Most recent update:6/1/2004; 5:22:02 AM

 Friday, May 28, 2004

ante diem v kalendas maias

5:53:11 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

AUDIO: Father Foster

The latest from Father Foster is finally up. I haven't had a chance to listen, so here's the 'official description' from the Latin Lover homepage:

What does spaghetti have to do with the earth and sea? It connects the gladiator retiarius with his net and triton - a conversation which leads us to speak of tritons among the minnows!

5:43:38 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


N.S. Gill has a nice biography with links all about that Sertorius guy ...
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NUNTII: I Have Seen the DNA of Agamemnon

Yesterday I came across the Goddess in the Doorway blog, which pointed to a very interesting article on plans to do some DNA analysis of the remains from the shaft graves at Mycenae. Some excerpts from the Guardian article:


"These burials are unique in the Bronze Age," says Keri Brown of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. "These people seem to have cornered the market in gold, so how did they do this, who were they and how did they have this power?"

Working with the forensic science service, Brown and her team are turning to DNA fingerprints to solve the conundrum. Using genetic material painstakingly scraped from 3,500-year-old bones and teeth recovered from the graves, the scientists hope to establish whether the dozens of privileged individuals buried at Mycenae are part of the same family, or an unrelated collection of mercenary fighters. The answer will shine light on the social structure of one of the most influential periods in human history.

"If you like, this is where Greek history starts," says John Prag, an expert in Greek archaeology at the Manchester museum.

His group has already used facial reconstruction techniques to put flesh on the ancient bones and look for family resemblances, with some success. "We got a couple of pairs that were very clearly related but there comes a point where everybody's got two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth and we all look alike," Prag says.

Clues from the bones have also suggested the sex of those buried at Mycenae, as well as how old they were when they died. "But you can't tell from bones who is related to who," says Brown. "Only DNA can do that."

 "We're spending a lot of time perfecting the experiments on other material before we tackle the Mycenae bones themselves," Brown says. "We want to get the extraction and analysis methods spot-on." The remains are carefully guarded by the National Museum in Athens; it took two years of form-filling and delicate negotiation to get the bone splinters and few odd teeth on the plane to Manchester.

Of the 19 individuals buried in the grave Brown's team are interested in, she has bone or teeth samples from 10 of them. Preliminary work suggests a 40% success rate with the DNA technique, which mean the family secrets of just four ancient Greeks will be revealed. It's not much, but it's a start.

"I'd like to go on to look at DNA from other bodies found in other parts of Greece from the same period," says Prag. "The modern Greeks would love to know they're descended from the ancient Greeks. But since 1500BC Greece has been invaded and occupied so many times I'm not sure we're going to get the answer they want."

5:31:46 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: A Different Spin on Troy

A column at BeliefNet puts a rather different -- and interesting to ponder -- spin on the unintended message of 'Troy':


The unintended message of "Troy" may be that in a world without gods—spirituality—we are deprived of life's deeper meaning. What exactly are we learning about life from watching men battling it out with each other? One by one the great heroes of the war fall; eventually the invincible fortress of Troy itself falls. But their toppling appears to have little consequence beyond testosterone-provoked score-settling.

Ironically, Achilles, with his disdain for the gods, is brought into the conflict through his desire to be like them, immortal. Invulnerable except for his heel, the place where his mother held him to dip him into the mystical waters of the River Styx, he falls to the arrow as part of the same lethal game of tag.

In the Iliad, which "inspired" the film, all these heroic falls come to pass, but, with the gods involved, they have a far-reaching significance that affects the affairs of both mortals and immortals for the ages. The whole story of the Trojan War can been seen as a lesson in human—and divine—nature. It is a textbook in psychology, anthropology, cosmology, and metaphysics.

All the myths have something important to say about human nature, because they are always about the interaction of men with the gods. The myths are spiritual at their core, and therefore offer us guidance in how to relate to the higher power within us. A myth told without the gods is only half of the story, and not the better half at that.

