Latest update: 10/1/2004; 5:10:29 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ This Day in Ancient History

ante diem vi idus septembres

  • ludi Romani (day 4)
  • ca 15 B.C. -- traditional date of the birth of Mary, mother of Jesus
Wednesday, September 08, 2004 6:00:04 AM

~ Roman Law Lecture at Cornell

From the Cornell Sun comes a report on a lecture given by Roman Law scholar Okko Behrends:

Okko Behrends, one of Cornell's A.D. White Professors-at-Large gave a lecture entitled "The Roman Friend of Rome's Least Mortal Mind: The Author of the Classical Roman Law" on Friday in Kaufman Auditorum in Goldwin Smith Hall. One of Europe's leading experts in classical Roman law, Behrends holds the chair of Roman Law, Civil Law, and the History of Modern Private Law at the University of Gottingen, Germany.

His talk explored Servius Sulpicius's powerful influence on Roman law, and discussed the overshadowing of the great orator by his better-known counterpart Cicero. Behrends outlined the two law schools of their era: the humanistic law of Servius and the pre-classical natural law, illuminating how Servius's ideas represented a major break from the latter's imposing influence on legal thought.

Servius, Behrends said, believed that law was manmade. He understood that "the rules are laid down by human understanding ... not part of natural reason which only needs detection." Behrends likened this debate to the phenomenon of language: is language given to mankind, or does man create it himself?

"He no longer accepted floating legal principles; law, Servius believed, should be definite. Law is realized in civil equity or distinct moral qualities inherent in man's consciousness," Behrends said.

Behrends went on to describe the nature of the debate: civil equity is law in the strict sense, and definite. And natural equity, he added, "is not precisely law; it refers to human behavior, not structured relations."

Behrends also spoke extensively on Cicero. Our main source for Servius's life and accomplishments, Cicero was a lawyer, orator, and philosopher in the first century B.C. The revered Cicero, Behrends said, believed that man honors human knowledge most when he can criticize it and defend it at the same time.

"Cicero was a very rich person, an ambiguous person, but in the end, an authentic person," Behrends said. [more]

Wednesday, September 08, 2004 5:46:52 AM

~ Update: Roman Ships in Naples

AGI updates us on the progress of the excavation of those Roman ships found during construction of the Naples subway:

The first step of their restoration, an estimated five years, took place today, with the removal of the first ship from the sand and slime that protected them for centuries. Two of the three ships from the Imperial Age were taken away for a large crane from the subway station being built in Piazza Municipio in Naples. The delicate operation, done with companies which won the bid for the job and the Naples and Caserta Archaeological Superintendent, started today with the removal of the first hull, 12 meters long and weighing 21 tons in its fibreglass conservation shell, and its transport to a specially made warehouse in Piscinola, a northern suburb of the city. Last year, in the same warehouse, a Medieval fountain was housed, removed from the construction site of the Piazza Nicola Amore station, another site that yielded exceptional finds. There are three ships, on the bottom of what was Naples' Roman port. All are dated, thanks to carbon 14 dating of the wood, around the first century AD. "Two are commercial ships, able to do medium to long trip, that is, to the Roman port of Ostia. The third is a service ship used inside the port, as seen by the low keel and the vertical bow," said archaeologist Daniela Gianpaolo. [more]

Wednesday, September 08, 2004 5:38:21 AM

~ Pondering the Nature of Heroes

An excerpt from a Telegraph review of Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Heroes: Saviours, Traitors, and Supermen:

The adulation accorded our returning Olympic "heroes" is in striking contrast, for example, to the near total indifference accorded to 19-year-old Christopher Finney, who last year also "medalled for Britain". He won the George Cross for an act of heart-stopping heroism in Iraq: the rescue of two fellow soldiers while wounded and under attack. This involved not only "mental toughness" and "pushing his body to the limit" - the heroic qualities of the sportsman - but a heroic altruism, a willingness to risk almost certain death in order to save others, which transcends any demand of river or track or field. Yet Trooper Finney is already largely forgotten.

Perhaps, as Ms Hughes-Hallett suggests in her cleverly argued book, this may actually be no bad thing. Her eight chapters on heroes past are all, in a sense, cautionary tales. For heroes - in the Classical, warrior mould - she claims, are essentially dangerous beasts. Achilles - her archetypal hero and the greatest of the Greek warriors in the Trojan War - may have been invincible in battle, preternaturally beautiful and powerful of limb; yet he was also someone whose very exceptionalness, his indifference to ordinary law and custom, posed a constant threat to the civil society he purported to serve.

