Sunday, January 18, 2004
NUNTII: More Elgin/Parthenon Marbles News
I was kind of hoping to see something with a little more detail on this some time over the past few days, but it never materialized. So here's an item from the Athenian News Agency:
A resolution calling for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece was
tabled in the House of Commons on Thursday by Labor MP for Hendon Andrew
Dismore, signed by over 50 MPs from all parties, including former foreign
secretary Robin Cook.
The text of the resolution notes that the new Acropolis Museum being built
in Athens provides an unprecedented opportunity to exhibit all the sections
of the Parthenon Marbles currently scattered between Athens and London
It also declares belief that the development will be accepted with
satisfaction by the majority of the British people and that any legal
issues can be resolved if the return is made in the form of a long-term
It welcomes the Greek government's offer to provide important Greek
antiquities to exhibitions at national and local museums in Britain once
the issue of the Parthenon Marbles is resolved.
It also calls on the British government to work closely with the British
Museum and Greek authorities in this direction, in the spirit of
cooperation and friendship appropriate in each Olympic year.
Not sure what a 'resolution' is in the British Parliament ... it isn't a bill, of course.
CHATTER: Rottweiler Origins
From the Planview Daily Herald comes our latest ancient-origins-for-a-breed claim:
The earliest forms of rottweilers were first used by the Romans to drive their cattle and guard their prisoners. These dogs were then bred with sheep dogs in the town of Rottweil, from which the current breed name comes from.
As often, I am skeptical of the claim, but this time it is something we discussed on the Classics list a couple of years ago -- in typical Classics list fashion, the initial post (which cited the American Kennel Club as accepting this claim) quickly turned to a discussion of the Sopranos. James Butrica's post was the only one which suggested there might be something in an ancient source, but nothing specifically rottweilerish.
An excerpt from an article in Dog and Kennel magazine (which includes some more ClassCon) does strike a balance between 'known' and 'unknown' :
One of the most lurid achievements of the Roman Empire was the Circus Maximus. Like Rome, the circus wasn't built in a day. Initially constructed around 600 B.C. and modified several times thereafter, the circus was the fountain of amusement in Rome for more than nine centuries. This larger-than-lives battleground, 2,000 feet by 600 feet at its zenith, was more than six football fields long and two fields wide. It eventually held as many as 250,000 people, the entire population of Rome.
Chariot races were the first and the abiding attraction in the Circus Maximus, but other entertainments, many of them involving animals, were gradually added to the program. Among the most popular additions were fights between lions and dogs.
The type of dog that rumbled with lions was called the Molossus, a mastifflike breed noted for it ferocity and aggressiveness. Only the most savage fighting dogs qualified for work in the arena, but other dogs from the same breedings that produced the lion fighters were barely less fierce. These dogs traveled with the Roman armies, for whom they served as guards, protectors and draft dogs. They also drove and defended the cattle that fed the Roman soldiers on their conquering expeditions.
Portrayals of these dogs found in historic writings bear a conspicuous resemblance to modern Rottweilers. We have no recorded proof, of course, that Roman fighting dogs and their descendants are the ancestors of today's Rottweiler, but dogs of the Molossus type were carried to every region of Europe that the Roman armies visited.
Red Tiles and Cattle Drives
One of those regions was southern Germany, where the Romans established an outpost called Arae Flavia sometime around 74 A.D. This outpost rapidly became a sophisticated social and political center attracting many Roman citizens accustomed to the comforts and architecture of their former urban dwellings. Because the significant buildings in Arae Flavia were all distinguished by red-tiled roofs, the town that grew up there came to be known as Rottwil (later Rottweil), which means "red villa."
The Molossus dogs that accompanied the Roman army fraternized with other dogs already living in Rottweil, and eventually a breed developed that was just as courageous and no less adaptable than its Roman predecessors. By the Middle Ages, when Rottweil had become a center of commerce and justice, cattlemen used the descendants of the Roman dogs-local dogs matings to drive the herds they sold to the butcher and to guard the purses containing the proceeds of those sales on the way back home. For their part, the butchers used the dogs to pull meat carts. Toward this end, they developed a larger strain of dog for draft work, but the smaller, herding type Rottweiler is the type most popular today.
For an idea of what a Molossian looked like, see the well-known Cave Canem mosaic from the House of the Tragic Poet in Pompeii.
