~ Pliny Quote
A very apt citation of Pliny the Elder comes from the Binghamton Press:
The almost unimaginable scale of devastation wrought by Sunday's earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra brings to mind Pliny the Elder's observation about nature: "It is far from easy to determine whether she has proved to man a kind parent or a merciless stepmother."
And, interestingly enough, the quote is genuine, coming from NH 7.1 (Latin text courtesy of Lacus Curtius):
Principium iure tribuetur homini, cuius causa videtur cuncta alia genuisse natura, magna, saeva mercede contra tanta sua munera, non ut sit satis aestimare, parens melior homini an tristior noverca fuerit.
::Tuesday, December 28, 2004 7:01:37 AM::
~ What Have the Romans Done For/To Us?
From the Telegraph comes the latest 'what have the Romans done for us' piece:
The luxury housing estate and out-of-town shopping centre may need to be added to the long list of what the Romans did for Britain.
Work in Bath suggests that rich Romans were so keen to live close to city centre attractions that they abandoned the empire's traditional habit of building lavish villas in the countryside, well away from the neighbours and commerce within the city walls.
Excavations in Bath reveal that at least half a dozen elegant homes existed near each other and within easy reach of leisure areas. One villa was found while sprinkler pipes were being laid across a golf course. A second villa with mosaic floors was found a few hundred feet away.
David Musgrove, the editor of the BBC's History magazine, which reports the discovery in its January issue, said: "Bath was as much of a property hot spot then as it is now. The evidence suggests that Romano-Britons developed luxury, des res housing on the edge of the centre."
Bath had many attractions for well-to-do Romans. It had three hot springs, each with a complex of bathing pools, places of worship and, perhaps, a huge theatre.
Research over the past 15 years has found repeated proof that commerce was exiled to a ribbon development outside the city.
"The walled city was a place dedicated solely to the finer aspects of life," says David Keys, the author of the report.
::Tuesday, December 28, 2004 6:54:05 AM::
~ Pondering Lucifer
An interesting piece in Ha'aretz ponders how Lucifer became Lucifer, inter alia:
Recently, following my own erring ways I stumbled again on the name Lucifer, and decided to find out what it is all about.
It all started with the Greek version of the Bible, the Septuagint, when the prophet Isaiah berates the Babylonian king Tiglat Pilesser III. The king, who was only an instrument in God's hands, became too vain for his own good (or God) and had to be cut down to size.
In the original Hebrew Isaiah addresses the king as as Heylel ben Shachar. That was rendered into Greek as "Phosphorus" - literally "carrier of the light"; subsequently one of the chemical elements. St. Jerome, who translated the Bible into the Latin rendered "Phosphorus" as "Lucifer." At the time of his writing, there was a bishop in Sardinia named Lucifer, who spearheaded a heated and violent dispute with the Aryans, who agreed that Jesus was a supernatural creature yet denied him divine status. Lucifer founded a sect of his own, the Luciferans, but they had nothing to do with Satanism in any shape or form.
St. Jerome's translation of Isaiah, especially the part about the king being brought to hell, was the cornerstone of the myth about angels who rebelled against God being hurled from heaven to hell. Lucifer became synonymous with Satan, the arch-devil, king of the netherworld.
"Satan" in Hebrew, when mentioned in the Bible, merely means an enemy or adversary. Only in the Book of Job does he assume a personality of his own and figure in the prophecies of Zacharias, where Heylel ben Shachar is also mentioned.
King James' translators of the Bible in the beginng of the 17th century were well aware of Lucifer's devilish reputation and yet translated Isaiah (14:12-15) as follows: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit."
The Greek, Latin and English translators of the Bible did not err, and did not create a demon by a slip of the pen. On the contrary: They were as faithful (to the original text) as could be. The Jewish commentators of the Bible identified the metaphor used by Isaiah, Heylel ben Shachar - Heylel, son of the morning - as the bright morning star, Venus in Latin, or according to its Greek name, Phosphorus. The star's other Latin name was Lucifer, lux being "light" and ferre meaning "to carry."
So how did a carrier of light become the prince of darkness? It turns out that Shachar, an Ugaritic deity, had a brother named Shalem; their father El (meaning God) had had relations with two women. And Venus, or Lucifer, the morning star, shines brightly in the evening hours during part of the year. Jerusalem is "the city of Shalem," and according to Jeremiah (44:17), the cult that worships pagan deities in heaven was observed in Jerusalem. This is what the Jerusalemites told the prophet: "But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil."
In no way was Jerusalem ever a bastion of Satan. And the Christians were no less confused by the fact that Jesus is referred to (in Revelations) as "the bright morning star" - which is, yes, "Lucifer."
So I hereby renounce all responsibility for auguring the cat's temperament by naming him Lucifer in his kittenhood. As other, circumstantial evidence I can cite the fact that in Dutch, lucifer is merely a match, which indeed carries light. A Satan who looks like a thin stick of wood, lights up when his small red head is rubbed against the side of a box and then, unlike a burning bush, is totally consumed by its own fire? It's not worth "Apage Satan." At most a "feig" (it is Yiddish, for the heathens among you who did not get it)- a fig, not even a fig leaf, for him to hide behind.
And tfu, tfu, tfu, to be on the safe side. [the whole thing]
::Tuesday, December 28, 2004 6:51:06 AM::
~ AIA/APA Annual Meetings etc. Rant
The AIA and APA are both going to be having their annual meetings in Boston in the next few days and, of course, have made their programs available online. The AIA has put up their abstracts organized according to paper sessions (and they're searchable); the APA has an online index to the abstracts (as they've had every year). Both organizations have a useful scheduling tool if you want to try and coordinate your activities at the meeting.
