Latest update: 4/1/2005; 5:32:43 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ This Day in Ancient History

ante diem iv nonas martias

  • Festival of Mars continues (day 4)
  • 51 A.D. -- the future emperor Nero is given the title princeps iuventutis ("prince of youth" or perhaps today we'd say "top teen")

::Friday, March 04, 2005 5:40:59 AM::
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~ Classical Words of the Day

Today's selection:

billet @

indigenous @ Merriam-Webster

postprandial @ Wordsmith (good word!)

Philip @ OED

superannuated @ Worthless Word for the Day

::Friday, March 04, 2005 5:37:30 AM::
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~ Nuntii Latini

Lupi in Carelia septentrionali audaciores (4.3.2005)

In Carelia septentrionali, quae provincia Finniae in orientem solem et Russiam vergit, greges luporum hoc anno solito audacius vagantur.

Tempore nocturno domibus appropinquant, aliquotiens etiam animalia domestica aggredi audent. Magno periculo expositi sunt canes venatores, qui catenis soluti in silvis praedam sequentes facilis praeda luporum fiunt. His novem annis centum septendecim canes a lupis dilacerati sunt.

Tenebris ortis homines lupos metuentes intus manere malunt et scholares ruri habitantes autoraedis ab ostio domus in scholam vehuntur. In Finnia circiter centum octoginta lupi numerantur. Maior pars bestiarum in regionibus orientalibus vivunt, unde in occidentem versus vagari coeperunt.

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

::Friday, March 04, 2005 5:33:59 AM::
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~ Spartacus Pepsi Ads Redux

The Spartacus Pepsi ads are now on the web ...

::Friday, March 04, 2005 5:20:49 AM::
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~ Classics Bee Followup

If you're wondering how the Classics Bee we mentioned t'other day turned out ... ecce ...

::Friday, March 04, 2005 5:19:35 AM::
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~ St. Peter's Chair

An excerpt from a Zenit piece on the Feast of St. Peter's Chair:

For this feast, St. Peter too dons festive garb. The ancient bronze statue of the prince of the apostles is well known to pilgrims who have caressed and kissed his feet over the centuries, wearing the toes to a smooth, nondescript mass.

But for his feast day the regal figure of the fisherman is cloaked in a heavy red robe. This mantle is fastened with a large gilt pin in the form of a dove. A large jeweled tiara is placed on his head and the parts of the statue left visible besides the head are the arm raised in blessing, the hand holding the keys and the worn little foot peeking out from under the hem of the robe.

The feast of St. Peter's Chair celebrates the day that St. Peter took up his mission as Bishop and held his first liturgical service at Antioch where he remained for seven years before moving on to Rome, where he served for 25 years until his martyrdom under Emperor Nero.

... which is interesting in the wake of recent interest in the colorization of ancient statuary. I'm not sure many of us think of ancient statues getting 'clothed' every now and then (save, perhaps for the Athena in the Parthenon), but perhaps there is need for a rethink on that. I keep thinking that maybe putting a crown on a statue of Julius Caesar, e.g., might resonate in a different way if it was a 'normal' thing to clothe statues ...

::Friday, March 04, 2005 5:01:21 AM::
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~ Epic Cycle

The Manila Bulletin  has a sort of introductory piece on Homer and concludes with a sort of 'reading list':

WHILE we are familiar with the Iliad and the Odyssey, these two works ascribed to Homer are merely part of an epic narrative (and we do stress epic) that brings to completion the so-called heroic age. These poems are attributed to various authors, and taken together, they tell the entire story from beginning to end, without gaps. If you are mesmerized by the wondrous stories of the Greek drama, as it were, and if you are resourceful enough to find the pertinent books (hint: try the specialty bookstores, the thrift stores or online booksellers), try getting the big picture with these:

• Cypria. From the decision of the gods to cause the Trojan War to the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon. By Stasinos of Cyprus (or Hegesias or Homer)

• Iliad. From the anger of Achilles to the burial of Hector. By Homer.

• Aithiopis. From the coming of the Amazons to the suicide of Aias. By Arktinos of Miletos.

• Little Iliad. From the death of Achilles to the fall of Troy and the departure of the Achaians. By Lesches of Lesbos (or Thestorides or Kinaithon or Diodoros or Homer).

• Sack of Ilion. From the building of the wooden horse to the fall of Ilion (Troy) and the departure of the Achaians. By Arktinos of Miletos.

• The Returns. The returns of the various heroes. By Agias of Troizen (or an unnamed Kolophonian or Homer).

• Odyssey. The return of Odysseus. By Homer.

• Telegony. From the return of Odysseus to his death. By Eugammon of Kyrene (or Kinaithos of Lakedaimon).

