Latest update: 4/7/2005; 2:20:00 PM
quidquidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ This Day in Ancient History

ante diem xiii kalendas februarias

  • ludi palatini possibly continued on this day
  • 175 A.D. -- Commodus is enrolled in all the priestly colleges
  • 225 A.D. (or 226) -- birth of the future emperor Gordian III
  • 288 A.D. -- martyrdom of Sebastian

::Thursday, January 20, 2005 5:47:49 AM::
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~ Classical Words of the Day

Today's selection:

perfunctory @

obviate @ Merriam-Webster

diriment @ Wordsmith (although they forget to mention Latin)

popination @ Worthless Word for the Day

... and a word that looks like it should be Classical, but isn't, apparently:

fungo @ OED

Meanwhile, the Classics Technology Center has (finally) resumed its Words of the Week with some Roman Family Terms ...

::Thursday, January 20, 2005 5:44:05 AM::
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~ Ephemeris

There's a new issue of Ephemeris on the e-waves (news in Latin ...)

::Thursday, January 20, 2005 5:39:04 AM::
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~ Oliver Stone Brain Cramp?

The more Oliver Stone talks about Alexander, the less sense he makes. An excerpt from a piece in the Daily Yomiuri:

Still, Stone contended that in contrast to today's war-torn world, Alexander created a situation of "one world, no borders, one king--himself, yes, himself, yes--but it worked for that period of time."

He created a multicultural "world civilization," Stone said. "Laugh at it if you want--people are cynical--but what a beautiful, almost King Arthur dream."

My charitable guess, given the timing of the apparent press conference and the wording, is that Stone meant to say "Martin Luther King dream" ... or maybe not.

::Thursday, January 20, 2005 5:37:46 AM::
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~ Spartacus

The Socialist Worker (not my usual fare, of course) has a lengthy piece on Spartacus and his revolt. Here's the incipit:

A GREAT battle in southern Italy in 71BC pitted an army of privileged citizen soldiers, commanded by a corrupt millionaire, against an army of slaves and rural labourers led by an escaped gladiator called Spartacus. It was the climax of the greatest slave revolt in antiquity.

Two years before, in the south Italian town of Capua, some 70 gladiators had armed themselves with kitchen knives, killed their guards, and escaped from their training school. They were among thousands of slaves being trained to fight to the death in the arena for public entertainment. Most were prisoners of war, victims of Roman imperialism who had been sold to slave dealers attached to the armies and then sold on to the owners of the gladiatorial schools.

Hundreds of men found themselves incarcerated in prison compounds with only a hideous death ahead.

Rome was at the height of its imperial power. It controlled colonies from Spain to Turkey, from the Alps to the Sahara. It had armies tens of thousands strong fighting at opposite ends of the empire. It was a vast war-making machine—a system of robbery with violence—in which wars were fought for the booty, slaves and tribute that could be taken from conquered people.

Ancient imperialism was different from today’s. Geopolitical competition between states and the use of force is now linked to economic competition between blocks of capital. In antiquity, the economy grew very slowly, if at all. Technology changed only in the long term. So ruling classes could not compete by accumulating capital, investing in new machinery, and producing goods more cheaply.

The struggle for surplus wealth was a “zero sum game”—one person’s gain was another’s loss because the only ways to increase wealth involved grabbing it directly from someone else. One method was to increase the rate of exploitation. Landlords could screw their peasants more. But there were important limits to this process. One was the dependence of ancient states on their own citizens to fight as soldiers in their armies. The other was the ability of these citizens to organise collective defence of their interests. [the whole thing]

A very nice photo accompanies the piece ...

::Thursday, January 20, 2005 5:34:15 AM::
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~ Venus of Marsala

Finally we get a photo of the 'Venus' statue found at Marsala ... I was wondering about the identification since we were also told it was found without its head; I guess any scantily clad statue of a woman is a Venus. From GuidaSicilia:

::Thursday, January 20, 2005 5:31:41 AM::
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~ Review from SBL

Elizabeth A. Meyer, Legitimacy and Law in the Roman World: Tabulae in Roman Belief and Practice (pdf)

::Thursday, January 20, 2005 5:28:39 AM::
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~ Reviews from BMCR

Panos Valavanis, Games and Sanctuaries in Ancient Greece. Translated by David Hardy.

Andrew Keller, Stephanie Russell, Learn to Read Latin. 2 Volumes: Textbook and Workbook.

