Latest update: 4/1/2005; 5:33:06 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ This Day in Ancient History

ante diem xvi kalendas apriles

  • Festival of Mars continues (day 18)
  • 37 A.D. -- The dead emperor Tiberius' will is annulled and Gaius (Caligula) is given the title "Augustus" by the senate
  • 235 A.D. (?) -- murder of Alexander Severus at Moguntiacum (Mainz)

::Friday, March 18, 2005 7:25:09 AM::
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~ Classical Words of the Day

Today's selection:

pecuniary @

hendecasyllabic @ Wordsmith

acyrology @ Worthless Word for the Day (I know plenty of folks who are majoring in this)

::Friday, March 18, 2005 7:18:38 AM::
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~ Nuntii Latini

Iuliana Sgrena liberata (11.3.2005)

Iuliana Sgrena, diurnaria Italica, quae per unum mensem in Iraquia obses rebellium fuerat, libertatem recuperavit, sed reditus eius tristissimum finem cepit.

Milites Americani vehiculum, quo Sgrena portabatur, terroristarum suicidariorum esse putantes ita sclopetare coeperunt, ut illa vulneraretur et custos illius Nicolaus Calipari moreretur.

Casus ille infelix iram Italorum in Americanos excitavit.

Milites Americani dicunt vehiculum illud signis monitoriis neglectis nimia velocitate currens non restitisse, Sgrena autem affirmat sclopetationem sine ullis monitionibus repente incepisse.

Calipari, qui Sgrenam corpore suo tegens vitam amiserat, in Italia publico sumptu elatus est.

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

::Friday, March 18, 2005 7:15:39 AM::
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~ Pandora's Box

An explorator reader sent this one in (thanks MK) ... at the end of a longer piece, Tom Dispatch comes up with an analogy for the Iraq war which is somewhat surprising (in that no one seems to have mentioned it before):

When I consider the Iraq War and the Arab Spring, I can't help thinking of the myth of Pandora. It seems, at least as Gustav Schwab tells the story in his Gods and Heroes, Myths and Epics of Ancient Greece, that Zeus, angry at Prometheus for stealing fire from the gods, had the fire-god Hephaestus create a beautiful woman, Pandora ("she who has gifts from all"). Zeus then sent her as a present to Prometheus's not-so-sharp brother, carrying a tightly closed box the gods had filled with baleful "gifts" for humanity -- and you know the rest. When Pandora opened the box, all the ills that humanity until then had avoided came tumbling out, leaving only one small good thing at the bottom -- hope. Whether hope even made it out of the box seems to depend on which version of the myth you read.

For the global gamblers of the Bush administration, Iraq was that box. When they blasted its lid off, the resulting shock-and-awe blew back on everyone. But at the bottom of the box, there's always that one small unpredictable thing. Thank the Bush administration, if you will, for the mayhem of the Middle East, but (as veteran journalist and Middle Eastern expert Dilip Hiro makes clear in the piece that follows,) don't thank any American government of recent times for an Arab spring, if it really comes. The historical record tells us otherwise. Just thank the gods above, or luck, or our natures, for the fact that, even amid mayhem, there's usually hope somewhere; and that, despite every horror, there are usually human beings ready to make some modest use of it.

::Friday, March 18, 2005 7:04:28 AM::
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~ Ancient Precedent?

The Media Monitors Network (with the byline "where truth prevails) ponders the "Ancient Traditions of Euro-American Violence" ... here's the incipit:

In Athens in the year 621 BCE, a man named Draco was commissioned to draw up a legal code of penalties to be utilized by the state. Draco, from which is derived the term “draconian” was strict and unsympathetic toward those he deemed transgressors of the law and his proposed punishments reflected this:

“ ...One penalty was assigned to almost all transgressions, namely death, so
that even those convicted of idleness were put to death, and those who stole salad or fruit received the same punishment as those who committed sacrilege or murder. Therefore Demades, in later times, made a hit when he said that Draco’s laws were written not with ink, but blood. And Draco himself, they say, being asked why he made death the penalty for most offences, replied that in his opinion the lesser ones deserved it, and for the greater ones no heavier punishment could be found.”[1]

The Draconian laws of Athens also stipulated that those debtors who could not pay were sold into slavery. Most Athenians who succumbed to this debt slavery were from the poor and the middle classes, which effectively set a larger wedge between the wealthy and the poor.

