Most recent update:4/1/2004; 5:06:04 AM

 Wednesday, March 10, 2004

NUNTII: Romans in Britain

Well ... let's start the evening with a lengthy excerpt about a talk/report given about Roman remains found during hospital construction near Newbury:

More than 65 people gathered at Kennet School to listen to Andy Simmonds from Oxford Archae-ology describe excavations on the site of the new Newbury Hospital. He was speaking at the monthly meeting of Thatcham Historical Society.

The hospital site was excavated in two phases, in 2001 and 2002, and these revealed a site in use towards the end of the Iron Age, in the early part of the first century AD. V-shaped parallel ditches marked out a trackway leading to an agricultural site, with rectangular fields also marked out by ditches.

Mr Simmonds said during the late Iron Age the Newbury area was part of the territory of the Atrebates tribe, with their local capital at Silch-ester (the Roman Calleva). The agricultural site appears to have been established as part of a general expansion of farming in the decades leading up to the Roman invasion, accompanied by changes such as the introduction of new ploughs with iron ploughshares.

He said that archaeology shows Silchester rebuilt in the same period with rectangular buildings replacing the round houses more common in the Iron Age, and that another site at Ufton Nervet showed similar features, with rectangular buildings from the early first century built close to the line of the Roman road. On the hospital site, no buildings had been found, but there were a number of similarities with the Ufton site.

The major finds on the hospital site were two carefully arranged cremation burials, with pottery from the first century AD. The first, which was complete, included nine pots, arranged in a circle. In the central area, cremated bone had been placed in such a way as to suggest that originally it had perhaps been held together in a bag which had since perished.

The body had first been burnt on a pyre, but not all of the burnt remains were included in the burial.

Among the pottery was a platter which followed a continental style, with a knife laid on it.

There were three brooches, including a Colch-ester brooch - a type which was made only up to AD 40. One of the brooches was in such poor condition it appeared to have been placed on the pyre. The pottery, of three distinct types, included a beaker made using British techniques, but copying the design of a continental pot.

The top of the other cremation burial had been lost to ploughing, and it survived only to the depth of an inch or so. Like the first, it included pottery arranged in a circle around cremated remains, and this burial included six pots. One of these was part of an Arretine cup, made in Italy.

"Each of these cremations seems to be of a single individual," said Mr Simmonds. "There were not enough bones to be aged or sexed, other than to say these were two adult individuals."

Also among the bones were pig bones: something Mr Simmonds said generally disappeared from the diet during the Iron Age, perhaps because it was taboo. Other finds included a fragment of a rotary quern, for grinding corn.

This site was part of a farmstead which had been created in the early first century AD and seems to have gone out of use early in the second century.

Mr Simmonds said that the Roman settlement at Thatcham appeared to be third century, or perhaps even second century, and that the hospital site may follow a trend found in Oxfordshire, where towns are established and individuals farmsteads fall out of a use at about the same time. [more]

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ante diem vi idus martias

  • Festival of Mars (day 10)
  • 241 B.C. -- Romans are victorious against the Carthaginians in the naval battle of Aegusa, bringing the First Punic War to an end
  • 15 A.D. -- Tiberius becomes pontifex maximus
  • ca. 172 A.D. -- martyrdom of Alexander in Phrygia
  • ca. 258 A.D. -- martyrdom of Codratus of Corinth and companions

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AUDIO: Father Foster

Again, the Vatican's 105 Live webpage hasn't been updated in ages (is this just at my end?) but I have tracked down Father Foster's Latin Lover segment. This week, he continues the discussion about spiritual exercises which started last week ... the end bit -- about speaking Latin in general -- is probably the most interesting.

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I know I promised to get some updates to our bulletin board ... these should begin on Friday. Real life has conspired to take up a pile of my time this week, I'm afraid (including a spoofing of my address and other strange things with my Explorator account at Yahoo). Apologies for any inconvenience ...

5:16:45 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


Ian Worthington, Alexander the Great. A Reader.

P.J. Rhodes, Ancient Democracy and Modern Ideology.

Canali De Rossi on Fezzi on Canali De Rossi on Fezzi.

Jerome Carcopino, Daily Life in Ancient Rome: The People and the City at the Height of the Empire. Edited and annotated by Henry T. Rowell.

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CHATTER: History of Insults

Caught in the daily scan is a piece on the history of insults, which includes the following:

Like many good English words, "insult" started out as a good Latin word. "Insultare" means to spring on, or leap upon. An insult was originally an attack. It still is, only now, the attack is verbal.

The day of the snappy retort is not over. We just need to use our imagination to creatively "tell someone off." Unfortunately, the classic zinger is quickly becoming a lost art. It is easy to call a spade a spade, but to do it with style and grace takes practice. We seem to be content, however, to simply yell at each other, use racial epitaphs, or vulgar language.

