Tuesday, March 09, 2004
THIS DAY IN ANCIENT HISTORY
ante diem vii idus martias
- Festival of Mars (day 9) which included another procession of the Salian priests around the city
- 320 A.D. -- martyrdom of Candidus and the other "Forty Armenian Martyrs"
NUNTII: Latest in the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles Saga?
An AP story, here via Newsday has no specific Classical content but ...
The British Museum said Monday it had purchased a 4,000-year-old Mesopotamian sculpture and hoped to loan it to Iraq.
The museum said it had bought the Queen of the Night -- a terra-cotta relief of a winged naked woman standing on lions and flanked by owls -- from a private collector for $2.8 million.
Museum director Neil MacGregor said the piece, created between 1800 and 1750 B.C., "is a timely reminder that what is now Iraq was once the cradle of civilization."
"Writing was invented here and Mesopotamia, the land between the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates, was home to Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians," he said. "The astonishing remains of these ancient people are an important part of the world's cultural heritage."
The sculpture is believed to represent the goddess of night or the underworld, the museum said. It will tour Britain this year as part of the British Museum's 250th anniversary celebrations and later could be sent on loan to Iraq, but no dates have been set.
"She has never been seen in Iraq," MacGregor said. "When it is safe to go back, she will be seen in the Baghdad Museum."
... can't help but wonder what the fallout from this one will be; stay tuned ...
CHATTER: Another Passionate Perspective
The Times of Tibet has a review of the Passion which suggests the U.S. might have a rival for the title of 'Rome Reborn':
"But now I see that it is not only Buddhas who reincarnate. It is also devils. The Romans in that film, the way they treated my friend, and all the Jews, I realized that the Communist Chinese of today are reincarnates of those Romans. The same tactics, the same policies.
"Jesus was in trouble from the moment someone called him king of the Jews, for there could be only one king of the Jews, Caesar. So it is for Tibet. The Dalai Lama is no longer recognized as head of state as had been the case for many centuries because there can be only one head of state, and now it must be Chinese. Just as the Romans did with Jesus, the Chinese torture and kill our brave monks and nuns who continue to seek Buddhahood. The message is the same, stay in line, do as we say, and perhaps all will be fine."
A good little piece to have students read if they need their 'world view' shaken up a bit too ...
NUNTII: Rebuilding the Colosseum
A while back we mentioned some aged architect's proposal for sprucing up the Forum ... here's a few more details from Reuters:
Architect Carlo Aymonino wants to rebuild the outer wall of the world's most famous amphitheater, once rocked by earthquakes and quarried to build other glories in the Eternal City.
"It wouldn't be an Italian Disneyland. In fact it would be the exact opposite -- a careful scientifically correct reconstruction," the 78-year-old told Reuters in an interview.
His planned revamp could well become the next chapter in a long and often bitter debate about whether archaeological and artistic wonders should be left to succumb to the effects of time or be restored to their original beauty.
But Aymonino is unfazed by the thought of rebuilding the outer wall of Italy's most visited archaeological site, which attracts almost three million tourists a year.
"It wouldn't take much, you could use brick," he said.
Aymonino also wants to pull up the road built by 20th-century Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, which carves a path straight through the Roman Forum.
"It's ridiculous, that street. They covered up lots of ruins and split the Forum in two," he sighed, adding that he doesn't buy the argument that removing the thoroughfare would gridlock an already-congested city.
"Traffic, like water, always finds a way," he said.
With the sites reunited, the bespectacled white-haired architect wants to rebuild ruins like the Temple of Mars, which hosted solemn religious ceremonies before being turned into a museum of art.
"The three surviving upright columns are beautiful but there are bases of many more. So why not put them back up, making them smooth not ridged to distinguish the old from the new?"
And then, he says, it's time to inject some vitality.
"We don't need streets of shops but why not have the odd bookshop and cafe dotted around ... something that gives an idea of how lively it might have been?"
Aymonino gives no figure for the cost of realizing his dream, but his fundraising ideas may stoke controversy.
"It would be a good thing for someone like Coca-Cola to fund in terms of publicity. They could ... tell the whole world that they'd completed the Colosseum." [...]
Ripping up the road could be a good thing ... maybe that's where we should start. As for Coke, as we have seen, Pepsi seems to have the gladiatorial concession ... maybe the Circus Maximus?
CHATTER: Historical Paternity
Seen in passing in the Daily Times (Pakistan):
In answering the question, ‘what is development?’ one could describe it as an immanent process that creates something new by destroying the old. This conceptualisation of development is not new; in fact it is pre-modern since the ancient Greeks used it as well. Thucydides, who is considered the father of history, acknowledged that decay and destruction were integral parts of the human development cycle.
