Most recent update:7/1/2004; 5:37:30 AM

 Saturday, June 26, 2004
BLOGWATCH: @ Blographos

Blogographos has been steadily growing and is definitely worth a visit with the post of a photo of Ken Dover conferring an honourary degree on a rather skeptical-looking Bob Dylan.
7:49:44 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

REVIEW: From Scholia

Stephen Dyson, The Roman Countryside
7:35:55 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Olympic Soccer Preliminaries

As the world continues to be gobsmacked (that's the first time I've ever used that word) at Greece's efforts at Euro 2004, word comes from the Daily Times of Pakistan of a sort of opening ceremonies thing to the Olympic Football/Soccer tournament:

Jason and the Argonauts will sail again.

But this time, organisers say, it will be part of a musical supershow days before the Olympic soccer preliminaries begin in the central port of Volos, one of four cities around Greece hosting the matches.

Volos hopes to capitalise on its connection to one of antiquity’s best-known myths – the bloody deeds of Medea and the hunt for the golden fleece – with a new twist. The spectacle will try to promote the theory that Jason’s crew was composed of athletes who took part in games that were forerunners of the ancient Olympics. It also could be a hint of what may occur at the main Olympic stadium for the opening ceremony on August 13.

Olympic organisers have refused to offer any details of the opening ceremony. But the stadium will apparently be flooded to evoke images of Greece’s interplay of sea and land and possibly its ties to the ancient myths. “The Organising Committee believes that reporting on the contents of the opening ceremony is spoiling for the spectators one of the most awaited surprises of the games,” Michalis Zacharatos, 2004 communications general manager, said in a statement. “You will just have to wait and see.”

Volos officials were cautious, too, neither confirming nor denying any links with the Athens opening ceremony.

“(The Argonaut myth) combines the local tradition of a country organising the Olympic Games with an international appeal because Jason and Medea are symbols that are very well-known,” said Dimitris Marangopoulos, the creator and composer of the 85-minute show planned for August 8-10 in Volos, about 325 kilometers (195 miles) northwest of Athens.

According to the myth, King Pelias of Iolkos – near modern day Volos – promised his nephew Jason his rightful kingdom if he could return with the fleece. Pelias thought that Jason would never make it back alive as the fleece was located in Colchis on the Black Sea, the eastern edge of the world known to the Greeks.

Medea, the daughter of the Colchis king, aided Jason with magic and helped the Argonauts escape. She slowed the pursuit of the Colchis warriors by cutting up the king’s brother and throwing pieces into the sea. Back in Greece, myths say she claimed to have a youth-restoring potion and tricked the daughter of Pelias to butcher the king and place the remains in the cauldron.

The Volos show, however, mostly seeks to encourage a new idea: that the Arogonauts were the fathers of ancient sports contests. “They organised games that were before the Olympic Games ... (The Argonauts) were athletes,” said Nikos Tsaknis, a journalist from Volos whose book about an Arogonaut-athlete link was the basis for the musical. “They are mythical Olympians. They are founders of sports.”

Tsaknis said there is evidence of athletic contests on the island of Limnos and other games during the height of Mycenaean civilisation about 1200 BC. The Olympic games were born in southern Greece in 776 BC and held every four years until the Roman Emperor Theodosius abolished them in 393 AD after Christianity took root and he deemed the games pagan.

Archaeologist Vasso Adrimi, who is in charge of excavations in the Volos area and a leading expert in the Jason myth, believes traders from Iolkos reached far-flung ports in the Black Sea and may have provided the foundation for the myths of Jason and Medea.

She also notes literary sources suggest athletic contests in an area near Colchis far back in antiquity. These pre-Olympic games were always in honour of someone’s death. “Only princes and people of elite classes participated in the games in honour of the dead,” Adrimi said. “The (mythical) Argonauts are not random people. Those 50 people that got into the Argos are all relatives among themselves, princes of various kingdom of Mycenaean period ... They are not just simply strong boys of the Mycenaean society. They are nobles.”

The “multi-media” rendition of the myth will include “movement, dance, acrobats and images” by a Czech theater troupe called Laterna Magika, Marangopoulos said. Most of the scenes take place in the ancient ship, called the Argos. In composing the music, Marangopoulos used instruments known to ancient Greeks, including stringed musical instruments called lyres and the Balkan lute called the Uti. He also used electronic sounds.

“We have a number of indications of ancient Greek music. We do not have an exact image, but through my eyes I approached this world,” Marangopoulos said. Officials in Volos are also re-creating the Argos and are building a large model that will be on display during the Olympics in the area known as Pefkakia, where the myth says the original ship was launched.

The full-scale 28.5 metre (94-foot) ship will be complete in 2005 and will be constructed using the same wood and tools of the Mycenaean period. The replica will make its way to Georgia with 50 oarsmen from all over the European Union. “We are at the heart of this myth,” said Marangopoulos.


7:28:51 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

NUNTII: Remains of the First Punic War

La Sicilia Web has an item (in Italian of course) relating the discovery of the prow of a Roman ship which was "almost certainly" part of a ship used during the First Punic War. A handful of Greek, Roman, and Punic amphorae were also found, all off the coast of Trapani. Hopefully we'll hear more about this one ...
7:16:13 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Pompeii After Dinner

The Warren Advocate tells us of a recent after dinner talk by Estelle Lazer, inter alia:

A captive audience was also treated to an after dinner presentation that included "bodies, sex and a bit of violence" when diminutive archaeologist Estelle Lazer spoke about her work with "dead people".

Ms Lazer, who is working on an associated book due out next year, is the first person to ever work on the skeletons of the victims of the mass burial at Pompeii in AD79 following the eruption of nearby Mt Vesuvius.

"No-one had done a systematic study before and it was an opportunity to get to know the people from a different viewpoint using forensic techniques. People's lifestyles are imbedded in their skeletons, which provide sometimes unexpected findings on such things as sex, height, health and diseases," she said.

Ms Lazer also said that some of her findings differed from accepted long-term beliefs and upset some historians.

An accompanying slide presentation also gave the audience an insight into the fascinating world of a provincial town that had well-built public structures, a good water system, beautiful gardens, spectacular wall paintings, superb still lifes and evidence of entertainment and partying.

"Pompeii is a fantastic, well-preserved above ground site. It was excavated from the 18th and 19th centuries, so a lot of modern utensils such as cups and jugs are still modelled on Pompeii designs," Ms Lazer said.

She said the circumstances of the disaster at the time created a kind of preservation remarkable to Pompeii.

"People were preserved as they were at the moment that they died of asphyxiation or thermal shock, with the high temperatures often creating the associated 'pugilistic pose'. There were also two animals found, a pig and a dog that died pulling on its chain." [more]

For the record, I think the only thing that 'upset' historians from Lazer's research was the suggestion that only 500 or so people died as a result of Vesuvius' eruption, not the 2000 or so one usually reads about.


7:11:40 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


Susan Lape, Reproducing Athens: Menander's Comedy, Democratic Culture, and the Hellenistic City.

Brooke Manville, Josiah Ober, A Company of Citizens: What the World's First Democracy Teaches Leaders About Creating Great Organizations.

Tessa Rajak, The Jewish Dialogue with Greece and Rome. Studies in Cultural and Social Interaction.

J.G. Manning, Land and Power in Ptolemaic Egypt. The Structure of Land Tenure.

6:55:49 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

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