Most recent update:4/1/2004; 5:09:36 AM

 Wednesday, March 31, 2004


pridie kalendas apriles

  • rites in honour of Luna at her temple on the Aventine
  • c. 130 A.D. -- martyrdom of Balbina
  • 250 (?) A.D. -- birth of the future emperor Constantius I Chlorus

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AUDIO: Father Foster

Father Foster brings along the liber usualis, which used to contain a pile of the Latin your average monk used on a daily basis (or something like that). Plenty of vocabulary which applies to Holy Week (and other holy weeks) ... Some nice Latin hymns too (including ones I play in class all the time!)  Past programs available at the Latin Lover website.

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CHATTER: Afghan Ethnicity

A piece on various ethnic groups in Afghanistan includes the following:

The Nuristanis are another group scattered throughout the country. They claim descent through the Greeks of Alexander the Great. After Alexander's death in 323 B.C., Seleucus, one of his generals founded a dynasty that eventually became the Nuristanis.

FWIW ...

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EXHIBITION: Roman Portraiture

Vixerunt Omnes: Romani ex Imaginibus is currently on in Japan and has been given a lengthy review in Japan Times.

Ancient Romans knew all about personality cults. Successful gladiators were the Beckhams and Ichiros of their day, celebrated in graffiti scrawled on city walls. Emperors from the time of Augustus (27 B.C.-A.D. 14) took it all one step further, with an official "cult" of the imperial personage that saw statues of rulers installed in dedicated temples known as sabasteia. The more ambitious among them (or perhaps the more unstable) sought to replace the empire's pre-existing religions, and in A.D. 41 all hell broke loose when the mad Emperor Caligula gave orders that a statue of himself be erected in the sacred precinct of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
So visitors to the National Museum of Western Art finding themselves face to face with Julius Caesar or Augustus in the new show "Vixerunt Omnes: Romani ex Imaginibus" should be aware they're eyeballing not a person so much as a phenomenon. Though Rome's was the largest empire the world had then seen, with 5 million inhabitants within its borders circa A.D. 14, the individual mattered. Ridley Scott's 2000 blockbuster "Gladiator" may have been a load of Hollywood hokey, but it reflected one fundamental truth about imperial Rome: Personality was destiny.

As such, the portraiture on show is less about aesthetics than advertising, the flaunting of personal achievement. Even those of humble rank commissioned elaborate monuments, enjoying Andy Warhol's "five minutes of fame" until the next smart slab went up. (It's ironic that these most mundane of artworks have, by their survival, won a kind of immortality for their owners.)

We're talking posthumous fame, though, as for those outside the imperial family, funerary portraiture was most common. This generally took the form of sculptural bas reliefs, but also breathtaking -- as showcased in a groundbreaking exhibition, "Ancient Faces," produced jointy by the British Museum and the New York Met in 2000 -- were portraits painted on coffin lids.

This Tokyo exhibition focuses on sculpture and the curators have assembled a selection from the Vatican Museums, whose marble halls are so stuffed with treasures that even the finest pieces here are surely barely missed back in Rome. These funerary monuments, produced to mark the passing of folk from all walks of life, often lack artistic refinement, but they possess a vigor and liveliness that reaches through the centuries. In that sense, many of these ancient artifacts speak more clearly to us than images from centuries nearer our own: starchy Renaissance portraits, for example, or formal Victorian-era photographs.

There is the slab of the Servili family, dignified Romans neatly labeled in schoolbook Latin: "Hilarus Pater (Hilarus, the father)" and "Globulus F[ilius] (Globulus, the son)." Young Globulus grasps his toga with the same self-assured gesture as his mother, while between them the paterfamilias calmly rests a hand on his breast. Their poise and confidence was hard won -- they are a family of freedmen, former slaves. Their monument is a testimony to their successful social climbing. [more ... quite a few photos of objects from the exhibition]


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NUNTII: Nemean Games Redux

I think we've mentioned this before, but it's worth bringing up again ... just prior to the Olympic Games, this year, the revived Nemean Games will be held. Here's some excerpts from the U.C. Berkeley News:

Just weeks before the 2004 Summer Olympic Games begin in Athens, ancient footraces that gave birth to the Olympics will be revived in a tiny Greek town 80 miles away — the result of more than 30 years of research by the University of California, Berkeley.

