Latest update: 4/7/2005; 2:14:09 PM
quidquidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ This Day in Ancient History

ante diem iv idus januarias

::Monday, January 10, 2005 6:06:11 AM::
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~ Classical Words of the Day

Today's selection:

cosmopolite @

injunction@ Merriam-Webster

stichomythia @ Worthless Word for the Day

::Monday, January 10, 2005 6:01:58 AM::
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~ Something About Mary (Elgin)

I meant to include this yesterday ... the Sunday Herald had a nice piece on Mrs. Elgin and inter alia her role in the marbles affair:

In 1921 the National Gallery of Scotland accepted the bequest of an important group of 29 oil paintings by Mrs Nisbet Hamilton Ogilvy of Biel, a wealthy landowner in East Lothian.

Among them was a portrait by Baron François Gérard showing a determined and vivacious young woman staring directly at the viewer. Painted in Paris in 1803, the woman is fashionably dressed with a pleated white ruff and a black gown embroidered with gold. She wears a Greek or Turkish style of necklace from which a thumper of a rock adorns her décolletage. Such ostentatious jewellery and luxuriant dress reveal a woman of considerable wealth and taste. The sitter was the 25-year-old Mary Nisbet of Dirleton, one of the wealthiest heiresses in Scotland, and wife of Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin and 11th Earl of Kincardine, ambassador to the Ottoman empire and grand acquisitor of ancient marbles. The remarkable and little-known story of her life and key role in the extraction of the Athenian antiquities is told with zest by American writer Susan Nagel.

With unparalleled access to letters and journals – unfortunately not properly referenced by the author – belonging to present day descendants of her subject, Nagel has written a lively account of the heiress and her social milieu. (The biography has been edited poorly, however: the reader is introduced to the architect Robert Adams of the Adams family, among other errors).

Born in 1778, Mary Nisbet was the only child of William Hamilton Nisbet of Dirleton, who owned much of East Lothian. Her mother, Mary Manners, was granddaughter of the second Duke of Rutland.

As a young girl, Mary showed traits that marked her adult life: she was intelligent, high-spirited and passionate. Her mother and other relatives engineered her strategic marriage to Lord Elgin, a representative peer and successful career diplomat, but a spendthrift who had encumbered his Fife estates with considerable borrowing and debt.

In 1799, after Elgin was appointed British ambassador to the Sublime Porte – the government of the Ottoman empire – the couple married and set out by ship for Constantinople. The Elgins’ influence at the Ottoman court was enhanced by the deployment of Mary’s fearless social skills . She bore Elgin three children while in Constantinople and encouraged pioneering smallpox vaccination. It was indeed her own family fortune that underwrote the costs of her husband’s embassy, which was to have such profound consequences in Athens, then a minor town in an outpost of the Ottoman empire.

With British victories against the French at the Battle of Aboukir Bay and Alexandria, the Ottomans’ gratitude towards the Elgins knew no bound. They were showered with gifts and Lord Elgin secured permission from the Ottoman authorities to extend his artistic surveying of the ancient temples on the Acropolis in Athens into a full-scale excavation and removal of sculptures from the Parthenon. This expensive operation was again funded – and partially directed – by Mary Elgin.

In an appendix to her book, Nagel includes a fascinating letter – previously unpublished – written in 1805 by Lord Elgin’s secretary, the Rev Philip Hunt, to Lady Elgin’s mother, describing the new collection of antiquities. It also justifies the removal of the Parthenon frieze as a rescue mission in which the marbles were “snatched from impending ruin by Lord Elgin, and secured to the arts”.

In 1803 the Elgins ended their embassy and set out to return home through France during the short-lived Peace of Amiens. But with resumption of hostilities between Britain and France, stranded Britons were interned and the Elgins became hostages. Napoleon took a personal interest in their case, hoping to secure Elgin’s release in exchange for the marbles. Mary Elgin commissioned Gérard to paint her portrait in Paris to send to her husband who was under confinement in the fortress at Lourdes.

Meanwhile, in trying to persuade the French authorities to free Lord Elgin, she was assisted in Paris by fellow hostage Robert Ferguson of Raith, a wealthy landowner in Fife and close friend of her husband.

