Most recent update:2/1/2004; 11:09:42 AM

 Tuesday, January 20, 2004


ante diem xiii kalendas februarias

  • ludi palatini (??)
  • 175 A.D. -- Commodus is enrolled in all the priestly colleges
  • 225 A.D. (or 226) -- birth of the future emperor Gordian III
  • c. 250 A.D. -- martyrdom of Pope Fabian at Rome
  • c. 288 A.D. -- martyrdom of Sebastian at Rome

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technical difficulties again ...
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CHATTER: Elgin/Parthenon Marbles and Greek Pessimism

It was with great interest yesterday evening that word came of a Gallup Poll which suggested that Greeks were the second most pessimistic nation on earth (Slovakians were number one). While the report gave the standard reasons for such feelings (i.e. fear of losing jobs, financial difficulties, etc.) I suggest the contradictory messages being sent to Greeks in their news services must be a contributing factor. Consider the following news items, which arrived in my mailbox in the same mail run. The first comes from Athens News Agency:

Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Monday said he was confident
about the eventual return to Greece of the Parthenon Marbles currently
being held at the British Museum in London, despite recent statements
to the contrary by the Museum's director.

Speaking from Thessaloniki, where he presented a series of measures
relating to the city's preparations for the 2004 Olympics, Venizelos
stressed that an overwhelming majority of public opinion in Britain
that almost reached 80 per cent were in favour of returning the
sculptures to Athens and their reunification with the Parthenon.

The minister was also optimistic that a breakthrough might be achieved
at the upcoming meeting between Foreign Minister George Papandreou with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, where he said the issue of the
Marbles' return will again be put.

But before we get our hopes up, here's the report from Hellenic Radio (I include the headline for the piece):

British Museum director dashes hopes of Parthenon Marbles return

On the issue of the Parthenon Marbles, the director of the British
Museum  where the invaluable sculptures are on display  was
particularly aggressive and provocative in an article published in The
Sunday Times. Neil McGregor maintained that Greek authorities
essentially continued the work of Lord Elgin, who had removed the
sculptures from the Athens Acropolis in the early 18th century. He
added that the issue was being exploited for pre-election purposes , in
an effort to eliminate any hope of the Marbles return to Athens

Obviously the stories are related, but it's interesting that one holds out hope while the other one dashes it. If this were a general feature of the Greek media, I suspect it would make me pessimistic as well ...

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NUNTII: Darius' Fleet

Semi-annoyingly, my mailbox is filling with this report (semi-annoyingly because the initial discoveries associated with this are near the top of my Top XX list which is still being written out, so you'll read more about this in the days to come). From the BBC:

Archaeologists have embarked on an epic search for an ancient fleet of Persian ships that was destroyed in a violent storm off Greece in 492 BC.
The team will search for sunken remains of the armada - sent by Persian king Darius to invade Greece - which was annihilated before reaching its target.

Waters off Mount Athos in northern Greece, the site of the disaster, have yielded two helmets and a spear-butt.

Experts will return to the site in June to look for more remains of the fleet.

"This is an extraordinarily target-rich area for ancient shipwrecks," Dr Robert Hohlfelder, a maritime archaeologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, US, told BBC News Online. 

The amphoras presumably come from a shipwreck ."Usually, when shipwrecks are found, the archaeologists are asked to create the history around them. We have the history, now we've got to find the shipwrecks."

Historical cue

An account of the 492 BC disaster is related in The Histories, by the 5th Century BC Greek writer Herodotus. He says the ships were smashed against Mount Athos.

Last year, the team discovered a shipwreck containing amphoras, pottery containers used for transporting foodstuffs. How, if at all, this wreck relates to the disaster is not known.

The archaeologists also found a bronze spear-butt, called a sauroter, at a site where, in 1999, local fisherman raised two Greek classical helmets from the seafloor.

The sauroter was found in the possession of an octopus, which had dragged the spear-butt inside a jar in which it had made its sea-floor home.

The survey could help resolve arguments about how triremes - ancient galley warships used by the Persians and Greeks - were constructed.

The sauroter, held by Katerina Dellaporta, fitted a spear
Recycled boats

In trireme battles, victory hinged on slamming other ships with a heavy bronze ram on the front of the ship.

Not a single trireme wreck has ever been found and archaeologists on the survey are divided over the likelihood of finding one on this expedition.

"We will not find a trireme. They contained very little ballast so they floated. Although the rams may have sunk," team member Michael Wedde told BBC News Online. [more ... includes some photos]


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AWOTV: On TV Today

2.00 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]

3.00 p.m. |HINT| Caligula: Reign of Madness
Profile of the Roman Emperor whose reign was a legendary frenzy of
lunacy, murder, and perverse sexuality.

6.00 p.m. |HISTU| The Real Attila the Hun
No ruler in history represents the unbridled rage and brutality of
the barbarian as much as Attila the Hun. In the 5th century, Attila
swept through Europe, effectively extinguishing the classical Roman
Empire. And for a time, he held the destiny of all of Western Europe
firmly in his grasp. But in the end, it was Attila who unwittingly
secured the future of the civilized world and Christian Europe. After
his death, the Hun Empire began to break up, and the marauding Huns
"scattered to the winds."

8.00 p.m. |HISTU| Goths
Terrorized by the Huns savage raids, the Goths made a desperate bid
for safety in the Roman Empire, but were forced into squalid
concentration camps along the imperial borders, starved and degraded,
their children sold as slaves. But Rome made a big mistake--the Goths
kept their weapons and exploded in rioting and looting. After
centuries of broken treaties, King Aleric sacked Rome. Ironically,
the Goths maintained Roman art and culture in their new Goth kingdoms
as the Empire faded away.

9.00 p.m. |HISTC| Carthage

11.00 p.m. |HINT| Atlantis: The Lost Civilization
Probing documentary asks the question: Did Atlantis really exist,
and if so, where? And, what kind of people were the Alantians that
they could develop such a technologically advanced civilization which
is yet to be surpassed?

HISTC = History Television (Canada)

HISTU = History Channel (US)

HINT = History International

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