Most recent update:4/1/2004; 5:05:13 AM

 Thursday, March 04, 2004

NUNTII: Gladiator Grave III

Here's a link to a transcription of a story from the Times on the original discovery of this gladiator grave from 2002 ... (I now remember mentioning something about this exhibition in Explorator).

7:52:06 PM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Passionata

A week or so ago I wondered about historical advisors for The Passion ... this is the closest I've come so far (from the Chicago Tribune):

The task of achieving linguistic authenticity fell to Rev. William Fulco, a Jesuit priest and professor of ancient Mediterranean studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Gibson got Fulco's name from Yale University, where Fulco received a doctorate and taught Aramaic.

"I got a call while I was in Jerusalem: `Hey, Padre, It's Mel, I got a job for you,'" Fulco said. "I said, `Mel who?' We talked for about an hour. He told me about the project, and I couldn't pass it up."

In 2002, Gibson gave Fulco the script written by Benedict Fitzgerald, mostly derived from the Gospels, and asked Fulco to translate it into Aramaic , Hebrew and Latin. Fulco later translated the script back into English subtitles.

The use of multiple languages in the film reflects the linguistic diversity of Palestine during Jesus' life. Most people spoke Aramaic, which the Jews adopted while exiled in Babylon in the 6th Century before Jesus' birth. Hebrew, their language before the exile, was retained in religious writings and liturgy (and is spoken by Jesus in prayer in "The Passion"). Latin was spoken by the Roman soldiers occupying the region. Greek was spoken throughout the Roman Empire, thanks to Alexander the Great, but was seen as a sign of secularization and thus resisted by many Jews.

Fulco left Greek out of "The Passion," substituting Latin in occasional cases where Greek might have been used. He also made mostly imperceptible distinctions between the elegant Latin of Pilate and the crude Latin of soldiers, thanks to an X-rated source he found on his shelf.

"I tracked down some obscene graffiti from Roman army camps," Fulco said. "Somebody who knows Latin really well, their ears will fall off. We didn't subtitle those words."

Fulco even confessed to some linguistic mischief.

"Here and there I put in playful things which nobody will know. There's one scene where Caiaphas turns to his cohorts and says something in Aramaic. The subtitle says, `You take care of it.' He's actually saying, `Take care of my laundry.'"

Other linguistic tricks of Fulco's serve a function in the script.

For example, he incorporated deliberate dialogue errors in the scenes where the Roman soldiers, speaking Aramaic, are shouting to Jewish crowds, who respond in Latin. To illustrate the groups' inability to communicate with each other, each side speaks with incorrect pronunciations and word endings.

Later, "there's an exchange where Pilate addresses Jesus in Aramaic, and Jesus answers in Latin. It's kind of a nifty little symbolic thing: Jesus is going to beat him at his own game," Fulco said. "One line [in that exchange] I kind of enjoyed is when Jesus says, `My power is given from above, otherwise my followers would not have allowed this.' That's [spoken in] the pluperfect subjunctive."

Appreciating the niceties

It takes a linguist to appreciate that grammatical nicety as remarkable for being uttered by a Palestinian Jew who mostly spoke Aramaic and Greek.

For the relatively few Middle Eastern Christians who still speak Aramaic, "The Passion" may sound riddled with mistakes -- spurring Fulco to point out, "modern Aramaic dialects are as different [from ancient ones] as Chaucer and modern English."

Still, now that the movie is in general release, Fulco fully expects to get an earful about his use of languages.

"We linguists are a crazy bunch," he said. "The more obscure the language, the more people try to prove their territory worthwhile and say, by God, we're going to sniff out errors." [the whole thing]

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NUNTII: Vulnerable Artifacts

It seems they're finally getting the message in Pompeii ... according to AGI:

Dozens of archaeological artefacts in Pompeii have been catalogued by the Naples Heritage Superintendence. The list was compiled based on how much time it would require a team of dedicated thieves to remove the item from the archaeological precinct. News of the special list was issued by superintendent Piero Giovanni Guzzo, on presenting recovered and restored artefacts previously located ion the House of the Chaste Lovers and in Villa Ceii. Guzzo stressed that such artefacts will not be returned to their original locations. Pompeiiís CCTV system will be fully operational next month, after repair work was made necessary by damage to the electrics in 2002. At the Insula of the Chaste Lovers between April 4 and 5, 2003, various frescos was wrenched away from a wall. The paintings have since been recovered and have been subject to extensive restoration work. The Villa Ceii had a 100 kilo sculpted well parapet stolen from its premises. The parapet had been fractured into 19 segments.