During the three years of the Elgins’ separation their marriage was placed under severe strain and Ferguson and Mary fell in love. After they were all finally released and had returned to Scotland, Elgin discovered the affair. In an unforgiving rage, he launched two highly unusual trials of Robert Ferguson for adultery with the Countess of Elgin in 1807 (in London) and a year later in Edinburgh. He obtained an act of parliament to dissolve his marriage and received £10,000 in compensation from Ferguson.

However the public scandal was huge and it destroyed Elgin’s future public career. Mary’s powerful family connections ensured that she protected her vast family fortune. However, Elgin retained sole custody of their four surviving young children and forbade any connect with their mother. After their quiet marriage, Mary and Ferguson lived happily, improving their great estates on either side of the Firth of Forth, but had no children at Mary’s insistence.

Without Mary’s money, Elgin, who had fallen even further in debt, was eventually forced to sell the marbles to the British Museum in 1816 for £35,000 – recouping only half of his expenses in bringing them to London. In her biography, which rightly gives back due credit to Mary Nisbet for her crucial role in the acquisition of the Greek marbles, Nagel makes no judgements about the controversy that has raged ever since. However, she concludes cryptically that the marbles have “taught us a lesson about preserving the past and the very sad consequences of neglecting our historical treasures”.

::Monday, January 10, 2005 5:58:23 AM::
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~ Mausoleum at Sarno

I've been waiting to see if anything about this would show up in more detail and/or in English, but it appears not on both counts. According to Adnkronos, at Sarno, they've been excavating a "mausoleum" dating to the second century A.D./C.E. which was preserved in another eruption of Vesuvius in the fifth century. The article notes that the mausoleum must have been part of a larger group of such structures, so hopefully we'll hear more about this.

[The ultimate source of the story (Italy's Ministry of Culture site) doesn't really add any detail.]

::Monday, January 10, 2005 5:56:00 AM::
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~ APA Convention Coverage

A bit of APA blogging over at A Little Urbanity (David Wharton's blog) and Campus Mawrtius, but nothing of the level we saw among the bibliobloggers when they attended the SBL or what is going on at HNN with the AHA meeting (note in passing ... I find it very interesting that one of the HNN 'interns' ponders the question of how relevant the AHA sessions are). Perhaps the (cynical) answer lies in the fact that neither the AHA meeting nor that of the AIA/APA have received any press coverage at all as of this writing ... alas, to take McLuhan to his logical conclusion, relevancy is in the eye of the media and changes on an hourly basis.

::Monday, January 10, 2005 5:47:28 AM::
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~ It Takes a Classicist

This is one of those things that I heard bits and pieces of in reports on radios that were just finishing when I turned them on. Anyhoo ... let's start by noting who is behind all this ... From the Times, we initially have an example of 'what to do with a Classics degree':

ROLY KEATING, a Balliol-educated classicist and the BBC Two controller who needed security guard protection, is an unlikely candidate for the scourge of Middle England.

Keating, 43, is regarded as one of the BBC’s brightest brains and was made joint-leader of the team preparing the corporation’s case for the renewal of the licence fee.

As launch controller of BBC Four, Keating gave space to challenging arts and current affairs documentaries that critics said had been downgraded on the main channels.

Promoted to run BBC Two last year, he promised to cut back lifestyle shows and to make his station “the channel of record about how British society is changing”.

After persuading the Globe Theatre to allow BBC Four’s cameras to film a live performance of Richard II, Keating hoped that Jerry Springer — The Opera would bring a recognised piece of contemporary theatre to a wider audience.

He defended his decision to broadcast the work unedited, saying: “The opera is about confronting people with extremes of taste and behaviour, so to compromise that would be pointless.

“Of course, it won’t be to everyone’s taste, and that’s a risk you take when you broadcast serious work.”

Although the Springer row has spun out of control, it has served Mr Keating’s purpose in alerting younger viewers that there is more to BBC Two than Gardeners’ World. His next challenge is reviving Top of the Pops, which transfers to BBC Two in the spring.

Now we turn to the Evening Standard to get an idea of how this has 'spun out of control':

BBC chiefs are facing legal action for blasphemy after screening the controversial musical Jerry Springer: The Opera.

And guards have been brought in to protect the homes of BBC executives responsible for broadcasting the show which was watched by 1.8 million people on Saturday evening.

BBC2 controller Roly Keating and director of television Jana Bennett have fled their London homes following death threats against them.

