Wednesday, June 23, 2004
more to come ...
CHATTER: Another Missed Class
This time it's a student at Washington University who had decided to take keyboard in hand and demonstrate that they must have missed a class or two:
[...] First, I must exclude myself from this circus entirely. After chasing a motorcycle-riding cowboy for two weeks—which resulted in the first and only time I will ever wear a cowboy hat—I decided "the game" was not for me. To clarify: When I say "the game," I refer to the ancient art of deception and seduction in which one person attempts to win the affections of another by running away. History would indicate that men and women often fail in their attempts to win "the game." Helen of Troy, for instance: She ran away from her husband and the entire Trojan empire came after her. Altogether flattering, I suppose. Perhaps there is a better example.
She must have missed the movie too ...
REVIEW: From the Telegraph
Richard Holland, Augustus: Godfather of Europe
The model for this style of book is the brilliant Rubicon by Tom Holland (no relation). But Richard Holland does not have his namesake's narrative flair, and the story, with its grinding details of the changing alliances and personalities, does not make snappy reading.
Further, a book entitled Augustus: Godfather of Europe suggests to me the story of Augustus as the godfather rather than how he became the godfather. Only the last quarter of the book is devoted to the former topic, and here Holland misses the central importance of the grip that Augustus kept on the nexus of the provinces, which produced the revenues, that paid his newly professionalised armies, who thus stayed loyal to him, while controlling the provinces, which . . .
The book as a whole is rather slapdash. On page one we are told that Greece was smashed and Carthage destroyed in 167BC (it was 146BC); on page two that the Latin for Catiline was Catilinus (it was Catilina); Pharsalus on the map becomes Pharsala on the page; and so on. This does not create confidence in an author who affects an irritating air of matey superiority throughout, as if the scholars responsible for the real work on which the whole book is based did not actually know what they were on about.
No one expects an author to kow-tow to authority, but when Holland takes on Sir Ronald Syme and claims that Octavian was not a revolutionary - on the grounds that he liked a bit of a laugh and adopted highly conservative views on various matters, and besides, Caesar had done it all already - one can only groan. The whole point is that Caesar hadn't; and Octavian's conservatism in religious and institutional matters was, of course, all part of the game.
NUNTII: Excavations in the Athenian Agora
From Yahoo's business pages, believe it or not:
Amidst the flurry of building activity as Athens prepares this summer for the opening of the Olympic Games, excavations of another sort are underway in the middle of the city. Eight students and recent graduates from Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, are helping to uncover the Agora, the civic center and heart of ancient Athens. Like the Mall in Washington, D.C., the Agora was a large open square surrounded by civic buildings, with plenty of room for elections, military drills, theatrical performances, markets ... and athletic contests.
The Athenians had their own set of competitions known as the Panathenaic Games, which were only slightly less prestigious than the famous ones at Olympia. Early on, before the construction of a proper stadium, the Agora square housed both the racetrack and the equestrian events.
"In many ways the modern Olympics are closer to the Panathenaic Games of ancient Athens than their Olympic namesake, so modern Athens as the venue of this year's games is particularly appropriate," said Professor John Camp, the director of the Agora excavations, who also teaches courses at Randolph-Macon College on ancient athletics.
"The ancient Greeks were an intensely competitive people in all aspects of their lives, which goes a long way to explaining their lasting cultural impact today. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Olympic Games, with their emphasis on individual achievement: there were no team sports on the program and there was no second place. There was one winner and everyone else lost; and with the only prize a crown of olive branches, the games were essentially an aristocratic institution. By contrast, the Panathenaic Games reflected the democratic political system first invented and practiced in Athens: there were team sports as well as prizes of considerable value for more than the first place winners."
Fortunately, archaeology is a team sport. Along with dozens of students from 22 colleges and universities, for Camp and his students are toiling in the area around the Painted Stoa, a long colonnaded building that served as a hangout when the Athenians weren't busy elsewhere. It was here that Zeno met his students and articulated the Stoic philosophy. Across the street is the magistrate's office, Socrates was indicted for impiety in 399 B.C.
If Zeno were teaching today, the roar of heavy machinery would drown his voice, and dust would choke his students. "The city is one huge building site and it seems as though every square and every street has been dug up," said Camp. "How much will be ready in time for the Olympic games is not clear, but on the positive side lots of museums and antiquities will be available to visitors. In addition there are miles of new pedestrian walkways linking the sites and Athens offers the finest underground system in Europe, a new airport and many new highways. The games are transforming this old city, which has been transformed dozens of times over the centuries."
