Latest update: 4/7/2005; 2:20:34 PM
quidquidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ Newsletter II

The weekly version of our Ancient World on Television listings have been posted ... (a neighbour with a snowblower did most of our snow! yay!)

::Sunday, January 23, 2005 3:08:58 PM::
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~ Father Foster

The latest description:

And on to the pagan gods the snobby Romans once believed in with our "Latin Lover", Carmelite Father Reginald Foster. Join him dodging around, making scholarly connections between ancient temples and Hollywood...


::Sunday, January 23, 2005 10:07:55 AM::
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~ Intellectual Life in Roman Alexandria

Interesting piece in Al-Ahram about archaeological evidence for intellectual life in Roman Alexandria ... an excerpt:

The Roman ruins at Kom Al-Dikka, which lie at the very heart of Alexandria not far from the intersection between Nabi Daniel and Hurriya streets, have yielded surprises ever since the Polish mission in Egypt was first asked to evaluate the antiquities that came to light when an artillery position built by Napoleon's troops was being cleared for development. It soon became clear that the site was far too important to be sacrificed to progress. Excavations commenced, and although the area constitutes the only fragment of the ancient urban layout, discoveries made there season after season have been accompanied by impressive reconstruction.

Among the finds were monumental Roman red-brick baths dating from the fourth century and closely associated with an elevated cistern that supplied water, as well as a small theatre with marble tiers of the same period. Both buildings opened to the west into a large open space lined with columns, the agora of late antique Alexandria.

The eastern side of the agora underwent reconstruction in the sixth century, with meeting rooms being built within the colonnade. The theatre was also radically transformed: a dome was constructed over the tiers of steps, thus creating a huge lecture hall in line with surprisingly well preserved smaller chambers.

More recent excavations have revealed a vast complex of well-preserved lecture halls of late Roman (fifth to seventh century) date. Some of them had been explored in the 1880s, but their total number has now grown to 13 and Majcherek says that only now has their purpose become apparent. The auditoria have similar dimensions to, and stretch along, the theatre portico, which is also the eastern colonnade of a large public square in the centre of the city. In all the rooms rows of stepped benches run along the walls in a horseshoe shape, with an elevated seat for the lecturer at the rounded end. When new rows of seats appeared in place of the lateral parodoi (passageway separating the stage from the auditorium), the classical semicircular plan of the cavea (auditorium) was changed into a horseshoe-shaped arrangement that archaeologists immediately recognised as similar to that found in the auditoria or lecture halls. The discoveries have shed new light on the function of the theatre, which was excavated back in the 1960s.

The rebuilding on antiquity appears to have been carried out to fulfil the need to adapt to a new function, which was to provide an assembly hall for meetings and lectures, seating a larger audience. Estimates of the capacity of the total number of auditoria, which are estimated to number 20 in all, run at several hundred students, which, incidentally, is the estimated capacity of the theatre structure.

This discovery has caused great excitement, since it has become clear that the Polish mission has actually put a finger on the very hub of intellectual life in late Roman Alexandria. The important issue now, according to Majcherek, is to understand what exactly this complex of auditoria represented. He claims that the entire evidence so far indicates that we are dealing with an academic institution that operated in late antique Alexandria. The central location of the complex in the ancient town, and the characteristic arrangement of particular halls, corroborates the conclusions drawn on their function.

Interestingly, all the halls line the back wall of the portico, which is in itself a monumental setting for the structures. These are rectangular and follow the same orientation, but differ in size. Five are located directly to the north of the theatre and are approximately of the same dimensions -- their length running in the range from nine to 12 metres. All five of the halls are bordered to the east by a long casing wall that separates the auditoria from an area that had already been abandoned and had become a dumping ground for rubbish and debris.

The main differences observed in the halls lying nearer to the northern end of the portico, according to Majcherek, is that while one of the auditoria shows the same characteristics as described above, another, which adjoined it on the south, demonstrates an entirely different plan. It appears to suggest a function quite unlike a lecture hall in that it departs from the described scheme not only in orientation, but also in the internal arrangement. Instead of benches lining three of the walls, there are two distinct tribunes rising high on two opposite walls and, separately, benches inside the apse, very much like those in ancient churches.

