Most recent update:3/1/2004; 6:11:40 AM

 Saturday, February 21, 2004

GOSSIP: Alexandriana

So here's the problem ... you read this stuff and then start thinking too much about it:

Rumours were rife that Minority Report star Farrell, 27, and Jolie were becoming close as they partied together while working on Alexander.

But insiders say Leto, 32, who starred in the 2002 thriller Panic Room, is the new man in her life.

Leto, the former lover of Hollywood beauty Cameron Diaz, plays Hephaestion, Alexander the Great's best friend and homosexual lover, in Alexander, directed by Oliver Stone.[source]

Maybe this is just the effects of the flu that's ravaging my innards but  ... we know they're all in Alexander the Great. But Jolie was Lara Croft who, in The Cradle of Life, was looking for Pandora's Box and along the way visited Alexander's lost temple to the Moon, who was the daughter of Leto and Zeus. So now Leto, erstwhile lover of Alexander and Zeus, now becomes lover of Lara and Olympias ...

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NUNTII: Gambling on Gambling

A piece from the Ottawa Citizen on the perils of gambling includes some ClassCon:

[...] Such ancient pre-Christian cultures as those of Babylon and Egypt counted some form of dice-throwing among their recreational pursuits, as did the ancient Israelites and Greeks. Especially in earlier times, the dice -- or bones -- were thrown with religious intent, to determine the gods' wishes for the future. This evolved into an opportunity for people to bet on the outcome, rather than just wait for it -- precursors of today's high-rollers for whom the activity, with its supernatural underpinnings of luck and chance, is often a substitute for religion.

The ancient Romans loved gambling. Although it was illegal and frowned upon as degenerate in the early days of the Republic -- that stern moralist Cato the Elder (a.k.a. "The Censor") particularly disapproved -- it was allowed during the feast days of Saturnalia. Eventually, dicing was permitted throughout the year and, by the time of the Empire, had become wildly popular. Archeological digs have uncovered many gambling dice, especially in what were once Roman garrison towns, and even the Bible makes reference to Roman soldiers' wagering proclivities. In their accounts of the Crucifixion of Jesus, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all refer to the soldiers' casting of lots for the garments of Jesus.

A century earlier, when Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his army and turned that irrevocable decision into a single, perfect metaphor, he was simply reflecting a commonplace of the culture. "Iacta alea est," he said. "The die is cast."

With the Empire, gambling became seriously popular among both those who couldn't afford it, and those who could. The emperor Augustus loved tossing dice and his great-grandson -- mad, bad Caligula -- figured out how to cheat using manipulated dice. Claudius hated to be away from gaming so much he even had dicing tables built into his carriages. Nero liked to place bets on a single throw that were the equivalent of 400 soldiers' pay.

But the Romans were not unlike the rest of the world. Ancient Hindus, ancient Chinese, ancient peoples of the Middle East all had their preferred forms of gambling as well. [more]

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REVIEW: Maybe ...

A piece in the San Diego Union-Tribune reviews/promotes a book which seems to be promoting a sort of unified theory for mysterious ancient illnesses:

The microscopic demon captured Dr. Chris Holmes' imagination because it's easy to grow, difficult to destroy and quite lethal.

As one of history's most efficient killers, it was only a matter of time before someone tried to use it as a weapon. When the attacks happened in Florida, New York and Washington, D.C., in 2001, everybody knew about it.

Now it's the subject of Holmes' newest book, "Spores, Plagues and History: The Story of Anthrax."

Writing the book gave Holmes, who was trained as an epidemiologist, a chance to concurrently tackle his passions for medicine and history. "I want to keep anthrax and bioterrorism on the public's radar screen," said the 62-year-old Escondido resident.

This is the second time the doctor has written a book starring anthrax. In 2002 he published "The Medusa Strain," a novel about terrorists using the deadly bacteria against Americans. The book was completed before the anthrax attacks in 2001. He considers this newest book, his second, a companion to "The Medusa Strain."

While the first book was being edited, Holmes started researching the history of the disease and noticed similarities between the symptoms of the U.S. attacks and historical worldwide epidemics dating to biblical times.

Many of these plague victims shared common symptoms with victims in the 2001 anthrax attacks: fever, chills, sweats, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, head and muscle aches, and death. Of the 11 anthrax cases recorded after Sept. 11, 2001, five were fatal. In those instances, the number of anthrax spores was minimal, as was the number of those exposed. This was not the case in ancient Egypt and Greece.

Holmes surmises that because anthrax is produced naturally, it could have caused many mysterious illnesses over the centuries, including two of the biblical plagues inflicted upon the Egyptians described in the book of Exodus.

During one plague, Egyptian livestock was killed. During another, the victims developed boils. Both are typical of anthrax, which in most recorded cases is the result of human and animal contact. The disease can infect its host through inhalation, ingestion and touch.

Holmes concluded that anthrax may have been behind the plague of Athens in 430 B.C., the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. and even the Black Death between 1346 and 1350, which is most often attributed to bubonic plague, a disease spread by fleas.

For those interested in tracking down more references, a letter to the editor of an issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases provides a good bibliography for theories about the plague of Athens.

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CHATTER: Another Pepsi Ad ...