7:22:10 PM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

NUNTII: Gladiator Grave II

David Beard's Archaeology in Europe blog pointed me to the Telegraph piece ... here's some added info:

Dr Grossschmidt noticed from the bone analysis that, contrary to the normal effects of intensive training, the gladiators put on weight before a fight rather than lost it.

Bone samples were subjected to chemical analysis. While a normal meat and vegetable diet will show balanced levels of zinc and strontium, the gladiators' bones were very high in strontium and low in zinc - another indication of vegetarianism.

The density of the bone tissue was significantly higher than normal, exactly what one finds in modern athletes, he said. The bone enlargement was particularly pronounced in the feet - evidence that gladiators fought barefoot in the slippery arena sand. Historians have long argued over which gesture meant mercy and which meant death.

Dr Grossschmidt discovered a series of scratches etched on to the spines of fallen gladiators.

He believes they signified attempts to stab them in the heart via the throat.

This, he concluded, is evidence that the thumbs down was indeed a fatal instruction - to thrust the sword down through the throat and into the heart.

I'm very curious as to 1) how this was identified as a gladiatorial graveyard and 2) the dating of the site. I personally have difficulty believing that gladiators lived long enough for such changes to be visible in their skeletons (especially the 'enlarged feet' thing) ... I strongly suspect we're dealing with another group (Celts? Dacians?) who were executed en masse ...

5:59:33 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


ante diem iv kalendas martias

  • Festival of Mars (day 4)
  • 51 A.D. -- the future emperor Nero is given the title princeps

5:44:05 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

NUNTII: Gladiator Grave

I hope I can track down more on this one, which made it to my mailbox via the Newindpress:

A scientific study of a recently discovered Roman gladiators graveyard has concluded that most of them were overweight vegetarians who lived on barley and beans.

The graveyard containing the bones of over 70 gladiators, one of the largest ever, was found near Ephesus, the Roman capital of Asia Minor (Turkey's western coast).

According to a report in The Telegraph, the dietary findings of the scientists from the University of Vienna may have finally altered the traditional Hollywood image of these gladiators being macho carnivores with the physique of boxers and may give vegetarians a new, harder image.

"They got enough of this food (barley and beans) every day to make them very fat and strong," Karl Grossschmidt, a forensic anthropologist, was quoted as saying.

Concluding that it was a boring diet, he says that it was devised primarily to protect themselves from slashing wounds and damage to nerves and blood vessels, with the layer of fat supplementing their scant armour. [more]

I'll comment when I found out more details ... I suspect our forensic anthropologist doesn't know much about gladiators ...

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CHATTER: Lucretius in the Telegraph

Not much, but whenever Lucretius makes it into the press, it must be noteworthy. This time, he's mentioned by an MP/Editor of the Spectator (writing a column for the Telegraph) who seems to have the Life of Brian and Passion inextricably bound together in his noggin:

I could defend myself by saying that a spot of laughter never did any religion any harm. Look at the evil maniacs at work in Iraq: if only they'd lighten up, hundreds of people would not be dead this morning in Karbala. I suppose I could quote the great materialist and Epicurean Lucretius to the effect that tantum religio potuit suadere malorum.

5:28:22 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: More Beauty Secrets from Cleopatra

We've dealt with the various claims regarding Cleopatra's beauty secrets before ... today's New York Times, however, has a piece on lipstick and mentions in passing:

It was probably the same tone that women have been using for thousands of years to describe their favorite cosmetics. Cleopatra probably sounded just as passionate about the ground-up beetles that were an essential ingredient for the deep red shade of her own true lipstick.

