Latest update: 10/1/2004; 5:10:21 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ This Day in Ancient History

ante diem iv nonas septembres

  • 31 B.C. -- Octavian defeats Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra at Actium
  • 490 B.C. -- Pheidippides runs to Sparta for help against Persians at Marathon (one traditional date)
Thursday, September 02, 2004 7:28:37 AM

~ Felix Dies Natalis rogueclassicism!

One year ago today, we incipited feliciter a 'weblog' called rogueclassicism -- it had actually been in operation a few weeks before that, but the official launch was September 2, 2003. We're still trying to work out ideas like 'inscriptions du jour' and 'ancient letter du jour' (the latter should come online by October, actually) but despite that, we're pretty much fulfilling the original goals of this thing. As I write this, I see we're approaching the 78,000 visitor mark, which obviously isn't too shabby even if I had optimistically hoped for 100,000 in our first year (we've had well over that number of page views). I certainly suspect that many folks would not have believed that a Classics site such as this would get such traffic in the course of one year but I still find it odd that some of the 'big organizations', such as the APA and the CAC,  seem oblivious to rogueclassicism's existence (to judge by their own webpages ... the CAC can, perhaps, be forgiven since they do not purport to include news or links to external sites; the APA, well ...).  As such, a big 'thank you' is due to all of you for coming out!

Over the next little while you'll see some cosmetic changes to rogueclassicism (mostly in the form of Amazon ads as I continue to seek some way to fund my ever-increasing server costs), but outside of that, it should pretty much stay as you see it now. I'm trying to figure out how to get the date of each article in a different place (it's embedded in a Radio macro) and will probably take up Debra Hamel's suggestion and make the column rules a little less harsh, but that's about it. For those wondering, the little experiment with Feedsweeps of other blogs is on hold for now ... I'll be putting the links in for the 'Blogwatch' on the right in something over the next few days (barring finding a reliable Feedsweep replacement).

Once again, though, and most importantly, GRATIAS VOBIS AGO! I hope you've enjoyed -- and will continue to enjoy -- our little rest stop on the Infobahn.

Thursday, September 02, 2004 7:21:30 AM

~ Some Recent Finds in Italy

A couple of tidbits from the Italian press this morning ... First, News Rimini reports on the discovery at Cattolica of a pit with some 300 amphorae and a bronze coin dating to the second century B.C./B.C.E.. Second, Orvieto Si updates us on the excavations of the Campi della Fiera, wherein evidence of ancient Volsinii have been found in the past. This year, finds have demonstrated pretty much continuous occupation of the area from the middle of the sixth century B.C.E. to the fourteenth century A.D./C.E. Finds include a late-augustan bathing structure (maybe), a mosaic dating to the fifth or sixth century A.C./C.E., an Etruscan road and a Roman wall. Thursday, September 02, 2004 7:05:28 AM

~ Classics Threatened at MSU???

In the middle of a lengthy piece in City Pulse (no, not the Toronto one ... this one is from Lansing) on the back-to-school labour unrest among faculty at MSU we read the following:

John Rauk, chairman of MSU’s French, Classics and Italian Department, speaks with the gentle deliberateness one would expect from a scholar of Latin and Greek. About a year ago, Rauk learned that the College of Arts and Letters was considering imposing moratoria on low-enrollment majors and programs, among them Latin and Classical Studies. (The former dean of Arts and Letters, not the present one, initiated the moratoria.) The college was soliciting comments from department leaders, and Rauk did so.

He could have pointed out that the very word “moratorium” wouldn’t exist without Latin, but resisted the temptation. Since students already in the pipeline had to be taken care of for one or two more years, argued Rauk, a moratorium (temporary by definition) would save no money. “I wasn’t trying to argue truth and beauty,” said Rauk. “I was looking at how the program functioned economically.” Besides, added Teahan, “nobody was being paid a nickel to administer these tiny majors.”

“The arguments that I presented were not acknowledged or discussed,” Rauk said. “The proposals were sent directly from the college to the relevant university committees without being first reviewed by the department chairs,” which Rauk says is in violation of university procedure.

Aside from the symbolic resonance of Sparty’s march on Rome, the notion that the administration would take a swipe at the Latin and Classical Studies majors in a symbolic and ineffective sacrifice to budgetary pressures clearly pains Rauk. “It’s natural to suspect that the university was trying to position itself toward more practical types of education — narrowly defined,” he added pointedly. “However, the Morrill Act, which founded MSU as one of the first-generation land grant universities, stipulated that the colleges thus founded would not exclude classical and other studies in addition to the practical arts. Every other land grant institution founded along with MSU has a classics/Latin major, and most of them have classics and Latin departments. The notion that MSU would try to jettison classics would be an embarrassment to us as a land grant institution.”

Rauk was careful to add a hopeful note to the discussion over the academic moratoria. “The acting dean is attempting to revive the discussion, about the classics in particular, and I hope that his misstep can be corrected in a positive way.”

