Most recent update:3/1/2004; 6:12:26 AM

 Wednesday, February 25, 2004

NUNTII: Black Classicists

The Detroit News asked assorted scholars who they believed the least appreciated event or person in black history was. One of the answers:

Michele V. Ronnick, associate professor of classics at Wayne State University in Detroit: The least appreciated person in black history is William Sanders Scarborough (1852-1926), born a slave in Macon, Ga. who became the first professional African-American classicist. His path-breaking career paved the way for future black intellectuals of all disciplines.

Taught to read and write when it was illegal, Scarborough dedicated himself to learning. Trained in Greek and Latin at Atlanta University and Oberlin College, he taught generations of students those languages at Wilberforce University in Ohio, where he was president (1908-1920).

Scarborough’s textbook “First Lessons In Greek” (1881) made him famous when few believed a black person could learn Greek. Amid prejudice and praise, Scarborough battled Jm Crow and joined learned societies such as the American Philological Association, the Modern Language Association and the Archaeological Association of America that had never included blacks before.

Ronnick, of course, has been mentioned in rogueclassicism before as the brains behind the Twelve Black Classicists exhibit which was touring around towards the end of 2003. She has also written a book on Scarborough.

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CHATTER: Passion Stuff

Here's a sort of stream-of-conciousness approach to items of interest from the Passion .  Because I'm genuinely becoming bored of every man and his dog's opinion on this, I'll  limit things to excerpts of Classical interest (i.e. I can't even be bothered to put in ellipses)  and keep my comments to a minimum... First, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Gibson filmed in Latin and Aramaic. The press notes call Aramaic "the lingua franca of its time, the language of education and trade spoken the world over, rather like English is today." But the language of the first-century eastern Roman Empire was Koine Greek, spread by the armies of Alexander the Great and spoken almost universally; it is the language in which the New Testament is written. Aramaic, which is related to Hebrew, was the language of the Jews and their neighbors. Latin would hardly have figured at all.

Cf. from the Voice of America (which doesn't actually mention the Passion):

For retired school teacher Georges Rezkallah, it seems quite normal to chat with friends in the ancient language.

"It was the vernacular of the people, the language of the people, of the commercial street, because they were traders," he said.

Aramaic was also a language of religion. The 22 squarish letters of its alphabet are found in early remnants of the Jewish Bible.

Later, it is said that Jesus Christ spread the language, as he traveled through the region to preach a new religion.

"When he addressed the people, Hebrew was the language of the prayer, of scriptures, but Aramaic was the vernacular," he said. "It was simple script." Use of Aramaic began to die as the Greek conqueror Alexander the Great spread his empire and his language across the region. Later, the spread of Islam gave Arabic a more prominent role.

From the Catholic News Service:

However, while the members of the Sanhedrin are painted in villainous shades, the film is abundantly clear that it is the Romans who are Christ's executioners (a fact corroborated by both the Nicene Creed and the writings of Tacitus and Josephus).

The Roman soldiers are unimaginably -- even gleefully-- sadistic in flaying Jesus to within an inch of his life. "The Passion" is exceedingly graphic in its portrayal of the barbarities of Roman justice.

From ABC7 Chicago:

The movie "The Passion Of The Christ" it's the talk of the entertainment world these days. So far the reviews are mixed but at the box office it's a big hit.

There are even people selling souvenirs of the crucifixion, replicas of roman nails from the days of Christ. But one Chicago man isn't selling imitation nails. He's selling the real thing.

The specialty at Harlan J. Berk Rare Coins in the Loop is, of course, coins. But today the talk is all about very old nails.

"Roman nails from the first century A.D. These were found in an archeological site in Scotland. It was from a fortress called Inchtuthill," said Harlan Berk, founder coin shop.

A huge fortress built by the Romans in Scotland in 78 a.d. when they tore it down they buried 750,000 nails that weren't discovered until 1961. They were the Roman's all purpose nails.

"They used them obviously for crucifixion. They also used them for building anything that they needed. The fortress at Inchtuthill was built all out of wood," said Berk.

