Latest update: 9/1/2004; 6:23:41 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ Newsletter: Ancient World on Television

The weekly version of our Ancient World on Television listings have been posted. Enjoy! Sunday, August 15, 2004 9:40:41 PM

~ Fiddling Resumes

Fiddling has resumed for a short while ... you may notice changes. Sunday, August 15, 2004 11:52:32 AM

~ Explorator 7.16 Posted

Issue 7.16 of our Explorator newsletter has been posted. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 15, 2004 11:06:43 AM

~ Olympic Wreaths

If you haven't seen a medals ceremony yet, medal winners at the Olympics are being adorned with wreaths of olive leaves. Here's some details:

The first medallists in Athens were crowned with olive wreaths on Saturday, reviving a tradition going back to the Olympics' ancient Greek origins.

Chinese shooter Du Li, winner of the Games' first gold in the women's 10 metre air rifle competition, got a wreath to go with her medal, as did runner-up Lioubov Galkina of Russia and third-placed Katerina Kurkova of the Czech Republic.

In the ancient Olympics, a crown of olive leaves was the winners' only prize. Later laurel wreathes were used. When the Games were revived in Athens in 1896, champions also received an olive wreath as well as a silver medal and a diploma.

The familiar Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals were introduced eight years later in St Louis.

Medallists' crowns come from an olive grove in Athens. But the winners of the men's and women's marathons will have special wreaths crafted from trees dating back to antiquity on the island of Crete.

Sunday, August 15, 2004 11:01:59 AM

~ On the Classical Origins of the Arthur Tale

The historical advisor to the recent Arthur pick comments on the evidence for a 'Roman' Arthur:

CROATIA is a strange place to discover a clue linking King Arthur with Cumbria. But John Matthews, who was a historical advisor on the newly released Hollywood film King Arthur, says the memorial stone of an Anglo-Roman commander found in a Croatian village adds weight to the theory that places the legend against the backdrop of Hadrian’s Wall.

Mr Matthews, a leading expert on the legend, from Oxfordshire, says: “The historical theory is that a Romano-British leader, Lucius Artorius Castus, was stationed at Hadrian’s Wall, probably at Birdoswald.

“We know he was the commander of a legion of Sarmatian warriors, who came from between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in the second century AD, towards the end of Roman rule in Britain.”

A Roman habit of including a potted biography on a memorial tells historians where Lucius Artorius Castus was stationed and that he was commanding some of the 5,500 Sarmatians, skilled cavalrymen, brought to Britain to fight.

Archeological finds show Sarmatians stayed in Britain long after the Romans left, remaining in a tight knit ethnic group and, like Arthur, their battle insignia was a dragon.

Also – as in the Excalibur myth – they worshipped an image of a sword stuck in the ground as the symbol of their god of war.

Mr Matthews believes the Arthur of legend was a sixth century descendent of Lucius Artorius Castus, ensconced in a Roman-built fortress and leading a “formidable” Sarmatian cavalry armed with spears and bows against a more primitive foe.

A sixth century poem backs this up, he says, describing a Romano-Briton hero who “led the defence from the Great Wall.”

He believes Birdoswald, the walled fort at Gilsland, near Brampton, which may have been known as Cambloglanna in Roman times, is the most likely location of the mythical Camelot, where Arthur’s knights met at the round table.

He says: “What makes Birdoswald so interesting is the presence of this large wooden building, which was built at the right time for the Arthur legend.

“We don’t know for sure it was Arthur but we know some important person rebuilt the fort in the fifth century.”

He also believes Birdoswald is a possible site for the Battle of Camlann, where Arthur was killed in 540AD.

“It may have taken place further north, but there are so many theories. I happen to think it was at Birdoswald, because 20 miles along the wall there was another fort called Avalla, which is the right distance for Arthur to be taken to Avalon, as it’s called in the legend.”

Sunday, August 15, 2004 10:56:37 AM

~ Mythmatical Battles: Cashing in on the Ancient World

A news release suggests some folks see the possibility of cashing in on the popularity of the ancient world:

Mythmatical Battles is a small game company that’s reaping big rewards because of a connection to Greece. “Mythmatical Battles is a great way to teach kids multiplication and classic mythology, but for success with any new brand you need a little luck too,” says Michael Regnier, company founder and inventor of Mythmatical Battles.