The uses of the "hero myth", she suggests, are more dangerous still. Nations that need to call upon the mythology of their heroes are almost invariably societies in crisis; and, as she ably demonstrates, in the last century it was totalitarian regimes that had recourse, most frequently and most ruthlessly, to the heroes of the past as one of the most effective ways of validating the despots of the present.

Her book is a fascinating portrait gallery of six such highly usable, real-life heroes, all of them subsequently mythologised to serve the interests of later politicians: Socrates' favourite pupil, Alcibiades; Caesar's contemporary and deadly foe, the younger Cato; the Moor-slaying knight of 11th-century Iberia, El Cid; the victor of the Armada, Drake; Wallenstein, the Catholic hero of the Thirty Years' War; and finally Garibaldi, her one hero of the modern age.

Hughes-Hallett's alertness to the uses of myth gives unity to what might otherwise seem a disparate cast. Thus, for example, we see Achilles invoked as a role-model by the 22-year-old Alexander the Great, setting out on his campaign to conquer the world; realised (somewhat improbably) as the antetype of the Duke of Wellington, in Westmacott's wildly homoerotic Achilles statue at Hyde Park Corner of 1822; given the Hollywood makeover in Brad Pitt's supremely banal account in the film Troy, a gym-bunny Achilles worthy of our un-heroic age.

Yet there is another strand to the cult of the hero that perhaps deserves greater attention than it receives here - partly because, though this book ranges over almost 3,000 years, none of its heroes comes from the 1st millennium AD. We thus omit a decisive moment of synthesis. For part of the genius of that Romanised North African, Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430), was to take the pagan concept of the hero as demigod - an Achilles or an Odysseus - and invest it with a new and specifically Christian moral content.

Heroism could be manifested, Augustine argued, not only in feats of war and destruction, but also in acts of selfless love: in feats of self-abnegation in which the hero risks, or forfeits, his life for what he believes is right and true.

We are the heirs of both traditions. Augustine's brand of "heroic virtue" stands as a foil to the pagan glory of Achilles; or, to put it another way, the selfless magnificence of the Trooper Finneys of this world is there to give some sense of proportion to the gaudy splendour of our Olympians. There is nothing, of course, to stop us rejoicing in them both, and giving both their due. Nevertheless, for the moment, at least, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that we have got that sense of proportion - of what is truly exemplary and worthy of applause - quite heroically awry.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004 5:34:05 AM

~ Reviews from BMCR

Eva Cantarella (ed.), Dike. Rivista di storia del diritto Greco ed ellenistico, vol. I-IV.

Andreas Rhoby, Reminiszenzen an antike Statten in der mittel- und spatbyzantinischen Literatur. Eine Untersuchung zur Antikenrezeption in Byzanz.

Bruno Gentili, Liana Lomiento, Metrica e ritmica: storia delle forme poetiche nella grecia antica.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004 5:21:23 AM

~ Job: Roman History at UPenn (open-rank)

The Department of Classical Studies has been authorized to conduct an open-rank search for a scholar in the field of Roman History. The appointment is to begin in Fall 2005. Candidates will be expected to have a distinguished record of research and teaching, and a commitment to students. In addition to teaching courses on historical authors and topics (including technical fields, such as epigraphy or numismatics), the successful candidate must also be able to teach courses in Latin and Greek at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Please send dossiers (cover letter, CV and the names of three referees; junior-level candidates, please include letters from three referees) to Professor Sheila Murnaghan, Chair, Department of Classical Studies, 202 Logan Hall, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6304. (email: Review of applications began September 1, 2004, and will continue until the position is filled; interested candidates who have not yet applied are encouraged to do so by September 30, 2004. The University of Pennsylvania is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer.

-- seen on the Classics list

Wednesday, September 08, 2004 5:18:40 AM

~ An Etymological Thought

Inspired by a thread on the LatinTeach list, I'm toying with the idea of monitoring assorted 'word-of-the-day' type sites for words derived for Latin or Greek. For example, today's word at Wordsmith is anagnorisis; from Merriam-Webster comes the somewhat archaic divers.

... we'll see if this dog hunts.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004 5:15:06 AM

~ AWOTV: On TV Tonight

9.00 p.m. |HINT| Greece: A Moment of Excellence
Journey back to Athens, where the world's first democracy took seed, as Pericles ushered in a Golden Age of unparalleled learning in philosophy, architecture, science, art, and drama, when small city-states in Greece rose from obscurity to ignite one of the most spectacular explosions of cultural achievement in Western Civilization's history. Learn why the modern world still clings to the ideals of Ancient Greece for intellectual and aesthetic inspiration. Sam Waterston narrates.

HINT = History International

Wednesday, September 08, 2004 4:57:35 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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