water from the nearby Parnitha mountain. The system was in use until the 19th century.

"This pipe was excavated and cleaned, and now there are plans to make this monument more visible along the zone of greenery at the Olympic Village," said Ms Platonos

At the rowing centre in Schinias, 18 miles north-east of Athens, researchers found three early Bronze Age dwellings from about 4,000 years ago. Some of the ruins were relocated to allow construction of the Olympic venue.

Construction of a road to Athensí new airport uncovered another roadway and building foundations at least 2,500 years old.

"They indicate an economically vibrant community," said Kasimi Soutou, who oversees the excavation.

The archaeological council ruled to preserve the ancient foundations around the old roadway, but the roadway itself will be paved over after any antiquities are removed.

The sports complex on the site of Athensí former international airport - which also will host baseball, fencing and other sports - is among the most delayed of Olympic sites. Archaeologists argue that the delays are not their fault. "We always have this problem," said Ms Kaza. "The archaeological work always starts at the last minute, when it could have started a long time ago, but the construction plans were not ready on time.

"We are racing until the last minute and they tell us to finish as they have to finish, too."

News of the finds comes as British athletes called for Britain to return the Elgin Marbles.

Allan Wells, the Scottish sprinter who won gold in Moscow in 1980 for the 100m, is among the group of athletes who say Greece has a moral right to the artefacts.

Note in passing for those who were wondering ... I haven't forgotten about my 'Top 20 Archaeological Finds' feature ... I'm just researching a number of the items to find current links.

::Wednesday, January 07, 2004 8:48:20 PM::
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REVIEW: Mission Cleopatra

I had heard rumours of an Asterix and Obelix movie last year (or maybe even two years ago) and ecce! It turns up in the scan today ... it's currently showing in Japan. Here's a review from the Daily Yomiuri:

Legend has it that Cleopatra was among the most beautiful queens in history. If that's the case, who could object to Monica Bellucci slipping into the costumes of the queen on the big screen today?

In Alain Chabat's gag-laden comedy, Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra, Bellucci, who is among the most beautiful actresses of our time, plays an arrogant yet irresistibly beautiful Cleopatra. She doesn't do much acting here (to give you an idea, remember her appearances in the Matrix series). All she does in the film is clothe herself in million-dollar dresses specially made for her. These costumes, which seem to have been created by some futurist designer rather than by the couturiers of ancient Egypt, would look tacky and out of place should someone else wear them. But if it's Bellucci, it's simply a different matter, and many viewers will feel this choice of casting was just right.

We first see Cleopatra arguing with Julius Caesar (played by Chabat himself) about who are the greatest people on Earth. Cleopatra, though of Greek origin (as Caesar rightly points out), says Egyptians are the greatest. To prove her point she promises to have a grand palace with 622 bedrooms completed for the Roman emperor in only three months, a promise even the world's greatest architect cannot keep without a miracle.

To this difficult task, Cleopatra appoints Numerobis (Jamel Debbouze), an architect with an avant-garde attitude but not much talent, while giving a cold shoulder to her in-house architect, Amonbofis (Gerard Darmon), because the latter is too conventional.

The appointment is a tremendous surprise for Numerobis, who begins literally working for his life as Cleopatra has demanded his death should he fail to meet the deadline. It takes no time at all for Numerobis to figure out that he would need miraculous powers to get the job done in time, which he later sets out to get from the Gaulish druid Panoramix (Claude Rich).

Thanks to Panoramix as well as his associates, Asterix (Christian Clavier) and Obelix (Gerard Depardieu), Numerobis gets the building of the grand palace under way, but an enraged Amonbofis as well as Caesar and his troops all conspire to derail the project.

Asterix and Obelix is adapted to the big screen from a hugely popular French comic of the same title that was first published in 1959. Its characters have been loved so much and so long that the nation's first space satellite was named Asterix in homage to one of the characters. To date, one quarter of the French population is said to have seen this movie.

Due to the origin of the source material, the movie contains a number of jokes related to French culture, which don't quite work on foreign audiences. Yet the film contains a fair share of funny moments along the way, such as one scene in which hundreds of slave workers dance to a James Brown song or another in which a Roman commander imitates Darth Vader when he gives orders to attack the grand palace in a bid to halt its construction.

There is no denying that Bellucci is the center of attention every time she walks into the frame. This is so even off-screen as the film's Japanese distributor has adopted a strategy that takes advantage of Bellucci's perfectly shaped butt as one way to promote its product. However, a glance at the other cast members will show you the filmmakers' commitment to this project.

Bellucci aside, Depardieu, who is best known for his superb performances in such excellent films as The Last Metro (1980) and Green Card (1990), tries his hand at the comedy genre here as he has done in the past. Clad in the weirdest costume in his career with a red-hair wig that somehow should seem more appropriate in a 1960s movie, he gives a comical spin. Opposite him, Debbouze, who played a slow-witted yet lovable man falling victim to an abusive shop owner in the recent box-office hit Amelie, delivers laughs with a series of deadpan jokes.


::Wednesday, January 07, 2004 8:29:55 PM::
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NUNTII: Roman Greenhouses?