That “little luck” came on Friday the 13th with the opening of the Olympic Games in Greece. Mythmatical Battles combines multiplication facts with classic mythology from Celtic, Norse, Egyptian and Greek cultures. “We have an entire card deck based on Greek mythology. We created the deck because of our own interest in the Greek myths but right now the whole world is interested in all things Greek because of the games.” Regnier said.

Mythmatical Battles is proving to be a great way for kids to learn the legends of Greek mythology. Olympic fever and back-to-school season are the perfect combination for Mythmatical Battles. “You can use your kids’ interest in Greece to teach mythology and math,” Regnier advises. Mythmatical Battles is carving its own niche in the tough field of educational games because it puts a new twist on flashcards by combining multiplication facts with legends and heroes from diverse cultures.

The game was inspired by Regnier’s children who played dozens of dueling card games but were also under pressure to succeed in school and on state testing. “Kids have a huge capacity to memorize numbers if the facts are tied to something they are interested in. Legends from Mt. Olympus, Asgard, the Nile, and ancient Britain provide a great backdrop for learning math and classic folklore,” says Regnier.

For what it's worth, the Ancient Sanctuary series in Yugioh has some nods to Classical Mythology, but more could be done. I wonder why someone hasn't made an ancient Greek/Roman duelling game along the lines of Yugioh or Magic?

Sunday, August 15, 2004 10:53:50 AM

~ What We Owe the Ancient Greeks

Newsday has a lengthy feature on how our society owes its competitive nature (among other things) to the ancient Greeks. Here's the incipit:

Now is the season of the Greeks. The film "Troy" this spring and the opening of the Olympics in Athens remind us of the enduring fascination for us of that ancient civilization and have led inevitably to debates over who the Greeks "really" were, and why we must be careful when appropriating their culture for our own use.

This wrangling is itself supremely Greek. No civilization we know of was more contentious about ideas and their impact, and no civilization was more fiercely agonal, making everything into a contest. The great tragic dramas of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides were all performed at a religious festival, and at the heart of these rituals was the struggle to see whose plays would win first prize.

This part of Greek civilization has endured and prospered in contemporary American culture. In an effort to ensure maximum efficiency and productivity, we welcome competition for everything from public school funding to medical care that other cultures consider basic services to be provided by the government. The underlying notion is that if hospitals have to compete with each other, then the "product," medical care, will be delivered with the least possible amount of waste. Likewise, online universities look promising to many because they "deliver" information without the added expense of tables, chairs and blackboards.

Our valorizing of competition colors the representation of ancient Greek civilization in films, on television and, of course, in the Olympic Games. "Troy" presents the story of Iliad as a power struggle between old generals and young foot soldiers. The moral and ethical complexities of the original give way to simplistic "good guys" and "bad guys," verbal richness and ambiguity to lingering shots of Brad Pitt leaping over dead bodies. The idea that there might be anything negative about the desire to win is not a part of this version.

The modern Olympic Games offer a slightly more subtle version of the same message, complicated by the grafting of athletic achievement onto nationalism. The Games' original amateur ideal is long gone, shoved aside by commercialization. Television ads selling sporting equipment urge us to "just do it," the implication being that thinking about consequences just gets in the way of winning. Despite the treacley vignettes on television about the Olympic athletes, which attempt to show the warm human side of cutthroat competition, winning is still what matters.

Sunday, August 15, 2004 10:50:13 AM

~ Why Major in Classics II?

More from Newsday (cf. below):

Adam King Skrzynski, 20, a University of Michigan junior from Royal Oak, Mich.:

The study of ancient Greece and Rome gives us a better idea of who we are, as a Western nation, since these ancient civilizations were the foundation for our way of life. Our historical, medical, legal and scientific traditions all stem from these peoples.

I plan to attend medical school and believe that learning about humanity and the reasons for its behavior are an important part of becoming a quality physician. The Greeks and Romans knew well the value of empathy, a trait every doctor should express.