I can see it now ... Thucydides and Herodotus on Maury Povich, anxiously waiting for the test results to see who really is the father ...
NUNTII: Olympic Origins
The New York Times has a lengthy piece on the history of the ancient Olympic Games ... here's the incipit:
Opening day of the ancient Greek games was a spectacle to behold, a celebration of the vigor and supercharged competitiveness that infused the creative spirit of one of antiquity's most transforming civilizations.
People by the thousands from every corner of the land swarmed the sacred grounds, where altars and columned temples stood in homage to their gods. They came from cities that were often bitter rivals but shared a religion, a language and an enthusiasm for organized athletics. There was no doubt in their minds that the games were as much a part of Greek culture as Homer, Plato or Euripides, and on a summer day at Olympia, perhaps more so.
At dawn, the opening procession of athletes began: runners and jumpers, discus and javelin throwers, boxers and wrestlers and charioteers, all young men, marching to the stadium and the hippodrome. They went from one altar to the next and past shrines to heroes of previous games. Finally, a trumpet sounded the beginning of the big event.
The exuberance and pageantry of the original Greek games — even the spirit of community among rivals, however fleeting — will be re-enacted in August at the next modern Olympic Games. They will be held in Athens, in the land where it all began.
A closer study of ancient texts, art and artifacts and deeper archaeological excavations are giving scholars new insights into the early games and just how integral athletics was to ancient Greek life. The games, said Dr. Stephen G. Miller, an archaeologist who is a classics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, "ran hand in hand with Greek cultural development."
For almost 12 centuries, starting as early as 776 B.C. at Olympia in the Peloponnesus, organized athletics were so popular that nothing was allowed to stand in the way. When it was time for the games, armies of rival cities usually laid down their weapons in a "sacred truce." In 480 B.C., while the Persians were torching Athens, there was no stopping the foremost games at Olympia.
In athletics, scholars are finding, the ancient Greeks expressed one of their defining attributes: the pursuit of excellence through public competition. The games were festivals of the Greekness that has echoed through the ages and reverberates in the core of Western culture.
"Of all the cultural legacies left by the ancient Greeks," Dr. Edith Hall of the University of Durham in England has written, "the three which have had the most obvious impact on modern Western life are athletics, democracy and drama."
As Dr. Hall noted in the Cambridge Illustrated History of Ancient Greece, all three involved performance in an adversarial atmosphere "in open-air public arenas in front of a large mass of often extremely noisy and critical spectators."
In these competitive exhibitions, she added, "success conferred the highest prestige, and failure brought personal disappointment and public ignominy."
Dr. Donald G. Kyle, a professor of ancient history at the University of Texas in Arlington, said that long before the Greeks, others engaged in competitive sports like running and boxing. Contemporaries of the Greeks in Egypt and Mesopotamia put on lavish entertainments at court, with acrobats and athletes performing, and also promoted some sports as part of military training. Dr. Kyle is writing a book on sport and spectacle in the ancient world.
But the Greeks, the historian said, took athletics out of the court and into the wider public, beyond the singular spectacles to regularly scheduled competitions. They spread their games as they colonized Sicily and southern Italy and Alexander the Great conquered Eastern lands, he said, "in the same way the British took cricket everywhere they went." [more]
AWOTV: On TV Today
7.00 p.m. |HINT| Herod the Great
Explores the life of King Herod, the great builder who left behind
Masada and Temple Mount. Was he a great king or a ruthless killer?
8.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Meet The Ancestors: Friends, Roman and Countryman
8.00 p.m. |HINT| Blood and Honor at the First Olympics
Explores the first Olympic Games in 776 BC organized by the Greeks.
Bodies were broken and literally trampled to death in these "games",
where winning was everything.
8.00 p.m. |HISTU| Judas: Traitor or Friend?
He was one of the 12 apostles, one of the elect. Yet for 30 silver
coins, Judas Iscariot turned on his teacher and closest friend.
Historians, psychologists, theologians, and religious scholars
investigate Judas's childhood, relationship with Jesus, and
monumental decision that would characterize him for all time. Did
Judas believe his betrayal would force Jesus to display his divine
power and thereby prove he was the Messiah? Or was he acting on
directives given by Jesus to fulfill a prophecy?
9.00 p.m. |HISTC| Metropolis: ROME
Rome. Alexandria. Carthage. Athens. These cities were the centers of
power, religion and trade. This four-part series examines urban life
in these hubs of the ancient world. The mighty cities of antiquity
evolved from a scattering of settlements to major centres, each in
its own unique fashion, cultural environment, and prevailing
DCIVC = Discovery Civilization (Canada)
HISTC = History Television (Canada)
HISTU = History Channel (US)
HINT = History International