This seems like a good place to mention that RM-B (the APA webmaster) has also made known another "dissenting voice" in regards to the APA's recent move to create a "members only" section. The Undoctored Past laments (as I have on several occasions; not in rogueclassicism, I don't think) the lack of availability of TAPA to the public for free. Although RM-B is right to point out (in a comment) that nothing has been 'taken away' from the public, it is also worth contrasting the approaches to exploiting the internet taken by the APA and AIA. We can begin by noting how much more convenient and organized the AIA abstracts are for the annual meeting -- the AIA stuff is organized by session and is searchable online; very convenient (especially for journalists who might cover the event). The APA is a big long list sorted alphabetically -- you have to download the program (as a pdf) to figure out when the paper is being delivered.
Now let's look at their websites ... the AIA has a webpage that looks like it belongs in this millennium. On one page we have the nice three-column layout that is now a 'standard' and on that page are clear links to everything the AIA does. There is plenty of news and there's also a weekly e-bulletin which updates interested folks in regards to changes to the site. By contrast, the APA site looks pretty much the same as it has since the beginning of websites and the initial page is pretty much just a splash page (meaning it has no real info on it) ... you have to click again to get to the info. Entering the site takes you to the 'new' page, which has news etc. presented in a links-only-without-explanation format. By way of praeteritio, I need not mention that there is no associated ebulletin for people to know, e.g., when Amphora has been put out or to tell the up-and-coming Classicists when the job listings have been updated (I daresay I do a better job of publicizing these things than they do, and I'm not even a member or even in academe).
Fulfilling the scholastic rule of three, we can now turn to their journals. The AIA puts out a number of publications, but their scholarly journal is the American Journal of Archaeology, which has its own website and, even more significantly, has its previous issue (October 2004) available online (as of some time this week; it tends to come out just before the next print issue is mailed). Abstracts and full text of the complete issue are available to everyone with an internet connection and Adobe Acrobat reader. Full text of all issues back to 2000 are available. By contrast, the APA's professional journal, Transactions of the American Philological Association, will be among those things in the Members Only section. Intrepid outsiders can, of course, go to Project Muse to get TOCS and abstracts of the current issue, and teased with the possibility of downloading same. You can't even download book reviews for free.
So ... who do you suppose has the model for doing things right? To be fair, the APA isn't alone in regards to their lack of 'publication' of their journals. The Classics Association of Canada is pretty much in the same boat with Phoenix and Mouseion, although they do keep those who want to know up-to-date with the Canadian Classical Bulletin (which I frequently mention in these pages). Other Classics journals are similarly 'exclusive' ... the once-cutting-edge Ancient History Bulletin has been dragged kicking and screaming off the web (even from the Wayback Machine). Pretty much every other print journal -- save for ZPE -- if it has a website at all (and/or if that website is up-to-date), is confined to TOCs and blank 'abstract' pages. I'm still trying to figure out whether CAMWS's Classical Journal is available online anywhere in any form.
But the apparent 'groupthink' going on here doesn't make it 'right' (or left, as the politics may be). As a group, Classical organizations simply aren't up to snuff when it comes to making the fullest possible use of the Internet. Sure, we'll hear the usual 'funds not available' argument or 'lack of time' argument or 'lack of (wo)manpower' argument, but why can't all the 'big organizations' get together and pool a bit of funding to have someone do this for ALL of them? Why can't there be a 'Classics Central' website where all such organizations can have a professional-looking homepage, with info about/from journals available, with facility to subscribe to a weekly e-newsletter etc.? Oh ... and not run by a 'committee'.
::Tuesday, December 28, 2004 6:47:48 AM::
~ Alexander in Europe (I?)
The Belfast Telegraph has a reallllllllllly long (p)review of the Alexander flick (it opens January 6 there) and inter alia, it looks like in Europe the 'political' angle might get some play. Ecce:
Alexander's story is one of literally global ambition, one that shaped the Ancient World; his Eastern crusades ended the ancient dynasties of Persia and Egypt. Alexander effectively invented the Western idea of Empire, globalisation and stamped his face on our idea of fame and success. He wanted nothing less than the whole world to be Alexander.
For a while he came shockingly close to achieving just that, boldly going where no man had gone before (another boyhood hero of mine, William Shatner, played Alexander in a TV series before landing the role of Captain James Tiberius Kirk). In part, his success was due to the way he succeeded in portraying his own ambition and self-interest as being for the benefit of Macedonia, pan-Hellinism or humanity itself.
In this Alexander could be seen as the ancient template for a neo-con America; he even invaded and conquered what is today Iraq and Afghanistan - as well as Iran. But, like the neo-cons, he could conquer but he couldn't or wouldn't administrate: rebellions broke out frequently and his Empire dissolved immediately after his death; Alexander, like contemporary audiences, had a short attention span.
Certainly Stone's epic new biopic could be subtitled: Operation Persian Freedom. His Alexander mouths platitudes about liberating Asia; the turbaned, bearded King Darius looks oddly like Bin Laden and, after his decisive defeat at Gaugamela, he is hunted down by Alexander in the mountains. [the whole thing]
::Tuesday, December 28, 2004 5:50:26 AM::
~ AWOTV: On TV Today
11.00 p.m. |HINT| The Sunken City
The ancient Roman city of Ostia was once a vital seaport. Yet it died a slow, painful death. This documentary explores the reasons for its demise and looks at the abandoned wasteland today.
HINT = History International
::Tuesday, December 28, 2004 5:40:53 AM::