Latest update: 11/1/2004; 4:40:02 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ d.m. Phyllis Lehman

The incipit of a very interesting obituary from the New York Times:

Phyllis Williams Lehmann, an archaeologist and art historian known for reuniting the hand of one of the icons of Western art, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, with two of its long-lost fingers, died on Sept. 29 at her home in Haydenville, Mass. She was 91.

The cause was congestive heart failure, according to Smith College, where Dr. Lehmann taught for more than 30 years.
Dr. Lehmann was an authority on the monuments and architecture of Samothrace, a remote, mountainous island in the north Aegean. The island was considered crucial in the development of the art and architecture of the Hellenistic period, which lasted from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. until the mid-first century B.C.

Samothrace was the center of one of the most famous mystery cults of Greek antiquity; its rituals were carried out in the group of imposing buildings known as the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, erected between the fourth and the second centuries B.C. The first of these structures to be built in marble was dedicated by Alexander's father, Philip II. Alexander's successors also erected monuments in the sanctuary.

As a result, the ruins at Samothrace have been of continuing interest to archaeologists, who have excavated there since the 1860's. Dr. Lehmann, who first visited the island in 1938, did her early work there with her husband, the archaeologist Karl Lehmann. She was assistant field director of the excavation from 1948 to 1960 and acting director from 1960 to 1965, and she remained closely involved with Samothrace for the rest of her career. A member of the Smith faculty from 1946 to 1978, she was dean of the college from 1965 to 1970.

Phyllis Williams was born Nov. 30, 1912, in Brooklyn. She received a bachelor's degree from Wellesley in 1934, and for the next two years worked at the Brooklyn Museum as an assistant in charge of the Classical collection. In 1936, she began her graduate work at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts, which ran the excavation on Samothrace. She received her Ph.D. in 1943, and married Mr. Lehmann, the excavation's director, the next year. He died in 1960. No immediate family members survive.

Working on Samothrace in 1949, Phyllis Lehmann made one of her most important discoveries, a tall marble statue of Nike, the goddess of victory, dating from the second century B.C. Unearthed in three large pieces, Dr. Lehmann's statue was the third Nike to be found on the island. The first, the Winged Victory that today greets visitors to the Louvre from the top of an imposing staircase, was found in 1863 by the French archaeologist Charles Champoiseau. That statue, from around 190 B.C., was unearthed in fragments, probably damaged in an earthquake in the sixth century A.D. Reassembled in Paris, it lacked head, arms and hands. [more]

::Sunday, October 17, 2004 10:21:29 AM::

~ Gangsta Apollo

Over at HobbyBlog there's an interesting coin of Valerian featured today with Apollo in a pose I've never seen before ... sort of like how a gangsta god would carry a bow.

::Sunday, October 17, 2004 10:18:42 AM::

~ Garum Recipe!

Something called OhmyNews International has an article on garum, believe it or not:

Pompeii is a district of Naples located between Sarno and the Vesuvius, in the south of Italy. In 63 A.D., a terrible earthquake heavily damaged Pompeii, but the city soon rose again from its ruins.

In August of 79, a volcanic eruption covered Pompeii completely under lava and ash. Thousands of people lost their lives. Houses, monuments and temples were destroyed. Few things survived this disaster.

Pompeii is still famous for its history, culture and handicrafts, but it is also known for its ancient cuisine. Some of its recipes have been handed down to us.

An appetizing food for Pompeiians was a sour, very concentrated fish sauce.

They used to make it with sardine entrails that were stirred into minced pieces of fish, fish eggs and hen eggs. Pompeiians pounded and mixed this blend for a long time, and then they used to leave it in a sunny or very warm place.

Later, they pounded it again, in order to get a homogeneous pulp. After six weeks of fermentation, they got a sauce called liquàmen, and put it in a basket with a hole at the bottom.

