Most recent update:4/1/2004; 5:07:52 AM

 Tuesday, March 23, 2004

satis superque for the evening, I think ...
7:14:03 PM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Acropolis Museum

Kathimerini has a very brief item which gives an idea of how strange the strange turn this saga has taken is:

PASOK deputy and former Culture Minister Theodoros Pangalos yesterday called for the resignation of the current deputy culture minister, Petros Tatoulis, for his having lodged a suit — before he entered the Cabinet — against officials involved in plans to build the new Acropolis Museum. The charges were linked with the alleged destruction of antiquities to allow preliminary construction work. “Now Tatoulis is ordering his own legal advisers to fight the suit which he himself lodged,” Pangalos declared in Parliament.

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CHATTER: Lead in the Water

Nice to see Trevor Hodge is still kicking around:

Every day seems to bring another dire headline about lead in the water -- which reminded me of the capital of another superpower that was allegedly laid low by the heavy metal. We're talking about ancient Rome, which, some people say, fell because those decadent toga-wearers scrambled their brains by quaffing water that traveled through lead pipes.

"The belief is in fact very widespread," says A. Trevor Hodge, a retired classics professor from Carleton University in Ottawa and the world's leading expert on Roman aqueducts. "People are always coming up with it."

And why not? Ancient Rome did have what we've all come to know as "lead service lines." Massive masonry aqueducts and tunnels carried water to the edges of cities, where smaller lead tubes piped the life-giving fluid into homes and public fountains.

Anyone who's seen "I, Claudius" or "Gladiator" would have no trouble believing that something made Rome's elite go cuckoo.

"The people who say this are basing it on one or two emperors," says Hodge. "Like Caligula. Well okay, he was a head case. . . . Commodus certainly was no great shakes either. But the whole population? All through the empire? That's a different story."

The water, says Hodge, was blameless, and for reasons that seem strangely familiar today.

Most of Rome's water came from springs that bubbled up through limestone. The high lime content of the water meant that the insides of the lead pipes were coated with calcium carbonate. And since the Romans didn't add corrosive chloramines to their water, this protective layer stayed put, insulating the water from the lead. Also, there were no water meters or taps in Roman households. The H 2 O flowed pretty much nonstop.

"Because of that, [the water] never stays in the pipe," says Hodge. Romans didn't have to flush their taps for 10 minutes before drinking.

Romans did occasionally suffer from lead poisoning, but it was probably due to the lead glazes that lined the inside of the wine jugs known as amphorae, Hodge says.

And anyway, the Roman empire didn't just collapse overnight because of some single catastrophic event. Hodge blames Edward Gibbon's "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" for putting such notions in people's heads.

"If it took them a thousand years to decline and fall, it must have been hellish good to start with," says Hodge.

As for the American empire, we've got about 800 years to go. [from the Washington Post]

Folks wanting to know more about the Romans and lead can read the great discussion we had on the Classics list a while back ... edited for readability as a 'Golden Thread' at my Atrium website (in the midst of a facelift necessitated by this blog).

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CHATTER: Alexander the Great and Beards

I keep threatening to grow a beard (and grow my hair ... LOTR can be semi-inspiring in that way) while my wife shudders in horror/laughs with derision. She knows that I can't really grow a beard, since I have two strategic 'bald spots' on my face which pretty much preclude it. In any event, you can see why I was attracted on several levels to this item:

After two weeks of effort, of massaging my jowls and willing hairs to spring from my skin, my beard was a scraggly, patchy, multicolored mess that -- according to an expert -- made me look like white trash. It had been verbally decimated in the time it takes to open a bottle of beer.

Clearly, I had failed again.

Jon ran his index finger along his jaw line, illustrating a full, even, manly man pelt of a beard that he was sporting.

"This took me two days," he said.

"Alexander the Great couldn't grow a beard," I snapped at my brother defensively. "He famously made the clean-shaven look very trendy."

Jon raised an eyebrow and rolled his response around in his head for a few seconds. For a moment, I feared that he would decree Alexander the Great was white trash. Think of the shockwave that would send through the academic world!