Pepsi seems to have a gladiator thing going ... we've already heard/read Brittany et al's "We Will Rock You" (although it still really isn't on North American TV yet, unless I keep missing it). Now it's David Beckham ... according to the Sydney Morning Herald:

DAVID Beckham has cast aside his soccer gear and stepped into a Roman-style outfit for a new advertisement for Pepsi - and it was reported he liked the costume so much he wanted to take it home.

"The costumes felt like something out of the films Gladiator or Braveheart. Getting into an outfit like this was obviously something I had never done before," Beckham told The Sun newspaper in London.

In the advertisements, soccer stars are seen fighting to outdo each other with their ball skills.

The Daily Record this a.m. had a similar story, with details of others involved:

His team-mates Raul and Roberto Carlos, as well as Roma's Francesco Totti and Barcelona's Ronaldinho, all star in the ad which reportedly cost £5million to make.

Entitled Foot Battle, it was filmed in Spain.

And I managed to find a photo:



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posting difficulties again, it seems ...
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ante diem ix kalendas martias

  • Parentalia possibly comes to an end with the festival of Feralia,
    during which sheep were sacrificed to the dead;  the rites mentioned by Ovid (Fasti 2.565 ff) in connection with the Feralia probably have nothing to do specifically with the festival.

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NUNTII: Crucifixion

The Kansas City Star has a rather balanced piece on various aspects of crucifixion:

Crucifixion: the act of putting to death by nailing or binding the hands and feet to a cross.

This brutal method of execution is the centerpiece of “The Passion of the Christ,” Mel Gibson's movie about the last 12 hours of Jesus' life.

One anthropologist called crucifixion “one of the cruelest and most humiliating forms of punishment in the ancient world.”

The intent was obvious, said Paul B. Harvey Jr. of the Classics, Ancient Mediterranean Studies, History and Religious Studies Program at Pennsylvania State University. It was to be a “spectacular, theatrical, public capital punishment.”

“It was meant not only to be a deterrent,” Harvey said, “but to demonstrate the power of the state and for public entertainment.”

While Jesus of Nazareth is the most famous person to be crucified, he is far from the only one. Historians say that from about the sixth century B.C., crucifixion was a method of execution among the Medes, Persians and Seleucids of the eastern Mediterranean; Carthaginians, who settled in northern Africa; and Romans.

“Crucifixion was an extreme punishment used by peoples around the Mediterranean basin for about 1,000 years,” said David Cook, assistant professor of religious studies at Rice University. “It was a public and … degrading punishment designed to deter.”

He said it was first mentioned in the Code of Hammurabi about 1700 B.C. but was brought into popular use about 500 B.C. by the Persians and then the Carthaginians. In the fourth century B.C., Alexander the Great is believed to have spread the use of crucifixion to Egypt. The Romans are believed to have picked it up from the Carthaginians.

“There is very little description of crucifixion in ancient literature, partly because it was such a horrible, distasteful process,” said James Mahon, a specialist in the sociology of religion at William Paterson University in New Jersey. “In the ancient world, people didn't talk about crucifixion because it was such a debasing act and limited to the lowest classes.

“The Greek historian Herodotus reports crucifixion as being used by the Medes and the Persians. He seems to suggest that the Persians were the first ones to use it on a large scale. There was an interaction between the Greeks and the Persians, and it appears that with Alexander the Great's spread in the fourth century that crucifixion became a common Hellenistic practice.”

Alexander the Great is said to have had 2,000 survivors from the siege of Tyre crucified on the shores of the Mediterranean, wrote Joe Zias, formerly of the Israel Antiquities Authority. In addition, he said, from A.D. 37 to 41, Jews were tortured and crucified in an amphitheater to entertain the inhabitants of Alexandria.

As a method of execution, he said, crucifixion was rare among Jews, and, except for a few instances, those to be killed were stoned to death first and then hung on a tree. One notable exception was when 800 Pharisees were crucified in Jerusalem in 267 B.C.

In the Roman Empire, historians say, crucifixion was applied to the lower classes, mainly slaves and foreigners. It also was used in response to any actions that were seen as threatening to the empire, such as political agitation, piracy and slave revolts. These would be considered capital offenses.

In the case of Jesus, Mahon said, the sign above him on the cross that he was “King of the Jews” was a claim the Romans would consider treason and punishable by crucifixion.

As Mahon explained it, in the first century Jews handled their own civil problems, but crimes that called for the death penalty were under Roman jurisdiction. The Romans' representative in Judea was Pontius Pilate. The Romans crucified many Jews, who were seen as a troublesome and rebellious group, so one such as Jesus probably was no different, Cook said.

The instruments of crucifixion were varied, not always resembling the familiar cross in many depictions of Jesus' crucifixion.

Some were simple stakes, some looked like an “X.” Other “crosses” resembled plus signs or the letter “T.” Nails or rope were used to attach people to the crosses, Mahon said.

Scourging, or whipping, was not necessarily a part of crucifixion, but it seems that it often was. Those who used this method had deterrence in mind. Deterrence was a factor when the Romans crucified 6,000 slaves who had participated in the slave revolt of 73 B.C. led by Spartacus, Mahon said. The stakes were strung for miles along a Roman highway for all to see. [more ... may require registration]

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AWOTV: On TV Today

3.00 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.

DTC = Discovery Times Channel

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