Most recent update:4/1/2004; 5:08:08 AM

 Thursday, March 25, 2004


ante diem viii kalendas apriles

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CHATTER: More on Danielle Allen

Classicist Richard Saller comments on Danielle Allen's recent appointment at the University of Chicago:

Danielle S. Allen, a professor of classics and political science at the university since 1997, will be in charge of 15 departments under the humanities umbrella as of July 1. She is best known for her 2000 book, The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens. The professor will succeed Janel M. Mueller, 65, a literary scholar who has served as dean since 1999.

"Humanities needs a very strong, clear-eyed spokesman, and I think she stands a chance of being that on the national level," says the provost, Richard P. Saller.

Ms. Allen won a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, commonly known as a "genius" grant, in 2001 for her work in political theory. In September the University of Chicago Press will publish her second book, Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship Since Brown v. Board of Education, which looks at the history of Little Rock, Ark., and other cities through the lens of Aristotle's Rhetoric.

She plans to apply certain insights from that study to her job as dean. "I am working on connecting the humanities division to the work going on now with redevelopment of the South Side" of Chicago, she says. "People often think that humanities disciplines aren't very practical or relevant because we don't ask questions that have immediate consequences or obvious outcomes. In fact, from my point of view, that feature of humanistic scholarship is really crucial."

Can one draw any conclusions from Ms. Allen's scholarship about how she will act in her new post? "My own view is that in a general sense, she has very good political instincts," says Mr. Saller, who is also a classicist. "The University of Chicago is not democratic Athens by any stretch of the imagination." [Chronicle]

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In anticipation of an upcoming documentary on the subject, the Telegraph has a huge feature on Troy:

It's one of the greatest stories ever; the tale of a war fought over the love of Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world.

Now as Hollywood breathes fresh life into the myth, archaeologists have uncovered new evidence from the site of Troy that brings us closer than ever to the truth behind this ancient legend.

The story of the Trojan War is said to have been composed by the Greek poet Homer in the 8th century BC. But scholars believe the story is set hundreds of years earlier, towards the end of the Bronze Age, sometime between 1200 and 1300 BC.

In the legend Helen is married to Menelaus, the king of Sparta. But she is seduced by a Trojan prince, Paris, and taken away to the city of Troy.

Menelaus appeals to his brother, Agamemnon. In the myth he is a mighty king, able to assemble a coalition of Greeks from the mainland and the islands. They set sail for Troy in a fleet of a thousand ships.

The siege of Troy lasts 10 years. Agamemnon's army is unable to break the city's great walls, so they resort to trickery. The Greeks leave a wooden horse outside the city gates and the Trojans drag it in. Greek warriors jump out and open the gates for their army. Troy is then razed.

The reason the legend retains such a powerful grip on our imagination is clear to Dr Eric Cline of George Washington University, who has worked at Troy.

"The whole story of the Trojan War is a compelling one for the ages - it's love and war, it's greed, it's desire. You name it, it has elements that compel the human psyche, and have for millennia."

Dr Cline is interested in how archaeology can help us discover whether the legend is based on real historical events. "Is there a nugget, a kernel of truth at the base of this story around which everything else is wrapped?

"Is there some historical war which took place that Homer wrapped in layer after layer, so it became much more than just a single battle, a single conflict, much more than just a war? It became a story, an epic, a saga."

Archaeology's first efforts to answer these questions got off to an unsteady start. Heinrich Schliemann took up archaeology after making a fortune in business. He was in no doubt that the myth was true, and set off to find the city of Troy. He is a controversial figure, regarded as both brilliant and something of a scoundrel.

Following clues from the pages of Homer, Schliemann believed he'd located the site of Troy on what is now the Turkish coast, close to the Dardanelles, the waterway that separates Europe from Asia. In 1870 he began to excavate. [much more]

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CHATTER: That's a Relief

Nice intro to a town meeting piece:

On March 15 in the year 44 B. C., the infamous Ides of March in the old Roman calendar, Dictator for Life Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by colleagues in the forum of the senate house. Nothing of the sort occurred at the town meeting in the all-purpose room of Killingworth Elementary School on March 15 this year. Rather, a quiet gathering of about 30 townsfolk unanimously approved five items of town business without much stir. [Clinton Record]

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CHATTER: Athens Olympics

The local papers and sports radio stations have had plenty to say about the problems completing athletic venues for the upcoming games ... alas, there are other things that will not be as advertised:

The most famous building on the Acropolis will still be partially obscured by scaffolding during the August Olympics, while half of another important temple on Greece’s top tourist attraction will be missing, officials admitted yesterday.

During a visit yesterday to the ancient citadel, where a massive and painstaking conservation project is under way on the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Propylaea, Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis was given an outline of the time schedules involved.

The previous government had pressed archaeologists and conservators to try to have the archaeological site free of metal scaffolding for the benefit of the wave of tourists expected in town during the Games.

But yesterday, it was made clear that only the Propylaea — the monumental entrance to the citadel — will be uncluttered in the summer. The adjacent Temple of Athena Nike has been taken to pieces for conservation and restoration, and will only be half reassembled by August.

And the most important of the three fifth-century BC monuments, the Parthenon, will still have its northern colonnade covered in scaffolding. But ongoing work on other sections is expected to be finished before the Olympics. And conservation of the sculptured frieze will be finished in the spring, although it is unclear if this will be displayed in the cramped Acropolis Museum. [a bit more from Kathimerini]

5:16:50 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Why the Mass Should be in Latin

The Zenit News Agency has a little feature on Archbishop John Foley's love of Latin, which concludes thusly:

Archbishop Foley still celebrates the Mass in Latin sometimes, and even speaks Latin with some non-English-speaking bishops. The universal nature of the language impresses him.

"That's why I think it is important to be able to train people to participate in Mass in Latin, especially the sung part," he said.

"Ironically, when people did not travel very much, Mass was in Latin," he added. "Now that they travel a lot and want to be able to understand and identify with what's going on; [they can't because] they don't speak the local language."

... and alas, in some churches I've been to while travelling, you can't even hear what's going on because of all the local language being spoken in the pews ...

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TTT: Biological Nomenclature

Saw this on the Forteana list ... This is somewhat borderline as rogueclassicism fodder, but I'll make the excuse that the Latin names of various beasties on the Biological Nomenclature page have such excellent puns built into them that they have to be seen. There is, e.g., a  water beetle with the scientific name Ytu brutus and a now-extinct parrot dubbed Vini vidivici.

5:00:29 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

apologies for no update last night ... it's report card time and I was in the throes of real life ... hopefully I can make up for it this a.m. ...

4:48:17 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

AWOTV: On TV Today

8.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Rome: Power and Glory: The Rise

DCIVC = Discovery Civilization (Canada)

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