~ Latin and Latinteach Down
From Ginny Lindzey comes this bit o' news:
Latinteach is currently down. For that matter, the Latin list is down too. (I just forget about it because I haven't been on it for a while.) It was managed on vLists which was a wonderfully run one-man show. Sadly, that man has just died of a heart attack. The list manager for Latinteach and Latin, Sharon Kazmierski, is currently scrambling for a new place to move the list, etc..
No doubt this is connected to various floods of repeats folks have been getting of my rc announcements and the strange trickles of repeats that have just begun for me. Stay tuned ...
::Saturday, February 12, 2005 12:16:52 PM::
~ Sword and Sandal Flicks
A lengthy article in The Age about Sword and Sandal flicks ... here's a bit from the middle:
Yes, but what kind of romancing has the Stone indulged in? This Alexander is the story of a rough, not quite American people - in a rather imaginative representation of Macedonian marginalism all the Macedonians speak Irish English, a strategy that works rather well - and in ideology-fraught America he may not be quite the conquering hero that anybody in particular wants to claim.
He is a conqueror all right and mutters the deadly American imperial mantra about freedom in his thick Celtic tones. He says the vanquished Persians are not barbarians (remember that Alexander married Roxanne, the daughter of the Persian king, Darius) and he enters a Babylon that reminds us of the treasures destroyed in the aftermath of Baghdad falling.
On the other hand, this is a blatantly bisexual Alexander and although the gay sex has been cut the homoerotic feeling has not. Jared Leto, as Alexander's lover, Hephaistion, is very beautiful and tenderly considerate in a way wholly unfamiliar in Hollywood representations of male love. How does this play in a country that can tie itself in knots over the question of gay marriage?
It's a complex mix of elements and it points to the fact that Hollywood's epic spectaculars of the ancient world have always had the capacity to allegorise the invisible, through whatever dark mirror.
D.W.Griffith had his biblical moments in Intolerance at the start of the silent era and Cecil B.DeMille filmed the Christ story for the first time, lavishly, at the end of it; and followed that at the start of the talkie era with the lions and martyrs in Sign of the Cross. But it's in the period after World War II, in particular from the early 1950s to the mid '60s, that the superior Hollywood version of sword and sandals reigns supreme.
These were, after all, films so expensive that from the time of Anthony Mann's Fall of the Roman Empire in 1964 until Ridley Scott revived the genre in Gladiator with the help of computatronics no one could afford to make one. Apart from anything else, whole armies of extras - sometimes they were literally armies - had to be paid. And the sets rivalled the colossal ambitions of the thing represented, they bestrode the world.
They were designed to display the great new technical advances of the cinema. The Robe, for instance, was the first film shown in cinemascope and this film about the miraculous properties of Christ's seamless garment was able to work its magic about Christians and martyrs, splendour and sadism, all the more effectively because this Roman circus of spectacular effects was being performed with the imprimatur of religious good intentions.
What was it that produced these films apart from the desire for big screens, lots of colour, flashing helmets, armies that marched as their plumes blobbed, gladiators and lions and the spectacle of pagan pomp in the middle of the expectation of Christianity? Partly it had to be that we had not so long ago won a war against Nazi Germany and the Hollywood epic could be seen as Leni Riefenstahl's revenge.
Hitler's would-be thousand-year Reich had claims as high as any to be seen as an evil empire and Soviet Communism was no pretty thing. Besides, deep in the American soul there was the intuition that Pax Americana was like the Roman Empire, in its brutality as well as its grandeur, and that although Christianity might mitigate this the might and the right went with the force.
Was it always a whoring after strange gods, this attempt to celebrate the glory of God in the mouth of the splendour of paganism? Charlton Heston has extraordinary authority as Moses in The Ten Commandments (you can see why he went on to play Macbeth on stage and to record Moby Dick) though it's Yul Brynner as the Pharaoh Rameses who is the Darth Vader of the piece, who has the glamour of evil and he is also the figure closest to tragedy who weeps for his dead son.
