Latest update: 12/2/2004; 4:51:35 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ This Day in Ancient History

ante diem xv kalendas decembres

::Wednesday, November 17, 2004 5:44:47 AM::

~ Classical Words of the Day

I'm somewhat skeptical of travlang's rendering of 'tea' in Latin as Thea (it's probably right, though) but elsewhere in the WOTD world we see:

supplant @

incogitable @ Worthless Word for the Day

bemused @ Merriam-Webster (interesting, if not strictly etymological)


::Wednesday, November 17, 2004 5:39:31 AM::

~ Oedipus: The Movie

Not sure whether to credit or blame Classics in Contemporary Culture for this reference (whose own title for this was far more witty than mine) ... here's the official description:

The story of OEDIPUS, in 8 minutes, performed by fresh vegetables, in the tradition of BEN HUR.

I can only imagine paraphrasing the old Tom Lehrer song ... "When he saw what he had done, he tore his eyes out one by one by one by one by one by one ...

::Wednesday, November 17, 2004 5:34:43 AM::

~ UCincinnati Papyrological Summer Institute

Papyrological Summer Institute
Department of Classics
University of Cincinnati
July 5-August 5, 2005

In 2005, the Department of Classics at the University of Cincinnati will sponsor a papyrological summer institute for advanced graduate students and junior faculty in Classics, Ancient History, Egyptology, Religious Studies, Classical or Near Eastern Archaeology and related disciplines. The theme of the summer institute, which will meet for five weeks, from July 5 through August 5, is Books and Religions in a broad sense. The primary material will consist of Greek and some Coptic literary and documentary papyri from Graeco-Roman Egypt. The objective of the seminar is to teach participants how to read and use papyri and to provide them with the kind of practical experience that will enable them to make productive use of papyrus texts in their own research and even to become active scholars in the field. Hands-on experience with original and unpublished materials will be combined with lectures and individual projects.
The papyrological summer institute at Cincinnati is the third in a series of summer institutes taking place under the aegis of the American Society of Papyrologists; the fourth summer institute, in 2006, will be hosted by Columbia University, New York.
Admission to the seminar is by application. Enrollment is limited to ten participants. Applications are welcome from qualified individuals without regard to institutional affiliation. No prior experience in papyrology is expected, but a high degree of competence in ancient Greek is essential. A full-time commitment to the activities of the summer institute is required of all participants, who are expected to be in residence in Cincinnati for its duration. The summer institute is the equivalent of three graduate courses, and instruction will be on five days a week.
The principal instructors will be Prof. Jean-Luc Fournet (École Pratique, Paris) and Prof. Peter van Minnen (University of Cincinnati); additional support will come from Prof. W. Clarysse (University of Leuven) and Prof. William A. Johnson (University of Cincinnati) and other, occasional lecturers. The workshops and lectures will take place in the Blegen Library, which houses the Burnam Classics Library with ready access to over 200,000 volumes. Participants will need this library for their individual projects.
Participation in the seminar is free of charge and not for credit. Participants will neither be graded nor issued a transcript. The American Society of Papyrologists will provide a certificate of participation to those completing the seminar.
Free on-campus housing will be available to participants. The Department of Classics will reimburse travel expenses not exceeding $400 (domestic flights; negotiable for international flights) and provide cash stipends of $1,000 to cover other expenses.
Applications, including a completed application form (, a current curriculum vitae, and two letters of recommendation, will be considered starting December 15, 2004 until all places are filled. For further information, contact Peter van Minnen (+1-513-556-1941;

... seen on the Classicists list

::Wednesday, November 17, 2004 5:27:02 AM::

~ More on Alexander

Jona Lendering, owner of the the Livius site, has just put up a couple of reworked/excerpted/translated chapters of his book on Alexander the Great (Alexander the Great: The Demise of the Persian Empire):

What Really Happened at Gaugamela

Alexander's Final Days: A Babylonian Perspective


::Wednesday, November 17, 2004 5:19:57 AM::

~ Marking Augustine's Anniversary

Just a tad out of rogueclassicism's usual period of purview (but tying into our interests in numerous ways ... I'm sure this will be of interest to Dr. James O'Donnell, at least) comes news of impending celebrations of Augustine's 1650th anniversary:

The Archdiocese of Tunisia has organized celebrations in December 2004 marking the 1650th anniversary of the birth of St Augustine of Hippo.