It’s tempting to draw dramatic mental juxtapositions — the Latin major threatens to disappear just as Colossus of Rhodes-scaled skyboxes rise above the west rim of Spartan Stadium, for example — that speak volumes about MSU’s 21st-century priorities. The AAUP’s Shaw, while acknowledging the budgetary crunches faced by large universities in general and MSU in particular, is indeed alarmed at the increasing trend toward “business model” decision making at American universities. “Academic management is increasingly taking on the qualities of corporate decision making,” he said, “which may be fine in the corporate world — to have a fairly small cadre of folks making the most consequential decisions — but academia is quite a different kind of enterprise. [the whole thing]

I guess it's the 1990's all over again ...

Thursday, September 02, 2004 6:53:03 AM

~ Torlonia Marbles to be Displayed?

The Guardian reveals that the so-called Torlonia Marbles will finally be made available for public viewing. Here are some excerpts:

A private collection of classic sculpture, said to be the biggest in the world, is to go on public view after being hidden for 40 years in a Roman basement.

The Torlonia marbles include more than 600 statues and tombs, among them 100 contemporary representations of emperors and their families.


Many of the works were unearthed on the family's estates. More than 50 were found around what is now the Leonardo da Vinci international airport at Fiumicino.

The Torlonia's treasures disappeared from public view in the early 1960s when the family turned the exhibition building into a block of flats. Many of the works ended up in the basement. Others were sent to Torlonia-owned properties around Rome.

Connoisseurs were appalled, and became more so when the family was reported to have demanded huge sums to part with the hidden masterpieces. In the late 70s a critic called for the marbles to be confiscated by the state.

By the early 90s the family was ready to hand them over, but only in as part of a deal which included building an underground car park in a beautiful area of central Rome, a scheme blocked by environmentalists.

Mr Urbani said he expected a definitive deal to be signed "within days". His ministry's spokesman said it would probably take a year to make arrangements for a permanent exhibition. [the whole thing]

Thursday, September 02, 2004 6:45:28 AM

~ Alexander Hype

We're starting to get little gossipy bits about the Alexander flick ... this one seems to be something from the gossip wire picked up by the Contra Costa Times:

While details are sketchy in Theron's mysterious injury, more details are emerging in the far from mysterious injuries that nearly imperiled Colin Farrell's upcoming epic, "Alexander." Seems the hard-living actor incurred the wrath of filmmaker Oliver Stone after breaking his ankle and his wrist during a cast party thrown by co-star Val Kilmer. Apparently, says, three days of filming remained on the movie, including its ending.

The actor, reportedly in a state that could have renamed his title character from "Alexander the Great" to "Alexander the Enormously Inebriated," fell down a stairway while exiting Kilmer's party. He woke up in agony with broken bones, and Stone admits the injuries nearly ruined the film's ending.

Insert the obvious he-was-just-getting-into-his-role comment here.

Thursday, September 02, 2004 6:31:42 AM

~ The Golden Mean and Olympian Form

From the Telegraph:

The first scientific investigation of the influence of athletic build on sporting aptitude, Dr J. M. Tanner's classic The Physique of the Olympic Athlete, was published in the 1960s. Dr Tanner started by measuring the height, shoulder width, leg circumference and 11 other parameters of 140 competitors in the Rome Olympics. He then categorised each along a gradient from the well-built, muscular "mesomorph" through the long, thin "ectomorph" to the round, compact "endomorph".

The distinction is readily apparent in the hundreds of (naked) photographs of the competitors, contrasting the powerful mesomorphic 100-metre sprinters ("the fastest men on earth") with the lean ectomorphic 5,000-metre runners; the unusually tall (because long-legged) hurdlers with the squat, barrel-legged weightlifters. And yet, perplexingly, despite all these variations on the theme of the human form, each conveys the same sense of symmetry and harmony.

Sophocles' contemporaries, the master sculptors of Athens' Golden Age, realised why this must be so. "The Greek sculptor had opportunities such as their modern contemporaries could not hope to match," wrote the former Professor of Classical Archaeology at Oxford, Percy Gardner.

"He daily witnessed the beautiful bodies of Athenians in action, observing some fresh detail to add to his perception of the body."

The sculptor, when approaching a block of marble with chisel in hand, had to have a sense of the relatedness of the body's parts: "The sculpture must be balanced . . . it must not have long legs and short arms, it must be well proportioned from head to toe." And the sculptor ensured that his statues were "balanced" by applying a variety of "canons", or rules of proportion, of which three have come down to us.

The first and simplest relates the length of the head, face, forearm, hand and foot to each other and, in turn, to the overall height or arm span. Thus the width of the outstretched hand approximates to that of the face from crown to chin (try it and see), while a pair of outstretched hands approximates to the length of the arm, and so on.

The sculptor Polyclitus, famed for his portrayal of Achilles as The Spear Bearer, deployed a second set of rules relating the length of the smallest bone - the distal phalanx, at the tip of the little finger - to the rest of the body. It works as follows.

Square the length of the distal phalanx, and the diagonal of that square is the length of the slightly longer middle phalanx. The same rule applies for the length of the little finger to the hand, the hand to the forearm, all the way up to the shoulder . . . and then continues from the head downwards.

And so it is that, as Polyclitus claimed, "the beautiful comes about little by little". The sculptor and art historian Richard Tobin was able to establish, using Polyclitus's canon, the entire proportions for a 10ft wax figure within a few minutes.

