~ This Day in Ancient History
ante diem xvi kalendas martias
- Parentalia (day 2) -- a festival for honouring/appeasing the dead began on this day with a number of signs: temples were closed, altars did not have fires burn on them, people were forbidden to get married, and magistrates set down the trappings of their office.
- 270 A.D. -- traditional date for the beheading of Saint Valentine
::Monday, February 14, 2005 5:24:11 AM::
~ Nuntii Latini
Nuntius ad Hispaniam pertinens (11.2.2005)
Magistratus Hispaniae eis peregrinis, qui in terram illegaliter immigaraverunt, veniam commorandi offerunt.
Sperant enim fore, ut hac amnestia partiali concessa advenae, quorum numerus in Hispania octingentorum fere milium est, melius custodiantur itaque cives Hispaniae adversus ictus terroristicos efficacius defendantur.
Renovatio ea quoque ratione bono publico inservit, quod migratores illegales tributa solvere coguntur neque conductores operae recusare possunt, quominus pro labore dignam cuique mercedem reddant.
Nuntii Latini, Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE)
(used with permission)
::Monday, February 14, 2005 5:13:54 AM::
~ Grote, Hegemony, and the Delian League
Over at Tech Central Station, there's a lengthy essay (n.b. with undergrad plagiarism potential) on the concept of hegemony, based largely on Grote's view of the Delian League. Here's the incipit:
The word "hegemony" has become an essential part of the jargon of the anti-American left. Followers of Noam Chomsky, for example, use the word as often as possible. For most of them, hegemony has become a synonym for empire, and its frequent use a badge of intellectual sophistication. Hence the many references to American hegemony in the political discourse of the noveau enlightened: it is a bit like a password or a secret handshake, indicating that its user is a member of a special fraternity. Just say it, and you are instantly recognized as one who is in the know.
But what exactly does hegemony mean?
The word is Greek: it means the leadership of a coalition or an alliance, and it was used in this sense by the Greek historian Herodotus and Thucydides. But since English has a number of perfectly good words to indicate leadership, such as chief, head, principal, boss, manager, organizer, general director, and so forth, few users of the English language felt any need to rescue this word from its moldy niche in the Greek lexicon until the mid 1840's when the English radical and banker George Grote began publishing his monumental History of Greece, a work of immense scholarship that is still wonderfully fascinating.
Curiously enough, in light of its current usage, the reason Grote decided to revive the Greek word hegemony was in order to distinguish it sharply from the Latin-derived word with which it has now become inextricably muddled, namely, the word empire.
Hegemony, according to Grote, was emphatically not empire. On the contrary, Grote used these two different words in order to demarcate between two radically different kinds of political organization, both of which had been illustrated by Athens during two different historical phases of its career. Hegemony had come first; and only afterwards did it degenerate into empire.
Athenian hegemony had first emerged in the aftermath of the Persian wars -- wars in which the colossus of the Persian empire had tried to transform the various independent Greek city-states into tribute-paying colonies, using a combination of bribery, diplomacy, and overwhelming military force. In the course of the struggle against Oriental imperialism, Athens, with its great naval power, had ended up as the Greek city-state that was in the best position to defend against further Persian invasions -- an indisputable fact that became the basis of a post-war defensive coalition developed by Athens and its allies in order to afford protection for the various Greek city-states spread across the Aegean Sea, on islands such as Samos, Chios, and Lesbos, as well as along the Ionian mainland -- all of which had been targets of the previous Persian invasions, and could easily become targets once again. [the rest]
::Monday, February 14, 2005 5:11:14 AM::
~ New Location for Mons Graupius?
From the Scotsman:
IT WAS supposed to be the battle "at the ends of the earth" that saw the Romans finally conquer all Britain - putting an end to years of resistance by the fierce Caledonians.
And over the last 30 years it has been widely believed to have taken place in northern Scotland, near the hill of Bennachie in Aberdeenshire.
However, a new book by Edinburgh University historian Dr James Fraser will claim the key battle happened much further south ... on the Gask Ridge not far from Perth.
And while this may suggest the Romans did not completely conquer the tribes of northern Britain, Dr Fraser argues that they did not want to and instead would have made allies with native leaders to boost their control of the region and ensure Roman territory was not attacked.
In the book The Roman Conquest of Scotland: The Battle of Mons Graupius AD 84, due out this summer, Dr Fraser said: "Itís probably the most famous pre-Bannockburn battle, but a central question has been where Mons Graupius took place.
"The place that has been preferred since the late 1970s has been Bennachie in Aberdeenshire. That was really chosen out of the blue in the 1970s.