Well, this seems to be as well-attested as previous beauty secrets (i.e., the 'facts' are well known to a cosmetics company vel simm.) but the (unreferenced( view on the web is that Cleo's lipstick was made from:

... totally un/semi related ... while searching for the above, I came across this claim on

Cleopatra used a mixture of horse teeth, bear grease, burnt mice and deer marrow in her attempt to cure Julius Caesar's baldness (it didn't work). Hedgehog urine was also thought to be beneficial.

5:21:57 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Lost Roman Historian?

The Carolina Morning News has an unattributed quote:

To say that there is no objective evidence of Jesus' existence shows the blissful ignorance of the truly irrational mind. Anyone who truly seeks the facts will discover that there are several extra-biblical historical accounts of Jesus, including Flavius Josephus, Tacitus, Antonius and Pliny the Younger.

Antonius? (must be Suetonius)

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REVIEW: Alcestis

Generally favourable review of a production in Binghamton (New York):

Binghamton University's production of Euripides' Alcestis isn't just for classic theater buffs. Guest director Lydia Koniordou and her talented cast have made the 2,000-year-old tragedy accessible to everyone.

The story deals with the Greek myth of Alcestis, whose husband Admetos is favored by the gods so much that he is allowed to evade his own death -- if someone else will die in his stead. Alcestis is the only volunteer.

But no sooner does the house of Admetos enter into mourning than Heracles (Hercules to Romans) shows up, I believe somewhere around the time he was ridding the world of the flesh-eating horses of Diomedes. Rather than turn Heracles away, Admetos enters into a charade that all is well and welcomes the demigod to a feast.

When Heracles finds out about Alcestis' death, he rescues her from death to repay Admetos for his hospitality under duress. It's a tragedy with a happy ending.

In addition to directing and playing the part of Alcestis, Koniordou provided the excellent translation. By setting Alcestis in the post-Civil War South, references to slaves and masters remain relevant. (And Barbara Wolfe was provided an opportunity to create outstanding costumes.)

Koniordou has chosen her words carefully, even if it meant veering away from Alcestis' Greek roots. For example, by saying Heracles has set off to reclaim Alcestis from "Persephone and Pluto," she seems to have employed Hades' Roman name for its alliterative quality.

Alcestis contains one of the most melodramatic scenes I have seen in a long time. Our heroine takes longer to die than a consumptive soprano, constantly peering out into the distance with a glazed look, sighs, swoons and plenty of hand-on-the-forehead fainting.

On the other hand, theater department graduate students Ted Nappi and Jose Guzman pull off a masterfully comic scene as a drunken Heracles and one of Admetos' servants, respectively. The scene was without question laugh-out-loud funny.  [more]

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AUDIO: Father Foster

I don't know if it's just me, but the 105 Live page (where Father Foster usually shows up) hasn't been updated in weeks, although the programming has. This week's program is mostly about 'spiritual exercises' and, of course, associated vocabulary ... it seems to have a Jesuit (or at least, Ignatian) slant ...

4:55:54 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

AWOTV: On TV Today

4.00 p.m. |DISCC| Who Built the Catacombs
Host Leonard Nimoy takes viewers on an exploration of the mysterious
catacombs beneath Rome.

8.00 p.m. |HINT| Arms in Action: Castles and Sieges
From the Iron Ages to the Gulf War, sieges played an enormous role
in warfare. We'll visit some of England's castles, including the
4,000-year-old Maiden Castle, and experiment with tools used to bring
down castle and town walls like the trebuchet, a giant sling over 50
feet in height. From the Royal Armouries in the Tower of London.

9.00 p.m. |HINT| Foot Soldier: The Romans
Host Richard Karn looks at the Roman legionnaires, who conquered and
dominated most of the known world for 500 years, and left behind a
legacy of language, culture, architecture, and government.

DISCC = Discovery Channel (Canada)

HINT = History International

4:48:37 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

Click for Athens, Greece Forecast

Click for Rome, Italy Forecast

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