Most recent update:2/1/2004; 11:09:35 AM

 Monday, January 19, 2004

NUNTII: Geometric Period Tomb Discovered

The Cyprus Press Information Office has a brief item in its daily dispatch:

Turkish Cypriot daily KIBRIS newspaper (18.01.04) reports that an
ancient tomb 2,800 year old, dating back to the Geometric Period, was
discovered in occupied Rizokarpasso village.

As the paper writes the tomb was discovered in the pine forest which is
two km away from the ruins of the Monastery of Eleousa, west of the
Rizokarpasso village. Inside the tomb, among other, things were
discovered: A rather deformed human skeleton, three amphora, three
decorated bowls, three earth ware water jugs and one perfume bottle.

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CHATTER: Elgin/Parthenon Marbles

Salvatore Setti, a professor of Classical Archaeology at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa has written a very good editorial on why the Elgin/Parthenon Marbles should not be returned to Greece -- originally in Italian for Il Sole 24 Ore and translated in abbreviated form in the Guardian. In medias res:

The details are well known. Lord Elgin, English ambassador to Istanbul from 1798 to 1803, took the marbles from a Parthenon almost destroyed by Venetian cannon. This was an act of spoliation, but not "theft". Elgin had asked the Ottoman court for permission to conduct extensive investigations on the Acropolis, which was granted in a series of so-called firmans, dispatches from the Sublime Porte to the authorities in Athens.

Was the removal of the marbles therefore a "legal" act, as the British government insists? Or did the Ottoman officials in Athens interpret the firmans too broadly, possibly helped by a generous bribe? No one disputes that Elgin, overcome by debts, was obliged to sell them for only £35,000. The British Museum is therefore not directly responsible for the spoliations, but the legitimacy of its ownership is dependant on the judgment of Elgin's conduct.

However, many have relied on another argument to reject restitution. In Athens, it is argued, no one had taken care of them for centuries. Anyone could have removed part of those marbles. Indeed, sculptures from the Parthenon are found all over the world.

It was only after reaching London that the marbles entered European cultural circles. Even if they were returned, they would always carry with them a meaning acquired in London. Advocates for "restitution" counter that the marbles were damaged during the removal and suffered further damage when they were "restored" in 1938. They say that Greece today is quite different from what it was in Elgin's time, and that it could provide the best available standards of conservation.

Let us try to address the problem from two often neglected perspectives. First, what is the "real" Acropolis? The Parthenon only survived thanks to successive changes of use: it was a church, then a mosque during the Turkish occupation, and then was "returned" to a purely Greek identity through a process by which anything that was not classically Greek, like the minaret, was destroyed. The Acropolis is therefore the result of an operation that eliminated its Christian and Ottoman past. In order to reconstruct what is only one of the various possible forms of the Acropolis, all other forms are negated; this process would be crowned and legitimised by the return of the marbles. It would sanction the idea that of all the history that has flowed through the Acropolis (in fact, the history of Europe), only one moment matters and all others must be suppressed.

Second, tens of thousands of Greek sculptures, painted vases, bronzes and archaeological finds fill the world's museums. Why is this controversy limited to the return of the marbles? This tendency to select totem-like works, which in themselves synthesise an entire culture, unfortunately implies a devaluation not only of all other works but of the contextual nexus that links such works to one another. Such a process of reductio ad unum is directly opposed to the most advanced ideas of cultural conservation, and unintentionally risks legitimising the divorce of a few "high" works from all others.

The Munich declaration, signed last month by 30 museums, points to a possible solution that could be translated into an international agreement. On the one hand, there should be a crackdown on illegal trafficking of archaeological and artistic objects and, on the other, nothing should be returned if it was exported before such laws were implemented. This implies that history, with all its stratifications, is preferable to the "return to origin" idea of repatriation at all costs. [the whole thing]

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ante diem xiv kalendas februarias

  • Ludi Palatini (day 3)
  • c. 155 A.D. -- martyrdom of Germanicus in Smyrna
  • 169 A.D. -- martyrdom of Pontianus
  • c. 251 A.D. -- martyrdom of Messalina

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REVIEW: From Scholia

Craige B. Champion (ed.), Roman Imperialism: Readings and Sources.

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CHATTER: Spartacus Returns

I couldn't really call this 'Nuntii' or a 'Review', so I settled on 'Chatter' .... that is not intended to detract from the seriousness of the message (about child labour) which an Indian playwright is trying to get across:

Janothsava's main play, "Spartacus Returns", tells the story of the oppressed from the eyes of children. Most of the troupe's 140-members are children freed as bonded labourers and street children.

