Latest update: 10/1/2004; 5:10:30 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ This Day in Ancient History

ante diem v idus septembres

Thursday, September 09, 2004 6:10:26 AM

~ @ Laudator Temporis Acti

MG has an extended selection of quotations about beards and barbarians in the ancient world. Definitely worth snipping ... Thursday, September 09, 2004 5:58:35 AM

~ @ Classics in Contemporary Culture

Just checked and it appears that CCC is back in full swing again. MH has also seen the Persians thing and the Thank You President Bush thing we mention below, as well as a couple of items we didn't (Horatian Echoes, Latin as Launching Pad).

Thursday, September 09, 2004 5:55:54 AM

~ Assorted Drama Bits

Today we have quite a few bits of ClassCon from the entertainment pages which come from all over the spectrum. First, we read in the Chronicle about an actress-playwright's adaptation of the Persians:

Eerily, "The Persians" echoes the United States' current political situation. A foolhardy Persian king, Xerxes (pronounced Zerk-sees, played at the Aurora by Craig Marker) stages an attack on Athens, largely to avenge his father, Darius, who lost a battle to the Athenians years before. The plan backfires, and the Athenians, grossly outnumbered, manage to out-strategize the Persians and kill nearly all their men. Once inflamed with hubris, now humiliated and defeated, Xerxes returns to his home in Persia.

It's significant that Aeschylus was a war veteran, having fought against Persia in the battle of Marathon, 11 years before he wrote "The Persians." "As I was working on it, I began to realize this was one of the great anti-war plays," says McLaughlin. "Here he is talking to other veterans about the misery of what defeat meant for the other side. ... The Persians were his enemies and yet he has compassion for them."

Given the direction of U.S. foreign policy, McLaughlin says, the lessons of "The Persians" are particularly crucial today, 2,500 years after it was written. "We are a country that seems to be profoundly confused about what war actually means, what war actually costs. We forget all the suffering. It all gets sort of wrapped in flags and sense of glory."

"The truth of war is so drowned in bombast and vague polemical notions," she wrote in a recent essay, "(that) we can forget the magnitude of its terror. We forget the real color of blood." [the whole thing]

The way she talks, you'd think she was the first to think these thoughts (or at least she seems to think she's the first). Next, we read a notice of a production from Playbill which seems somewhat more rogueclassicist in approach:

Caligula, the juicy new musical subtitled An Ancient Glam Epic, will star Taboo's Euan Morton in its Sept. 14-28 run during The New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF).

The musical "tells the story of the life of the notoriously cruel and crazed Roman emperor in the style of early '70s glam rock." The show recently had its public premiere in a concert presentation at New York City's Zipper Theatre. It uses "the colorful writings of the ancient biographer Suetonius as its primary source."

Last, but not least, a one-line summary in the Cleveland Free Times of a Classically-inspired production is definitely rogueclassicist:

The show will be joined subsequently in repertory (Sept. 24-Oct. 16) by Julius Caesar , in an updated version that employs laptops and cell phones to cyberpunk the assassination.

I had never seen 'cyberpunk' as a verb (much less an infinitive form thereof), but it clearly refers to the roleplaying game of the same name.

Thursday, September 09, 2004 5:48:46 AM

~ Marathon Reading of the Iliad

Is it my imagination, or are marathon readings of the Iliad becoming more frequent? Here's news of one which will be happening in Arizona:

The Iliad seems Greek to most high-schoolers.

But at Tempe Preparatory Academy, students and teachers will be living it for 24 hours from 2 p.m. Sept. 23 to 2 p.m. Sept. 24.

The charter school, at 1251 E. Southern Ave., will attempt to become the first Arizona school to perform a non-stop, 24-hour public reading of Homer's epic poem.

They have dubbed the event the Iliathon, combining the title and another Greek tradition, the marathon.

Students, faculty and friends will portray gods and heroes of ancient Greece in a Readers Theater format. Some will read portions of the poem in the original Greek language.

"The Iliathon shows how our students view the classics as something to be enjoyed together. They will bring Homer's epic to life in their own way and have a great deal of fun in the process," said Daniel Scoggin, Tempe Prep headmaster.  

I wonder why no one seems to do a marathon reading of the Odyssey ... or the Aeneid ...

Thursday, September 09, 2004 5:36:30 AM

~ U.S. as Athens

While the U.S.-as-Rome thing seems to have become rather less frequent, a chunk of a review of a collection of essays entitled Thank You President Bush at an 'intellectual conservative' website caught my eye:

... But in this reviewer’s opinion, where this compilation really shines the brightest is in the piece written by Dr. Jack Wheeler, entitled “Aeschylus and America.”  Dr. Wheeler, who holds a PhD in Philosophy, cuts an Indiana Jones style figure in real life, having traveled world wide, studying primitive tribes and working with underground groups bent on promoting freedom and individual rights in regions dominated by authoritarian systems. 

