THIS DAY IN ANCIENT HISTORY
Friday, August 13, 2004 8:57:45 AM
- rites in honour of Jupiter (as on all Ides)
- rites in honour of Diana on the Aventine
- rites in honour of Vortumnus on the Aventine
- rites in honour of Fortuna Equestris
- rites in honour of Hercules the Victor
- rites in honour of Hercules Invictus at the Porta Trigemina
- rites in honour of Castor and Pollux in the Circus Flaminius
- rites in honour of the Camenae
- rites in honour of Flora at in the Circus Maximus
- 29 B.C. -- triple triumph of Octavian, celebrating his victories at Illyricum, Actium, and his annexation of Egypt (day 1)
- 250 A.D. -- martyrdom of Cassian of Imola
An exhibition entitled Vasemania: Neoclassical Form and Ornament in Europe: Selections From the Metropolitan Museum of Art is reviewed in the New York Times and includes a nice summary of the influence of Greece on Western art:
Friday, August 13, 2004 8:38:39 AM
For better and for worse, nothing has done more to shape Western civilization than the culture of classical Greece. The Italians conjured much of the Renaissance from its literature, architecture and sculpture, as derived mostly from secondhand Roman sources. In the 18th century, as excavation of Greece began in earnest, the contact became more direct, the influence more insistent. Large chunks of what was unearthed were carted off to European museums and private collections, where they began to work their spell on artists, designers and architects as well as on the kings and aristocrats who employed them.
David's "Oath of the Horatii," Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn," the high-waisted, diaphanous gowns favored by the ladies of Napoleon's court, the gold-on-orange Tapestry Room designed by Robert Adam for Croome Court in the 1760's and now at the Met — these are but a few specific examples. Another is the facade of the old New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street, with its temple-like columns and pediment, although in America, neoclassical was usually called Federal.
Despite the fame of such landmarks as the Elgin Marbles in London or the Pegasus in Berlin, the chief transmitter of le goût Grec was the Greek vase. [the whole thing]
CHATTER: Ancient Olympics Perceptions
Well, if nothing else, holding the Olympics in Athens seems to have gone far to eliminate the oft-portrayed view of the ancient games as 'pure' ... here's a selection of quotes just from today's coverage:
Friday, August 13, 2004 8:31:43 AM
The quadrennial pagan religious celebration accompanying the athletic spectacle was a riotous five-day festival of poetry reading, philosophizing, painting, dancing, eating, drinking and sex. Peddlers of tacky souvenirs pestered the masses of pilgrims, who set up a tent city around the holy precinct that became increasingly disgusting as garbage and sewage piled up. Greece might have been the cradle of Western civilization, but there was no plumbing in Olympia. [Miami Herald]
According to contemporary accounts, the Games and festivities were invariably noisy, filthy and smelly and attracted pimps, prostitutes, gamblers, peddlers, musicians and dancers from as far away as Libya and Egypt.
Several notable luminaries also attended the Games. Plato took in the festivities at age 70. Thucydides, a noted historian, was in attendance when Herodotus, the ``father'' of history,'' read from his works. [Asahi]
Dodgy logistics. Sporadic scandal. Naked idolatry. From crooked judges to overpriced grub, the classical Games had plenty in common with our modern festival of peace, brotherhood and THG — including the aforementioned Aegean sun. Which remains blistering. [Washington Times]
Naturally, the adherence to the fair play ideal had its fair share of exceptions - from Callippus of Athens who paid his rivals in order to win the 112th games' pentathlon, to boxers Didas and Sarapammon who fixed their match in the 226th games, and scores of other cheaters whose fines paid for the rows of bronze Zeus statues that lined the road to the main stadium in Olympia.
While athletes generally represented themselves rather than the places where they came from, there was the occasional cheating on this front, too, like the long-distance runner who was expelled from his native Crete for having accepted a bribe to compete in the 100th games as an Ephesian. [Jerusalem Post]
CHATTER: Classicist Performing at the Opening Ceremonies
In one of those sort of catch-all, introductory pieces to the Olympics in the Washington Post, the following bit caught my eye:
On Friday night, the Greeks will stage their elaborate Olympic Opening Ceremonies. The details are a closely guarded secret but Elaina DeMeyere of Woodbridge, Va., knows that secret.