In "Troy," the gods have become useless, foolish, and even dangerous; to put our confidence in them is to bring about ruin. Like our secular culture, which avoids the mysterious (mythos) in favor of what we can see, hear, and measure (logos), a story of Troy without the gods is only about the arrogance of warriors and their strategies, which end in either victory or defeat. A story thus told misses the opportunity to teach us about the human heart and the human soul.

I think it's safe to say that Hollywood could not have intended such a message ...

5:23:45 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Boudicca Mania

Wow ... Mel Gibson is clearly the master of drumming up interest in something; it is clear that Hollywood in general is now ascribing to the 'trial balloon' method of publicity:

Mel Gibson is guaranteed a panning for his forthcoming film on Britain's warrior queen Boudicca, experts say -- either from the feminists who have turned her into an icon, or from the historians for whom she remains an enigma.

Gibson is no stranger to controversy. His "Passion of the Christ" caused uproar among Jewish groups, who tried to have the film banned, charging that the graphic portrayal of the crucifixion unjustly portrayed Jews as his killers.

Now his Icon production company is working on "Warrior" in the race to take Boudicca to the big screen -- a subject guaranteed to raise hackles in Britain, whose occupants Boudicca spurred to rebel against their Roman occupiers in AD 60-62.

"Take any figure where there's been emotional investment and you're going to annoy someone," said folklorist Dr Juliette Wood. "We know so little about her and yet she has been turned into a meta-historical icon."

Boudicca, known also as Boudica and Boadicea, has become hot property in Hollywood, where no fewer than four scripts on her are in the works, among them a Dreamworks production called "Queen Fury".

Scholars plucked Boudicca, whose name translates as "Victory," from historical obscurity during the 16th century. The little that is known about her has been gleaned from archaeological excavations and the Roman historian Dio Cassius.

Writing shortly after the British rebellion, he described Boudicca as "very tall in stature, most terrifying in appearance, most fierce in the glance of her eye, with a harsh voice and a great mass of bright red hair that fell to her hips."

He drew heavily on the accounts of the historian Tacitus, whose father-in-law Agricola came face to face with the Celtic hordes.

Subterranean layers of ash from the Roman houses razed in Colchester, London and St Albans confirm the fury of her backlash, but the rest is deduction.

"She was one of the first Britons to set aside tribal rivalry and recognise a national identity," said Iron age expert Miranda Aldhouse-Green, a professor of archaeology at the University of Wales.

"She was clearly someone of tremendous drive," she added. "And to convince other tribes like the Trinovantes to fight for her, she must have had a lot of charisma."

Wood says Boudicca disappeared from history during the Dark Ages, but was resurrected in the 16th century by Queen Elizabeth I, who was keen to promote the concept of the noble warrior queen.

Like Gibson's "Passion", Boudicca's story is mired in blood. Having been flogged for challenging Britain's Roman occupiers and witnessed the rape of her two daughters, she wrought bloody revenge on the Roman town of Colchester. [more from Reuters]

5:17:57 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


A piece in the Union Leader looks at the upcoming campaign season in the U.S. and comes up with an ABC thing which has some ClassCon of dubious merit:

C is for Caligula (12-41), who didn’t actually live long enough to do anything really awful, but was just generally a poop. C is also for Castro, Fidel (1927 - ), prime minister and then president of Cuba since 1959. People seem to shy away from running for office against him. Unlike Caligula, he has done some really awful things, and is an even bigger poop.

D is for Draco (? - ?, 7th Century B.C.), an Athenian who wanted his fellow Greeks, and apparently everyone else, to live their lives exactly as they wanted to live their lives as long as they wanted to live their lives exactly as he wanted them to live their lives. Sound familiar?

Sounds like someone kept nodding off during ancient history class ... Today's installment only goes up to 'J', so we'll monitor the situation.

5:12:16 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

AWOTV: On TV Today

10.00 p.m. |DTC| The Mystery of the Parthenon
Dominating the skyline of Athens is the ancient Acropolis—once the
center of the Greek civilization. Trace the history of the Temple of
the Parthenon, from its history of design and construction, to the
men involved in its destruction.

DTC = Discovery Times Channel

5:03:58 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

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