In Ancient Nemea, where the campus continues to excavate an athletic site used some 2,300 years ago for the original Panhellenic Games, more than 1,000 people from around the world are expected to converge on July 31 to sprint barefoot and in tunics down the same track used by ancient Greeks.

Today (Tuesday, March 30), the Olympic torch, lit five days ago in Olympia, Greece, passed through Ancient Nemea beneath overcast skies and entered the 45-acre archaeological site. There, in a stadium crowded with more than 5,000 people, Ukranian Valery Borzov, a 1972 Olympic gold medalist in the 100- and 200-meter sprints, ran with the torch past the flags of Greece, the United States and the University of California, through the ancient entrance tunnel and onto the track.

At the end of the track, Borzov used the torch to light a flame on the altar that will burn through the end of July. The Olympic torch then continued on its five-continent relay, which culminates in Athens on Aug. 13.

The New Nemean Games, as they’re known, were first held at the site in 1996 and have continued to take place every four years, just like the modern Olympic Games. But unlike the Olympics, the Nemean event is for untrained runners, awards no medals, can’t be seen on TV and is not sponsored by famous corporations.

"The Olympic movement is a symbol of the nobler aspirations of our human race. But it also is increasingly removed from those who are not extraordinarily athletically gifted," said Stephen Miller, the UC Berkeley classical archaeology professor who has led digs in the village since 1973 and promotes the New Nemean Games.

The word "Panhellenic," he said, means "open to all Greeks." The Olympics are a direct descendant of the Panhellenic Games, which were held in Nemea, Olympia, Isthmia and Delphi.

Miller said that he and the villagers consider the 2004 New Nemean Games "a supplement, a complement, to the Olympics, because officials (planning the Olympics) have paid little attention to antiquities. They seem more concerned about showing Athens as a modern place."

Dr. Aristotelis Kallis, president of the Society for the Revival of the Nemean Games, added that the New Nemean Games are a "little sister" to the Olympics, but that, unlike this summer’s games in Athens, they "will always be at Nemea, and that is due, ultimately, to the University of California."

The Nemean Games could not have been revived without the UC Berkeley research — excavations and subsequent analysis and study — conducted there for decades, said Miller, who joined the faculty in 1973 and plans to retire in December.

"Excavation for its own sake is ridiculous, like carrying out an experiment in a lab without application," he said. "Scholarly publications are important, but so are making results available to the general public."
Miller and his students have made headlines for unearthing important antiquities at the site — the stadium and track; an entrance tunnel to the track, lined with the graffiti of ancient athletes; a temple of Zeus; a bathhouse; and what’s considered the world’s oldest remaining athletic locker room.

In 1993, Miller led the reconstruction at the track of an ancient starting device made of wood, rope and cord that once launched the foot races in antiquity. A major project now in the works is the reconstruction of the temple, where athletes made sacrifices before competing. So far, two toppled columns of the original 34 are back in place — happily, said Miller, three others were not among those thrown down by vandals in 435 A.D.


For the 100-meter sprint, runners are organized by age and gender in groups of 12. They enter the ancient locker room, remove their clothes, don a simple tunic, and walk through the long entrance tunnel to await their turn on the track. After receiving a lane assignment drawn from a helmet, they take their places at the starting block and wait for a signal to begin the races. A 7.5 kilometer race also is run — from the ancient temple of Herakles near the town of Kleonai to the stadium.

The winner of each race immediately receives a ribbon around the head and a palm branch, and is awarded a crown of wild celery at the day’s end.

"We want to give participants something of the feeling of an athlete in the fourth century B.C.," said Miller. "The direct contact of bare feet on ancient soil and starting blocks creates a sense of history that has to be experienced to be understood. Many people describe the chill bumps they felt as they passed through the entrance tunnel, from the 21st century A.D. to the fourth B.C." [more]

The Nemea 2004 website ...

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AWOTV: On TV Today

10.00 p.m. |HINT| Time Team:Beauport Park, Sussex
A Roman bathhouse unearthed near a huge mound of iron slag near the
golf course at Beauport Park, Sussex, England, leads host Tony
Robinson (Baldrick in "Blackadder") to ask: "What is a Roman
bathhouse doing here completely on its own, 40 miles from the nearest
Roman town?" The search for other Roman buildings is on. There could
be a lost city or forgotten fort, and Time Team, aided by surveyors,
geophysicists, and even a dowser, have just three days to find it.

HINT = History International

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