Latest update: 4/7/2005; 2:21:07 PM
quidquidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ Peter Jones in the Spectator

Here's the incipit of Peter Jones' latest in the Spectator:

The government ardently denies that its proposal to allow 24-hour drinking will lead to streets filled with drunks. It then legislates to, er, deal with streets filled with drunks. Nothing could more perfectly exemplify Plato’s brilliant image of law-makers as people ‘slashing away at a kind of Hydra’ — the many-headed monster which grew two heads for every one chopped off.

In his Republic, Plato (429–347 bc) argues that it is the mark of a badly governed society to need constant rafts of legislation. He likens such societies to the sick, who imagine that they will get better by stuffing themselves with varieties of medicines, when they should be changing their way of life instead.

Plato’s contemporary Isocrates develops the point. In an address praising the way Athens used to be run, he argues that those societies which believe good citizens are produced by scrupulously precise and detailed laws are blind to the truth. If that were the case, he goes on, a state simply had to copy a successful country’s law-codes to solve all its problems. In fact, he says, good citizens are the product not of laws but of the habits of everyday life. Men from an evil background will not hesitate to break the law, however minutely codified; those who are well brought up will respect the law, however simple. [more]

::Sunday, January 30, 2005 12:17:18 PM::
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~ Latest Explorator and TV Listings

Issue 7.40 of our Explorator newsletter is available ... and so is the weekly version of our Ancient World on Television listings ... enjoy!


::Sunday, January 30, 2005 10:28:49 AM::
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~ Super Bowl Roman Numerals

The Courier Post appears to be first off the mark with a reference to Roman numerals and the Super Bowl ... from a 'faq' column:

Q: You said "Super Bowl XXXIX." What's with the Roman numerals?

A: If I've been asked that once, I've been asked MCLVI times. Up until Super Bowl I, nobody outside of Green Bay, Wis., cared who won the annual NFL championship game. But in the late 1960s - a time, not coincidentally, marked by the widespread use of hallucinogenic drugs - people started believing that if something had a Roman numeral in its title, it must be IMPORTANT. Hence the perfectly logical use of a perfectly dead language in the marketing of a football game.

::Sunday, January 30, 2005 10:22:58 AM::
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~ Etruscan Chariot Dispute

The Telegraph brings us a somewhat strange tale of a repatriation-of-an-Etruscan-chariot demand:

A tiny Umbrian village is taking on the mighty Metropolitan Museum in New York, claiming that one of its most exalted exhibits, an Etruscan chariot, was illegally exported from Italy 100 years ago.

The sixth-century bronze and ivory chariot, the pride of the museum's Etruscan collection, was originally sold to two Frenchmen by a farmer who dug it up in a field at Monteleone di Spoleto, near Perugia, in 1902.
According to family lore, the farmer received two cows in exchange. The local mayor, Nando Durastanti, believes that he actually swapped the chariot, one of the world's greatest antiquities, for 30 terracotta tiles. It was later dismantled and illegally exported from Italy, concealed in a grain shipment.

Dealers from Florence sold it to the Metropolitan in New York in 1903 – allegedly with the help of the financier JP Morgan, who would later become the museum's director – but Mr Durastanti says that the museum has no right to keep it.

"That chariot is rightfully ours and they've got to give it back," he said last week. "There's no question. We've got a very good case.

"It belongs to our territory and was illegally exported from the country. When it was taken out of Italy, the issue was even raised in parliament in Rome."

The museum had failed to provide proof of ownership, or that Italy had approved its export, he said.

Said to be the only Etruscan chariot ever found intact, the 14ft by 4ft vehicle, showing scenes from the life of Achilles in relief, was part of a burial treasure.

It was found with the remains of two humans still sitting inside, along with two drinking cups, which helped date it to 530BC. The farmer, Isidoro Vannozzi, is said to have stumbled across it while digging a wine cellar. He hid the treasure in his barn, fearing that the authorities would confiscate it.

The village council in Monteleone (population 662) has instructed solicitors to demand its return from the Metropolitan "to its place of origin and people".

