~ This Day in Ancient History
ante diem ix kalendas octobres
Thursday, September 23, 2004 6:02:19 AM
- rites in honour of Latona at the Theatre of Marcellus
- Mercatus -- those cupboards were really empty!
- 484 B.C. -- Birth of Euripides (?)
- 480 B.C. -- Athenian naval forces under Themistocles defeat Xerxes' Persian force in the narrows of Salamis (one reckoning)
- 63 B.C. -- birth of Octavian, the future emperor Augustus
- 25 B.C. -- dedication of the Temple of Neptune (and associated rites thereafter)
- 23 B.C. -- restoration of the temple of Apollo (and associated rites thereafter)
- 117 A.D. -- martyrdom of Thecla
~ Classico e Moderno
I don't think I've ever mentioned the Italian Classico e Moderno blog, which is sort of an Italian version of Classics in Contemporary Culture (which appears to have lost its style sheet today). It (Classico e Moderno) seems to have resumed regular publication and is worth a visit ... even if you don't read Italian, there's sometimes something of interest in English. Today, e.g., there's some English if you click on the cartoon (I'm still working on that one; not knowing what European traffic signs mean is getting in the way ... it involves gerunds) ... scroll down a bit and you'll get a paragraph from Thomas Carlyle on Latin.
Thursday, September 23, 2004 5:50:15 AM
~ George Bush as Alcibiades?
What is really interesting about this editorial piece from the L.A. Times is how it portrays George Bush as Alcibiades without actually coming out and saying it:
During a lull in the war between Athens and Sparta, the Athenians decided to invade and occupy Sicily. Thucydides tells us in "The Peloponnesian War" that "they were, for the most part, ignorant of the size of the island and the numbers of its inhabitants … and they did not realize that they were taking on a war of almost the same magnitude as their war against the Peloponnesians."
According to Thucydides, the digression into Sicily in 416 BC — a sideshow that involved lying exiles, hopeful contractors, politicized intelligence, a doctrine of preemption — ultimately cost Athens everything, including its democracy.
Nicias, the most experienced Athenian general, had not wanted to be chosen for the command. "His view was that the city was making a mistake and, on a slight pretext which looked reasonable, was in fact aiming at conquering the whole of Sicily — a considerable undertaking indeed," wrote Thucydides.
Nicias warned that it was the wrong war against the wrong enemy and that the Athenians were ignoring their real enemies — the Spartans — while creating new enemies elsewhere. "It is senseless to go against people who, even if conquered, could not be controlled," he argued.
Occupying Sicily would require many soldiers, Nicias insisted, because it meant establishing a new government among enemies. "Those who do this [must] either become masters of the country on the very first day they land in it, or be prepared to recognize that, if they fail to do so, they will find hostility on every side."
The case for war, meanwhile, was made by the young general Alcibiades, who was hoping for a quick victory in Sicily so he could move on to conquer Carthage. Alcibiades, who'd led a dissolute youth (and who happened to own a horse ranch, raising Olympic racers) was a battle-tested soldier, a brilliant diplomat and a good speaker. (So much for superficial similarities.)
Alcibiades intended to rely on dazzling technology — the Athenian armada — instead of traditional foot soldiers. He told the Assembly he wasn't worried about Sicilian resistance because the island's cities were filled with people of so many different groups. "Such a crowd as this is scarcely likely either to pay attention to one consistent policy or to join together in concerted action…. The chances are that they will make separate agreements with us as soon as we come forward with attractive suggestions."
Another argument for the war was that it would pay for itself. A committee of Sicilian exiles and Athenian experts told the Assembly that there was enough wealth in Sicily to pay the costs of the war and occupation. "The report was encouraging but untrue," wrote Thucydides.
Though war was constant in ancient Greece, it was still usually justified by a threat, an insult or an incident. But the excursion against Sicily was different, and Alcibiades announced a new, or at least normally unstated, doctrine.
"One does not only defend oneself against a superior power when one is attacked: One takes measures in advance to prevent the attack materializing," he said.
When and where should this preemption doctrine be applied? Alcibiades gave an answer of a sort. "It is not possible for us to calculate, like housekeepers [perhaps a better translation would be "girlie men"], exactly how much empire we want to have. The fact is that we have reached a state where we are forced to plan new conquests and forced to hold on to what we have got because there is danger that we ourselves may fall under the power of others unless others are in our power."
