Latest update: 12/2/2004; 4:50:44 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ This Day in Ancient History

ante diem iv nonas novembres

::Tuesday, November 02, 2004 5:57:48 AM::

~ Aeschylean Incentive to Vote

A piece in the Nashua Telegraph draws upon Aeschylus inter alia to encourage folks to get out and vote:

In the fifth century B.C., the Greek tragedian Aeschylus wrote: “In the lack of judgment great harm arises, but one vote cast can set right a house.” 

Not quite sure of the exact source for that one, but nevertheless, I'm sure we'll soon know whether Athena will have to cast the deciding ballot ... or not. (Is it just me or do the U.S. collectively have the most bizarre method of voting in the civilized world?)

::Tuesday, November 02, 2004 5:48:01 AM::

~ The Bushiad

I think we've mentioned this one before, but since it keeps popping up for obvious reasons, we'll mention it again ... it's a bit of political parody/satire called the Bushiad.

::Tuesday, November 02, 2004 5:42:45 AM::

~ Bulgarian Update

A Reuters piece that's bouncing around the Infobahn:

Georgi Kitov's hands trembled as he cradled the glittering visage of an ancient king unearthed from a tomb in southern Bulgaria.

"This is the face of an evil ruler!" cried the archaeologist, marveling at the cruel gaze from the mask of solid gold, the size of a dinner plate.

The mask dates back to the 5th century BC -- the golden age of the little-known Thracians -- and has been hailed as an unrivalled find in the study of classical antiquity.

If Kitov and other archaeologists from Bulgaria have their way, it is just a glimpse of what is to come.

The fall of communism 15 years ago halted the exploration of thousands of tombs and settlements, some said to be older than ancient Troy, as the impoverished Balkan state turned its attention to rebuilding its weak economy.

As new funding begins to trickle in, Kitov and scores of others are working furiously to thwart modern-day tomb raiders and find out more about the mysterious Thracians, who experts say founded one of Europe's earliest refined cultures.

"These are the biggest excavation works in 15 years," said Bozhidar Dimitrov, curator at the Bulgarian History Museum. "And it is no surprise that the findings are amazing."


Not much history has survived of the Thracians, who some experts say lived in what is now Bulgaria, Romania, northern Greece and Turkey's European territory from as early as 4000 B.C. until being absorbed by the Roman Empire in 46 AD.

The historian Herodotus described them as "savage, blood-thirsty warriors" who worshiped only the gods of war and wine, engaging in plunder and wild orgies on the fringes of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds.

The Thracians left no written accounts, and archaeologists complain that sources from other cultures are biased -- the Greeks considered them barbarians.

But a look at the hundreds of finely wrought pieces of jewelry and other artifacts excavated from burial mounds in Bulgaria's "Valley of Thracian Kings" tells a different story.

A current exhibition of the treasures at Germany's Kunst und Ausstellungshalle museum describes the Thracians as "one of the most influential civilisations of the antique world."

"We've excavated seven tombs this year and their design, along with decorated ceramics, bronze, gold and silver jewels, shows we are dealing with a developed civilisation," Kitov said.

Living on the edge of Asia, the Thracians came into contact with great civilisations who passed through their homelands: the Persians, Scythians, Greeks, Celts, Romans and even the Egyptian empire.

"Bulgaria indeed is one of the cradles of culture on the old continent. The first well-developed human civilisation dwelt here 6,000 years ago," Dimitrov said.


For thousands of years, Thracians rulers have lain in their tombs, accompanied in the afterlife by the most important of their wives and gold and silver vessels full of rich treasures.

But now the troves face a new danger, as grave robbers grow bolder and more sophisticated and smugglers take advantage of weak laws, widespread corruption and lack of government funding.

Experts complain that all of the 1,500 mounds in the Valley of Thracian Kings in southern Bulgaria have been disturbed by looters who are better equipped than the toiling archaeologists.

Just a day after discovering the 690-gramme gold mask, Kitov returned to the tomb only to find that treasure hunters had ransacked it in search of other precious objects.

"Looters do not care about anything else but the gold. They destroy everything else that is not worth exporting -- ceramics, frescos, and the chambers themselves," he said.

"It is a disaster. We are just picking up the crumbs."

