Most recent update:8/4/2004; 6:26:06 AM

 Wednesday, July 07, 2004
NUNTII: ... And Yet Another Ancient Port

The Nation (Bangkok) has this interesting item:

Traces of an ancient community and valuable artefacts from Persia and China’s Tang Dynasty period were found in an excavation site in Takua Pa district in Phang Nga, said a senior official yesterday.

The finds are believed to be remnants of a 1,300 year old trading port mentioned by the Greek geographer Ptolemy.

The director of Phuket’s provincial art office, Weerasit Chuseangthong, said the excavation site, located on 100 rai of land in Ban Toong Teuk village, has yielded the ruins of seven buildings, many ceramic roof tiles and a well with containers and water pots, both Tang and locally made.

The buildings and artefacts are believed to be remnants of the community of Takola, according to Weerasit. In Ptolemy’s accounts, Takola was a trading port that linked the east and west coasts of the ThaiMalay peninsula.

Some shards of Persian ceramics were also found, along with Brahman and Buddhist amulets. The findings confirm the site’s role as an important regional trading centre over a thousand years ago. “This significant port and the huge amount of items found is a very important discovery in Thailand,” he added.

Not sure how Ptolemy fits into this one date-wise; I don't have a copy of Ptolemy at hand to check his coverage of southeast Asia.

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NUNTII: Roman Ship and Port Discovered in Croatia

Corriere della Sera has a very brief item (in Italian, obviously) on the discovery of a Roman-era ship and port near Pakostane (in Dalmatia). The site dates from the first or second century A.D., and includes the discovery of a number of vessels, one of which is inscribed with the name 'Salona', the principal Dalmatian city during Roman times.
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CHATTER: Random ClassCon

There's some random ClassCon in an editorial from the Daily Times of Pakistan, apparently referring to events in Islamabad of which I am not privy ... inter alia:

The other day a heifer was sacrificed at the altar in Islamabad. What made the occasion a historic one was the suppliance with which the sacrificial heifer submitted himself to the knife. In fact, contrary to national custom, he knifed himself thus saving the executioner the trouble to behead him. Like all sacrifices, this was also undertaken to please a god whose identity is being kept a secret.

All who know of Haner or Rosana Padasta, who played Helen of Troy in a film of the same name, are aware that Agamemnon sacrificed her youngest daughter to placate the gods to send wind so that the armada he commanded could sail off to Troy. His sacrifice was accepted. The price he had to pay for it on his return home after vanquishing Troy is another story. Had he known the ending, he would not have been eager to sail away from Greece.

The frieze that once skirted the Parthenon — parts of which were pilfered by Lord Elgin and are now in the British Museum — depicts two processions, both leading from the back, then proceeding from their respective sides to converge in front of the temple. The processions comprise Athenian nobility, common citizens and slaves who are carrying gifts for Athena, the patron goddess of Athens. A heifer garlanded with flowers and adorned with other decorations is being led to Athena’s temple for sacrifice, to the accompaniment of music. The frieze is one of Phidias’ surviving masterpieces. The modern viewer can still hear the notes of music, the thumping of horse hoofs, the hustle and bustle of the occasion that have been so vividly portrayed by the sculptor. Unfortunately, the larger than life statue of Athena is no more. It is perhaps a reminder to mortals, whatever garments they wear, that time is the final winner and takes all.

The ancient Athenians, it is explicitly evident from the Parthenon frieze, are proceeding on an auspicious day to make a sacrifice to their patron goddess, to ensure prosperity and well being of the city and its denizens. In Lahore, and other places surely, everyone is wondering to what purpose was the gentle and honest Jamali sacrificed at the Temple of Democracy. If Jamali is to be chastised, it must be for providing a polite and decent appearance to the rulers.

The president has expressed great satisfaction at the smooth transition. He is of the view that no one has been slaughtered. A heifer has been replaced by another that in due course of time will be replaced by yet another, who will husband democracy the best.

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CHATTER: Roman v Greek Gods

The Indian Express puts an interesting spin on the upcoming Olympic opening ceremonies, suggesting it is Greece's way of thumbing their collective noses at the Romans (who were apparently the favourites to win the Olympics in 2003 ... I guess Toronto had no chance at all):

The Greeks invented the word ‘plagiarism’ but they say it was the Romans who perfected the art, hijacking the Hellenic culture they admired right down to its gods and heroes. Next month, though, the Greek gods are set for an Olympian comeback with Zeus and his divine entourage looking forward to setting the record straight during a fortnight in the global spotlight thanks to the Athens Olympics.