A 22-year-old classics student at the University of London, DeMeyere will perform in the Opening Ceremonies. On Wednesday afternoon she agreed to a clandestine meeting with a reporter in a cafe far from the Olympic Stadium to discuss the secret ceremony.
So, Elaina, what will we see in the Opening Ceremonies?
"I'm not allowed to say," she says.
She flew here last February to audition for her part. She got the job. It pays no money but fulfills a dream she's had since she watched Atlanta's Opening Ceremonies on TV in 1996. But life has been tough since she arrived in late May to begin rehearsals.
"The whole process has been a bit of a nightmare," DeMeyere says.
First she got evicted by her landlord, then she lost her part-time job as a receptionist/cleaning lady in a youth hostel when her boss was fined almost $4,000 for hiring illegal foreign workers. Since then, she has been living with a friend, scrimping by on almost no money, and rehearsing for hours in the hot Greek sun.
"They treat us like dogs sometimes," DeMeyere says, "but I think the ceremony will be amazing."
That's pretty much all she'll say about it. A British newspaper recently printed a description of the ceremonies -- a comet striking a lake in the stadium, a centaur hurling a javelin, 400 drummers pounding out a human heartbeat -- but DeMeyere will neither confirm nor deny that account. On Tuesday night, more than 50,000 people watched the dress rehearsal, so the secret is kind of blown. But she made a vow of silence and she's sticking to it. Too bad Diogenes -- the ancient Greek who wandered through Athens with a lamp, searching for an honest person -- never met DeMeyere. She'll reveal just one tiny detail about the ceremonies.
"I'm gonna try to call my mom from the stadium," she says. "That will be cool." [the whole thing]
DeMeyere appears to have modelled herself on Papirius Praetextatus ... well done!
Friday, August 13, 2004 8:08:49 AM
CHATTER: Religion and the Olympics
The KRT Wire has a piece on concerns amongst the Greek Orthodox priesthood that the Olympic opening ceremonies might be too 'pagan' ... here's a bit from the end:
Friday, August 13, 2004 7:39:52 AM
But since Christodoulos' elevation, the church has sought a more direct role in defining Greece's foreign and domestic policies - at times, making more headlines than the state - on such issues as immigration, terrorism and, most recently, the location of Greece's first mosque.
On the Games, however, it has muted its voice - as many Greeks believe it should. After all, they say, the Games predate the rise of Christianity, dating back to 776 B.C. Still, church officials cannot help worrying that paganism will make too big a splash Friday night.
"If it is just mythology, then it is going to be OK," said Father Apostolos Mihail, 64, a parish priest at Church of the Prophet Elias, one of Athens' larger churches. "But we don't believe in the 12 gods. Of course it would bother us if they showcased that. They do not exist here."
Jamil Said, 27, is an American filmmaker who just completed a documentary titled "I Still Worship Zeus," about a small community of Greeks who want to revive the ancient faith in the 12 gods. He said the priests he interviewed for his film summed up their sentiments about that in two words: "Forget it."
Christian opposition to the ancient games and the gods they honored grew more and more fierce until, in A.D. 393, they were banned by Byzantine state authorities.
The modern games were revived in Athens in 1896 - sans any religious component.
"Ultimately, it's up to the organizers how they will depict the past," Father Epifanios Economou, spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Church, said of the opening ceremonies. "From what we know, it's going to be a theatrical performance, nothing more, because the religion of the ancient Greeks died 2,000 years ago.
"And it died on its own, starting with the philosophers Plato and Socrates, who denounced it, because they were searching for the real truth. They were searching for seriousness in their religious faith. And the answer was found eventually in the face of Jesus Christ."
Economou said that aside from attending opening and closing ceremonies as Greece's spiritual leader, Christodoulos would bless athletes from Greece's national team.
The church has also set up several kiosks around Athens and stocked them with booklets about Greece, its history and its religion. And the archbishop has asked priests across the country to extend church hours and be available to tourists who want to tour churches. Multilingual priests will be on hand to answer questions.
Economou said all these efforts were the church's way of supporting the Olympic Games. In return, there is hope that Zeus won't have a starring role at the opening ceremonies.