Kitov and his team hope to investigate all of the mounds in the Valley, backed with private funding from the local museum and a private western European foundation.

But further plans to open the sites to tourists are in doubt, as the struggling economy -- average wages are among the lowest in Europe at 150 euros a month -- makes funding scarce.

"We are planning to start a guided tour at the five most attractive Thracian tombs," said Kossio Zhelev, curator at the history museum in Kazanlak. "Hopefully the recent finds will open the tight purse strings of the state."

Over at Yahoo, there's a slideshow, most of the pieces of which we've posted here before ... this one's new:

::Tuesday, November 02, 2004 5:30:06 AM::

~ Roman Brewery in Oakley

From the Evening Star:

FOR 1800 years these timbers of a Roman brewery have hidden away underground but now they're done roamin' and are on display in Ipswich museum.

The timbers, believed to be from a Roman brewery have evoked spirits of a bygone era.

The roof timbers are believed to date back to 200 years after the birth of Christ and conjure images of toga-laden men working the maltings.

They are the only surviving roof timbers from the era found in Britain and prove Suffolk's history as a brewing county dates back more than 1,000 years.

The 1,800-year-old roof timbers were unearthed near Oakley, in North Suffolk, in 1994 and were freeze-dried in Norway to preserve them.

They were then impregnated with a special wax called carbowax – the amber nectar of the archaeology world.

It is not alcohol which has preserved them for all these years though, they have survived because they were buried in water-logged soil

They are now on display with other Roman Britain artefacts at Ipswich Museum in High Street and according to museum officials they are probably the best Roman exhibits they have ever displayed.

Bob Entwhistle, conservator at the museum, said: "This is a unique find and underlines the museum's reputation.

"We have been chosen to exhibit them because we are the biggest museum in the Suffolk area and the most archaeological.

"This has great archaeological significance.

"We have already had a lot of enquiries and are expecting several visits to Ipswich by leading archaeologists.

"They believe they came from a brewery or malting probably because of what they found when they were excavating.

"It was by a stream and everything points to a brewery."

::Tuesday, November 02, 2004 5:28:22 AM::

~ Seeing Red

The formula for that red you see on piles of Pompeiian walls has been figured out. According to Discovery:

The formula of the red, shiny and intense colour that dominated Pompeii's wall paintings 2000 years ago has been discovered by an Italian researcher.

Buried in the catastrophic eruption in 79 AD, the brilliant Pompeian red has been preserved forever by the lava of Mount Vesuvius and still makes an impressive show in several frescoes.

"Though it consists of simple cinnabar pigment, Pompeian red is really unique. It certainly stands out when compared to normal cinnabar paint layers," said Daniela Daniele, a researcher working at Berlin's Staatliche Museen.

Cinnabar is mercury (II) sulfide, the principal ore of mercury.

Daniele analysed the stratigraphies of some samples from Pompeian villas featuring the unique red and compared them to other ancient Roman wall paintings containing normal cinnabar paint layers.

Her aim was to discover why there was a dramatically different chromatic effect with the same mineral pigment.

In the case of Pompeian red, natural cinnabar was processed with particular care, which included what Daniele called "purification, grinding and dimensional control".

"The finer the grains are, the more brilliant and covering the colour is. But there is much more," Daniele said.

Big grains, little grains

Under the microscope she detected "a bimodal granulometry", with 10-15 micron crystals acting as shiny particles in a matrix of finer grains.

Basically, the ancient Romans simply added some bigger grains to the finely processed cinnabar powder, made of grains measuring about 2-3 microns. The result was a glittering surface that did not loose its saturated red tone.

According to Bernardo Marchese of the University of Naples Federico II, cinnabar red required careful processing indeed.

"The pigment was used in lime medium, and had to be liquid enough to be applied in paint layers on the wall surface ... The final result was subjected to wax polishing, in order to prevent alterations, especially when the colour was applied on outside walls," Marchese and colleagues wrote in the catalogue of the Pompeii exhibit Homo faber: nature, science and technology in a Roman town.

But Daniele's analysis showed that samples of normal cinnabar paint layers featured just a light processing of the pigment.

Cinnabar powder made of larger grains measuring between 10 and 25 microns turned out to be more transparent and dull, producing a colour similar to a red ochre, the researcher said.