The relics of St Augustine have already arrived in Rome, Italy, where they will be for a week.

Augustine was born at Tagaste on November 13, 354. Tagaste is now Souk-Ahras, and is situated not far from Bona (ancient Hippo-Regius).

The theme of the event prepared by the Archdiocese of Tunisia is St Augustine: His African Roots and Universality.

The exposition will be set up at the Acropolis of Carthage. It was prepared by the University of Fribourg, under the patronage of the Tunisian Office of the Culture, and will be inaugurated on December 15, remaining open to the public until January 10, 2005.

In Rome, St Augustine's reliquary was received by Cardinal Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. The week had a number of celebrations scheduled, with conferences, shows and cultural initiatives, to illustrate the personality of Augustine -the man, philosopher, pastor and theologian.

"Augustine", explains Fr Pietro Bellini, the Augustinian Provincial of Italy, "I believe, presents us with a message of humanity and a message of fidelity to Christ and then a message of fidelity to the Church. I believe that if we succeed in understanding some of the things of his reality, of Augustine's message, we will have understood a great deal."

Augustine, converted from a wanderer, received baptism in Milan, Italy, during the Easter of 387. He returned to North Africa and was ordained in 391. He became bishop of Hippo (now Annaba, Algeria) in 395.

Augustine's feast day is August 28, the date of his death in 430 AD.

::Wednesday, November 17, 2004 5:16:07 AM::

~ Father Foster

Not much Classical in this week's Father Foster piece ... all about Pius II, billed as the greatest of the Renaissance popes ... but interesting nonetheless.

::Wednesday, November 17, 2004 5:11:30 AM::

~ Roman Tattoos

An article at National Geographic on tattoos makes the following claim:

Ancient Romans found no reason to celebrate tattoos, believing in the purity of the human form. Except as brands for criminals and the condemned, tattoos were banned. But over time, the Roman attitudes toward tattoos changed. Fighting an army of Britons who wore their tattoos as badges of honor, some Romans came to admire their enemies' ferocity as well as the symbols that represented it. Soon Roman soldiers were wearing their own body marks; Roman doctors even perfected the art of application and removal.

Now I was going to make a detailed reference to Chris Jones' article in JRS on tattooing ("Stigma: Tattooing and Branding in Graeco-Roman Antiquity," JRS 77 (1987) 139-55) but I can't find my copy! As usual, the issue of the journal you want walks off an the issue immediately before and immediately after stand there on the shelf, mocking ...

::Wednesday, November 17, 2004 5:08:56 AM::

~ Today's Alexander Hype

There's a Cox News Service piece making the rounds with the title "What Makes Alexander the Greatest" ... here's the incipit:

Nothing stopped him. Huge armies with elephants, impregnable fortresses, vast distances, dizzying mountains, unfordable rivers, uncrossable deserts, hunger, thirst, the sea itself, the uttermost extremes of physical hardship and battle - he had 21 healed wounds in his body when he died - nothing on earth could halt Alexander the Great.

After more than 2,300 years, his name rings in memory, and his exploits still exhaust superlatives. Author Mary Renault, in her remarkable trilogy of books on his life and death, memorably likens him to a human flame.

"It was difficult to turn him aside from any course whatsoever when he had once set out upon it," wrote Plutarch, admiringly, nearly 500 years after Alexander had died. "For Fortune, by yielding to his onsets, only made his purpose more obstinate, and the high spirit which he carried into his endeavors, rendered his ambition unconquerable in the end, so that it subdued not only enemies, but even time and places."

Oliver Stone's $150 million film "Alexander," coming out Nov. 24, starring Colin Farrell as the vanquishing Greek, is only the latest, bedazzled homage to a young man whose brief, meteoric life still astounds us.

"The Greatest Legend Of All Was Real," the movie ad boasts, and it is just about true.

