~ Alexander Roundup
As might be expected, we're on the verge of a big wave of Alexander coverage, so I think it will be best just to give headlines as links and let folks pick and choose those that seem best, although we'll group them thematically, of course.
Initial reaction in the press at the portrayal of Alexander focusses on the portrayal of Alexander as 'bisexual' or 'gay' (I'm listing multiple versions of the same story because some might expire ... this is the sort of topic which will bring folks to the archives for quite a while, I suspect):
Greeks Say Alexander Was Not Bisexual (Reuters via MSNBC)
Angry Greeks Deny that Alexander Was Bisexual (Reuters)
Greeks Upset Over Alexander Film (ITV ... largely derivative from the Reuters piece above)
Greeks Threaten To Sue Over Gay Alexander Film (ditto, but with a link to an article by Classicist Mark Millner about Alexander's sexuality).
Not quite a review, per se, of the movie, but dealing with the portrayal of Alexander in it:
Breaking Ground With A Gay Movie Hero (New York Times)
Tim Spalding, of Isidore-of-Seville and/or Alexander the Great on the Web fame managed to get into a screening of the flick and has written a review with spoilers which is probably one of the few reviews we'll see from someone with a Classics background. Elsewhere, the Globe and Mail has the predicted mega-review of a pile of books about Alexander and the scan also caught a press release about a book called The Confessions of Alexander the Great -- 33 Lessons in Greatness ... it's one of those motivational/leadership things.
::Saturday, November 20, 2004 8:46:24 AM::
~ Trojan Tourism
Longtime readers of rogueclassicism will recall that, back when Troy first came out, there were a pile of articles citing Turkey's hopes that there would be a bump in tourism as a result of the flick; that seems to have been borne out (possibly in a less-than-satisfactory way). From the Guardian:
Tourists descend on the sleepy Turkish town of Canakkale at all hours to gawp at the Hollywood star - a 12-tonne fibre-glass horse, held together with bolts, ropes and nails, which dominates the seafront.
It was a gift from Warner Brothers and a small consolation for the fact that Troy, the $200m blockbuster starring Brad Pitt as Achilles, was not made in Turkey.
Troy may have bombed at the box office but, in Turkey, the film has put Homer's "well-walled city" back on the tourist map.
"We're very happy that Troy was made. It's been great advertising," said Ismail Kansiz, the Canakkale regional director of tourism and culture. "Everybody now knows about our town and Truva [the Turkish name for the ancient site of Troy, 19 miles to the south]."
Since the film's release this year, tourists eager for a glimpse of Homer's "vast, untilled and mountain-shirted plain" have flocked to the site. Among them was Barbara Kapetanaki, an Athenian pensioner on a two-week pilgrimage to western Turkey's classical and Hellenistic ruins.
"The film made the Greeks look like fools," she fumed as a local guide pointed to the grassy knoll where the swift-footed Achilles "in all probability" speared Hector to death.
"It was very disappointing; full of inaccuracies," Mrs Kapetanaki added in disgust. "That's why I wanted to come and see Troy - the place where it all happened."
Archaeologists may grumble that the film bears little resemblance to the craggy hill town now widely believed to be Homer's "windy Troy". Even worse, say scholars, is the way the movie's 157-page script has ransacked the Iliad, the 15,693-line poem that charted the Trojan war in 1250BC.
But sales of the epic have surged. And locals in Canakkale, a seven-hour drive from Istanbul, are revelling in the new-found attention.
After years of being little more than a base for those visiting Gallipoli and other first world war landing sites on the Dardanelles strait, the town will soon get several new hotels because of the boom.
"We'll certainly be using the film to promote tourism," said Hasan Zongur, a senior official at Ankara's ministry of culture and tourism.
"Turkey's target is to have 25 million tourists by 2010. Sites such as these are part of a universal culture. They belong to the world"
But while the film has boosted awareness of the ancient city, officials also admit to a neglect of Turkey's rich array of classical Greek antiquities. Near the fig tree-lined ruins, a billboard proudly proclaims that Troy is where "the first chapter of modern archaeology was written".
Yet for decades, few Turkish officials displayed any interest in the site, where German and American archaeologists have unearthed nine distinct cities built over a period of 3,000 years. Turks have often appeared ill at ease dealing with a heritage deemed not to be their own.
