~ This Day in Ancient History
ante diem xviii kalendas januarias
- Consualia -- a festival in honour of Consus which likely involved a similar celebration held on August 21 (i.e. horse races, chariot races, and garlanding of the steeds)
- 337 B.C. -- death of Timoleon (source?)
- 19 B.C. -- dedication of the ara Fortunae Reducis
- 37 A.D. -- birth of the future emperor Nero
- 130 A.D. -- birth of the future co-emperor Lucius Verus
::Wednesday, December 15, 2004 5:55:48 AM::
~ Classics and Politics
Well, I've left the Classics list again ... seems they can't get it through their collective heads that the list was set up to discuss Classics, not politics. Pity. In an interesting moment of synchronicity, though, there just arrived in my mailbox a very interesting piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education by a pseudonymed Classics professor on the implications of being 'not left' in academe ...
::Wednesday, December 15, 2004 5:45:26 AM::
~ Jonathan Shay
A lengthy piece in the San Francisco Bay Guardian about the post traumatic stress disorder being exhibited by some soldiers returning from Iraq mentions our friend Jonathan Shay, inter alia:
Indeed, Vietnam provides the clinical and historical framework for PTSD and Iraq. Before Vietnam, treatment of a soldier for the psychological effects of battle wasn't really treatment at all, even though PTSD had long been acknowledged under a variety of names.
In 1871 former Union Army medic J.M. Da Costa wrote about a stress disorder caused by heavy fighting. He called it "Irritable Heart," a name changed shortly thereafter to "Soldier's Heart."
During World War I, according to V.A. psychiatrist Jonathan Shay, veterans returning home with Soldier's Heart were told by military doctors they had "shell shock," or "combat neurosis."
After World War II, Shay says, when tens of thousands of soldiers were hospitalized with psychiatric problems, doctors diagnosed the majority with paranoid schizophrenia.
"The diagnostic spirit which prevailed was based on Plato's idea that if you had good parentage, good genes, a good education, then no bad things could shake you from the path of virtue," Shay says.
During Vietnam, that Platonic ideal began to shift. In 1970, 20 young vets from the group Vietnam Veterans Against the War called psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton to speak with them about the war. The vets didn't trust the V.A. or the military but knew they needed to calm the devils they'd brought home.
Lifton, who had studied Hiroshima survivors and been an Army psychiatrist, began meeting in New York with the group in what became known as "rap sessions." He was shocked by the extent of the veterans' trauma. [the whole thing]
::Wednesday, December 15, 2004 5:36:19 AM::
~ Stoicism? Optimism?
A piece in the Sun-Herald ponders the optimism displayed by victims of hurricanes and cites Epictetus as a precedent:
What accounts for this "no big deal" style of thinking? What say you?
Could it be that an ancient philosopher sowed power seeds amongst our ancestors? Seeds that produce stoic, yet optimistic thinking patterns? I'm thinking of Epictetus, a philosopher who lived circa 50-138 A.D. He was born a slave in the Greek-speaking Roman province of Phrygiaa, in what is now central Turkey. One day, when Epictetus was working in the fields chained to an iron stake, his master, a guy who worked for Nero, decided to tighten the shackle on Epictetus's leg. Now Epictetus told the cruel master that making the shackle tighter was not needed. In fact, if the master tightened the shackle ... well, the leg would break.
The master was not persuaded; he proceeded to tighten the leg shackle and sure enough he broke Epictetus' leg. Did he protest? Not in any way, nor did he give any sign of distress. His master asked him why. Epictetus said that since the leg was already irreversibly broken, there was really no point in getting upset about it.
Well, his master was so impressed by this demonstration of unflappability that he eventually set Epictetus free, gave him money and sent him away to become an itinerant philosopher. Epictetus considered this preferable to being a philosopher chained to a stake. Eventually, he wandered into Rome, then the capital of the Western world. Among the prominent Romans he influenced was the emperor Marcus Aurelius, who was conservative and just, by Roman standards.
Epictetus taught that happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after we have accepted this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what we can and cannot control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.
Things themselves don't hurt or hinder us, Epictetus said. Neither do other people. How we view things and people is a different matter. Strange as it may seem at first, it is our own attitudes and reactions that give us the most trouble. We cannot always choose our external circumstances, but we can choose how we respond to them. Clearly, a good many people who live in Charlotte County are choosing, once the shock abated, this can-do attitude.
