Latest update: 11/1/2004; 4:47:05 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ This Day in Ancient History

ante diem iv kalendas novembres

  • ludi Victoriae Sullanae (day 4) -- games held in honour of Victoria commemorating Sulla's defeat of the Samnites in 82 B.C.

::Friday, October 29, 2004 6:01:32 AM::

~ Exhibition: Greece and Avant-Garde America

This looks like a really interesting one ... the Mirrors to the Past: Ancient Greece and Avant Garde America exhibition is reviewed in the New York Times:

If someday, ages hence, archaeologists were to come upon the objects now on display in the Vincent Astor Gallery of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, what would they make of them all? The items in the exhibition "Mirrors to the Past" all refer in one way or another to ancient Greece. A pomegranate-colored gauze wrap is meant to be a reconstruction of Greek fashion. A dancer in a white tunic is shown dreamily posing at the Parthenon in erotic reverie. A director broods in Greek peasant dress as if straining to hear the chords of the Delphic oracle. Posters and photographs show Trojan women, the citizens of Colonus, Antigone and Medea variously reincarnated as European exiles, gospel singers and earnest political rebels.

Judging from much of the material, an archaeologist might conclude that ancient Greece was a civilization of sensuous narcissists, antiwar activists and ardent feminists that had little patience for convention and little taste for bourgeois life. It was a culture, in other words, that closely resembled some avant-garde movements in the 20th-century United States, for that is the real focus of this exhibition, which bears the subtitle "Ancient Greece and Avant-Garde America."

But what happens to ancient Greece when it is filtered through avant-garde tastes? What would Socrates have made of Isadora Duncan in various stages of transport? What would Euripides have thought of "Medea" being put in service to feminism? What would the lyrists of Athens have heard in the musical works of Harry Partch, with his experimental tunings and his preoccupation with Greek instruments? Perhaps John Cage, represented here by "A Chant With Claps" (1940), had it right: as the performer claps arhythmically, almost spasmodically, he makes pronouncements about the inevitable transformation of Greek civilization by later cultures.

Dionysian Dancers

In fact, though this exhibition recently opened the library's six-month citywide Hellenic Festival, which offers Greek-themed concerts, readings, lectures and dance, the growing conviction as you proceed through the show is that there is far less of ancient Greece on display than its avant-gardist acolytes would have acknowledged. An opening statement explains the avant-garde approach: "Motivated by the enlightened minds that produced works of incomparable beauty and emotional resonance, the creative artists in turn gleefully discarded rules and radically redefined their art forms." But how and why did this happen? How were classical notions of beauty and resonance appropriated in the service of a later era's gleefully discarded rules and radical rebellion?

The exhibition is mute about this; neither does it explore its own premises too deeply, leaving its characterization of the avant-garde somewhat wispy. It also provides no historical context, no hint of the roles Classical Greece has played in modern Western culture since the Renaissance, or its iconic significance for a wide variety of cultural movements in the 19th and 20th centuries, in Europe as well as in the United States. [more]

Nice photo of Isadora Duncan at the Parthenon accompanying the review ...

::Friday, October 29, 2004 5:40:59 AM::

~ Learning from Ancient History

An opinion piece from the Charleston Gazette appeals to ancient precedent:

PEOPLE who know history can see warnings that apply to current situations. A famous example — favored by many scholars and educated folks — is the Peloponnesian War in the fifth century B.C.

Ancient Athens had grown into a prosperous empire, but stupidly destroyed itself by jumping into pre-emptive wars. The first part of the conflict was 10 years of needless battle against Sparta, which finally reached a truce arranged by a wise general named Nicias. However, patriotic hotheads stampeded Athens into an unprovoked invasion of Sicily, claiming that it was necessary to head off a possible Sicilian attack. In the end, Athens was so damaged that it sank into defeat and decay.

The historian Thucydides recounted how Nicias tried to warn the Athenian assembly against attacking Sicily without comprehending the consequences. “It is senseless to go against people who, even if conquered, could not be controlled,” Nicias said. If Athens failed to subjugate Sicily completely and immediately, he warned, it would “find hostility on every side.”