Such was not always the case. In fact, an ancient Roman poet practiced the fine art of the acid tongue when he wrote, "I could do without your face, and your neck, and your hands, and your limbs, and your bosom, and other of your charms. Indeed, not to fatigue myself with enumerating each of them, I could do without you, Chloe, altogether."

The unnamed Roman poet, of course, was Martial and this is Epigram 3.53. Here's the Latin (via the Latin Library):

Et uoltu poteram tuo carere
et collo manibusque cruribusque
et mammis natibusque clunibusque,
et, ne singula persequi laborem,
tota te poteram, Chloe, carere.

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REVIEW: By a Classicist, Just in Time for St. Patrick's Day

St. Louis Today has a lengthy review cum interview with Philip Freeman in regards to his St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography. Here's a useful chunk:

So who was Patrick, really?

And what about the snakes - the serpents that St. Patrick supposedly drove off the Emerald Isle and into the Irish Sea?

Well, they didn't exist. At least not in St. Patrick's land, Ireland, although St. Patrick wasn't Irish. He was from Britain when it was part of the Roman Empire, a Roman citizen with a Latin baptismal name, Patricius. He was a Christian nobleman born in the late fourth century (A.D. 385-389, perhaps) in a place named Bannaventa Berniae, which some believe was in Wales. Freeman says it was a villa in Britain.

Patrick lived until the late fifth century. His real name, supposedly, was Maewyn Succat, or maybe that wasn't his name.

"I think his real name is Patricius; the other name came 200 years after he died," Freeman says. "So it may or may not be true."

And the shamrocks? Did he use the green, cloverleaf plants to explain what St. Augustine considered a religious definition that could drive serious spiritual people bonkers - that is, trying to understand the Trinity (the father, son and holy ghost)? Well, the shamrock did become the emblem of Ireland. But shamrocks are another monk-inspired St. Patrick myth, says Freeman, who found them in tales that were told centuries after Patrick died. No one is sure when or where he died (A.D. 461 is one year listed in reference books), although it is believed to have happened someplace in Ireland. Some say the location was south of Belfast.

Much of this is why Freeman wanted to set St. Patrick's historic record straight, as best he could. For more than a century after Patrick's death, few people remembered that he'd been alive.

"We know so little about the details of Patrick's life that it seems fitting his death should be a mystery as well," Freeman writes.

Freeman says that what he discovered about Patrick could easily be converted into a movie script. Especially the saint's kidnapping by Irish pirates and spending six years as a slave, shepherding sheep, before escaping back to Britain when he was 21 or 22.

To the astonishment of his noble parents, Patricius announced that God wanted him to become a priest and convert the Irish from paganism to Christianity. His father and grandfather were both priests, back when clerics could marry.

Even more amazing is the aforementiond sin he committed as a boy of 15, before being kidnapped. Many years later, when he was a bishop, he was called back to Britain to answers charges, according to Patrick's letter, "Confessions." Reading the letter, one can see Patrick was accused of mismanagement. But mostly these charges were just jealously, Freeman says.

But what was the sin? "It had to be something serious; it wasn't like stealing candles," Freeman says. "It could have been sexual. But probably, most likely, it was idolatry. Or, as I said in the book, it could have been murder; nobody knows for sure. It came to haunt him when he was an elderly bishop."

Given the nature of Freeman's academic life, which involves ancient languages, and the tone of his latest book, his fourth text, we decided that this story should have the proper expression for St. Patrick's Day - it's pronounced LAW-ley-PAW-drig. The spelling is La Fheile Padraig, another sign of how complex this language is.

That's how this holiday is pronounced in St. Patrick's Ireland, in the Gaelic way. That, too, made Freeman laugh. He knows that language well, and has been to that green island more than a dozen times. He spent hours at Trinity College in Dublin, the oldest university in Ireland, where one can find rehabilitated versions of the two letters in Latin that St. Patrick wrote.

St. Patrick's real letters - titled "Confessions" and "Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus" - no longer exist. "Somehow, between Viking raids, gnawing rodents, fires, floods and general carelessness, the two documents written in St. Patrick's own hand were lost or destroyed," Freeman writes.

So, it turns out, the missing St. Patrick material, and the medieval monks who had a mythical field day with the life and times of old saint, are the real reasons Freeman wrote his book. [more]

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AWOTV: On TV Today

8.00 p.m. |DISCU| King Herod: Madman or Murderer?
Herod's role in the birth of Jesus is fleeting. In a fit of anger
over the purported birth of the "King of the Jews," texts say that he
ordered the slaughter of all boys in Bethlehem who were two years old
and younger. Scholars examine recent evidence.

DISCU = Discovery Channel (US)

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