::Friday, March 04, 2005 4:48:27 AM::
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~ Around the Classical Water Cooler

The incipit of a Press Release from Yahoo to spark some debates:

THE ALAMO, TROY, KING ARTHUR, ALEXANDER and THE AVIATOR will compete for the seventh annual HARRY AWARD. This year's nominees were selected from among all the historical films of 2004. The HARRY AWARD, named after Herodotus, Greek Father of History, is awarded annually by The History Channel® to the film of the previous year that contributed the most to the public's understanding and appreciation of history. The winner will be announced on Sunday, March 6th at 8 a.m. ET/PT during a special edition of HistoryCENTER which is anchored by Steve Gillon.

::Friday, March 04, 2005 4:43:03 AM::
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~ Demonic Possession

Interesting blurb from the UC Chronicle about a conference this weekend:

Leading scholars from around the world—from as close as Northwestern University and the University of Michigan to as far away as Royal Holloway University of London and the University of Florence—will come together with an interdisciplinary cross-section of Chicago faculty to grapple with the same question: When and where did the idea of the indwelling demon emerge?

Although the history of the indwelling demon is well documented in the common era—demons appear in the New Testament, when Jesus casts a spirit called Legion out of a mentally deranged man, and in the work of such Roman-era authors as Lucian and Plutarch—its precise origins remain obscure, explained conference organizer Christopher Faraone, Professor in Classical Languages & Literatures and the College.

Since the Greeks in pre-Roman times generally thought demons caused illness by attacking their victims from the outside by striking or strangling a person, and since the first reports of exorcism occur in the Levant and Anatolia, classicists have generally assumed that the idea of an indwelling demon—one blamed for stroke, epilepsy, mental illness and the like—is borrowed from the Near East in the first century. However, Biblical and Near Eastern scholars point out that one cannot trace this idea in the East prior to the late Hellenistic period.

“As a classicist, I’ve always thought the idea comes from the East, but my friends who study the Hebrew Bible say that it doesn’t really appear in the Near East until after the Greeks arrive. So we really have no idea where this comes from,” Faraone said. “That’s why we’re having this conference, so we can figure it out. As of now, nobody has a good answer.”

Faraone’s own work focuses specifically on a bizarre idea that arose in the Mediterranean under the Roman Empire—that a woman’s womb needed to be exorcized as if it were an indwelling demon. This idea is apparently adapted from an earlier theory, found first and most famously in Plato but also to some degree in the Hippocratic doctors, that the womb could freely wander about the body and cause illness by colliding with other internal organs. In the Roman period, however, women who suffered from stroke or mental illness, Faraone explained, were believed to have a demonic womb that willfully attacked their internal organs. The womb eventually began to be addressed in the same way a demon is with a formula for exorcism. Thus in the Roman period, amulets inscribed with the command “stay where you belong, womb” began to be used and were said to prevent the demonic womb from moving and attacking the other organs in the body.

On a different end of the spectrum, Bruce Lincoln is presenting research on the muse. Lincoln, the Caroline E. Haskell Professor in the Divinity School, has been studying the work of the epic Greek poet Hesiod.

In “Kings, Poets and Inspiration: On the Ideology and Physiology of Authoritative Speech in Hesiod,” Lincoln will look at the invocation of deities called the muses, the inspiration behind poetry and the source of all knowledge, and ask how inspiration gets into the muse.

It may seem odd to pair a lecture on the muse with a conference on demons, but Faraone disagrees. “People have looked at poetic inspiration, prophetic inspiration, demon possession and illness in a way that has made it impossible to see the commonalities. The point of this conference is to look at many different instances in which gods or demons are thought to enter a human body, for good or evil, and to see if we’re missing any connections between them.”

Other faculty members participating in the conference are co-organizer Campbell Grey, Visiting Assistant Professor in History and the College, presenting “Possessed, Goaded or Inspired? Defining and Locating Demons in the Late Antique West;” Donald Harper, Professor in East Asian Languages & Civilizations, presenting “The Human Body, Spirits and Demonifugal Practices in Third Century B.C.E. Chinese Manuscripts;” and James Redfield, the Edward Olson Distinguished Service Professor in Classical Languages & Literatures and the College, who will present “The Daimonion of Socrates.” [more]

::Friday, March 04, 2005 4:37:31 AM::
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~ Appealing to Antiquity and the 'Sharon Plan'

Interesting appeal to antiquity in this opinion piece from Arutz Sheva:


We must not fall into this trap! Not only are we capable of stopping the Sharon Plan, but the more that the Sharon regime's persecution campaign intensifies, the more strength and encouragement we should draw from this. We should realize that they are in a state of total panic, rightly fearing that they will not be able to realize their malicious schemes.