But a rival, Alcibiades, scoffed at this alarm. Athenians would be welcomed by many Sicilians, he said, and the invasion would pay for itself, using Sicily’s wealth. Patriotic fever for the invasion grew. “The result of this excessive enthusiasm of the majority,” Thucydides wrote, “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.”

The attack was a disaster. Athens lost nearly everything, and soon was overwhelmed by rival powers — setting the stage for Macedonians and Alexander eventually to control Greece.

Playwright Barbara Garson, author of the 1960s classic, “Macbird,” recently recounted the Peloponnesian War in a superb Los Angeles Times commentary. Not once did she compare the ancient invasion of Sicily to President Bush’s current invasion of Iraq (except for a sly remark that the Sicilian invasion opponents might have been called “girlie- men”) — but she didn’t need to. Readers knew her meaning.

The human record is full of examples in which a strong nation invaded another, and paid a terrible price. Philosopher George Santayana famously remarked, “Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.”

In America, it’s commonly deemed patriotic to support war, and unpatriotic to oppose it. But we think history teaches a different lesson: Often, the greatest patriots are those who prevent their countries from being carried away by war fever that brings tragedy.

::Friday, October 29, 2004 5:36:40 AM::

~ It is Written (In Stone!)

An interesting piece in the Daily Beacon on a talk delivered by James Anderson:

You should not believe everything set in stone, according to a visiting lecturer to The University of Tennessee.

University of Georgia professor James Anderson spoke to the East Tennessee Society, a local chapter of the Archeological Institute of America, Tuesday night. His presentation was titled "Ghostwriting? Or Lying in Stone? Can We Believe Roman Building Inscriptions?"

Anderson began his presentation with an anecdote from his childhood, one he said "may strike a chord." When he was 8 years old, he expressed doubt to his grandmother about a news article. He said his grandmother replied,"Jimmy, they couldn't print it if it wasn't true."

"This is a mindset that is inherent in Western culture. If you see it written down, or carved in stone, you tend to believe it," Anderson said.

His first example of an inscription that has "deluded people into believing it," was one on the Pantheon that says Marcus Agrippa built the structure.

"Not a single word of the inscription is true," Anderson said.

Stamped bricks that make up the majority of the structure reveals it was built during the rule of Hadrian, 150 years after the life of Marcus Agrippa.

"There was a Pantheon built by Agrippa," he said, but the structure that stands in central Rome is a second rebuilding. A biography of Hadrian said the ruler restored the original inscriptions on reconstructions, Anderson said. Though he said this example is "a fairly harmless one ... Nevertheless, the stones lie."

The Column of Trajan at Rome also bears a false inscription, Anderson said. The inscription says "a mountain of a certain height was cleared out" in order for the monument to be assembled.

Anderson said "there is no good evidence the ground was ever higher than it was." Anderson explained that one possibility for the inscription might be that the monument "was never intended to stand where it does."

Although this inscription is not intentionally deceiving, Anderson said that "alteration is intentional" for some of the inscriptions.

"The intention is to get rid of someone," he said.

He provided, as an example, the story of the emperor Septimius Severus, who died on campaign. He wanted the empire to pass to his two sons, Caracalla and Geta. Caracalla had Geta murdered, and subsequently, had his name scraped off of the arch of Septimius Severus in the Roman Forum.

"Human deception is one of those interesting and fascinating phenomena," he said. Anderson cited examples of inscriptions that had been removed or changed, including the obelisk at the Vatican.

Jason Simms, graduate student in anthropology, said he was attracted to the lecture because he is a classics major.

"This is my field," he said. "It was interesting to hear someone give their take on whether something is or is not accurate."

::Friday, October 29, 2004 5:34:05 AM::

~ The Thirsty Dead

Over at Laudator, MG has an interesting piece on pouring libations to the dead, ancient and modern.