He said the choice of the Bennachie site was based on some "slightly untidy thinking".
"Because Mons Graupius is seen as a battle which the Romans thought had resulted in the conquest of northern Britain - the way it was described by Tacitus is "at the ends of the earth" - the idea is that you follow the line of camps and put the battle at the end of the line, but this doesnít actually have to be the case," Dr Fraser said.
"The sources make it fairly clear the Roman army was ranging all over northern Scotland and north-eastern Scotland. Any of these camps could have been built before the battle or after the battle."
"I have chosen a site that has fallen out of favour as a result of archaeological pressure. It moves the battle further south to central Scotland, on the Gask Ridge near Perth."
The Romans tended to build a fortified camp every time they stopped for the night when in hostile territory. Different surveyors had different styles, and it is possible to identify armies by the design of the camps.
The camps leading up to the Gask Ridge used a style of gate that has been linked to the Roman army which was led by Agricola, Tacitusí father-in-law. The camp at Bennachie does not use this style of gate and is also much bigger.
Dr Fraser said it could actually have been made by the army of Emperor Septimus Severus which was in northern Scotland at the end of the second century AD and in the early third century.
"Severus needed really massive camps, far too big for an army of the size of Agricolaís," he said.
::Monday, February 14, 2005 5:07:24 AM::
~ The Real Valentine?
From the Scotsman comes a review of a novel about St. Valentine which actually has some reasonable things to say about what we know about him ... the incipit:
For the moment, however, Iím standing in the atrium of the Blessed John Duns Scotus Church in Glasgow - self-styled "City of Love", for this week at least - and contemplating a wood and brass reliquary casket bearing the words Corpus St Valentini Martyris. The saintís remains, or some of them, are interred here in the Gorbals, an area not widely associated with romance, having been transferred to the 1960s-built church in 1999, when the local Franciscan community moved from the older St Francisís church round the corner. The enshrining of the remains at their new home - on St Valentineís Day, 1999 - prompted Glasgow to launch its "City of Love" festival which is currently in full, gleeful swing, with a programme of events of a generally romantic if largely non-ecclesiastical bent, from candle-lit cabarets to jazz concerts and saucy burlesque.
"He tends to be celebrated today through commercial interest rather than through any great devotion," observes Father Patrick Lonsdale, one of the handful of Franciscan friars based at Blessed John Duns Scotus. But which St Valentine are we talking about? For the loversí friend and postmanís bane remains a shadowy figure, as elusive as Harry Lime and, as any hagiography will tell you, there is more than one of him.
Father Patrick is affably vague about the relic or relics, and one gets the impression he regards the annual if fleeting celebrity status bestowed on the saint in the box as something of a distraction from his usual round of prayer, preaching and pastoral work. As we sift through documentation pertaining to the saint in his office, it emerges that nobody seems very clear as to which Valentineís remains Glasgow can lay claim to, or indeed which particular bits of the man are housed in that reliquary.
Is he the same Valentine, for instance, whose mortal remains are also boasted by Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin, whose Carmelite community also lays claim to the saint, though not all of him? "I wouldnít think so," replies Father Chris Crowley at Whitefriar Street when I ask him whether all of Valentine might be interred in the Dublin church. And there are, he tells me, further remains of the saint at Derrynane Abbey in Kerry, a place closely associated with the great battler for Irish Catholic emancipation, Daniel OíConnell.
In Italy, too, Valentineís remains crop up, at his ancient stamping ground of Terni (known as Interamna in Roman times), 60 miles from Rome. Generous to a fault, he seems to have fairly spread himself about. At least three St Valentines are mentioned in early martyrologies, all with their feast days on 14 February. The two main contenders (whom some commentators think may have been the same person) are described as a Roman priest and physician, and a bishop of Interamna. Both were martyred around the year 270 AD and both are thought to have been buried along the Flaminian Way out of Rome. Nothing is known of a third Valentine, apart from the belief that he suffered for his faith in Africa.
Back in the Gorbals, Father Patrick agrees that the saint is a hard man to pin down - both of him: "They were both martyrs, but not a lot has been handed down about them, and all these legends surround them."
Digging out the documents of authentication of the remains (which, however, still donít clarify which Valentine and which bits), he explains that the relics had been in the possession of a wealthy French Catholic family. During the 19th century, concerned that the family line was dying out, they approached the church authorities, who had heard of a new Franciscan church being built in Glasgow and decided to give the remains a permanent sanctuary in the Dear Green Place, where they were installed in 1882.