This is best illustrated by a short story that should light the way for us, which was mentioned by Rabbi Binyamin Lau in the Kislev 5765 (November 2004) issue of Nekudah. In the year 40 CE, the Roman emperor Gaius Caligula proclaimed his intent to erect a idol in the Temple in Jerusalem. The edict was to be implemented by the Syrian procurator Petronius with two legions. In practice, this was a declaration of war against the Jews and Judaism. Both Philo and Josephus describe the profound shock of the Jews when they heard of this horrendous decree.

Philo describes what happened when Petronius arrived in Tiberias with his forces, on his way to Jerusalem: Some of Petronius' men saw a multitude approaching. The multitude of Jews came as swiftly as a cloud and covered the face of the land of Phoenicia. Then the sound of shouting, wailing and the clapping of hands was heard, so awesomely that the ears of the listeners could not bear it. This sound did not cease even when the people stopped screaming, rather its echoes reverberated even after they had already fallen silent. The Jews were divided into six divisions: the older men, youth, and boys on one side, and the older women, maidens, and girls on the other.

When Petronius appeared, the Jews told him: We have not come to fight, for who can strive with the Emperor? But there are only two possibilities - either not to erect the idol, or to destroy all the people of Judea entirely. Accordingly, if you have resolved to erect an idol in the Temple, then kill us all first, and then do what your heart desires. For as long as we are capable of taking even a single breath, we may not permit anything against our Torah to be done. We are not so witless as to raise a hand against the mighty Emperor. Behold, our necks are extended for slaughter, and our lives to be taken. When not a single one of us is left, then carry out the order of Gaius.

In other words, tens of thousands of Jews - men, women and children - left their homes, left the fields at the height of the harvest, and came in the height of the summer heat, to stand without arms and without violence against the Roman army. They came to state simply: We cannot remain in our homes and allow this decree to be implemented. We will stand here in masses, and you will be forced to kill us all if you desire to carry out this crime.

The Jews remained there for weeks. Petronius realized that he could not fight against this popular uprising. Caligula was furious, and even threatened to sentence the procurator to death if he did not obey the order. And then a miracle occurred. Caligula was killed in Rome during some political strife that was totally unrelated to the events in Eretz Israel, the decree was abrogated, and calm returned to Judea.

The Sharon decree is like a declaration of war against the Jews, against Zionism and against the State of Israel. As our forefathers acted during the time of Caligula in order to prevent the execution of the decree, with nonviolent civil disobedience, it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to go this summer to Gush Katif, or to the closest place to Katif if the area will be sealed off, and to prevent, with our bodies, the execution of the decree. Again, without violence and without the use of force. The masses will prove decisive and, with God's help, will defeat all of Sharon's plans for the security forces. [more]

::Friday, March 04, 2005 4:34:25 AM::
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~ Anatomical Drawings

A review of an exhibition of 16th century (+) anatomical drawings suggests:

Books of anatomical drawings from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were frequently the result of close collaboration between a physician and an artist. The human skeletons and models exposing the muscles of the body maintain poses or gestures borrowed from the sculptures of classical antiquity or from other appropriate works of art. Sometimes the background, too, is reminiscent of classical landscape painting.

... has anyone any concrete examples of this? I can't recall ever seeing an anatomical drawing which reminded me of a bit of Classical statuary ...

::Friday, March 04, 2005 4:31:06 AM::
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~ Survival

From an article in the Guardian about the discovery of the (for now)  largest prime number:

Or, as the British mathematician GH Hardy put it, "Archimedes will be remembered when Aeschylus is forgotten, because languages die and mathematical ideas do not. 'Immortality' may be a silly word, but probably a mathematician has the best chance of whatever it may mean."

::Friday, March 04, 2005 4:26:44 AM::
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~ Sulpicia

Check this out ... from Redlands Daily Facts (which appears to be a newspaper of some sort):

One of the more common complaints made against historians of antiquity is that when we teach classes, we tend to teach them about men. In recent years, there has been more of a trend in ancient studies to examine the lives of the people outside the halls of power, such as women, children, slaves, the vanquished and the poor.

The problem with researching these other people, who form the bulk of the population in most civilizations, is that they tend to leave few or no writings for us to examine. There are exceptions to this rule, but not very many. In the entire history of the Roman world, for example, we have only one female poet whose works survive intact.

Sulpicia was a young Roman woman, perhaps no more than an older teenager, who lived in the first century B.C. She was the daughter of a Roman senator, Servius Sulpicius Rufus, who had a distinguished career as a senator and served as consul, or head of state, in the year 51 B.C. He first opposed the meteoric career of Julius Caesar, but Caesar pardoned him and appointed him as proconsul of Achaia, or governor of Greece.

Since Servius was away on government business, his daughter Sulpicia was looked after by her uncle, another senator, Valerius Messalla Corvinus. Servius and Valerius probably had their hands full with the headstrong young girl, and she got away with some very un-Roman escapades.

