Latest update: 12/2/2004; 4:51:03 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ This Day in Ancient History

 ante diem vi idus novembres

  • mundus patet -- the mundus was a ritual pit which had a sort of vaulted cover on it. Three times a year the Romans removed this cover (August 24, Oct. 5 and November 8) at which time the gates of the underworld were considered to be opened and the manes (spirits of the dead) were free to walk the streets of Rome.
  • ludi Plebeii (day 5) -- the festival in honour of Jupiter continues
  • 30 A.D. -- birth of the future emperor Nerva

::Monday, November 08, 2004 5:49:31 AM::

~ Classical Words of the Day

I don't think I'll be covering the travlang stuff anymore, unless it's something really interesting. Outside of that, though, here are today's Words of the Day:

fallible @

devise @ Merriam-Webster

prelude @ Wordsmith

::Monday, November 08, 2004 5:44:38 AM::

~ Empire Rising ... V

I can't remember if we've mentioned the 'Empire Rising' satire/comic before but an Explorator/rc reader passed along the latest installment (thanks mk!). Here's the introductory tease:

Once again, Election Day was fast approaching in the Roman Republic. Who would the Senate choose as consul? Would they pick Senator Kerriolanus or would they re-elect Bushius the Younger (better known as Dubbia the Incoherent)?

Kerriolanus blamed Dubbia for the mess in Mesopotamia -- the costly war against the Saddamites -- and demanded that the consul acknowledge his huge blunders. But Dubbia did not believe in admitting mistakes. That would be a sign of weakness when there was an empire to defend. It would be a hint of fallibility when he knew he spoke for the gods and the gods spoke through him ...

If you've got a colour printer, this series is definitely worth printing out ...

::Monday, November 08, 2004 5:33:55 AM::

~ Baghdad Ben Hurs

A version of this appeared on the Classics list yesterday ... The Columbia Daily Tribune has an AP piece on U.S. Marines staging a Chariot Race prior to operations in Fallujah:

For U.S. Marines awaiting orders to attack Iraq’s rebel-held Fallujah, the bags are packed, trucks are loaded and letters have been sent home, leaving one final pre-assault diversion: the "Ben-Hur."

Blowing off steam, hundreds of Marines took their cue from the 1959 Charlton Heston classic and gathered yesterday at a base near Fallujah for a slapstick chariot race featuring cobbled-together carts and confiscated Iraqi horses.

"These men are about to face the greatest personal and professional tests of their lifetimes," said Lt. Col. Willy Buhl, commander of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines.

"We wanted to lighten things up, take the tension off what we’re about to do," said the 42-year-old commander from Los Gatos, Calif., who dreamed up the "First Annual ‘Ben-Hur’ Memorial Chariot Race."

The Marine charioteers, wearing togas over their body armor, waved baseball bats done up as spiked maces and jumped into carts forged from cast-off vehicle parts. The makeshift chariots were pulled by Iraqi horses commandeered from looters in the area.

Some 10,000 U.S. troops have encircled Fallujah, a city 40 miles west of Baghdad, to attack Sunni Muslim fighters there - if the final go-ahead is given by Iraq’s interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

U.S. jets pounded Fallujah early yesterday in the heaviest airstrikes in six months - including five 500-pound bombs dropped on insurgent targets. Insurgents struck elsewhere in central Iraq with suicide car bombs, mortars and rockets, killing more than 30 people and wounding dozens, including more than 20 Americans.

Fallujah is believed to be the headquarters of militant groups, including some responsible for the wave of car bombings and beheadings of foreign and Iraqi hostages. By capturing the insurgent sanctuary, U.S. and Iraqi government forces hope to restore enough order nationwide to enable the country to hold a general election by the end of January.

Yesterday, Marines who endure daily mortar and rocket fire packed unneeded personal belongings into shipping crates, loaded up their Humvees and spoke of what they expected was the last mail pickup for some time.

Tension and anticipation ran high among the young Marines surrounding Fallujah, many of whom have never tasted combat.

"We’re ready to go. I’m just ready to get this done. I want to go and kill people so we can go home," said Lance Cpl. Joseph Bowman, 20, from North Zulch, Texas. "Kill them and go home that’s all we can do now."

But first, the Marines had a little fun with the horses.

"Friends, Romans, Marines: Lend me your ears for the rules," bellowed the master of ceremonies - Capt. Jonathan Vaughn, 30, of Cleveland. "If all horses die before the finish line, whichever makes it the farthest wins."

Vaughn’s rule seemed prudent since some of the horses didn’t look in prime racing shape, although none died. And the race didn’t come off exactly as planned. One steed turned on its charioteer in the first race and tried to bite the Marine - who fended the horse off with a wooden trident, drawing loud cheers.