The nails seem small. They're not for building but for crucifixion.

"They do vary in size but they are of the same style and type as were used in the crucifixion. If you compared this to a nail found in Judea it would be exactly the same," said Berk.

If you need more, I'd suggest visiting the NTGateway, where Mark Goodacre has been very busy on this subject ...

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GOSSIP: Another Pompeii Movie?

Back in November rogueclassicism reported on a forthcoming movie based on the Pompeii-Vesuvius thing. Today we hear of another movie on a similar subject (at least it doesn't appear to be the same):

"Titanic" director James Cameron is set to make another disaster movie - this time about the destruction of Roman city of Pompeii.

According to a report in Teen Hollywood, the Oscar-winning filmmaker will base the movie on forthcoming book Ghosts of Vesuvius. [source]

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CHATTER: Elgin/Parthenon Marbles Museum

As I wade through piles of Passion stuff and am trying to figure out how best to present them, I come across this piece from Kathimerini:

As the government yesterday blamed the judiciary for delays in construction of the new Acropolis Museum, a senior project official said there are contingency plans should the building not be ready — even as a shell — in six months’ time.

Athens had initially planned to have the 94-million-euro museum in place for the Olympics, hoping to shame the British Museum into complying with Greece’s demand for the return of the Parthenon, or Elgin, Marbles. However, some 20 months after the foundations were supposed to have been laid under the Acropolis, nothing has materialized.

“I have alternative plans, but I cannot announce them,” archaeologist Dimitris Pantermalis, who leads the project, said yesterday at the opening of an exhibition on the Marbles. He added that he has been waiting “for months” for the State Audit Council to approve the building contract.

Well duh. The courts are preventing us from putting up multi-million dollar empty building ... we'll show them ... we can put up an empty building anywhere we want. Heck, maybe we can use this circus tent ...

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AUDIO: Father Foster

The Vatican's website which hosts Father Foster still hasn't been updated for some reason, but again, I've figured out the address of the latest, which is all about chariot racing ... lots of useful vocab in this one (and some not so useful vocab too ...).

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Holford-Strevens on Ruden on Clayton on Ruden. 

Ramona A. Naddaff, Exiling the Poets: The Production of Censorship in Plato's Republic.

Kenney on Burgess on Kenney on Ramirez de Verger.

M.D. Thomas, Lorica Segmentata. Vol. II: A Catalogue of Finds. JRMES Monograph, 2.

Luca Fezzi, Falsificazione di documenti pubblici nella Roma tardo repubblicana (133-31 a.C.).

Clifford Ando (ed.), Roman Religion.

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ante diem v kalendas martias

  • 50 A.D. -- the emperor Claudius adopts the future emperor Nero
  • 116 A.D.-- supplicatio pro salute Traiani (day 1)
  • 138 A.D. -- the emperor Hadrian adopts the future emperor Antoninus Pius
  • 284 A.D. -- martyrdom of Victorinus and companions

5:46:33 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: A Day in Old/New Athens

The Christian Science Monitor has a sort of touristy piece on Athens and how to get around it during the upcoming Olympics:

More than 5,000 years ago, the Acropolis began as a fortress designed to keep foreigners out. But with the Olympic Games expected to effectively double Greek tourism this year, the "Sacred Rock" and other architectural achievements of classical Athens will attract visitors as never before.
Wedged between the two peaks of Arditos Hill, the Panathenaic Stadium sits at an angle to Vassileos Constantinou, the main thoroughfare east of downtown. A shallow, oblong structure ribbed like corduroy with rows of long white benches, it seats more than 60,000 spectators.
The sliver of playing surface (223 yards long by 36 yards wide) distinguishes this facility from its modern counterparts. Built in 330 BC, the Panathenaic Stadium was a venue of the ancient Panhellenic Games and hosted events such as wrestling matches and chariot races.

