Most recent update:2/1/2004; 11:09:51 AM

 Wednesday, January 21, 2004

BLOGWATCH: @ Classics in Contemporary Culture

This is another blog I have been unintentially neglecting (does that make sense?) to mention more regularly ... this one's tough, though, since Mischa Hooker posts quite a pile of stuff on a somewhat daily basis (and what's amazing is that there really isn't a lot of duplication of items between CCC and rogueclassicism). In any event, I think I'll begin to 'make right' on this one by alerting folks to the series of posts from January 19, which include some blogwatching of Crooked Timber (with some Classicist intervention from Dr. Weevil), a couple of items of ClassCon in civil rights contexts, a somewhat bizarre reference to Draconian Romans in a piece on John Dean, and a link to the Roman-themed mall in Las Vegas.

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I keep neglecting to mention N.S. Gill's excellent weekly updates (apologies! it's not intentional). Today's contributions include a couple of features of interest, one on the Barbarians (to coincide with the History Channel's series on same ... see the AWOTV listings) and one on how tall people were in the past (the latter is a 44-page scholarly paper ... ).

8:02:54 PM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

NUNTII: APA Presidential Address

James O'Donnell's presidential address to the most recent meeting of the American Philological Association is now available online. The subject is Late Antiquity: Before and After and looks at how things have changed in regards to approaches to Late Antiquity and where they are going.

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BLOGWATCH: @ Suite 101 Ancient Rome

Ling Ouyang has taken the anniversary of Marius' death (January 17 ... it's possible) as an occasion to begin a four part series on Marius and Sulla. The first part establishes a context for the use of Apollo in Marian and Sullan propaganda at the turn of the First Century B.C./B.C.E..

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BLOGWATCH: @ Suite 101 Ancient Biographies

Over the past month, Robert Greaves (who often sends me stuff ... thanks!) has been writing some extended pieces on Cicero at his Ancient Biographies site. His first chunk deals with Cicero's early life down to the prosecution of Verres. Then came a good account of Cicero's actions during the Catilinarian conspiracy. Most recently he looks at Cicero's run-ins with Clodius Pulcher.

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AUDIO: Father Foster

I couldn't connect to Vatican Radio last night or this a.m., but I've finally managed to connnect with Father Foster. This week, the subject is Roman religion, but the program is a bit dull, actually ...

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ante diem xii kalendas februarias

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NUNTII: Elgin/Parthenon Marbles Again!

The latest push by the Marbles Reunited lobbyists and their apparent success in bending the mind of the UK's foreign secretary seems to have struck a chord with opinion-writers. In addition to the ones mentioned over the course of the past week or so, we can now add Richard Dorment in the Telegraph, who says, inter alia:

Last week, Mr Cook airily dismissed all this as an "arcane dispute over legal title to the Parthenon Marbles", but he must know perfectly well that no court in Europe would question the legality of the BM's possession of them.

And, even if it wished to, the British government could not simply transfer ownership of the marbles to another European state. Unlike in Greece, we operate an "arm's length" policy, whereby the objects in our national museums belong in law not to parliament but to their trustees.

This ensures that a government cannot sell works from our museums to raise revenue, or give them away for short-term political advantage - which, as we shall see, is precisely what Mr Cook proposes to do. What is more, were the trustees of the BM to comply with such an outlandish scheme, they would be in breach of their obligation to use the objects in their care for the maximum public benefit.

Faced with this reality, the lobbyists working for "The Marbles Reunited" have now come up with what they call the "Greek Proposal" - that the marbles be "loaned" to Athens but that Britain would "retain ownership" of them.

In fact, the new formula is a smokescreen. The Greeks are not asking for a loan in the ordinary sense. They want the marbles to remain permanently in Athens. They are now building a new museum to house them - on an archaeological site so important for the study of Byzantine civilisation that the Greek supreme court has twice declared its construction illegal, only to be overruled by the government.

This is where the story gets ugly. With breathtaking cheek, the PR company fighting the campaign in this country has conducted a public opinion poll, which they claim shows that an impressive 73 per cent of the British people are in favour of returning the marbles to Greece.