BLOGWATCH: @ George Dafermos
I came across this one this a.m. while doing Explorator and can't quite figure out how I ended up there. What this particular blog includes is a series of papers (?) on the impact of blogs on 'the market'. The page in question is, in fact, called Blogging the Market and it takes as its point of departure a rather idealized view of what the Athenian Agora was like:
In the city-state of Athens, about 3,000 years ago, Athenian citizens used to meet regularly at the “town centre” to announce projects, discuss politics and military affairs and decide on matters of common interest. What was so peculiar about this congregation – that came to be known as ‘agora’ – is that all Athenian citizens had the right to speak their own mind about almost anything and address their fellow citizens and when a decision had to be made, no one’s vote mattered more than someone else’s. And everything took place out in the open. No single Athenian was privileged in terms of public exposure and all opinions voiced at the agora were judged against their own merit. The ability to speak, raise objections, comment and criticise was equally distributed among all attendants and power to decide on the action to be taken based on what was previously debated was also equally distributed. Some embraced their fellow citizens’ ideas, and joined a civic coalition to take immediate action provided of course that they managed to convince the majority while others detached themselves emotionally from these very same ideas and went on to counter argue and oppose them. Conflict, enthusiasm, dispute and all sorts of verbal demonstrations of human emotions and feelings were evident and encouraged. Legendary war campaigns, marches to the battlefield and critical community issues related to, say, education, sports or arts, were decided in this way rather than at the headquarters of the army general or at the palace of the ruling king (besides, there was no king). And that is what Democracy means in Greek: the public holds the power reigns. However, the organisation of the agora conveyed also something else: that power shifted to where knowledge resided. Athenians were empowered by the abstract, yet real social infrastructure of the agora to publicly demonstrate their knowledge by means of articulating arguments in favour or against of certain propositions and on these premises, to gain the respect, the approval and the support of everyone engaged in the conversation. Yet it is striking how distant this archaic “town centre” looks from the one we are familiar with. Time went by and approximately 2,150 years ago ancient Greek forces were outperformed by the Roman army in the battlefield, and Athens was eventually taken over by the Roman Empire. The Athenian democracy and agora did not ever recover. Never again in human history had people had this staggering ability to collectively make decisions and collectively implement them.
Okay ... let's just hold back the obvious objection here about slaves and women not being involved in "the conversation". The piece continues:
Athenians were not working at offices. To be precise, they were not particularly fond of work; they’d rather spend their time ‘cultivating’ their body and mind rather than consuming themselves as they reckoned at work. Ironically, they didn’t think that fighting wars was consuming and they thought highly of martial arts. For some time, they were indeed very successful at fighting and conquering places. So, slaves, commodities and all kinds of material goods were shipped from the colonies and from territories enslaved by the Athenian army to eliminate the need for Athenians to work in order to cover life’s essential needs. Goods brought in from the colonies took care of their hunger, thirst and clothing needs and slaves did most of everything else. But commerce was also thriving in Athens. At the time, there were no organisations in the sense we are nowadays familiar with. Instead, merchants and anyone interested in buying or selling something met at the agora where they talked, negotiated merchandise and prices, exchanged what was agreed and shook hands. Deal closed, sale done. If someone encountered a problem with something he bought, he’d also go to the agora to see the merchant he bought it from and unless the merchant fixed the problem, another cycle of negotiations normally would begin until both parties reached an agreement as to what should be done then.
Hmmm ... so the Athenian Empire was designed to free "Athenians" from having to do work; interesting piece of revisionism ... let's see where else this goes:
When however an organisation had to be formed to seize a market opportunity, say sail to Egypt to buy cheap silk and then sell it to Syracuse, the agora served to gather support and manpower for the undertaking too. The project announcement would be made at the agora and anyone interested in joining the organisation would shout or approach the man who made the announcement and tell him “Hey, count me in!” or ask “What’s in it for me?”. Organisations were rather formed in an ad hoc basis, consisting of a group of people who had come together for a very specific project and once the project ‘s mission had been accomplished, say the silk from Egypt had been successfully sold in Syracuse to continue with the above example, the temporary company disbanded.
