Latest update: 11/1/2004; 4:39:53 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ This Day in Ancient History

ante diem iv idus octobres

  • 19 B.C. -- Augustus returns from various eastern campaigns
  • 166 A.D. -- co-emperor Lucius Verus celebrates a triumph for his victories over the Persians; future emperor Commodus is given the rank of Caesar

::Tuesday, October 12, 2004 5:53:42 AM::

~ Learning About Rome

Wow ... they learn about Rome in Grade Three??? From the Indy Star:

Togas were all the rage Friday for third-graders at Mary Castle Elementary School in Lawrence Township.

The white robes went well with the Roman arches in the hall, the diagrams of Mount Vesuvius and the chariot races on the playground.

Friday's Roman Games wound up the third-graders' three weeks of interdisciplinary studies about Roman civilization, including its food, military, culture and customs.

"They're very different from us," said Kyle Carlson, just after alighting from a chariot fashioned from a toy wagon, cardboard and duct tape.

After three weeks of studying the Romans, Kyle is happy to be in 21st century American.

"We have electricity and stuff they didn't," he said.

Kyle and about 100 classmates donned homemade togas for the day. An adult-size white T-shirt cinched around the waist worked well, but some students had more elaborate get-ups.

Allison Armstrong wore purple with her toga. Roman royalty wore purple, she explained while swinging on a modern swing set.

On the parking lot and playground, the third-graders alternated among stations where they could race chariots, throw javelins, practice the long jump and race a toy hoop across the ground with a stick. [more]

::Tuesday, October 12, 2004 5:46:05 AM::

~ Classical Economics

Who would have thought there'd be a Classical influence on the winners of this year's Nobel Prize for Economics? An excerpt from the Gulf Daily News:

In the 1970s, many Western countries had problems with high inflation because their central banks didn't keep a consistent monetary policy, but accepted rising inflation for a short-term decrease in unemployment, said Per Krusell, a member of the Nobel Committee for Economics.

Kydland and Prescott's 1977 article highlighted this problem, which led to many countries forcing their central banks to stick to certain policies, regardless of what forces on the market wanted. The idea was groundbreaking, but the concept is as old as Greek mythology, Krusell said.

"It's a bit like Odysseus tying himself to the mast of his ship" to resist the temptations of the sirens, he said.

"People realised that rules that tie the central banks can be in everyone's interest."

::Tuesday, October 12, 2004 5:43:39 AM::

~ The Spartathlon

Coverage of a very challenging race with Classical origins. From Adventure Race News:

This race is quite literally a legend. It claims to retrace the best known footsteps of Athenian foot messenger Pheidippides, he who gave birth to the phenomenon that is the modern 26.2 mile running event with his well publicised journey from the plains of Marathon to the city of Athens.

Little is heard however of his more incredible journey circa 490 B.C. from the Greek Capital to the military stronghold of the mighty Spartans. That journey winds its way through coastal trails, passes by undulating vineyards and takes in a number of hills and mountain passes to cover an amazing distance of 246 kms, or 153 miles. The story teller of the day, Herodotus, recounted in writing “The Histories” that Pheidippides arrived in Sparta approximately 36 hours after leaving Athens, quite a feat when wearing nothing but flip flops and a toga let alone modern day Nikes and all the best electrolytes our chemists can muster.

So the modern day challenge of The Spartathlon is simple. Race the 153 miles from Athens to the town of Sparta as Pheidippides once did, in less than 36 hours. [more]

::Tuesday, October 12, 2004 5:41:06 AM::

~ Classical Fundraising

Here's an idea other reenactment groups might want to try (if they haven't already; this is the first time I've seen press coverage of this sort of thing). From the Cambridge News:

A TRIO of trekkers followed in Roman footsteps to raise money for charity.

The three men donned Roman costume and armour - weighing as much as 30lbs - for the 25-mile walk in aid of Addenbrooke's Hospital.

Russell Francis, Barry Gilder and Clint Wordley set off from the hospital on Saturday morning and followed the Roman road to Horseheath, by the Gog Magog hills and Wandlebury.

They finished their trek in Mr Francis' home town of Saffron Walden.

Mr Francis, a printer from De Vigier Avenue, said: "Barry is a keen walker, so he's used to stepping the miles, and I had done the route earlier in the year with him - but in shorts and T-shirt which was a bit different."

The 37-year-old history enthusiast is a member of two re-enactment groups - The Silures and The Vicus - along with Mr Wordley, an engineer from Chelmsford. Mr Gilder, 51, of Wayback, Saffron Walden, works with Mr Francis.

