~ This Day in Ancient History
ante diem vi kalendas decembres
- 1922 -- Howard Carter sees "wonderful things" as he opens Tut's tomb (not Classical, but obviously it's a slow day)
::Friday, November 26, 2004 5:35:10 AM::
~ Peter Jones in the Spectator
Here's the incipit of Peter Jones' latest column in the Spectator:
Old age is in the news at the moment because people may not be financially prepared for retirement. But old age has much more interesting questions to consider, and none more interesting than its conclusion. The Roman philosopher-statesman Seneca (ad 1-65) makes some most interesting observations on the matter.
Seneca, being a Stoic, takes the view that death is no evil, and therefore suicide is a rational act. ‘In my opinion, old age is not to be refused any more than it is to be craved,’ he argues. ‘It is very agreeable to enjoy one’s own company as long as possible, on condition that one has ensured it is worth enjoying. The question we have to face is — should we treat extreme old age with disdain and take matters into our own hands, rather than just waiting for it to come?’ [here's the rest]
::Friday, November 26, 2004 5:21:20 AM::
~ Alexander Roundup V
The Alexander refs have definitely slowed to a trickle, whether because the movie is so bad or because our friends in the U.S. are concentrating on different sorts of turkeys these past days. I don't think there's much point in posting links to more negative reviews, so all that remains (believe it or not) is an interesting excerpt from a review piece in the New York Times:
However appealing, such stories are not to be confused with facts. As the classicist Victor Davis Hanson points out in the introduction, Plutarch "wrote almost 400 years after Alexander's death, as distant in time from his subject as we are from the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock."
All of which suggests why the current Alexander fad is likely to reveal little of news value about Alexander and a great deal more about ourselves instead.
Consider, for example, "Envy of the Gods: Alexander the Great's Ill-Fated Journey Across Asia," to be published in January by De Capo Press. To retrace the path of Alexander's Greek and Macedonian army, the author, a classics instructor named John Prevas, traveled through what is now Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. Iraq - including Gaugamela in the Tigris River Valley, where Alexander routed Darius in 331 B.C., and Babylon, where he died eight years later - was off limits because of the American-led invasion.
Everywhere he went, Mr. Prevas found disturbing levels of anti-Western sentiment, much more so, he suggests, than would have been the case in Alexander's day. "Alexander and I traveled over the same roads, deserts and mountains although we traveled nearly 2,400 years apart," he writes. "The topography has hardly changed, but the world I traveled through to research this book is a far more dangerous and less peaceful place than it was when Alexander and his Macedonians passed through it."
A similar pessimism pervades his account of Alexander. On the battlefield, he writes, Alexander was a commander of certain genius. Off it, however, he was increasingly a megalomaniac and a tyrant, a man who drank to excess, killed his friends, encouraged his army in the slaughter of innocent civilians and expected to be worshiped like a god.
Typical of Alexander's moral missteps, Mr. Prevas argues, was his sacking of the Persian capital Persepolis, which had surrendered to his army without resistance and immediately turned over the contents of the royal treasury. After looting much of the city and massacring the inhabitants, Alexander and his men lingered in Persepolis's royal palaces for several months. Before they left, they demolished these buildings, too, by setting them on fire.
The sacking and burning of Persepolis has long been a subject of debate. Some scholars believe the palace fires were an accident incurred during a wine-fueled bacchanalia. Politically, Mr. Prevas acknowledges, the destruction of Persepolis made some sense: it would be seen by Greece as just revenge for the Persian invasion of Athens and burning of the Acropolis 150 years earlier. Still, he argues, it was a singularly barbaric act, which "shows just how thin was the veneer of the Hellenic civilization that many of Alexander's biographers over the centuries would have us believe he was carrying to the East."
The point of this negative revisionism? It's not just to set the record straight; rather, there's a lesson here for us. And Mr. Prevas's conclusion sums it up. Alexander's story "validates the axiom that power is a dangerous commodity that must be handled carefully by those who possess it," he writes, adding, "The fear, however, is that little if anything will be learned from Alexander's experience and that the world will be forced to repeat his mistakes in an endless and increasingly more dangerous cycle of war and conquest." [the whole thing ... it also mentions Guy MacLean Rogers' forthcoming tome]
Speaking (writing?) of which, devoted readers of rogueclassicism will hopefully recall that when the movie was in production, there were hints that the movie would be somehow critical of the U.S. involvement in Iraq (or at least that's how it appeared to be spinning) ... you don't suppose that most of the negative reviews stem from Stone's movie not being as 'political' in this sense as the various denizens of the media had hoped?