Hmmm ... this sounds like something that would happen in the Piraeus, not the agora, but perhaps I'm picking nits ... it continues, of course:
The point is that the agora was more than a place people gathered. It was a process of constantly conversing with others and it was real. Real people met real people and real problems sought real solutions. It was not plain rhetoric and it was not only for the few good men who had an angle on the king, the president, or the CEO and as such were the ones privileged to decide what is best. Looking back to the 20th century, we witness that public places resembling the agora eclipsed, and project – based organisations modelled on the Argonauts from Ancient Greece were deemed inefficient and in the name of progress were replaced with huge vertically-integrated corporate dinosaurs whose mission other than making money for the few good men, was (is) to last forever. [etc.]
That's about it as far as ClassCon goes ... the paper then goes on for many screens, attempting, it seems to show how blogs have become (or have the potential to become?) the 'agora' for the 21st century. A somewhat good argument, but one we heard a decade or so ago in relation to Usenet and a few years after that with Listerv lists. My breath -- she is not being held.
From another perspective, it's another interesting case of how the business world (selectively innocently incorrectly?) perceives the lessons of the Classical world. I think we'll keep our eye open for more examples of this phenomenon.
NUNTII: Major Roman Discovery in Croatia
IC Birmingham reports the following:
City archaeologists have struck gold - with a major Bronze Age discovery in eastern Europe.
A team of experts from the University of Birmingham has discovered what may be one of the most important archaeological sites of the last 50 years, in a riverbed in Croatia.
Items recovered from the river include more than 90 swords, a Roman legionnaire's dagger complete with sheath, more than 30 Greco-Illyrian helmets, plus numerous items of jewellery, axes and spearheads.
It is believed a large number of objects were thrown into River Cetina deliberately, possibly as offerings to gods.
Initial surveys of the site indicate that the remarkable finds span a period of history from 6,000 BC onwards. [more]
NUNTII: APA Excellence in Teaching Award
A brief item from the Casper (Wyoming) Star Tribune:
LARAMIE -- The American Philological Association has presented its 2003 Excellence in Teaching Award to Philip Holt, a professor in the University of Wyoming's Department of Modern and Classical Languages.
Founded in 1869, the association is the principal learned society for classical studies in North America. Selection criteria include excellence in teaching of classics to undergraduate students and design and successful implementation of new courses and programs.
Holt received his bachelor's degree in 1969 from St. John's College in Annapolis, Md., and doctorate in 1976 from Stanford University.
REVIEWS: From BMCR
Stephen J. Shoemaker, Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption.
Victor Bers (trans.), Demosthenes, Speeches 50-59.
Andrew Gillett, Envoys and Political Communication in the Late Antique West, 411-533.
John R. Clarke, Roman Sex 100 BC - AD 250.
Norbert Witten (ed.), Angelo Camillo Decembrio. De politia litteraria. Kritisch herausgegeben sowie mit einer Einleitung, mit Quellennachweisen und einem Registerteil versehen.
Giorgetta Revelli (ed.), Da Ulisse a Ulisse (il viaggio come mito letterario). Atti del Convegno internazionale, Imperia, 5-6 ottobre.
Wolfram Grajetzki, Burial Customs in Ancient Egypt: Life in Death for Rich and Poor.
William W. Fortenbaugh, Robert W. Sharples, Michael G. Sollenberger, Theophrastus of Eresus. On Sweat On Dizziness On Fatigue.
Dominic O'Meara, Platonopolis. Platonic Political Philosophy in Late Antiquity.
yet again ... technical difficulties ...
NUNTII: Latest Explorator
Explorator 6.38 has been posted ... enjoy!
AWOTV: On TV Today
6.00 p.m. |HISTU| Attila, Pt. 1
Movie. Shot in Lithuania, this 2-part movie portrays the life of one
history's most feared men--Attila, King of the Huns in the 5th
century--and the Western World's fate, represented by a rapidly
diminishing Roman Empire. Part 1 follows young Attila, who survives
the murder of his chieftain father and the slaughter of his village,
and goes on to become a great warrior whose exploits draw the
attention of Roman General Flavius Aetius. Starring Gerard Butler,
Powers Boothe, and Alice Krige. [part 2 follows at 8.00 p.m.]
10.00 p.m. |DISCU| The Real Jason and the Argonauts
The myth of Jason and the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden
Fleece may be based on real events that took place over 3,000 years
ago. Discoveries in Greece suggest that Jason's journey may have been
a genuine voyage of discovery.
HISTU = History Channel (US)
DISCU = Discovery Channel (US)