In the 17 centuries which have passed since the martyrdom of whichever Valentine, legends have proliferated. A salient theme is that during the rule of the emperor Claudius II (popularly referred to by the pantomime-villainish name of Claudius the Cruel), marriages and engagements were banned in Rome because of difficulty in recruiting responsibility-free lads for unpopular imperial campaigns. Claudius was also a stickler for the gods of Romeís state religion. Valentine (letís stick to the singular to avoid total bewilderment) practised as a Christian and secretly married couples, for which impertinence he was martyred with good old-fashioned Roman efficiency - clubbed to death then decapitated.
Another story is that while in prison Valentine miraculously restored the sight of his jailerís blind daughter - and yet another claims that he was not initially a Christian but was imprisoned for helping Christians and was converted in time to be martyred. While incarcerated, he dispatched messages to friends saying: "Remember your Valentine."
Such nebulous accounts have been just waiting for someone to make a work of historical fiction out of them. American novelist and physicist Raymo has duly obliged with his recently published Valentine: A Love Story (£10.99, Brandon Books). "It seemed to me a perfect story just waiting to be invented," chuckles the writer, who has fleshed out Valentine as an Alexandrian-born doctor in Rome, a strict rationalist and disciple of Galen and Lucretius, who becomes involved with Christians and, ironically, ends up a Christian martyr against his better judgment. [more]
Cf. the treatment in the Sydney Morning Herald, which starts off promisingly enough:
If The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown wrote a book about the secret origins of Valentine's Day, it would go something like this.
Take an ancient pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia. Add one Christian church that tries to undermine the festival (boo, hiss). Throw in a secret organisation of, er, florists, chocolatiers, sky writers, greeting-card sellers, condom manufacturers and makers of small, embarrassing fluffy dolls, all dedicated to keeping its erotic and romantic traditions alive. Blend in generations of love-struck fools ready to write classifieds such as "Dear Pookie Wookie, will you be my little love marmoset forever", and you have the mass hallucination known as Valentine's Day. [...]
... but then concludes thusly:
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Saint Valentine is the name of two famous 3rd-century Roman martyrs who are commemorated on February 14, who might possibly be the same person despite the differences.
"One was a Roman priest and physician who suffered martyrdom during the persecution of Christians by the Roman emperor Claudius II Gothicus and was buried in the Via Flaminia. The other, bishop of Terni, Italy, was martyred, apparently also in Rome."
The origins of St Valentine's Day date back to the Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia, which celebrated Juno Februata, goddess of "feverish" love. Early Christians attempted to downplay the eroticism of the February 15 event by holding St. Valentine's Day on February 14, in worship of the Saint Valentinus. According to legend, he was sentenced to death for conducting illegal wedding ceremonies during Gothicus's reign. Before he was executed, he handed his jailer's daughter a note that read "from your Valentinus", which inspired the tradition of giving valentines.
In contrast, the Britannica suggests the giving of valentines relates back to Lupercalia.
Nevertheless, more than a hint of Lupercalia's original eroticism "merged with the tradition of giving valentines" survives to this day.
... ah, so Britannica's to blame!
::Monday, February 14, 2005 4:58:32 AM::
~ Foundation of Rome Proof?
Libero reports (in Italian) that Dr. Andrea Carandini is promoting the idea that archaeological evidence suggests the traditional date for the foundation of Rome might be accurate. He has come to this conclusion by redating the sanctuary of Vesta to the eighth century B.C./B.C.E. (and not the seventh or sixth century B.C./B.C.E. as currently believed) on the basis of assorted archaeological evidence.
::Monday, February 14, 2005 4:50:58 AM::
There's a new issue of Ephemeris (news in Latin) on the enewstands ...
::Monday, February 14, 2005 4:43:27 AM::
~ Achaemenid Royal Inscriptions
JL over at Livius.org has just put together a nice page bringing together inscriptions of various scions of the Achaemenid dynasty (along with photos or drawings ... nearly all of them have English translations, near as I can tell). Worth a look as you're working your way through Herodotus ...
::Monday, February 14, 2005 4:42:26 AM::
~ AWOTV: On TV Today
7.00 p.m. |HINT| Mystery Gold of the Black Sea Warriors
Long before Egypt and Babylon left their imprint on history, a remarkable culture crafted a vast treasure trove of exquisite golden objects that dazzles the eye and tantalizes the senses. They were the Thracians. Feared and ruthless warriors, they challenged the might of the Greek and Roman empires. According to Homer, they fought on the side of Troy during the Trojan Wars. They left behind an enduring legacy, epitomized by the renegade slave Spartacus, then disappeared into history's mists.
HINT = History International
::Monday, February 14, 2005 4:35:55 AM::