Instead of chariot-to-chariot races, the Marines held timed heats. Among the highlights for the assembled Marines: When the camp dog, Butch, limped onto the racecourse and grazed on the horses’ droppings.

A weapons team duo eventually prevailed in the final heat. The horse ran straight over the finish line, scattering Marine bystanders and slamming snout-first into sand-filled barriers. The horse was unhurt.

Gotta have a photo (via Yahoo), of course:

... and one more (this one was on the Classics list):

::Monday, November 08, 2004 5:28:51 AM::

~ More Alexander Hype

The Tampa Tribune has some Alexander hype, both for the movie and for some upcoming documentaries:

With Oliver Stone's upcoming film ""Alexander'' likely taking creative liberty with the facts, a Greek-history expert at the University of South Florida says that if the movie gets students excited, that's a good thing.

""If it means that my students will get all worked up about it and send them to the books where they will learn more, then that's what pop culture is all about,'' said Professor William M. Murray, a leading scholar on Alexander the Great.

Murray is featured on ""Alexander the Great,'' a three- hour documentary airing Sunday on the History Channel.

Murray, who has taught at USF since 1982, is one of three historians who offer insights into the history and character of Alexander. The professor is chairman of the history department and executive director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Hellenic Studies.

The TV special ties into Stone's $150 million film, which opens in theaters Nov. 24. The movie stars Colin Farrell as Alexander, Angelina Jolie as his exotic mother, Olympias, and Val Kilmer as his father, King Philip II.

The Discovery Channel will offer three other related documentaries this month.

""Battleground, The Art of War: Alexander the Great'' and ""Becoming Alexander'' (about Colin Farrell) debut Nov. 21.

""Alexander the Great: Murder Unsolved,'' on Nov. 24, gathers forensic pathologists, toxicologists, epidemiologists, archaeologists and historians to speculate on what killed him at age 32.

He Became King At 20

Alexander was a military genius who, at 20, became king of Macedonia in Greece. He led 300,000 men more than 20,000 miles, defeating every army in his path and creating an empire that stretched to what is now Afghanistan. Included in his conquests were much of the Middle East and part of North Africa. Alexandria in Egypt was named for him.

""Because we have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan now, that might drive some people to the History Channel documentary,'' Murray said.

Some of what we know about Alexander is fact, and some of it is legend, he said.

"What is known is that he was one of the greatest military strategists in history,'' Murray said. ""I think every major general compares himself to Alexander, and most every major general feels that he somehow falls short.''

Alexander was a cunning and ruthless fighter who inspired tremendous loyalty among his troops.

He would visit his men after battle, examining their wounds and praising them for their valiant efforts. He arranged extravagant funerals for the fallen. He also was a heavy drinker and party animal when it came to celebrating victories with his men.

He may have been gay or bisexual. He had a longtime male companion, his childhood friend Hephaiston, plus many female sexual partners and a wife, Roxanna, the Persian princess who had his child.

""Military schools study how he moved the blocks of his armies around,'' Murray said. ""He planned battles using the army like pieces in a chess game, with the battlefield as his chess board.''

Battles, Scenes Re-Created

The documentary uses unknown actors to play Alexander and key figures from his life in re-creations. There also are re-creations of battle scenes using computer graphics. Actors portray ancient historians such as Plutarch.

The program is narrated by actor-historian Peter Woodward, the son of British actor Edward Woodward (""The Equalizer''). Peter Woodward's career includes diverse film and TV roles such as ""Charmed,'' ""Babylon 5'' and the movie ""The Patriot.''

The documentary explains how the phalanx formation, created by Alexander's father, made his army so formidable in its day.

The phalanx was a box formation of infantry soldiers from eight to 36 men deep that marched shoulder to shoulder behind shields. The front line carried spears up to 18 feet long. When held horizontally, the spears were deadly weapons against charging forces.

Alexander also used mounted cavalry and troops with shorter spears that were thrown like javelins at their enemies.

It was so effective that in a battle with the army of Persian king Darius III, Alexander's forces were outnumbered 13 to 1 and managed to rout the Persians.

Murray said much of what we know about Alexander is based on ancient writings, some of which may have been embellished.

"I have a problem with some of the speculation about his childhood,'' he said. ""It's just my opinion, but with these cultures, people at that time did not think it was important to write down everything about what he did when he was a child, so some stories about him may or may not be true. They seem like stories that you tell about great men after they have become great men.''

Also unknown and subject to speculation is what motivated Alexander to conquer.

""We do know that his mother was a very domineering character,'' Murray said. ""She was ruthless.

""He seemed more interested in fighting than ruling.''