It seems that society is moving in a more technical, scientific direction. Musicians are steered toward technical brilliance at the cost of emotion, as students are steered toward the sciences at the cost of understanding how they and the other peoples of the world fit into the big picture.

Studying Classics has allowed me to look directly into the eyes of people, from diverse and disparate backgrounds, living thousands of years ago. I am witness to their aspirations and struggles. Because of that, I can appreciate that human beings are more alike than different, whatever age they live in.

Sunday, August 15, 2004 10:44:09 AM

~ Why Major in Classics?

Newsday has a number of features on assorted things Classical, including this little sidebar on why one person chose Classics as their major:

I like the idea of starting at the beginning. I don't see this stuff as outdated, but as a starting point. Herodotus, the very first historian, says he is writing down his stories so that "time may not draw the color" from the truth of what happened. Thucydides says that he is writing not "to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time."

We would all be well served to listen to what the ancients figured out - that human behavior doesn't really change, no matter how modern you think you are. Thucydides discovered, for instance, that in the snowballing violence of war, "prudent hesitation" and "moderation can be a cloak for unmanliness." His point is that war is a mess that's pretty hard to worm one's way out of once it's begun.

I tell people I'm majoring in classics, and I get this blank stare as if I'm a cancer patient and they don't really know how to console me. Sometimes I get a crinkled-up nose and, "So do you wanna teach?" as if teaching classics is the only thing I could possibly do with my degree.

There are lots of jobs classicists can do. Besides diplomacy, where reading a little Thucydides couldn't hurt, there's work in archaeology and conservation. Someone is on the Athenian acropolis as we speak, reconstructing marble columns so tourists can see what it used to look like.

Sunday, August 15, 2004 10:42:21 AM

~ Cinammon in Ancient Greece and Rome

A review of Jack Turner's recent tome on spices reveals some information about ancient mentions of cinnamon:

Wild tales grew up around them: The Greek historian Herodotus believed that cinnamon came from nests built by birds on the ledges of inaccessible cliffs and that it was harvested by tempting the birds with large pieces of meat. The additional weight of the meat caused the nests to fall to the ground, where the aromatic twigs could be picked up.

Others recognized that cinnamon was the bark of a tree -- it's an evergreen native to Sri Lanka -- but they nevertheless gave it an aura of mystery: The philosopher Theophrastus insisted that it grew in ``deep glens'' guarded by poisonous serpents.

Something so rare that smelled so good had a special appeal for the Romans, who prized cinnamon most of all. The emperor Vespasian had crowns made of cinnamon covered with gold leaf. Pliny the Elder wrote about seeing a huge piece of cinnamon in a temple, displayed on a dish of gold as an object of veneration.

Sunday, August 15, 2004 10:39:58 AM

~ AWOTV: On TV Today

6.00 p.m. |DISCU| Seven Wonders of Ancient Greece
The ancient Greeks built the first theatres, staged the first sports
events and worshipped in some of the most spectacular temples ever
built.. From prehistoric palaces to bold symbols of victory, explore
the wonders of this ancient civilization.

7.00 p.m. |HINT| Time Team: Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent
Burslem--one of six towns that make up Stoke-on-Trent in England--
was the site of Josiah Wedgwood's first factory, where a thriving
business was born during the Industrial Revolution. Before building
begins on a new potteries museum in the town square, Time Team has
just three days to find out how much of that important history still
survives under modern paving stones. Experts Mick Aston, Phil
Harding, and Carenza Lewis use ground-penetrating radar to unearth
evidence layer by layer.
7.00 p.m. |DISCU| First Olympian
Witness the spectacular world of the Olympics in 500 BC. The
skeletal remains of Ikkos, the athlete Taranto, were studied to piece
together the lifestyle of the earliest Olympic athletes. Find out how
the first Olympians trained, lived and worshipped.

11.00 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.

Channel Guide

Sunday, August 15, 2004 10:36:28 AM

1. n. an abnormal state or condition resulting from the forced migration from a lengthy Classical education into a profoundly unClassical world; 2. n. a blog about Ancient Greece and Rome compiled by one so afflicted (v. "rogueclassicist"); 3. n. a Classics blog.

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