Latest update: 11/1/2004; 4:47:02 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ This Day in Ancient History

ante diem vi kalendas novembres

  • ludi Victoriae Sullanae (day 2) -- games held in honour of Victoria commemorating Sulla's defeat of the Samnites in 82 B.C.
  • 43 B.C. -- Marcus Junius Brutus commits suicide in the wake of the defeat at Philippi.
  • 97 A.D. -- The Nerva adopts the future emperor Trajan (possible date)
  • 113 A.D. -- The emperor Trajan departs from Rome for his war against the Parthians.
  • 1469 -- Birth of Erasmus

::Wednesday, October 27, 2004 5:48:15 AM::

~ Father Foster

This week, Father Foster discusses Roman 'maritime vocabulary' and the importance of Ostia to the development of Rome as a naval power.

::Wednesday, October 27, 2004 5:34:54 AM::

~ Pasta Origins

The Centre Daily Times has a Q and A piece about pasta ... inter alia:

Q: Who is credited with inventing pasta?

A: Legend has it that Marco Polo introduced pasta to Italy following his exploration of the Far East in the late 13th century. But we also can trace pasta back as far as the fourth century B.C., where an Etruscan tomb showed a group of natives making what appears to be pasta. The Chinese were making a noodle-like food as early as 3,000 B.C. Greek mythology suggests that the Greek god Vulcan invented a device that made strings of dough, the first spaghetti.

Okay ... well we all know that Vulcan was a ROMAN divinity, and I can't think of any story from myth which would credit him (or his Greek equivalent Hephaistos) with such a device. The Etruscan origin is possible/plausible, but is based primarily on tomb reliefs in a tomb (more than one?) from Cerveteri which either depicts the items required to make pasta or people mixing flour and water (according to zillions of websites). Of course, pasta isn't the ONLY thing they could be making ...


::Wednesday, October 27, 2004 5:29:18 AM::

~ Lamella Found

From the Guardian:

The Norfolk gardener was quite irritated at finding bits of rubbish mixed with the expensive topsoil he had bought: he picked out what he took to be foil from a champagne bottle and unrolled it - to reveal a lost world of Roman magic.

Experts from the British Museum and Oxford University have been poring over the scrap of gold foil, no bigger than a postage stamp, which went on display for the first time yesterday, with other archaeological finds reported in the past year.

"It meant nothing to me at first, I wondered if it was a scrap of decoration from a garment or a piece of furniture," said Adrian Marsden, the finds officer in Norwich whose desk it first landed on. "Then I suddenly saw the Greek letter A, and I knew what we must have."

It is a lamella, a magical charm, one of five found in Britain, and of no more than a few dozen from anywhere in the Roman empire.

The scrap of gold was one of 47,000 items reported by the public, most of them worthless but fascinating snippets of history.

For some reason, I can't find this piece in the Portable Antiquities Scheme database, but I do direct folks to the 'Showcase' therein, which has a number of interesting items, including a knife handle in the shape of  a gladiator.

::Wednesday, October 27, 2004 5:20:57 AM::

~ Athens Subway Finds

An AFP piece seems to be suggesting it's a bad thing that the Athenian Metro construction types have to endure the dictates of archaeologists ... still, it's a nice roundup of what's been found recently:

Digging a subway beneath a city that overflows with archaeological findings is a major challenge to Athens metro builders.

Outgunned at every turn by the Greek archaeologists' powerful lobby, engineers have to endure long and costly construction delays as academics hold up works for months to conduct extensive excavations every time the giant drills hit on a presumed ancient object.

Unperturbed by pressing completion deadlines, archaeologists have even forced construction companies to change the route in order to bypass findings dating from various periods of the city's 3,000-year-old history.

The Greek capital's two new metro lines opened with considerable delay in January 2000. Excavations along the 13-kilometre (8.2 miles) route boosted its cost by 50 million euros (64 million dollars).

"Delays, budget overruns: it's always like that with the Athens metro. But that's exactly the charm of it," said Harris Tzivatzis from the subway's state-owned operating company Attiko Metro.

The stop-and-go scenario could repeat itself as Attiko Metro prepares for new, 36-kilometer (22-mile) extensions reaching out to the city's wealthy southern and poor western suburbs, scheduled to be completed by 2012.

Ancient Greek and Roman pottery, amphorae, columns and gravestones are just a few of the discovered objects adorning the grid's downtown stations of Syntagma, Acropolis, University and Monastiraki in the midst of commuter bustle.