The walk came about after two of them tackled the route earlier this year. [more]

::Tuesday, October 12, 2004 5:35:10 AM::

~ Reviews from RBL

Kathy L Gaca, The Making of Fornication: Eros, Ethics, and Political Reform in Greek Philosophy and Early Christianity

Philip A. Harland, Associations, Synagogues, and Congregations: Claiming a Place in Ancient Mediterranean Society

Richard A. Horsley(ed.), Paul and the Roman Imperial Order

... all are pdf

::Tuesday, October 12, 2004 5:31:37 AM::

~ Thracian Tombs Update

From the Southeast European Times:

The Bulgarian government said Thursday (7 October) it has allocated over 25,000 euros for the completion of excavations at a site where archeologists recently unearthed a unique golden treasure buried in an ancient Thracian mausoleum. Moreover, the culture ministry is expected to provide further grants -- totaling more than 50,000 euros -- by the end of the year.

"This is the largest Thracian tomb ever discovered on Bulgarian territory, and in it we've found 73 artifacts, 20 of them made of gold," Professor Georgi Kitov said on 5 October, announcing his team's latest discovery.

The huge three-chamber stone tomb near the town of Shipka, in the heart of the Stara Planina mountain range, dates back to the 5th century BC. A 13m corridor leads to the chambers, one of which is behind a solid marble door decorated with a female head and an image of the ancient Greek god Apollo.

Entering one of the rooms, the archeologists found it filled with gold, silver and bronze treasures, crafted ceramics and three large amphoras. According to Kitov, the most impressive finds were a golden wreath, golden horse trappings and sword decorations.

"Some of the gold jewels have engraved images unknown in Thracian art -- a deer head with strong horns, a raging lion and black people with palm trees," Kitov told reporters.

The Thracians inhabited parts of present-day Romania, Macedonia, Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria between 4,000 B.C. and the 8th century, before being assimilated by invading Slavs.

While archeological evidence has shown that the Thracians had a highly developed culture and a refined taste, they never developed a written form of their language. Thus most of what is known about them today is based on archaeological finds and on accounts from other sources, such as the Greek historian Herodotus.

The new findings, as well as artifacts unearthed by Kitov's team several weeks earlier, are expected to shed more light on the culture, habits and life of the ancient Thracians.

During excavations in August at another site in central Bulgaria, the team found a unique 2400-year old mask made of solid gold, presumably depicting King Seutus III, one of the mightiest Thracian rulers.

Meanwhile, the head of the Bulgarian History Museum said an excavation team at another of Bulgaria's estimated 19,000 Thracian tombs has also found an invaluable treasure. Refusing to provide details or disclose the site, Professor Bozhidar Dimitrov said only that the golden objects likely were made about 2,000 years earlier than those found near Shipka.

Considering the big tourism bump which will likely come from these excavations, the Bulgarian government might come across as rather cheap, no?

::Tuesday, October 12, 2004 5:27:26 AM::

~ Online Essays

Over on the Classics list there is an incipient discussion of a number of essays in the Harvard Curricular Review, which is a journal focussing on various aspects of the education process. Of interest to some at rogueclassicism (perhaps) are the following:

Richard Thomas, General Education and the Fostering of Free Citizens

Harvey Mansfield, A More Demanding Curriculum

::Tuesday, October 12, 2004 5:24:11 AM::

~ Nice Bit of Invective

... with plenty of ClassCon, from the media pages of the Independent:

Am I alone in becoming increasingly sickened by the sneering that attends the working lives of Boris Johnson? From all the embittered sniping in the papers, you could almost be hoodwinked into viewing him as a political dilettante who treats his front bench portfolio as a sinecure while concentrating on more lucrative media and literary work, such as performing the role of Young Mr Grace for the staff of The Spectator. The truth is that he puts equal effort into his all his roles, as revealed last week when the Shadow Arts Minister addressed the latest death of the British film industry.

"Listen, I'm not going to weep bitter tears about how Ken Loach isn't getting his films distributed," he told an Arts Council-sponsored conference fringe meeting. "If he made happier films, more people would go and see them." Yet again, we find him suppressing the facetious throwaway to take a carefully considered stand. As a classicist, he refers obliquely here to the precedent of Sophocles, who responded to poor amphitheatre ticket sales by turning Oedipus Tyrannos into a Busby Berkeley-style musical; and then reworked the last scene of Ajax to have the hero bounce off his sword (the chump had forgotten to remove his breastplate!) before joining a team of male strippers on the Ithacan leg of their Aegean tour. If only people stopped to listen to what Boris actually says, rather than fall for the lazy caricature...


::Tuesday, October 12, 2004 5:18:51 AM::

~ Ludi

A nice comic sent along by amicus noster JM-Y ... sometimes that diem just aint quite carped!