The finished product remained in the basket and was called gàrum (from the Greek name gàron, a kind of fish used in Asia to produce this sauce).

The residual liquid dripped from the basket, it was edible and known as hallec or faex.

Pompeiians had a very large number of different sauces. The best ones were gàrum excellens and gari flos flos, that were extracted from tuna fish, mackerel and moray. Gàrum sauce was often diluted with water, or flavored with herbs, probably because of its bad smell.

This sauce was also an important ingredient in the making of Pompeian meatballs. They were made with pork meat, wet bread, mulled wine and lastly gàrum sauce. Pompeiians also used to cook meatballs in hot wine with laurel leaves.

Gàrum sauce is not produced in Italy anymore, but it represents a point of reference for ancient Roman cuisine and the traditions of all Italians.

::Sunday, October 17, 2004 10:16:28 AM::

~ Ancient Comet Impact?

From the Scotsman comes news of evidence (maybe) of a devastating comet which hit southern Germany about the time Rome was dealing with Hannibal:

People living in southern Germany during Roman times may have witnessed a comet impact 5,000 times more destructive than the Hiroshima atom bomb, researchers say.

Scientists believe a field of craters around Lake Chiemsee, in south-east Bavaria, was caused by fragments of a huge comet that broke up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Celtic artefacts found at the site, including a number of coins, appear to have been strongly heated on one side.

This discovery, together with evidence from ancient tree rings and Roman reports of “stones falling from the sky”, has led researchers to conclude that the impact happened in about 200BC.

However the claim still needs to be verified by other experts.

The crater field was uncovered after amateur archaeologists working in the area found pieces of metal containing unusual minerals.

A team of geologists led by Kord Ernston, from the University of Wurzburg in Germany, went to the site and discovered evidence of a cataclysm that would have left the region devastated for decades.

Not only would trees and homes have been flattened for many miles by the blast, but the local climate would have changed for years afterwards.

Tree rings show that vegetation growth slowed down in around 207BC, possibly because of the “nuclear winter” effect of dust blotting out the sun.

More than 80 craters were found in an elliptical area 36 miles long and 17 wide, ranging in size from 10 to 1,215 feet across. The largest, filled with water, now formed Lake Tuttensee.

Around the site the team found clues that suggested an impact from space, including rock heated into glass and minerals associated with meteorites.

The most likely cause was a low-density comet, 0.7 miles (1.1 kilometres) wide, that broke up at an altitude of 43 miles and fell in pieces to Earth, the scientists reported in Astronomy Magazine.

They wrote: “The main mass of the projectile struck the ground at 2,200 miles per hour, releasing an amount of energy equivalent to 106 million tons of TNT.”

The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima at the end of the Second World War had an explosive force of just 20,000 tons of TNT.

The scientists gave a graphic description of what it might have been like to experience the impact.

“About two seconds after the strike, people six miles away (10 kilometres) would have felt the ground shake as it would in a magnitude six earthquake. The air blast, arriving 30 seconds after impact, would have swept through at a speed of 500 miles per hour and produced a peak pressure of about 1.4 atmospheres, easily collapsing buildings, especially wooden ones.

“Even from 10 kilometres away, sound from the impact would have reached 103 decibels – loud enough to cause strong ear pain. Up to 90% of the trees would have blown over; the rest would have lost their branches.”

Forest beneath the blast would have ignited suddenly, and continued to burn until the shock wave blew the fire out, said the scientists.

The conflagration had left a thin layer of ash in and between the craters.

Roman authors at the time wrote about showers of stones falling from the sky and terrifying the local population.

Because of these events, the Senate in 205BC ordered that a conical meteorite known as the Needle of Cybele, which had been worshipped in Asia Minor, be brought to Rome.

“The impact undoubtedly had a major effect on the environment and people then living in the vicinity of Altoetting-Chiemgau,” wrote Ernston’s team.

