Latest update: 1/1/2005; 8:25:48 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ Propertian Pick Up Lines

Over at Laudator, MG suggests using a Yeats poem inspired by Propertius at your next office Christmas party ...

::Saturday, December 18, 2004 7:01:06 AM::

~ Dr. John Prevas and Alexander

Nice piece in the St. Petersburg Times about Classicist John Prevas' research into Alexander. Excerpts:

Thoughts of robbery and kidnapping, of anti-American militia shooting without provocation, of his hired driver losing control and careening over the dizzying edge of a mountain-hugging road, intruded on scholarly reflections as John Prevas chased history across the Middle East.

The author and Eckerd College classics professor traced the path of Alexander the Great for a book on the conqueror's quest two dozen centuries ago. He sought ruined cities and desolate mountain passes, drinking gallons of hot tea proffered by curious villagers in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He went to Iran, formerly Persia. He missed Babylon, where Alexander died, in what is now Iraq. He was only miles away but a modern war raged, closing the borders.


There are countless books about Alexander. Prevas, the adventurer, wanted to make his 3,000-mile journey the difference.

"Alexander and I traveled over the same roads, deserts and mountains. The topography has hardly changed," he writes in the acknowledgments for Envy of the Gods.

"But the world I traveled through to research this book is a far more dangerous and much less peaceful place than it was when Alexander and his Macedonians passed through it."

When Oliver Stone's Alexander debuted at movie theaters in November, Prevas averaged two to three interviews a day as an expert on the subject, speaking on NPR, CNN International, Fox and others. He watched the film from the back of a Tampa theater with a penlight, scribbling 15 pages of notes.

"The movie was riddled with inaccuracies," Prevas says. "Chronologically, it was a mess." But Stone, and actor Colin Farrell, did "capture the essence of Alexander: intelligent, sensitive, vulnerable and dangerous."

Prevas says Stone wants "to bring mainstream America its first gay action hero." Greek attorneys have sued the director over the homosexual portrayal. One reviewer said the three-hour epic "seems a couple of heartbeats away from turning into a gay porno film."

Alexander was not gay, Prevas says, but bisexual. At the time, men believed they could intellectually bond only with other men. Alexander had 365 concubines - a harem of women to pleasure the king. He also slept with young boys. Called catamites, the boys traveled with Alexander's armies, and in Greek society were educated sexually and intellectually by older men, Prevas explains.

But "the lesson we learn from Alexander," Prevas says, "is the arrogance of power."

"He began to believe his own propaganda." He saw himself as a living god, then systematically "purged" those who disagreed with him. When his soldiers said they would fight no more, he marched them across the Gedrosian desert as punishment, a "horror" which killed half his men.

In his 32 years, Alexander conquered an area that became the largest empire in the ancient world, sweeping from Asia Minor to India, Egypt to Russia, and ruled 13 years. He died June 11, 323 B.C., the cause still uncertain. Historians speculate he was poisoned. More recent theories suggest an infection, perhaps encephalitis or typhoid, killed him.

Alexander defeated the Persians, taking vengeance for the Persians' victory over the Greeks 150 years earlier. He failed, as nations fail today, Prevas says, to learn that power corrupts and, in the end, is fleeting.


Born in Baltimore, with a master's degree in educational psychology from Johns Hopkins University and a law degree from Antioch School of Law in D.C., Prevas teaches two courses a semester at Eckerd, Latin and either Roman or Greek history.

Envy of the Gods is Prevas' third book. He traveled the route of Greek mercenaries through the mountains of eastern Turkey and along the Black Sea in 2000 for Xenophon's March: In the Lair of the Persian Lion, published in 2002. His first book, Hannibal Crosses the Alps, published in 1998, followed six summers of exploring the mountain passes of the southern French Alps.

"That was not hard work, but love's labor," Prevas says. "It was summer. The views were magnificent. The food was incredible."

Not so his quest for Alexander. Relentless heat (temperatures soared into the 130s), crazed drivers (he says the Iranians are the worst) and impoverished populations made travel grueling. He drank four liters of bottled water a day and still became dehydrated. There was no alcohol in most of the largely Muslim countries. And few women out in public. Most were completely veiled in black, he says, their faces startlingly white.

Prevas intentionally brought his Greek passport, leaving his American one behind. With his skin darkened by the sun, he told people he was from Greece. Americans are targets now, he says. In Pakistan, he wore the long white shirt and balloon pants of the natives, his Pakistani "pajamas." He should have shed them before flying to Uzbekistan, where even the women wore blue jeans, and he gratefully washed down beef kebabs with cold Russian beer.