::Thursday, January 20, 2005 5:27:17 AM::
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~ Robin Lane Fox Criticized

From CHN (an Iranian news agency) comes this criticism of Robin Lane Fox:

If Oliver Stone, director, author, and one of the producers of the historical film Alexander allocated only a small part of the $150-m budget to complete his historical consultant, Robin Lane Fox’s information, now we wouldn’t have to discuss a forgotten subject which of course will difinitely remain in the Iranian people’s memory.

As far as we know about the Western archeological studies, most of Iran’s ancient works and inscriptions have been discovered by the non-Iranian excavators, so that in some cases some of these information on the old history of this land has been more than most of Iranian reseachers know of. Therefore, supposing that the accessiblity of the documentary data about the eternal troops of Achaemenid dynasty is very hard in the west, a short trip to Iran and paying a visit to Iran’s National Museum shouldn’t have been so hard for Fox.

Moreover, on the basis of what Fox has said in an interview with the Archeology Magazine, it is obvious that he is a totally knowledgeable man, but what is surprising is that over his early talks with Stone the only term he has demanded was that he should be among the first ten fighters who attack against Achaemenid troops, whereas in the film the portraits and clothes of the Achaemenid fighters have no similarity to what we know about our ancestors.

It was enough for Fox to visit Iran and take a short glance on Iran’s National Museum and Persepolis to see the enormous designs and statues which have not been destroyed since Alexander’s attack. Just a look is enough to be informed about the clothes and the way of decorating war troops over Achaemenid era.

FWIW, a previous item we posted suggested that Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, whose specialty is Persian dress, was responsible for that sort of thing ...

::Thursday, January 20, 2005 5:21:53 AM::
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~ Another Alexander Assessment

Yet another why-was-Alexander-Great piece ... this time from the Herald-Sun:

WERE he alive today, Alexander III of Macedonia would probably be a bad-boy drunk with an equally bad dye job. Most likely, he'd also be gay.

But historians say modern labels can't begin to define him.

Military genius or tyrannical megalomaniac, Alexander was king of the Macedonians at 20 and ruled the Persian empire by 30.

He was a prodigy who flourished under his teacher, Greek philosopher Aristotle. He was also perhaps the first political feminist and multiculturalist, and a public bisexual, obviously a source of great interest.

"There's a weird Alexander mania setting in," notes author and professor Guy MacLean Rogers, who wrote <Alexander: The Ambiguity of Greatness.

"We're living in dangerous times, and there's a strong desire to believe there are superheroes out there. Unlike most, who are animated, Alexander was real."

So, who was Alexander and why was he so great?

He was nothing if not ambitious: In less than a decade, Alexander succeeded his father, Philip II, who was murdered, and conquered the largest empire in the history of the ancient Near East, stretching from Greece to India and from Afghanistan to Egypt.

Along the way, he demolished entire towns, killing the men and selling the women and children into slavery.

He was an alcoholic who believed he was a god and developed a paranoia which led him to kill his own men when they criticised him.

But he was a forward-thinker: Alexander set the stage for Western civilisation, including the world's three major religions.

He established city-states in every territory and brought a unifying language - Greek - to the masses. In turn, Greek culture spread throughout Asia, as did trade and the sharing of ideas.

"There is no question that he opened the East to the West and vice versa," says Ian Worthington, a professor of Greek history at America's University of Missouri.

"You could argue the legacy was 'great' because he laid the foundations for culture, literature, history and economics that came after him."

Alexander's megalomania was justified, at least to him, by his lineage to Achilles, the mighty Greek warrior, through his mother, Olympias.

He carried a copy of Homer's The Iliad until his death in 323 BC. And like Achilles, Alexander was certainly ferocious.

"No one who came up against him survived," says Rogers. "Some historic figures were good at fighting. Others were great leaders or strategists. Alexander was all of those."

Despite a harem of 365 women and his three marriages, many believe Alexander was a homosexual because of his intimate relationship with Hephaistion, a lifelong friend.

But back then, Rogers argues, bisexual relationships were fashionable, especially among the elite.

Every element of Alexander's life was complex and mysterious, including his untimely death at 33.

Most scholars believe he died of a severe fever, but others say he was poisoned. It's also possible he died of acute alcohol poisoning.

We may never know the answer, because Alexander's corpse is missing. Shortly after his death in Babylon, his body was hijacked to Alexandria, Egypt, and has never been recovered.