“The region must have been devastated for decades. We are currently looking for gaps in the historical and archaeological records during the time we propose for the impact to better understand both the event itself and its cultural effects.”

Dr Benny Peiser, a leading expert on impact events from Liverpool John Moore’s University, said the report should be treated with caution until more was known.

He said the date was speculative, and pointed out that asteroids or comets a kilometre wide struck the Earth on average only once every 500,000 years. Generally such a large impact would cause much more severe and obviously traceable damage.

“In short, this is an an intriguing find, but I remain sceptical for the time being,” said Dr Peiser. “The impact cratering research community has not assessed these claims yet. That’s what needs to be done next.”

Not sure about the cause-effect relationship which is implied here (i.e. comets and bringing Cybele to Rome), but it's intriguing if there is even a tangential connection. I'll try to track down the ancient accounts of this ...

::Sunday, October 17, 2004 10:00:57 AM::

~ Pants @ Laudator

MG at Laudator has an interesting collection of quotations about cultures with trousers in the ancient world.

::Sunday, October 17, 2004 9:53:50 AM::

~ Hollywood Rediscovers the Ancient World

Great piece in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Call it the Maximus effect. Four years after Russell Crowe played the rampaging Roman general in Gladiator, picking up an Oscar for his many pains, it seems we can't get enough of the ancient world. It's there in sales of classical literature and the tide of documentaries, like tonight's ABC TV offering of the First Olympian. It's there in the swelling number of ancient history students at high schools. It's there in video war games where elephants replace tanks, in blockbuster antiquities exhibitions, in areas as unexpected as modern psychotherapy. It's even there on the shelves of toy shops, in the shape of a Princess of Ancient Greece Barbie Doll, complete with golden serpent bracelet.

But most unavoidably, it's there on the big screen.

Twice already this year Hollywood has catapulted us back, togas flying, into the Greco-Roman world. First came Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ, then Troy, the latest interpretation of Homer's epic poem The Iliad that starred Brad Pitt and Australians Eric Bana and Rose Byrne.

The barrage is set to continue next month with the North American release of director Oliver Stone's biopic Alexander, in which Irishman Colin Farrell plays the boozing, bisexual Macedonian who forged an empire extending from modern Greece to India and Libya. "Follow him as he conquers the world" exhorts the publicity for a film that also boasts the star power of Sir Anthony Hopkins as Ptolemy and Angelina Jolie as Alexander's mother, Olympias.

Whether you choose to follow him or not - Alexander is due here in January - you can't help but be reminded that the classical period is box-office gold. It is as though, in our thirst for cultural references, we've fired up the retro-boosters and zoomed straight past 1980 to something closer to AD198.

The so-called sword-and-sandals movies appeared to have been forever abandoned by Hollywood in the wake of Elizabeth Taylor's 1963 exercise in excess Cleopatra, a film so lavish it almost bankrupted 20th-Century Fox. Movies like Quo Vadis, Ben Hur and The Robe had slayed 'em on screen in the dozen years beforehand, but after Cleopatra studios put the genre in a box, nailed it shut and entombed it for almost 40 years.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can say the corpse started twitching again in 1996 after Ralph Fiennes read extracts from Greek historian Herodotus during the Oscar-winning The English Patient.

That same year Canadian Ross Leckie had a bestseller on his hands with Hannibal, a rip-snorting novel retelling the famous story of the Carthaginian general's 218BC march over the Alps with elephants on his way to wage war against Rome.

Ancient themes received a further boost in 1998 when Greek-Roman stoic philosopher Epictetus figured prominently in A Man In Full, author Tom Wolfe's much-anticipated follow-up to Bonfire Of The Vanities.

A lesser-known American writer, Steven Pressfield, also made the bestseller list that year with Gates Of Fire, based on the 480BC Battle of Thermopylae when 300 Spartans teamed with 7000 other Greeks to hold back a vast Persian army for several crucial days. Then came Gladiator and its sustained $600 million assault on the box office.