He Became King At 20

Born in Macedonia in 356 B.C., Alexander was groomed for leadership from an early age. His mother may have told him that he was a descendant of the Greek god Zeus.

In his teens, Alexander became a student of the great Greek philosopher Aristotle, who taught him philosophy, medicine and science. By 16, Alexander had put down a rebellion while his father was away and founded his first colony, naming it Alexandroupolis.

When Philip was assassinated, the 20-year-old Alexander took the throne of Macedonia. Within two years, he had embarked on his campaign of conquest, taking on the Persian empire.

After conquering Persia, he set his sights on India but was wounded and headed back to Greece. He died on his way home of an unknown illness.

Let's hope other newspapers seek out the local Classicists for their opinions rather than relying just on Cartledge and Fox (not that they're not good or anything like that, but it would be nice to see a pile of Classicists get a pile of exposure from this).

::Monday, November 08, 2004 5:21:08 AM::

~ Akropolis World News

Latest headlines from Akropolis World News (in Classical Greek):

French troops head to Ivory Coast - Palestinian leaders to visit Arafat

::Monday, November 08, 2004 5:16:29 AM::

~ Review at ESR

Seamus Heaney (Translator), The Burial at Thebes: A Version of Sophocles' Antigone

::Monday, November 08, 2004 5:06:39 AM::

~ Pompeiian Pottery Rethink?

I'm still pondering this one from ABC:

Archaeologists may need to change their view of Pompeii's role in trade and commerce, after a ceramics expert's recent discovery.

Australian researcher Jaye Pont from the Museum of Ancient Cultures at Sydney's Macquarie University says people who lived in Pompeii bought their pottery locally and didn't import it.

Pont said the find could "make waves" among archaeologists looking at trade in the Mediterranean.

And she said researchers may have to rethink shelves of museum pottery once thought to be from the eastern Roman Empire.

Pont looked at a particular type of red pottery from a city block in Pompeii that had been buried beneath rubble from the Mount Vesuvius eruption in 79 AD.

The city block had been inhabited since the 4th century BC. And an international group of researchers, known as the Anglo American Project in Pompeii, found thousands of samples of red slip pottery there.

This type of pottery was made by dipping a partly dried plate or bowl into a water-and-clay mix called slip. The vessel would then be fired to give it a red, shiny colour.

Previously, archaeologists had thought much of this pottery was imported from the eastern Roman Empire based at Constantinople, with the rest coming from northern Italy and Gallic France.

But Pont, who is doing her PhD on the pottery and is a potter, has found that all the "imported" pottery was local.

Who did Pompeii trade with?

Pont said her research would "turn upside down" old notions of commerce and trade between Pompeii and the eastern Roman Empire.

Inhabitants of Pompeii and other areas such as northern Africa, where the pottery is also found, were thought to have traded extensively with the eastern Roman Empire.

"The fact that I have not found one piece that has been imported I think will have quite large implications for trade and commerce in that area," Pont told ABC Science Online.

Pont and Macquarie University geologist Dr Patrick Conaghan examined 200 thin sections of the pottery under a microscope and looked at tiny flecks in the clay.

The flecks, which contained the mineral leucite, were identical in composition and unique to the Bay of Naples region, where Mount Vesuvius is found.

Most scientific analysis has been done chemically but not through thin section analysis, Pont said. But she said thin section analysis was "very clear cut": either the pottery is from the area or it isn't.

Pont said archaeologists made the mistake of thinking the pottery was imported because there was a lot of variation in the colour and quality of the local pottery compared to the pottery from northern Italy.

And archaeologists had based their classification of the pottery on these variations, she said.

"As a potter, perhaps I could see things archaeologists couldn't," said Pont. "In general archaeologists don't understand how [pottery] is made. They can't identify manufacturing techniques within a vessel."

She said archaeologists rely a lot on colour to differentiate vessels.

"I could understand that even in one kiln, what you get at the top and at the bottom of the kiln can be very different in colour."

Pottery is also classified by form, yet pottery "isn't an exact science", said Pont.

"But whole assemblages have been grouped by rim shape ... When I looked at [the pottery] I couldn't see the difference. It turns out there wasn't a difference."

She said the red slip pottery, known as terra sigillata, was also differentiated on the condition of the slip that coloured the vessel.

"It is read as gospel that eastern sigillata didn't have a slip that worked well. But if you have a potter with greasy fingers, that slip will peel off," she said.

Pont said although she has only excavated one city block, the fact that she was yet to find one piece that has been imported could make archaeologists reconsider shelves of museum pottery.

Not sure why they're setting this up as an 'either one or the other' situation ...

::Monday, November 08, 2004 5:04:44 AM::

~ AWOTV: On TV Today

... nothing of interest.

::Monday, November 08, 2004 4:37:38 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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