~ This Day in Ancient History
ante diem xii kalendas januarias
- Saturnalia continues (day 5)
- Divalia Angeronae -- Angerona was a goddess named for the disease angina (she apparently had remedies for it) who also represented the 'secret name' of Rome, which presumably could not be uttered out of fear it would give Rome's enemies the opportunity to 'call out' Rome's own gods (i.e. to get them to abandon the city). Secret rituals, of course, would honour her on this date ...
- 69 A.D. -- Vespasian is officially recognized as emperor by the Senate
- 253 A.D. -- martyrdom of Themistocles
::Tuesday, December 21, 2004 7:47:08 AM::
~ Funniest Movie Scene
Blockbuster in the UK has apparently conducted some sort of survey on what the funniest scene in movie history was. The winner was John Cleese's "What have the Romans done for us lately" scene from the Life of Brian. I'm sure everyone who reads rogueclassicism has this scene memorized, but in case you haven't:
They've bled us white, the bastards. They've taken everything we had, not just from us, from our fathers and from our fathers' fathers.
And from our fathers' fathers' fathers.
And from our fathers' fathers' fathers' fathers.
All right, Stan. Don't labour the point. And what have they ever given us IN RETURN? (he pauses smugly)
Oh yeah, yeah they gave us that. Yeah. That's true.
And the sanitation!
Oh yes ... sanitation, Reg, you remember what the city used to be like.
All right, I'll grant you that the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans HAVE done ...
And the roads ...
(sharply) Well YES OBVIOUSLY the roads ... the roads go without saying. But apart from the aqueduct, the sanitation and the roads ...
ANOTHER MASKED COMMANDO
OTHER MASKED VOICES
Medicine ... Education ... Health
Yes ... all right, fair enough ...
COMMANDO NEARER THE FRONT
And the wine ...
Oh yes! True!
Yeah. That's something we'd really miss if the Romans left, Reg.
MASKED COMMANDO AT BACK
AND it's safe to walk in the streets at night now.
Yes, they certainly know how to keep order ...
... let's face it, they're the only ones who could in a place like this.
(more general murmurs of agreement)
All right ... all right ... but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order ... what HAVE the Romans done for US?
(very angry, he's not having a good meeting at all)
What!? Oh ... (scornfully) Peace, yes ... shut up!
And just to keep the Latin teachers happy, here's the next scene from the flick:
C: What's this thing?
"ROMANES EUNT DOMUS"?
"People called Romanes they go the house"?
B: It, it says "Romans go home".
C: No it doesn't. What's Latin for "Roman"?
C: Come on, come on!
B: (uncertain) "ROMANUS".
C: Goes like?
C: Vocative plural of "-ANUS" is?
C: (takes paintbrush from Brian and paints over) "RO-MA-NI".
"EUNT"? What is "EUNT"?
C: Conjugate the verb "to go"!
B: "IRE". "EO", "IS", "IT", "IMUS", "ITIS", "EUNT".
C: So "EUNT" is ...?
B: Third person plural present indicative, "they go".
C: But "Romans, go home!" is an order, so you must use the ...?
(lifts Brian by his hairs)
B: The ... imperative.
C: Which is?
B: Ahm, oh, oh, "I", "I"!
C: How many romans? (pulls harder)
B: Plural, plural! "ITE".
C: (strikes over "EUNT" and paints "ITE" to the wall)
"DOMUS"? Nominative? "Go home", this is motion towards, isn't it, boy?
B: (very anxious) Dative?
C: (draws his sword and holds it to Brian's throat)
B: Ahh! No, ablative, ablative, sir. No, the, accusative, accusative,
ah, DOMUM, sir.
C: Except that "DOMUS" takes the ...?
B: ... the locative, sir!
C: Which is?
C: (satisfied) "DOMUM" (strikes out "DOMUS" and writes "DOMUM") "-MUM".
B: Yes sir.
C: Now write it down a hundred times.
B: Yes sir, thank you sir, hail Caesar, sir.