Where Hollywood had spent decades banking on the future (think Star Wars, Alien and Terminator), it now became transfixed by the big rear-view mirror, especially one in which costs were contained by computer-generated crowd scenes. Leaving aside the cynics' view - that by delving back into ancient times, directors could pit goodies against baddies without risking political offence - Hollywood had suddenly given mass cultural endorsement to stories that had been kicking around for 2000 years or more.

Ask classical historians and archaeologists how much credit Hollywood should be given for the revived interest in their subject and you get a similar response. It's hard to measure, but it certainly hasn't done any harm.

Academics are also united in another opinion. Where you might expect them to be precious about having their passions dumbed down or inaccurately portrayed by Hollywood, most contend it doesn't really matter if Pitt's Achilles was more likely to have bedded his friend Patroclus than a slave girl, as long as the films awaken interest in the audience.

"They can always come along and get the real story from us later," says Associate Professor Dexter Hoyos, of Sydney University's Department of Classics and Ancient History. "It's if we don't get them in the first place that we have problems. And so far we haven't had any students coming to us after their first year saying it's not like it was in Gladiator."

Professor Peter Wilson, the university's head of classics, sees it as a two-way street. "I think the films are feeding something that's being asked for as much as generating interest," he says.

That interest, it seems, is not confined to the uninitiated. Professor Wilson enthusiastically relates the story of Oxford University colleague Robin Lane Fox, best known for his books The Search For Alexander and Alexander The Great: A Biography. When Oliver Stone went searching for an expert to guide his directorial hand, Lane Fox became an eager collaborator. "He told me how he'd get a phone call from Oliver at 4am asking what a fourth century BC Macedonian window looked like," recalls Wilson. "He got completely involved in it - so much so that he waived his fee on the condition that he be given a place in the film's major cavalry charges."

For all that Hollywood gets the headlines, such intersections of academia and popular culture are far more frequent on the small screen. Cable TV's National Geographic and Discovery channels have been drivers of and outlets for interest in the classical period, with its universal stories and enduring mysteries. And when free-to-air television executives have sufficient confidence to program such documentaries in prime time, you can feel certain someone's telling them there is a large audience for it. After the documentary Who Killed Alexander The Great? drew 1.24 million viewers to the ABC in May, knocking over Channel Ten's Big Brother in the process, nobody at Aunty is quibbling.

Archaeologist Craig Barker believes television has provided another, less obvious, contribution to rising interest in his craft. An education officer at Sydney University's Nicholson Museum, home to one of the country's best antiquities collections, Dr Barker credits shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation with having raised the profile of forensic investigation. "The difference with us is that we can be investigating crime scenes that took place 2000 years ago, not two weeks ago."

Dr Barker does have recent events to thank, however, for giving greater immediacy to the age he often inhabits. Wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East have piqued curiosity about the historical, political and religious forces in those regions. And the return of the Olympic Games to Athens, with an ambitious opening ceremony loaded with ancient heroic symbols, transported a global audience back to Greece's golden age and its legacies of democracy and philosophy and culture and myth.

The ceremony's various references would have been especially pertinent for NSW's ancient history students, nearly 10,000 of whom will sit their Higher School Certificate exam on November 4. Having overhauled modern history this year, the subject is now threatening to outstrip physics and chemistry in popularity.

If Maximus played his part, so too did the rejigging of the syllabus in 1999, when more archaeology was inserted into the first six weeks of a subject spanning from 6000BC to the fall of Rome at the end of the fifth century. Rather than launching straight into 2800-year-old poems - not quite in the style of J.K. Rowling - the subject was given immediate animation by studying Tutankhamen's tomb and Ice Man, the 5300-year-old Stone Age hunter found frozen in remarkable condition high on the Austrian-Italian border.