As recently as the 1970s, visitors needed written permission to visit Troy, which was once used as a stone quarry by locals. Ephesus, Turkey's best preserved ancient city, down the coast, is so unprotected that visitors have carved graffiti across its marbles.
"A lot of Troy is like a fake tour," said Hedi Mantel, a Romanian-born American from Michigan. "It's unbelievable that the centrepiece of the place is this," she added, looking up at a wooden horse that the authorities erected on the site in 1975. "It's like a secondhand carpenter's job."
Even now, officials in Canakkale concede that "every Turkish schoolboy" is raised hating Heinrich Schliemann, the German businessman who ended speculation that the city existed in myth alone by discovering Troy in 1871.
Most Turks have yet to forgive Schliemann for smuggling Trojan treasures out of the country. The Turkish government is still trying to retrieve the hoard from the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.
"Generations of Turks have no idea about the Iliad or Odyssey," said Savas Uran, a guide at the site. "They weren't taught Greek history at school.
"All they know is that Troy was discovered by a man who was a merchant, not a real archaeologist, and who, as a result, destroyed a lot of precious things here."
Despite this, schoolchildren from across Turkey are among crowds who now visit the site.
"Only 5% of Troy has been excavated," added Mr Uran, pointing to the surrounding fields.
"There's a lot more under them. There's a lot more for everyone to discover."
::Saturday, November 20, 2004 8:26:52 AM::
~ Caligular Confusion
I know they speak English in Australia because I regularly read items from the Sydney Morning Herald and can make sense of them. But every so often you get bits like this in which you risk personal injury from the subsequent head scratching:
Bronwyn Bishop surprised most people, not least David Hawker. There we were, thinking it would be pretty much a walk-in for Sydney's Bruce Baird to become the Liberal Party's new Speaker in the House of Representatives, and Bronwyn tops the primary vote for two ballots in the party room election this week before losing to Victoria's Hawker, another Geelong Grammar old boy, on Baird's preferences. Whatever Bishop isn't, don't ever write off her Caligula-like competitiveness.
Okay ... we can probably surmise something political going on related to choosing a Speaker. But what the heck is 'Caligula-like competitiveness'?
::Saturday, November 20, 2004 8:21:22 AM::
~ What to do With A Classics Degree
From an obituary in the Plain Dealer:
Edward Zak, 63, a retired legal adviser for NASA Glenn Research Center who had a private practice in Rocky River, died of a heart attack Saturday at Fairview Hospital.
Zak was the legal adviser for many NASA projects, including the Atlas/Centaur rocket program and an effort between NASA and the Cleveland Clinic on a machine to help cancer patients.
He earned the NASA Honor Award for exceptional service to the agency and received several special activity and suggestion awards from NASA.
One of his proudest accomplishments at NASA was establishing the legal structure for the "Lewis Little Folks Center," a day-care facility in the former Lewis Research Center, for children of employees and contractors.
Zak operated a private law practice out of his Rocky River home while working for NASA. When he retired from NASA in 1995, after about 30 years of service, he worked full time at his law practice.
He specialized in small business, family and consumer law.
He was a longtime member and past president of the Northern District of Ohio Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.
Zak was born in Cleveland and graduated from St. Ignatius High School. His passion in high school was classical studies, which he continued to study at John Carroll University. He received a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from John Carroll, majoring in Greek history. [more]
::Saturday, November 20, 2004 8:16:06 AM::
With all the Alexander hype, Classicists rogue and otherwise might miss all the excitement being generated by the SpongeBob Squarepants movie. Happily, for this rogueclassicist and Spongebob fan, a review suggests there is ClassCon in this one too! From the Winnipeg Sun:
The secret here is that creator Stephen Hillenburg -- who also served as the movie's director, co-producer, co-writer and storyboard animator -- gave SpongeBob and Patrick something important to do. The two unlikely and hapless heroes set out on a fantastic quest, a perilous journey that suggests a Homeric odyssey. And it's not a joke. There is even a Cyclops who threatens their lives.