::Friday, November 26, 2004 5:09:26 AM::
~ More Atlantis Reaction
An excerpt from a nice piece in Newsday:
An archaeologist who has taught at Central Connecticut State University for more than 25 years, Feder rejects Sarmast's claim and the countless others that have come before it with the same simple argument _ namely, that Atlantis' only location was in the imagination of the man who first described it.
But that rationale hasn't prevented Feder from using the myth for his own purposes.
"My agenda is to use this stuff to teach what we really know about the past," he says.
Feder, who lives in West Simsbury, focuses most of his own field work along the Farmington River, unearthing evidence of the Indians and settlers who subsisted there. But through the years, Feder has nurtured an expertise in historical hooey on the side.
First published in 1990, his book "Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology" is about to go into its fifth edition. Last month he lectured on Atlantis at a gathering of skeptics in Italy. And he holds forth on the watery mystery in a documentary scheduled for broadcast on the National Geographic Channel program "Naked Science."
Tucked in his stuffed campus office where the "Donner Party Cookbook" sits on a shelf below a cartoon of a pre-human Homer Simpson, Feder says he makes one demand of Atlantis enthusiasts.
"My rule is you can't even use the word Atlantis in a sentence unless you can tell me you've read Plato."
The legend of the lost continent emerges in dialogues between Socrates and his students that Plato wrote down. The point that many people miss, Feder says, is that most of these instructive dialogues were fictional, like conversations between characters in a play.
"Atlantis is a plot device. Plato has a very specific agenda in his mind, and he needs Atlantis to prove what he's trying to say," Feder says.
The student Critias tells his teacher the "true" story of the powerful but morally corrupt land of Atlantis, which goes to war with the weak but noble Athens. The evil empire gets whipped in battle by its worthier opponent before eventually getting swallowed in a cataclysm of floods and eruptions.
"That is the Atlantis story told by Plato," Feder says. "It's 'Star Wars' circa 350 B.C."
That's the line that a producer wanted Feder to use in a documentary a few years ago. But there was a catch. Would Feder be willing to tailor his yarn to make Atlantis seem real? Or at least leave its existence open-ended?
Feder refused and soon discovered that the "documentary film" was in fact a glorified advertisement for the 2001 animated Disney movie "Atlantis: The Lost Empire." Feder says several of his colleagues who had signed on unwittingly later watched in horror as their drastically edited words were spliced with cartoon scenes of underwater action.
But maybe that kind of appropriation explains why the legend still lingers. Severed long ago from the context that a famous Greek gave it, Atlantis becomes a ghost story, a lost treasure, a mysterious monster.
"For a lot of people, this would just be really cool if it were true," Feder says. "It would be really cool if Bigfoot were real. I don't really know that it is or isn't, but it's cool to tell stories about it at 2 in the morning."
The big legends wax and wane with the years. The Bermuda Triangle. Ancient astronauts. The UFO encounters at Roswell. But Feder thinks he's seen an increase in people's belief in the unbelievable.
The professor often starts new classes with a survey, asking students about their take on certain aspects of history. Twenty years ago, about 30 percent of his students said that Atlantis existed. But by 2000, almost half of the surveyed students were believers.
"I think that pattern directly reflects how many documentaries on (pseudoscientific subjects) show up on television, especially cable TV," Feder says.
Whether the media drives public interest or vice versa, it's obvious that legends like Atlantis will always hold cultural currency.
Perhaps that's why Robert Sarmast, who gave up a career in architecture to pursue Atlantis, rushed to announce his findings to the international press instead of trying to publish them in a peer-reviewed journal, the only way to secure credibility in the scientific community.