Tito Mazetta, a lawyer based in Atlanta, Georgia, who is representing Monteleone, wrote an initial letter to the Metropolitan, demanding that the chariot's "uniqueness" and cultural importance meant that it should be returned.

Sharon Cott, the vice-president of the museum and its chief legal counsel, said that the Metropolitan "respectfully declined" to give up the exhibit. "The Metropolitan has owned the chariot for over 100 years, long after any legal claim could be timely brought," she argued.

The museum hoped that Italian dignitaries would attend the opening of its new Roman galleries in 2007, of which the chariot would be the centrepiece. But that would be out of the question, she said, if Monteleone "insisted on pursuing its futile claim" or "adopted some other adversarial posture".

Undeterred, Mr Mazetta sent a second letter last week, saying that Monteleone had the backing of Italy's Commission for Public Education and Antiquities, the Umbrian regional government and 37 cities and towns in the region.

He claimed that Morgan, who became the Metropolitan's director in 1904, had been instrumental in illegally obtaining the chariot.

Citing the case of an Atlanta museum, which two years ago handed back to Egypt a mummy exported to America in 1864, and Italy's decision to return an 18th-century Ethiopian obelisk plundered by Mussolini, he challenged the museum to make a "great and civilised gesture worthy of a great institution.

"What makes me so indignant is the offensive way these people viewed Italy," Mr Mazetta said last week. "They treated the Italians like so many Indians, flinging a few trinkets at them, knowing they didn't have the power to fight the likes of powerful people like JP Morgan.

"At the time, the museum's president, director and trustees, a group of very sophisticated, informed and powerful people, knew full well of the illegal provenance and understood the historical significance of the chariot. But they rode roughshod over the law anyway."

According to Mr Mazetta, the sale or export of antiquities unearthed in Umbria, and later in unified Italy, was banned from 1821, while from 1903 new legislation declared them to be "government property".

Mr Mazetta said that when Mr Vannozzi sold the chariot, he did so against Italian laws, meaning that subsequent buyers had also broken the law and were in receipt of stolen property.

Harold Holzer, a spokesman for the museum, said that Monteleone's claim was "like Italy saying it now wants France to give back the Mona Lisa. It's too late to discuss," he said.

::Sunday, January 30, 2005 10:20:57 AM::
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~ A Visit from Homer

From the Citizen Online:

As part of an interdisciplinary program at the Newfound Memorial Middle School, Greek philosopher Homer paid a visit to seventh grade students, complete with a white toga and walking stick.

Blind philosopher Homer, played by Doug Riddle of Hebron, told the students about his life and work on The Iliad and The Odyssey.

"Being blind sharpens other senses," he said, noting that his memory and hearing were well-developed. "I made an asset out of a handicap."

Little is known about Homer’s life, Riddle told the students, but the stories were told orally and built upon and eventually written down by someone else. Few people during that time were literate, he said, and the stories depended upon lore. They asked about when Homer lived and died and about his family, but Riddle told them that many details are unknown.

"I live on in my books," he told the students.

Literacy teacher Jennifer Larochelle said that Riddle was invited to the school for the beginning of the unit on ancient Greece. Students have been learning background information in Social Studies, but the unit will be incorporated into all different classes. Upcoming activities include: writing myth books to be taken to the elementary school and shared with students; reading parts of The Iliad and comparing it to other translations; writing biographies on Greek philosophers and studying the Golden Ratio and Pythagorean Theorem in math.

"The essential question is ‘how did the ancient Greeks affect our modern day lives?’" We want to create an overlap and form connections," Larochelle said, noting that all classes will contain a connection to the unit. [more]

::Sunday, January 30, 2005 10:16:49 AM::
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~ AWOTV: On TV Today

9.00 p.m. |DISCU and DISCC| Pompeii: The Last Day
On August 24, 79, Mount Vesuvius showered the city of Pompeii with ash, smoke and rock. The city lay undisturbed under volcanic debris for more than 1,500 years. Follow a compelling account of the city's final 24 hours, based on the buried evidence.

::Sunday, January 30, 2005 10:14:38 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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