Friday, July 16, 2004
JOB: Generalist at UBC
The Department of Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies at the University of British Columbia invites applications for a tenure-track position in Classics and Classical Studies at the level of Instructor I beginning July 1, 2005 subject to budgetary approval. The successful candidate will be expected to teach a wide range of Classics and Classical Studies courses at the undergraduate level, including Classical archaeology and women in antiquity. Experience in teaching the roots of medical terminology is essential. This position is primarily a teaching position and will require a dedication to teaching with a commensurate teaching load. The successful candidate will also be expected to show potential for scholarship in pedagogy. Applicants should have completed the Ph.D. Considerable teaching experience at the post-secondary level is expected. Salary will be commensurate with qualifications and experience. With their letter of application applicants should send a current c.v. and arrange for three letters of reference, and teaching evaluations if available, to be forwarded to Professor Shirley Sullivan, Chair of the Search Committee, Dept. of Classical, near Eastern and Religious Studies, University of British Columbia, 1866 Main Mall, Vancouver, B.C., V6T 1Z1, Canada, no later than October 1, 2004. Interested applicants may also visit our Website at http://www.cnrs.ubc.ca.
The University of British Columbia hires on the basis of merit and is committed to employment equity. We encourage all qualified persons to apply; however, Canadians and permanent residents of Canada will be given priority. Applicants may elect to identify their citizenship and immigration status.
... seen in the Canadian Classical Bulletin
NUNTII: Roman Fort Found?
From the BBC:
Work on a massive distribution centre for high street giant Argos is due to begin in September.
The project will bring 700 jobs to Darlington, which has been hit hard recently by manufacturing job losses.
Now archaeologists are moving in after a surprise discovery of what experts believe is a previously unknown fort-like structure dating back to 200BC.
Archaeologists have just a few weeks to unearth what they can from the site at Whessoe, before the remains are buried again forever.
The settlement is thought to link the Iron Age with Roman occupation and is described as "very significant". [more]
GOSSIP: Another Odyssey Flick in the Works
Scifi Wire alerts us to a movie still in the development stages:
Screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, who is adapting Homer's The Odyssey for the movies, told SCI FI Wire that he will use selections of the original Homeric text to play up the fantasy elements of the story. Boyce added that his approach will differ from the recent Troy, an adaptation of The Iliad, which dispensed with the epic poem's gods and monsters in favor of strictly human drama.
"I wasn’t that happy with leaving the gods out of Troy," Boyce said in an interview. "I didn't really know what the point was. I'd much rather go for it, although, actually, it is very difficult to get the gods to work, because in the background there is always the shadow of Laurence Olivier in a purple-white robe playing chess [as in 1981's Clash of the Titans]. You don't want to go down that road, and it's very difficult to re-imagine that."
Boyce added, "I'll probably use some of the more prophetic bits of it, where you're predicting how the journey's going to turn out and stuff like that. There are just some lines that you can't do without. But I'm going to play around with it. Troy was quite serious. This is more kind of Ray Harryhausen territory." [more]
NUNTII: Apollo of Veii Restored
From the Globe and Mail (which really should be commended for picking up on the Classical side of things over the past few months):
The Apollo of Veio shines again after a cleaning that restored the Etruscan masterpiece's original colours and provided information about techniques used 2,500 years ago.
The restoration, unveiled Thursday at the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia in Rome, was the first in decades on the terra-cotta statue of the Greek god.
“The restoration brought back to life the varied colours that caused such amazement when the statue was first discovered,” said Francesca Boitani, one of the project's curators and the museum's director.
Pieces of the sculpture were recovered in 1916 near Rome. Three years later the fragments — about 30, including one single big piece of the head, shoulders and torso — were pieced together to form a statue, although the arms and other parts are missing.
Since then, the Apollo has undergone minor cleanups but never a thorough restoration.
Going into the work, the statue's structure was stable, but its surface was opaque and covered in heavy layers of dirt, dust, wax and protective coatings applied over the years, officials said.
The restorers stripped the layers with a technique that included the use of distilled water, alcohol and other delicate removers.
“You work on the piece without ever modifying it, without polluting it with traces of what you use for the cleaning,” said Tuccio Sante Guido, a leading restorer on the project. [more]
CHATTER: Cleopatra Stare
This sentence got snagged in one of my scans this a.m.:
Led by Finch -- a 6-foot blonde bombshell with a Cleopatra stare -- the young members of Team USA have infused their older teammates with a newfound energy heading into Athens. [source]
What the heck is a "Cleopatra stare"? To judge by numerous pictures of Jennie Finch on the www (e.g., here) it seems to refer to wearing just a tad too much eyeliner ... I guess if she were dark-haired she'd be referred to as 'Gothic' ...