This article traces the history of democracy back to its roots in ancient Greece, which faced numerous challenges, including two invasions by Persia, which had a significant effect on the Greek psyche.  Walker compares America’s moon landing of 1969 with the Greek victories at Marathon and Salamis, which led to self-doubt when it should have led to confidence.  He asserts that America today must overcome self-doubt and the need for the approval of others in the same way that Greece did, paving the way for the Athens of Pericles.

... might be worth tracking down.

Thursday, September 09, 2004 5:30:56 AM

~ Etruscan Facial Reconstruction

Here's an interesting item from the Australian:

WHEN she died more than 2000 years ago, Seianti Hanunia Tlesnasa was wealthy, middle-aged, plump, arthritic and probably exceedingly crabby.

"We can imagine that she may have become a rather difficult person to live with in her later years," says British archeologist John Prag. "The running abscess and the bad breath that developed as secondary effects of her facial arthritis cannot have made her the most pleasant of company."

To support his decidedly unflattering picture of the lady, Prag, based at the University of Manchester's Manchester Museum, points to a likeness of Seianti gracing the lid of her coffin. Close examination of the sculpture, he claims, provides hard evidence, in terracotta, of his warts-and-all characterisation of the woman who died in Etruscan Italy about 200BC.

Prag's confident use of Seianti's image to bolster his assessment of her attributes is, in fact, far more dramatic than his blunt view of the woman. That's because he states firmly that the ceramic figure reclining on the lid of Seianti's sarcophagus is a true portrait, not just decorative coffin kitsch.

His claim is not as ho-hum as it may sound at first. If Prag is correct, Seianti's funereal sculpture would in fact be the first portrait of a known and named individual to be identified anywhere in Western art. It's a real depiction of a real person, he says, something previously absent from the stunning but stylised world of ancient art.

"Despite some liberties [like] a smaller mouth and a straight nose, a sign of beauty, the sculptor was intending to represent a real person," he says, at the end of a speaking tour of Australia for the Association of Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Societies.

Prag builds his bold assertion on conventional archeological data, excavated in Italy. Then he adds a state-of-the-art medical examination of the skeletal remains inside Seianti's coffin, which is housed in London's British Museum. Finally, he tosses in his key evidence: a "three-dimensional report" in the form of a reconstruction of Seianti's face, built up muscle by muscle from detailed measurements of her skull.

The resulting story – and portrait – goes like this. In her late teens, Seianti had a nasty fall from a horse. No bones were broken but, as a result of the accident, she lost many of her teeth. Damage to her right hip and jaw set the stage for debilitating and painful osteoarthritis, as well as a twisted spine. Although she married and bore children, the once agile horsewoman gained weight from lack of exercise and was eventually reduced to porridge and complaints.

According to Prag, the re-creation of Seianti's life and looks solves a mystery that has long baffled archeologists and art historians: when and where in the ancient world did people make the psychological and artistic step from the general to the specific in the depiction of individual people.

In Prag's view, the when is about the 6th century BC and the where is Etruscan Italy.

That's not the end of the blending of art and science for Prag. He wants to use facial reconstruction – built on archeological and forensic data – to confirm his theory about the emergence of portraiture, although coffins with good art and skeletal remains from such distant times are scarce. He also wants to trace the spread of portraiture and to check up on artists of more recent times.

"For instance, all the portraits of Elizabeth I look alike because all but one were approved by [her]. I'd love to get her skull from Westminster Abbey, but I don't think I'll get to do that," he says wryly.

University of Sydney classical archeologist Lesley Beaumont bets Prag may be on to something. She says the technique Prag's colleague Richard Neave used to create a three-dimensional reconstruction of Seianti's face is the one employed by modern forensic investigators to help identify an unknown body.

"I've seen it work with murder investigations. I have a fair amount of faith in the technique," she says. "Aside from things like hairstyles, it does put flesh on the bones. It does hold together." The skull, she says, never lies. It's proportions are indisputable.

Those bred-in-the-bone proportions are the starting point of all the facial reconstructions made by Neave, recently retired director of Manchester University's Art in Medicine. He works from the skull up, factoring in age and other physical characteristics obtained through forensic examination. He decides on finishing flourishes such as hairstyle, eye colour and clothing after investigators, perhaps Prag, provide details of the subject's times.