"It shows that Pompeian red is really special. It represents the height of the ancient Roman's mastery in making colours."

::Tuesday, November 02, 2004 5:25:16 AM::

~ TALK: Homeric Geography

The OU Greek Society presents:

Dr. V. Pantazis
(Geography Faculty, University of the Aegean)

“Something is rotten in the State of Mycenae”

Homeric Geography and Homeric Age:
The Homerisation of Ancient Greece and the Problem of Mycenae

Monday, 8th of November (week 5), 5 pm
University of Oxford, Exeter College, Saskatchewan Lecture Room

[…] “Almost all contemporary research related to the Homeric Geography and the Homeric problem in general starts from the presupposition that the places which bore Homeric place-names in antiquity had been holding them since the pre-Homeric era – whichever that was. But this universally accepted starting-point is NOT scientifically valid…”

1£ admission fee for non-members of the Greek Society
drinks and refreshments will be offered after the talk

... seen on the Classicists list

::Tuesday, November 02, 2004 5:23:12 AM::

~ CFP: Aegean Koine

Call for papers
Graduate Workshop

Aegean Koine
A diachronic approach to the Aegean World and its cultures

3000 BC ¨C AD 2000

University of Oxford
22 - 23 April 2005

The OU Greek Society is organising an exchange workshop about the Aegean World, for graduate students from the universities of Oxford, Athens and the Aegean (Lesvos). *Contributors from other UK universities are also welcome* The first meeting will take place in Oxford on 22nd and 23rd April 2005. Short papers (c. 20 minutes) will be presented in a two-day workshop about different subjects of the Aegean history, archaeology, ethnology from Prehistoric times to the 20th c. AD.

The participants will be asked to speak about their research, so that they contribute to an inter-disciplinary discussion concerning different levels of interaction among Aegean societies (of the coastal areas and the islands) and their links with other areas of the Mediterranean world (Anatolia, Middle East, N. Africa, the West) in different periods. Among the crucial questions of the workshop will be the extent to which we can speak of a cultural Aegean koin¨¥. Other topics will involve the impact of a central power over the large geographical area, the study of trade links vis-¨¤-vis the movement of ideas, the long-term interaction between island, coastal territories and inland areas, the cohabitation among different cultural groups, population movements, local dialects, literature and more.

The central aim of this workshop is to encourage the exchange of knowledge and the transfer of research experience for a variety of disciplines among graduate students on the basis of annual meetings alternating between Oxford and Greece, which could eventually lead to future research cooperation between the universities. UK-based students will have the opportunity to become familiar with parallel research projects organised by Greek universities and foster links with Greek scholars.

The UK participants are requested to send an abstract of their work in English (c. 1000 words) to the organising committee (consisting of a mixed group of graduate students and Oxford fellows) by 31st January 2005.  English will be the official language. All papers will be published online and in print, and will be accompanied by short abstracts in both English and Greek.

The OU Greek Society will be responsible for organising the first meeting of the Oxford/ Athens/ Aegean partnership. The second meeting of the workshop is planned to take place in Greece in 2006, organised by the Societies of Graduate students and the Faculties of the Athens and the Aegean university.

For more information and paper submissions:

Greek Society
c/o Georgios Deligiannakis
Lady Margaret Hall
Oxford OX2 6QA (UK)

... seen on the Classicists list

::Tuesday, November 02, 2004 5:21:45 AM::

~ AWOTV: On TV Today

10.00 p.m. |HINT| Greece: Journeys to the Gods
After creating the pantheon of pagan gods, Greece converted to the Christian god. The monks built imposing monasteries nestled in the most remote nooks, coastal cliffs, and volcanic islands. Join us as our travels take us from the splendors of ancient Greek religious sites to the glories of the mighty Byzantine Empire and its heritage as traced through the awesome Meteora at Mount Athos, and Patmos Island, where St. John, the Evangelist, is said to have written the Apocalypse.

11.00 p.m. |HINT|The Hidden City of Petra
Story of the Nabataeans, a desert people who carved the city of Petra out of the Jordanian mountains some 2,000 years ago. Their culture flourished, then disappeared. We visit the site of the amazing sculpted city, which included temples and colonnaded market streets. 

HINT = History International

::Tuesday, November 02, 2004 5:19:24 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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