CHATTER: On Eating Insects
An excerpt from a piece at the National Geographic commenting on how 'natural' it is for humans to eat bugs:
The ancient Romans and Greeks dined on insects. Pliny, the first-century Roman scholar and author of Historia Naturalis, wrote that Roman aristocrats loved to eat beetle larvae reared on flour and wine.
Aristotle, the fourth-century Greek philosopher and scientist, described in his writings the ideal time to harvest cicadas: "The larva of the cicada on attaining full size in the ground becomes a nymph; then it tastes best, before the husk is broken. At first the males are better to eat, but after copulation the females, which are then full of white eggs."
EXHIBITION: The Games in Ancient Athens
The New York Times' arts column has some info about an interesting exhibition at the Met:
With all the publicity surrounding the Olympics when they begin in Athens next month, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston are on a mission to educate their audiences about the history of the art the ancient games inspired.
The Met is tackling the subject in a small way, with "The Games in Ancient Athens: A Special Presentation to Celebrate the 2004 Olympics," featuring 50 works from its permanent collection made from the sixth to the fourth century B.C. They deal with events as varied as chariot racing and discus throwing.
"What we've done is take a number of objects that have been on view and regrouped them with graphics and texts that explain what the Olympics were from the first gold medal to the different sports," said Philippe de Montebello, director of the Met.
The inexpensive and timely exhibition, on view through Oct. 3, seemed like a natural. "We're hoping to increase awareness of the Olympics, especially with the possibility that New York may be the future site of the games in 2012," Mr. de Montebello added.
The show will feature the Panathenaic games, the most important games held in Athens in antiquity, which were considered sacred to the goddess Athena. On view will be nine large prize jars dating from the middle of the sixth century B.C. to the second quarter of the fourth century B.C. On one side of these vases are illustrations of the various competitions, including four-horse chariot racing, sprinting, long-distance running events and wrestling.
The Met's show will feature only a small portion of its collection. Twelve other works have been lent to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for "Games for the Gods: The Greek Athlete and the Olympic Spirit," which opens Wednesday and runs through Nov. 28.
Billed as the first major American exhibition dedicated to Greek athletics, it will include about 180 objects, 150 from the museum's permanent collection and 30 loans from private collections and institutions like the Met, the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
"As we get more and more besieged by notions of terrorism, the idea of the world coming together to celebrate virtue and excellence becomes more important," said Christine Kondoleon, curator of Greek and Roman art and art of the ancient world at the Museum of Fine Art. "It's a great bridge to the past."
The show will underscore the pervasiveness of the Greek athlete as a major force of creativity and inspiration. The male nude as a subject is explored through bronze and marble sculptures, painted vases, even ancient coins. Among the loans will be a bronze Roman head, a copy of a lost Greek original, dating from about the first century B.C., which the Kimbell bought for $4.5 million at Sotheby's four years ago.
While organizing the show, Ms. Kondoleon discovered that the museum's musical instruments department has a bronze and bone trumpet, believed to be Roman and dating from around the first or second century A.D., that was once used for the announcement of equestrian events. It, too, will be in the show.
"It was part of the musical instruments department, so we weren't aware of it," Ms. Kondoleon said.
Nothing special at the Met's website on this ... the poster is kind of nice, though.
CHATTER: Defending the Misuse of Classics
Classics prof Olga Arans (GMU) has nicely countered a rather strange attempt to equate Islamic terrorists with Achilles in the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star by Edward Hudgins. First an excerpt from Hudgins' piece (from back in June ... this was one of those pieces which I hemmed and hawed over in terms of inclusion in rogueclassicism and finally declined):
Radical Islamists today--like ancient Achilles--are dominated by their rage and hatred. Add to that envy of the West, which is heir to classical Greece. We see in their obsession with abusing and mutilating the bodies of dead enemies and cutting off the heads of the innocent a reflection of the wrath portrayed by Homer that has brought pains a thousand-fold upon the Middle East.
Further, Islamists share with Bronze Age Greeks an obsession with religion. When those Greeks got ideas in their heads, it was the gods who were whispering them in their ears. When they showed courage or succumbed to fear, it was often the gods who prompted them. They saw their fates in the hands of the gods; they sought the gods' favor and acted in the names of the gods.