The ancient Greeks habitually enslaved women and young children. They did this because they viewed men as more rebellious and too costly to maintain. Thus they were almost always killed instead of taken prisoner or captured.

Similar to their spiritual and political descendent, the United States of America, as the Greek city states acquired more power, land and territory their ability and thirst for warfare increased which in turn supplied them with more captives, resulting by the fifth century BCE with Athens having more slaves than free citizens.

The best of Greek culture was stolen from the Africans, along with their knowledge of science, mathematics and philosophy. Thus, Aristotle acknowledged his debt to Egypt. And the philosophies of celebrated Greek thinkers, Plato, Pythagroes and Democritus, were borrowed from the gems of knowledge that they were exposed to in Egyptian temples and universities. In fact, Egypt or Kemet (the land of the Blacks) had been a fountain of learning for Greek intellectuals and they journeyed there frequently to enlighten their minds and their spirits.

Yet this was not enough to appease the Greek penchant for war, violence and plunder that Alexander of Macedonia set loose upon the ancient African centers of culture, and knowledge. The harm he did to human intellectual and spiritual development is inestimable. In Egypt, he set fire to what was probably the world’s greatest library, burning hundreds of thousands of books, parchments and documents, many of which had been preserved and handed down for centuries.

Perhaps this was done out of a desire to destroy any evidence of a superior African civilization. Thus after as much as desired or possible was stolen, usurped, copied and passed off as “Greek civilization” and ingenuity; the rest was destroyed, not only to conceal the crime, but out of a primeval rage that Black people (although conquered militarily) were nevertheless of a superior civilization.

Yet if the methodology behind the assaults was the destruction of evidence of African culture and academia, it was not entirely successful because centuries later scholars would uncover the African genesis of Greek, Roman and European development. Historian Basil Davidson writes:

“Previous European scholarship knew that the foundations of European civilization derived from classical Greek civilization. That scholarship further accepted what the Greeks had laid down as patently obvious: that classical Greek civilization derived its philosophy, its mathematics and much else, from the ancient civilizations of Africa, and above all from the Egypt of the Pharaohs. To those founding fathers in classical Greece, any notion that Africans were inferior, morally or intellectually, would have seemed silly.”[2]

These aggressive and violent practices, whether infringing upon the rights of others, composing harsh laws and penalties, or stealing the culture and advancement of the Africans and slyly passing it off as its own, acted as catalysts and precedents for similar activities which would permeate European culture and be handed down in an unbroken chain for millenniums. Indeed up to the establishment and development of the United States of America, thus prompting Ta-Nehishi Coates to comment in the Washington City Paper:

“....the (Washington) Smithsonian is far from being a bastion of racial tolerance. As recently as 1989, its minority hiring came under the scrutiny of a congressional investigation, which concluded that minorities were grossly under represented in its upper echelons. . .And its worth mentioning that the Museum of Natural History’s African Hall has been shut down, in part because of its racist depictions.”[3]

It goes on to chat (of course) about those evil Romans ...

::Friday, March 18, 2005 7:00:44 AM::
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~ Review from RBL

Steven K. Strange And Jack Zupko, eds., Stoicism: Traditions & Transformations, Review of Biblical Literature

::Friday, March 18, 2005 6:52:09 AM::
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~ Big Roman Empire Bash

The British Museum's Big Roman Empire Bash, seen through the eyes of a ten-year-old fan of the BBC:

The British Museum in London hosted The Big Roman Empire Bash, where thousands of children could learn about all things Roman.

Edward is a big history fan and went along with his family to find out what was going on.

"I came along because I enjoy the history and I have been to this museum several times before.

I knew that everything was going to be Roman but it wasn't what I expected. It was even better!

There were fire-eaters performing at the gate!

