Most recent update:5/1/2004; 5:37:03 AM

 Sunday, April 25, 2004

NEWSLETTER: Ancient World on Television

The weekly version of our Ancient World on Television listings has just been posted. Enjoy!

7:33:41 PM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

NEWSLETTER: Latest Explorator

Almost forgot ... Issue 6.52 of Explorator has been posted. Enjoy!

[more updates later today, by the way ... a busy day lies lurking outside my office door]

10:04:13 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: More Classical Precedent

Another piece citing the ancient world as precedent, this time as an argument in favour of Britain becoming more 'European':

Indeed Shakespeare personifies one of the national characteristics which make England great; the grace to accept that other nations have much to teach us. It is thanks to Plutarch that we have Antony and Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. The Comedy of Errors is an adaptation of the Menaechmi of Plautus. Six other comedies and five tragedies are based on classical (that is to say, European) texts. If Shakespeare, like some critics of the European Union, had been as mindlessly critical of foreign influence, the folio would have been very thin.

In truth, the most important date in English history was 54BC. People who now (largely out of ignorance) claim that little or nothing good has come out of Europe are the natural descendants of the men and women who, at the height of the Cold War, attributed Soviet barbarism to the absence of Roman influence on Russia. Roman civilisation had such an effect on England that its legacy survived the Dark Ages and opened up Britain to cultural and intellectual influences which were essentially southern European. Our civic society was founded by Romulus and Remus.

Part of our Roman legacy is the rule of law and the order which a well organised state guarantees. But Rome was the legatee of an earlier civilisation. The democracy which, it is claimed, is under threat from Europe was a Greek invention. The Athenians did not think it appropriate for slaves. But we in Britain did not think it suitable for women until the beginning of the 20th century. It would be comforting to believe that Ancient Britons spontaneously invented representative democracy. It was imported from Europe, not homegrown. [more in the Independent]

10:02:56 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Troy Hype

Some hype from the Times about the upcoming flick:

“I would say it’s maybe the biggest set in modern film history. Of course, in the old days, they used to do films like this, but I think this is the biggest in the past three or four decades,” says Petersen. “It’s never been done before. I mean, there was the 1950s film Helen of Troy, but that was a very specific story about Helen, and not like ours. We more or less do the whole Iliad.”

Well, sort of. Petersen and his colleagues are being extremely secretive about how much Troy will differ from Homer’s original, but Achilles will be portrayed as a traditional tortured hero rather than the (to us) more sexually ambiguous figure Homer described. Keen classical scholars will also know that the Trojan horse appears in The Odyssey rather than The Iliad.

It’s hard to blame Petersen and his scriptwriter, David Benioff, for appropriating the wooden horse for Troy, because it’s perhaps the only feature of Homer’s work that the 15- to 19-year-olds who make up the target audience in the United States might recognise. Indeed, with few schools in America, or Ireland, teaching Greek or classical studies, turning The Iliad into a film with a reported budget of more than $200m could be seen as one huge gamble. Homer’s account of how a 10-year war erupted between the Mycenaean Greeks and the Trojans after Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, abandoned the King of Sparta, Menelaus, to run off with Paris, a prince of Troy, might be the first great story written down for posterity, but that means little in middle America, where Troy will be competing against the horror-and-effects extravaganza Van Helsing, starring Hugh Jackman. “It doesn’t worry me,” claims the 63-year-old Petersen. “Even if they haven’t heard of The Iliad, word will get around quickly, if we do it right and the film is good, that there’s a huge, great, grand film out there, an epic of a size that you don’t get any more. And I have a feeling that our story, because it is based on Homer, is very appealing to people who’ve never heard of it.”

Just in case Homer isn’t enough to get the teens into the multiplexes, Petersen and the studio are counting on the presence of Pitt as Achilles, the fighter the Greeks recruited to lead their army, to bring in the crowds. “There’s a lot of expectation out there,” says Petersen, with a knowing smile. “I think it’s the biggest and most important part he’s played in his life.” Which is an understatement, because Pitt is not known for starring in blockbusters. On the contrary, his CV is littered with interesting films — Twelve Monkeys, Seven Years in Tibet and Fight Club — that underperformed at the box office. Then there’s the fact that he hasn’t had a big role since Ocean’s Eleven in 2001. It was a hit, but whether that was down to him or the presence of George Clooney and Julia Roberts is a matter of debate.  [more]

10:00:31 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Some Hairy Claims

Today's Toronto Star has a piece on the history of hair (and hairpieces) ... inter alia, there are some comments on the ancient world:

Bald, clean-faced Egyptians were horrified by the hairy men of Greece who wore their long, braided hair in topknots perched on the crowns of their heads.

Shaggy beards were a sign of bravery for Greeks. But that became a problem for soldiers in the hand-to-hand fighting of those days, because enemies could grab your beard. That's why Alexander the Great ordered his men to shave in the 4th century B.C. Soon, a smooth face became the fashion for all Greek men.

Ladies of the Roman Empire experimented with hundreds of hairstyles — worn up, down, pressed straight, curled or piled over wire frames.

Since yellow hair was popular, women rushed out to buy wigs or had their hair dyed blonde. Others washed their hair with dried nuts and acid hoping that would turn them blonde, but it turned them bald. Vain, wealthy women who owned 200 wigs had marble statues of themselves sculpted with removable wigs.  [more]

9:57:36 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: What to Do With A Classics Degree

The Buffalo Bills' did a bunch of wheeling and dealing in the NFL draft yesterday in order to select Tulane quarterback J.P. Losman, who completed a Classical Studies major last December ... watch out Drew Bledsoe ...

9:52:40 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

REVIEW: From Scholia

Timothy E. Duff, The Greek and Roman Historians

9:46:38 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


Martin L. West (ed., trans.), Greek Epic Fragments from the Seventh to the Fifth Centuries BC.

Giannopoulou on Evans on Giannopoulou on Evans.

Eckhard Meyer-Zwiffelhoffer, Politikos archein. Zum Regierungsstil der senatorischen Statthalter in den kaiserzeitlichen griechischen Provinzen.

Diane P. Thompson, The Trojan War: Literature and Legends from the Bronze Age to the Present.

9:44:46 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

AWOTV: On TV Today

6.00 p.m. |DISCU| The History of Mistresses
The role of the mistress in society has changed over centuries. Meet
the most famous and influential paramours, from Cleopatra to Monica
Lewinsky, and discover why some of these women became prominent and
powerful while others were abused and discarded.

DISCU=Discovery Channel (U.S.)

9:40:40 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

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