Epictetus' ancient philosphy has been proven in some eyes through modern research and clincal practice.
Right after the last hurricane moved well past our area, I thought about the great opportunity we have to add to that modern research on attitude. [more]
::Wednesday, December 15, 2004 5:19:47 AM::
~ More Iliadika
I'm still scratching my noggin trying to figure out this 'Forecasters Devil's Dictionary' entry from the Australian Business Journal:
Iliad, The: An epic poem by the ancient Greek travel writer Homer, who later put on weight and became a cartoon character in The Simpsons. The story begins in Troy, where a plague has descended upon the Greek forces. They have been camped for 10 years on the shores trying to get a peep of Helen, the local sex bomb (obviously the women back home are a bit disappointing). A Greek seer concludes that the god Apollo is angry with the Greeks because Agamemnon took the daughter of one of his priests. He says that will be 50,000 dinars - payable in advance or no more predictions. He is boiled in oil for overcharging. The Greeks want to go home, but decide instead to have a series of battles with the Trojans, involving several hundred pages of stentorian epic poetry. The action comes to a head when Achilles' friend Patroclus is killed, whereupon Achilles invents the pre-emptive strike by killing everyone in sight. Everyone in sight is killed. After that, they are all dead. The funeral business booms. The gods tidy up the mess, and decide that in future they will outsource their cleaning services to the Persia, where wage costs are lower.
Context would suggest this has something to do with France's telecom giant Iliad, but I can't quite find an appropriate gloss ...
::Wednesday, December 15, 2004 5:16:03 AM::
~ Homeric Headlines
A columnist in the Stoneham Sun describes himself as "impatient" and gives this among other exempla:
Having written headlines for decades, I like people who speak in bumper stickers. That is an appropriate length for most of us working folks who have attention spans about as long as an elevator ride in a three-story building. Save us from long Homeric accounts, please.
Actually, if I were to write a headline for Homer's "The Iliad," I guess it would be: Greeks Defeat Trojans After 10-Year Battle. If I were writing for a tabloid, the headline would be: Helen Returned, Abductors Killed. For the Wall Street Journal: Athenian Economy Recovers From 10-year Deficit. For Popular Science magazine: Trojan Horse Revolutionizes Warfare.
Guess he didn't actually read the whole thing (actually, it doesn't look like he read it at all). I wonder if that's typical of headline writers ...
::Wednesday, December 15, 2004 5:11:17 AM::
~ Reaction to Alexander The Film
An excerpt from a piece in the New American on the 'real purpose' behind Stone's film:
Our three Greek historians (Arrian, Diodorus, and Plutarch) never term [Hephaistion] erastes or eromenos, only philos or malista timomenos. Alexander himself calls him philalexandros (friend of Alexander). Curtius and Justin use only amicus, never amans. The only implication of a sexual relationship or use of the term eromenos for Hephaistion occurs in late sources or those of dubious authorship.
Dr. Reames-Zimmerman says that “while we do have evidence that it was possible, in Macedonian society, for young boys of roughly the same age to form attachments to one another which included a sexual expression, there is no indisputable evidence for such an attachment between Alexander and Hephaistion.” (Emphasis in original.) The professor says she personally believes there is circumstantial evidence to support the claim, “but I do think we must acknowledge that we cannot state with certainty that Alexander and Hephaistion were lovers, either as young men, or continuing throughout their lives.”
“Like the detractors of ancient times,” writes historian Agnes Savill, in her two-volume Alexander the Great and His Time, “some modern writers have tried to explain Alexander’s attitude toward women as due to homosexuality. But when Philoxenes told the king that two beautiful boys had been offered for him, Alexander was furious: ‘What evil has he seen in me that he should purchase for me such shameful creatures?’ he exclaimed. ‘Tell the dealer to take his wares to hell.’”
Savill also notes that Alexander “likewise reprimanded young Agnon, for offering to purchase Crobylus for him, whose beauty was famous in Corinth.” [more]
Actually, most of Stone's movies seem to be based on the recognition of that maxim attributed to Julius Caesar: Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt (Human beings believe that which they want to believe). And sadly, to quote from Christof in The Truman Show, "We accept the reality with which we are presented." Or at least it appears that other folks always seem to ... (never me, of course :))
::Wednesday, December 15, 2004 5:07:25 AM::
~ Cleopatra the Scientist?