Full script at lagged.za
::Tuesday, December 21, 2004 7:35:05 AM::
~ Henry Rawlinson
As some folks are aware, the most common translation of Herodotus that is kicking around the internet is the mid-19th Century translation done by Henry Rawlinson. A nice piece in the Opinion Journal gives a sense of who HR was:
Tehran, Baghdad and Basra, Kandahar and Kabul: Henry Rawlinson (1810-95) was familiar with today's hot spots. But they were really dangerous back when he was there.
In October 1841, Rawlinson survived an assassination attempt while serving as a political agent in British-occupied Afghanistan. Three months later, when an entire British army was wiped out on its retreat from Kabul, he helped rally the vastly outnumbered Kandahar garrison and saved the day. "Rawlinson," his commanding general had declared, "you like a skirmish. Take the cavalry and do as you think best."
He did, routing the Afghans before they could get close to the city walls. Afterward, his servant collected the heads of the men whom Rawlinson had personally dispatched. It was meant, no doubt, as a thoughtful gesture, but it was not well received. "Be off, sir," his master commanded. "I don't want heads."
In Baghdad, where Rawlinson was consul in the 1840s and '50s, his constant attendants were plague, malaria and restless Bedouins; so were a pet mongoose, lion and leopard. He kept cool during the summers by rigging a waterwheel to splash the waters of the Tigris onto the roof of his pavilion. In Persia, where he served as Britain's ambassador, he was an influential and a respected statesman, the very model of a Victorian major general.
But as Lesley Adkins makes clear in "Empires of the Plain," her insightful page-turner of a biography, Rawlinson himself would have insisted that his greatest victories were in the fields of language and antiquities. This colonial soldier, who went to India as a feckless teenager, managed in his spare time--and with the help of scholars--to decipher cuneiform, an ancient form of writing used in Mesopotamia for many languages in the millennia leading up to the first century A.D.
In 1844, Rawlinson scaled the almost sheer cliffs of Bisitun, in Persia, copying relief sculptures and their accompanying cuneiform inscriptions in Old Persian, Elamite and Babylonian. The trilingual texts allowed him to decipher their meaning. Indeed, they became to cuneiform what the Rosetta Stone is to hieroglyphics. "Says Darius the king: This is what I have done," the inscriptions declared, going on to list Darius's conquests. Rawlinson also explored the ruins of Mesopotamian cities, digging for ancient clay tablets that carried other such messages from the past.
His contemporaries viewed Rawlinson's translations with wonder, for they allowed erudite specialists to compare the stories of Herodotus and the Old Testament with written records. Naturally, rivals doubted that he had deciphered cuneiform accurately, suspecting that it was all wild guessing. It was only an 1857 translation contest sponsored by London's Royal Asiatic Society--pitting Rawlinson against other scholars--that proved he had broken the code. All their translations agreed; and Rawlinson's was among the most complete and fluid. [more]
::Tuesday, December 21, 2004 7:24:07 AM::
~ Poisonous Cleopatra
Once again, the poisoning of Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko has caused a journalist -- this time in the International Herald Tribune (originally in the New York Times) -- to ponder historical poisoners and, as you might guess since you're reading this in rogueclassicism, Cleopatra's adeptness at using poisons. Ecce the claim:
Cleopatra was an adept at empirical studies into the effects of snakebite on slaves. She is said to have found the mineral poisons too slow and too liable to cause grimacing and color changes in the corpse.
Perhaps a bit more interesting (maybe disturbing) is a reviewish sort of thing from the Medical Post (from 2001), which mentions, inter alia:
In his book, Murder, Magic and Medicine, author John Mann quotes an account of the deadly poisoned arrows by Sir Walter Raleigh: "The party shot indureth the most insufferable torment and abideth a most ugly and lamentable death."
Though the Natives themselves did not know how the poison worked, they knew it was a dangerous weapon. In fact, humans had been using poison extracts in warfare for thousands of years. One of the first accounts of their use as a weapon of war appears in the ancient Indian poetic work Rig Veda, dating from 1200 BC. Arrow poisons are also mentioned by Homer and Virgil—the Greek word toxikon literally meant "poison for arrows."