The American School of Classical Studies at Athens sponsors the Agora Excavations, with the participation of Randolph-Macon College and the Packard Humanities Institute. Every summer, several Randolph-Macon students participate in the digs. In return for room, board and the opportunity to touch history, the students work a full day digging and stripping away layers of successive time periods.
"Things are just springing out of the ground because the Agora is such a rich site," said Molly Field, an R-MC graduate from McLean, Virginia. "It is exciting when something big is found. The last time I was here, a marble head was uncovered and everyone came running to look at it." [more]
CHATTER: Clinton Autobio
As the reviews pour in of the ex-president's memoirs, some interesting tidbits emerge:
The former president's book-dependency didn't suggest a noticeably spiritual quest in those days, but all that changed, post-Lewinsky. In his autobiography, My Life, Clinton helpfully updates his reading list to include more titles of an improving nature.
Among the books that sustained him through the trials of Monicagate, he says, were two ancient classical texts, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis and The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. [Telegraph]
And from the Guardian:
It is fascinating that he should reveal one of his great sources of solace during the Lewinsky scandal to have been the meditations of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. That ruler's virtue, according to Gibbon, "was of a severer and more laborious kind... the well-earned harvest of many a learned conference, of many a patient lecture, and many a midnight lucubration". "Lucubration", I should warn some titterers, simply means nocturnal study. And lengthy lucubration is just what Clinton was famous for. There the similarity seems to end, for a century after the death of Marcus Aurelius many Romans still had his image among the household gods, revered as he was for his wisdom and restraint.
I wonder if he made it to 12.17 of the Meditations (which I don't have a Latin text for ... sorry):
If it is not seemly, do it not; if it is not true, speak it not.
AUDIO: Father Foster
This one sounds like a repeat (cf. last week's), but I haven't had a chance to listen. Here's the official description:
The Romans often built walls as a defence. To Anglo- Saxons the most famous of these is “Hadrian’s Wall”, which stretches across the North of England. But who built it?
NUNTII: Praxiteles (?) in Cleveland
An interesting purchase by the Cleveland Museum of Art:
The Cleveland Museum of Art has bought what it thinks is an ancient bronze sculpture of Apollo the Lizard Slayer by the classical Greek sculptor Praxiteles. If it is authentic, it will be one of the most important ancient bronzes in an American museum.
About five feet tall, the bronze Apollo originally depicted the young god pulling back a laurel sapling with his left hand while holding an arrow aimed at a lizard with his right. The image is known from two marble copies from the Roman period, in the Louvre and the Vatican.
Of the few known Greek sculptors of the fourth century B.C., Praxiteles is considered among the greatest. But ancient Greek sculpture was so fashionable under the Roman Empire that it was heavily copied by Roman artists, which makes it difficult for scholars to date.
The Roman historian Pliny the Elder saw what he considered to be the original sculpture in the first century. "Although Praxiteles was more successful and therefore more famous for his marble sculptures, he nevertheless also created beautiful works in bronze," Pliny wrote. "He made a youthful Apollo called Sauroktonos (Lizard Slayer), waiting in ambush for a creeping lizard, close at hand, with an arrow."
If the work is Greek and of the classical period, it will be the only monumental Greek bronze sculpture attributed to any Greek master through literary sources.
The purchase was made after a year of research, but the museum acknowledges that it has taken a gamble on whether it is Greek or Roman. "It's very important for us to make claims we can prove," said Katharine Lee Reid, director of the Cleveland Museum. "We all feel strongly that it is early and very important."
The museum had the bronze tested, Ms. Reid said, and the examination identified several stylistic and technical characteristics consistent with Greek monumental sculpture from the fourth and third centuries B.C., as well as techniques that continued into the Roman period. The bronze was cast in several sections and joined together. Additional indications that the work dates from the classical Greek era include the copper inlays of the lips and nipples, the stone insert of the right eye, the thick casting and the type of patches used for repairs, as well as the corrosion of the surface and the overall condition.
"When I saw it in Geneva, I thought it had all the hallmarks of being Greek," said Michael Bennett, the curator of Greek and Roman art at the Cleveland.
The museum bought the sculpture for an undisclosed price from Phoenix Ancient Art, a gallery with locations in Geneva and New York run by two brothers, Hicham and Ali Aboutaam. In December 2003, Hicham Aboutaam was arrested in New York and charged with bringing a silver drinking vessel into the United States from Iran and falsely claiming it came from Syria. He was released on bail and has yet to be indicted. [more from the New York Times]
There's a not-too-useful photo at the page as well ...
CHATTER: Athenian Monument Restoration Update
A Reuters piece suggests restoration of several Athenian monuments won't be completed in time for the Olympics:
Visitors to August's Athens Olympics wanting to see classical treasures such as the temple of Athena Nike or the northern colonnade of the Parthenon will have to make do with buying picture postcards instead.