::Friday, October 29, 2004 5:29:57 AM::

~ That Other Alexander Flick indicates that Baz Luhrman's version of the Alexander the Great movie may be dead in the water:

Nicole Kidman tells the Toronto Sun that Baz Luhrmann's version of Alexander the Great will not be made now that Warner Bros. will release Oliver Stone's Alexander on November 24.

Kidman, who was supposed to co-star in Luhrmann's film as Olympias said "No!" when asked if the director was going to go ahead with the much-delayed project. In Stone's film, Angelina Jolie plays Olympias to Colin Farrell's Alexander. Leonardo DiCaprio was attached to star as Alexander in Luhrmann's project.

"I was too!" Kidman says when told that viewers were eager to compare the two films and that many were more intrigued by the possibilities of Luhrmann's vision. [more]

::Friday, October 29, 2004 5:28:26 AM::

~Job: Latin Lit @ Yale

The Department of Classics, Yale University, intends to appoint a tenured professor in the field of Latin language and literature with a strong preference for a scholar whose research interests are in poetry; the appointment would begin July 1, 2005.   Evidence of distinction in both scholarship and teaching is required.   Applications and nominations should include a curriculum vitae and the names of at least four referees. Yale University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer.  Yale values diversity in its faculty, staff, and students and strongly encourages applications from women and underrepresented minorities. Applications and inquiries should be sent by December 15, 2004, to Professor Christina Kraus, Chair, Search Committee, Department of Classics, Yale University, 344 College Street, P.O. Box 208266, New Haven, CT 06520-8266, U.S.A.

... seen on AegeaNet

::Friday, October 29, 2004 5:16:58 AM::

~ Latin Alive and Well in Littleton

Latin is alive and well in Littleton, according to the Littleton Independent:

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.

::Friday, October 29, 2004 5:10:54 AM::

~ Reviews from BMCR

William Adler, Paul Tuffin, The Chronography of George Synkellos: A Byzantine Chronicle of Universal History from the Creation.

Marc Reydellet, Venance Fortunat, Poemes, Tome III: Livres IX-XI, Appendice, In laudem sanctae Mariae.

Rowena Loverance, Byzantium.

::Friday, October 29, 2004 5:07:38 AM::

~ More Paper Models

Again from the LatinTeach list ... a few days ago we linked to a site which had paper models for you to download and make of the Seven Wonders of the World (well, five of them, anyway) ... today we have another link from the fine folks at Canon (I just purchased one of their printers ... they've come a long way), which has models of the Parthenon, Colosseum, Lighthouse of Alexandria, and a Trojan Horse (among other non-Roman/Greek things ... there's an Arc de Triomphe that you could probably claim to be Roman) ...

::Friday, October 29, 2004 5:02:50 AM::

~ AWOTV: On TV Today

7.00 p.m. |HINT|  Hadrian's Wall
Why did the ancient Romans build a stone wall across England from sea to sea? This look at Emperor Hadrian's Wall suggests that it had to do with military necessity and the ego of Hadrian himself.

7.00 p.m. |HINT| Julius Caesar: Master of the Roman World
Profile of one of the world's greatest military minds, ancient Rome's Julius Caesar, who romanced Cleopatra, invented the 12-month calendar, and expanded the boundaries of the empire, before being assassinated by senators fearful of his growing power.

9.00 p.m. |HISTU| Decisive Battles
Cannae, Italy, August 216 BC. In a classic example of double-envelopment maneuver, Hannibal inflicts the greatest ever defeat on the forces of Rome. A mighty Roman army, eight legions strong, marches out to crush the Carthaginian general on an open battlefield. Though Hannibal has far fewer men at his disposal, and none of his famous elephants, he manages to surround and slaughter the superior Roman force. See why Hannibal's military genius is still being lauded and taught in academies today. Hosted by Matthew Settle (Band of Brothers).

9.00 p.m. |DISCC| Who Killed Julius Caesar
Historians, writers and film-makers have puzzled over the assassination of Julius Caesar for centuries; using the latest technology and modern profiling techniques, experts reveal the truth behind history's most famous crime.

Channel Guide

::Friday, October 29, 2004 4:54:14 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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