Poisonous plants also changed the outcome of wars, even if used accidentally. Marc Antony is reported to have suffered huge losses in AD 36. Forced to eat unfamiliar plants during the Parthan campaign in Asia Minor, his army was decimated after a great number of them "ate one plant that killed them after driving them mad."
The ancient people were masters at the art of poisoning. The Greeks and Romans adored poison, as it required both skill and knowledge to use and appealed to them intellectually as a means of murder. Mann explains: "They could select a poison that would take days or even months to take effect, thus ensuring the unfaithful or ineffectual spouse or lover would not suspect the reason for his or her lingering illness."
Cleopatra, famous in history for committing suicide with the venom of an asp, is said to have experimented first with poisonous plants, using her slaves as guinea pigs. Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) and henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) were ultimately rejected. Though both powerful and effective, death was excruciatingly painful.
Stychnine was also tried and dismissed; though quick, it left the victim's face horribly contorted. Cleopatra finally chose asp's venom, as it worked rapidly and allowed a peaceful death.
Another famous historical figure who reportedly committed suicide by ingesting a poisonous plant was Socrates. Sentenced to death for treason, Socrates took his own life before the sentence was carried out by drinking an infusion of hemlock.
Plato describes Socrates's death in Phaedo: "And the man who gave the poison began to examine his feet and legs, then he pressed his foot hard, and asked if there was any feeling in it and Socrates said 'No,' and then his legs, and so higher and higher, and showed us that he was cold and stiff." As the poison moved through Socrates's system, he ultimately died of respiratory failure.
Both deadly nightshade and henbane are members of the solonaceae family, which includes tomatoes, tobacco and potatoes. For ancient apothecaries, various solonaceae species were essential ingredients in their medicines, hallucinogens and poisons.
Belladonna was a particular favorite of Livia, the wife of Roman Emperor Augustus. Livia is reported to have poisoned many victims (usually political enemies), including Agrippina (the wife of Emperor Claudius), and her own husband.
[can you feel the anachronism? can you feel it?]
Always on alert for the possibility of assassination attempts, Augustus was known to prepare all of his food himself. But Livia thwarted his careful preparations by poisoning the figs while they hung from his personal tree.
Aside from its horribly effective use as a poison throughout history, belladonna was also, until recently, used in ophthalmology. When atropine from the plant's berries is introduced into the eyes, it causes the pupils to dilate.
::Tuesday, December 21, 2004 7:20:31 AM::
~ Peter Jones on David Blunkett
There's some sort of scandal afoot in the UK, centering on one David Blunkett. Apparently the hype has reached the gagging point for amicus noster Peter Jones, who was moved to comment thusly in the Times:
GREEK TRAGEDY? Hubris? Pride? Blunkett? Please, commentators, read a few Greek tragedies before you draw these ludicrous analogies.
At the end of a Greek tragedy, the protagonist usually ends up dead — torn apart by his mother and her chums (Pentheus), murdered by his wife (Agamemnon), murdered by her son (Clytaemnestra), or having committed suicide (Antigone, Ajax). They do not end up voluntarily retiring from office and weeping buckets.
Nor does hubris mean “pride”. It means aggressive, often violent, self-assertion, and is nearly always used of the behaviour of one man towards another. That is how it is almost universally used in Greek tragedy, and is hardly ever (some would say never) given by the poet as the reason for the downfall of the hero.
David Blunkett did not behave hubristically, aggressively, violently or self-assertively against anyone else. As Bob Marshall-Andrews, the turbulent Labour backbencher, has pointed out, he acted like Caligula, who once said to his grandmother Antonia: “Memento, omnia mihi et in omnes licere” (“Remember, I can do anything to anyone”). In other words, Mr Blunkett did what he did simply because he was able to. Not that Mr Marshall-Andrews was right to say that Caligula demonstrated this by making his horse Incitatus (“Flyer”) a senator. Caligula, Suetonius tells us, was said to have considered making Incitatus a consul, but this was clearly a joke, since the horse already had a marble stable, ivory stall and jewel-encrusted harness.
