Most recent update:3/1/2004; 6:08:42 AM


 Sunday, February 01, 2004

THIS DAY IN ANCIENT HISTORY

kalendae februariae

  • Rites in honour of Juno Sospita: Juno Sospita was originally
    worshipped in Lanuvium, where she seems to have had started out
    as a fertility goddess of some sort and evolved into a warrior
    protectrix of the city. When Lanuvium was granted Roman citizenship
    in 338 B.C., the cult was also given special status and place under
    the control of the pontifices, who would annually perform a sacrifice
    to her. There also seems to have been a ritual whereby blindfolded
    girls would enter her grove to feed barley cakes to the sacred
    snakes therein. If the cakes were accepted, the girls were proven
    to be virgins and the fertility for the upcoming year was guaranteed.
    Which of these rituals -- or perhaps both -- took place on this day
    isn't clear in my sources.
  • Rites in honour of Elernus: Elernus (or Helernus, or may Avernus) is
    another one of those very ancient Roman deities about which we know
    little, as can be seen by the variations in name. He appears to have
    been some type of underworld divinity (perhaps being honoured with
    the sacrifice of a black ox by the pontifices).

11:43:21 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


REVIEWS: From BMCR

Wolfram Hoepfner, Der Koloss von Rhodos und die Bauten des Helios.

Luisa Moscati Castelnuovo (ed.), Identita e Prassi Storica nel
Mediterraneo Greco
.

Ruden on Clayton on Ruden. Response to BMCR 2003.12.25

Powell on Powell on des Bouvrie. Response to BMCR 2004.01.16


11:32:45 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


CHATTER: Why Republics Fall

A piece in the San Antonio Express News demonstrates that T.R. Fehrenbach paid attention in his first-year Roman History class:

A constitution is the basic law of any land, and when and if it's breached or treated with contempt, the center cannot hold. The result is turmoil, civil strife and, usually, the institution of one-man or one-party rule.

Republican Rome is a case in point. The bloody contests for supreme power in the state were never actually between the people and the senate but between two sets of wealthy aristocrats with the common citizens furnishing the spear-fodder for each side. Some grandees assumed the title of populares, champions of the poorer people and disaffected businessmen demanding social change. Others, conservatives, called themselves optimates, or the "best men" who defended the scheme of things against any radical reform.

After a century of relative amity during which Rome conquered its world, the Gracchi, brothers born at the core of Roman nobility, tried to initiate reforms to aid the swelling proletariat by awarding public lands (then leased to rich men) to landless peasants. The rationale was not socialism but to strengthen Rome's military manpower, because only property-owning citizens were constitutionally permitted to bear arms. Reform was certainly needed for both military and social reasons.

However, the Roman constitution stood in the way. Having driven out their kings, Romans established a republic with collegial officers elected for a single year to prevent abuse of power and one-man rule.

When T. Gracchus was elected tribune, the most effective legislative office, the senatorial party was able to elect a conservative colleague. This meant that neither tribune could do anything in opposition to the other; it prevented one-man rule but paralyzed the state. Further, since magistrates held office for only one year, there was little chance of enacting sweeping new legislation.

Historians generally agree that Gracchus, frustrated, seized upon unconstitutional methods. Using emotional, rabble-rousing rhetoric, he led the people to oust M. Octavius, his colleague, and rammed his new laws through over the objections of the senate. Then, against all republican tradition, he stood again for office, to prevent likely repeal.

This infuriated the conservatives, and Tiberius Gracchus, like his brother earlier, was killed in rioting. But the damage was done: The constitution had been breached, an example for ambitious and unscrupulous men.

The Gracchi are hard to evaluate. They won posterity's sympathy by their idealistic goals, but their methods were atrocious. Tiberius was prideful, demanding the dues of his noble station, imperious, but also willing to arouse the mob.

Gaius and Tiberius Gracchus misunderstood the real situation in Rome. The government itself had to be reformed before real change could be carried out. Aside from simply passing controversial laws, they had no clear purpose as to that except for vague notions of installing Greek-style democracy, which had already failed in the Hellenic world. What they did was arouse vast passions and provoke the first political murders of Romans by Romans and eventual civil war.

Soon after, Marius, another popular leader, enlisted the propertyless proletariat in his army, the state now furnishing arms. In a time of emergency, his reforms, although against the established law, stuck. But again there was civil war, and now thousands of citizens were killed.

During this last century of the Republic, hatred and bloodshed between the partisans, the optimates and populares, became institutionalized. Neither side seemed to care much why they fought; families changed sides because of relationships and changed back for convenience. Related to Marius, the princely house of the Julii were Populists; the newly ennobled Cicero a staunch defender of senatorial power. Elections became thoroughly corrupt (politicians bankrupted themselves to gain office), and few leading figures respected either the constitution or the law.

The end, of course, was dictatorship and finally imperial monarchy, by which all classes lost their former liberties.

Historically, there's always a danger of this happening when partisans dig in, automatically opposing each other whatever the issue. The more even the balance of power, the more bitter the jockeying to grab it. Majorities and minorities can work out deals, but when two political sides are equally, frustratingly powerful and develop generational hatreds, something is bound to break.

It's nice when they get it right ...


11:27:33 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


CHATTER: Six months, eh?

A piece on the wonders of a good library makes this claim in passing:

The Alexandrian fantasy, as it is known, after the great library, founded by Ptolemy II in 286 BC in Alexandria, and which, it is said, took six months to burn, is perhaps the most extraordinary way of expressing human aspiration; and its absence is a sure sign that humanity is moribund.

Interesting ...


11:23:19 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


NUNTII: Akropolis World News

Latest headlines for Akropolis News in Classical Greek:

Queen Mary 2 arrives in Florida - The boy who won't grow up turns 100 - Patriots and Panthers to play Super Bowl

Apple's Mac turns 20 - Attack on home for Japan troops - Powell presses Putin for democracy


11:18:26 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


NUNTII: Nuntii Latini

Here's the latest headlines from Radio Bremen's Nuntii Latini (with their usual useful glossary at the bottom of the page):

Exercitus Germaniae commutabitur
Bush de statione in Luna aedificanda cogitat
Transfereturne caput Iraniae in alium locum?
Bibliotheca in glacie nivibusque sita
Regina navium
Diana princeps e medio sublata?
MEMORABILIA: Tempus carnelevarii
NOTABILIA: Artificia argentea Augustae Rauricae spectanda

Audi


11:14:55 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


NUNTII: Nuntii Latini

Here's the latest headlines from Radio Finland's Nuntii Latini:

Saakashvili munus suscepit

Russi tuberculosi laborant

Fossae in Iraquia sepulcrales

Forum oecumenicum constituetur

Shakespeare Finnice reddetur

De certamine artis glacialis

Audi ...


11:11:00 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


NEWSLETTER UPDATE

The latest versions of our weekly newsletters have been posted:

Explorator 6.40

The Ancient World on Television (February 2-8)

Enjoy!


11:05:54 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


AWOTV: On TV Today

Nothing of interest ...


11:04:05 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


Click for Athens, Greece Forecast

Click for Rome, Italy Forecast

Site Meter