Friday, March 12, 2004
THIS DAY IN ANCIENT HISTORY
ante diem iv idus martias
- Festival of Mars (day 12)
Not really favourable:
It is not off-putting to have Electra, one of classical theater's most dramatic heroines, performed by a man (Donald Sage Mackay). In fact, the searing hate and desire for physical vengeance that festers within the bosom of this castoff daughter of the legendary ruler Agamemnon, sounds quite plausible coming from the mouth of Mackay, who makes no effort to instill any femininity into his portrayal. A Noise Within resident director Sabin Epstein's stated purpose in casting an all-male ensemble is to not "attempt to become female characters but tell their stories as it was done 2,500 years ago.'
Indeed, there is very little but storytelling happening in this pared-down one-act translation of Euripides' play by Elizabeth Seydel Morgan. All the real action happens off stage as one overwrought character after another relates the events to some lamenting listener. The plot is explained more than it is performed, which makes for a swift evening of theater -- but not a very dramatically fulfilling one. [more from the San Bernardino County Sun -- worth clicking on for the great headline that accompanies the piece]
NUNTII: Another Roman Villa in the UK
Folks in the UK can see more of this one on Time Team this weekend; hopefully the program will make it here soon:
WHEN Paul Atkins began digging a hole in his garden to place a fence post little did he realise the historical secrets he was about to reveal.
The hard surface that met the end of his spade was not a large stone but the remains of an entrance to a Roman villa built in the 2nd Century.
The find caught the attention of the producers of Channel 4's popular archaeological series Time Team, who spent three days filming there last April.
The programme, which looks at the Castle Hill estate in Ipswich - including the Atkins' garden in Tranmere Grove - is screened on Sunday.
During excavations, the TV archaeologists uncovered a wall half a metre deep that is thought to have been part of the porch to the villa in the Atkins' garden.
Archaeologists have described it as one of the most important and largest finds of its kind in the county.
Mr Atkins and his wife Wendy have over the years accumulated a collection of Roman artefacts, including pottery and roof tiles.
“It's common knowledge there's a Roman villa on Castle Hill. There was an excavation in the mid '80s on Chesterfield Drive and since then when we have been in the garden digging we have found evidence of Roman property,” said Mrs Atkins.
“About three summers ago my husband was digging a hole for a fence post and struck something that was more than just a stone.
“We called in a Suffolk County Council archaeologist and she decided it was definitely a Roman wall of some description.
“We never thought any more about it but we got a call from Time Team last February who said they wanted to investigate further.” [more from the East Anglia Daily Times]
CHATTER: Idle Chatter
Seen in passing in the Union Leader:
By the way, beware the Ides of March. That’s Monday, and it’s the anniversary of the day Julius Caesar said, “I came, I saw, I concurred.” This incident marked the beginning of the modern political era, in which candidates say anything at all that they think will get them votes.
CHATTER: Classical Lasagna
It's always amazing to me how folks make the effort to find/invent links to the Classical world for pretty much everything. Ecce this from Tandem, which bills itself as "Canada's Cosmopolitan News, Arts, and Sports Paper" (I've never seen it, but then Hamilton would never be accused of being Cosmopolitan):
Lasagna. This classic Italian dish, which at its most basis refers to flat sheets of pasta layered with meat, sauce and cheese, got its start as a chamber pot. Well, in a sense. The word comes from the Greek "lasana," which means "chamberpot." The Romans then transformed the word into "lasanum" which means "cooking pot." Soon the word then got transformed again into lágana. Apicio, Roman writer of the 1st century a.C. describes lágana in his book De re coquinaria.
FWIW as they ... er... write.
CHATTER: Grex Latine at the University at Buffalo
The UB Reporter has some nice coverage of Classics professor Neil Coffee and his 'informal' (well, none of them seem to be wearing ties) Grex Latine group:
Latin is no longer the "exquisite corpse," or cadavre exquis, of a decade or so ago. Just ask the informal UB Latin group GREX, devoted to learning and speaking the ancient language.
In fact, if you pause long enough in the Ellicott Food Court on a Friday afternoon, you'll quickly agree—after listening to a couple of members of GREX (Latin for group) recite passages of Virgil's "Aeneid" by memory—that you'll wish you knew even a little Latin. Reading the epic in translation in no way compares to hearing it read in Latin—whether or not one actually knows the language, it's simply that beautiful. The language of the Caesars and the raw, radical, love poet Catullus vibrates and crackles with life in the mouths of these passionate Latinists.
Latin is lyrical—nearly every syllable is enunciated—and powerful—consonants aren't given short shrift as in French, in which many are softened or ignored altogether. And according to one member of GREX, ancient Romans paid more attention to the sounds of words and their alliterative possibilities than we native English speakers do.
"Roman writers were more astute to the sounds of words than we are. They would carefully arrange words to create certain sounds—alliteration is a big component of the language—and they had theories about the harsh sounds of certain letters like 't' and 'q' so if they wanted to communicate a bitter sentiment, they would use a lot of words with 'ts and 'qs'" says Bradley Maleh, a classics major.