"Finding his sarcophagus (tomb) is the dream of every historian," Rogers says. "It would unfold the biggest mystery in antiquity."

I suspect a lot of journalists are recycling their undergrad ClassCiv essays ...

::Thursday, January 20, 2005 5:15:37 AM::
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~ Hellenistic Finds From Israel

I'm not sure if this is connected to the previous announcement of the discovery of a Hellenistic village in Israel, but Ha'aretz has this interesting item:

Five wine presses surrounded the farmhouse, built in the third century BCE, on land between what today is Moshav Gan Sorek and the Tel Aviv-Ashdod highway.
The house had a few wings and an area of about 1,230 square meters (13,200 square feet). The quantities of wine produced in the five presses was more than required by those who lived there, meaning that the farm residents earned their livelihood from producing wine in commercial quantities. The wine apparently was produced for export and was shipped to Mediterranean countries via the nearby port at Yavne Yam (today Kibbutz Palmahim).

The winery's customers also included residents of the closest settlements. One of these settlements was a large village barely half a kilometer north of the farmhouse, and was completely unknown until the salvage excavations conducted by Uzi Ed, Angelina Dagot and Kareem Sa'id of the Israel Antiquities Authority in the latter months of 2004.

The village covers more than 15 dunams (3.75 acres) and the dig uncovered what looks like its southern residential neighborhood and its industrial zone. Among the buildings and facilities found by the archaeologists were a kiln for firing pottery and a reservoir pit that apparently was part of an agricultural compound that did not survive, designed to collect the sediment waste from liquid that gathered in it - either water or grape juice. East of the village are 11 round pits believed to have been used for dumping garbage, as they contained mainly cinders and animal bones.

The village and the farmhouse were built during the Hellenistic period, when sovereignty over the Land of Israel shifted from the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt, to the Seleucids, whose center of power was in Syria. Buildings in both the village and the farm were made of mud bricks, used on stone foundations from the previous Persian era (fourth century BCE). Some of the walls were preserved to a height of about one meter, even though the bricks were merely sun-dried, with limited durability when exposed to water and humidity.

Ad says that this unique form of construction joins the village and the farmhouse to the settlement culture that existed in the Hellenistic period in Israel's southern coastal region, of which little is known.

Similar villages have been found in recent years in the sands of Rishon Letzion and in the Yavne and Ashkelon regions. Those villages, also built of mud bricks, produced wine commercially. Their ethnic identity is not clear other than that they were not Jewish.

The salvage excavation in the sands of Gan Sorek, financed by the Mekorot Water Company, which is building a facility for recycling runoff water, found that the people who had lived there were wealthy and had refined tastes and trade relations throughout the Mediterranean Basin. Among the artifacts found at the site were handles of jugs bearing inscriptions from Rhodes, leading Ed to the conclusion that the residents imported fine wines from that Greek island. There were also pottery lamps, decorated bowls and plates imported from Greece, stoneware from Egypt, 300 coins, some of them silver, which originated in the region that is now Lebanon, Greece and Turkey, arrows, bronze make-up implements and needles, and iron agricultural tools such as a scythe and a pruning shears.

The village and the farm buildings were part of a series of settlements built by the people of that culture in the environs of two large urban centers near the ports of Jaffa and Yavne-Yam. Like the other settlements, the ones discovered near Gan Sorek flourished until the middle of the second century BCE. The main reason for their decline seems to be the expansion of Hasmonean rule from Jerusalem and the Judean Hills westward toward the coast, which forced the villagers to abandon their homes.

::Thursday, January 20, 2005 5:13:43 AM::
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~ Hawks Protecting Herculaneum

There was a pile of coverage of this in the Italian press over the past couple of days ... but we get the BBC version today:

Officials say the Roman-era town south of Naples has been besieged by flocks of the birds nesting in the remains.

Three Harris hawks - named Airon, Gari and Miura - are to be employed to persuade the pigeons to seek an alternative home.

The town of Herculaneum, along with its neighbour Pompeii, was buried by lava when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79.

"Pigeons represent a series threat to the conservation of the area," the authority in charge of the site says on its website, explaining they have chosen to nest in the quietest corners of the site.

Perilous pecking

"The acidity of their droppings seriously damages the structures and the ancient decorated surfaces. They are constantly pecking at the wooden beams and the carbonised wooden fixtures," it adds.