He explored newly discovered ruins in an orange grove outside Taxila, Pakistan, where a boy was sent ahead to beat a stick and scare off cobras.

He drove the Khyber Pass, "18 miles of hell. For centuries it has been the path between east and west, (carrying) a non-stop caravan of human misery."

He stood on the vast steppes of Uzbekistan, and thought, "This is where Ghengis Khan came from."

Real life was always more problematic than communing with ancient ghosts.

In a small room with no windows and carpets covering the floor, he shared tea with a Pakistani man. The man lifted a carpet, revealing a trap door. They were sitting on an arsenal and tons of TNT. Prevas purchased a $70 AK-47 and a single clip of ammunition. "The gun was a piece of crap," he says. He never had cause to see if it would actually fire.

Only once did Prevas fear he was in serious danger.

Searching for a pass called the Persian Gates, where Alexander suffered one of his greatest defeats, he drove into the Zagros Mountains in southern Iran with his driver and a newly made friend, Riaz, a 25-year-old medical school graduate from Geneva whose parents fled Iran during the revolution.

In a small village about 100 miles from the Iraqi border, they were told of an older man who might know of the pass. The man invited them into his house, where they sat cross-legged and shoeless on rugs, the three visitors facing their host, whose back was to the door. As they talked, two men "sort of drifted into the room," then a third and a fourth, Prevas says. "They were big, young men, unshaven. And not smiling." The driver explained Prevas was Greek, a professor from America working on a book about Alexander.

"When they heard the word America, all of a sudden people stiffened. The mood turned," says Prevas. The younger men began asking stern questions. They demanded Riaz's identity card. "Riaz had gone absolutely white." They asked for Prevas' passport. "There was no way I was going to turn that over," he says. "It was my only way out of the country."

Prevas told the driver to ask their host what was going on. "We have been invited into your home as a guest, and in Islam, isn't a guest protected?"

The older man then intervened, scolding the younger men. Stay for dinner, he urged. They said they must go. They walked to their car, accompanied by about 80 villagers. "We're hugging and kissing. I say, "How about a picture?' I couldn't resist it," Prevas says.

He has no photos to share. Riaz, shaken, forgot to turn on the digital camera.


He was going to see Persepolis, capital of the Persian Empire, where the palaces of the Persian kings were looted and burned by Alexander in 330 B.C.

Not that much had changed in 2,000 years, he thought. Differences in culture and religion and politics still roiled the region.

"Over the next several days I returned . . . to spend time photographing these ruins. Sometimes I would just sit in one of the palaces," he writes, "and enjoy the view over the fertile valley and the Zagros Mountains beyond."

He was overwhelmed by a sense of history. He is frustrated by our inability to learn from it.

"I would think of all that had transpired here, and it touched me."

I'm pretty sure that the photo accompanying the piece is NOT Dr. Prevas beneath a relief depicting Alexander ...

::Saturday, December 18, 2004 6:59:02 AM::

~ Alexandrian Library Anachronism

A comment on Google's plans to make piles of works available online has prompted comparisons -- such as they are -- with the Library at Alexandria. From the LA Times:

... Google's motivations may not be entirely high-minded, but whose have been? King Ptolemy of Egypt, for instance, said he created the great library at Alexandria in the 3rd century BC as a "comprehensive organ of all knowledge." But the library was also a key bit of empire-building that prompted Alexander the Great to nominate him as his successor.

Whatever Google's motives, its new project is likely to spread information in ways that Ptolemy could never have dreamed of.

Of course, Alexander was long dead before the Library came into existence ... apparently the author of the piece in the Times can't quite use the current incarnation of Google to check his research. Why do I get the feeling that this "comprehensive organ of all knowledge" quotation comes from a certain movie which Ptolemy narrates ...

::Saturday, December 18, 2004 6:39:02 AM::

~ Calgula, Claudius, Nero

An excerpt from a column in the MetroWest Daily ... I'm thought much of this was tongue-in-cheek, but the conclusion makes me wonder:

