Wednesday, March 24, 2004
... to Jim Davila's Paleojudaica blog! One year old today! JD's big post today is a nice overview of things he's covered over the past year (and other reflections) ... it will give you a good idea of what Paleojudaica is all about if you've never visited.
THIS DAY IN ANCIENT HISTORY
ante diem ix kalendas apriles
- Festival of Mars (day 24)
- Quando Rex Comitavit Fas -- a somewhat obscure entry in the Roman calendar which seems to hearken back to the days of the monarchy. A plausible explanation connects this with the fact that this was one of the days when the ancient Comitia Calata would 'witness' wills, and so other legal matters could not take place until the king had dismissed the comitia.
AUDIO: Father Foster
I haven't had a chance to listen yet, but according to the blurb at the Latin Lover website, Father Foster talks about Latin being the pragmatic language of a pragmatic people. Listen ...
CHATTER: Terrorism and the Trojan War
Interesting piece in Malaysia's New Straits:
Contrast against that the most influential war in literary history - Greeks vs Trojans about three millennia ago. Thousands bit the dust, if Homer is to believed, and over what? A single act of adultery. Helen ran away with Paris, and her accordingly cuckolded husband, Menelaos, wasn't about to take any of it standing still. So he stomped off to make an oversized fuss with the aid of his brother Agamemnon, king of Argos, numerous notable heroes and an enormous, if not entirely eager, fighting force. A 10-year conflict ensued, culminating in the sack of Ilium and the end of the Trojans, who must have gone a bit soft in the head anyway, to have fallen for that scam with the big horse and all.
But I feel sorry for the average Trojan and Greek, forced into battle by the tremulous emotions of their rulers. Homer does not leave their plight entirely unacknowledged -book four of the Iliad ends with a bleak image of Trojan and Greek corpses lying side-by-side on the battlefield. Even more tellingly, when Agamemnon attempts to test his soldiers' mettle by inciting them to give up and go home, he is surprised to find them all too eager to pack up and board the ships.
In Aeschylus' Agamemnon several references are made to the discontent that wells up back home in Argos as the long war draws to a close. Not least among the grumblers is Clytaemnestra, Agamemnon's wife, whose child was sacrificed by her husband (!) in order to allow safe passage to Troy - making her, and the child, participants in war regardless of their will. Like the lead character in Terrence Mallick's outstanding film, The Thin Red Line, a pacifist stuck in the thick of combat, attempting to make sense of carnage and come to terms with the ever-presence of death. War sucks you in against your will, and then all thoughts of its futility or idiocy become moot.
If only we could all be like Dikaiopolis, of Aristophanes' Acharnians, who decides that the Athenian war with Sparta is silly and of no benefit to anyone, and after trying and failing to persuade his fellow Athenians to seek peace decides to negotiate a personal peace between the Spartans and himself. This is the underside of the table - the individual's opinions are given authority and allowed to contradict those of the powers that be. Of course there is symbolism to Aristophanes' protagonist (his name means "the just City", after all), but much of the comedy comes from the thrilling audacity of Dikaiopolis' brazen common sense.
There's a link I want to make here (this isn't just about parading the fact that I've studied Greek literature) between these classical examples of unwilling individuals and the 200 or so individuals who died in the multiple bomb attacks in Madrid recently. Spain is a country where 90 per cent of the population was against the war in Iraq, but could do nothing to stop their government from supporting it anyway. And in order to teach that government a lesson, some morons believed it right to punish people who didn't stand for the things their rulers stood for. This is the thing about terrorism, though - suddenly the impact that armed conflict can have on the individual, who carries individual opinions, becomes numbingly apparent. Close as I felt to Madrid at the time, it became clearer how I would feel if such an attack ever took place in Kuala Lumpur or London. [more]
CHATTER: Another Latin Revival Piece
... sort of. Actually, it's USA Today telling us that Latin is "cool" (so it must be true, right?) via someone who didn't realize it until later in life:
Little did I know back in 1964 that 40 years down the road I would be cool.
The guys who made the basketball team were cool. The kids who smoked behind the Methodist Church every morning before the school bell rang were cool. Donovan was cool.
But not me. I wasn't cool. I took Latin.
It wasn't that I went out of my way to study the dead language. In my rural high school, it was pretty much the only way to gather college entrance credits. Spanish and German hadn't yet made their way to western New York. French was offered only on occasion.
As odd as it seems now, Latin, a language no one spoke, was a ticket out.
So for four years I found myself in Mrs. Byerly's Latin class, translating Caesar and Cicero and Pliny, both elder and younger, thank you very much.
And now I see I was a man far ahead of his time. Latin is hot again.
Newspapers from USA TODAY to The Indianapolis Star have reported that after nearly a half-century lull, studying the language of ancient Rome is cool again. College enrollment in Latin is the highest it has been since the Modern Language Association started keeping track in 1958.
Latin is everywhere, although I can't remember the Latin word for everywhere. Ubique, maybe?
Tina Turner is singing classical songs in Latin in the upcoming Merchant-Ivory film, The Goddess. Irish singer Enya performs Latin tracks on four of her CDs. And The West Wing's President Bartlet speaks in Latin when so provoked.
Even the first Harry Potter book has been translated into Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis.
And now millions are hearing Latin for the first time in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. (It comes with English subtitles for those of you who didn't sign up for Mrs. Byerly's class.)
What would she think of all this newfound attention? She was a practical woman, right down to the glasses that hung from her neck. Trendiness was not her nature. Skepticism was her motto. I suspect she'd quote her old pal Cicero: Nihil est incertius volgo.
Nothing is more uncertain than the crowd. [source]
Not sure about that Tina Turner reference ... according to what I've been reading (for example, this) she's playing the Hindu goddess Shakti ...
AWOTV: On TV Today
8.00 p.m.|DISCU| Lost City of Pompeii: Secrets of the Dead
Journey to the playground of the Roman aristocracy, Herculaneum.
Buried by the same volcanic eruption that leveled Pompeii, this city
of luxurious villas, magnificent arcades and extensive library
collections holds clues to the Roman's riches.
9.00 p.m.|DISCU| Colosseum: A Gladiator's Story
In ancient Rome, Verus fights his way out of slavery to train as a
gladiator. He is chosen to fight in the inaugural games at an
extraordinary amphitheatre. The games of the Colosseum involved
killing and torture and they lasted for hundreds of years.
9.00 p.m. |HINT| Lost Civilizations: Aegean: Legacy of Atlantis
This episode of the Emmy Award-winning series explores ancient
civilizations that spread through the Aegean Sea and searches for
historical roots of some of Western civilization's oldest legends,
including an examination of ruins on the Greek Island of Thera for
the basis of the Atlantis legend. On Crete, the Greek mainland, and
Turkey, we follow the trail of clues that leads from ancient myths to
evidence of the Trojan War, Trojan Horse, Minoan civilization, and
the Minotaur. Sam Waterston narrates.
10.00 p.m.|DISCU| Seven Wonders of Ancient Rome
Recreate these spectacular, awe-inspiring monuments. The men who
envisioned the Pantheon, the Aqueducts of Rome, the Via Appia, the
Baths of Caracalla, Trajan's Markets, Circus Maximus and the
Colosseum created the epitome of human achievement.