From Discovery.com comes an interesting bit of revisionism about Cleopatra that will surely raise at least one skeptical eyebrow on your visage ... some snippets:
Medieval Arabic texts suggest that Egyptian queen Cleopatra VII was a brilliant early mathematician, chemist and philosopher who wrote science books and met weekly with a team of scientific experts, according to a forthcoming book.
If historians can verify the medieval accounts, then the real Cleopatra likely bore little resemblance to the sexy seductress described by Greek and Roman
The book, "Egyptology: The Missing Millennium, Ancient Egypt in Medieval Arabic Writings," will be published in January by the University College London Press. For the book, author Okasha El Daly, an Egyptologist at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at University College London, found previously undiscovered medieval Arabic texts, translated them, and analyzed the texts based on his knowledge of early Egyptian history.
El Daly believes the Arab writers had access to first-hand accounts of Cleopatra, and perhaps even books authored by the famous queen herself. He thinks many of these texts no longer exist.
A library at Alexandria was said to have been burned in ancient times, possibly by a Muslim general who wished to destroy texts written before the Koran, according to Lisa Schwappach, curator of the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in California.
El Daly attributes the first Arab account of Cleopatra as a scientist to Al-Masudi, who died in 956 A.D. In his book "Muruj," Al-Masudi wrote of Cleopatra, "She was a sage, a philosopher who elevated the ranks of scholars and enjoyed their company. She also wrote books on medicine, charms and cosmetics, in addition to many other books ascribed to her which are known to those who practice medicine."
Medieval Arab writers such as Al-Bakri, Yaqut, Ibn Al-Ibri, Ibn Duqmaq and Al-Maqrizi also wrote how impressed they were by the queen's building projects. In fact, El Daly believes the earliest Arabic book to mention Cleopatra, a history of Egypt by the Egyptian bishop John of Nikiou, says the queen's building projects in Alexandria were "the like of which had never been seen before."
Yet another Arab historian, Ibn Ab Al-Hakam, credits one of the greatest structures of the ancient world, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, to Cleopatra.
In an interview with Radio Netherlands, El Daly said, "It was not just a lighthouse to guide ships, it was a magnificent telescope and it had a huge lens that could burn the oncoming ships of enemies that were going to attack Egypt."
Other early Arabic sources say Cleopatra created a recipe for a hair loss treatment and even studied gynecology. Writers Ibn Fatik and Ibn Usaybiah indicate that she conducted experiments to determine development stages of the human fetus in the womb.
"Above all, Cleopatra was an alchemist," El Daly told Discovery News. "She invented a tool to analyze liquids. Also, she was not working in a vacuum. There is ample evidence that many women in ancient Egypt served as doctors and were educated in the sciences." [more]
FWIW, as they say ...
::Wednesday, December 15, 2004 4:57:09 AM::
~ Theft at ANU Update
Some details from the Australian about what was stolen from ANU last week, inter alia:
Missing are a 2000-year-old bronze portrait head, "an actual reproduction of a visage of a person", believed to be that of Livia, wife of the emperor Augustus, or his sister Octavia.
"It is beautiful to the extent that it has delicately filigreed hair; it's a real loss," Professor Shoemaker said. "We used it for teaching what the real world looked like at that time, what people did and the role of women."
The other four items appeared to have a common, female, theme, Professor Shoemaker said.
They are a gold ring with a portrait head engraved on it with an inset cornelian stone, from the second century AD; a 31.5cm gold necklace from the first or second century AD; gold earrings from the third century AD, "ornate and unusually crafted for that period"; and a vase with twisted handles and a frieze of an erotic male and female design under an arbour.
Professor Shoemaker said one theory was that the thief was working for a collector who possibly had ordered "an assembly of five things". [more]
::Wednesday, December 15, 2004 4:48:37 AM::
Potentially interesting little preview of what appears to be some sort of television program in Australia ... from the Sydney Morning Herald:
Sharon Carter is 25, lives in Brisbane, a former army reservist who married an army bloke with whom, it turned out, she had nothing in common.
"I'm a divorced mum with two kids," Carter says, which sadly is not unusual. The next bit definitely is. "I've set myself the challenge of becoming Australia's first female Roman gladiator."