According to a piece in The Phoenix:

Although we don't know much about the history of terrariums, we know that ancient Romans experimented with greenhouses.

Since the ancient Romans often built models prior to constructing full-scale projects, it's quite possible that a tabletop model of a greenhouse was created and that it doubled as a working terrarium.

In any case, the earliest known greenhouse was built for Tiberius (42 B.C to 32 A.D) the emperor who ruled Rome from 14 to 37 A.D. It was constructed to grow cucumbers, his favorite food.

The soil of Tiberius' greenhouse was kept warm with animal dung and since glass had not yet been invented, thin sheets of mica were installed to permit light penetration.

Subsequently, Roman emperors improved upon the original design and they used their greenhouses for growing grapes and roses.

Other sites suggest the greenhouse was called a specularium, which I had always thought to be some sort of observatory. If it is the so-called Specularium at Tiberius' Villa on Capri, it does not seem  likely that it was a very good greenhouse. Pliny the Elder says (19.23.64; reproduced here courtesy of Lacus Curtius):

Cartilaginum generis extraque terram est cucumis, mira voluptate Tiberio principi expetitus. nullo quippe non die contigit ei, pensiles eorum hortos promoventibus in solem rotis olitoribus rursusque hibernis diebus intra specularium munimenta revocantibus.

That is to say, according to Pliny, Tiberius' gardeners would roll the cucumbers out into the sun in winter and then return them to the specularium. Not sure where the mica part comes into the picture ...

::Wednesday, January 07, 2004 7:04:25 PM::
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ante diem vii idus januarias

::Wednesday, January 07, 2004 5:36:01 AM::
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BLOGWATCH: @  City Comforts

City Comforts isn't really a blog which seems to deal with matters Classical (although one will find 'armavirumque' on their main page today), but since its author has been listening to The Learning Company's lectures on the Odyssey (by Dr. Vandiver), there is a good incipient discussion going on there which should be of interest to readers of rogueclassicism.

Worth a look ...

::Wednesday, January 07, 2004 5:21:03 AM::
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I stumbled, archaeologist-like,  on this one over the holidays ... the UNRV blog seems to focus solely on Roman history and picks up news items about that particular time period. Yesterday, however, they (it appears to be a community blog) also posted an extremely useful list of Imperial Roman legions from the time of Augustus or so down to the Fourth Century A.D./C.E.. Each entry provides an indication when the legion was formed, where it was based at various times, and timeline of each particular legion's military involvement.

The page is definitely one to bookmark ...

::Wednesday, January 07, 2004 5:14:20 AM::
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AUDIO: Father Foster

I didn't get a chance to listen to this one yet, but Father Foster this week waxes on about the Latin stylings of Leo the Great.

::Wednesday, January 07, 2004 4:59:36 AM::
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REVIEW: from Scholia Review

Thomas K. Hubbard (ed.), Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents.

::Wednesday, January 07, 2004 4:55:05 AM::
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AWOTV: On TV Today

6.00 p.m. |HINT| The Odyssey of Troy
What is it about the legendary city that 3,200 years after its fall,
we still try to unravel Troy's mysteries? Scholars attempt to answer
the question by researching the Greek poet Homer, possibly one of the
greatest poets in Western Europe's history, and his epic tale of love
and war, and comparing his text to archaeological sites.

7.00 p.m. |HINT| The Sunken City
The ancient Roman City of Ostia was once a vital seaport. Yet it
died a slow, painful death. This documentary explores the reasons for
its demise and looks at the abandoned wasteland today.

9.00 p.m. |HINT| Lost Civilizations: Rome: The Ultimate Empire
Sam Waterston narrates this Emmy Award-winning series that sweeps
through 7,000 years of history--from Ancient Mesopotamia to modern-
day Tibet--and transports viewers across the ages using dramatic
reenactments, location footage from 25 countries, and recent
archaeological discoveries to reconstruct the ancient past. In this
episode, we explore the glory of Rome--from founding to its zenith--
and march along as the Romans conquer the then-known world.

10.00 p.m. |HINT| Time Team: Papcastle, Cumbria
When Ray and Helen Buckingham started building work on an extension
to their Cumbrian house in Papcastle, England, they found what looked
like Roman pottery and building stone fragments. Puzzled, they
contacted Time Team--actor Tony Robinson (Baldrick in "Blackadder")
and his team of archaeologists, historians and other experts. Was the
couple's garden part of a Roman settlement or military staging post?
Time Team has just three days to piece together the surprising story.

11.00 p.m. |HINT| How Did They Build That?: Arches
British engineer Scott Steedman views three stunning examples of one
of the most reliable and enduring structural forms--the arch. In
France, he visits the Pont du Gard near Nimes, the highest Roman
aqueduct in the world, with its tiers of round arches. Then in Koln,
Germany, he investigates the largest Gothic cathedral in the world
for which medieval masons used two types of arch--the pointed and
flat. And at the Lufthansa Tecknik Jumbo Hangar in Hamburg, he
examines a modern use of the double arch.

HINT = History International

::Wednesday, January 07, 2004 4:34:57 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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