Latest update: 12/2/2004; 4:50:50 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ Closing in on 100,000

I just noticed (as I'm trying to get This Day in Ancient History to post) that we should pass the 100,000 visitor mark within the next day or so ...

::Thursday, November 04, 2004 5:51:08 AM::

~ This Day in Ancient History

pridie nonas novembres

::Thursday, November 04, 2004 5:47:43 AM::

~ The Warriors

This one just popped up in the scan ... over at Will Carroll's blog (which I've never read before) we read about his recent re-watching of that semi-Classic The Warriors:

Cyrus comes off as a mythic figure and The Warriors’ quest to get back to “their turf” is Homeric. It’s one of those stick with you for no reason, quoteable movies like “Real Genius” or “Office Space.” Worth a look, if only for the metaphor, before it is remade in 2006.

Just to be pedantic (which I'm allowed to be in months with a 'v' in them, in even numbered years whose digits add up to a number less than ten), it's not so much 'Homeric' as 'Xenophontic'. Thalassa! Thalassa! and all that.


::Thursday, November 04, 2004 5:37:20 AM::

~ Mackail's Latin Literature @

Over at there's an e-text of John Mackail's Latin Literature; a bit dated, perhaps but it still provides a very good overview of Latin literature from the time of the Republic down (up?) to the Middle Ages.

::Thursday, November 04, 2004 5:31:07 AM::

~ Classical Words of the Day

Today's 'Word of the Day' from Travlang is "police station", which they render as casa vigilium or sedes custodum, which seems reasonable. At other WOTD sites, we find these words with Latin roots:

subject @ OED

cilice @ Wordsmith

acumen @ Merriam-Webster

imprecation @

disclaimer: if you are accessing this on a date that isn't November 4, 2004, the above links won't necessarily take you where they claim they will ...

::Thursday, November 04, 2004 5:27:20 AM::

~ The Burning of Persepolis

For some reason, Persian Journal has what appears to be a translation of Diodorus Siculus' account (17.72 or so) of the burning of Persepolis by Alexander:

As for Persepolis, the capital of the Persian Empire, Alexander described it to the Macedonians as their worst enemy among the cities of Asia, and he gave it over to the soldiers to plunder, with the exception of the royal palace.

It was the wealthiest city under the sun and the private houses had been filled for a long time with riches of every kind. The Macedonians rushed into it, killing all the men and plundering the houses, which were numerous and full of furniture and precious objects of every kind. Here much silver was carried off and no little gold, and many expensive dresses, embroidered with purple or with gold, fell as prizes to the victors.

But the great royal palace, famed throughout the inhabited world, had been condemned to the indignity of total destruction. The Macedonians spent the whole day in pillage but still could not satisfy their inexhaustible greed. As for the women, they dragged them away forcibly with their jewels, treating as slaves the whole group of captives. As Persepolis had surpassed all other cities in prosperity, so she now exceeded them in misfortune.

Alexander went up to the citadel and took possession of the treasures stored there. They were full of gold and silver, with the accumulation of revenue from Cyrus, the first king of the Persians, down to that time. Reckoning gold in terms of silver, 2,500 tons were found there. Alexander wanted to take part of the money with him, for the expenses of war and to deposit the rest at Susa under close guard. From Babylon, Mesopotamia and Susa, he sent for a crowd of mules, partly pack and partly draught animals, as well as 3,000 pack camels, and with these he had all the treasure conveyed to the chosen places. He was very hostile to the local people and did not trust them, and wished to destroy Persepolis utterly.

Alexander held games to celebrate his victories; he offered magnificent sacrifices to the gods and entertained his friends lavishly. One day when the Companions were feasting, and intoxication was growing as the drinking went on, a violent madness took hold of these drunken men. One of the women present (she was an Athenian called Thais) declared that it would be Alexander's greatest achievement in Asia to join in their procession and set fire to the royal palace, allowing women's hands to destroy in an instant what had been the pride of the Persians.

These words were spoken to young men who were completely out of their minds because of drink, and someone, as expected, shouted to lead off the procession and light torches, exhorting them to punish the crimes committed against the Greek sanctuaries. Others joined in the cry and said that only Alexander was worthy of this deed. The king was excited with the rest by these words. They all leaped out from the banquet and passed the word around to form a triumphal procession in honor of Dionysus.

A quantity of torches was quickly collected, and as female musicians had been invited to the banquet, it was to the sound of singing and flutes and pipes that the king led them to the revel, with Thais the courtesan conducting the ceremony. She was the first after the king to throw her blazing torch into the palace. As the others followed their example the whole area of the royal palace was quickly engulfed in flames. What was most remarkable was that the sacrilege committed by Xerxes, king of the Persians, against the Acropolis of Athens was avenged by a single woman, a fellow-citizen of the victims, who many years later, and in sport, inflicted the same treatment on the Persians.

[n.b. JL informs me that this translation is M.M. Austin's version of the tale; it should also be noted that the Persian Journal (and assorted other Iranian sites which have this same quote) appear to have, er, borrowed it with JL's editing from the relevant page at]

::Thursday, November 04, 2004 5:16:48 AM::

~ Job: Greek Philology at UTenn (tenure track)

The Department of Classics has been authorized to make an appointment in Greek philology at the rank of tenure-track Assistant Professor. Ph.D. required. The expertise sought is the fifth and fourth centuries BCE. The successful candidate will show strong promise of scholarly achievement, demonstrated excellence in teaching the classical languages, and demonstrated capability to teach an upper-division undergraduate survey of Greek History. Salary will be $43,000-45,000, commensurate with experience. We will begin to screen applications on November 15, 2004, and will continue to review them until the position is filled. Please send application and dossier to Elizabeth Sutherland, Chair of the Search Committee, Department of Classics, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-0413. Please address inquiries to The University of Tennessee is an EEO/AA/Title VI/Title IX/Section 504/ADA/ADEA institution in the provision of its education and employment programs and services.