Over centuries, though, the stadium fell into ruin. It was fully restored at the end of the 19th century and, in 1896, Athens hosted the first Olympic Games of the modern era. [more]

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CHATTER: Parthenon/Elgin Marbles Museum

Last night rogueclassicism pieced together a lengthy piece on the actual poll about the return of the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles which has numbers being dropped left, right, and centre by various folks (please read it, if only for the link to the poll questions ... as with most polls, what was put in the newspapers was clearly 'selected'). Today we read that the museum which was being built in Athens to house the Marbles won't be ready in time for the Olympics (and of course, certain ministers of culture are claiming they never said it would be):

A new Acropolis museum being built to house sculptures from the ancient Parthenon will not be finished before the Aug. 13-29 Olympics, Greece's culture minister said Tuesday.

The museum at the foot of the Acropolis hill - held up by court actions from residents - is a key part of Athens' drive to press for the return of the collection from the British Museum in London.

The government had previously indicated the museum would be ready in time for the Olympics, though Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos insisted Tuesday that officials never guaranteed it would be completed by August.

"What will be ready is the shell of the building and a ground floor exhibition area where the marbles can be housed. This will be a temporary site for their display," Venizelos said. [more]

5:28:26 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

NUNTII: Confirmation of Domitian's Existence!

This one is getting piles of news coverage (thanks, by the way, to the several, several folks who sent this in) ... a coin of Domitian -- no, not Vespasian's son, but the one who ruled for about thirty seconds in the late third century A.D. has been found. Here's the beginning of the piece in the Telegraph (which has a photo ... nice coin!):

It is made of base metal, is not much bigger than a 5p piece and 1,700 years ago it would not have bought much more than a few loaves at Tescorums.

But its discovery in a field in Oxfordshire rewrites history. The copper coin confirms the existence of an almost unknown Roman emperor, Domitian or Domitianus, who ruled Britain briefly in AD 271.

The coin proves the existence of Roman emperor Domitian . It was found one evening last spring by an amateur archaeologist with a metal detector. Yesterday its discovery was described by experts at the British Museum as "thrilling", "amazing" and "the most important find in Britain for 10 years".

The coin bears the likeness of Domitian wearing a crown of rays and the inscription Imp(erator) C(aesar) Domitianus P(ius) Felix Aug(ustus).

"Domitian ruled for a week or maybe two, probably no more, before he was overthrown and possibly killed," said Roger Bland, the museum's former curator of coins. [more]

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CHATTER: Victor Davis Hanson

The LA Times has a piece on VDH (as opposed to a piece by VDH). Here's the incipit:

 It was the first day of class in Victor Davis Hanson's final course at Cal State Fresno, where he has taught classical history, Greek and Latin for two decades.

The subject, Hanson told the 40 undergraduates, was the 431-404 BC Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. "It's a good time to talk about a war, because we are in a war," he said.
For Hanson, ancient reports on the Peloponnesian War are just as relevant today as recent Fox network newscasts on a suicide bombing of a Baghdad hotel. Both, Hanson believes, portray a do-or-die "referendum" on clashing cultures: the democratic republicanism of Athens versus the martial oligarchy of Sparta; the secular, "consensual" democracy of the West versus the theocratic dictatorship of militant Islam.

Hanson's moral parallels between the ancient Greeks' fight for democracy and our own struggles in Afghanistan and Iraq have endeared him to the Bush administration and changed his life.

Hanson, 50, recently signed a contract with Random House for a book on the Peloponnesian War, to be titled "A War Like No Other." His $500,000 writing advance is unprecedented for a work of classical scholarship and more than he received for his previous 14 books combined. Hanson will leave Cal State Fresno next summer as one of America's leading conservative writers, most prominently showcased in his weekly online column in the like-minded National Review. [more]


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NUNTII: Olympic Origins

The Hindustan Times has an interesting piece suggesting Baron de Coubertin is wrongly given credit for the modern revival of the Olympics -- rather, a couple of other folks seem to have done something similar earlier. But the piece is interesting on several levels, as these excerpts will hopefully reveal:

Under a plain marble plaque in a colonnaded courtyard in the centre of Athens lies the severed head of the little-known man who some historians believe was really responsible for reviving the modern Olympics.

