Most recent update:5/1/2004; 5:36:51 AM

 Sunday, April 18, 2004

I think that's enough for today ...
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CHATTER: Sortes Blogianae

The Virtual Tophet has jumped on the latest craze in blogdom, which seems to be a variation on the sortes Vergilianae:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

So -- not to be outdone -- here goes ... the nearest book was The Oxford Book of Days and the requisite sentence comes from the entry for January 6; it's actually the first verse of Herrick's Twelfe Night, or King and Queene:

Now, now the mirth comes
With the cake full of plums,
Where Beane's the King of the sport here;
Beside we must know,
The Pea also
Must revell, as Queene, in the Court Here

The poem is actually about something called Twelfth cake, a plum-pudding precursor involving a type of pastry in which was hidden a bean and whoever got the bean was king or queen for the night. As regular readers might expect, I've found a Classical connection even for this randomly chosen item. From a page on the history of 'King Cake' (in New Orleans):

In the kingdom of Twelfth Night, the Bean King and the Lord of Misrule were in many ways kindred spirits, as both were expected to infuse the ceremonies with a lively esprit de corps. And in fact, they almost certainly share a common ancestor: the King of Saturnalia, the ancient Lord of Misrule, who presided over the Roman festival held in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture and civilization.

Like other ancient observances tied to the winter solstice, Saturnalia commemorated the death and rebirth of nature. In its earliest, most barbarous form, human sacrifice was performed in hopes of insuring fertility and prosperity.

According to J.G. Frazier's classic study of myth, magic and religion, The Golden Bough, "it was the universal practice in ancient Italy, wherever the worship of Saturn prevailed, to choose a man who played the part and enjoyed all the traditionary privileges of Saturn for a season, and then died, whether by his own or another's hand, whether by knife or fire or on the gallows-tree, in the character of the good god who gave his life for the world."

Eventually this practice gave way to the reign of a mock monarch whose duties were less hazardous. The manner of his choosing related to the mythology surrounding the god Saturn, whose reign was believed to be so just that there were no slaves or private property. Thus it was decreed during Saturnalia that all should be given equal rights, and indeed, even a slave could rule.

Henisch: "Every member of the party had to obey the King's command, and dance, or sing, or jump into a tub of cold water, at the royal whim."  

According to Patrick Dunne, a New Orleans-based dealer in culinary antiques and art who has delved deeply into the origins of and traditions of Twelfth Night, the King of Saturnalia was chosen by throwing dice, drawing a lot, or discovering a fava bean or coin in a piece of cake. For the Romans, the fava bean was not only a symbol of fertility but a dietary staple. "Some people believe the cake was actually made from the beans as well as having the bean in it," says Dunne.

The festival of Saturnalia in the early years of the Roman Republic was observed on one day, December 17, but by the end of the first century A.D. it had morphed into a full week of gambling, feasting and pagan-style revelry. Soon after, the anticipation began to build for the Kalends, a New Year's celebration that ran from the 1st to the 5th of January. "Groups of young men dressed up in animal masks and skins, or women's clothes, and roared through the streets of Rome with the rude, rash boldness that disguises give their wearers," writes Henisch.

To paraphrase the slogan of a semi-local television station: Classics -- Everywhere.

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Just posted to the Jobs Board:

Howard: Roman Civ/Latin (adjuncts)

Stockton College: Greek Language and Lit. (one year)

Nipissing: Generalist (nine-month)

Skidmore: Generalist (one year)

Duke: Greek Art and Archaeology (one year)

Nottingham: Postdocs (two)

Iowa State: Generalist (nine month)

See also the APA's job listings for April

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posting problems ...
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NEWSLETTER: Ancient World on Television

The weekly version of the Ancient World on Television listings have been posted ... Enjoy!

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On the Events Page:

CONF: Cicero Awayday III: Rhetoric and res publica

CONF: Anatomical Knowledge in the Ancient World







Those are on the Events Page ... more bulletin board items (jobs, etc.) later today ...

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NUNTII: Nuntii Latini

The latest headlines from YLE's Nuntii Latini (CanCon in this one too!)

Res in Iraquia gravescunt (16.4.2004)

Cives peregrini in Iraquia obsides (16.4.2004)

Glaciarium Groenlandiae liquefieri (16.4.2004)

Phocae in Canada captantur (16.4.2004)

De rebus Afganistaniae (9.4.2004)

Consilium Cypri uniendae (9.4.2004)

Audi ...