In a popular form such as the Hollywood epic the energy tends to be with the devil's party. Ben Hur climaxes with crucifixion and conversion but everyone knows that the defining moment is when Ben Hur takes it up to his Roman enemy (once childhood friend) Messala and half kills him in the arena in that chariot race. Still it was Stephen Boyd, the villain, who had the looming presence.
One of the characteristics of the Hollywood version of sword and sandal is that it was British classical actors who tended to play the Romans (or pagans or bad guys) whereas the Christians and martyrs, the people of the book, were predominantly American. That's true of Ben Hur and it is true in a different way of the greatest of all Hollywood Greco-Romans, Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus.
Spartacus is the depiction of a slave revolt in the first century BC, during one of the troubled periods of the Roman republic, but the division of the leading players is such that Spartacus and his fellow rebel slaves come across like New York wharfies, whereas the Romans, patrician and republican, speak in the accents of the older empire, in particular the transfigured form of standard English that haunts the classical stage.
Plebeian, potentially classless American voices and the accents of imperial power. It's an appropriate designation for Spartacus because it is a Hollywood epic like no other. If DeMille and William Wyler (the director of Ben Hur) represented an older Hollywood, Kubrick only a few years into his startling auteur's career - this is before Dr Strangelove or Lolita - represented the new testament that would bring the old to its fulfilment. He did not have complete control of the final cut of Spartacus but it remains a dazzling realisation of what the Roman Hollywood epic could be. [the whole thing]
The piece ends with some good synopses of various epic flicks ...
::Saturday, February 12, 2005 8:10:15 AM::
~ Attic and Indian Drama
From the Calcutta Telegraph:
The New World looks at the Old with awe and wonder. And, sometimes, incomprehension.
Confounded, no doubt, by some ways of life and traditions that refuse to die in spite of cataclysms that changed the course of history.
Robert Emmet Meagher, currently professor of humanities at Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts, and an authority on Greek drama, gave a lecture on his current engagement with Indian folk dance traditions, particularly Chhau, exploring Attic drama through indigenous forms.
Meagher was invited by CIMA Gallery to speak on his experiment with Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes, using Chhau and the dance of the Santhals to resuscitate a tradition that died more than 2,000 years ago.
He was against using the word fusion, because it suggested an artificial combination. He preferred using the term gene therapy, where a regeneration of lost cells is encouraged through gene transfer into an ailing organism.
He spoke on the chorus in Greek drama and how modern productions feel unsure of how to handle something that became more of an appendage, now that the rituals with which the chorus was associated are lost in antiquity.
He went on to trace parallels between the Greek drama and the Indian epic traditions, as manifested in the Mahabharata, which, he said, were “so revelatory of each other.” Yet there was a “resistance” to admitting these cultural influences beyond Alexander’s times.
To anybody who has flipped through Robert Graves’ compilation of classical myths and The Golden Bough, such cross-cultural readings may not come as a surprise.
Meagher went on to describe how he tried to bring back to life Seven Against Thebes by incorporating Purulia traditions. Chhau masks were modified to resemble helmeted heads. The end product closely resembled the androids and alpha males so popular among toy manufacturers. The Santhal girls looked enervated.
Mainak Bhaumik’s documentary on Chhau, produced by CIMA, proved anew that this form is literally alive and kicking. The singer in the background score had a voice that was a bridge across centuries.
::Saturday, February 12, 2005 7:49:41 AM::
Idle surfing last night brought me to Ultralingua, which is a really interesting little online dictionary/translation thing which does do Latin - English stuff (sort of). On the Latin side of things, you can type in a word and it will give you possible 'origin' words (which could be useful) ... typing in bellum, e.g., does give you bellum, -i and bellus, -a, -um. It also gives you belua, beluosus, and Belus. Another section of the page gives you the opportunity to put in the url of a page -- e.g. an Italian newspaper -- and it reproduces it, but each word is hyperlinked to the dictionary. So if you're trying to read some of the Italian articles I post, if you run it through ultralingua, you can get immediate popup help for those words that you don't quite get (but obviously you have to have some knowledge of Italian). This section doesn't have a Latin part, alas ... In any event, it's rather more useful than the Google translation thing if you have some knowledge of the language in question. Try it out!
