~ This Day in Ancient History
ante diem v idus octobres
- Meditrinalia -- a somewhat obscure festival in terms of origins which involved tasting old wine and new wine, apparently with the goal of being cured of diseases old and new.
- ludi Augustales scaenici (day 7 -- from 11-19 A.D. and post 23 A.D.)
- 304 A.D. -- martyrdom of Tharacus
::Monday, October 11, 2004 7:04:27 AM::
~ Female Terrorists
A piece in the Toronto Star on female involvement in various terrorist activities finds, of course, an ancient precedent ... inter alia:
Although many people today are shocked by such deliberate female violence, Jeannine Davis-Kimball, a California-based archaeologist and ethnographer, says there is little new about it.
"Women's desire to protect their families and their societies is as strong or stronger than men's," she says.
"From that point of view, we shouldn't be surprised by it."
In an extensive archaeological investigation in Russia and Central Asia, Davis-Kimball found evidence of warrior women who fought alongside men and played an aggressive part in the nomadic Central Asian tribes of the Sarmatians and Sauromatians in 600 B.C. to 400 B.C.
Her book, Warrior Women, documents the fact that a passive, domestic role was not always the norm for females.
"I think that the same thing is true of North America and the early plains settlers. Those women were left alone much of the time and they had to be able to fire a gun," she says.
Historically, women as warriors were first noted by the Greek historian Herodotus, who described bloodthirsty females who cut off one breast to improve their aim as archers, killed their male children and mated with men of other tribes when necessary.
Britain's Queen Boudicca, who ruled the Celtic Iceni tribe after the death of her husband around AD 50, was a fearsome leader whose towering height, wild red hair and knife-armed chariot horrified the occupying Roman troops.
Five hundred years later, the Arabian Queen Zenobia, who ruled the kingdom of Palmyra, led her troops to resounding victories against the Romans. [the whole thing]
... as often, of course, the Toronto Star reveals how challenged chronologically it is ...
::Monday, October 11, 2004 6:55:41 AM::
~ Reviews of Some Alexander Bios
In case you missed the mention of it in yesterday's Explorator, Victor Davis Hanson has a big chunk of the Times Literary Supplement for his review of four recent books about Alexander the Great (by Paul Cartledge, Claude Mosse, Laura Forman, and Paul Doherty). I suspect we'll be seeing plenty of Alexander reviews as the movie draws nigh.
::Monday, October 11, 2004 6:51:26 AM::
~ Microsoft and Athena
In case you weren't aware of the name of one of Microsoft's major projects, MCP Magazine tells us:
Athena, born full-grown from the head of Zeus, was trained in the fighting arts. She accidentally killed her friend, Pallas, during a game. It saddened her so much that she appended the name of her friend to her own. A statue of Pallas Athena in full armor, known as the Palladium, stood guard over the ancient city of Troy. Legend held that as long as the statue was safe, so was the city. During the 10th year of the Trojan War, Odysseus and Diomed stole the statue. The city soon fell to the nefarious Greeks, who hid inside a wooden horse.
Thus, Palladium has been defined as a safeguard, a guarantee of social institutions or a sacred object with the power to preserve the city or state it protects. And the Trojan horse? Well, I think you know the answer to that one.
Today, we find the word Palladium everywhere. It’s an element: Pd, a silvery-white metal used in watch springs, dental fillings (still got a few of those) and surgical instruments. It’s a restaurant in Philadelphia, a theatre and a band in Australia. No doubt, you can find many other interesting uses of the name—including Microsoft’s proposed secure computer infrastructure. [more]
... which I've always found interesting. You don't suppose Microsoft deliberately gave it this name because most folks who bother to look it up will see its 'protective quality' but they've also given themselves the 'out' because, of course, if it is compromised by some latter-day techno-Odysseus, it too will fall???
::Monday, October 11, 2004 6:35:40 AM::
~ Kerry as Cicero?
In a sense, it is clear from the second presidential debate that John Kerry is a very good debater. And that may end up being his undoing.
Many can recall from reading some Shakespeare in high school or college (well, if they belong to a generation taught by English teachers that thought Shakespeare important to an understanding of Western Civilization) the speech delivered by Mark Anthony following the assassination of Julius Caesar. You know, the one that Marlon Brando famously made in the movie version--"Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears . . ." Anthony's speech appealed to the fear of instability and chaos as a result of the ousting of a dictator from power. It also offered himself up as a substitute for such instability and chaos.
What fewer might recall is the historic fact that the great Roman statesman and orator Cicero delivered a rebuttal--known as the "Diatribe Against Mark Anthony"--in which he held up the conspirators, Brutus and Cassius, as defenders of true representative democracy. Cicero said that the conspirators rightly recognized that Julius Caesar's reign was at the expense of every citizen of the Roman Empire and that their violence was justified by the Caesar's refusal to allow political power to flow back to its source: the people. This speech lead to Cicero's death at the hands of Julius Caesar's nephew, Augustus.
The "Diatribe" is a textbook case of the "ad hominem" attack--according to which the debater calls attention to the weaknesses (usually of character) of his opponent rather than to the weaknesses of his argument. In effect, Cicero said to those in the Forum, "consider the source." Beyond his attack against Anthony's character, however, Cicero argued that Mark Anthony's speech was a cheap effort to sway the multitudes to hand power over to him in the vacuum that resulted from the death of Julius. And Anthony's speech was effective--he did indeed seize power and, until undone by Cleopatra's own lust for world domination, reigned as emperor of the most powerful civilization in the world at the time. Cicero's "Diatribe," on the other hand, ended up being his (quite noble) undoing.
While the ad hominem attack is justly regarded as one of the weakest--if even still most effective--means of winning an argument, it is joined by two other methods of convincing an audience to take one's side--the appeal to emotion and the appeal to authority. John Kerry's campaign has been relying heavily upon the ad hominem approach during the campaign upon its insistence that voters consider Bush's National Guard Service record as ipso facto proof that he does not have the character to continue to lead the country. And while Kerry's campaign continues to pursue this line (though much muted now that Dan Rather's memo-gambit has been thoroughly undone by market-share audience members who stubbornly demand the truth), these two latter methods of argument were much on display by Kerry on Friday. [more]
::Monday, October 11, 2004 6:30:05 AM::
~ O Tempora! O Mores!
Time for my latest rant about the state of knowledge of the ancient world in Canada. A news radio station mentions our prime minister's visit to Moscow and describes it thusly:
Martin, in his first official visit to the stomping grounds of the Romanovs and Alexander the Great, will also raise Canadian business concerns.
Yes ... there were Alexanders who ruled Russia; none of them agnomened 'the great' as far as I recall. Catherine maybe ... but that's a horse of a different colour.
Update: the current version of the story now has Peter the Great ...
::Monday, October 11, 2004 6:22:12 AM::
~ Ancient Dogs
I haven't checked out the auction houses lately, but was reminded to do so by a piece in the Scotsman about the late Leo Mildenberg's collection of ancient animal figures, which, of course, is coming up for auction (at Christie's). If you'd like, you can browse the online catalog at Christie's, but here's a few to give you an idea of dog types known to the ancient Romans (since we always seem to have articles about the Romans introducing this or that dog to the world):
Info page (it looks like the 'cave canem' dog from Pompeii!)
Info page (217 there is a Molossian)
::Monday, October 11, 2004 6:12:20 AM::