Most recent update:4/1/2004; 5:07:23 AM

 Friday, March 19, 2004

NUNTII: Classics In Scotland ... Continued

More from the Scotsman:

SHOULD Greek and Latin be taught in state schools? On the positive side, these languages are the substructure of a host of important modern tongues, including English and Spanish - the equivalent of a computerís operating programme. To banish them in total from the curriculum is to limit the ability to understand modern communications. Beyond that, the classics are a discipline that teaches Western logic and philosophy as well as the roots of European culture - what better way to introduce new citizens to our culture?

On the negative side, it can be argued that in a desperately crowded curriculum, Classical Greek and Latin are low priorities. They are also a declining interest: in 2000, 346 candidates sat Higher Latin, but two years later the numbers had dropped to 257. Why not concentrate scarce resources in providing every pupil with a modern language; and if we think logic and philosophy are important, why not teach them directly? This is a finely balanced argument.

However, it is in danger of becoming a moot one in the wake of Strathclyde Universityís decision to scrap the last available course for students to qualify as classics teachers - and that is decidedly not a good idea. For Scotland, which in pre-Reformation times was one of the centres of Latin scholarship in Europe, to kill off classics teaching by default, and without a proper debate, is both short-sighted and wrong. Strathclyde should delay its decision for a year while the Universities Funding Council debates the matter. Fortune favours the brave - or fortes fortuna juvat, as they say in Latin.

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ALSO SEEN: In JARCE 39 (2002)

The editor of the Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt just posted to the ANE list the table of contents for the most recent issue 39 (2002) which has a couple of items of interest to Classicists:

Steven Sidebotham:  "Late Roman Berenike"
Anthony Spalinger:  "Review Article: Ancient Egyptian Calendars:  How Many Were There?"
plus a review of:

David Frankfurter, Religion in Roman Egypt:  Assimilation and Resistance (Robert Steven Bianchi)       

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JOURNAL: Labyrinth

Sqweeee ... the latest couple of issues of Labyrinth, the online journal put out by the Department of Classical studies at the University of Waterloo have been put online. Here are the clickable contents:

October 2003 (issue 82):

Breaking the Vapour Barrier: What Made the Delphic Oracle Work?, L.A. Curchin

The Ancient Spice Trade, Part I:  The Ancient Near East, C. Mundigler

Where the Roman Empire Did Not End, L.L. Neuru

The Magus, David Porreca

March 2004 (Issue 83)

Tiermes (Spain): A Roman City Carved in Stone, L.A. Curchin

The Ancient Spice Trade, Part II: Egypt and North Africa, C. Mundigler

Burnt-off Bakers, L.L. Neuru

Hermes Trismegistus - Prophet or Fraud?, David Porreca

What goes around comes around, Zografia Welch

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HobbyBlog continues to put up some very interesting stuff ... this week, e.g., you can see an Ae 29 with a nice wrestling scene on the back, an ancient counterfeit Antoninianus, an Egyptian coin of Claudius, and others (including a bearded elk!). Always worth a visit ...

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I just came across BlogLatin, by "Joshua", who is using it to practice his "terribly rusty Latin". While most of what's been posted so far has been declension charts, there are some interesting things happening at this blog already. There's a Latin word lookup tool in the sidebar and the post from March 16 has an interesting use of Textile to gloss Latin words on a page. Worth keeping an eye on ...

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ante diem xv kalendas apriles

  • Festival of Mars (Day 19)
  • Quinquatrus (Day 1) -- originally a one-day festival with rites in honour of Minerva, by Ovid's day it had been increased to five days, with the last four involving gladiatorial bouts
  • 303 A.D. -- martyrdom of Pancharius of Nicomedia
  • 363 A.D. -- fire destroys the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine

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REVIEW: From Ha'aretz

Ha'aretz has a review of Paul Veyne, Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths?:

Paul Veyne, a professor at the College de France and one of France's most eminent intellectuals, has written a scholarly, eloquent and occasionally brilliant book that when first published in 1983, was critically acclaimed and translated into a number of languages. Nevertheless, the book is erroneous from start to finish. Its essence can be summed up as follows: The answer to the question in the title is ambiguous. The Greeks both believed and did not believe in their myths. They did not really believe that Minos ordered the building of the labyrinth in Crete to imprison the Minotaur, but they did believe that he was a mighty ruler that built a fleet. They did not believe that Theseus slew the Minotaur, but they did believe in his historic reality. For them the myth was an authentic historic event to which collective memory had added fanciful aspects. All that is needed in order to uncover the truth is to cast out these elements, or as Veyne put it, "to use reason to purify the myth [`logos']."
Veyne's quandary regarding these matters lead him to ask a question regarding the nature of "truth" and its standing in the social sciences and humanities. His basic argument is that human beings do not reveal or uncover the truth. They invent it. In other words, what we call truth is not a perfect model that exists in an external reality, or even a cognitive pattern that helps us grasp this reality. The truth is merely an invention, a random reflection of the internal reality on the culturally dependent screen of our human consciousness. And as such, it has almost no connection with an external reality. Einstein's truth is no different from the truth of the "Iliad." The truth of a myth is no different from rational historical truth. All are products of the imagination.