... To make the outlook more optimistic, one should remember that many past leaders with bad reputations had some positive characteristics. For example, the Roman emperor Caligula, early in the First Century, slaughtered most of his family and was generally regarded as criminally insane. He was, however, very kind to animals, going so far as to make his horse the First Consul. In the last 2000 years, no horse or other animal has ever again reached so high a government position.
     Caligula was succeeded by Claudius, who, according to a superb PBS series, "I, Claudius," was pretty good. After Claudius, however, came Nero, who was famed for playing the fiddle while Rome burned. What is less well known is that he was indeed a first-class violinist, even better than Anna Sophie Muter, thought not quite as pretty.
     Consider next Transylvania's Vlad the Impaler (alias Count Dracula). His activities have been the subject of many Hollywood movies. My wife, Sally, has visited his part of the world several times, and reports that he had a beautiful castle. And of course, he had very good teeth.
     Early in the Fifth Century, Attila the Hun led a horde of savages from the Russian steppes with the intention of ravaging Europe, and he had pretty good success at it for some years until he was defeated by the Romans. The paintings indicate that, unlike Dracula, Attila had bad teeth but he did have one favorable attribute going for him: he was an excellent rider.
     At least two rulers with bad reputations were saved by members of their families. Judea's King Herod seems to have been a bad hat, but his place in history was secured by his daughter, Salome, who seems to have danced very well. And more recently, Argentina's Juan Peron was famous for his pretty wife, Evita, who also had some very good songs to sing.
     Some historians have begun to suggest that the Roman Emperor succession of Caligula-Claudius-Nero has a similarity to the current succession of Bush I- Clinton-Bush II. If this is true, Bush II has the next four years to show us his redeeming positive characteristic.

::Saturday, December 18, 2004 6:28:51 AM::

~ Before Robin Lane Fox

... the historical advisor to Oliver Stone was Valerio Manfredi, according to the Scotsman ... most interesting in this one is the announcement of an impending movie about Hadrian:

IT’S WHAT ALWAYS HAPPENS WHEN history and Hollywood collide. Weeks before its UK release, Oliver Stone’s Alexander has managed to ruffle everyone’s feathers, with Greek lawyers threatening to sue over the bisexual Alexander portrayed by Colin Farrell (they changed their minds after seeing the film) and Greek and Macedonian nationalists sparring indignantly over ownership of "their" hero.

From a studio point of view, a good spat makes excellent publicity. But as the various factions argue over pride and perceived prejudice in Alexander, the classics scholars invariably engaged on such projects, whose advice is then ignored in favour of demands from Tinseltown, look stoically on.

Dr Valerio Manfredi, the Italian archaeologist and historical novelist, is uniquely placed to comment. He acted as consultant to Stone when the director first turned his attention to Alexander the Great, a decade ago. His involvement lasted only six months before the project seemed to go cold (it re-emerged in its present form with Robin Lane Fox, Oxford scholar and author of the definitive biography of Alexander, as consultant). He went on to sell an option on his own best-selling Alexander trilogy to his friend, Hollywood mogul Dino De Laurentis.

Professor of classical archaeology at the University of Milan, Manfredi has yet to see Oliver Stone’s Alexander. "But I have friends who saw it in the United States and their comments were quite negative," he says, from his home outside Bologna. His own Alexander treatment, based on his trilogy, was taken up by director Baz Luhrmann after Gladiator director Ridley Scott was too busy to proceed. With its screenplay by Ted Tally (Silence of the Lambs) and with Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicole Kidman pencilled in as stars, it was overtaken by Stone’s film and has since been on hold - although, at the time of this interview, Manfredi believed a meeting to be imminent between Luhrmann, De Laurentis and Universal Pictures to decide the film’s fate.

"To be honest, I don’t believe there is much chance for a second film about Alexander," Manfredi says. "If the first is bad why make another? If the first is good, why make another?" He sighs: "Of course I was disappointed. I believe that if I could have worked with Luhrmann, it could have been quite something..."

Manfredi, however, has more than enough Hollywood involvement to keep him going. De Laurentis also took an option on The Last Legion, his novel which merges the last days of the Roman empire with Arthurian legend. Production should start next year, with Anthony Hopkins being talked of as a likely star. If anything, however, Manfredi is more enthusiastic about his own screenplay of another historical novelist’s work, the widely acclaimed Memoirs of Hadrian, by Marguerite Yourcenar. It is going ahead, he explains, with Antonio Banderas as Hadrian and John Boorman directing.

Responding to occasional criticism from peers over his film involvement, Manfredi has observed in the past that "a minority read books, while millions go to the cinema. You have to simplify, condense." Mention Ernest Hemingway’s famous comment about writing for the studios - "You throw them your book, they throw you the money. Then you jump into your car and drive like hell back the way you came" - and he laughs. He would certainly have reservations about giving his work to certain directors, he says, although he regards his Memoirs of Hadrian screenplay as (relatively) safe in Boorman’s hands - "unless he has to make cuts ... But we have control of the screenplay."

