Latest update: 10/1/2004; 5:10:50 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ This Day in Ancient History

ante diem x kalendas octobres

  • Mercatus -- the Romans continue the shopping spree
  • 36 B.C. -- the triumvir Marcus Aemilius Lepidus agrees to retire after losing all his military support to Octavian
  • 130 (129?) A.D.-- birth of Galen (not sure of the ultimate source for this date)
  • 259 A.D. -- martyrdom of Digna and Emerita at Rome
  • 287 A.D. -- martyrdom of Maurice and companions
  • 1999 -- death of Chester Starr
Wednesday, September 22, 2004 6:00:27 AM

~ U.S. as Rome Again

Looks like American Senator Robert Byrd bought into the U.S.-as-Rome thing ages ago ... excerpts from a piece in the Christian Science Monitor:

"The Roman Senate lost its nerve, lost its way and succumbed," he says in an interview in his first floor Capitol office. "That's what we are seeing here in our own country. Our own Senate lost its way when it voted for the Iraq resolution. Lost its nerve, lost its way, lost its vision. Where there is no vision, the people perish."


But his most lasting record may the power of his words - and the sheer number of hours he has spent on the floor of the Senate. In the run-up to the 200th anniversary of the Senate in 1989, he launched a series of addresses on Senate history, often delivered into the night to an empty hall. His four-volume, 26-pound history of the Senate, based on these addresses and support from the Senate Historical Office, is cited by scholars as an essential reference.

He also published a history of the Roman Senate - the result of his one-man campaign to defeat the Clinton administration's bid for a line-item veto.

"Give to any president of the United States the power over the purse, and we will have proved ourselves faithless to our oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, just as the Roman Senate proved itself faithless to the constitution of the Roman Republic when it surrendered the power over the purse to the Roman "Caesars" and the Roman emperors 2,000 years ago!" he said in the final address of 14, all delivered without notes. The bill passed, but was overturned by the Supreme Court. [the whole thing]

Wednesday, September 22, 2004 5:41:44 AM

~ Sweeeeet

Okay ... I'm sure I'm not the only one who has repeated almost as an article of faith that honey was the only sweetener available to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Imagine my surprise when I read in the Scotsman the following:

Surprisingly, cane sugar is a relatively recent human commodity, only arriving in Europe at the time of Alexander the Great, circa 327 BC, when it was known as "the reed which produces honey without bees". Just as well, for by Elizabethan times, the people of the British Isles were eating so much refined sugar that they were world-famous for their bad teeth.

Sugar Knowledge International's page on the history of sugar adds the detail that Darius learned of sugar cane when he invaded India in 510 B.C.. Sorry, but it all sounds bogus to me ... if anyone has an ancient source for this, I'll happily be corrected.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004 5:37:38 AM

~ More on the Alexander Flick

Looks like Oliver Stone might be trying to stir up some controversy (a la The Passion) to increase the hype for his upcoming movie ... Alexander's 'sexual orientation' provides the fodder which brought this response from the Macedonian Press Agency:

The allegations that Alexander the Great, the King of the Macedons and among the leading military and political figures in world history, was a “paranoid” and a “homosexual” have caused strong reactions. The allegations were made by Oliver Stone, film director and producer of the picture on Alexander the Great expected to be released on November 4.

Stone made the allegations in an interview published last month on the French “Le Figaro Magazine”.

Referring to the allegations former government minister and “Makedoniki Estia” president Nikolaos Martis stated to the Greek-American newspaper “Ethnikos Kirikas” that such allegations insult Hellenism and anybody who respects historical truth.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004 5:28:20 AM

~ Camus' Caligula

I've never actually seen (or read) Camus' drama based on the life of Caligula, but I've been semi-interested in it since there always seems to be a production of it being reviewed somewhere. One such review from the New Zealand Herald, provides what I suspect is a good overview/summary of the themes therein, inter alia:

"Caligula is very like The Catcher In The Rye's Holden Caulfield, who is obsessed with truth and exposing phonies. Caligula is obsessed with exposing hypocrisy and people's lies. I think there is a kind of Puritanism in youth, that the most important thing is to be true, to tell the truth and be true to yourself. This is where I really love the play because what Camus does is he makes that very attractive. Caligula is undoubtedly the most attractive character on the stage, he's a delight to watch, everything he does is interesting or funny. But, of course, he is terrifying."

Well, yes. Caligula is one of history's most popular monsters by dint of the pungent and ribald history by the Roman writer Suetonius. In his The Twelve Caesars - a collection running from Julius Caesar to Domitian - Suetonius makes a play for the title "world's first tabloid journalist" as he greedily and luridly picks over the remains of some of ancient history's most outrageously cruel and perverse tyrants, including Gaius, whose nickname was Caligula or "Little Boots".

Among Suetonius' juicy gossip about the madman: he planned to make his favourite horse Incitatus a consul (or magistrate), he opened a brothel staffed with the wives of Rome's most important men and he slept with his sister Drusilla. Caligula's favourite line - a damned good one for a despot too, though it was not his own - was "Let them hate me, so long as they fear me".