The remaining wooden structures in Herculaneum are one of its distinguishing features as the extreme heat and fires generated by the volcanic eruption destroyed all the wood in neighbouring Pompeii.

The idea of using hawks to frighten away pigeons has already been used in airports in Italy.

Training the birds will be a delicate task as the hawks must be sufficiently well-fed so as not to attempt to eat the pigeons, but not so over-fed that they do not chase them away.

::Thursday, January 20, 2005 5:10:03 AM::
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~ Some Recovered Antiquities

A photo from of some of the antiquities recently recovered from a smuggler:

::Thursday, January 20, 2005 5:04:05 AM::
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~ 'New' Gladiator Theory

There's a couple of versions of this one kicking around ... this one's from the Scotsman:

HEROIC fights to the death between enslaved gladiators never happened, according to a controversial new theory.

The research, which disputes images of ancient combat such as those seen in the Russell Crowe epic Gladiator, suggests that the fighters of yore would have far more in common with the overblown histrionics of modern-day premier league footballers or WWE wrestlers: highly trained, overpaid and pampered professionals with throngs of groupies - and an interest in not getting too badly injured.

Research into medieval and renaissance combat manuals has led one classical scholar to suggest that gladiatorial fighting had become more of a martial art at the beginning of the first millennium, a report in New Scientist reveals.

To thrill the crowds around the arena the combatants would "display" broad fighting skills rather than battle for their lives, according to Professor Steve Tuck of the University of Miami.

"Gladiatorial combat is seen as being related to killing and shedding of blood, but I think that what we are seeing is an entertaining martial art that was spectator-oriented," he said.

Prof Tuck focused on fighting methods used by pairs of gladiators in one-to-one combat, as opposed to mass battles or staged events, and examined 158 images that show combat, such as a gladiator pinning down his opponent, his shield and sword on the ground.

Such gladiatorial art adorns practically all Roman artefacts, from lamps, gems and pottery to large-scale wall paintings.

To try to ascertain more fully what these scenes show, Prof Tuck turned to the pages of fighting and martial-arts manuals produced in Germany and northern Italy in medieval and renaissance times. These provided instruction in everything from sword-fighting to wrestling. He argues that, as such, they are a good parallel for gladiatorial combat.

He said: "They are incredibly important because they show sequences of moves and have accompanying descriptions."

From the manuals and art, Prof Tuck concludes there were often three critical moments in such fights.

The first was initial contact, with both opponents fully armed and moving forward while going for body shots. The second was when one gladiator was wounded and sought to distance himself from his opponent. In the third, both gladiators dropped their shields, seemingly undamaged, before grappling with each other.

In the books, this very act of throwing down shields and weapons to grapple was a common way to conclude a fight, without necessarily intending to finish off an opponent.

Prof Tuck concludes from the Roman art he has examined that the same happened during gladiatorial bouts.

In addition, the fighters were often patronised in the form of large sums of money from members of the very highest echelons of Roman society.

Prof Tuck said: "The emperor Marcus Aurelius put salary caps on gladiators, and to get to this state of affairs they must have represented a massive capital outlay for their owners.

"Now, it makes no sense at all for the gladiators, at such cost, to be killed in battle, because it would be like throwing money away. The gladiators were meant to be recognised, similar to the famous sportspeople of today, and they had great status comparable to the highest levels of professional athletes.

"By that fact alone they are not disposable, and their owners would not expect to lose their investment every time somebody stepped out into the arena.

"Famous gladiators seemed to have fought very rarely, perhaps two or three times a year, much like professional boxers do today.

"The aim was not to kill the opponent but, as the Roman poet Martial says, to ‘win without wounding’."

Bryn Walters, the director of the British Association for Roman Archaeology, agreed with Prof Tuck.

He said: "Gladiators were entertainers, sports stars, and they were the privately owned, pampered Beckhams of their day. They did not go into the arena to die, because they cost far too much for that to happen on anything like a regular basis. Senators, wealthy businessmen and emperors were hardly going to have their best sporting stars butchered in the arena to appease the masses.

"The only people that died were those that were sent into the arena to be executed, and they were prisoners, convicts, criminals and those captured from wars and skirmishes."

The fight books, which have been translated only during the past five years, provide new insights, placing increased significance on the shieldless ground wrestling.

In addition, there are literary references to gladiators being trained to subdue without bloodshed, and also evidence that by the second century AD, gladiators were extremely expensive, adding further weight to the notion that deaths were not the point of the entertainment.