Giant cuttings in the city centre, notably around central Syntagma (Constitution) square and the ancient Keramikos cemetery near the Athens Acropolis unearthed more than 30,000 separate objects.

Syntagma station was built above several ancient buildings including a Roman bath. Just at its central entrance, an entire piece of classical 5th century B.C. Athens aqueduct is show-cased, discovered in almost perfect condition a few metres (yards) away.

Greek archaeologists' influence on the Athens metro is best reflected in the mid-complete extension from Monastiraki, at the foot of the Acropolis in the heart of Athens' tourist district, to the western suburb of Aegaleo.

According to initial plans, the line was scheduled to stretch right under Keramikos. But specialists feared the ancient cemetery's sandy subsoil would not withstand the pressure and collapse.

The controversy turned into a bitter row pitching Greek archaeologists, supported by the local, influential foreign archaeological schools, against the metro's construction company.

The Greek government resolved the controversy by throwing its weight behind the archaeologists and forced engineers to relocate the local subway station by 400 metres (yards).

The rest of the Monastiraki-Aegaleo line sprang no more archaeological surprises for the metro's builders -- despite the fact that it follows on the presumed trail of the ancient "Sacred Road," which experts believe linked the city to the nearby, occult sanctuary of Eleusis.

"We knew from the beginning that the route would be very interesting, considering the presence along this road of sanctuaries, tombs and cemeteries," said Yianna Drakotou, archaeologist-in-chief for the project.

"But there were no actual surprises during the excavations which have finished to 99 percent and cost 10 million euros," she added.

The pillars of an ancient bridge straddling Kifissos river, a stream which flowed through the city since ancient times until it disappeared a few decades ago under newly-built cement roads and flat blocks, proved one of the most significant findings. Found exactly where one of the line's stations was supposed to have been built, the stone blocks had to be entirely removed and might be reconstituted in a different location. Works suffered considerable delay.

"Completion of the line was initially foreseen for 2005. Now we're talking about 2007," Tzivatzis said.

::Wednesday, October 27, 2004 5:13:08 AM::

~ Dining Roman Style

An excerpt from  a Reuters piece that is making the rounds:

It's the Roman Empire revived in the Big Apple, if some new restaurants are any indication.

The latest trend is eateries that offer beds instead of tables and chairs, giving New York residents the chance to do as the Romans did and indulge in a meal out while reclining.

One restaurant is open, and there will be more in the next few weeks, affording yet another showcase for those in this fickle city who specialize in sampling the next new thing.

As anyone who has tried it at home can attest, eating in bed has less to do with servants hand-feeding grapes than simply trying not to spill anything. Attempting the same in public can seem bizarre or awkward, especially if sharing a bed with strangers is involved.

"It looks like a drastically different experience," said David, 30, a doctoral student, while eyeing one of three king-size beds at Highline in New York's Meatpacking District. "For a date it could be very good or very presumptuous."

Owners and managers of these restaurants -- which also include B.E.D. and Duvet -- are betting patrons will return once they realize how easily inhibitions are lowered, how luxurious the beds are and how good the food is.

"You sort of lose the social borders and barriers with people if you're lying together in bed," said Oliver Hoyos, an owner of B.E.D., which is set to open in early November and is an outpost of the restaurant of the same name in Miami.

People on the beds start out "very stiff," but "half an hour later they're leaning back and within an hour people are lying all over the bed and on each other's bellies," he said.

The most famous reclining diners were the ancient Greeks and Romans. A normal practice for the wealthy throughout much of the history of the two empires, reclining and being attended to by standing slaves was a sign of status.

::Wednesday, October 27, 2004 5:09:48 AM::

~ Roman Burial Site Threatened

From the BBC:

Roman invaders buried and cremated their dead at Beckfoot, which lies north of Maryport.

Now the site is being badly damaged by the sea and work is being done to try to save its relics.

Local volunteers have been gathering artefacts which are being found on the beach and an underground survey of the site has now started.

Community archaeologist from the Portable Antiquities Scheme, Faye Simpson said: "Some of the problem is quite serious. Beckfoot is actually quite amazing and we think quite a large cremation cemetery.

"Unfortunately we don't know the extent of it, we don't know exactly how many people were buried there. All we do know is these cremations seem to be quite wealthy.

"The finds that are coming up are pins, brooches and a statue and subsequently we really need to do something. It's eroding into the sea at an amazing extent."

She said they were trying to organise an excavation but she said, because the problem was being caused by a natural process, archaeological organisations are struggling to help because it is not in their remit.

She said they were trying to make people aware of the situation to win public support for protecting the site.