As the Games return to their birthplace in August, the ghost of Evangelis Zappas is stirring and it threatens to explode the myth that the Olympic revival was the brainchild of the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin.

Historians argue that long overdue credit should be given to Zappas and to a British doctor, William Penny Brookes.

Before De Coubertin was born, the lavishly wealthy Zappas had funded and organised a series of Olympic Games in Athens that historians say the Frenchman later went to pains to conceal.

According to Konstantinos Georgiadis in his new book 'Olympic Revival', the baron who founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was a latecomer to the idea of reviving the ancient Greek spectacle who then omitted the two men whose ideas he had borrowed from the histories he produced.


Zappas, born in Albania to Greek Orthodox parents, enjoyed a colourful career as a freedom fighter in the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Turks in the 1820s before going on to make a fortune in the distillery business in Romania.

Keen to use his wealth to put the new Greek state on the map, he answered a call from the Athenian poet Panayiotis Soutsos to revive the ancient sporting festival.

With Zappas footing the bill the first modern Olympics were staged in the Greek capital in 1859 featuring familiar events such as the 200-metre sprint alongside less orthodox sports such as "bladdering" in which athletes leapt six times over a wine skin.

Zappas died six years later and bequeathed his entire fortune to the Olympia committee whose job it was to stage Olympics every four years, build a grand exhibition hall and rebuild the ruined ancient Panathenean Stadium.

Zappas left instructions that his corpse should be divided between the three countries he loved best. Initially he was buried in Romania but on completion of the Athens exhibition hall, christened the Zappeion, the body was dug up.

The corpse was decapitated and the head entombed in the Zappeion while the remainder was sent to the village where he was born in Albania.


Born in the small town of Much Wenlock, in Shropshire, Brookes was a keen classicist who organised a series of Games he described as "Olympic."

What began as a local athletics festival grew to become the British Olympic Games in 1887. The first event open to women was knitting.

Brookes learnt of the Olympiads in Athens and wrote to Zappas. The pair exchanged money that was used as prizes in their respective Games.

It was Brookes who in 1881 proposed to the Greek government that the parallel Olympics should be internationalised, according to an article at the time in the Greek newspaper Klio.

In 1890, Coubertin visited the Much Wenlock Games where according to Young he was initiated into the idea of an international Olympics.

Within four years the IOC was formed and the Greek government had agreed to host the first international Games.

"Until then Coubertin was relatively uninterested in classical ideas and Olympic revivalism," writes Georgiadis. [the whole thing]

5:11:56 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

AWOTV: On TV Today

5.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Archaeology IV: Death at Pompeii

5.30 p.m. |DCIVC| Archaeology IV: A Roman Plague

7.00 p.m. |HINT| Death Cult of the Incas
The Catholic conquistadors who conquered the Incas received many
cultural shocks--particularly the Inca cult of the dead. We'll
journey back to discover why the Incas held lavish banquets with
mummified ancestors, sought their advice, and built lavish estates in
their honor

8.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Animal Mummies: Creatures of the Gods

8.00 p.m. |DISCU| Who Killed Jesus?
Explore the figures, events and political climate surrounding the
execution of Jesus of Nazareth. Experts examine the motivations and
methods of Herod, Pontius Pilate, the temple priests, the judicial
system and the crowd calling for Jesus' death.

9.00 p.m. |HINT| Lost Civilizations: Aegean: Legacy of Atlantis
This episode of the Emmy Award-winning series explores ancient
civilizations that spread through the Aegean Sea and searches for
historical roots of some of Western civilization's oldest legends,
including an examination of ruins on the Greek Island of Thera for
the basis of the Atlantis legend. On Crete, the Greek mainland, and
Turkey, we follow the trail of clues that leads from ancient myths to
evidence of the Trojan War, Trojan Horse, Minoan civilization, and
the Minotaur. Sam Waterston narrates

DCIVC = Discovery Civilization (Canada)

DISCU = Discovery Channel (US)

HINT = History International

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Click for Athens, Greece Forecast

Click for Rome, Italy Forecast

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