The Greeks are seizing the opportunity to remind the world that their gods, heroes and monsters were the originals, with their Roman counterparts the impostors.

If you do not know your Jupiter from your Zeus let alone Ulysses from Odysseus then the August 13-29 Games promise to set you straight with a blast of mythology.

The opening and closing ceremonies will lean heavily on mythology with the premiere themed on Apollo, the god of intellect, the arts, prophecy, healing and light. The curtain will come down with a show inspired by Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry.

Even the mascots Athena and Phevos are a cartoon-style take on Olympian gods. Athena was the goddess of wisdom and patron of Athens, while Phevos was the alternative name for her brother Apollo.

For the Greeks, it all started with the Olympian creation myth. The earth goddess Gaea came out of the shapeless mass, Chaos, to forge a Union with the firmament or Uranus.

Two generations of power struggles later, Zeus and his wife Hera emerged victorious from a celestial civil war to rule the world from Mount Olympus, along with the pantheon of 12 Olympian gods.

According to Wisconsin classics professor Barry Powell, the effect was overwhelming and swept away the domestic worship of abstract fertility spirits. “The Romans had no gods,” said Powell whose book ‘Classical Myth’ examined the roots of mythology in Greece and Rome. “The cultural power of the Greeks in the Roman Empire was extraordinary. The Romans absorbed it lock, stock and barrel.”

As the power of Rome rose, the names were changed to pay respect to local traditions. Thus the gods of love and war, Aphrodite and Ares, became Venus and Mars. Zeus, Hera and Athena became Jupiter, Juno and Minerva; sea god Poseidon got re-branded as Neptune and the confusion began in earnest.

It could all have been so different. It was Rome not Athens that was the favourite to win over the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1997 as hosts for the 2004 Olympics. The Italians were so incensed at their last-round defeat to Athens that the Mayor of Rome cried scandal and called for the vote to be taken again.

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NUNTII: Time Team Finds a Roman Burial

Today's lesson is to not fiddle with your spam filters and then change them back ... you'll spend hours trying to find where your mail program decided to file your news items. In any event, Sheffield Today tells us that Time Team has made a significant find:

A TWO-thousand-year-old child's skeleton has been found in a 'time team' dig at Worksop - hailed as one of the most significant archaeological finds in the region for years.

The child was still adorned with bangles and bracelets, and is believed to be from a high-ranking Iron Age tribe which flourished during the Roman occupation.

The site on Raymoth Lane, Gateford, is being excavated by Polish expert Alex Cetera before more than 200 Barratt homes are built on top of it.

He has been joined by archaeologists from Britain and abroad to find more details of the occupants, who lived there in a lavish stronghold in the first or second century AD.

The skeleton of the child, who was aged around nine or ten, was found in a crouched position with bracelets looped over its tiny arm.

Ursilla Spence, senior archaeologist for Nottinghamshire County Council, said the discovery was very exciting.

"We simply did not expect to find anything like this. The bones have been taken to Lincoln for tests," she said.

"It is impossible to say at this stage if it was a boy or a girl or what the cause of death was. But we do know this was a 'high status' burial because of the objects that were buried with the body."

Also clear is the Roman influence on the burial - the Romans would have buried children and old people close to their homes so they could still be 'part of the family'.

The dig has discovered that the tribe living on the site probably had close links with the Romans and traded in what would have been the luxury goods of the period.

It is possible the tribal leaders could have included powerful chiefs, similar to Boudicca or Cartimandua.

Remains of an imposing entrance to the compound have been unearthed - but the experts have been baffled by evidence that suggests the area was later cleared and abandoned.

Local volunteers have been working alongside the specialists and Barratt are funding the project.

The site was discovered using aerial photos which showed a D-shaped compound on a prime defensive outcrop, and traces of a large roundhouse inside.

Early excavations produced quality pottery and coins from the middle Roman period, indicating the tribe had considerable wealth and influence.

The site has attracted unwelcome attention from relic hunters with metal detectors, and security had to be increased.

An open day is being held at the site, off the B6040, this Friday from 10am to 7pm, with guided tours and a chance to see the artefacts uncovered so far.

