Latest update: 12/2/2004; 4:51:59 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ This Day in Ancient History

ante diem vii kalendas decembres

::Thursday, November 25, 2004 5:35:06 AM::

~ Classical Words of the Day

Today's selection:

cormorant @

multitudinous @ Merriam-Webster

profluent @ Wordsmith


::Thursday, November 25, 2004 5:29:22 AM::

~ Akropolis World News

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

  Tolkien "Rings" house "historic" - Problematic elections in Ukraine

::Thursday, November 25, 2004 5:21:36 AM::

~ Aristotle and Terrorism

Interesting application of Aristotle's definition of tragedy in the Jewish Press, inter alia:

Let me conclude with two important final observations about terrorism and its expected social impact. First, we must understand that the utter unwillingness to create boundaries in the threat and use of violence is the very essence of all terrorism, but especially in Arab/Islamic terrorism. The mere threat or use of force for political ends does not signify the operation of terrorism. It is first necessary that such force be threatened or applied indiscriminately.

This key meaning of terrorism was perhaps better understood by Aristotle than by contemporary political scientists. Writing about the species of fear that arises from tragedy, Aristotle — in his Poetics — emphasized that such fear "demands a person who suffers undeservedly," and that it must be a fear felt by "one of ourselves." This fear or terror has little or nothing to do with our concern for an impending misfortune to others, but from our own perceived resemblance to the victim. We feel terror on our own behalf; we fear that we ourselves may become the objects of commiseration.

Terror, in short, is fear referred back to ourselves. In this Aristotelian sense, individual human death fears have much to do with the social impact of terrorism. The fear of death is the subject of intense philosophical speculation from before the time of Lucretius, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius to Schopenhauer, Santayana and Miguel de Unamuno. Second, terrorism may no longer be guided altogether by pragmatic or political considerations. What we see today, rather ominously, are certain groups that seek to inflict pain and suffering for its own sake. There is nothing utilitarian about such violence. It is guided more by De Sade than by Clausewitz. [the whole thing]

::Thursday, November 25, 2004 5:18:07 AM::

~ Alexander Roundup IV

Practically everything in my mailbox today pertains to the Alexander movie in some way, but surprisingly, it isn't as voluminous as I would have thought. It's also somewhat surprising -- given that in the year or so running up to the movie we kept getting snippets of how 'relevant' the story of Alexander as presented by Stone was to today -- that we haven't seen a lot more of the following sort of thing to date (AP via Yahoo):

With the big-budget movie debuting just weeks after the presidential election, Americans still fiercely divided about President Bush (news - web sites) and his policies, and U.S. forces locked in bloody conflict in Iraq (news - web sites) (one of Alexander's stomping grounds), Stone's "Alexander" almost can't help but seem like a political allegory.

Both Alexander and President Bush are the most powerful leaders of their day, raised in the shadow of dynamic fathers who also wielded worldwide influence, and defined by an ambitious and ongoing war in a foreign land that is historically difficult to occupy. Both men spent years pursuing a high-profile enemy leader who fled into the hills of the Middle East.

"The film was never made for the purposes of a correlation or to say anything about today's present state," said Colin Farrell, who stars in the title role. "People say history repeats itself, well it does in different ways, shapes and forms. This was kind of a freaky coincidence that our story takes place exactly where all the madness we're all talking about takes place now."

"Alexander" can be viewed either as a support for or an argument against the current administration — and the interpretation could vary from Blue State voter to Red State voter.

"I think it depends on what your political slant is and what you want to do.... (Stone) made a film that is very open-minded, laying things out there that are both good and bad," said Angelina Jolie, who co-stars as Alexander's mother, Olympias.

Jolie, an active follower of foreign affairs as a U.N. goodwill ambassador, said she's happy "if (the movie) raises questions and gets people talking and gets people looking at how we approach entering other cultures, what we do against them, what we do when we don't understand them."

Up for debate is this: Has Bush followed in the footsteps or missteps of Alexander?

Stone acknowledged the coincidences, but since he started developing the project in 1989 he said it's obvious he didn't have President Bush in mind as a point of reference.

According to Farrell, the filmmaker, who previously stirred political emotions with "Platoon," "JFK," "Nixon" and "Born on the Fourth of July," is "always intrigued by greatness, by people who make a difference, people who left their mark on the world, people who have something to say about how life is lived and how times are either a-changing or not a-changing."

Alexander has intrigued Stone since boyhood.

"He's a dashing-warrior king who had a vision of compassion, generosity of spirit and peace," Stone said. "He was not a needless killer, he was not a butcher. At times he did massacre, but these were hard times. He did so with a purpose, with a reason. He did not have the Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun mentality. He was a builder, and in his wake he left a Hellenic empire. There was a boom in the Mediterranean, and Iran, there was a sense of growth in the world, a spurt of learning, exemplified by the library at Alexandria," a cultural wonder of the ancient world.