To judge from the trailer, we can expect Stone's epic to include a lot of spear-and-sandal dust-ups, interspersed with tent-and-couch kissing. Filmed in Indonesia and Morocco, the movie will hew to the theory that Alexander was poisoned by friends who were worn out by his brilliance, egotism and ambition, and that the murder was hushed up with a cover-story that he died of illness.

It is a controversy made for Oliver Stone - and one that still vexes scholars today.

Alexander's career beggars both film and fiction. By the year 331 BC, before he was 26, he had conquered the Persian empire, the largest on earth, comprising modern Turkey, Egypt, the Mideast, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as parts of Central Asia and even China.

In one of his most bitterly fought campaigns, he won all the coastal cities of Asia Minor and modern Syria, Lebanon and Judea, then scooped up Egypt almost bloodlessly.

He completed his conquest by burning the Persian capital and taking possession of its gigantic treasury. King Darius, the thrice-defeated ruler of Persia, fled the capital and was assassinated by Bessus, one of his generals.

On the pretext of pursuing Bessus, Alexander stormed eastward.

He pushed into Central Asia, now part of the former Soviet Union, captured Bessus and had him ceremoniously and slowly executed, then rushed through Afghanistan, into what is now Pakistan. He won a princess-bride named Roxane ("Little Star"), who was only 15, after assaulting and capturing a mountain fortress perched on a height so lofty and sheer-walled it was named "Aornos," the "Place of No Birds." [more]

... it seems quite possible to me that this thing will end up being cribbed by undergrads and/or essay mills everywhere ...

::Wednesday, November 17, 2004 4:59:48 AM::

~ Greek Antiquities in WWII

Kathimerini has an article on something I've long wondered about ... what happened to antiquities in Greece during its occupation in World War Two by various other nations:

The period of German, Italian and Bulgarian occupation in World War II left terrible scars, not only on the population — with hundreds of thousands dead, the deprivation, oppression and destruction — but also on Greece’s archaeological and cultural heritage. Trenches sliced through archaeological sites, museums and collections were destroyed or looted, while huge numbers of churches and monasteries were bombed or burnt by the occupation forces.

The Greek lands, which bear such obvious traces of history, were ground beneath the Nazis’ iron heel. From the Acropolis to Babylon, it is the fate of monuments to suffer during wars and occupations.

In a report published in 1946 by the Directorate of Antiquities and Historical Monuments, the Greek state attempted to record all the losses that took place during those dark years. Of the cultural artifacts stolen, few were returned after the war. Likewise, not all war reparations were paid.


The Nazis invading Greece brought with them a passion for antiquity and an ideological viewpoint that placed the roots of the Aryan race in ancient Greece. The Wehrmacht had even supplied German soldiers with leaflets on the archaeological heritage of Greece and the importance, from their own standpoint, of archaeological sites, stressing that they must be left untouched.

But even in an army with the fanaticism and discipline of the Nazis, theory was distinctly remote from practice. Even high-ranking officers of the Wehrmacht did not hesitate to take something as a souvenir, should such an opportunity present itself.

There were also organized thefts, and even wholesale looting of antiquities, as in Elefsina. “When you have power over life and death, then it seems a simple matter to take a stone or make off with a statuette,” historian Hagen Fleischer told Kathimerini.

Parthenon libations

Not even the Acropolis, where the Germans did not hesitate to put German anti-aircraft guns, escaped. After protests by the Greek archaeological service, they withdrew their own guns but pushed the Italians to position their mortars and anti-aircraft searchlights there instead. Cement structures were even erected on the Sacred Rock by the German allies.

These were all taken down in February 1942, but, as the 1946 report said, “for the occupation forces, all the Acropolis monuments were urinals, with preference given to the Parthenon.”

Liberation did not end the depredations suffered by the Acropolis. In December 1944, British troops encamped on the Acropolis used it as a base for firing at the Communist-led resistance forces.

When the overall barbarity of the Nazi occupation is taken into account, people suffered much worse than the monuments. The German administration tried to keep up appearances, especially where the monuments of classical antiquity were concerned. There was a manifest attempt by the Nazis at an ideological exploitation of the ancient Greek heritage. A typical example was a personal order by Himmler for the commencement of intensive excavations at Ancient Sparta. It was hoped they would find Doric and pre-Hellenic monuments that obviously would be used to confirm Nazi theories of the Aryan race.