Some of Manfredi’s archaeological forays have earned him the nickname of "Italy’s Indiana Jones", but unlike fellow classics scholar Lane Fox, who is an avid horseman, he won’t be taking part in any on-screen calvary charges. Lane Fox famously persuaded Stone to give him a front-line role as a Macedonian cavalryman in return for his consultancy services. As he put it in one article: "Big movies are notorious for trampling on history: I gave the year’s biggest movie the chance of trampling on a historian."

"He had the time of his life," laughs Manfredi.

Then, sneaking into the conversation like a wooden horse, comes Troy.

"When I saw the film, I was scandalised," he recalls. "I wanted to throw red paint at the screen. I keep an open mind but - Good Lord, this is Homer, one of the geniuses of mankind, who should be treated with respect."

When he first heard that Troy was in preparation, he offered his services but wasn’t taken up. "The problem is that they don’t have the sensibility. When they come to this sort of stuff they treat it like garbage because they don’t feel it. It’s not their heritage. They just say. ‘Oh they’re just a few university professors - who cares’."

Memoirs of Hadrian, he believes will be different and he clearly regards Boorman as a kindred spirit. "I have no problems at all in dealing with John. He’s very open-minded. I believe this could be a real cinema event."

::Saturday, December 18, 2004 6:22:53 AM::

~ Dr. J @ the Stoa

Good to see Dr. J. (Janice Siegel) is beginning to move her vast collection of photos of various ancient sites to the Stoa Image Gallery ... this is 'hot on the heels' (so to speak) of her moving her similarly 'vast' database of Audio-Visual Resources for Classics there  a couple of months ago.

::Saturday, December 18, 2004 6:16:50 AM::

~ JOB: Associate Librarian @ the Gennadius Library

The American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) invites applications and nominations for the position of Associate Librarian of the Gennadius Library. Founded in 1881, the ASCSA is a primary resource for American and international graduate students and scholars in ancient and post-classical Hellenic studies, and offers two research libraries located on its campus in Athens, Greece: the Blegen, with 87,000 volumes dedicated to the ancient Mediterranean world, and the Gennadius, with 110,500 volumes and archives devoted to post-classical Hellenic civilization. The School also sponsors excavations and provides centers for advanced research in archaeological and related topics at its excavations in the Athenian Agora and Corinth.

Responsibilities of the Associate Librarian include: supervising, building and preserving the collections of the library, including the acquisition, cataloging and indexing of new print and electronic materials; providing leadership for creating and implementing a collection development plan including digital materials, working in collaboration with the Director and Head Librarian of the Gennadius Library, the Head Librarian of the Blegen Library, the Archivist, academic staff and committees of the School; corresponding and exchanging of information with scholars and old book-dealers; providing guidance and information on the library's resources to readers and visiting scholars in the use of print and electronic materials; working with colleagues at related research libraries in Greece and abroad to develop and promote collaborative efforts; overseeing the Library's web presence; writing sections of grant proposals concerning the Library.

Position requirements:
-ALA-accredited MLS;
-BA in classics, history, literature or archaeology;
-Demonstrated skills and experience in relevant information technology, including its use and management, and possessing a comprehensive understanding of the technology-driven information environment;
-Expertise in one of the disciplines of the Gennadeion collection (classics, Greek history, history of archaeology, arts of the book, literature);
-Excellent knowledge of English and modern Greek;
-Understanding of unique needs of a graduate research library and familiarity with current issues in academic librarianship;
-Knowledge of best practices and current trends in managing academic libraries and serving library constituencies;
-Excellent communication, computer, organizational, and interpersonal skills;
-Specific experience working with Ex Libris' Aleph highly desirable.

The salary is commensurate with experience. Benefits include TIAA/CREF, health coverage, group life insurance, a housing allowance, and relocation expenses.

Review of applications begins immediately and will continue until the position is filled.  Send a letter of application, a curriculum vitae, and three letters of reference to Prof. Maria Georgopoulou, Director, The Gennadius Library, American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 61 Souidias Street, Athens, GR 10676, Greece or email application to Website: ASCSA is an EO/AA employer.
Mary E. Darlington
Executive Assistant
American School of Classical Studies at Athens
6-8 Charlton St., Princeton, NJ 08540
Phone: 609-683-0800
Fax: 609-924-0578

... seen on various lists

::Saturday, December 18, 2004 6:09:18 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.

::Saturday, December 18, 2004 6:04:33 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.

Publishing schedule:
Rogueclassicism is updated daily, usually before 7.00 a.m. (Eastern) during the week. Give me a couple of hours to work on my sleep deficit on weekends and holidays, but still expect the page to be updated by 10.00 a.m. at the latest.

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