But wait. Just look at how the survey formulates the crucial question: "Do you agree or disagree that the British Museum should allow the Elgin Marbles to be reunited and displayed again in Athens, Greece, where they come from?" What reasonable person would not agree to such a proposal? No hint here that one of this country's most important artistic treasures, works of art that have been seen by visitors from all over the world and that have inspired British artists and writers for two centuries, would be lost to us for ever.

Yet, brandishing the results of this dubious opinion poll in the London Evening Standard, Mr Cook has the audacity to claim that it "confirms public support for restoring the Marbles to Greece" and calls on the trustees of the BM not to "defy the wishes of the British people" in this matter. Thank goodness that the duty of the BM's trustees is not to follow opinion polls but to fulfil their fiduciary duty.

But the disingenuous methods used by the pollsters render the survey's results utterly worthless. And the nauseating campaign video, which has been sent to thousands of people, is an even more outrageous travesty of the truth.

To take a few examples, the term used for the proposed permanent restitution of the marbles to Greece is "extended display" in Athens. It uses the words "stolen by the British" to describe Elgin's legitimate purchase of the marbles, and characterises as "plunder" the works of art he in fact saved. Our ill-informed former foreign secretary even claims that Elgin "dismantled the Acropolis" in an "act of vandalism".


Finally, I come to the nastiest part of this new campaign, the attempt to link the issue both to this summer's Olympic games in Athens and to Britain's bid to host the games in 2012.

The Olympics are not supposed to be used for political ends. But the Greek government is deliberately using the games for a political purpose in a way that has not happened so blatantly since Berlin in 1936.

In his article in the Evening Standard, Mr Cook bared his teeth. Hand over the marbles, he wrote, or "every Olympic dignitary" will be "shepherded by their Greek hosts around the new Acropolis Museum with a long blank wall where the Elgin Marbles should be".

Then, in a direct threat to the trustees of the BM, he warned: "Nor would wise trustees want to risk being seen to undermine London's bid to host the Olympics." In other words, in exchange for the possibility that London might host a few weeks of sporting events and so gain votes for the Labour party, he wants the trustees to give away one of the most glorious work of art in this country.

This whole campaign is sheer lunacy. If by some remote chance these people were to succeed in their aims, just think of the flood of claims for restitution of art back to Italy or the Netherlands. Our museums would be emptied within a decade. [more]

At last ... the opinion-makers acknowledge: Timeo Danaos et dona volentes ....

5:37:09 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

GOSSIP: Alexander the Great

Seems like Oliver Stone has begun the hype phase of his Alexander movie (if it hasn't already begun), which is currently shooting in Thailand. An AP wire report is bouncing around which suggests:

Oliver Stone has summoned 20 armor-clad elephants and hundreds of actors to central Thailand to shoot scenes for his latest epic, "Alexander."

But apparently, the writer-director doesn't want anyone else around.

"It's a closed set," said publicist Michael Singer. "It's to allow the production to go ahead without distractions."

With few exceptions, the media have been barred from visiting the set of the film about Alexander the Great, which stars Colin Farrell as the Macedonian conqueror.

Furthermore, cast members said they had been warned not to take their own photographs of a battle scene being filmed this week in Lopburi province, 71 miles north of Bangkok.

"We've been warned that if Oliver sees us with a camera, he'll storm over, stomp all over the camera and personally escort you off the set," said an actor who asked not to be identified.

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NUNTII: Approaches to Sappho

Today's Telegraph has a longish reviewish piece of  various recent approaches to Sappho ... it doesn't really have a section that can be excerpted without doing violence to it, so it's best just to go straight to the whole thing (no pun intended).

5:06:18 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

AWOTV: On TV Tonight

3.00 p.m. |HINT| Hercules: Power of the Gods
The story of how the mighty son of Zeus became one of the most
enduring legends of Greek mythology. Includes the saga of the 12
labors of Hercules, which included battles with the awful 9-headed
Hydra serpent and the Ceryneian stag with golden horns.

7.00 p.m. |HINT| Secrets at Delphi
An exploration of the hallowed ground Delphi, where Zeus' s two
eagles crossed paths and the Oracle prophesied the fortunes of kings
and countries.

HINT = History International

4:25:26 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

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