Veyne's method of reasoning bears quite a strong resemblance to a trend that has recently gained currency among the general public, known as "cultural relativism" (although the concept of cultural relativism also denotes a completely legitimate phenomenon - that it is difficult to understand the system of beliefs of one culture using the concepts of another). This generous philosophy seeks to advance the noble ideals of social justice and gender, class, racial and cultural equality through the blurring of existing boundaries. Sometimes it does so at the price of the reduction, and occasionally the sacrifice, of achievements or cultural values that have been viewed until now as important. The principal means at its disposal is reduction.

The main principles of this philosophy can be summed up in the statement that is usually used both as a basic assumption and conclusion: "There is after all no significant difference between X and Y." There is, for example, no real difference between the truth of modern science and the truth of a tribal myth. After all, modern science is also a form of mythology, one cooked up by the members of the tribe of the West. [more]

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NUNTII: Latin in Scotland Redux

For those wondering why I'm posting so much of this, it's primarily because there is so much news coverage of it. I can't think of a time when a similar issue received similar press in a North American newspaper. Many folks reading rogueclassicism might also not be aware of the threat to Latin programs and Classics programs that many institutions went through in the 1980s and early 1990's, so it's useful to see how such a thing might play out. In any event, here's the latest from the Scotsman:

LEADING academics have joined forces to protest at the planned suspension of the last remaining training course in Scotland for classics teachers.

The move by Strathclyde University has provoked concerns that it may lead to the disappearance from the Scottish school curriculum of Latin, Greek and classical studies.

In a letter to The Scotsman today, protesters say they are deeply concerned by the decision, adding: "This course is the only means of entry to the profession for those who wish to teach in state schools in Scotland; if it disappears, classics will disappear from the state sector."

Challenging the decision, the professors and lecturers from Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews universities say the presence of classics enhances schools, not just with linguistic rigour, but with an insight into the origins of our civilisation.

They highlight the strong links with art, architecture, law, philosophy and politics.

Courses in classical studies are booming in universities and in schools south of the Border, they maintain, adding: "The appetite of students in state schools in Scotland is no less - it is simply not being satisfied."

The academics insist funds should be found to meet at least the cost of employing one lecturer in a Scottish university.

Tony Williams, the lecturer in charge of the course, who is due to retire without a replacement this summer, said he welcomed the support for classics.

He added: "It would be a terrible irony if, under the Scottish Executive, we see a situation where only those who pay for education get the choice of classics for their children."

The writers of the letter are Douglas Cairns, professor of Classics-elect at Edinburgh University; Robert Crawford, professor of Modern Scottish Literature at St Andrews University; Roger Green, professor of Humanity at Glasgow University; Ronald Knox, senior teacher of Greek and Greek history, Glasgow University, and Elizabeth Moignard, chair of the Classical Association of Scotland.

Alas ... the letter doesn't seem to be online.

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CHATTER: Say it With Pride!

S. Georgia Nugent, recently installed as president of Kenyon College comments on swimming coach Jim Steen in the New York Times' sports pages:

S. Georgia Nugent, the first-year president of Kenyon College, recalled her first impression upon meeting Steen.

"He had such a winning way about him, that I thought, `I want to be on his team,' " she said. "He's a phenomenon. Very charismatic. But what impressed me most was his perspective. He sees swimming as just another part of the college, as an educational experience, and that academics supersede the athletic experience, which is extracurricular. I'm a classicist, and the ancient Greeks emphasized the balance and values of both mind and body. Jim invokes the best of those two elements."

Nice that she doesn't feel she has to gloss what a classicist is ...

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CHATTER: Wedding Rings

I've woken up all cranky because of the snow I had to shovel the other day, so let's start today's festivities with a mini-rant ... some online reportrix at WRAL has a piece on wedding rings and who should wear them ... inter alia she mentions:

Then it occurred to me: perhaps the world has it backward, not me. After all, gender roles can change over time and place, and so has the purpose of wedding rings.

For Romans, rings were a token of purchase.

Wow ... clearly this one learned everything they know about Roman marriage in a 'Women's Studies' class ... Romans didn't have 'wedding rings'. They had  something akin to an engagement ring (anulus pronubus), which was usually made of iron and sent to the betrothed (as opposed to being placed on the finger by the dewy-eyed suitor) as a gift.

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AWOTV: On TV Today

7.00 p.m. |HINT| The Myth of Cleopatra
Journey through Egypt, Greece, and Italy as we search for the real
woman behind the myth of Cleopatra VII, the last Egyptian queen.
Drawing on archaeology and ancient texts, we see how the historical
ruler squares with modern depiction. A consummate politician, she was
faithful to both Caesar and Antony, but foremost Egypt!

8.00 p.m. |DISCC| Who Killed Julius Caesar
Historians writers and film-makers have puzzled over the
assassination of Julius Caesar for centuries. Using the latest
technology and modern profiling techniques experts reveal the truth
behind history's most famous crime.

9.00 p.m. |DCIVC| The True Story of the Roman Arena

Channel Guide

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Click for Athens, Greece Forecast

Click for Rome, Italy Forecast

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