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NUNTII: Crossing the Rubigen

I can't remember if I posted this here, or in Explorator, or in one or both. It's an interesting item sent to me (Thanks TP!) about an alternate theory of what 'Crossing the Rubicon' really was:

They say the phrase refers to a critical juncture in Caesar’s campaign against the Helvetic tribes near Rubigen in 51BC.

“This is bound to be controversial. But the facts are overwhelming,” said project leader Felix auf der Mauer, who has been digging at Rubigen near Bern since 1997.

For almost 20 years, auf der Mauer and his colleagues at Bern University have been shedding new light on Caesar’s campaigns in Switzerland.

Their findings are published in this month’s edition of the historical journal, “Alpenraum”.
Rubigen today is a prosperous village, which lies in the shadow of Belp International Airport, about 15 kilometres south of the capital, Bern.

Some 2,000 years ago, it was a thriving city and headquarters of the warlike Rubigensis tribe.

It is no coincidence that the airport was built here. Since antiquity, Belp has sat astride the trade route which links the Iberian peninsula with Arabia.

By the autumn of 51BC, Caesar had pacified most of the Helvetic tribes and was keen to return to Rome to confront his rivals.

But he was aware that unless he subdued the Rubigensis, the whole territory might erupt in rebellion.

His troops were weary and mutinous, and he banked on a rapid campaign, using a deceptive ploy which had served him well in Gaul just a year earlier.

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NUNTII: ClassiColor Redux

Regular readers of rogueclassicism will recall our mention of the ClassiColor exhibition in Copenhagen, which has on display a pile of ancient statuary coloured as it originally was. The curator of the exhibition -- Jan Stubbe Østergaard -- has recently emailed me and has given me permission to reprint his letter:

As the curator repsonsible for the Classicolor exhibition now being shown here at the
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, let me add some background information. You may
understandably shudder, but there is no doubt that this exhibition and the research on
which it is based marks a turning point in this field of study. Shown first at the
Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek in Munich, it will be on here until May 30,
and then from June 16 thru September be shown again in Munich. From mid November 2004
thru February 2005, it will be shown at the Musei Vaticani. It is the first exhibition
on this theme since 1892 (!). The three museums named have collaborated on this project
since 2000, investing quite considerable resources in recognition of the vital issues
at stake, both for classical studies and for the history of later reception of Classical
Antiquity - we are, ultimately, tampering with one of the mainstays of western identity.
For those of you interested in getting to grips with what is an indisputable fact, the
present state of research into the polychromy of ancient sculpture - and thus the data
on which the colour reconstructions on synthetic and real marble using historical
pigments are based - you might consult our catalogue: A.M. Nielsen, J.S. Østergaard,
Classicolor - farven i antik skulptur (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, 2004)(if you happen to
have Danish) or perhaps rather the German one: Bunte Götter - die Farbigkeit antiker
Skulptur (Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek 2003). The prime mover in
recent research has published his findings: V. Brinkmann, Die Polychromie archaischer
und frühklassischer Skulptur (Verlag Biering & Brinkmann, Munich, 2003).

The exhibitions in Munich, Copenhagen and Rome are not identical, but have in common
the core of reconstructed works.

I am available for queries at:

He also passed along the official Press Release:

- the Colour of Greek and Roman Sculpture

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.
March 12 until May 30, 2004
Tues. - Sun. 10-16. Closed Mon.

Ask anybody what an ancient Greek or Roman sculpture looks like, and they will say: It's marble white. And why did Europe's foremost sculptors work in white marble from the Renaissance onwards? Because such classical sculptures were their inspiration and ideal.
This exhibition changes all that. We got it completely wrong: In Antiquity, sculptures were coloured, just like the mosaics, the wall paintings and so many other classical works of art. 