Majcherek admits it is difficult to say for certain whether the structure was yet another auditorium. "Perhaps it was rather an ecclesiastical building, a small church or chapel, that was still part of the complex as a whole," he says. However, the absence of evidence of an altar weakens this hypothesis. Even a summary review of known church plans from Egypt reveals no close analogies although, interestingly, churches with a similar layout of benches in the presbytery are known from Jordan and Palestine.

Majcherek points out two distinctive features of all the halls. One is that in some cases the central seat ends with an ordinary block of stone somewhat elevated above the neighbouring seats, and in others with a seat of monumental form with separate steps leading up to it. The other is that almost all the halls have a low pedestal projecting above the floor level, always in the centre of the room opposite the prominently positioned main seat, and usually a stone block covered with plaster -- in one case a marble capital was used for this purpose. Majcherek says these two features are of key importance in identifying the function of the halls. "The central seat undoubtedly served for the important person heading the gathering, and what comes to mind are associations with a lecturer's 'chair', while the pedestal would appear to have been used by students during their oratorical presentations," he says.

The date of the abandonment and destruction of the lecture halls poses no problem. In all the halls investigated, graves of the earliest, eighth-century phase of the Muslim cemetery are recorded, in some cases cut into the pavement or benches of the auditorium. Thus, the auditoria were not abandoned earlier than the late seventh century. This is significant, according to Majcherek, especially in view of evidence that the nearby bath complex was in all likelihood destroyed in consequence of the Persian invasion [in 619 AD] and was never rebuilt. "That being the case, we can be sure that our baths were not heated with the books from the library -- and put an end to the persistent black legend that places blame on Amr Ibn Al-As for its destruction."

Indeed, the lecture halls appear to have survived all the political tribulations of the first half of the seventh century and continued in use for some time afterwards. Certain evidence for this comes from an Arab inscription on one of the pedestals dating from the very beginning of the ninth century. The grand square at the crossroads of the two main arteries of the ancient town were also mentioned in early Arab sources, corresponding perfectly with the topography of Kom Al-Dikka. The location of the complex of auditoria near a square of monumental proportions suggests special status, further emphasised by the nearby presence of imperial baths. This entire urban district encompassing a vast square, baths, theatre and, finally, a set of municipal lecture halls, deserves serious consideration as the proper centre of the social life of Alexandria in late antiquity, and gradually taking over the role of the Ptolemaic gymnasium.

Majcherek points out that while surviving biographies such as the Vita Severi by Zacharias of Mithylene and the Vita Isidori by Damascios, as well as letters and other literary sources, provide a vivid and colourful picture of the academic life of the epoch, none of these records gives topographical references that might help identify the complex. "The richness of historical sources is unfortunately still balanced by archaeological ignorance," he says. "[Kom Al- Dikka] might well be university but we shall have to wait for the results of further excavations before making more specific and univocal conclusions". [the whole thing]

::Sunday, January 23, 2005 10:05:45 AM::
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~ The U.S. as Alexander?

HNN reproduces a piece originally from the Atlanta Journal Constitution on some parallels between Alexander's conquests and U.S. involvement in Iraq ... an excerpt:

After all, this isn't the first time a Western country waged a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. In 322 B.C., Iraq and its surrounding areas were invaded by Alexander of Macedon (known as Alexander the Great to the West and Alexander the Accursed to the East).

There are eerie parallels between the Greek king's ancient conflict and our modern war. Two years ago, Americans feared the weapons of mass destruction of a tyrant in Baghdad. Twenty-four hundred years ago, the Greeks feared the ancient weapons of destruction of a tyrant in Babylon (35 miles south of Baghdad).