Formally, the Germans had handed over control of archaeological sites and excavations to the Greek archaeological service. But they wielded the real power, overriding whatever objections these straw men raised.

But a number of workers at museums and the archaeological services fought to save Greece’s antiquities. One of the most impressive stories in this struggle was the burial of all the Archaeological Museum of Athens’s most valuable material, a process that began with the commencement of the Greco-Italian war. A titanic undertaking that lasted six whole months, it was completed before the Germans entered Athens. The museum’s property was returned to it, unscathed, after the war.

Some areas, such as Crete, suffered worse than others. The island had the misfortune to have a governor who was also an amateur archaeologist. General Julius Ringel even organized digs at Knossos from which he lifted various valuable items. In 1942, he was transferred to the Eastern Front, where he would have probably have found little use for them.

Where the Germans were utterly ruthless was during the so-called “cleansing operations” — raids on the Greek countryside which resulted in huge devastation and massacres in a number of villages (Kalavryta, Distomo and others). These raids were more frequent in the last years of the occupation, in a response to increasing pressure by ELAS resistance fighters.

During this period, a large number of monasteries and churches were destroyed (Meteora, Aghia Lavra, Hosios Meletios, etc.), many of them dating to the Byzantine era and all containing important artifacts.

Apart from the Greek report, there is the official British report (“Works of Art in Greece, the Greek Islands and the Dodecanese: Losses and Survivals in the War,” London, HMSO, 1946), which said that, given the extent of the fighting and resistance, the damage done to the archaeological sites and monuments of classical antiquity was relatively slight. The same was not true of churches, which were frequently burned by Italian and German forces. The Bulgarians come in for special mention for the havoc they wreaked on the archaeological sites and museums of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, which suffered heavily.

::Wednesday, November 17, 2004 4:54:30 AM::

~ New @ the Stoa Image Gallery

A couple of new collections have begun to appear in the increasingly-impressive and potentially useful Stoa Image Gallery:

The Ancient World Mapping Center (just beginning to put up images from its digital collection) and ...

The Ruth and Louise McCollum Memorial Collection of Ancient Coins

... not sure why I formatted that in that way ...


::Wednesday, November 17, 2004 4:51:42 AM::

~ Dig Pompeii

The ‘Pompeii Archaeological Research Project: Porta Stabia’ (PARP:PS) will begin a new archaeological excavation, structural assessment, and geo-physical survey of the shops, workshops, inns, and houses at VIII.7.1-15, Pompeii. This neighbourhood was selected for intensive investigation because of its unique potential to reveal the developing relationship between public and private space in the Roman city: each of the private buildings were connected to the so-called ‘entertainment district’ – an area comprising two theatres, a large public colonnaded courtyard, three temples, and a forum. The buildings for excavation line one of the major thoroughfares of Pompeii, just inside one of the city gates (the Porta Stabia); here was the social and cultural hub of Pompeii. Even so, no stratigraphic excavations have ever taken place since the first clearance of volcanic debris just over a century ago. PARP:PS offers the rare opportunity to begin new and exciting research into a forgotten corner of Pompeii (not even the tourists enter here), where modern archaeological investigation and penetrating inquiry can shed light on this fascinating pocket of urban life.

PARP:PS forms a close collaboration between the University of Sydney (Steven Ellis) and Stanford University (Dr Gary Devore). The project directors have combined almost 20 years of experience excavating Pompeii.

PARP:PS will operate a field school in 2005 (2 July - 6 August). The field school will include students from around the world, each of whom will bring their own cultural experiences, approaches, and questions. We believe in the benefits of working and thinking alongside other international students. Our ratio of students to staff members is particularly strong: we will accept 20 students to work in close consultation with experienced archaeologists, historians and scholars. The structure of the field school allows for students with all levels of experience.