"I'm going to assume that the guy's honest and sincere and he really thinks there's this connection," Feder says of Sarmast. "But for anyone looking at it from the outside, there just isn't enough information." [the whole thing]
::Friday, November 26, 2004 5:02:54 AM::
~ CFP: The Hippocratic Tradition Reconsidered
ANGLO-DUTCH WELLCOME SYMPOSIUM ON ANCIENT MEDICINE
The Hippocratic Tradition Reconsidered
Aim of the Conference
In 1979 Wesley D. Smith (Professor Emeritus of Classical Studies, The University of Philadelphia) published The Hippocratic Tradition (a free copy of the book can be downloaded from http://www.bium.univ-paris5.fr/amn/, see Śdocuments¹) Now, 25 years later, the moment has come to reconsider the questions he has raised, in the light of recent research. How was the Hippocratic Tradition established and how was the Hippocratic Myth, formed subsequently? How did it influence medical practice? It is time to reconsider the formation of the Hippocratic Tradition in the light of recent research from Mesopotamian and Egyptian medicine onwards, until the 18th century, the last century when Hippocratic medicine still had actual relevance in Western society. The relationship to the medical practice and theory of the Egyptian and the Mesopotamian world should be considered in view of the traditional claims that Hippocratic medicine has been superior to them both in attitude and in method.
For the full programme and registration see: http://www.gltc.leidenuniv.nl
II. FIRST ANNOUNCEMENT & CALL FOR PAPERS
XIIth Colloquium Hippocraticum
Universiteit Leiden, 24, 25 and 26 August, 2005
Training of doctors, midwives, and other medical professionals and amateurs; teaching in theory and practice; the role of the oral and written tradition in medicine; the role of medicine in general education; the social status of teachers and pupils; the influence of ancient medicine in later medical education; such are only a few of the possible topics that come readily to the mind when one thinks of education in ancient medicine.
The XIIth Colloquium Hippocraticum will be dedicated to the theme of medical education in Antiquity and the way in which it contributed to the medical education in later periods. We invite proposals for papers but we are also looking for scholars willing to organize a panel about relevant themes. Contributions by young scholars are very welcome. Specialists in other medical traditions and medical anthropologists are especially encouraged to participate in order to stimulate the comparative perspective.
We envisage three main fields of interest:
Theory and practice, empiricism, experiments, theoretical concepts.
Schools, sects, the formation of the curriculum, theory and practice, the formation of the canon, literacy and orality, status of masters and pupils, anatomy, handbooks, catechism (questions/answers), access to training and education.
The role of tradition in medical education, the role of commentaries
Proposals for papers (max. 1 A4, 30 minutes) and/or panel sessions may be submitted by 15 January 2005. N.B. The deadline for submittance has been extended from 1 December 2004 to 15 January 2005.
Bert van den Berg (Ancient Philosophy)
Harm Beukers (History of Medicine)
Manfred Horstmanshoff (Ancient History)
For all information see: http://www.gltc.leidenuniv.nl
... seen on the MedAnt list
::Friday, November 26, 2004 4:58:40 AM::
~ Themopylaic Inspiration
Here's an interesting little item that turned up in the scan from an Indian source, mentioning the inscription on a monument at Kohima Cemetery:
In the sprawling cemetery is the stone memorial, 15 ft high, set on a stone pedestal that reads: "When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today."
The words come from John Maxwell Edmonds, an English classicist who died in 1958. They are said to have been inspired from the words of Greek poet Simonides of Ceos (556-468 BC) who wrote after the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC: "Go tell the Spartans, thou that passest by; That faithful to their precepts here we lie."
Apparently this quote and the monument is well known (to judge by the myriad refs on the net to "Went the Day Well") ... I'll have to remember it for next Remembrance Day.
::Friday, November 26, 2004 4:51:27 AM::
~ AWOTV: On TV Today
6.00 p.m. |HINT| Hadrian's Wall
Why did the ancient Romans build a stone wall across England from sea to sea? This look at Emperor Hadrian's Wall suggests that it had to do with military necessity and the ego of Hadrian himself.
7.00 p.m. |HINT|Julius Caesar: Master of the Roman World
Profile of one of the world's greatest military minds, ancient Rome's Julius Caesar, who romanced Cleopatra, invented the 12-month calendar, and expanded the boundaries of the empire, before being assassinated by senators fearful of his growing power.
7.00 p.m. |DTC| Vesuvius: Deadly Fury
In 79 AD, eruptions from Mount Vesuvius buried the city of Pompeii. A burning wave of gas shot out from the side of Vesuvius killing the inhabitants of neighboring Herculaneum in just four minutes. Archaeologists look to these bodies for historical clues.
9.00 p.m. |DISCC| Becoming Alexander
Follow actor Colin Farrell as he prepares to bring Alexander the Great to life on the big screen; the political, military and historical context in which Alexander operated.
::Friday, November 26, 2004 4:11:53 AM::