Monday, January 26, 2004
NUNTII: Timothy Gantz Obituary
Timothy Gantz, 58, who taught Greek poetry and mythology in the Classics department and excavated the only major Italian Etruscan civic building known to this day, died of heart failure early Tuesday morning.
"He was a very dedicated man," said Naomi Norman, associate department head in the Classics department. "He was generous both to students and colleagues."
Gantz had worked at the University since 1970.
His close friend and professor in the School of Music, Roger C. Vogel, said Gantz had a vast array of interests.
"He was a superb scholar," he said. "He studied most carefully anything and everything that peaked his interest."
And that included single malt Scotch whisky, Vogel said, calling it Gantz's "great passion."
"He studied it before it became as popular as it is today," he said.
On another occasion, a student who never had been taught by Gantz once looked to him for help to recover the erased and only copy of her master's thesis.
Ten years later, the student -- whose thesis had been successfully restored by Gantz after many hours -- was present at his funeral, Vogel said.
"She was eternally grateful," he said.
Norman said Gantz taught himself about computers and became the "expert" everyone looked to for technical help within the department.
Vogel added that Gantz had rows and rows of computer software stored on his shelves.
Besides whisky and computers, fencing was another of Gantz's strong interests, Vogel said.
After fencing as a college student, Gantz joined the University's fencing club.
Vogel said Gantz's face was "all glowing" after Vogel had given him a new fencing sword.
"I said to him -- 'I'm glad you like it, it's all yours," Vogel said.
Gantz also was a sports and opera fan and an animal enthusiast.
"Timothy (Gantz) was able to talk intelligently about almost any sport," Vogel said. "His greatest love in music was the operas of Wagner."
Norman said Gantz would "stargaze" in the mornings and several animals would join him.
He had two cats, and several opossums and raccoons visited him frequently.
"Timothy saw to it that there was always something for the local animals to eat," Vogel said.
Gantz directed the University's Studies Abroad in Rome program.
He also traveled with his students to Rome, where he lectured to them on archaeological research he was conducting there.
Beyond teaching, Gantz once served as secretary of the Faculty Senate and as a graduate coordinator within the Classics department.
He is survived by his wife, Elena Bianchelli, a professor in the Classics department, and his son Tavish, 9.
"I feel fortunate to have had Timothy (Gantz) for a friend these many years," Vogel said. "I will miss him."
NUNTII: A Student's Dream (well, one of them, maybe)
The Cincinnati Enquirer has a piece on Robert Stephan's work with some re-discovered but unpublished papyri:
Nearly 2000 years ago a young Roman soldier wrote home, asking his father's permission to marry his girlfriend.
In another letter, he asks for boots and socks to keep his feet warm during a cold winter. And he tells how he must violently put down those who revolt and riot in Alexandria.
All this - and more - about life for Tiberianus, who lived in Roman Egypt, is being advanced through the work of a Princeton High School graduate now attending the University of Michigan.
Last fall, Robert Stephan (Class of 2001) found some papyri - ancient writings on papyrus, made from the reed plant - stored but forgotten in the university's vault. The papyri had been collected during UM excavations at Karanius, southwest of Egypt's Nile River delta, in the 1920s and '30s.
Unbeknown to today's scholars, 15 papyri collected from the original excavation had been catalogued by the university but never examined or translated. The works may never have been discovered had Stephan not begun an independent study project last fall.
Many archaeologists call his discovery a breakthrough.
"The significance of this is that the world (did not) know that these existed,'' said Arthur Verhoogt, a UM assistant professor of papyrology and Greek. "It's an important contribution to our understanding of the Roman Empire at large.'' [more]
The find-place is Karanis, not Karanius ... Whatever the case, there's much more interesting coverage on this in the Michigan Daily article from November, 2003.
CHATTER: Twyla Tharp/Billy Joel/Achilles
I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this one ... there's ClassCon lurking in it, but I fear a new set of overplayed songs to get stuck in my head (dammit ... Waterloo!):
Thinking outside the box -- or more accurately, off the CD -- director-choreographer Twyla Tharp approached Billy Joel with the idea of creating a Broadway show based on his songs. Joel recalls the conversation going something like this:
"She goes, 'Listen, what ever happened to Brenda and Eddie in the Italian restaurant?'
"And I said, 'I don't know.'
"She goes, 'What happened to Anthony from the grocery store?'
"I said, 'I don't know.' "
He knows now. Brenda, Eddie, Anthony, James, Judy -- characters Joel invented in songs -- live and breathe in "Movin' Out," the dance narrative that Tharp fashioned around more than two dozen songs, not necessarily related, that Joel wrote in the '70s, '80s and '90s. The show opened on Broadway in 2002, earned Tony Awards for Tharp and Joel and continues to run.
The national tour, which will ultimately play more than 30 cities before movin' out to Asia, begins Tuesday at Detroit's Fisher Theatre. Tharp, in town to launch the production, talked with the Free Press in person. Joel spoke by phone from New York.
"Movin' Out" is a show with no dialogue that speaks volumes. It tells its story through dance and song, with a singer-pianist and a rock band perched on a platform high above the dancers onstage.