Artists such as Neave are interested in a good likeness. Unfortunately for art historians, that wasn't the case for most of human history and pre-history. For instance, tens of thousands of years ago rock artists dealt with symbols: the notion of a person or animal, say, or a sign of fertility.

Depictions of people created in the first old world cities and states, dating from roughly 4000BC to 1000BC, are more lifelike. Still, they tend to retain a rigid archaic or stylised look apparently not designed to re-create the looks of individual people.

Even the exquisite sculpture, frescoes and vase painting of the glory days of Hellenic Greece – highlighted recently during the Athens Olympic Games – depict ideal types, not people as they truly were. And that's even when those 5th century BC ideals are not always aesthetically pleasing.

"For instance, Homer's an old, blind man who's a poet, so you have that as the type of a poet, the type of a philosopher," notes Prag. In other words, while athletes were ripply of muscle and noble of brow, poets were stuck with a Homer-style appearance, accurate or not. [more]

Thursday, September 09, 2004 5:25:44 AM

~ Retirement Age

Seems they're debating mandatory retirement age in the U.K. and I'm sure many of rogueclassicism's readers could echo this particular observation in the Telegraph:

Not so long ago I called my former tutor, a man who has forgotten more than I will ever know. He spouted a few yards of Homer at me, and then stunned me by saying that he was retiring, at 67, because that was the age at which the college had deemed he should.

It seemed insane. Sixty-seven! Nothing! As I am sure he would confirm, Sophocles was in his eighties, and still churning out some key stuff, such as the Oedipus at Colonus.

If Sophocles could compose it in his ninth decade, why couldn't a 67-year-old give instruction in its mysteries, especially since he probably knows more about it than anyone alive?

My own dissertation advisor has long since reached retirement age (while patiently waiting for me to complete it, alas). Here in rainy Ontario, they've just opened up hearings on the subject of possibly making the mandatory age of 65 somewhat less mandatory ... the odds aren't that good that Sophocles will be mentioned ....

Thursday, September 09, 2004 5:14:35 AM

~ Etymologies

Today's bricolage (that one doesn't seem to have a Classical origin, but it's a great word): adage

Merriam-Webster: sciential

yourDictionary: unique

Thursday, September 09, 2004 4:54:22 AM

~ AWOTV: On TV Today

6.00 p.m. |HINT| Monumental Statues
What inspires societies to create sculptures on a superhuman scale? We'll examine gigantic statues and the monumental commitment of time, money, and talent needed to complete them. We'll study the Sphinx, Colossus of Rhodes, Statue of Liberty, Mt. Rushmore, Brazil's Christ the Redeemer, Russia's Motherland, and the Crazy Horse Memorial.
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.

7.00 p.m. |HINT| The Great Empire: Rome: Building an Empire
Host Joe Mantegna visits the vast territories conquered by the imperial army--by the 2nd century AD, the empire spanned three continents. The over 4,000 Roman cities were cultural melting pots, where diverse customs and beliefs blended. Features life in Pompeii, the flamboyant Emperor Hadrian, and religious revolts in Judea.
9.00 p.m. |HISTU| The Gothic Invasion of Rome 
378 AD. The crumbling Roman Empire, split in two, literally faces the barbarians at the gates. Ravaged by Hunnic invasions, the Visigoths beg Rome to let them cross the Danube. Corruption drives this hungry horde to rebellion, and pride drives Emperor Valens to take them on near Constantinople without waiting for support from Gratian, the Emperor in the West. On a blisteringly hot day, the Goths met Roman forces in a battle that St. Ambrose called "the end of all humanity, the end of the world."
9.30 p.m. |HISTU| Battle of Marathon  
After providing defensive aid to neighboring Ionia, the Athenians must defend their city against Persian invasion. But Persia, with its archers and cavalry, has a clear advantage. After an 8-day stand off in 490 BC, with Persian reinforcements on the way, the Athenians, led by Callimachus and Militiades, decide to take the offensive. Part documentary, part interactive game, viewers join the forces of King Darius as 6,000 are slaughtered by the Athenians, who depend on speed to gain the advantage. 
11.30 p.m. |HISTU| Crassus: Rich Man, Poor Man 
Carrhae, 53 BC. Although he may have been the richest man in Rome, Crassus was the political poor relation in the First Triumvirate. He needed military laurels to raise him up to the level of Pompey and Caesar, and he chose to try to get them in Parthia. His vanity was to cost the lives of seven Roman Legions, his son, and his own head. The Roman force was wiped out in the desert and the legionary eagles lost that day would not be restored until the time of Augustus.

Channel Guide

Thursday, September 09, 2004 4:46:22 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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