Their private addresses were published on the website of religious lobby group Christian Voice, whose members burned their licence fees in protest at the programme.

The organisation today revealed it now plans to prosecute the BBC and the West End's Cambridge Theatre, where the play is staged.

They say the musical is blasphemous because it includes scenes depicting Jesus, God, Mary and Satan - along with use of strong language.

One scene portrays a nappywearing Jesus confessing he is a "bit gay".

"If this is not blasphemy, nothing is," Christian Voice director Stephen Green said. "There will be nothing sacred if we cannot successfully prosecute the BBC.

"They've gone out of their way to insult Christianity, which is something they would not do to Muslims, Hindus or Sikhs."

He was unrepentant over the tactics his group used to protest - including publishing the private addresses of the BBC executives responsible.

"It reflects that we have no confidence in the current channels of complaint," added Mr Green. "These people are public figures and the information is in the public domain."

Mr Keating's wife Caroline is reported to have been "terrified" by malevolent letters, phone calls and emails. It is believed she took their three children into hiding before the show was screened.

The BBC and media watchdog Ofcom received a record 47,000 complaints in the run-up to the show and 300 afterwards.

If you want to read more, Google has more than 200 stories on this. In the wake of it, there appear to be only 18. What I find interesting is the role of (that catch all phrase)  'fundamentalists' (even though a Bishop was involved) in all this ... they were amongst those blamed by Oliver Stone for the lack of success of Alexander in the U.S. ... we'll soon be getting the box office reports from the U.K. ...

::Monday, January 10, 2005 5:34:49 AM::
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~ Alexander Spinoffs

Also in the Herald (see below) is a review -- which really doesn't review anything -- of Mary Renault's Alexander trilogy. It's more a brief sketch of Mary Renault herself  (and explains a lot, I suspect) ...

::Monday, January 10, 2005 5:18:41 AM::
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~ Homer (Simpson) Epicuricist?

The Herald has a review of Mark Rowlands'  Everything I Know I Learned From TV: Philosophy For The Unrepentant Couch Potato. Among the exempla, we read this about the Simpsons:

We rather confidently begin our TV marathon, then, aided by Paramount and Channel 4. The Simpsons are first on the schedule and we watch carefully as Marge's sister, Selma, introduces her new boyfriend, Sideshow Bob, to the rest of the family. Bob is fresh out of prison and, unbeknownst to Selma, has a vendetta against the boy who put him there: Bart.
"It's a Nietzschian kind of thing," diagnoses Rowlands. "Sideshow Bob's drive or desire has no outward expression because he's in jail so it turns inward, like Nietzsche's 'becoming inward' which is a precursor for Freud."
In the next episode, Marge buys a Chanel suit in a bargain designer shop and wearing it propels her into Springfield's high society. Consumed with self-betterment, she becomes embarrassed by Homer. There are two philosophical ideas at work here. One is the modern preoccupation with self-development; the other is Sartre's idea of mauvaise foi, or bad faith, which is based around the idea that people can deceive themselves about their identity.
In adopting these philosophical positions, Marge is demonstrating a fundamentally different approach to life from that of her husband. Where Marge attempts to expand her horizons, Homer contracts his. "Like Epicurus, he has scaled down his wants and desires to make them easily attainable: pizza and Duff beer," says Rowlands.
His point is exemplified in a recent episode of the show in which Homer discovers his below-average intelligence is caused by a crayon that became lodged in his brain via his nose. He initially enjoys his new-found intellect, but soon finds it isolates him from his peers and, being a good Epicurean, asks his local publican to replace the crayon.
"I'm pretty sure intelligence does not make you happy," says Rowlands, who attained his PhD at the age of 24. "If you start being intelligent you start wanting more things that are more difficult to get. It's a mixed blessing, at best."

::Monday, January 10, 2005 5:15:59 AM::
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~ AWOTV: On TV Today

1.00 p.m. |HISTC| The Fall of the Roman Empire
Under Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Empire was at the height of its glory in the Second Century A.D. His health failing, he summons all the rulers of the Empire to urge support of Roman peace. He also remarks to Livius that he wishes him to be his successor because his son, Commodus, is unfit to rule.

HISTC = History Television (Canada)

::Monday, January 10, 2005 5:03:37 AM::
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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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