The Glyptothek in Munich, the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen and the Musei Vaticani have joined forces to bring the public an exhibition which radically changes widely held ideas about ancient sculpture. It visualizes the dramatic leap forewards made over the last two decades in the study of ancient sculptural polychromy. The Munich Glyptothek has been the prime mover, working together with colleagues in several countries and with conservation scientists using a range of sophisticated technologies.
The exhibition has enjoyed a huge success in Munich, under the title 'Bunte Götter', and is now moving on to Copenhagen. It will subsequently be shown in Rome, this coming autumn. Each venue has a common core of exhibits: twelve research based colour reconstructions in synthetic or real marble of originals from the three museums and from Athens. Very well known works are there: The grave stele of Aristion, the 'Peplos Kore', sculptures from the Aegina pediments now in Munich, the Augustus from Prima Porta in the Vatican Museum, and the Copenhagen Glyptotek's portrait of the emperor Caligula. Others are less famous - but now enter the limelight, not least the Attic grave stele of Paramythion, in the Munich Glyptothek.
The exhibitions are not identical. In Copenhagen, as in Munich, the reconstructions are shown under natural light in the sculpture galleries themselves, on equal terms with the originals. We will have 'invited guests', namely four reconstructions from the Antikensammlung in Kassel: the Kasseler Apollo and the Athena Lemnia, both as bronze originals and as painted Roman marble copies. Polychrome terracottas and vases, as well as Roman sculpture in coloured marble and other similar works will be integrated into the exhibition. 

Contact in Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen
Jan Stubbe Østergaard
Curator, Ancient Art
Tel + 45 3341 8141
Fax + 45 3391 2058

Exhibition curators

Prof. Dr. Raimund Wünsche, Dr. Vinzenz Brinkmann
Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek, München

Jan Stubbe Østergaard
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen

Dott. Paolo Liverani
Musei Vaticani, Città del Vaticano

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CHATTER: Myths Still Resonate

I'm clearing up a backlog of stuff (can you tell?) and came across an item written by Classicist Tom Palaima for the Austin American Statesman:

Professors, especially at research universities such as the University of Texas at Austin, often hear that we are isolated inside ivory towers, that our scholarship is abstruse, and that our teaching is irrelevant to the daily concerns of ordinary people. I have begun wishing that it were so.

For about 12 years, I have been teaching lecture courses and honors seminars that explore how ancient Greek culture and modern European and American civilizations use "myths," in the broad original sense of "stories," to explore issues that create problems for individual human beings and their societies. My focus is on war and violence. Ancient Greek myths lately have become all too relevant.

A thoughtful student just e-mailed me to say that "it is cool to have someone talk about present real issues that can be related to old works of literature." Maybe it isn't so cool when the topics get too hot. Maybe ignorance is bliss.

The old "ivory tower" approach is evident in the standard scholarly commentary on the Greek text of Euripides' Medea. Euripides' play presents the awful consequences of the middle-age crisis of the Greek hero Jason, famed for his adventures in pursuit of the golden fleece. To secure a comfortable future, he decides to marry the young princess of the royal house of Corinth. Trouble is, he has lived for a long time with the foreign sorceress Medea, mother of his two sons. He thinks he can finesse abandoning her.

Jason should know better.

Medea's fierce love for him has known no limits. She betrayed her father and country to help Jason steal the golden fleece. She killed her brother -- literally chopping him into bits, which she then scattered on the waves -- to help Jason and herself escape. Later, she orchestrated the murder of Jason's uncle. Medea is a woman with un-Greek erotic passions, experienced in violence and the voodoo arts of Hecate.

In author Tim O'Brien's terms, this is called heating up the story to get across its point. Euripides' plot burns hottest at the point of Medea's vengeance for Jason's betrayal of her love. She finally steels herself, with her maternal heart breaking, to kill her own two sons by Jason, knowing that this action alone will devastate him.

The old "ivory tower" commentary speaks of the act of a mother killing her children as completely outside our cultural experience and understanding. Sadly, it is not and never has been. [more]

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BLOGWATCH: The Buck Stops Here

Michael Hendry on the Classics list noted some interesting ClassCon in The Buck Stops Here blog, focussing on some rather humourous letters from the pen of C.S. Lewis. Worth a look ...

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CHATTER: More Fagles!

Wow ... Robert Fagles is suddenly a media darling ... two pieces about him in the past week (one in the New York Times) and now his opinion is being sought in regards to fellow-Princetonite Chang-rae Lee's novel:

"Aloft," released in March, has become a best seller, its film rights sold to Warner Brothers and producer Scott Rudin; Lee has been pronounced one of America's best young novelists.

And after three novels, he is ensconced as a professor at Princeton University, where his colleagues _ and friends _ include Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates and Paul Muldoon.

"He brings a spirit of buoyancy and youth and cultivation and warmheartedness," said Robert Fagles, another Princeton colleague and the translator of critically acclaimed versions of Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey."