"You're stupid," Jon said.

"Ha! Stupidity is not your field of study," I shouted, and scampered away before he could taunt me anymore.

Admittedly, if Alexander the Great wasn't white trash, he was probably really annoying. Imagine him at a high school reunion:

YOU: "Alex? Alex the Great? Hey, buddy, I haven't seen you since we were in old man Aristotle's class together. What have you been up to?"
ATG: "Well, I've conquered the whole of the known world and I'm pretty sure that I'm a god."
YOU: "Ah, I see. I'm gonna go get some more punch."

Still, it had become clear once again that I would have to adhere to Alexander's fashion sense and remain clean-shaven. And in all honesty, I was somewhat happy to receive my brother's abuse -- my beard was itching like a sailor on leave in Amsterdam. It was the itchiest itch in all of itchydom. It registered a 9.6 on the Itchter scale.  [more from the Bakersfield Channel]

6:57:33 PM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Passionate About Alexander?

Dunno how many rogueclassicism readers are Yugioh fans (or even know what Yugioh cards are), but there is a spell card called "Ominous Fortune Telling". For some reason, that phrase popped into my head when this turned up in the scan:

The Olympics this summer in Greece will bring a great amount of focus to the region and Macedonia can benefit from some of that exposure. And, in November, the first of two major films on the life of Alexander the Great will be released. The first, by award-winning director Oliver Stone, is titled simply "Alexander" but promises to be a major Hollywood production, in the area of $200 million in production costs, turning it into a giant advertisement for Macedonia. The controversy over Alexander will no doubt continue (it rages even now as I write this) and the Greeks will do their part to either promote or savage the film, based on what angle Mr. Stone takes. And the following autumn, 2005, yet another major production comes out on the life of Alexander. [from Reality Macedonia]

I suspect any controversy won't get as much coverage as the Passion ...

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UPDATE: That Crocodile from Naples

Alas, the crocodile from Naples turns out not so be such. According to the Corriere della Sera, closer examination proved it to be a simple bovine which had been butchered and tossed away. Oh well ...

6:38:58 PM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

NUNTII: Classics in Scotland

The latest ...

FEARS that Scottish schools may have to remove classics from the curriculum because of difficulties in recruiting qualified teachers, have been scotched by the teaching profession’s regulatory body.

The decision of Strathclyde University to suspend the only training course in Scotland for classics teachers has provoked concern that Latin, Greek and classical studies may eventually disappear from schools north of the Border.

But the General Teaching Council of Scotland, which grants permission to teach here, says that schools will be able to recruit staff from other countries providing the council calculates their qualifications are equivalent to the standards it stipulates for applicants trained at Scottish institutions.

Matt MacIver, the council’s chief executive, said: "Any teacher meeting the entry requirements for classics, regardless of where they come from, will be granted registration with the General Teaching Council for Scotland. Classics is treated in the same way as any other subject."

Responding to instructions from the Scottish Executive, Strathclyde University suspended the course because of poor demand.

In a circular, the Executive said there was little point in training teachers and funding their probationary year in schools at a cost of £23,000 if there was no job at the end of it. The Executive stated: "This is both expensive to the public purse and the individuals concerned have very uncertain career prospects." [more from the Scotsman]

6:34:01 PM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

NUNTII: Illegal 'Private Museum' in Spain

Check this out:

Spanish authorities have uncovered an illegal archeological museum featuring more than 5,000 priceless artifacts looted from Phoenician, Iberian, Roman and Islamic sites in the southern region of Andalusia, the civil guard announced yesterday.

The museum, located in a house basement in Aguilar de la Frontera in southern Spain, displayed "a priceless private collection," a spokesman told reporters. He said one person was arrested.

The pieces included a statue of the Roman god of wine, Bacchus, from the second century BC, a Roman sarcophagus containing remains of a slave with a ring around his neck, a collection of Roman, Greek and Islamic coins, bronze-age weapons and a collection of 16th- and 17th-century books. [from the Globe and Mail's entertainment pages]

I hope we get to see the sarcophagus ...