... seen on AegeaNet

::Thursday, November 04, 2004 5:06:40 AM::

~ Ancient Cosmetic 'News'

My email box and all the lists are filling up with versions of this one (this example is from Reuters via Yahoo):

When it comes to cosmetics, the ancient Romans knew what they were doing.

Scientists have unearthed a small tin canister dating back to the middle of the second century AD in an excavated Roman temple precinct in London that contains a sophisticated white cream that could rival today's top cosmetics.

"It is quite a complicated little mixture," Richard Evershed, an analytical chemist at the University of Bristol in south-western England, told Reuters on Wednesday.

"Perhaps they didn't understand the chemistry of everything but they obviously knew what they were doing."

The pot, measuring 2.4 x 2 inches, is thought to be the only Roman tin of cream of its kind to be found intact and in such good condition.

It was discovered in a waterlogged ditch preserved under wooden planks in thick layers of mud.

The scientists, who reported the findings in the journal Nature, think the whitish cream was probably worn by fashionable Roman women. A fair complexion was popular in Roman times, according to the researchers.

"We're speculating that it would have been some sort of foundation cream," Evershed added.

The cream consists of about 40 percent animal fat -- most likely from sheep or cattle -- 40 percent starch and tin oxide. The fat forms the creamy base and the tin oxide makes the mixture opaque white.

"As far as I can tell, the tin oxide was quite inert so it wouldn't cause any dermatological problems," said Evershed.

Francis Grew, of the Museum of London, said both the tin and its contents were of very high quality.

"The cosmetic trade seems to have ranged in Roman times from a sort of home-spun type of thing ... to a sophisticated level," he told Reuters. Evershed said: "It gives us yet another insight into the sophisticated way in which our ancestors used materials from their environment. This is an ancient technology and one that doesn't differ so much from some of the cosmetic technologies in use today."

Alert readers will recognize that this isn't really news at all. The little tin was discovered a year ago last summer (i.e. back in July of 2003) as seen in this Guardian piece. It was also given heavy news coverage as Explorator 6.14 demonstrates (scroll down).

::Thursday, November 04, 2004 5:03:52 AM::

~ Alexander on the History Channel

In my 8+ years of doing the Ancient World on Television listings, I don't think I've ever come across a review of a television documentary quite like this one from the New York Post:

ALEXANDER the Great is becoming like Ben Affleck - every time you turn around, he's onscreen.

Not ones to be left in the dust of history, The History Channel premieres their own three-hour special, "Alexander The Great" this Sunday night, and after watching it, perhaps it would be better titled, "Alexander the not-so-terrific."

No - it's not just because anybody who conquered and plundered something like 15 cities while he was still in his 20s isn't by definition, a great guy. It's really because this special, (clearly timed to grab onto the coattails of Oliver Stone's upcoming "Alexander" movie), attempts to make history hip.

For one thing, there's the way they chose to depict the ancient historians who chronicled Alexander the Great's life.

Instead of using voice-overs, they have these dorky-looking and modern-sounding actors playing the historians. Each one sits around and talks to the camera like Chris Matthews on Xanax.

Really, how can you keep a straight face when, say, "Plutarch" leans into the camera in full toga outfit to tell us how in one battle only 100 of Alexander's men were slain while the opposing army lost - yes - 300,000.

But it's not what "Plutarch" says (even though these are the words he actually wrote), it's how it's done. These historians are like Alexander the Great pundits.

Hosted by Peter Woodward, actor, emmy-winning writer, and producer, and son of Edward Woodward ("The Equilizer") the special is chock-full of info on the one hand and somewhat lacking in cohesion on the other.

Actors with non-speaking roles play each part (Michael Cardelle as Alexander, Michael Morgan as his father King Phillip), while a voice-over narrates.

This no-speaking works well, or at least it does in the scenes of Alexander's sexy mother Olympias - who is shown in shot after shot fondling and being fondled by a snake (which may or may not have been Alexander the Great's father - don't ask)

Instead of coming across like Olympias, ancient woman of mystery in league with the Gods, she looks like LaToya Jackson circa 356 B.C.

Then there are the battles. In some cases they are infinitely detailed while in others they are merely skimmed - including the battle in which Alexander was nearly fatally wounded. [more]

Let me guess ... the reviewer (Linda Stasi) was one of those folks who slept through most of her history classes. Then again, what would you really expect from someone who gives John Edwards' "Crossing Over" a positive review ...

::Thursday, November 04, 2004 4:50:40 AM::

~ AWOTV: On TV Today

7.00 p.m. |HINT| The Rise of Christianity: The First 1000 Years
Covers the years between 312 AD, when the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, and 461 AD, when Rome "fell" to the barbarian Goths. They were heady days that saw the birth of the monastic movement, the codification of the faith, and creation of the New Testament canon as we recognize it today.

HINT = History International

::Thursday, November 04, 2004 4:40:11 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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