We feared more attacks from terrorists after Sept. 11. The Greeks feared the same after a homeland attack years earlier. We feared that Saddam Hussein would hijack the word's supply of oil, cripple our economy and threaten our lives. The Greeks feared the Persian tyrant King Darius would hijack trade routes, stop the flow of gold and cripple Greece's future as a newly unified kingdom.

Both Western powers decided that a pre-emptive strike was the only way to stop the enemy, even as many citizens back home argued fiercely about the true nature of the threat. But here's where the similarities end.

Alexander didn't pretend he was going in to "straighten things out," install a new form of government and leave. He went in to take over.

It took Alexander nearly four years to defeat the Iraqi-based king. As the undisputed victor, Alexander walked into Babylon to the cheers of townspeople throwing flowers that carpeted the streets, much as we hoped our own troops would be welcomed.

Alexander's soldiers toppled the former dictator's statues upon victory just like our soldiers toppled the statue of Saddam. And just like Americans, the Greeks too placed a local leader in charge; only his name was Mazaeus, not Allawi. And just like today, the Greeks faced countless insurgencies from militant rebel leaders.

But here's where it gets chilling. The Greeks spent the next seven years subduing rebellions in every corner of the new kingdom. Granted, the Persian kingdom didn't just include Iraq --- it also included Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan. But the lessons of the region still hold: The Middle East has a track record of instability longer than the Christian Bible has been in existence.

When Alexander died in Babylon, 12 years after his initial pre-emptive strike, all Hades broke loose. The region burst into chaos the likes of which we can't even imagine today. Persian and Western leaders wrestled for power in bloody fighting that took 40 years to resolve. [the whole thing]

::Sunday, January 23, 2005 10:03:29 AM::
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~ Nuntii Latini

Finni de venatione luporum accusantur (21.1.2005)

Commissio Europaea de venatione luporum cum Finnis in tribunali Unionis Europaeae iure agere decrevit.
Nam lex Unionis iubet, ut lupi diligenter protegantur neque, paucis exceptis, consulto necentur.

Apud Finnos licentiae lupos sternendi ex magnitudine stirpis lupinae venatoribus conceduntur neque venatio bestiis magna damna ferentibus definitur.

Stirps lupina in Finnia hodie continenter crescit. Ante quinque annos lupi saltem nonaginta quinque numerabantur, hoc anno sunt iam minimum centum quinquaginta.

Lustra luporum duplo plura his decem annis facta sunt. Ergo investigatores Finni nullam causam venationis vetandi esse censent.

Tuomo Pekkanen
Nuntii Latini, Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE)
(used with permission)

::Sunday, January 23, 2005 10:00:06 AM::
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~ Suze Orman and Egnatius

Over at Laudator, MG is pondering Suze Orman and Egnatius ille ...

::Sunday, January 23, 2005 9:55:21 AM::
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~ Interview with Steven Pressfield

The Alien Online has a nice little interview with Steven Pressfield, author of The Virtues of War ... an excerpt:

Pressfield has a reputation for taking readers under the skin of his protagonists and Alexander is his latest subcutaneous look at ancient civilisation. "I discovered on my first book, The Legend of Bagger Vance, that it's possible to write in the voice of a person who's more intelligent that you are," said Pressfield. "Sounds crazy but it's true. Maybe the Muse kicks in, I don't know, but it's great fun. Like an actor, you have to just let it rip without fear of failure. What was particularly fun about trying to get into Alexander's head was that he, in my view anyway, was someone (unlike all of us doubt-ridden moderns) who knew exactly who he was from an early age and knew exactly what he wanted. In addition his genius, I believe, tapped him in directly to the deeper sources."

Pressfield enjoys writing about ancient armies. "I've always felt a decided kinship with the professional soldier's life - which is a lot like the professional writer's life," he said. "There's a character in Virtues of War named Telamon. He's a mercenary in the story and a friend and mentor to Alexander. Telamon is fictional. I used him once before, in Tides of War, which is about the Peloponnesian War (in other words around 100 years earlier than Alexander's campaigns.) He was a mercenary then too. I brought him back, unchanged. His point of view has elements of the samurai and elements of the yogi/ksatriyas of the Bhagavad-Gita, by which I mean a utilizing of the warrior's way of life as a path to wisdom, a conscious detachment from the outcomes of battles or wars.