::Wednesday, October 27, 2004 5:07:16 AM::

~ CONF: Mappa di Soleto

There's been a bit of a buzz on various lists about an upcoming conference on the so-called Mappa di Soleto, which is purportedly a map on a potsherd of the 'heel of the boot' of Italy. Over at the Ancient World Mapping Center, Tom Elliot has culled together what info is available and translated the program of an upcoming colloquium on the subject.

::Wednesday, October 27, 2004 5:05:24 AM::

~ Reviews from BMCR

Uri Yiftach-Firanko, Marriage and Marital Arrangements. A History of the Greek Marriage Document in Egypt. 4th century BCE - 4th century CE.

Ronald F. Hock, Edward N. O'Neil, The Chreia and Ancient Rhetoric: Classroom Exercises. Writings from the Greco-Roman World v. 2.

George A. Kennedy, Progymnasmata: Greek Textbooks of Prose Composition and Rhetoric. (reviewed together with the previous)

Susanne Gippert, Joseph Addison's Ovid: An Adaptation of the Metamorphoses in the Augustan Age of English Literature.

::Wednesday, October 27, 2004 5:01:57 AM::

~ Seneca on Vegetarianism

Over at Laudator, MG has an interesting excerpt from Seneca on the benefits of being a vegetarian ...

::Wednesday, October 27, 2004 4:57:55 AM::

~ Odyssey Flick cites the Hollywood Reporter as the source for an upcoming film version of the Odyssey:

"Harry Potter" producer Andrew Heyman will be bringing to live the magical world of classical Greece in The Odyssey, Homer's adventure tale, at Regency Enterprises.

The project is the epic tale of Odysseus and his 10-year journey home after the Trojan War, during which he is confronted by natural and supernatural threats including shipwrecks, battles, monsters and the sea god Poseidon.

The Hollywood Reporter says British screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce will adapt for the big screen.

::Wednesday, October 27, 2004 4:44:16 AM::

~ Yale As Achilles

An opinion piece in the Yale Daily News ponders that university's perpetual 'number two' status ... inter alia:

What I ask you to consider is what we as human beings can learn from Yale's situation. We have matriculated at the mathematical limit of perceived institutional greatness; we are forever approaching perfection but never arriving at it. As the eternal runner-up, it is Yale that represents what my 11th-grade English teacher would call The Human Condition.

In the "Iliad," the battles between humans are always more fascinating than the battles between the gods. Why? Because the gods are perfect in their immortality and as such cannot be figures of empathy. But even Achilles, the closest thing to a god as possible, is nothing more than a sad creature who eventually must accept his mortal fate along with the rest of us wretched humans. What is Yale if not Achilles, a tragic hero of incredible greatness, a being so close and yet so far?

Thus Yale affords us an optimal understanding of the two extremes of humanity: We perceive our awesome dominance over (almost) all else, but humbly recognize the existence of One above us. Thus is life; how good things get is never how good we would wish them to be. This is what gives us our humanity, what makes moderately sized blobs of flesh and blood such as ourselves so fascinating. It's the tragedy of human existence, and the sooner we can appreciate it, in Yale and in ourselves, the better off we will be. And if not, we can always look down on Princeton.

::Wednesday, October 27, 2004 4:41:39 AM::

~ AWOTV: On TV Today

8.00 p.m. |HINT|  The Forgotten Civilizations of Anatolia
Throughout the course of history, many great civilizations have flourished in the area we now identify as Turkey, which forms a natural bridge between Europe and Asia. Join us on a virtual tour of Gordian, the domain of King Midas, Hattusa, the famous Hittite capital with its spectacular royal citadel, and the later cities ruled by the Greeks during the days of the Byzantine Empire. Using state-of-the-art computer technology and the latest in archaeological exploration, we walk viewers through ancient sites along with the citizens of the time. 
8.30 p.m. |HINT| The Ports of the Desert (From Marib to Palmyra)
Viewers meet up in the Arabian Peninsula, where we follow an ancient caravan route through the desert to Syria. Along the way, several lush oases in the otherwise barren Syrian desert come to our rescue in the form of Marib and Petra, site of the great tomb of Aaron that is carved out of a rock face, and the beautiful city of Palmyra. Join our virtual reality tour of history's most intriguing ancient civilizations as we explore celebrated ancient sites using state-of-the-art computer technology.

9.00 p.m. |DCIVC| King Herod: Madman or Murderer

HINT = History International

DCIVC = Discovery Civilization (Canada)

::Wednesday, October 27, 2004 4:27:02 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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