Although he didn't intend "Alexander" as political commentary, even Stone agrees that people will see parallels.

"I started this thing before all this nightmare came down, this morass," Stone said of the Iraq war. "It's ironic, and I think there is a coincidence that's far beyond my understanding, but I would certainly not limit this to the current situation. This is an older situation, East vs. West. This is pre-Muslim, and there was always a conflict between Persian and Greek.

"Alexander was beautiful because he saw beyond that conflict into a synthesis," Stone added. "I'm not so sure our present administration does. It's great that they say, `Democracy, blah, blah, blah,' but you have to modify democracy to the local customs."

Even though the world has changed dozens of times over since Alexander's days — which predated Jesus Christ and Mohammed — lessons in ancient history remain for modern people. 

"And what is the lesson?" Stone asked. "Alexander brought the Hellenic way which is, let's say, more freedom for the individual. He abided by the customs of, unlike our administration, of leaving the (opposing) armies intact and used the armies. He always needed more men."

After Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) was toppled, the United States disbanded the Iraqi army instead of incorporating those not loyal to Saddam as a police force, a move criticized as making it more difficult to fight anti-U.S. guerrillas.

"(Alexander) was always inclusive, and we were exactly the opposite when we went into Iraq. We were totally exclusive. ... You could argue the policy was malformed from the beginning, misintended."

Stone said he considers that an error in strategy and has no interest in bashing the president.

"I would not put Bush down. We have to move on," Stone said. "The election happened, and there's no point in crying over it. It's a fresh slate for me, personally. I look at him fresh. People change. ...

"Often second-term presidents do become better presidents. They're a little bit wiser and they don't have to run so hard to get elected. So things might change. You hope for that."

If Bush manages to transform Iraq and Afghanistan (news - web sites) into secure, democratic states; if he can negotiate with Iran to disband its nuclear weapons program and calm Islamic radicalism; if he continues to work peacefully with Russia, which has its own historic interests in the region ... Stone says the U.S. president may earn the legacy of the ancient hero of "Alexander."

"It's a grand scheme," Stone said. "If he pulled it off ... in 20 years, maybe he would be considered `Bush the Great.'"

Here's today's Robin Lane Fox quote of the day ... from an interview at Zap2it:

As far as other films about the era, Fox says, "'Ben Hur' was drivel, 'Cleopatra' was OK, the story of 'Spartacus' didn't grab me, 'Gladiator' wasn't history and 'Troy' was a travesty," Fox sums up. "Other Alexander films did not even touch the battle in India."

Fox says, "This story challenges our stereotype of age, fearlessness and the capacity of the young. He did all this before the age of 32."

On the hey-someone-other-than-Robin-Lane-Fox-knows-about Alexander front, NPR's All Things Considered has a nice audio interview with Daniel Mendelsohn about the accuracy of the movie and other things about Alexander. Then we get a smattering of reviews; again, the majority are overwhelmingly negative. Altpress sums up the role of Ptolemy thusly:

As for the narration from the character of Ptolemy, it goes on and on and on and is filled with so much detail that you practically fear a pop quiz at the end of the movie. As for Anthony Hopkins’ acting as Ptolemy, well, phoning it in doesn’t begin to describe what Hopkins yawns his way through.

Other reviews (headlines):

Stone's 'Alexander' turns out not so great (Boston Globe)

'Alexander' far from great (Seattle Post Intelligencer)

"Alexander" the Average (Denver Post)

This Alexander is not so great, say film critics (Telegraph)

There is an apparently positive review at Cinema Confidential, but I can't get it to come up.

Moving right along, as my father would say, Archaeoblog has made up for the lack of a lot of archaeology news these past few days by doing some nice captioning to production photos, which should give you a giggle or two. Over at, N.S. Gill points us to an article by Paul Doherty pondering the evidence regarding what killed Alexander.

::Thursday, November 25, 2004 5:13:05 AM::

~ Reviews from BMCR

Susanna Morton Braund (trans.), Juvenal and Persius.

Craige B. Champion, Cultural Politics in Polybius's Histories.

Vincent Katz (trans.), The Complete Elegies of Sextus Propertius.

Richard Buxton, The Complete World of Greek Mythology.

::Thursday, November 25, 2004 4:37:58 AM::

~ AWOTV: On TV Today

7.00 p.m. |HINT| The Rise of Christianity
The story begins not with Jesus, but 50 days after his crucifixion, when a rushing wind and tongues of fire descended upon his followers "and all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages." When Saul of Tarsus turns into Paul and travels to preach to the Gentiles, the religion spreads.

8.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Lost Treasures of the Ancient World: The Celts

Channel Guide

::Thursday, November 25, 2004 4:34:12 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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