All Mr Blunkett did was to take advantage of his political position to help a friend. No Greek or Roman would have blinked at that. For pity’s sake, what is the point of being in high office if you cannot help your chums? It was one of the main purposes of getting into power in the ancient world.
Mr Blunkett does, though, lay himself open to the charge of behaving like a fool — because he behaved under the influence of lurve. This was an emotion the Greeks deeply mistrusted because of its power to derange judgment. And sure enough, at chubby little Cupid’s command, Mr Blunkett lost all sense of propriety and started spraying round visa applications and rail tickets. Tragedy? Comedy, more like.
::Tuesday, December 21, 2004 7:02:32 AM::
~ Translating Homer
Interesting little tidbit from the obituary of Syrian poet Mamdouh Edwan, who passed away the other day:
A Syrian, Edwan wrote more than 80 works, including 17 collections of poetry, 26 plays, 16 TV series, and two novels. He also translated Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey" from English into Arabic.
If that's not a typo, I wonder what English versions he translated ...
::Tuesday, December 21, 2004 6:55:43 AM::
~ Amphorae Arrests
A brief item from AP (via Yahoo):
Two Greek men were arrested Monday while trying to sell four ancient jars found by a fisherman for a total of $80,250, police said.
The suspects, aged 24 and 25, were arrested in central Athens during the sale of the amphorae — two-handled ceramic jars used for shipping and storing oil and wine — to a man posing as a buyer who had alerted police.
The amphorae date back to the Hellenistic era — from the fourth century B.C. to the first century B.C. — and were found in the sea by a fisherman in northwestern Greece.
The suspects were not identified. Police are seeking the fisherman for arrest.
Hopefully the fisherman will identify where he found the amphorae; there's obviously a shipwreck to be excavated.
::Tuesday, December 21, 2004 6:49:46 AM::
~ Throne of Darius Found?
Iranian archaeologists believe they have found a part of one leg of the throne of Darius the Great during their excavations at Persepolis, the ancient capital of the Achaemenid dynasty, the director of the team of archaeologists announced Sunday.
“Four archaeologists of the team found a piece of lapis lazuli during their excavations in water canals passing under the treasury in southeastern Persepolis last year,” said Alireza Askari, adding, “The studies on the piece of stone over the past year led the archaeologists to surmise that the stone had probably been a part of a leg of the throne of Darius.”
According to historical sources, the upper parts of the throne of Darius were been made of gold, silver, and ivory and its legs were made of lapis lazuli, Askari said.
The throne had been transferred to the treasury after Xerxes I, the son of Darius, was crowned king. In addition, the figures carved on the stone are similar to the relief works in different parts of Persepolis, he stated.
Archaeologists have speculated that the piece of stone fell into the canals after Persepolis was destroyed and looted by Alexander the Great.
Persepolis was established by Darius I in the late 6th century B.C. Its ruins lie 56 kilometers northeast of Shiraz. Darius transferred the capital of the Achaemenid dynasty to Persepolis from Pasargadae, where Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire, had ruled.
::Tuesday, December 21, 2004 6:46:42 AM::
~ JOB: Generalist @ Hofstra (one year)
The Department of Comparative Literature and Languages of Hofstra University invites applications for a one-year full-time position in Classics and Comparative Literature. A successful candidate must be able to teach Latin and Greek languages at all levels as well as courses in classical civilization. Teaching will include a first year multi-disciplinary survey of ancient and medieval cultures and their artistic expressions. Candidates should have their Ph.D. in hand by June 2005, and show evidence of excellence in teaching.
Please send cover letter, curriculum vitae and three recent letters of recommendation to Ilaria Marchesi, Dept. of Comparative Literature and Languages, 304 Calkins Hall, 107 Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY, 11549. Reading of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. Preliminary interviews will be conducted at the APA/AIA meeting in Boston in January, 2005.
... seen on Aegeanet
::Tuesday, December 21, 2004 6:33:59 AM::
~ AWOTV: On TV Tonight
8.00 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.
HINT = History International
::Tuesday, December 21, 2004 6:30:16 AM::