::Tuesday, October 12, 2004 5:14:34 AM::

~ Corinthian Sarcophagi Update

A couple of days ago we posted a link to a story about a couple of huge Geometric-era sarcophagi being found and Corinth and wondered at the 'technology spin' being put on the story (I suggested the use of oxen rather than some mechanical device). Michael Shanks also wondered about the 'technology focus' at his blog. Happily, however, Guy Sanders (the Classicist mentioned in the story) emailed me a couple of times and gave me permission to reprint them here. In his missive of October 10 (via the rogueclassicism site ... thanks for reading!):

They certainly had bulls or oxen but the problem is to make them go backwards. A transfer of direction of the force from horizontal to vertical cerainly required a rig over the grave. What I was thinking of was a capstan, perhaps an oxcart with a fixed axle, to gear down the force required.

The sarcophagi are now the largest worked blocks in Greece before the mid-7th century (post-Mycenaean that is). Since scholars such as JJ Coulton emphasise size of block being he mother of mechanical inventions such as cranes and pulleys and the size of the sarcs suggest that the introduction of this equipment came to Greece several hundred years earlier than previously thought. The sarcophagi are the eariest we have by c. 150 years and are among the top 5% in size and weight. Previously we thought that stone architecture in Corinth was heralded by the later sarcophagi but the new finds raise the question whether there was cut stone architecture above ground in the 9th century.

My interests really lie in post AD 300 but my colleagues seem to be quite excited about the graves.

A follow-up note  from the next day (which also proves that there really aren't that many 'unreachable people' on the internet):

The interview was by phone on the fly. They called at the end of the day and asked three questions. I was not about to go into detailed reasoning verbally (makes for dull radio) for a 3 minute spot.

        Your point about bulls or oxen is a good one. I have always been assured that one of the advantages of a horse is that it will go backward when bovines will not. Horses are also a bit brighter than oxen which are notoriously slow witted; horses will and respond to quite subtle commands and intonations. Of course you can reverse the rig and have oxen go forward but that still takes a lot of coordination to assure everyone and thing, not all of who are on the same page let alone understand Greek, are moving at the same pace together. In the end I decided that since Corinthians were probably so familiar with rigging sea going vessels, they used brain rather than brawn. Another method would be to dig the hole and fill it with sand, roll the sarc over, then dig out the sand but we had no evidence of sand and it would be a long process. The larger of the two cuttings (smaller sarc) could have accomodated a ramp of wooden beams set at about 30 degrees. The smaller cutting was so deep a ramp is out of the question. The sarc is carefully centered and controlled lowering from above appears to be what was done. Leaving aside speculating how they got it in the hole, the sarcophagus and shaping of the stone alone are remarkable at so early a date.

In the end we have guesstimated that the sarc perhaps took ?4-5 days to fashion and haul and the hole took a similar amount of time to dig. Rigor mortis sets in quite quickly in this climate and there was no refrigeration. There is no way the body could be placed in its contracted position in the sarc. after rigor had started so the body was either pre-arranged or arranged after rigor had relaxed. It made for a long and potentially unpleasant prothesis before burial that some may want to compare with the laying out of Patroclus et al. in the Iliad.

The larger sarc grave cutting had a niche in which 14 pots and an iron spear point (preserving part of the wooden shaft) were placed. In the smaller sarc's grave cut the pottery was carefully displaced around the sarc standing upright. Liquid containers had skyphoi covering the mouths. I think that these were vessels used during the burial liturgy taken out of mundane circulation after use. Some still had a portion of their contents hence the careful placement. The vessels seem to have been for oil, water and wine used for pouring, chrysmating and drinking? The pottery dates early EG I which we now date contemporary with Attic and Argive early EG I c. 900-875 BC.

        References to the earliest stone cutters are to be found in Brookes, A. C. 1981 “Stoneworking in the Geometric Period at Corinth,” Hesperia 50, pp. 285-290 upgraded and refined by Rhodes, R. F. 2004. "The Earliest Greek Architecture in Corinth and the 7th-Century Temple on Temple Hill," in C. K. Williams II and N. Bookidis eds. Corinth XX: Corinth, the Centenary pp. 85-94 and Rhodes, R. F. 1987. “Early Stoneworking in the Corinthia,” Hesperia 56, pp. 229-232; to Geometric and Archaic burials in Dickey, K. 1992. “Corinthian Burial Customs,ca.1100 –500 B.C.” (diss. Bryn Mawr College) to lifting in Coulton, J. J. 1974. “Lifting in Early Greek Architecture,” JHS 94, pp. 1-19 and haulage in Burford, A. 1960: "Heavy Transport in Classical Antiquity", Economic History Review 13, pp. 1-17.

Again ... many thanks to Dr. Sanders. Now I'm waiting for someone to suggest this was an Egyptian-style burial ...

::Tuesday, October 12, 2004 5:12:44 AM::

~ AWOTV: On TV Today

... nothing of interest (looks like it will be a slow week too!)

::Tuesday, October 12, 2004 4:53:17 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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