In sum, he made his predecessor Tiberius, and the later but equally bonkers Nero, look like paragons of moderate, benign rule in comparison.

All of which presumably explains why Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione was able to fund his notoriously awful, partly-pornographic film version of Caligula's life in the late 1970s (original screenplay: Gore Vidal) and partly helped the success of Robert Graves' novel and BBC series I, Claudius (Claudius was Caligula's uncle).

But Camus' Caligula, written in 1938, is a much more complex creature than a nutter with a thing for nags, incest and sex with other men's wives - and the play is no mere history. Camus had certainly read his Suetonius, but the historical Caligula simply provided a yarn on which Camus could weld his ideas.

"The particular niceties of Rome or the historical record ... it was almost as though Camus' own writing made them less important than the world that was created. And that is the world of a palace in which there is a young emperor and an old guard.

"There is a sense in which Camus created Caligula as a character to explore the suicidal impulse, the impulse that says there is death and unhappiness, how can the world be this cruel? Camus gave life to Caligula to really push that idea to its limits, and to explore it and make it as attractive as possible ... then he can create the writer Cherea and one or two of the other characters to try to counter that idea.

"That's a very interesting dynamic for the theatre because it means you're constantly bouncing back and forth, you're pulled between two ideas that are equally powerful and strong.

"The character of Caligula is also an embodiment of things that many of us have felt or feel. He is given such life and it's as if a part of us is up there on stage, that embodiment is so vivid."

The play did have a political resonance when Camus wrote it, and for its first audiences, in 1945. Today the randomness of terrorism might stand for the madness of tyranny.

"The philosophical question posed is: if you don't believe in God and you have absolute power, what can you do? Now that sense of absolute power is in the air at that time. I think the sense of incipient horror is also.

"Whether it's Mussolini or Hitler or Franco, there is an arbitrary abuse of power going on. So I think that is there, politically. But also I think it's about despair. To put it at its crudest, I think it is a play about depression." [the whole thing]

Wednesday, September 22, 2004 5:24:44 AM

~ Alexander Flick Gossip

From an interview with Angelina "Olympias" Jolie at MTV:

Of the three, the Alexander the Great biopic was her favorite as she's partial to dramas. "As an actor, it's more fulfilling for your soul," she explained. "And as a woman you can go through so many different emotions and you can analyze yourself and the world and your relationships. So when you're done ... you feel like you've grown and changed."

Jolie certainly experienced a mix of emotions working with notoriously bullheaded director Oliver Stone, whose credits include "Any Given Sunday" and "The Doors."

"You can disagree or agree with Oliver or where he's coming from," Jolie explained, "but he's coming very straightforward with that and so I appreciate that. He didn't allow anybody to be safe. If anything, he demands a certain kind of commitment and bravery and doesn't allow for anybody to get too relaxed."

Jolie experienced Stone's expectations on the first day of shooting "Alexander."

"I had this 6-year-old Alexander, which was this little boy, the sweetest little boy, and I had to take him and I had to sing, which I hate doing, with my accent, and hold this python and try to get the python around the boy's neck while I'm singing to him and convince him not to be afraid," Jolie said. "On our first day! And then it was getting really late and I had to switch snakes and pull the other ones out and they were getting kind of wild. And [the trainers] said, 'It's nighttime and they think it's time to feed.' And I said, 'Oliver, it's nighttime and apparently it's feeding time.' And he was like, 'Oh, just get in there!' "

Stone also insisted Jolie and co-stars Colin Farrell, Val Kilmer, Rosario Dawson, Anthony Hopkins and Jared Leto stay in character throughout shooting. "He kept getting upset if I lost my accent when we would be out to dinner," she recalled. "He wanted to see everybody become who they were." [the whole thing]

Wednesday, September 22, 2004 5:16:12 AM

~ Oops ... I Misheard it Again

Is it my imagination or does the announcer named 'Brian' (I never seem to catch his last name) on DW's English-language broadcast say "Soccer news now" in such a way that it sounds like "Socrates Now"?

The hemlock ... the hemlock ...

Wednesday, September 22, 2004 5:09:58 AM

~ Fellowship: Margo Tytus Visiting Scholars at UCincinnati

        The University of Cincinnati Classics Department is pleased to announce the Margo Tytus Visiting Scholars Program.  Tytus Fellows, in the fields of philology, history and archaeology  will ordinarily  be at least 5 years beyond receipt of the Ph. D.  Apart from residence in Cincinnati during term, the only obligation of Tytus Fellows is to pursue their own research.   Fellowships are tenable  during the regular academic year (October 1 to May 31).

        There are two categories of Tytus Fellowships,  long-term and short-term.

        Long Term Fellows will come to Cincinnati for a minimum of one academic quarter (two and a half months) and a maximum of three during the regular academic year.  They will receive  a monthly stipend of $1000 plus housing and a transportation allowance.
        Short  Term Fellows will come to Cincinnati for a  minimum of one month and a maximum of two during the regular academic year. They will receive housing and a transportation allowance.