6:28:41 PM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

NUNTII: Virtual Elgin Marbles

A zillion folks have sent this to me (thanks!) and it's on all the lists, so it must be good ... from the BBC:

They're still magnificent nearly 2,500 years after being carved, but the sculptures of the Parthenon are a bit like sad ghosts - pale, battered, half-lost and spread far and wide.

The fragments are strewn across 10 museums in eight countries. The Greeks are keen to reunite these in a purpose-built museum within sight of the ruined temple the frieze once adorned.

But the British Museum, the guardian of the Elgin Marbles - which were cut from the Parthenon 200 years ago - is reluctant to let its prized possession go. Its argument goes that half the Parthenon sculptures are lost forever, and the rest are so scattered and damaged that it is no longer possible to recreate them in any real sense. A better solution is a computer reconstruction, which will give a more complete sense of how the whole might once have looked.

The University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies is at work on just such as project. It has produced 152 high-resolution models of the sculptures, and produced images which show each in its original position.

And work has begun on a separate scheme to laser scan each piece of the scattered stones at the National Museums Liverpool's conservation centre. Sculpture department head John Larson hopes to use the scans to produce marble copies.[more]

6:17:50 PM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Grecian Urn

What's a Grecian Urn? Apparently, pretty much the same as a Korean ... (not really)

Sorry ... couldn't resist.

5:54:35 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


ante diem x kalendas apriles

  • Festival of Mars (day 23)
  • Tubilustrum -- as part of the general military preparations which are associated with the festival of Mars, the 'war horns' (tubae) were ritually cleaned
  • Quinquatrus (day 5) -- final day of the gladiator fest

5:45:59 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

TTT: Demos

I'm not sure when this one hit the web or how I missed it, but the junta who brought you the Stoa have a nice page called Demos: Classical Athenian Democracy. Here's their 'mission statement':

Our goal is to build a digital encyclopedia of classical Athenian democracy that will be useful to a wide audience. We hope to describe the history, institutions, and people of democratic Athens in the 5th and 4th centuries BCE, to publish the efforts of scholars to answer questions about Athenian democracy, and to invite you, our audience, to explore, discover, and judge for yourselves.

Well, in my judgement, they're off to an incredible start. There are a pile of papers that are downloadable (and under a Creative Commons license!) on various aspects of Athenian democracy -- here's a random selection from a 'special collection' (I'm not providing links to these ... it's best to go to the site itself):

Law and Economy · Edward Harris (Brooklyn College)

Athenian Homicide Law: Case Studies · Michael Gagarin (U. Texas at Austin)

Sycophancy and Attitudes toward Litigation · Matthew Christ (U. Indiana)

Women and Family in Athenian Law · Konstantinos Kapparis (U. Florida)

Punishment in Ancient Athens · Danielle Allen (U. Chicago)

Gadfly on Trial: Socrates as Citizen and Social Critic · Josiah Ober (Princeton)

Definitely worth a visit if you have even a remote interest in scholarly approaches to Athenian democracy.

5:38:09 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

ARTICLE: From Military History

Margaret Donsbach, Celtic War Queen Who Challenged Rome

She slaughtered a Roman army. She torched Londinium, leaving a charred layer almost half a meter thick that can still be traced under modern London. According to the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus, her army killed as many as 70,000 civilians in Londinium, Verulamium and Camulodunum, rushing "to cut throats, hang, burn, and crucify." Who was she? Why was she so angry?