Those interested in the project and its field school are encouraged to visit:

... seen on the Italian Archaeology list

::Wednesday, November 17, 2004 4:45:43 AM::

~ CFP: Battles and Battlefields in Antiquity

Battles and Battlefields in Antiquity, Real & Figurative

Date: Wednesday February 16th - Friday February 18th 2005
Place: Old Council Chamber, University of South Africa, PRETORIA

Guest Speaker: Dr Anton Powell (University of Wales, Institute of Classics)
Keynote Address: "Why Sparta spared Athens in 404 BC"

Call for Papers:
Papers of between 30 and 45 minutes on either the theme of the colloquium, or a related topic in Classical Studies/Ancient History will be considered.
Paper titles and abstracts should be submitted to the colloquium organiser before December 31st 2004:

... seen on the Classicists list

::Wednesday, November 17, 2004 4:42:51 AM::

~ Atlantean Skepticism

We're finally beginning to see some genuine skepticism in the online press (!) in regards to Robert Sarmast's claims to have found Atlantis (what took so long?). First, an article at Novitne about the claim has -- in English -- a paragraph which is also in a number of other European language sources:

However his discovery, hinging on the verge of sensation for modern archaeology, was disputed by a German physicist who said that what appeared to be remains of the lost city were in fact submarine volcanoes. Christian Huebscher of the Hamburg Centre for Marine and Atmospheric Sciences said he had identified the phenomenon as 100,000 year-old volcanoes that spewed mud.

The Herald Sun adds a bit of detail:

 Mr Huebscher, of the Hamburg Centre for Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, is quoted in tomorrow's edition of the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as saying he and two Dutch colleagues had sailed in a boat to the same area at which Mr Sarmast claimed to have located Atlantis and made their findings.

The article in FAZ doesn't seem to have made it into the English edition (yet).  Semi-related is a nice piece at Slate entitled "How Often Can They Find Atlantis" which brings together most of the suggestions for a site claimed in the past century or so. Here's the incipit:

American architect-turned-archaeologist Robert Sarmast claims to have discovered the lost city of Atlantis, off the southeast coast of Cyprus. Sarmast says his latest sonar readings reveal submerged walls that closely resemble those described by Plato, the first person to ever mention Atlantis in print. In Timaeus, written around 360 B.C., the renowned philosopher portrayed Atlantis as "a great and wonderful empire" that was destroyed by earthquakes and floods in a 24-hour span. How many times have researchers previously claimed to have discovered the vanished island-state?

Oodles—and that's not even counting the numerous psychics and crackpot "Atlantologists" who've placed the city everywhere from Nicaragua to Ceylon. The hunt began in earnest in the early 19th century, when Guatemalan Dr. Paul Felix Cabrera proposed that Hispaniola—the island where Haiti and the Dominican Republic are now found—was the site of Atlantis. Several researchers—such as the husband-and-wife team of Augustus Le Plongeon and Alice Dixon—speculated that Atlantis had been located near Mexico, based on their interpretation of Mayan codices that supposedly mentioned a lost island continent. The Mayans, the theory went, had interacted with the ancient Egyptians, who in turn passed the tale of Atlantis down to the ancient Greeks. This line of conjecture has been discredited over the years, in part because of a lack of physical evidence, and in part because it later became obvious that the early Mayanologists didn't fully understand the culture's complex hieroglyphs. [more]

Perhaps we should remind folks of what Sarmast hisself is saying (from My Wise Country):

 "We cannot yet provide tangible proof in the form of bricks and mortar, as the artifacts are still buried under several meters of sediment, but the circumstantial and other evidence is now irrefutable," he said from his base in the southern port city of Limassol.

"We're talking about a 95 percent accuracy rate" matching up evidence with Plato's descriptions. "That's either a huge coincidence, or it's it."

Actually, I think we're at the 95% point of RS's fifteen minutes of fama ... (the other 5% will, no doubt, have to do with negotiations about a documentary on this).

::Wednesday, November 17, 2004 4:41:19 AM::

~ Bulgarian Roundup

Novitne has a sort of roundup piece on recent finds from Bulgaria; nothing really new in this one, near as I can see, but useful to be reminded of what's going on there (will Dr. Kitov become Bulgaria's Zahi Hawass? Has he already?):

A series of spectacular discoveries at three sites in central and eastern Bulgaria has highlighted the exotic lifestyle of the ancient Thracians as never before.