Erin Spike is a year 11 student at Baulkham Hills High School, one of the few public schools to also offer Latin. Nearing the end of her first year of ancient history, during which her class put together its own Roman feast and went to see Troy, the 15-year-old is quick to sum up its appeal. "I was really interested to see how people lived in a time so far removed from our lives," she says. "It is inherently really, really fascinating and no one is dropping it for the HSC."

And how did she rate Troy after studying The Iliad?

"Well, I didn't go into it thinking it would be historically accurate. But because it wasn't so focused on detail, it was free to be entertaining. I thought it captured the spectacle of the saga."

True to her original rationale, Spike says she is not so much attracted by epic stories as the minutiae of everyday life. Which is why she thought it was really cool to be able to email University of Queensland molecular archaeologist Dr Tom Loy to ask about his work on the Ice Man project.

That ageless fascination with unravelling the past is confirmed by Macquarie University's Blanche Menadier. An honorary research associate who has excavated Troy nine times over 15 years, Dr Menadier decided to offer a voluntary archaeology class at her daughter's primary school. "Eighteen kids turned up every week before school," she says, clearly rejoicing in the power of her subject.

You don't have to look far for other examples of that power. Capitalising on Hollywood's multimillion-dollar promotional budgets, museums around the world have been enjoying record crowds after dusting off their antiquities. Nicholson Museum's current exhibition, Troy: Age Of Heroes, has been a hit with visiting school groups. In London, meanwhile, 1.7 million visitors queued over summer to see the British Museum's Troy and Olympia exhibits.

Booksellers have similar stories to tell about sales of classical literature. Around the time Brad Pitt was flexing his pecs, retailers Angus & Robertson saw weekly sales of The Iliad jump from 10 to 100. Sales of the book in Britain, helped by publishers Penguin giving the covers a makeover, trebled between 2002 and 2003 and are still heading skyward.

Still on books, classicists were quick to pounce on J.K. Rowling's dip into Greek mythology as the inspiration for her Hippogryph, the half horse, half gryphon (or griffin) ridden so thrillingly by Harry Potter in The Prisoner Of Azkaban. After Brad and Harry, it only needs David Beckham to start quoting Ovid for ancient history to get full cultural sanction.

In a less scholarly vein, the fascination with the ancient world has already extended to video games. Two of this year's best-received games are Rome: Total War, in which players can "direct vast armies led by legendary generals including Julius Caesar and Hannibal", and Shadow Of Rome, in which a Roman soldier sets out to win a gladiatorial contest to save the life of his father, accused of murdering Julius Caesar.

It was about a hundred years after Caesar's death in 44BC that another influential figure was born who is now making his presence felt. Epictetus held that our lives are not unsettled by actual events, but by the way we choose to see and respond to those events. His ideas were picked up and developed by American Albert Ellis, whose 90th birthday in New York City last year provided an opportunity to celebrate a man hailed as the greatest living psychotherapist.

Celebrated by some as more important than Sigmund Freud, Ellis is the author of titles such as The Case For Promiscuity and How To Stubbornly Refuse To Make Yourself Miserable About Anything - Yes, Anything! Among the 200 guests who paid their respects last year were Nicole Kidman and her father Antony, a Sydney clinical psychologist and Ellis disciple. "You look wonderful," Kidman junior reportedly told Ellis. "Thanks - you look OK, too," replied Ellis.

What position will the ancient world ultimately command in our lives? On this the classical scholars are again of one voice. With greater exposure, the possibilities of the internet, less intellectual snobbery and - above all else - its continuing influence on our modern world, the classical period will always be relevant.

By way of evidence, Professor Wilson points to the 100-plus people of all ages who paid money and eschewed a sunny spring Sunday to attend a full-day discussion of The Iliad as part of the university's continuing education program. "And that was before Troy came out," he says.

Professor Hoyos cites resurgent interest in ancient languages. The author of Latin: How To Read It Fluently notes that the number of NSW high school students studying Latin fell to about 130 in the mid-1980s. That number has now climbed back to 170-odd: an admittedly small group but, he hopes, evidence that the language is finding favour in a new generation.