        Both Long Term and Short  Term Fellows  will also receive office space and enjoy the use of the University of Cincinnati and Hebrew Union College Libraries.  While at Cincinnati Tytus Fellows will be free to pursue their own research.

        The University of Cincinnati Burnam Classics Library ( is one of the world's premier collections in the field of Classical Studies. Comprising 210,000 volumes and other research materials, the library covers all aspects of the Classics: the languages and literatures, history, civilization, art, and archaeology.  Of special value for scholars is both the richness of the collection and its accessibility -- almost any avenue of research in the classics can be pursued deeply and broadly under a single roof.  The unusually comprehensive core collection, which is maintained by three professional classicist librarians, is augmented by several special collections such as 15,000 nineteenth century German Programmschriften, extensive holdings in Palaeography,   Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies.   At neighboring Hebrew Union College, the Klau  Library (, with holdings  in excess of 445,000 volumes and other research materials, is rich in Judaica  and Near Eastern Studies.

Application Deadline:  January  1.

For application forms please write:
        Director, Margo Tytus Visiting Scholars Program
        Department of Classics
        University of Cincinnati
        Cincinnati, OH 45221-0226


... seen on various lists

Wednesday, September 22, 2004 5:06:30 AM

~ Royal Holloway Research Seminar

Scheduled talks for the Autumn term at Royal Holloway:

** 26 October 2004
Scott Scullion Problems in the Interpretation of Oedipus Tyrannus

** 16th November 2004
Amanda Claridge Copyright or Copywrong? Replication in Roman sculpture.

** 30th November 2004
Lynn Fotheringham The Exordium of the Pro Milone

** 14th December 2004
Efi Spentzou Romans and the Self: Subjectivities in the Age of Empire

All seminars will be held in McCrea C201 and they are open to all. They will
start at 5.00pm and will run approximately up to 6.30pm. For more
information please contact

... seen on the Classicists list.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004 5:04:07 AM

~ Frank and Ernest

A rogueclassicism reader passed this one along (thanks RMB!) ... yesterday's Frank and Ernest cartoon was yet another Trojan-themed effort ... Wednesday, September 22, 2004 5:02:07 AM

~ Review from SBL

 Charles M. Reed, Maritime Traders in the Ancient Greek World (pdf)


Wednesday, September 22, 2004 4:59:58 AM

~ Reviews from BMCR

A. Balbo, I frammenti degli oratori romani dell'eta augustea e tiberiana. Parte prima: Eta augustea.

Christopher S. Celenza, The Lost Italian Renaissance: Humanists, Historians, and Latin's Legacy.

Lindsay C. Watson, A Commentary on Horace's Epodes.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004 4:57:43 AM

~ Roman Walls

Hadrian's Wall has been getting fairly regular attention over the past few months. Now, according to the Herald, its Antonine counterpart (and the German Limes too) will be pushing for World Heritage Site status:

AFTER nearly two millenniums in Hadrian's shadow, Antonine is finally going to be a contender.

The wall which once formed the most north-westerly frontier of the Roman empire yesterday deflected attention from its more famous English counterpart during a formal ceremony to launch a move for world heritage site status.

If the nomination is accepted, the 37-mile structure will join the centre of Edinburgh, New Lanark, St Kilda, and the heart of neolithic Orkney as Scotland's fifth historical heavyweight.

One of three artificial frontiers which protected the European boundaries of the Roman empire, the Antonine Wall weaved its way along the valley formed by the Rivers Kelvin and Carron, from the Firth of Forth to the Clyde.

Today, about 25 miles of the original route have escaped modern development, although agriculture has taken its toll.

Its ditches, stone base and turf walls, which were once punctuated by forts, granaries and bathhouses, can still be seen at many points throughout the route, which threads through Falkirk, Castlecary, Kirkintilloch and Bearsden.

At present, Hadrian's Wall is the only Roman frontier to be hold the honour of world heritage status – it became one of the UK's 22 world heritage sites in 1987.

However, the wheels have started rolling on the campaign to create another site – the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World

Heritage Site – which would bring other European relics of the Roman frontier, including the 340-mile German Limes, under one banner.

Frank McAveety, minister for tourism, culture and sport, yesterday kick-started the campaign in Glasgow, with the launch of a booklet at the Hunterian Museum. [more]

Hope y'all didn't hurt yourself cringing at "millenniums" up there ...

Wednesday, September 22, 2004 4:50:00 AM

~ AWOTV: On TV Today

4.00 p.m. |DCIVC| The Mystery of the Parthenon

7.00 p.m. |HINT| Powerful Gods of Mt. Olympus  
A fascinating exploration of the myths of the 12 great gods who overlooked classical Greece from atop Mount Olympus. Why did the people of ancient Greece accept them? Was their power political or divine?

Channel Guide

Wednesday, September 22, 2004 4:42:27 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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