Feeling lost after the marriage breakdown, she joined Pax Romana, a first century re-enactment group. The legionnaires catch the eye as they parade in suburban Brisbane and Carter must fight to strict gladiatorial rules.
"It's not staged or faked," she says. Her ex thinks she's nuts, the Pax Romana lads think she's great, but she must learn to wield a double-headed Roman axe. She'll practise while doing the washing-up.
::Wednesday, December 15, 2004 4:44:16 AM::
~ Libraries Online
Not really Classical, but of great potential impact to folks like me who simply cannot get to academic libraries as often as they'd like, is the announcement by Google that they plan to put the public domain holdings of a pile of libraries online (including UMich!). Here's the BBC version of the story:
Scanned pages from books in the public domain will then be made available for search and reading online.
The full libraries of Michigan and Stanford universities, as well as archives at Harvard, Oxford and the New York Public Library are included.
Online pages from scanned books will not have adverts but will have links to online store Amazon, Google said.
"The goal of the project is to unlock the wealth of information that is offline and bring it online," said Susan Wojcicki, director of product management at Google.
There will also be links to public libraries so that the books can be borrowed. Google will not be paid for providing for the links.
It will take six years to digitise the full collection at Michigan, which contains seven million volumes.
Users will only have access to extracts and bibliographies of copyrighted works.
The New York library is allowing Google to include a small portion of books no longer covered by copyright.
Harvard is limiting its participation to 40,000 books, while Oxford wants Google to scan books originally published in the 19th Century and held in the Bodleian Library.
A spokeswoman for Oxford University said the digitised books would include novels, poetry, political tracts and art books.
"Important works that are out of print or only available in a few libraries around the world will be made available to everyone," she said.
About one million books will be scanned by Google, less than 15% of the total collection held in the Bodleian.
"We hope that Oxford's contribution to this project will be of scholarly use, as well as general interest, to people around the world," said Reg Carr, director of Oxford University Library Services.
Impact on libraries
"It's a significant opportunity to bring our material to the rest of the world," said Paul LeClerc, president of the New York Public Library.
"It could solve an old problem: If people can't get to us, how can we get to them?"
"This is the day the world changes," said John Wilkin, a University of Michigan librarian working with Google.
"It will be disruptive because some people will worry that this is the beginning of the end of libraries.
"But this is something we have to do to revitalise the profession and make it more meaningful."
Of course, no one mentions the price all this will be to the public ... I hae me doots that it will be free and, of course, the precedent for no-chance-in-hades-the-public-will-afford-our-rates has already been set by Project Muse and Ingenta.
::Wednesday, December 15, 2004 4:40:19 AM::
~ AWOTV: On TV Today
8.00 p.m. |DISCC| Seven Wonders of Ancient Greece
The ancient Greeks built the first theatres, staged the first sports events and worshipped in some of the most spectacular temples ever built; from prehistoric places to bold symbols of victory, explore the wonders of this ancient civilization.
8.00 p.m. |HINT| The Civilization of the Heroes
A visit to the heart of the first great civilizations between the Euphrates and the Aegean Sea takes us to the pre-Hellenic cities of Mycenae, Tiryns, and the legendary Babylonian city of Troy, where archaeological findings have confirmed existence of the world or heroes that Homer depicted in his epic poems. We even visit the site of the classic battle between Hector and Achilles. We take viewers on a virtual reality tour using extensive CGI recreations of great structures and ancient ruins coupled with scenic location footage. Features commentary from archaeological experts.
8.30 p.m. |HINT| Pompeii: A City Rediscovered
On August 24, in the year 79 AD, the apocalyptic eruption of Vesuvius relegated the memory of the wealthy Roman city of Pompeii to the realms of legend and myth. Take a virtual tour of this vital and fantastic ancient city as we explore its mysteries. Now, new excavations, sound scientific evidence, and extraordinary computer graphics recreate the magnificent city and the cataclysmic eruption that silenced its inhabitants.
9.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Ancient Evidence: The Real Mary Magdalene
9.00 p.m. |DISCC| Real Jason and the Argonauts
Groundbreaking new discoveries reveal that the myth of the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts may be based on real events.
::Wednesday, December 15, 2004 4:32:32 AM::