::Saturday, February 12, 2005 7:47:21 AM::
~ Roman Coffin Found
From the Times (misfiled this one from February 7):
A ROMAN wooden coffin has been unearthed in London, the only example of its kind found in Britain.
Archaeologists expressed excitement that it had survived intact, centuries after other examples had disintegrated without trace. In dating from AD120, the new find is an unusually early example of a Roman burial.
It was not until the 3rd century AD that the Roman Britons generally buried their dead. Prior to this they usually favoured cremation. The skeleton belonged to a man over the age of 25, at a time when only 10 per cent lived beyond the age of 45.
The coffin, which went on display yesterday at the Museum of London, was found during building work in Holborn, on a steep side of the River Fleet, one of the many rivers that flow beneath London’s streets to the Thames.
Although the coffin was made of re-used old oak and included only a modest wine flagon, it does not necessarily reflect a low status. The skeleton shows a degeneration that tends to indicate a high-calorie diet.
Jenny Hall, the Museum of London’s Roman curator, said: “That could mean a higher social rank. Grave goods don’t necessarily mean you’re rich. Only a quarter of people buried had grave goods.”
As the wood that lay under the body survived because it was kept in wet conditions without oxygen getting to it, the weight of the skeleton left an impression of the ribs, spine and knee-joints. “It gives it rather a ghostly appearance,” Mrs Hall said.
The coffin dates from a time when Roman London had passed its peak but was still quite prosperous. Merchants were regularly coming to the city. John Pearce, a Roman archaeologist specialising in death and burial from the Department of Classics at King’s College, London, was excited by the discovery: “A coffin survival is absolutely exceptional.”
He said that burials are sometimes associated with people who converted to Christianity, although it was never a major religion in Roman Britain and had no real presence until the 4th century. “This could have been an early Christian coming from somewhere else, but it’s unlikely. In Britain, there was no other evidence of Christianity until much later.”
He added: “The most interesting thing about it is the preservation of the timber coffin. Normally if someone was buried in a timber coffin, the wood rots and all that survives is the nails.
“The burial itself is interesting. It was an early 2nd century AD burial. We know that from the wine flagon buried with the body. This can potentially tell us a lot about the culture of the person.”
::Saturday, February 12, 2005 7:35:32 AM::
~ JOB: Generalist @ Haverford
The Department of Classics at Haverford College is seeking to fill a one year position, renewable for a second year, as Visiting Assistant Professor. Candidate should have the PhD by the time of taking up the appointment (August 2005) and should be prepared to teach Latin and Greek at all undergraduate levels and to offer general courses in classical studies (literature, culture, society) as well. Teaching load is five courses a year. Please send dossier, including letter of application, CV, graduate transcript, and three letters of recommendation (writing sample optional) as soon as possible to Deborah Roberts, Chair, Department of Classics, Haverford PA 19041. Please direct any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (610)896-1066. Review of applications will begin February 28, 2005 and will continue until the position is filled. Haverford College is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer, and to diversify its faculty and enrich its curriculum especially encourages women and minority candidates to apply.
... seen on AegeaNet
::Saturday, February 12, 2005 7:33:07 AM::
~ Victorian Virgil (abstract)
Professor Stephen Harrison (Oxford)
In the UK Vergil was well-used in the Augustan justification of monarchy in the classicising age of the 17C/earlier 18C, but a more cynical attitude to Vergil’s apparent timeserving and the changing taste for the 'natural', 'primitive' and 'original' led to the denigration of Vergil in favour of Homer in the Romantic period and earlier Victorian period. From mid-century Vergil’s standing was rehabilitated by historians and scholars of Latin literature, in increasing numbers of important translations, and through interesting use and adaptation in major writers such as Tennyson and Arnold in poetry and Thackeray and Trollope in prose fiction.
[Abstract of paper to be given (17th February, 2005) as part of the Classical Reception Studies Network seminar series at the Institute of Classical Studies.]
::Saturday, February 12, 2005 7:17:11 AM::