"And he can turn a sentence like nobody's business," said Fagles.

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GOSSIP: That Other Alexander Flick

An interview with Dino De Laurentiis gives some details about the other Alexander flick in the works:

"I am always the optimist," De Laurentiis told me. That may explain why, at 84, he is embarking on the biggest project of his career: a film about Alexander the Great. Budgeted at $150 million, the feature will star Leonardo DiCaprio as the Greek conqueror, with Baz Luhrmann directing his own script. "For me, the story of Alexander, after the story of Christ, is the best story you can tell to any audience," De Laurentiis said. "Here's this young guy, 20 years old, who commanded an army that conquered the world. If it weren't a true story, you wouldn't believe it."

It took De Laurentiis a decade to find the right source material. When he received Valerio Manfredi's trilogy "Alexander," De Laurentiis sequestered himself with the books on Bora Bora for one week and produced an outline. Universal Studios boss Stacy Snider agreed to finance the project on the condition that De Laurentiis hire a director from her five-person short list, which included Ridley Scott, Sam Mendes and Luhrmann. "The vision of Baz Luhrmann is to show Alexander at a young age," De Laurentiis said, "because if the audience will love the boy when he's at 10 years old, 12, 15, then they are going to still love him even when he does something not too good during the war."

With shooting yet to begin, De Laurentiis has already piloted his epic past a number of hurdles. Plans to film in Jordan were canceled once war broke out in Iraq, so De Laurentiis built a huge production facility in Morocco. When the budget ballooned and co-financer 20th Century Fox dropped out, De Laurentiis turned to Steven Spielberg, who stepped in with backing from DreamWorks Studio.

Then there's the matter of the dueling "Alexanders." Martin Scorsese had his own version in mind at one point, but has since joined the De Laurentiis team as a consulting producer. Meanwhile, Oliver Stone and Colin Ferrell will beat De Laurentiis to the punch with their Warner Bros. biopic "Alexander," set for release this fall.

"It's always headaches," De Laurentiis said. "Every picture is a different problem. This is why I'm ever fascinated to make movies."

However "Alexander" fares, De Laurentiis is prepared to take the heat. "My philosophy is very simple," De Laurentiis declared. "I am convinced, if the picture's a flop, this means 100 percent of the responsibility goes to the producer because he made some mistake in choosing the story, the script, the director, the cast, the marketing. If the picture's a success, then he splits the credit with the director, the cast and so on." In Hollywood's finger- pointing culture, the willingness to assume full responsibility may be De Laurentiis' rarest accomplishment of all. [San Francisco Chronicle]

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CHATTER: Mixing Metaphors

Seen in passing in a review of John Barth's latest (I thought he ... and post-modernism ... was dead; definitely wrong on the former ... jury's still out on the latter):

After this slow start Barth finally gets his engine running, and it's like the Barth of years gone by -- in other words, fun to read. "Second Night" shows a reinvigorated Barth writing about Graybard's fantasy of Wysiwyg, a seemingly naked female swimmer, climbing aboard his boat in order to seduce him. She presses her seduction: "But here in Mixed-Metaphorica you're Odysseus on Calypso's isle, with a shot at Home Plate if you play your guy's cards right. ... So okay: As one of us noted earlier, it's a more or less puerile male erotic fantasy. To which Miz Nymph replies, If it gets the job done, go for it, before Reality sets in! Yes?"  [from the Houston Chronicle]

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NUNTII: Homeric Academy Actus

From the Boston Globe:

With neckties knotted, jackets buttoned, and spotlights bearing down, 18 Boston College High School students sat at attention in straight-back chairs on a makeshift stage in a school meeting room last Wednesday morning, each about to embark on a personal odyssey.

For the 40th consecutive year, the school's Homeric Academy was holding an "actus" -- a Latin term for a public performance -- as the final oral examination of its senior Latin and Ancient Greek students, testing the young men's knowledge of the Greek epic "The Odyssey."

Traditionally attributed to Homer and read in conjunction with "The Iliad," the drama details Odysseus' trials and obstacles on his journey home after the 10-year Trojan War.

Describing a gauntlet of such nefarious enemies as a Cyclops, sea sirens, Circe, and a giant sea monster, the tale was the basis for many literary works to follow.

Students were asked by a panel of classics scholars to interpret the literature and translate it from the original text.