Construction workers stalk the dusty halls of some of the city's finest museums while priceless sections of the Acropolis have been dismantled and taken to the cleaners.
Seven years after Greece won its bid to bring the Games back to their birthplace, the country's cultural venues are proving even more difficult to get ready than their sporting counterparts.
Culture ministry officials, who had hoped to have the city's landmark monument, the Acropolis, looking its best by August, have conceded that scaffolding will be obscuring the view when Olympic tourists arrive.
"It's a disgrace," said Jeffrey Carson, a United States art historian and classical scholar who lives in Greece.
"The Acropolis has been deconstructed and it's inconceivable that it will be put back exactly as it was.
"This was built by the greatest architect the world has known," he added.
The exquisite temple of Athena Nike, part of the same fourth century temple complex, is also an Olympic no-show. It was dismantled for renovation and simply cannot be put back together in time.
"Although it is the smallest classical monument on the Acropolis, it turned out to be the biggest problem," said Haralambos Bouras chief of the Acropolis conservation committee.
The northern colonnade of the Parthenon would not be ready until 2006, officials said.
The good news is that the renovated western frieze of the Parthenon will be back on show in July. [more]
CHATTER: Tacitus (et al) and Palestine
Arutz Sheva has another piece drawing on the writings of Roman historians as evidence for an ancient claim to Palestine ... inter alia:
Yasser Arafat and others have claimed that Jesus, Peter and others were actually Arabs - "Palestinians" to be exact - and not Jews. It seems that planes were not the only things Arafat's crew decided to hijack.
Too bad that besides the Jews themselves, the Romans, who ruled the land in Jesus' day, also left a clear record of the land belonging to the Jews - whom they were in the process of conquering - and also made a clear distinction between Jews and Arabs.
Tacitus and Dio Cassius were famous Roman historians who wrote extensively about Judaea's attempt to remain free from the Soviet Union of its day, the conquering Roman Empire. They lived and wrote during, or not long after, the two major revolts of the Jews for independence in 66-73 CE and 133-135 CE. They make no mention of this land being Arab, of it being called "Palestine", or its people "Palestinians". On the contrary, they detailed the difference between the native Jews Rome was fighting and the Arabs from surrounding lands, who decided to join the massive Roman assault on their Jewish neighbors.
Listen to this quote from Vol. II, Book V, The Works of Tacitus:
"...Titus was appointed by his father to complete the subjugation of Judaea... he commanded three legions in Judaea itself... To these he added the twelfth from Syria and the third and twenty-second from Alexandria... amongst his allies were a band of Arabs, formidable in themselves and harboring towards the Jews the bitter animosity usually subsisting between neighboring nations...."
After the first revolt, Rome issued thousands of Judaea Capta coins, which can be seen today in museums all over the world. Notice, please - Judaea Capta, not "Palaestina Capta". Additionally, to celebrate this victory, the Arch of Titus was erected illustrating legionnaires carrying away the spoils of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. It stands tall in Rome to this very day. Arafat, of course, denies that such a Temple even existed.
When, some sixty years later, Emperor Hadrian decided to further desecrate the site of the destroyed Temple by erecting a pagan structure there, it was the grandchildren's turn to take on their mighty conquerors.
The result of the struggle of this tiny nation for its freedom and independence was, perhaps, as predictable as that which would have occurred had Lithuania taken on the Soviet Union during the latter's heyday of power.
Listen next to this next quote from Dio Cassius:
"...580,000 men were slain, nearly the whole of Judaea made desolate. Many Romans, moreover, perished in this war [the Bar Kochba Revolt - GH]. Therefore, Hadrian, in writing to the senate, did not employ the opening phrase commonly affected by the emperors, ' I and the legions are in health.' "
The Emperor was so enraged at the Jews' struggle for freedom in their own land that, in the words of the esteemed modern historian, Bernard Lewis, "Hadrian made a determined attempt to stamp out the embers not only of the revolt, but also of Jewish nationhood and statehood... obliterating its Jewish identity."
Wishing to end, once and for all, Jewish hopes, Hadrian renamed the land itself from Judaea to "Syria Palaestina" -- Palestine -- after the Jews' historic enemies, the Philistines, a non-Semitic sea people from the eastern Mediterranean or Aegean area. So, sorry Yasser. Trying to hijack the latter's identity, as you have tried with that of the Jews, won't work either.
... apologies for the missed day there; graduation and its attendant demands on my time is now over so things can return to paranormal in rogueclassicismland ... I'm still behind with the AWOTV listings, but we've got a pile of news items for y'all to wade through ...