Most recent update:3/1/2004; 6:11:48 AM

 Sunday, February 22, 2004

CHATTER: More Crucifixion Coverage

Another decent article on crucifixion, this time from the Palm Beach Post:

Crucifixion was a painful, ignoble way to die. Its agony marred the body, and its image and memory still have the power to mar and madden the mind. Mel Gibson's movie about the Passion of Jesus Christ is only the latest echo.

Crucifixion, as a form of execution, was invented by the Persians, the ancestors of modern-day Iranians. It was picked up by the Greeks under Alexander the Great when they reached Asia. Alexander himself ordered 2,000 men of military age crucified after he captured Tyre in 332 B.C. The Romans adopted it and used it most spectacularly in 71 B.C., when 6,000 slaves who had rebelled under Spartacus were crucified along the Via Appia.

The punishment of crucifixion was meant to be shameful, lingering and exemplary: a public warning not to break the law. It was a horrible punishment, and by law Roman citizens were exempted from crucifixion.

"It was the Roman Empire's way of executing criminals. The Romans crucified Christ, not the Jews," FAU scholar Alan L. Berger pointed out. "The traditional Jewish method of execution was death by stoning, not crucifixion. People seem to forget that Christ was crucified between two thieves, who were ordinary lawbreakers."

The criminal was hung up in public view, for all to see, and expired slowly, either by suffocation (the effort of breathing forced the condemned man to raise himself up on his arms to inhale, boosting himself with his legs, until the limbs gave out and he suffocated); or by thirst, exposure or loss of blood, through nail wounds in the feet.

The arms were usually roped to the cross, not nailed. Nails were expensive. Wood, too, was scarce in Judea, so crosses were usually reused.

In a refinement of cruelty, a small wooden crossbar seat or "sedile" was sometimes supplied for the condemned man to rest on, thus prolonging his life and agony.

A coup de grâce was sometimes given, by breaking the condemned man's legs, which prevented him from struggling up and breathing further. The evangelist John says in John 19:32-33 that the legs of the two thieves crucified with Christ were broken, but Christ's legs were not, because he was already dead after three hours on the cross.

Startling archeological evidence of the actual method of crucifixion came to light in 1968, when Israeli archeologists found a limestone box, an ossuary, in a cave north of Jerusalem, containing the bones of an executed Jew whose name was inscribed on the rock box: "Yehohanan Son of Hagkol."

Yehohanan had been crucified. A rusty nail, together with a bit of the olive-wood cross on which he hung, was found in the ossuary, driven through the dead man's heel bone. Jewish burial customs compelled the body to be taken down and buried hastily, for the flesh to decompose and the bones to be interred in the ossuary. Yehohanan's pierced bone was put on display in 2000 at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, in an exhibition titled "Cradle of Christianity."

Crucifixion was abolished around 320 A.D. by the emperor Constantine, after his conversion to Christianity. No longer a judicial reality from the fourth century A.D. onward, the crucifix and Christ crucified moved into a Golgotha of the mind. It is still with us today.


In the 1930s, a French physician named Pierre Barbet became so obsessed with the mechanics of the crucifixion that he nailed up cadavers to crosses, to see exactly where the nails must have pierced Christ's hands and feet. He published his findings in 1935 in a book titled Les Cinq Plaies du Christ: Etude Anatomique et Experimentale, (The Five Wounds of Christ: An Anatomical and Experimental Study).

Among Barbet's conclusions was that Jesus must have been pierced through the wrists, not the palms of the hands. The tissue and bone and muscle of the human hand are too frail to support the weight of a vertical body. Barbet noted that nailed hands tore when required to support a weight of more than 88 pounds. [more]

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ante diem viii kalendas martias

  • Parentalia probably comes to and end with the festival of Caristia,
    which was a sort of 'kiss and make up' festival. The idea was that
    people had made peace with their dead, so now it was right to bring
    to an end any quarrels they were having with living members of their
    family. There was usually a big family reunion type banquet and
    worship was given to the Lares.
  • c. 1st century A.D. -- martyrdom of Aristion, place disputed

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NUNTII: Akropolis World News

This week's headlines in Classical Greek from Akropolis World News:

Arnold considers same-sex marriage illegal - Cyprus faces reunification - Boycott threat to Iran poll

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NUNTII: Nuntii Latini

Latest headlines from Radio Finland's Nuntii Latini:

De rebus Indiae et Pakistaniae

De conventu Berolinensi

Iura regis Suetiae coercentur

Athenae pulchriores redduntur

De equis et studio equitandi

Velamen capitis in scholis Francorum prohibitum

Audi ...