Their instructor, Brian Donaher, 66, who has arranged the actus each of the past 40 years, watched with fixed eyes as his students fielded questions from examiners. "It's never routine," said the 44-year teaching veteran. [more]

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CONTEST: Latin and Greek Prose Competition

At the end of the article mentioned below, the Spectator announces an interesting contest:

In order to do what little we can to turn the clock back, The Spectator hereby announces a monthly prize for composition in Latin or Greek. Readers are invited to submit versions of any excerpt of the magazine of roughly 300 words. The version may be in either language, prose or verse. We offer a bottle of champagne for the winning entry. At the end of this year the judges will reward the most distinguished composition with a cup.

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CHATTER: Classical Smackdown

Well ... not really. A couple of weeks ago, we noted a piece in the Spectator in which Harry Mount lamented the state of classics. This week, the dean of Wadham College (Oxford), James Morwood takes the other side:

We classicists like to think that our subject is one of the great civilising disciplines, that it makes the people who study it better. Sadly for us, though, there is quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. A lot of us are arrogant, offensive and utterly assured of the rightness of our position. The most famous exemplar of this is probably the poet and scholar A.E. Housman whose unsurpassed skills as a Latinist were communicated by the most venomous pen of his time. (One Oxford professor of Latin, he commented, had ‘the intellect of an idiot child’.) This is the kind of classicist whose obituary so often includes that killer clause, ‘He did not suffer fools gladly.’

Into these columns a fortnight ago rode another of the breed, Harry Mount, like a fifth horseman of the apocalypse, thundering on about the demise of Classics. Apparently, nobody in the UK — and certainly nobody in Oxford, the university where I work — knows any Latin any more. Mount is plain wrong about a number of things. His denunciation of the Cambridge Latin Course as ‘the evil Latin-for-idiots school textbooks’ is blind to the fact that it was this very course which rescued Latin from an apparently terminal decline in the 1960s. It later proved vital to the subject’s survival as it responded to the ever decreasing time available for Latin in the timetable, especially after the National Curriculum gained its stranglehold. And while it is true that the course did start its journey with some pretty weird ideas about language-learning, these have been rectified in subsequent editions. Indeed, the Cambridge Latin Grammar is one of the best around. If he were to flick through it, Mount would be amazed to discover frequent uses of such exotic vocabulary as ‘genitive’, ‘conjugation’ and ‘pluperfect’. But then if he can state flatly that the Cambridge course gives translations at the bottom of the page underneath the Latin, he seems happy to judge without inspection. Classical rigour? My foot!

At other times he simply misses the point. Schoolboys and girls have to learn much less Latin for their GCSEs than my generation (1950s) did for the O-level, but that applies to every single GCSE. The remarkable thing is that Latin is far more of a challenge at GCSE than French or Spanish. Students are reading Virgil and Catullus, not learning how to fill the tank at a French petrol station. And, amazingly, an educational reform — the introduction of the AS-level, which encourages students to take up to five subjects in their first sixth-form year — has given a considerably greater number of students the chance to continue with a classical subject after GCSE. This in turn has led to a vast surge in the numbers applying to read Classics at Oxford.

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REVIEW: From Scholia

Timothy E. Duff, The Greek and Roman Historians.

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Evans on Giannopoulou on Evans

Robin Hagg (ed.), Peloponnesian Sanctuaries and Cults. Proceedings of the Ninth International Symposium at the Swedish Institute at Athens, 11-13 June 1994.

Philip A. Stadter and Luc Van der Stockt (edd.), Sage and Emperor: Plutarch, Greek Intellectuals, and Roman Power in the Time of Trajan (98-117 A.D.).

T. Maslowski (ed.), M. Tullius Cicero, Fasc. 17: Orationes in L. Catilinam quattuor.

David Fredrick (ed.), The Roman Gaze. Vision, Power and the Body

Theo Kobusch, Michael Erler, Metaphysik und Religion. Zur Signatur des Spätantiken Denkens. Akten des internationalen Kongresses vom 13.-17. März 2001 in Würzburg. BzA 160

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BLOGWATCH: Ancient Biographies

At the Ancient Biographies site, Robert Greaves has recently put up the first installment of a biography of Sertorius ...

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NEWSLETTER: Latest Explorator

Issue 6.51 of Explorator has just been posted ... Enjoy!

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AWOTV: On TV Today

... nothing of interest

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