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nonae quinctiliae

  • ludi Apollinares (day 2)-- games instituted in 212 B.C. after consulting the Sybilline books during a particularly bad stretch in the Punic Wars; four years later they became an annual festival in honour of Apollo
  • feriae Ancillarum -- a festival in honour of the "maids" who helped save Rome from a Latin attack in the days after the Gallic sack
  • rites in honour of Juno Caprotina -- rites possibly associated with the above in which Latin women offered sacrifices to Juno Caprotina under wild fig trees (the branches of the tree were also somehow used ... the old canard of 'fertility ritual' is usually mentioned in this context)
  • rites in honour of Consus in the Circus Maximus -- 'public priests' offered a sacrifice to Consus (possibly in a role of presiding over grain which has been stored underground) at his underground altar (was it uncovered for this?) at the first turning point in the Circus
  • eighth century B.C.? -- death/disappearance of Romulus
  • 267 B.C. -- dedication of the Temple of Pales (and associated rites thereafter)
  • 175 A.D. -- the future emperor Commodus dons his toga virilis
  • c. 200 A.D. -- martyrdom of Pantaenus (a Stoic!)

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JOURNAL: Teiresias

The latest issue (34.1) of Teiresias: a Review and Continuing Bibliography of Boiotian Studies has been posted at the National Library site. Earlier issues available from the same source.
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Shelley Matthews, First Converts: Rich Pagan Women and the Rhetoric of Mission in Early Judaism and Christianity (.pdf)

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NUNTII: Early Bronze Age Finds from Cyprus

From the Cyprus Mail:

TWENTY-SIX artefacts dating back to the Early Bronze Age were unearthed by Turkish Cypriot archaeologists near the village of Galinoporni on the Karpassia peninsula on Monday.

Archaeologists in the north say the find, which followed a tip-off to the museums and antiquities department by an American music lecturer at the north’s Eastern Mediterranean University, unearthed Bronze Age relics unlike others previously found on the island.

Head of the Famagusta branch of the museums and antiquities department Hasan Tekel said the objects found were “globally highly significant” as some of them “had no match anywhere in the world”.

The relics were all found in a large earthenware pot buried between two large, flat stones at the top of a hill overlooking the village of Galinoporni. They are all made of bronze and are believed to be around 3,200 years old.

Tekel explained that the relics were all domestic items designed for use either in the kitchen or in agriculture. None are thought to have a military application. A coal shovel found among the relics carries an inscription in Kripto Minoan, the oldest known language to have been used in Cyprus. Other relics found at the site include incense burners, bowls, pots, pans, knives and jugs. Some are said to be decorated with goat-head motifs.

The museums and antiquities department say the relics will be put on display at the north’s Somineli House in the near future.


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CHATTER: The Arthur Flick

We've already mentioned the Sarmatian angle in the new Arthur flick, but here's a good summary of the movie from the Toronto Star which might goad Classicists rogue and otherwise to check it out (and, of course, there are the obligatory links made to U.S. foreign policy):

The chronicle of King Arthur — a legend that gets re-interpreted to reflect the politics and religion of the age in which it is recounted — is about leadership and nationhood. It's not hard to read contemporary American foreign policy into King Arthur: A commander and his close-knit band of knights wage war to bring freedom to the indigenous inhabitants of Britain, thus ensuring their own supremacy.

Drawing on archaeological evidence, King Arthur casts the knights as Samaritans from what is now the central Asian country of Georgia. Admiring their bravery and skill in battle, the conquering Romans enlisted them to serve the empire in Britain. It is the late fifth century A.D. and the Romans are preparing to vacate Britain. Arthur, whose lineage is both Roman and Briton, serves the empire; he intends to go to Rome and his knights wish to return to their homeland.

Before being discharge from the Roman forces, Arthur is given a final mission: to fetch Alecto, the Pope's godson, and return him into Roman hands. The knights reluctantly agree and set forth with Arthur into territory invaded by Saxons.

Alecto's father is a despot who has imprisoned all locals who failed to do his bidding. Languishing in the dungeon is Guinevere. She is a Woad, one of the forest-dwelling, blue-painted indigenous peoples. They have been fighting a guerrilla war against the Romans. Apprehending Arthur and his knights on their mission, they spare them. Their leader Merlin (Stephen Dillane), more warrior than magician, realizes Arthur and his followers are their only hope against the Saxons.

In a bleak, glacial valley that more resembles the high Arctic than any part of the British Isles since the last ice age, Arthur and his ridiculously outnumbered eight knights, confront hundreds of Saxons. The northern menace are led by the bizarrely coiffed Cedric and his son Cynric, who look like professional wrestlers. In the most visually arresting scenes, the Saxons are defeated as one of Arthur's men cracks the ice beneath their feet.