Alcibiades' argument carried the day, but before the invasion, the Athenian fleet sailed around seeking allies among the Hellenic colonies near Sicily. Despite the expedition's "great preponderance of strength over those against whom it set out," only a couple of cities joined the coalition.
At home, few spoke out against the Sicilian operation. "There was a passion for the enterprise which affected everyone alike," Thucydides reports. "The result of this excessive enthusiasm of the majority was that the few who actually were opposed to the expedition were afraid of being thought unpatriotic if they voted against it, and therefore kept quiet."
In the face of aggressive posturing, Nicias appealed to the Assembly members to show true courage.
"If any of you is sitting next to one of [Alcibiades'] supporters," Nicias said, "do not allow yourself to be browbeaten or to be frightened of being called a coward if you do not vote for war…. Our country is on the verge of the greatest danger she has ever known. Think of her, hold up your hands against this proposal and vote in favor of leaving the Sicilians alone."
We don't know how many Athenians had secret reservations, but few hands went up against the war.
In the end, the Athenians lost everything in Sicily. Their army was defeated and their navy destroyed. Alcibiades was recalled early on; Nicias was formally executed while thousands of Athenian prisoners were left in an open pit, where most died.
The Sicilians didn't follow up by invading Attica; they just wanted Athens out. But with the leader of the democracies crippled, allies left the Athenian League. Then the real enemy, Sparta, ever patient and cautious, closed in over the next few years. But not before Athens descended, on its own, into a morass of oligarchic coups and self- imposed tyranny.
Thursday, September 23, 2004 5:26:56 AM
~ Alexander Flick Delayed
That this makes the Reuters newswire suggests it's all part of the hype (although the new release date does make more sense):
Thursday, September 23, 2004 5:21:14 AM
Warner Bros. film studio has delayed the release of its widely anticipated Oliver Stone film "Alexander" by about three weeks, saying that it wanted to give the movie a better shot at winning Oscars.
The film, starring Colin Farrell as the conqueror Alexander the Great, had been set to debut on November 5 against another major release, the computer-animated "The Incredibles". "Alexander" will now debut November 24.
"We think that moving 'Alexander' to November 24th positions it better for Academy consideration," Warner Bros. president of domestic film distribution Dan Fellman said in a statement.
The date appears to be less competitive for box office dollars, too, as the debut of Pixar Animation Studios Inc.'s "The Incredibles" looks set to steal most of the marquee power on its opening weekend.
On November 24 "Alexander", which Entertainment Weekly magazine reported cost as much as $150 million (83 million pounds) to make, faces comedies "Christmas with the Kranks" and "Beauty Shop", as well as adventure movie "Flight of the Phoenix".
"Alexander" will now debut the Wednesday before the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend in the United States, which should help boost its box office. Warner Bros. is owned by Time Warner.
One source told Reuters recently that director Stone was working feverishly to finish the movie for November 5, but that could not be confirmed.
Often movies are delayed for months while directors fine-tune films, and that can spell trouble in Hollywood. Such a scenario arose last year with The Walt Disney Co.'s "The Alamo", but that does not appear to be the case with "Alexander" because the delay is only a few weeks.
A Warner Bros. spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment.
~ Latin Alive and Well in Littleton
From the Littleton Independent:
Thursday, September 23, 2004 5:15:22 AM
The long-dormant language of Caesar, Pliny and Francis of Assisi is finding new life this fall at Littleton Middle School.
Tori Hicks and Beverly Sherman will guide the children through the does and don'ts of the classical language. Although she retired at the end of last school year, Sherman's departure was short-lived and she was eager to return to the Middle School when she heard that Latin would be part of the curriculum.
"When they asked if I would reconsider [coming back] I was like 'Yes!' I had taught Latin previously and I was very excited about it," Sherman said.
This is Hicks' first year teaching in Littleton and she will teach sixth-grade Latin. Sherman will teach Latin, French and Spanish to seventh-graders. To help Sherman and Hicks in the foreign language department, Gustavo Bottan will teach eighth-grade Spanish and French in his first year at the Littleton Middle School.
"I think [the new Latin program] is a wonderful opportunity because the teaching of language involves the whole context of culture and the global aspect of languages," said Bottan.
The foreign language staff would like to incorporate Latin into every subject to demonstrate its cultural and universal context.