The play looks at Spartacus, a slave in the ancient Roman army, who fled from his captors to form a 90,000-strong army of former slaves. Though his army overran most of southern Italy, Spartacus' forces were defeated by the superior Romans and 6,000 of his forces were killed by the victors.

"Spartacus Returns", the play, is a sound and light spectacle that addresses the liberation of working children worldwide. "Spartacus returns to free the working children from toil. He is the ultimate symbol of struggle against slavery," says Devaraj.

The sets attempt to recreate authentic Roman times, the gladiator arena where slaves fought each other to death and Mount Vesuvius spewing lava, according to Janothsava.

Alongside the play, the children have also mounted a photo exhibition detailing the plight of other working children. [source]

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CHATTER: Super Bowls and Roman Numerals

Well, the hype began even before Carolina and Philadelphia took to the field ... of interest to us (and probably many other folks) is why Super Bowls are blessed with the authority of Roman numerals. News 24 Houston has a good answer:

Stroll around downtown and you'll likely run into plenty of references to the upcoming Super Bowl, along with the Xs, V and Is that make up the official logo. But in this modern world, what's the point of using such an outdated numerical system?

"The Roman numeral is something that Pete Rozelle as the former commissioner of the NFL came up with," Clark Haptonstall, sports management professor, says.

Haptonstall runs the Sports Management department of Rice University, site of Super Bowl VIII, which was XXX years ago. He says the commissioner chose Roman numerals for two reasons. First, because the NFL season crosses two calendar years, it would help clear confusion as to whether a team was the 2003 champion or the 2004 champion. The second reason is pure grandeur.

"He thought if you could use Roman numerals, it kind of gave that gladiator feel and was something that made the game special," Haptonstall says.

Gladiators, eh?

Sure, both events involve men in armor and crazed fans, but is there really a connection there?
For more answers, we went to Dr. Robert Yankow, who chairs the classical languages department at the University of St. Thomas.

Other than showing us how to translate any number to a Roman numeral on a spreadsheet, he also used his expertise to give us a crash course on all things Roman.

First and foremost, there are seven roman numerals -- I, V, X, L, C, D and M -- a system that was in place mainly because the Romans rarely used numbers over 1,000.

But on the subject of sports, this professor definitely sees a link between the Roman Coliseum and Reliant Stadium.

"It's the sort of thing that definitely puts you in the mind of gladiators really," Dr. Yankow says.


Yeah, really. Dr. Yankow actually says former NFL Commissioner Rozelle was right on the money when he started using Roman numerals beginning with Super Bowl II.

"One could legitimately say that the Super Bowl qualifies as something that is impressive, that is monumental and by golly, if anything deserves to have Roman numerals, the Super Bowl certainly does," Dr. Yankow says.

Despite everything, mathematicians say the biggest difference between Roman numerals and the Arabic numerals we use today is that the Romans didn't have a symbol for zero.

You can watch a video version of this too ...

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AWOTV: On TV Today

7.00 p.m. |HINT| Mystery Gold of the Black Sea Warriors
Long before Egypt and Babylon left their imprint on history, a
remarkable culture crafted a vast treasure trove of exquisite golden
objects that dazzles the eye and tantalizes the senses. They were the
Thracians. Feared and ruthless warriors, they challenged the might of
the Greek and Roman empires. According to Homer, they fought on the
side of Troy during the Trojan Wars. They left behind an enduring
legacy, epitomized by the renegade slave, Spartacus, then disappeared
into history.

9.00 p.m. |HISTU| Vikings/Goths
From the 9th Century BC through the 14th Century AD, barbarian
hordes on horseback thundered across Europe, Asia, and Africa. Shot
in film on location, we examine their conquests and also their
cultures, leaders, and roles in shaping history. In a 2-hour special,
we shatter myths about the Vikings, and see how they became agents of
social and political change, and the Goths, who sacked Rome itself,
and ironically, maintained Roman art and culture in their Goth
kingdoms as the Empire faded away. [2 hours]

11.00 p.m. |HISTU| The Real Spartacus
Long before Stanley Kubrick's film starring Kirk Douglas, Spartacus
had unwittingly become a mythological icon of resistance against
oppression worldwide. We'll look at the real Spartacus, focusing on
his struggle against Roman forces, his time as a gladiator, and his
role in the infamous slave revolt against Rome in 73 BC, which
convulsed the great empire for 2 years before the uprising was put
down and 6,000 slave rebels were crucified along 150 miles of the
Appian Way.

HINT = History International

HISTU = History Channel (US)

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