The third interpretation invoked the "golden mean", considered by the ancient Greeks to be "particularly pleasing to the eye". The golden mean divides a line so the proportion of the shorter part to the longer is the same as the longer to the whole.

This "divine proportion", as it was also called, is ubiquitous in the human form - where, for example, the measurement from head to navel is "golden" to the total height, and the brow is "golden" in relation to the face.

Thus the apparent paradox is explained: the diversity of human form does indeed conceal an underlying sense of harmony. Those Olympian competitors may come in a bewildering variety of shapes and sizes, but the same mathematical laws of proportion applies as much to the diminutive gymnast as the elongated hurdler. How or why such things can be, we will never know. [more]

Thursday, September 02, 2004 6:26:32 AM

~ Socrates Flick in the Works?

Kathimerini has an interview with David Franzoni, who was a screenwriter for Gladiator and, more recently, King Arthur. While it is mentioned in passing that he is working on the Vin Diesel Hannibal flick, a more interesting project comes to light towards the end of the interview:

How do you explain the fact that the public is once more showing interest in such films, starting with “Gladiator”?

The first reason is that a long time has passed since they were last produced by the studios — we went into space, into the oceans, we exhausted everything. Secondly, I don’t believe such films are outdated adventures about the past any more, they are about us. If kids who go to watch this film manage to read Vietnam between the lines, then we will have succeeded.

Would you like to sit in the director’s chair?

Yes, and I am seriously considering a project about the trial of Socrates. I am mostly interested in it because I can see America through the groundbreaking democracy of Athens.

What similarities do you see?

When Socrates was forced to commit suicide, it wasn’t the State that was accusing him. Every branch of society, from merchants to artists, wanted him dead. In the States today, everyone in theory has the right to express their opinion. What Athens had become — and what America will soon be — was a place where all opinions were equally right, which means chaos. Socrates was opposed to that and the others didn’t want him teaching the truth. When the State decides what the truth is, then there is a problem. That is where we are heading. When we vote for laws like the Patriot Act and Homeland Security, I get the shivers.

What sources have you used? Do you make references to Plato?

I am mostly interested in two characters around Socrates: One of them is Plato, who treats Socrates as a teacher and a god, and the other one is Xenophon, his wine-drinking friend. I think that the balance between those two is fascinating. [the whole thing]

Thursday, September 02, 2004 6:20:55 AM

~ North Slope of Acropolis Open

Abrief  item in Kathimerini notes that the Culture Ministry is opening up the north slope of the Acropolis to visitors (it hasn't officially been open for a couple of decades at least). Here's what's on that slope:

The newly opened area, which is dominated by the Erechtheion Temple at the top of the craggy Acropolis rock, includes a series of caves which served as shrines in ancient times, including a cave of Pan which figures prominently in “Ion,” a tragedy by the playwright Euripides. [the whole thing]

Thursday, September 02, 2004 6:13:03 AM

~ Epic Protest

According to Newsday, an artist is doing a marathon reading to make a political statement:

It's difficult to make an epic journey out of a ride on the Staten Island ferry, but Marshall Weber is going to try.

Weber, an artist who once read the entire Bible out loud, on Tuesday began a marathon recitation of Homer's "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" as an antiwar response to the Republican National Convention.
Weber, who's in his 30s, took up the 683-page "Iliad" in Robert Fagles' translation at sunrise at the Vietnam veterans memorial in lower Manhattan. He plans to switch to the 560-page "Odyssey" at noon on Wednesday and read it aloud while riding back and forth on the Staten Island Ferry. He hopes to finish Thursday night.

Weber wasn't commenting. His colleagues at the Booklyn Artists Alliance said he didn't want to be interrupted. But in a statement, he said he was hoping "to evoke a critical historical context for the reconsideration of the USA's current military policies."

Besides his 1999 Bible reading in New York, Weber read James Joyce's massive "Ulysses" out loud in Madison, Wis., in 1994.

Thursday, September 02, 2004 6:09:06 AM

~ Father Foster

This week the Latin Lover, a.k.a. Father Foster, waxes latinate on the subject of what emperors did to keep themselves entertained, including such things as naumachiae. Thursday, September 02, 2004 6:06:42 AM

~ JOB: Greek Philology at UTenn (tenure track)

The Department of Classics has been authorized to make an appointment in Greek philology at the rank of tenure-track Assistant Professor. Ph.D. required. The expertise sought is the fifth and fourth centuries BCE. The successful candidate will show strong promise of scholarly achievement, demonstrated excellence in teaching the classical languages, and demonstrated capability to teach an upper-division undergraduate survey of Greek History. Salary will be $43,000-45,000, commensurate with experience. We will begin to screen applications on November 15, 2004, and will continue to review them until the position is filled. Please send application and dossier to Elizabeth Sutherland, Chair of the Search Committee, Department of Classics, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-0413. Please address inquiries to  The University of Tennessee is an EEO/AA/Title VI/Title IX/Section 504/ADA/ADEA institution in the provision of its education and employment programs and services. Thursday, September 02, 2004 6:01:01 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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