Most recent update:2/1/2004; 11:10:12 AM

 Saturday, January 24, 2004

doing some fiddling with the layout ... seeing if I can make it more friendly for those with more primitive browsers ... almost there ... just a little more


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ante diem xi kalendas februarias

  • Ludi Palatini (day 4)
  • Sementivae or Paganalia (day 1) -- Sementivae was a festival of
    sowing which was actually a moveable feast (although I'm not
    sure of the moveability criteria; I'm guessing that the first
    day falls between January 24 and 26). By Ovid's time it appears to
    have been coincident with Paganalia, which also obviously has
    some rural aspect to it. It appears to have been a two-day
    festival with an interval of seven days between (corrections
    on this welcome ... my sources seem muddled on this one)
  • 41 A.D. -- murder of Gaius (Caligula); Claudius proclaimed
    emperor by the praetorian guard
  • 76 A.D. -- birth of the future emperor Hadrian

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REVIEW: From the Guardian

Aubrey Burl, Catullus: A Poet in the Rome of Julius Caesar

Of the men and women of ancient Greece and Rome, only a very few can be made the subject of a full-scale, modern biography. There just aren't the facts from literature, archaeology or inscriptions to reconstruct the lives of any but the greatest celebrities: Alexander, Augustus, Julius Caesar, maybe one or two others.

For the poets, merely for their works to have survived in manuscript through the Middle Ages is a miracle. Biographical facts are a luxury. We know nothing at all about Homer, just a couple of things about Sappho, not a great deal even about the poets of the Roman empire such as Virgil and Horace.

Of Gaius Valerius Catullus, a lyric poet of the final catatastrophic years of the Roman republic, we are sure of almost nothing. A single manuscript containing three books of 116 carmina or lyrics, amounting to about 3,000 lines, turned up like an apparition in Verona in the early 1300s, and then vanished. But a copy or copies had been made.

St Jerome, quoting a biography that has been lost, said Catullus was born in 87BC and died in 57BC, but there are reasons to believe those dates aren't right. Pretty well everything about Catullus must be deduced from the poems, a mixture of the refined and the obscene quite without parallel in literature. He is the first poet of megalopolis, a sort of Baudelaire, but tougher.

Catullus came from Verona or nearby, lived on the Sirmio Peninsula in Lake Garda, spent several years in Rome, lost a beloved elder brother, did a tour as a government official on the Black Sea and failed to enrich himself, owned a yacht. He calls Julius Caesar a bugger and paedophile. In other words, one senses the approaching collapse of the Roman republic only in the dissolution of sexual morality.

Dispersed through the three books are 13 intense and passionate poems that mention a woman called Lesbia. The name means "woman of Lesbos", birthplace of Sappho. Ever since the first printing of the poems in Venice in 1472, the readers of Catullus have liked to arrange these poems and others of a heterosexual character into a romantic narrative.

Catullus and Lesbia meet at a dinner party or wedding, he gives her his translation of a Sappho lyric, she plays with her pet songbird. The bird dies and Catullus writes a mock-heroic elegy. He is intoxicated with her. There are assignations in borrowed houses. Her infidelities break his heart. The climax is the bitter and horrible Poem 58, where the woman he loved "more than himself" has open-air sex with strangers all over the city, " in quadriviis et angiportis/ glubit magnanimi Remi nepotes" .

In the middle of the second century AD, Apuleius reported that Lesbia was a pseudonym for a woman with the metrically identical name Clodia. In the 16th century, the great Florentine Latinist Pietro Vettori identified Lesbia with Clodia, a noblewoman of the Claudii family, wife of Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer, consul in 60BC, and sister of the gang-leader and demagogue Publius Clodius Pulcher.

The attribution had the virtue of linking Catullus to the most notorious woman of her age, whose reputation for poison, incest and aristocratic prostitution provides some of the most thrilling passages in a speech by the lawyer Cicero in defence of Marcus Caelius Rufus. It also gave Catullus a role in the breakdown of political order in Rome that was to culminate in Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon in 49BC. The Carmina of Catullus were news.

These two stories - personal and political - have occupied Catullus's readers for four centuries. Aubrey Burl's spirited Catullus is the latest attempt to write an entire romantic biography of the poet out of supposition. Since there aren't any facts, he supplies their absence with conjecture, much of it quite convincing. [more]

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NUNTII: Latin Teacher Shortage

The Boston Globe reports on an impending/current shortage of teachers to teach Latin when it is on the rise:

It's second period and Ray Smith is a man divided. At the front of his Latin class, the third-year students at Arlington High School huddle over their Latin vocabulary work sheets. In the back of the class, six Advanced Placement students sit spread out in preparation for their test, translating a passage of Tacitus. First period is just as energetic, when Smith reviews the parts of the Roman forum for 29 students, guiding his Latin 2 honors students while trying to challenge those in third-year college prep.

His academic balancing act began two years ago, when Geraldine Tremblay, the school's doyenne of Latin, retired. She had taught hundreds of students for more than 30 years. "Hiring to replace her," Smith said, "was hiring to replace a legend."

To save money, the school dispatched Smith to find someone willing to teach Latin for only three, instead of five, classes a day. He interviewed eight candidates and in the end, took a chance on a young woman with very little teaching experience, but a background in European history, some Latin and Italian.

"This is a situation where failure is not an option. You find someone or else," Smith said. "I'm lucky to get what I got."

Elsewhere, Latin teachers are retiring and their programs are lying fallow while the schools struggle to find replacements. Drury High School in North Adams lost its teacher two years ago and, without a steward, has been forced to shelve the program. Principals from New Jersey are frantically calling New England colleges, hoping to recruit anyone majoring in the classics. Openings posted on professional websites stay open for months. [more]

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AWOTV: On TV Today

5.00 p.m. |DTC| Lost City of Pompeii: Secrets of the Dead
Journey to the playground of the Roman aristocracy, Herculaneum.
Buried by the same volcanic eruption that leveled Pompeii, this city
of luxurious villas, magnificent arcades and extensive library
collections holds clues to the Roman's riches.

6.00 p.m. |DTC| Vesuvius: Deadly Fury
In 79 AD, eruptions from Mount Vesuvius buried the city of Pompeii.
A burning wave of gas shot out from the side of Vesuvius killing the
inhabitants of neighboring Herculaneum in just four minutes.
Archaeologists look to these bodies for historical clues.

8.00 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.

DTC = Discovery Times Channel (US)

HISTU = History Channel  (US)

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Click for Athens, Greece Forecast

Click for Rome, Italy Forecast

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