In a brief respite from the fighting, Guinevere brings Arthur to realize his obligations to the Britons. Instead of going to Rome, he stays and joins forces with the Woads.

His loyal knights follow him into battle, alongside a scantily clad Guinevere. The Saxon hordes are helpless against the Woads' burning arrows and catapulting fireballs. The victorious Arthur is married to Guinevere and crowned king of Britain.

As for the traditional Arthurian elements, nothing but a few meaningful glances pass between Guinevere and Lancelot.

We get only a brief glimpse of the round table. And Excalibur does not emerge from a lake; a young Arthur pulls it from his father's grave.[more]

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CHATTER: More on Greek Fashion

USA Today picks up on the influence ancient Greece is having on modern fashion:

Hers was the dress that launched a thousand imitations. Since Jennifer Lopez donned deific Michael Kors for the Golden Globes in January, Grecian goddess gowns have been floating down red carpets and, now, into department stores — just in time for the Athens Olympics in August. USA TODAY's Olivia Barker charts the flow of these fluid frocks.

Who's got the look?

At the Oscars, Sienna Miller of Britain channeled Helen of Troy in a green silk dress by Matthew Williamson; Claire Danes looked like an ethereal Athena in blush Alexander McQueen at the Met's Costume Institute ball. Laundry by Shelli Segal and ABS by Allen Schwartz are trotting out interpretations. Even bridal designers, such as Paula Varsalona, seem to be worshiping the ancients at the altar.

How to pull it off

The dresses' diaphanous and shirred layers are actually quite forgiving, says Hope Greenberg, Lucky magazine's fashion director. "They can hide a lot of imperfections," she says. The thorny issue? How to avoid looking like you're headed to a toga party. "You probably would not want to do any kind of head wreath," Greenberg says. Ditto the combination of lace-up leather sandals and a woven leather belt. "Exercise caution in how many elements of the trend you're trying to put together."

Will Olympic-goers carry a torch for the toga style?

Greenberg says the dresses could work at the Games if worn in sturdier, daytime fabrics, such as cotton — rather than the gauzy chiffons of the runway — and paired with a "tougher-looking" sandal, all to make the ensemble look "a little less costumey."

I guess they're look for a sort of Xena-meets-Aspasia look ...

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CHATTER: Troy Script (and others)

This was mentioned on the Classics list t'other day ... if you're the sort of person who likes reading movie scripts, has a late (but not final) version of the script for Troy (as a .pdf). Poking around, one also finds two different scripts for a Hannibal movie based on Tom Harris' novel ... one by David Mamet and the other by Stephen Zaillian (both are .html).
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Jon D. Mikalson, Herodotus and Religion in the Persian Wars.

John T. Hamilton, Soliciting Darkness. Pindar, Obscurity, and the Classical Tradition.

Konstantin Boshnakov, Die Thraker südlich vom Balkan in den Geographika Strabos. Quellenkritische Untersuchungen.

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Wow ... I'm going to apologize in advance for any typos today ... I was up all night doing the allergy thing and I just can't function properly right now, especially in terms of spelling/typos (I had to re-edit the previous post eight times!). Yikes ...
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CHATTER: The Magna Mater

I've always been fascinated with the story of how, during the war with Hannibal, the Romans consulted the Sybilline Books and were told they wouldn't defeat Hannibal until the Magna Mater was brought to Rome. Then, for some reason, the image of the Magna Mater -- a black stone -- was allowed to travel to Rome where a temple was built for her, etc.. I've often wondered about the 'black stone' -- it's usually speculated that it was a meteorite or something like that. For ages, I thought it might actually have been a stalagmite which happened to look like a woman. Today, however, I'm thinking perhaps it was something like this "Eternity Stone" (which is actually a naturally-occurring agate), recently reported on by English Peoples Daily, which is up for auction in China:

This will give you an idea of how large it is:


The photos are taken from Reality Carnival, which I hope has a longer shelf life than the Chinese news sources ...

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AWOTV: On TV Today

10.00 p.m. |HINT|Time Team: Netheravon, Wiltshire
Our high-speed archaeological team, headed by Tony Robinson
(Baldrick in "Blackadder") and archaeologist Mick Aston, finds itself
inside a partially abandoned army barracks in Netheravon in
Wiltshire, England. In 1907, Colonel Hawley discovered part of a
mosaic in what he believed was part of a Roman villa (circa 300 AD).
Now, for the first time, the British Army has allowed archaeologists
inside the barbed wire to check out the colonel's theory--and they
have only three days.

HINT = History International

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