Dr Barker is similarly sanguine about ancient history's prospects at high school level. Having seen Nicholson Museum visitor numbers escalate sharply over the past six years, he thinks it may be that ancient history is reassuringly manageable in an information age where quantity can overwhelm quality.

"Mentally and conceptually, I think it's easier to sit down with Herodotus and a couple of broken pots than being bombarded with so much information about other subjects," he says. "It's almost Victorian in its simplicity."

Dr Menadier shares her colleague's optimism, to a point. Even in her native US, where she saw a trend towards sexing up the subject in the 1980s, Dr Menadier can't imagine classical studies returning to the high-water mark of the 18th and 19th centuries, when an interest in archaeology and ancient languages and culture was the mark of a gentleman. "But after being on the wane in the second half of last century," she says, "I think it is finding its level again."

While it seeks a level, Hollywood will be doing its best to keep the pot - or should that be urn? - boiling.

Dr Menadier and Professor Wilson are among those hoping that Australian director Baz Luhrmann persists with his own Alexander the Great project, for which Leonardo DiCaprio has been cast as Alexander and Nicole Kidman as Olympias. Other epic ventures in the pipeline are George Clooney's take on Pressfield's Gates Of Fire and Hannibal The Conqueror, adapted from Leckie's novel and starring Vin Diesel as General Hannibal Barca.

Of one thing we can be sure. Hollywood will tire of sword-and-sandals movies again. But, as Dr Barker observes, "ruins and exotic locations never go out of fashion".


::Sunday, October 17, 2004 9:52:35 AM::

~ Akropolis News

Latest headlines from Akropolis News in Classical Greek:

Telescope to peer at cosmic dark ages - Nigerian women to be stoned
Boy 11 years old drives 300 km. - Howard triumphs in Australia

::Sunday, October 17, 2004 9:50:04 AM::

~ Nuntii Latini

Latest headlines from YLE's Nuntii Latini:

Wangari Muta Maathai praemiata (15.10.2004)

Exercitus Russiae corruiturus (15.10.2004)

Nulla in Iraquia arma interneciva (15.10.2004)

Papiones capitis damnati (15.10.2004)

Vestigia dinosaurorum reperta (15.10.2004)

Quid Tarja Halonen dixerit (8.10.2004)

::Sunday, October 17, 2004 9:47:59 AM::

~ Father Foster

Not sure how I forgot to put this up, but Father Foster this week talked about a class he conducted this past summer reading Cicero's Letters.

::Sunday, October 17, 2004 9:45:11 AM::

~ Reviews from BMCR

Laura Nasrallah, An Ecstasy of Folly: Prophecy and Authority in Early Christianity.

David Sedley, Plato's Cratylus.

::Sunday, October 17, 2004 9:42:48 AM::

~ Newsletters

We've just posted our weekly newsletters, namely, The Ancient World on Television (weekly edition) and Explorator 7.25. Enjoy!

::Sunday, October 17, 2004 9:35:07 AM::

~ AWOTV: On TV Today

6.00 p.m. |HINT| The Odyssey of Troy
What is it about the legendary city that 3,200 years after its fall, we still try to unravel Troy's mysteries? Scholars attempt to answer the question by researching the Greek poet Homer, possibly one of the greatest poets in Western Europe's history, and his epic tale of love and war, and comparing his text to archaeological sites.

10.00 p.m. |DISCC| Myth Busters: Ancient Death Ray/Skunk Cleaning
Jamie and Adam reflect on one of the world’s oldest urban legends -did the Greek scientist Archimedes set fire to a Roman fleet using only mirrors and sunlight?; moving to more modern times, have you ever tried to remove the fetid funk of a skunk?

HINT = History International

DISCC = Discovery Channel (Canada)

::Sunday, October 17, 2004 8:49:16 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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