They also employed onomatopoeia to convey the sound and rhythm of a trumpet blast—at tuba sonitu taratantara dixit ("and then the bugle with a fearful cry blew 'taratantara,'" from Ennius' "Annals"), or the fury and speed of thundering hooves of a horse running across a field—quadripedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum ("their hooves shook the damp plain with a four-footed roar," from Virgil's "Aeneid"), notes Maleh and Neil Coffee, assistant professor of classics and the group's leader.
One recent afternoon, three enthusiastic students and Coffee were playing a "guess who" game in which the students were given cards with the name and brief biography of a famous Roman. By asking and answering questions in Latin, the students reveal the identification of the secret person. The energy of the group on this bitter February day is playful and warm, the undulating tones of Latin welcoming.
Coffee, who began speaking Latin as a graduate student at the University of Chicago and led a similar group there for four years, gently and humorously guides the students, all of whom speak Latin with some ease, through the exercises. The group meets often throughout the semester to read and discuss short passages and dialogues, many with contemporary situations—much like those in modern language exercises—that include topics on making introductions, travel and domestic concerns.
GREX consists of a mixture of graduate and undergraduate students, most of whom are currently studying Latin. The primary reasons for speaking Latin, note Coffee and the students, are pleasure in the language, intellectual curiosity and the chance to better understand another fascinating culture. [more]
The article is accompanied by a reading of the last chunk of the Aeneid in .mp3 format ... (it's 12.919 ff. if you want to follow along ... it's rather well done)
NUNTII: Major Coin Find in Britain
Tons of people have been sending various versions of this one in (thanks!) ... here's the BBC version:
A man unearthed a priceless hoard of 20,000 Roman coins as he dug a new fishpond in his back garden.
Experts say the money may date from the 4th Century and could be the biggest find of its kind in Britain.
The coins were crammed into a ceramic pot which broke up as it was dug out of the ground at Thornbury, Gloucestershire.
Now a coroner must decide if Ken Allen, who made the discovery, can keep the treasure.
Gail Boyle, from Bristol Museum, said: "This is the most amazing find of treasure to come out of this area for 30 years."
Mr Allen said: "It was a great surprise and at first I didn't realise what we had found.
"The pot was perfectly upright; I can't believe that this discovery was only 20ft from our house."
Kurt Adams, the Finds Liaison Officer for Gloucestershire and Avon, said: "The coins identified so far can be attributed to Constantine the Great.
"The mint marks - a letter or symbol used to indicate the mint which produced the coin - suggest Trier, Germany and Constantinople as possible places of origin." [more ... includes a not-all-that-great photo]
CHATTER: Horace and The Passion
A review of the Passion in the Baptist Standard actually makes a reference to Horace:
Horace—no stranger to the logic of drama—advised a budding epic poet not to feel compelled to begin at the beginning of a story, but to start right at a decisive point in its middle instead. He coined “in medias res” to express this idea. Gibson’s drama does something even more unconventional; it reaches its end, makes the audience realize that the final act is still to come, and—to top it off—assures them they are inescapably involved.
The reference, of course, is to the Ars Poetica ... here's the context (146-152 via the Latin Library):
Nec reditum Diomedis ab interitu Meleagri,
nec gemino bellum Troianum orditur ab ouo;
semper ad euentum festinat et in medias res
non secus ac notas auditorem rapit, et quae
desperat tractata nitescere posse relinquit,
atque ita mentitur, sic ueris falsa remiscet,
primo ne medium, medio ne discrepet imum.
CHATTER: Elgin/Parthenon Marbles
I think we should probably keep track of reports such as this:
Politicians voted over-whelmingly in support of a motion to repatriate the historic art works to their homeland in return for Greece sharing some of its priceless treasures for display in Liverpool.
Council leader Mike Storey and Cllr Keith Turner have asked colleagues to write to National Museums Liverpool in support of Marbles Reunited, a group who want the British Museum to return the partial collection of stones to Athens.
Cllr Storey said: "The loaning arrangement seems an imaginative way of dealing with a long-standing controversial problem.
"Liverpool and Glasgow have both been named specifically by the Greek government as possible regions for artefacts from Greece to be displayed because of their Capital of Culture connections.
"This gets out of all the legal argument about ownership and could set up a partnership between two museums and two countries." [more from IC Liverpool]
AWOTV: On TV Today
3.00 p.m. |HINT| Cleopatra: Destiny's Queen
She was Egypt's greatest queen, but not a drop of Egyptian blood
flowed through her veins. The Romans regarded her as a dangerous
seductress, but for almost half of her adult life she remained
celibate. A profile of this exceptional woman who used all her talent
to become one of the most feared rulers of her time.
8.00 p.m. |HINT| Attila: Scourge of God
Bloodthirsty barbarian or benevolent ruler? Our profile portrays
Attila the Hun as he really was: shrewd, tough, and at times even
thoughtful. A man who, through intelligence and sheer force of
character, forged a loose confederation of nomadic tribes into the
most fearsome military machine of its time.
8.00 p.m. |DTC| Vesuvius: Deadly Fury
In 79 AD, eruptions from Mount Vesuvius buried the city of Pompeii.
A burning wave of gas shot out from the side of Vesuvius killing the
inhabitants of neighboring Herculaneum in just four minutes.
Archaeologists look to these bodies for historical clues.
DTC = Discovery Times Channel
HINT = History International