Georgi Kitov, a veteran Thrakologist who has excavated more than 30 tombs built for the ancient warrior elite, says that the Thracians were known for drinking undiluted strong red wine and were famous for their martial skills. They were the most successful gladiators in ancient Rome.

As a result of the latest finds, the Thracians, who excelled at constructing elaborate tombs and rock-cut shrines, have seized the popular imagination.

Under communism research into the culture of the Thracians, a warrior caste who amassed wealth in the form of gold and silver artefacts, took second place to Slav history, reflecting Bulgaria's close political ties with the Soviet Union.

Dr Kitov, wearing a battered solar topee and a T-shirt picturing his latest find - a bronze head, thought to be of King Sevt III - clearly enjoys making Thracian culture more accessible.

He says more than 15,000 people have visited the 4th century BC king's tomb near Kazanluk since it was discovered last month, but "sadly, we'll have to shut it up for the winter".

Working with a team of eight experts from the archaeological institute at the Bulgarian Academy of Science, Dr Kitov unearthed a three-chamber tomb that unites the beehive vault of prehistoric Greece with local architectural styles in an unprecedented way.

The inner chamber - big enough for three people to stand upright - was hewn from a block of granite weighing an estimated 60 tonnes "like a giant sarcophagus". The huge block had been transported from a quarry about 10km away, Dr Kitov said.

It contained a delicate two-handled gold drinking cup and three amphoras as well as Sevt's military equipment: 10 spears, a sword, a bronze helmet decorated with gold and silver fittings, a round shield and leg armour.

The portrait head, perhaps the work of the Greek sculptor Lysippus, was ragged at the neck, recalling the ancient Thracian ritual of hacking a hero's body into seven pieces.

Nikolay Ovcharov, also from the Academy's archaeological institute, believes he has identified the oracle of Dionysos at Perperikon, a sprawling hilltop sanctuary surrounded by forest near the town of Kurdzhali in south-east Bulgaria.

It was here, he says, that Alexander the Great first learned he would become the conqueror of Asia. Several hundred years later, the Roman general Octavian, later to become the emperor Augustus, was told at Perperikon that he would hold sway over a huge empire.

"This oracle was as important as that of Apollo at Delphi in Greece," Prof Ovcharov says. He has excavated a large oval hall, open to the sky, containing a round altar cut out of the rock, which fits the historian Suetonius's description of the oracle of Dionysos.

Divination was based on how high the flames would leap after wine was poured over the altar fire, he says.

Perperikon has a long history as a sacred site, from the fourth millennium BC to early Christian times.

A church was built over earlier remains in the 5th century AD and the pagan sanctuary became part of a Byzantine bishopric.

Prof Ovcharov has also excavated a temple at Tatul, near Bulgaria's border with Turkey. With its distinctive flat summit rising above the forest, the sanctuary is visible from miles away.

It may be the site revered in antiquity as the tomb of Orpheus, the legendary Thracian musician who was torn to pieces by frenzied women followers of Dionysos, and inspired one of the most popular religious cults in the ancient world.

::Wednesday, November 17, 2004 4:29:32 AM::

~ Colin Powell and Thucydides

A sort of 'miscellany' column at Crikey reflects on the resignation of Colin Powell with a definite Classical spin (and a really interesting claim in regards to performance of Greek tragedy). Here's a bit from the middle of the piece (okay ... inter alia):

 It’s all Greek to me

Speaking of being right, wrong, right at the wrong time, vice versa and so on it may well be that the Australian Government is the only government in the world which seems to think that Colin Powell’s resignation as US Secretary of State is not a setback for moderation.

Admittedly any objective assessment of his record might suggest that they are right – if for all the wrong reasons.

A sidelight on Powell’s reputation for moderation, according to the BBC Website at least, dates back to the first Gulf War when visitors to his office were struck by a quotation which was sealed into the glass covering on his desk. The quote, from Thucydides, said: “Of all manifestations of power, restraint impresses men most”.

In the Times Literary Supplement’s October 8 NB column the quote was described as central to the Powell doctrine citing a 1998 amplification in which Powell expounded on Thucydides as his favourite historian.