Hillenburg also takes a calculated risk that pays off big: More than on the TV show, which used bits of live action, Hillenburg puts the animated SpongeBob and Patrick directly into the real world. They even befriend a hairy-backed human, David Hasselhoff (who hilariously self-mocks by playing himself in his Baywatch bathing suit). The technique is low-tech but seamless. And the story blossoms.
The plot point behind the odyssey is to save money-grubber Mr. Krabs from being frozen and deep fried by King Neptune over a misunderstanding. But the stakes rise because the road trip turns into the key to saving Bikini Bottom from a horrible fate engineered by the evil Plankton.
Of course, the even more grander purpose is that the man-child SpongeBob learns something valuable about himself on the quest. Hillenburg did not invoke Greek classics for nothing. There is something noble behind all the goofiness. [the whole thing]
::Saturday, November 20, 2004 8:09:25 AM::
~ Atlantis Roundup
Looks like Robert Sarmast isn't going to take challenges to his claims lying down. First we read in the Cyprus Mail:
THE Atlantis expedition team yesterday brushed off the revelation by a German physicist that the underwater formations found off Cyprus last week are 100,000 old submarine volcanoes, and not the legendary lost city.
American researcher Robert Sarmast, who is leading the charge to find Atlantis, challenged the German physicist to go to the particular hill that he has located and to prove that it’s an underwater volcano.
In an interview in Wednesday's edition of the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, physicist Christian Huebscher said he and two Dutch colleagues had already sailed in a boat to the same area where Sarmast says he has found Atlantis. They identified the phenomenon as 100,000-year-old volcanoes that spewed mud, the paper said.
The volcanoes were formed when the mud, which lies under the salt layers, penetrates through fractures and breaks into the salt layers and bulges the bottom of the sea floor. Similar volcanoes can be found on the bottom of many oceans, the newspaper said.
Sarmast told the Cyprus Mail yesterday: “I did see the article. They went to the area and said they found some underwater volcanoes. There are underwater volcanoes so this is not a big surprise,” Sarmast said. “But what we have found is a tabletop mountain… I challenge them to prove that this is a volcano.”
Sarmast, the author of Discovery of Atlantis: The Startling Case for the Island of Cyprus, announced on Sunday that he and his team had located man-made structures in the area they had earmarked as the site of the underwater lost city.
He said two walls three kilometres long had been located and that the Acropolis Hill was 2.5 miles long and half a kilometer wide.
Sarmast bases his theory that Cyprus is Atlantis on Plato’s writings Timaeus and Crititias, saying that almost every clue in Plato’s description of the legendary continent perfectly correlates with scientific data which he has accumulated.
Currently, his team is putting together the sonar side-scans taken during last week’s secret expedition, which should be ready within 10 days. Sarmast said he hoped to have a second expedition up and running before too long, which will utilise submarine technology capable of shifting 30-50 metres of sediment a day.
The second expedition will cost in the region of $250,000.
Aha ... a sly twist on the 'prove it isn't' strategy. Meanwhile, The Day has a piece about someone else involved in the expedition, which seems to me to be designed to lend auctoritas of some sort to the claim (someone who teaches calculus obviously is intelligent, right?):
Merchant Marine Capt. Robert S. Bates scoffed when a friend tried to persuade him to join an expedition to find Atlantis, Plato's fabled lost continent under the sea.
But after reading Robert Sarmast's then-unpublished manuscript “Discovery of Atlantis” and meeting with the author in Colorado two years ago, Bates agreed to become the commodore of the maritime search.
“When I read the manuscript, I thought, ‘He's got it. He's really got it,' ” said Bates, who teaches calculus at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Now, after a six-day search in mile-deep waters of the eastern Mediterranean this month, he's convinced the lost continent has been found.
“We have found manmade walls, a canal and an Acropolis Hill that exactly fits the descriptions of Plato,” said Bates, a retired Coast Guard commander who has worked in oceanographic research for the Navy, the University of Rhode Island and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
Though there are still skeptics — there are uncounted claims to have “found” Atlantis in the past — the site they suspect could be the historical Atlantis is on a vast underwater plain between the island of Cyprus and the shoreline of Syria.
The area stretching from Syria to Cyprus has been dried out and inundated dozens of times over the millennia, according to studies showing alternating deposits of salt and silt, Bates said.