"There is no question that Greece is predominantly Greek Orthodox," he said. "The religion is part of the country's tradition. It is part of the country's history. And it should be a part of what people see when they come to Greece." [the whole thing]
CHATTER: Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
A piece all about that wonderful liquor called absinthe mentions inter alia:
Friday, August 13, 2004 7:27:48 AM
Absinthe, romantically known as the Green Fairy, though not distilled in the modern manner until the late 18th century, can trace its roots as far back as ancient Greece. The famed philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras recommended wormwood soaked in wine to aid labor in childbirth, while Hippocrates, the forefather of modern medicine, prescribed a similar concoction for jaundice, rheumatism, anemia and menstrual pains.
A half-century later, the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder recommended absinthe as an elixir of youth and cure for bad breath, at the same time noting that it had become customary for the champions of chariot races to consume a cup of wormwood leaves soaked in wine to remind them that even glory has its bitter side.
CHATTER: Restoring Herculaneum
The Hartford Courant has a report on the plan to spent a pile of cash restoring Herculaneum ... here's a bit from the middle:
Attracting tourists has long been a prime motivation for archeological fieldwork, said Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, author of "Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum" and director of the British School at Rome, which will undertake the new conservation project at Herculaneum. "Excavation at Pompeii and Herculaneum brought the world to their doorsteps," he told me in a telephone interview.
From 1828 on, tunneling at Herculaneum yielded to a more sweeping sort of excavation in which huge areas of the ruins were dug up and exposed to the light of day. In the early 1990s, this sort of archeological work began at the Villa of the Papyri, igniting a controversy between scholars of ancient texts, who are convinced that more undiscovered scrolls will be found in the library ruins, and preservation-minded archeologists, who think conservation of what has been unearthed is more crucial than more digging.
Even a casual visitor to Herculaneum can see degradations. Wallace-Hadrill calls it a "massive maintenance problem" that, has been addressed in stopgap fashion. Several days after then-first lady Hillary Clinton visited Herculaneum during the Group of Seven summit in Naples in 1994, the roof of one of the houses she toured collapsed. Wallace-Hadrill realized that the site was in crisis and needed preservation, not further excavation.
The recently announced Herculaneum conservation plan was made possible by the application of an Italian law that allows private organizations to work at sites controlled by the state and by a grant from Packard Humanities Institute, a Los Altos, Calif. group that has sponsored other archeological projects.
The project has been welcomed by Pietro Giovanni Guzzo, superintendent of Pompeii and Herculaneum. "With the new accord it will be possible to open workshops, begin restoration and offer visitors a fuller and more detailed view of the old city," Guzzo said in an e-mail. [the whole thing]
Friday, August 13, 2004 7:19:13 AM
CHATTER: Quote du Jour
This quote from the Oregonian was caught in this a.m.'s scan:
Finally, it's summertime, and it's easy to forgive four young men a certain seasonal and, admittedly classicist, obsession with females.
Insert the classicist joke which applies to your local Classics department here ... [actually, I've long been wondering what 'classicist' means in a pop/rock column]
Friday, August 13, 2004 7:06:14 AM
CHATTER: Google Banner
Dunno if you're the sort to 'collect' Google banners, but today's has a Classical theme (obviously to coincide with the Olympic opening).
Friday, August 13, 2004 6:58:03 AM
AWOTV: On TV Today
Besides the Olympics opening ceremonies (1.00 p.m. EDT according to our local paper):
8.00 p.m. |HINT| Hidden Cities of the Etruscans
A look at the fascinating people that ruled Italy centuries before
the Romans. Explores the contradictions in the character of the
Etruscans, who embraced both art and slavery, technology and
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.
9.00 p.m. |DTC| Seduction of Power
Trace the evolution of Roman politics from the world's first
representative government through the lives of Gracchi, Julius
Caesar, Nero, and Septimius Severus and into a tumultuous and
theatrical display of power over substance.
9.00 p.m. |HISTU| Decisive Battles: Thermopylae
Using cutting-edge computer gaming technology, we recreate conflicts
that shaped the ancient world and witness great battles like never
before. Hosted on location by Matthew Settle, we return to
Thermopylae in 480 BC, where 300 Spartans occupied a mountain pass
and held off the colossal army sent by the Persians to avenge their
defeat at Marathon. The Greeks held the pass for over a week in one
of history's greatest displays of military heroism--and died to the
last man rather than surrender.
Friday, August 13, 2004 6:55:05 AM