"In many ways, Telamon is my favorite character and the one I identify most with. He uses money as a way of removing himself from the passions of his commanders. He fights for pay, not glory. He considers the soldier who fights for country or glory to be a fool. Those warrior virtues that seem to be developed for use against the external foe (courage, patience, steadfastness, etc.), Telamon cultivates for use against the internal enemies of his own psyche (laziness, inattention, greed, and so forth.)

"One of the reasons I set Virtues of War in India, at least at the start and end, was so that we could bring into play the sages and yogis of the subcontinent and set them alongside Alexander, his Macedonians, and Telamon. Telamon admires them and considers them greater warriors than the Macedonians because they are fighting inner wars.

"There's an anecdote in the book, a fictional one, where one of Alexander's Pages confronts an Indian ascetic, who refuses to get out of the public way for Alexander. "This man [meaning Alexander] has conquered the world!" says the Page to the yogi, "What have you done?" The sage answers, "I have conquered the need to conquer the world." In the end of the book, Alexander and the army turn back to the West. But Telamon stays, to apprentice himself (in his own words) to these sadhus of India. He's trying to combine the virtues of the warrior and the philosopher."

With extra characters like these, it's no surprise that Pressfield has avoided writing factual history books. "I'm more of a storyteller than a historian," he agrees. "What's interesting to me is to use imagination and invention in trying to bring back a vanished world and make it seem as real and immediate as I can. To do that, you have to fictionalize - just because we don't know enough about those ancient days to tell it as 'truth'. I don't only mean details like what a building looked like or how a battle was fought, but what was the character of such-and-such a personage. We don't know. We can only speculate on wings of imagination."

Virtues of War may be fiction, but Pressfield has still done his research. "The most interesting fact I found out about Alexander was the rite that was carried out at his father Philip's funeral. We think of Alexander, being a student of Aristotle, as a supremely rational man, a philosopher in his own way. And certainly his military genius was absolutely modern. But here's what they did at Philip's funeral: the corpse of the assassin was exposed, burned, and buried. His two young sons had their throats slit over the grave. Even the horses the assassin planned to use for his getaway were slaughtered at the tomb. Two other princes were executed for complicity. Then Philip's favorite horse and his favourite young wife were slain and buried with him, so that he would have them with him in the life to come. This, to say the least, is not exactly Aristotelian. [the whole thing]

::Sunday, January 23, 2005 9:54:10 AM::
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~ Latest Explorator

I've just posted issue 7.39 of our Explorator newsletter ... the television listings will come a bit later today (gotta shovel snow ... grumble, grumble).

::Sunday, January 23, 2005 9:51:45 AM::
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~ AWOTV: On TV Today

[apologies ... I had these listed as being on yesterday; they are on today]

6.00 p.m. |HINT| Atlantis: The Lost Civilization
Why has the legend of a continent under the sea captivated the imaginations of generations of people that have searched for Atlantis? Did Atlantis really exist, and if so, where? Plato discussed the legend in two of his dialogues, Timaeus and Critias, the only known written accounts from ancient sources that refer specifically to Atlantis. Atlantis has been linked to Bimini, the Canary Islands, Santorini, and Troy, among other places. What kind of people were the Atlanteans? According to scholars of Atlantis, they developed a technologically advanced civilization that has yet to be surpassed. Did Atlantis sink to the bottom of the ocean in a day and a night? What catastrophic events may have led to its demise? Or is the tale pure fiction invented by a Plato to illustrate a philosophic argument?

7.00 p.m. |NGU|Atlantis
What do we really know about the lost city of Atlantis and what happened on the day it died? Legend tells us that the golden civilization became so corrupt and depraved that it was destroyed by the angry gods, but did the city ever exist at all?

HINT = History International

NGU = National Geographic (US)

::Sunday, January 23, 2005 9:49:14 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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