Middle students will experience Latin in English class because 65 percent of English words have Latin roots and Latin has been found to improve grammar and writing skills, said Hicks.
The names of body parts and plants have Latin derivatives, making Latin relevant to science class, said Bottan. Students will also study Roman numerals, history, government and geography.
"Latin can be so much fun, there are so many wonderful things you can do, lots of great projects," said Hicks.
Evidently this isn't the first time that the middle school has had a Latin program. Sherman started teaching Latin at the middle school in 1967, but the program was cut due to lack of interest.
"By 1988 it dwindled in this town. We actually had Latin in the middle until 1992 just for the pure benefit of the language," said Sherman.
Sherman and Hicks agreed that Latin is making a comeback across America, and they have high expectations for the benefits of the program.
"First of all, I think it's really going to work because we're staring [to teach it] early" in the sixth grade, said Sherman.
With admittance to colleges and universities getting increasingly competitive, Latin may just be what Littleton needs to help students receive more acceptance letters.
"Verbal SAT scores of students who have studied Latin for at least two years are 160 points higher than average," according to a document from the foreign language department.
Because the middle school adopted the three-term trimester system last year, students will be required to take one term each of French, Spanish and Latin in sixth and seventh grades. At the end of seventh grade students will be given the choice of which language they will pursue in eighth grade and high school.
Sherman predicts that Latin "will filter up as the kids pick it up in middle school, in two years it should be in the high school."
As the basis of the five romance languages, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian, Latin could also help students learn foreign languages.
"I would say if kids learn Latin, throughout their whole life they will have a step forward," said Bottan. "It's as important as learning to count."
With an enthusiastic staff and high expectations, Sherman and Hicks will offer a Latin program that augments student learning. The challenges that the program faces are "finding teachers, developing a rigorous, dynamic and effective curriculum, providing appropriate supports or alternatives for some students with special needs, cost of materials and curriculum development, tight timeframe and politics of starting a 'new program' in tight fiscal circumstances," according to a document from the foreign language department.
Sherman thinks that the students will like Latin, "this is new and they are going to be really excited," she said.
~ Bronze Head of Zeus Found
Bulgarian archaeologists continue to have success in finding rather spectacular stuff, it seems (this is not from that Thracian tomb we mentioned a few weeks ago). From Novitne:
Bulgarian archaeologists unearthed on Tuesday a new treasure - a bronze head believed to be that of Zeus.
BTA news agency sited archaeologist Georgi Kitov, head of the TEMP 2004 expedition, as saying that the bronze head was disclosed Tuesday evening.
The head was found under a stone in highland mound near the city of Shipka, just a few meters away from the place where another Thracian treasure was found.
IA gold mask, weighting half a kilo and made of pure gold, alongside a ring, were discovered in August by Kitov's team. The unique mask is believed to have belonged to the first recorded Odrissi triber's ruler Teres.
I'll keep my eye out for photos ...
Thursday, September 23, 2004 5:06:11 AM
The Bayou City Perspective (that's the blog serializing Xenophon) points us to an article on 'horse therapy'. This practice (which is also much in the news up here for some reason) involves using animals as sort of 'therapeutic devices' to help folks rehabilitate from injuries etc.. As often, though, we see an attempt to link this to the ancient world ... from the Troy Record inter alia:
Utilizing a horse as a therapeutic tool actually goes back to Xenophon and the beginning of Rome," says Kay White. But it is only in the last half-century that therapeutic riding has received formal recognition and popular support.
Maybe it's the lack of caffeine ... maybe it's the possible anachronism in the statement which makes it look like Xenophon had something to do with Rome, but I can't think of a single ancient anecdote which really comes close to 'therapeutic' use of horses ... any suggestions? (I don't think Alexander and Bucephalus fit the definition, by the way ...)
Thursday, September 23, 2004 5:02:01 AM
~ AWOTV: On TV Today
7.00 p.m. |HINT| The Great Empire: Rome: The Republic of Rome
A sweeping chronicle of one of history's most dynamic empires. Part 1 features the city's fabled founding by Romulus and Remus; overthrow of the Etruscan monarchy; and the republic's formation and ultimate undoing with the rise of Imperial Rome. Host Joe Mantegna introduces Rome's great faces--Pompey, Cicero, Caesar, Antony, and Cleopatra.
HINT = History International
Thursday, September 23, 2004 4:34:56 AM