As a young girl, Sulpicia would have been taught that she was to be a strait-laced moral Roman girl. A Roman woman had only one set of ancestors, her father's or her husband's. In the afterlife, she would be with her husband, but only her husband would receive the prayers of those he left behind. It was against the law for Sulpicia to drink wine, although this rule was now often ignored. It is significant that she had no last name, only the feminized version of her father's name, Sulpicius.

Good Roman girls were taught that their passions must be suppressed, and recent history would have showed her the dangers when people acted otherwise. Had not the wicked Cleopatra of Egypt seduced and led to their doom not one but two Roman generals, Caesar and Mark Anthony? The possibility that Caesar and Anthony might have been the cause of their own problems did not occur to every Roman.

Sulpicia would have kept her head covered when out of doors, except when she prayed in the temples. Her gods were her father's gods, and they would remain such until she married, when she would have been expected to honor her husband's gods, and at all times the state gods who guided the destiny of the empire. By the time she took to writing poetry, the older Roman gods had been absorbed into the older Greek cults; the high sky god, Jupiter Optimus Maximus, for instance, was associated with the Greek god Zeus. Sulpicia would have been taught that the gods punished young girls who misbehaved, but she may have had her doubts.

Sulpicia's surviving poems are only six in number and seem to revolve around a love affair with an unknown young man whom she calls Cerinthus. The literary custom of the day was to write love poetry, but to address your Roman friend with a Greek pet name to make it sound more exotic. This had the added benefit of protecting Cerinthus and Sulpicia if their notes got intercepted. It is remarkable that the senators decided to give the girl an education, as this was not common for all women.

In the first of these poems, Sulpicia praises the goddess Venus for having brought young Cerinthus to her arms. Doing the wrong things, she declares, brings her the greatest of delight, for at last a man has been found who is worthy of her. One modern translator gently renders a line that Cerinthus has been brought to her "embrace," although a better translation might be "bosom." One wonders if Sulpicius was aware of what was going on at home while he governed Greece.

In the second poem, Sulpicia writes Cerinthus complaining that she has been hauled off on a totally boring trip to the family villa outside the capital, which she describes as "rure molesto" or "annoying countryside." She laments that she has been "abducted" by her uncle. But in the third poem, she writes again to tell her lover that she has weaseled out of the trip and, in fact, gotten the whole tedious event canceled. Perhaps, she suggests, she and Cerinthus could celebrate the birthday together?

Sulpicia was not above using a little bit of emotional manipulation to get her men to do what she wanted. In poem five, she sends a message saying how terribly ill she is and burning with a fever. She laments that if her sufferings do not move Cerinthus' heart, then there is really no point in her bothering to get better. But, we must ask, if she was so desperately ill, how could she write poetry in the first place and dispatch it to the hand of a slave to her boyfriend?

In poem six, the most frankly erotic of the collection, she speaks of her burning passion and expresses the torment she had felt when she ran away from him the night before to conceal her own "ardorem cupiens" or the "passion-lust." It is hard to believe that some people find the classics to be dull.

Unfortunately for Sulpicia, the story did not end with a happy marriage, or at least not for her. In poem four, she turns on Cerinthus with fury when she learns that he has dumped her for another girl. She uses the word for "secure" to describe his new relationship, which strongly suggests that Cerinthus was engaged to marry this other woman. How did this fool think, she demanded, that he could possibly find a better match than one with the daughter of a Roman senator and consul? Sulpicia raged that she was not going to let him get away with this, but as the poems go silent, we may imagine that he did get away with it.

This other girl, a slave to her household chores, Sulpicia declares, is nothing more than a "togae scortum" or a "whore in a toga." Given that only men wear togas, her charge is the more nasty, as if to suggest that this little interloper and hussy is the one who will, in our words, wear the pants in the family. And with this charge, our Latin poetess falls silent.

Sulpicia's poems were collected by Albius Tibullus, a man of affluent upper middle class background, who had been decorated in the wars. In civilian life he became a poet and collected the poems of other writers of his day, and his anthology survives. We know that Tibullus was something of a man about town, wore the sharpest clothes and had a series of mistresses, to whom he also wrote love poetry.

One mistress he wrote to he addressed by the code name of Delia. He also had some vices better not described in a family newspaper, and he referred to himself as the servant of love, and that love was his whole life's work. Was his "Delia" our Sulpicia? Or did Delia replace Sulpicia? This we will never know, and there may be no connection at all between them, but it is interesting that he came across her poems in order to preserve them.

I would like to think that young Sulpicia could have done a lot better than get involved with an older dandy and lounge lizard like Tibullus, but such a story has been re-enacted many times over the centuries. The Romans admitted that they found love a complex and irrational force, which they frequently attributed to their gods. Are we any the wiser?

::Friday, March 04, 2005 4:21:59 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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