Most recent update:4/1/2004; 5:04:50 AM

 Monday, March 01, 2004

CHATTER: Presocratica

The Daily Herald alerts us to a tome to keep our collective eyes open for:

Before Socrates influenced the philosophers of ancient Greece, another set of thinkers was theorizing about the workings of the world, debating whether atoms existed and how hail was formed.

Today's scholars studying these forerunners of modern science have had only one complete resource to turn to, a book that had its last edition issued 50 years ago.But a Brigham Young University professor is now creating what he thinks will become the new standard work for understanding the world's earliest philosophers.

Daniel W. Graham, the A.O. Smoot Professor of Philosophy at BYU, has contracted with Cambridge University Press to produce a book compiling ancient fragments of text relating to Greek philosophers that lived in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C.

His book, to be titled "The Texts of Early Greek Philosophy," will also include "testimonies" from ancient authorities that help give a context for the fragments.

Until now, scholars have relied on a three-volume work called "Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker" that has the
fragments and testimonies written in Greek, Latin and German.

The work, written by Hermann Diels, was first published in 1903 and later edited by Diels' student Walther Kranz. Its last edition was issued in 1951.

"We've found new fragments since then and they're not in here," Graham said. "There's no single place to go to actually get all the fragments that are available now." Graham will add those new fragments to his book.

He is also translating the fragments and most valuable testimonies from Greek and Latin into English. While English translations of some fragments are available through various sources, Graham's work will place his English translations next to the Greek and Latin versions for easy comparison, something that has never been done before.

With English becoming more common, Graham's book will make the texts accessible to the whole world, he said.

"I don't think anyone's going to actually use Diels except to occasionally look up the odd footnote" once Graham's book is finished, he said. The book should be published by 2006.

Socrates, who lived from 469 to 399 B.C., was mainly interested in ethics and principles of right and wrong and influenced philosophers who came after him to pursue that line of thought, Graham said. [more]

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kalendae martiae

  • This was originally the beginning of the New Year for the ancient Romans (and the consuls would probably enter office on this date prior to 153 B.C.)
  • Festival of Mars, which included a procession of the Salian priests around the city
  • "birthday" of the temple of Juno Lucina
  • Matronalia -- a sort of 'unofficial' festival during which it was customary for hubbies to pray for the ongoing health of their spouses and give them presents; for their part, the wives apparently served the slaves (sort of like Saturnalia and Mother's Day rolled into one)
  • 293 A.D. -- Co-emperor Maximian adopts Constantius, who is
    given the title Caesar (and it is possible that Diocletian
    similarly adopted and conferred a similar title upon Galerius)

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CHATTER: Library of Alexandria

The Gilroy Dispatch once again graces these pages, this time with a piece on the impact libraries have had in our lives. Inter alia, they wax about the Library of Alexandria:

The most famous library of the ancient world was the Library of Alexandria, a city on Egypt’s Mediterranean shores. The library must have been a marvel for its age when it was built around 300 years before the birth of Christ.

It was the first time human beings had seriously collected the knowledge of the world and systematically arranged it for convenient reference.

The Library of Alexandria changed the world. Whenever a vessel sailed into port, the Alexandrian librarians would inquire of those onboard if they just happened to have any interesting literary works. “Got any new plays from Euripides?” they might ask.

“Not this voyage. A corker of a tale by Sophocles, though. It’s called ‘Oedipus Rex’ and it’s about the perils of do-it-yourself eye surgery.”

“How ‘bout the latest John Grisham thriller?” the librarians would then ask, always on mind for a best-seller for their patrons.

The librarians would borrow the papyrus scroll from the seafarer and carefully hand copy the manuscript and place it in their great library.

And of course, they would return the original scroll to the owner - paying the twenty cents a day overdue fine if they had kept it past the three week limit.

Modern historians believe Alexadria’s great library housed more than half a million works. They were kept in ten research halls - each one devoted to a separate subject.

Scientists, philosophers and scholars came to the library from all over the Mediterranean world to do research on medicine, astronomy, geography, philosophy, biology, physics, mathematics and engineering.

Viewing the knowledge of others helped inspire them to create new ideas and technological innovations of their own. The library’s wealth of information pushed great minds to expand the boundaries of humanity’s knowledge.

The Library of Alexandria shelved great books by revolutionary thinkers.

One by the astronomer Aristarchus of Samos reasoned that the Earth was not the center of the universe but simply another planet, and it orbited the sun. Aristarchus also had the astounding idea that stars weren’t just points of light in the sky but really suns themselves - only very, very far away so they looked very, very small.

The ancient library in Alexandria also kept the Zoroastrian priest Berossus’s three-volume history of the world. The first volume described the creation of the universe at about 432,000 years ago - 100 times longer than the Old Testament’s Genesis version.