Previous research by experimental archaeologists from both Vienna and Munich universities certainly backs up the claims of Prof Tuck. Examination of the remains of gladiators at the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey allowed researchers to conclude that they received the best medical treatment.

Bones 2,000 years old revealed that gladiators ate highly nutritional food to develop a substantial layer of subcutaneous fat over their muscles to protect them from cuts inflicted during bouts of fighting.

Ancient literature also reveals that attending gladiator fights was considered a more intellectual pastime than going to the theatre, with fights promoting principles of bravery and honour while drama was just entertainment.

Not sure what's 'controversial' about this theory ... I suspect the reporter might see it as such ...

::Thursday, January 20, 2005 5:01:19 AM::
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~ Bizarre Appeal to Classical Precedent

This is very bizarre ... the incipit of a piece from the Montreal Gazette:

A man who married a girl when she was 10 said Wednesday he did nothing illegal because, he argues, Canadian law allows people of any age to wed.

The law has been kept secret from the public, the man told his preliminary hearing on five sex-abuse charges. Quebec court has ordered the man's name cannot be published to protect the identity of the girl, who is now 15. A court order has kept him away from his bride, stating their relationship compromised her safety.

The man, who is now 52, said outside court that current laws make it possible to marry anyone - "even a baby" - because there is no minimum age.

However, he also said "federal common law" puts the minimum age at seven years old.

"People don't know the law and the law has been hidden from the population," said the man, who is acting as his own counsel because he can't afford a lawyer.

"Because the law allows marriage at a young age, the government did not want people to know it was legal and rather than changing the law, it just kept the law and made people believe it was not legal."

He said the federal common law originated with the Romans about 2,000 years ago, was transferred to England and France and then made its way to Canada and the provinces.

The law was codified in the provincial common law and the Civil Code of Lower Canada in Quebec in 1866, said the accused, who is a pastor in a Christian sect.

"There's a continuity of this law that has never been changed for 2,000 years," he said.

::Thursday, January 20, 2005 4:54:53 AM::
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~ CFP: Classics in North America


Canadian input is being sought for an American Classical League (ACL) panel on North American Classics: Past, Present, Future, to be held at the APA's 2006 meeting in Montreal. Organizers are Paul Properzio (Boston Latin Academy) and Kenneth Kitchell (ACL President). The panel will focus on the
history, present state, and future challenges facing the study and teaching of the Classics at all levels in the United States and Canada. Questions which may be addressed: Are conditions for Classics different in the two countries? Do they differ region to region within the same country? What are the driving forces behind change in the respective countries? Are there programs of distinction that could be recognized as models for training pre-collegiate teachers? What is the state of the supply of pre-collegiate teachers of the Classics and how might the two countries collaborate in this area? Papers may focus on a single problem or time period or take a historical or comparative approach. Papers addressing possible joint ventures between Canadian and American classics programs and organizations are especially encouraged. Deadline for receipt of submissions is February 1, 2005.

Each potential panelist should submit his/her own 500 to 800-word abstract on the subject of "North American Classics: Past, Present, Future," double-spaced, for papers of 15-20 minutes to Geri Dutra, Administrative Secretary, The American Classical League, Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056. E-mail: <>. Tel: (513) 529-7741, Fax: (513) 529-7742. Deadline for receipt of abstracts is FEBRUARY 1, 2005.

... seen in the Canadian Classical Bulletin ....

::Thursday, January 20, 2005 4:48:02 AM::
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~ JOB: APA Job Listings

The APA Job listings for January have been posted ...

::Thursday, January 20, 2005 4:46:24 AM::
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~ AWOTV: On TV Today

8.00 p.m. |HINT| Who Wrote the New Testament: What is Truth?
This is the story of a book, which at first sight is not very impressive--a collection of 27 compositions; and 21 of them letters. All were originally written in Greek. We do not have a single page or even the smallest scrap of any of the original writings. All we have are copies of copies written many years afterwards. And yet the impact of this book on the world is hard to exaggerate; impossible to measure. Christians have confidently revered the New Testament as authoritative--the word of God. But ours is a questioning age, and this series examines the truth behind the writings of the New Testament. Part 1 looks at the most famous quartet in history--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Were they the men who wrote the four gospels? Who were they? Why did they write them and when?

HINT = History International

::Thursday, January 20, 2005 4:45:19 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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