Most of Boudica's life is shrouded in mystery. She was born around AD 25 to a royal family in Celtic Britain, and as a young woman she married Prasutagus, who later became king (a term adopted by the Celts, but as practiced by them, more of an elected chief) of the Iceni tribe. They had two daughters, probably born during the few years immediately after the Roman conquest in ad 43. She may have been Iceni herself, a cousin of Prasutagus, and she may have had druidic training. Even the color of her hair is mysterious. Another Roman historian, Cassius Dio -- who wrote long after she died -- described it with a word translators have rendered as fair, tawny, and even flaming red, though Dio probably intended his audience to picture it as golden-blonde with perhaps a reddish tinge. Her name meant "victory." [more]

5:13:03 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: More Thoughts on Scotland and Classics

The conclusion of another piece on the Classics crisis in Scotland makes a couple of points -- one which the rogueclassicist has been making for years, and one which is rather new (I think):

But classics scholars tempted to lament "O tempora! O mores!" can take some comfort from the potential Braveheart effect of the wave of Hollywood "sword and sandals" epics about to hit cinema screens, prompted by the success of Gladiator and liable to include three different films based on Alexander the Great alone. "Films do have an effect on public interest," agrees Knox. "Even the bad history can be useful in stimulating interest."

And an impassioned plea for the classics comes from Valerio Massimo Manfredi, Italian archaeologist and author of a trilogy of novels on Alexander the Great as well as The Last Legion, all of which have inspired and informed films currently in production.

"Let’s imagine that in 500 years’ time, or a thousand, English has become a dead language, replaced, perhaps, by Chinese. And let’s imagine that it is learned only in schools and universities, much as ancient Greek and Latin are now. At that point someone might claim that the study of English had become completely useless because it is a dead language and should be abolished in favour of other subjects, more functional and suitable to the times.

"In theory, this wouldn’t mean much; in practice it would be a disaster. No-one would be able to read Chaucer,Shakespeare, Milton, Blake, Dickens, Joyce, etc, any longer.

"This is why it would be a serious mistake to close the last institutions which cultivate the study of these so-called ‘dead’ languages."

We neglect Latin and Greek at our peril, warns Manfredi, who goes so far as to point to Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 - about a future society that bans books. Greek and Latin, he argues, like music, poetry and art, are "vaccines against homogenisation, globalisation … the subjugation of minds." [more from the Scotsman]

4:47:41 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

REVIEW: Lysistrata

A generally favourable review of a performance at Loyola... I can only imagine what this will do to my traffic:

They wouldn't allow "The Vagina Monologues" at Loyola University, but apparently "Sock Puppetry of the Penis" is okay. The phallic imagery in Aristophanes' bawdy comedy "Lysistrata" has always been there, but it really stands out in the free and frisky new translation by Wilfred Major, directed in brisk, lusty fashion by Don Brady. Kellie Grengs' audacious, bodacious costume designs make quite an impression, too, with laughably large, sock-clad phalluses for the warriors that are clearly military appendages, since they often stand at attention. One even lights up.

Lysistrata, in revolt against the extended hostilities between Athens and Sparta, organizes women from both cities, who are tired of losing sons to the war and waiting for their husbands to return from the battlefield. Her plan is simple: seize and occupy the Acropolis, move in and withhold sex from their soldier boys until the macho males suffer enough to see the wisdom of making love, not war.
Major's adaptation and songs by composer J. Dan Stanley, with lyrics by Major and Brady add a contemporary, hip-hop overlay to the -- alas -- always-relevant story. Patriotic standards such as the World War I "Over There" and the Vietnam-era "Ballad of the Green Berets" are given new lyrics that build with the original songs in jubilantly raunchy fashion to an extremely blunt summation of the play that had its young audience cheering in wholehearted agreement.

4:37:59 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

AWOTV: On TV Today

9.00 p.m. |HISTC| Metropolis: Carthage
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
historical circumstance.

9.00 p.m. |PBS| Unearthing Secret America
The great arc of early American history is brought to life through
three tremendous archeological finds: Jamestown fort reveals the
struggles of the colonists; slave quarters at Monticello and
Williamsburg introduce viewers to a secret world for the first time;
and the recently discovered Confederate submarine, Hunley - which
carried out the world's first successful submarine attack and then
failed to return - brings the Civil War into vivid close up. [check
local listings]

11.00 p.m. |HINT| The Sunken City
The ancient Roman city of Ostia was once a vital seaport. Yet it
died a slow, painful death. This documentary explores the reasons for
its demise and looks at the abandoned wasteland today.

Channel Guide

4:27:27 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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