Sarmast, 38, who trained as an architect before giving up that profession in his 20s to study the legend of Atlantis, spent years plying more than 50 clues from Plato's “Timaeus” and “Critias” that hint at the location of Atlantis, and then he has tried to match what he found to the area.
Some of his early funding came from a private corporation involved in underwater oil exploration, but the $200,000 Mediterranean expedition was paid for by more than 100 supporters who gave varying amounts, up to $10,000.
Phoenix International, a marine services company, is now processing reams of side-scan sonar data into a comprehensive picture of the ocean bottom.
“We're all waiting to see what the finished mosaics look like after the data is processed,” Bates said. “But it is all very promising.”
Phoenix does manned and unmanned underwater operations around the world, including deep ocean search and recovery, surveys, ship repairs, submarine rescue and underwater welding. Five years ago, Phoenix found the long-lost Israeli submarine Dakar near where Sarmast believes Atlantis is located.
Bates said filmmaker Janelle Balnicke shot more than 50 hours of video for a planned documentary that the Sarmast team hopes will be finished in about six months. Sarmast is considering either expanding his book or writing another one with the new data.
There's also talk of mounting a second expedition, perhaps with a sub-bottom profile that can peer through centuries of accumulated silt, or with a remotely operated vehicle that can uncover artifacts.
“It will be very exciting to see how it all turns out,” Bates said. [more]
Alas for RS, though, more scientists are lining up to challenge his claims. Back to the Cyprus Mail:
ANOTHER scientist has come forward to challenge American researcher Robert Sarmast’s theory that a rise on the seabed off Cyprus is part of the lost continent of Atlantis.
Earlier this week, a French geologist living in Cyprus called Sarmast to a public debate on the issue. A day later, a German physicist said what had been found by Sarmast’s expedition was a merely a 100,000 year-old underwater mud volcano. He and two other scientists said they had surveyed the same area last year.
In an email to the Cyprus Mail yesterday, physical geographer and marine geologist Dr Ulf Erlingsson from Florida joined the fray.
Erlingsson is the author of Atlantis from a Geographer's Perspective: Mapping the Fairy Land, which pinpoints Ireland as the likely location, based, like Sarmast, on Plato’s writings.
However, Erlingsson argues that with over 20 years of experience of mapping the sea floor with sonar, and having studied the Atlantis dialogues in detail, Sarmast’s Cyprus hypothesis “does not hold up to scrutiny”.
Erlingsson says the Cyprus hypothesis appears implausible to begin with, for several reasons. “Because the island of Atlantis does not fit in the Eastern Mediterranean with the measures that Plato gave (3000x2000 stadia), and also because it is assumes an extremely low sea level very recently.
Furthermore it is not positioned outside the pillars of Hercules, nor in an ocean,” he said.
“However, the real killer of the hypothesis is that 100,000-year-old mud volcanoes exist on the spot. How could it then have been dry land only 12,000 years ago?”
Sarmast dates the deluge that was said to have submerged Atlantis at between 10,000 and 30,000 BC.
Erlingsson said that if that area had been above the sea surface until recently, “as the Cyprus hypothesis stipulates”, then the mud volcanoes would have been eroded sub-aerially. “The whole landscape would show signs of recently having been drowned,” he said.
“We can see examples of this in the southern Baltic Sea, drowned about 10,000 years ago. The fluvial morphology is easily identifiable under the mud. Thus, if German experts were there last year and failed to identify signs of sub-aerial erosion, the hypothesis that it recently was dry land must be dismissed.”
Responding to the German argument on Thursday, Sarmast said that what he had found during his expedition last week was a “table top mountain” and not a mud volcano. He said that it was not a big surprise that there were mud volcanoes, but that did not mean his find could be classified in the same category. He challenged his detractors to prove their claims. [more]
::Saturday, November 20, 2004 8:04:05 AM::
~ AWOTV: On TV Today
11.00 p.m. |HINT| Foot Soldier: The Barbarians
Profile of the savage fighters who surrounded and then conquered ancient Rome, ushering in the Dark Ages. Hosted by Richard Karn
HINT = History International
::Saturday, November 20, 2004 7:47:18 AM::