But, NB goes on to say, a University of Wisconsin classics scholar, Shifra Sharlin, has claimed in an article in the magazine Raritan, that the quote is a fabrication. She’s used fact checkers, various sources and even called the US State Department way back in 2002 seeking a source for the quote.

Tim Rood at Oxford leapt to Powell’s defence a week later in the TLS. While admitting that he couldn’t find the quote either, he did suggest that it was a reasonable paraphrase of the argument Thucydides puts in the mouth of the general Nicias in a speech trying to dissuade the Athenians from invading Sicily. Now the Athenian invasion of Sicily makes the US invasion of Iraq look like the most successful military and political operation of all time and Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow one of the greatest victories of all time. But it does appear, nevertheless, that Powell’s favourite quote about moderation was about as accurate as his WMD presentation to the UN.

Whether it is accurate or not is possibly less relevant than a bigger question: why do the Greeks and their experiences resonate so much with Powell and so many others right now?

In her book, Dionysus since 69, Edith Hall says that: “more Greek tragedy has been performed in the past 30 years than at any point in history since Greco-Roman antiquity”.

Recently Donald Kagan (not to be confused with Robert the neo-con) edited his multi-volume work on the Peloponnesian Wars down to a single volume which has become a best-seller. During the lead-up to the Iraq War I was trying to decide whether to read it or not. When I mentioned to a friend that I was thinking of reading the new Kagan he looked at me sceptically and asked whether or not I’d be better off re-reading Thucycdides.

In the end I opted for Kagan and was struck even more forcefully than ever before by the overwhelming lesson from the Peloponnesian Wars: if you had known what the outcome would be, would you have decided to do it? The answer is straightforward for Howard, George Dubya and Tony Parkinson of The Age – of course! But for the rest of us, those Greeks – once again – have something to teach us.

Misquotations and fabrications

Misquotes and fabrications are common in public discourse – although some of them are more a case of mis-remembering.

Abraham Lincoln didn’t live long enough to say all the things falsely attributed to him in US politics most years.

Environmentalists adore the Cree Indian chief speech which adorns various green posters and eloquently makes the case against modern industry and anything but new age spiritual relationships with the Earth. That one was a fairly modern invention by a white man but it does read well.

Even the greats get it wrong. Reviewing the Dionysus book (also in the TLS) the classicist Mary Beard (see Miscellany on the Parthenon last week) recounted the famous story of Bobby Kennedy on April, 4 1968 the day after the assassination of Martin Luther King. Bobby quotes the lines from the chorus in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

At the time I thought it was a class act and – let’s be fair to Powell and Kennedy – can you imagine Howard or George Dubya quoting Thucydides or Aeschylus? If you are feeling depressed think for a hilarious moment of George trying to pronounce them.

But the Bobby quote was – according to Beard – mis-remembered as well, although she was generous enough to ascribe it to a faulty US translation used in universities there.

And, to pre-empt criticism I concede that there is a touch of doubt as to whether Keynes said precisely what I quoted him as saying above. None of us are totally innocent!

::Wednesday, November 17, 2004 4:26:23 AM::

~ AWOTV: On TV Today

8.00 p.m. |HINT| Roman Imprint on the West
In the 2nd century AD, all roads lead to Rome, and we'll follow some which connect Rome to the rich provinces of the West, including Iberia (Spain) and Gaul (France) as a Celtic gladiator takes us on a virtual tour through the streets of Nimes, Orange, Tarragona, Italica, Meridia, and more. 
8.30 p.m. |HINT| At the Court of the King of Kings
During the 4th century BC, the great Persian civilization, which was the first multi-ethnic empire in history, reached its peak. In this episode, we'll tour the grand residences at Persepolis, and the imperial palaces of the omnipotent King Darius I--a sumptuous building complex for the most powerful man in the world of that era. Experience the cutting edge of archaeological exploration and take a virtual tour with the people of Persia at the height of its civilization.

9.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Mystery of the Persian Mummy

10.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Jesus in the Himalayas

HINT = History International

DCIVC = Discovery Civilization

::Wednesday, November 17, 2004 4:19:26 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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