The show's focal point is the Vietnam War, and Tharp says she made "Movin' Out" for vets. "No group of warriors has ever been drafted and then treated when they came back as though they'd been mercenaries -- whether it's Huns or Visigoths or Romans, I don't care who. That's a major betrayal and I think it was very misguided and it was most unfortunate for that generation of men. It was a great tragedy."
Not many people invoke Huns and Visigoths while talking about a show that really rocks. But that's Tharp, an artist who has created dances to be performed to music as disparate as that of Beethoven, the Beach Boys, Philip Glass, Brahms, stride pianist Willie (The Lion) Smith and art rocker David Byrne.
In conceiving "Movin' Out," Tharp found a key piece of inspiration in a 3,000-year-old work of literature. She and Joel met on a Thursday and, over the weekend that followed, she listened to all his CDs. "On Monday I called him, I said, 'I have it, here's how it goes."'
Then she said she read him a line: "Sing to me, muse, of the rage of Achilles." It is the beginning of Homer's "Iliad."
"And the muse," Tharp recalled telling Joel, "would be you, Billy, and the rage of Achilles would be a generation of American men, some of whom are from Long Island."
That's Joel's home turf.
"So then it was grounded," Tharp says, "and I knew where I had to take things."
Joel let her. "That," he says, "was the extent of my collaboration." [more]
CHATTER: Alexander Hype?
I can't tell whether this is serious or whether the author is trying to generate some Mel-Gibson-Passionesque hype for Oliver Stone's Alexander flick (it comes from Hellenic News of America):
Oliver Stone in his upcoming movie seems to have totally ignored history on Alexander the Great and chose to write his own, thus committing a crime of history rewriting for his audience. This time, at the expense of Alexander the Great and the good Greek name.
All information that leaks out indicates that Oliver Stone's movie on Alexander shows him to be wealth driven for his campaign in Asia, a butcher of people, and a homosexual. This very distorted and disturbing view of Alexander prompted me to go back to the real source of information, which I read a long time ago, “Plutarch's Parallel Lives”. I re-read his 67 pages on Alexander the Great. The book is printed by Papyros Publishing company both in the original Greek and in modern Greek, side by side. Plutarch, a scholar during Roman times, wrote about three centuries after Alexander, enough time having passed so that he could be rather objective on events, the impact of those events and in his character assessment. I find Plutarch to be a very good biographer and historian. He seems to have done his homework in reading practically everything that was written up to that time about Alexander, referring to Alexander's diary, to notes by people who accompanied him in the campaign, biographies by historians who admired him and those who may be considered less friendly. Some of Plutarch's sources may no longer exist, but he had excess to them in his time. My conclusions from reading Plutarch's Alexander are: [yadda yadda yadda]
Interesting that the author doesn't seem to display the same qualities he admires in Plutarch ...
THIS DAY IN ANCIENT HISTORY
ante diem vii kalendas februarias
- 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).
NUNTII: Tracing Ancient Mariners via Pollen
A pile of alert Explorator/rogueclassicism readers filled my box with this one this a.m. (thanks to all!) ... according to a piece in Nature (and in a more detailed account in the payfer Journal of Archaeological Science) a researcher suggests that pollen trapped in ancient shipwrecks can give clues about its origins:
How do you work out where an ancient ship was originally built? Try looking at the pollen caught in the joints of the wreck, suggests a French ecologist.
Serge Muller, of the University of Montpellier II in France, says the range of pollen found on a shipwreck gives a snapshot of the plant species local to the boat's birthplace. The sticky resin used to seal a boat's hull can catch and trap pollen, giving the boat a biological 'birth certificate'.
"I see tremendous potential for this method," says Robert Hohlfelder, an archaeologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. "We're always searching for new ways to investigate shipwrecks. At the moment it's almost impossible to do."
Muller has used the method to trace the origins of a shipwreck off the south coast of France. The Baie-de-l'Amitié, a 2,000-year-old wreck that now lies near the port of Cap d'Agde, was constructed east of Italy, he concludes1.
If that is true, it might force historians to revise some of their ideas about ancient transport. Archaeologists had thought that small boats such as the Baie-de-l'Amitié were only used to carry freight over small distances, says Muller. But his analysis indicates that it travelled clear across the Mediterranean.
Hohlfelder says he wouldn't be surprised if the ships had travelled the distance to carry grapes or wine between ports. "Before the wine industry developed in France, a lot of wine was imported from Italy," he says. [more]
NUNTII: Greek Museum Opens
Well, actually, it's a school project somewhere in Tucson, Arizona ... as described, it sounds interesting at the elementary level. Perhaps a teacher out there will want to try:
The sixth grade at Thornydale Elementary School, 7751 N. Oldfather Road, created a Greek museum on Thursday.
Students, faculty and staff had a chance to step into ancient Greece.
"All three sixth-grade classes participated in making sculptures and models no more than 15 inches high and 15 inches long," said Leigh Kechely, student teacher.
"One student made a clay model of Socrates and another student, whose father works with metal, made a javelin or a spear. Two models of amphitheaters were made, with audience included. One was made out of wood," Kechely said.
The event was organized by sixth-grade teacher Jenny Bellah. The museum was open to the entire school from 1 to 2:30 p.m.
AWOTV: On TV Today
Nothing of interest ... (two days in a row!)