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CHATTER: Skyscraper Trivia

Here's an interesting tidbit:

For centuries man has continued to demonstrate a fascination for rising above his earthly connection to enjoy breathtaking views. And, it would seem that there is no better visual illustration of this inclination than the high-rise building, first constructed in the third century B.C. in Egypt during the Greek and Hellenistic cultures. The huge stone tower, referred to as The Pharos of Alexandria, was the great lighthouse built for Ptolemy II. Nearly as high as the great pyramids of Giza, the tallest of which was 481 feet, The Pharos of Alexandria remained the tallest building until the 19th century. [source]

Somewhat misleadingly-worded, that ... I believe the Pharos of Alexandria fell due to earthquake activity in the 14th century or so.

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NUNTII: Black History Month

As Black History Month winds down, I'm actually surprised I didn't read more of this sort of thing (the person being quoted is the principal of a high school):

Moss often speaks about black predominance in Egyptian art and technology, noting that the great pyramids and other construction marvels were conceived by early black scientists. He said that has been "whitewashed" by the media over the years, such as the portrayal of Cleopatra by a white actress, Elizabeth Taylor, in a famed movie.

But he also talks about the flip side of the story: Afrocentrists who claim that everything from that period in history was done by black people.

Careful, Mr. Moss ... you're going to hurt yourself.

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CHATTER: The Passion - another Classical Connection

The Star Bulletin highlights an interesting Classical semi-connection to Mel Gibson's flick ... check out the introduction to an interview with Benedict Fitzgerald:

Benedict Fitzgerald worked for two years with Mel Gibson on the screenplay for "The Passion of the Christ."

Fitzgerald -- the son of renowned poet Robert Fitzgerald, whose translations of Homer, Virgil and Sophocles are still considered definitive -- first won acclaim for his adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's "Wise Blood" (directed by John Houston, 1979). The editions of O'Connor's letters ("Habit of Being") by his mother, Sally Fitzgerald, are equally renown.

As a screenwriter, Fitzgerald has continued to specialize in literary adaptations. In the '90s he wrote a teleplay for "Zelda," starring Natasha Richardson and Timothy Hutton; Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" (1994), with John Malkovich and Tim Roth; "Moby Dick," with Patrick Stewart as Ahab; and "In Cold Blood" (1996), with Eric Roberts. He's working on a miniseries for German TV based on Edward Bulwer-Lytton's novel "The Last Days of Pompeii." [read the interview]

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REVIEW: From Scholia

Katherine Haynes, Fashioning the Feminine in the Greek Novel.

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Alcock on Katz on Adams et al.

Ma on Katz on Adams et al.

Andrew Dalby, Flavours of Byzantium.

Yehuda D. Nevo, Judith Koren, Crossroads to Islam: The Origins of the Arab Religion and the Arab State.

Mackinnon on Murnaghan on Weil.

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The online editions of:

The Ancient World on Television (Weekly)


... are now up for your perusal. Enjoy!

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AWOTV: On TV Today

6.00 p.m. |HISTU| Tomb Raiders: Robbing the Dead
Tomb raiders have been digging for as long as man has buried the
dead. Following the trail of these robbers of the dead, we crawl
through hidden passages deep within Egypt's pyramids to witness
evidence left by ancient looters. Prowling Jerusalem's dark
alleyways, we probe the black market antiquities trade and talk to a
tomb thief about his motives and methods. At auction houses in London
and New York, we learn smugglers' secrets and back in Egypt, we ride
along with the antiquities police.

7.00 p.m. |DISCU| The Real Disciples of Jesus
Experts investigate the disciples of Jesus, examining new
information about their backgrounds and their relationships to each
other and to Jesus. Find out what Judas' role was among the Twelve;
was he truly a traitor, or just a scapegoat?

DISCU = Discovery Channel (US)

HISTU = History Channel (US)

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