Similarly, Islamists are immersed in a primitive theistic mind-set. God is responsible for all things. It is through the will of Allah that everything happens and in the name of Allah that they commit the most heinous crimes imaginable. Allah is as real to them as Zeus, Poseidon, and Ares were to the warriors before the walls of Troy. But, of course, all of those gods were simply in their heads, not in Olympus or heaven.
But the classical Greek thinkers, Aristotle especially, understood that impersonal laws of nature--not the gods--govern the order of the world, and that our rational minds are capable of understanding the world--thus the birth of science. They understood that each of us--not the gods--is responsible for his own actions, that our individual wills--not those of the gods--create the character of our souls, and that the path to happiness is through self-discipline and subjecting our whims to the rule of reason--thus the birth of ethics.
Of course, most Greeks in classical times were not atheists. But it was the secular elements that distinguished the classical culture from the Bronze Age, that produced the great achievements in classical times and still produce achievements in our own society today.
A millennium ago Islam had a tradition of rational thought and critical thinking that created a major civilization; Islamic scholars in that era reintroduced the works of Aristotle into backwards, Medieval Europe. Today the backwards cultures in most Islamic countries are dominated by anger, violence, and superstition.
And now for Arans' response:
THE JUNE 26 op-ed by Edward Hudgins, director of the Washington Objectivist Center ["Myth-Ridden Greeks previewed the brutality of today's Islamists"], was well-intended and essentially correct in opposing the radical Islam culture of hate and prejudice to the rule of reason cultivated by the Western world. But its main example was ill-conceived and the pictorial juxtaposition of Brad Pitt's Achilles to the group of masked terrorists about to behead their hostage was, to say the least, misleading.
There is no legitimate way to equate the noble and valiant hero Achilles, an inspiration of a great many generations of Western youth, to the sneaky murderous gang of terrorist kidnappers. Any reader of "The Iliad" knows that the celebrated "wrath of Achilles," when his upper-in-command Agamemnon takes the captive maiden Briseis away from him, stems from the issue of personal honor, fairness, and manliness, and the hero's reaction was, in fact, retreating from the battle rather than blind violence. "Why should I fight the Trojans," he says, "who have done me no wrong?" (Iliad 1, 180.)
The death of his friend Patroclus (or Patroklos; not "Petraclos," as in Hudgins!) spurs Achilles' rage against the Trojans, and he does, indeed, lose himself in the fit of murderous revenge. But the visit of old King Priam brings out the best of Achilles, as the old king and the young man embrace each other's miseries in their profound realization of the common human fate, and, moreover, of their mutual interdependence. Not only did Achilles "become human again, recovering his sense of decency" (Hudgins), but, as a result, he ascends to the new level of humaneness and personal introspection.
Perhaps a better analogy to modern-day terrorists would be the post-Iliadic figure of the son of Achilles, Pyrrhus, who joined the Greek army after his father's death: a ruthless, cold-blooded slaughterer with no redeeming qualities of Achilles' personality. As he murders King Priam on the last night of Troy (Virgil, Aeneid 2, 540), the old king scolds the insolent youth in his last words: "Achilles, whom you falsely claim your father, was nothing like you: he knew shame and respected the rights of parenthood, taking pity of the supplicant enemy Priam, when he returned Hector's corpse to me, and sent me back to my kingdom."
Islamic terrorists, hiding behind the backs of civilians, have no personal grudge against their victims; nor are they driven by honor, justice, compassion, or respect for the basic human values. Their cause would never have laid the foundations of the modern mind, as do the adventures of the Homeric heroes of "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey."
Likewise incorrect is Hudgins' disparaging view of the divine presence in "The Iliad." True, the archaic world of Homer is gods-driven. But gods also dictate the reason, morals, and self-restraint to the heroes of "The Iliad."
It was Athena who held Achilles back from striking Agamemnon; it was Apollo who questioned Achilles' treatment of Hector; it was Zeus who called upon the hero to show respect to the father's grief and return Hector's body.
In contrast, Islamic terrorists use Allah's name only to justify their random violence. Confusing them with the beloved heroes of Homer, indeed, does a disservice to our youth's education.
Brava Professor Arans!