Unfortunately, the Library of Alexandria was lost to the ages in 391 A.D. Christians were gaining power in the Roman empire, and they had an unstoppable zeal to wipe out all things pagan. For them, the library contained books with ideas Christians leaders considered heretical. In other words, it was a big bad threat to their power.

“Bring out the Kingsford lighter fluid, we’re gonna have ourselves a barbeque,” the Christians proclaims. And up in smoke forever went the works of Berossus, Aristarchus, and countless other ancient writers and thinkers.

The event marked the start of the Dark Ages.

Pretty standard stuff, albeit somewhat inaccurate -- although typical -- in blaming Christians for the destruction. A good (almost excellent) article on the library and its destruction can be found online at Bede's Library.

That said, can you imagine how great your local library would be if it had agents at the local airport confiscating books and xeroxing them?

6:48:50 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Hubris in Action

If you're looking for an example of hubris in action, this is probably a good one to watch insofar as a sportswriter (David Neal) seems to be using the word correctly in a piece in the Miami Herald. Inter alia:

Sure, the Capitals are having their worst season in more than 20 years. But the Panthers seem likely to miss the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years. In those seven years, Washington has a conference championship, two division titles and four playoff appearances.

Some nerve. Some hubris.

Like ''Michael Yormark's Top 10 Reasons Why the Florida Panthers Will Make the 2004 NHL Playoffs.'' The Panthers chief operating officer put himself and the team on the spot as he put himself in the spotlight.

Not that NHL executives shouldn't show confidence in their teams. But it's hard to imagine another NHL executive with such a wispy hockey background putting his name atop such a no-tongue-in-cheek list; putting it on a press release; then going on radio and TV to make sure said list was broadcast.

Such hubris has been smacked down regularly since Sophocles was telling Oedipal tales. Perhaps today the Panthers will be wiser for their folly, as Oedipus was. [...]

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GOSSIP: Alexander the Great Flicks

Back in November, we mentioned another Alexander the Great flick in the works, produced by Ilya Salkind. Here's some more details from today's Scotsman:

TWELVE months ago he was just one more wannabe, facing an uncertain future as he prepared to graduate from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

But today Sam Heughan is set for international stardom after being chosen to be the lead role in a forthcoming Hollywood movie.

Heughan, 22, will play the eponymous hero in Macedonia’s Alexander the Great, the first part of a three-film biopic of the ancient hero planned by the veteran producer Ilya Salkind. And if history repeats itself, the role could catapult Heughan to the top of the most-wanted list when it is released later this year.

Salkind is best known in Hollywood as the producer who in 1978 spotted an unknown young actor called Christopher Reeve fresh out of drama college, and made him a star overnight with his Superman trilogy.

Confirming that he has reserved the right to employ Heughan in all three of his planned films on Alexander, Salkind said: "We looked at hundreds of young actors to play this role, which requires both striking visual attraction and the look of a great future warrior.

"When we spotted the athletic, 6ft 2in-framed Heughan and his captivating sensuous masculine visage, we knew we had found him.

"The plus side is that, like Reeve, he comes with total preparation in his craft and is now ready for his breakthrough. We will put an international campaign behind him and the picture throughout production."

Salkind is so confident of Heughan’s talents that he plans to release Macedonia’s Alexander the Great in October this year - the same month that Hollywood producer Oliver Stone will release his biopic of Alexander the Great, starring the Irish actor Colin Farrell.  [...]

6:18:39 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Interesting Promotion

Apologies for the lack of production yesterday ... the anticipated allergy attack happened (and is still happening) and I'm working through a pile of cobwebs right now. In any event, the Guardian has an interesting item on efforts to promote the arts in the UK:

A campaign is getting under way this week to persuade Britain's rich to spend more on the arts.

Colin Tweedy, chief executive of Arts and Business, the organisation behind the appeal, says that despite recent spectacular donations - only last week John Madejski celebrated his £3m donation to the Royal Academy by lending it his £5m Degas Little Dancer - Britain lags behind other countries. In the US 5.7% of philanthropic giving went to the arts, against 3.4% in Britain.

Mr Tweedy hopes to find an extra £140m for the arts by enlisting donors in a scheme that rewards them with a modest lapel pin with the head of an ancient Roman. The Roman was Maecenas, a politician and diplomat in the time of Octavian and patron of Horace and Virgil, now proclaimed the founding father of giving to the arts by Arts and Business.

"The idea of Maecenas is to change the culture, to make people - individuals and businesses - proud of giving to the arts, to make them boast about it, to make them feel loved and valued in return. The money is there, we just have to extract it. We have to teach people how to give, and teach arts organisations how to ask."

Not much more in the rest of the article, but the last line is interesting:

In the end, however, Maecenas faltered as a role model: he left his fortune not to his poets, but to the emperor.

6:08:33 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

AWOTV: On TV Today

10.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Conquerors: Alexander the Great

DCIVC = Discovery Civilization (Canada)

5:24:10 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

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