REVIEWS: Troy and Gladiator: Film and History
TLS this week has an interesting pairing of reviews ... one is about the movie Troy and the other is Martin Winkler's collection of essays entitled Gladiator: Film and History. Inter alia:
As Xena’s end credits might say, no classicists were harmed, or indeed consulted, in the making of this motion picture, though Troy’s credits list four separate, non-classical “military advisers”, and somebody has at least told some of the actors how to pronounce Menelaus with a digamma. Historical thigh-slappers begin with the opening map, and continue with the startling revelation that Thessaly is populated by Thessalonians (a little like staffing Jamaica Inn with Rastafarians); while Nigel Phelps’s production design is a trolley-dash round the British Museum, jumbling millennia and cultures in a historical mishmash surpassing even the original poem. It is a different story with the film that brought classical cinema back from the dead in the first place (and whose “in this world or the next” speech is rehashed without embarrassment at the climax of Troy). Gladiator (2000) went right to the top for its historical consultant, engaging the services of Harvard’s Kathleen Coleman, only for her to insist on her name being taken off the film, as provided for in her contract, when she saw the finished product. Outmanoeuvred (the consultancy credit was simply replaced with a “thanks to”), Coleman came back with a blistering public statement on the treatment of the academic consultant in Hollywood, the repercussions of which are now fleshed out in Martin Winkler’s invaluable collection of essays Gladiator: Film and history.
Would-be Benioffs contemplating screenwriting as a vocation have fair warning in the career of Gladiator’s creator David Franzoni, who by the age of fifty had only one film credit to his name – a part-credit ten years earlier for “story” on Jumpin’ Jack Flash, which he wrote as a female character drama and saw transformed by other hands into a Whoopi Goldberg comedy. What finally ignited his career was a film that, like most, was never made: a mid-1990s George Washington script that for a while was on every desk in Hollywood, where a viable Washington project has long been something of a holy grail. The Washington script caught the eye of Steven Spielberg, who had been looking for a writer to help him do for the Atlantic slave trade what Schindler’s List had done for the Holocaust, and was attracted by Franzoni’s adroit finessing of the politics of slavery for the sensibilities of a millennial audience. The result was the commission that became Amistad, Franzoni’s first significant screen credit; and part of the terms for Amistad were a first-look deal with DreamWorks for Franzoni’s next three projects, beginning with Gladiator.
Franzoni’s original Gladiator was a very different film from the one that audiences know. For a start, it bore a passing resemblance to history. There was no “Maximus Decimus Meridius”; Franzoni’s Gladiator was about Commodus’ real-life assassin, a shadowy athlete called Narcissus who strangled Commodus in the conspiracy of 192 and was executed by Severus the following year. Franzoni’s conceit was to invent a fanciful background history for this character between the lines of the sources, making him a fallen general and confidant of Marcus Aurelius who wound up enslaved and sold as a gladiator through Commodus’ treachery, following disagreements on German policy after Marcus’ death. Like Benioff, Franzoni collapsed years of source chronology into an impossibly brief timespan; but he read his ancient sources with care if not always understanding, and his extant second draft even carries a sprinkling of historical footnotes (something of a Hollywood first). [the whole thing]
AWOTV: On TV Today
6.00 p.m. |HISTU| Barbarians: Goths
Terrorized by the Huns savage raids, the Goths made a desperate bid
for safety in the Roman Empire, but were forced into squalid
concentration camps along the imperial borders, starved and degraded,
their children sold as slaves. But Rome made a big mistake--the Goths
kept their weapons and exploded in rioting and looting. After
centuries of broken treaties, King Aleric sacked Rome. Ironically,
the Goths maintained Roman art and culture in their new Goth kingdoms
as the Empire faded away.
7.00 p.m. |DTC| The Emperor of the Steppes
In a huge undertaking, researchers and archaeologists working in
Upper Mongolia unearthed the sepulcher of the Emperor of the Steppes.
This expedition may reveal insight into Mongolian history dating back
to the second century BC.
8.00 p.m. |DTC|The Grasp of Empire
Rome's legacy of trade, roads, and architectural and psychological
infrastructure relied on a fragile alliance of slaves, peasants, and
the provincial. The glory years of the Roman conquest led to the
longest period of peace the world has ever known.
9.00 p.m. |DTC|The Cult of Order
Roman culture still weaves influence through western art,
architecture, medicine, and urban planning. This enormous empire was
a reflection of the multicultural world it encompassed, as excellence
gave way to excess and decline.
9.00 p.m. |HINT| The Roman Emperors
When the power of Rome was concentrated into the hands of supreme
rulers, the empire began to corrode as the emperors led lives of
increasing depravity. We'll visit their mansions to get an inside
look at the splendor--and squalor--in which they lived, and insight
into their often inexplicable acts.
10.00 p.m. |DTC| The Fall
From the reign of Diocletian to the sack of the Eternal City in 410
A.D., abusive political elite, complacent military, and an eroding
cultural identity placed the Roman empire in an inexorable decline.
10.30 p.m. |DCIVC| The Most Evil Men in History: Attila the Hun