The first thing I looked at inside were the gladiators. They were fighting each other in front of a big group of people.

We all cheered and I thought it was great watching them fight. And the best one won in the end.

I also did some origami. I made some paper bangers. We were given a sheet of instructions showing us how to do it.  [More ... (nice photos of the bash available too)]

::Friday, March 18, 2005 6:50:26 AM::
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~ Reaction to Latin Changes

This was passed along by an explorator reader (thanks AM!) ... it's the incipit of an extended rant in the Times about recent changes to exam requirements in Greek and Latin in the UK:

YOU COULD knock me down with a fascis 1. In an effort to make GCSE classics more popular, the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA (OCR) examiners are cutting the number of Latin and Greek words pupils need to learn. Latin is down from 550 words to 450 and Greek from 500 to 365. Ken Boston, the Whitehall quangocrat overseeing word-count targetry, approves. He thinks it is a great idea.

Such moments offer a stunning insight into the modern Whitehall brain. Hey Trace, says Darren in Curriculums, let’s crack this Latin thing. I reckon we can cut a hundred Latin words, from abacus to gratis, and still give kids A* if they can remember 400. That means we can give an A grade for 200 words, B for 100 and E if anyone can tell his retina from his rectum. As for Greek, let’s make it 365 words, which is one for each day of the year. Should be enough for OffToff’s Balliol entry quota.

Trace had been complaining for days that Kev in supplies did not catch half the words in Gladiator or Troy. She reckoned she could get Darren’s 450 down to 300 if IT could send up enough marker fluid. Meanwhile Darren was struggling to cut the number of words in French and German but was having trouble with the Foreign Office. As for English his Cabinet Office target was 1,250, which should get Hamlet down to one Act. That would allow the minister to hit the Treasury’s Performance Delivery Indicator Target 056/005 more or less on the button and win them both a £5,000 Civil Service star-rating annual performance bonus.

Clearly Ruth Kelly’s arrival at education has sharpened the troops. Like train companies lengthening schedules to “improve” timekeeping, exam boards are shrinking knowledge to improve exam results. Primary maths will show better when the Government abolishes the superfluous number nine. It hopes to do away with long division on advice from the Health and Safety Executive. History targets should be more attainable when they drop a couple of centuries and geography can easily do without South America. As for the ongoing Shakespeare crisis, everyone knows he had far too many kings.

How the Government fixed the Latin and Greek targets remains a mystery. Why 135 Greek words and just 100 Latin? Does the Treasury only do Mandarin? And is the same approach really to be extended to English, where literacy targets are in disarray? Ms Kelly could well meet her Key Stage Three mission pledge by cutting back to three-letter words. She could easily ban all polysyllables. Words beginning with H could go, as discriminating against Essex. The definite article could go as anti-Yorkshire. Then, as Yossarian cried in Catch 22, death to all qualifiers. Today no adverbs, tomorrow no adjectives, the next day no vowels. All GCSE papers could be txtmsgd. [more]

::Friday, March 18, 2005 6:45:05 AM::
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~ In the Italian Press

A couple of items are circulating in the Italian press which might be of interest ... Nove di Firenze reports briefly on recent finds at Lucca (where they found remains of an Etruscan road last year) which confirm the city's foundation date as 180 B.C./C.E. .... Quotidiano di Sicilia has an extended article on the remains of the fortifications at Eurialo (built at the close of the fifth century B.C./C.E. by Dionysius to defend against the Carthaginians) ....

::Friday, March 18, 2005 6:41:19 AM::
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~ 'Seminal' Paper?

This item from the Guardian ... well, read it:

Some may dismiss the outer reaches of academic inquiry as a load of bollocks, but connoisseurs of improbable research will appreciate the sheer scholarly precision that informs seminal papers such as "Right-left and the scrotum in Greek sculpture".

Chris McManus' investigation of scrotal asymmetry remains the definitive work on this topic. Originally published in 1979, it "languished unread" until the award of an Ig Nobel prize for biology in 2002 provoked considerable worldwide interest and led to its republication. As Dr McManus, of University College London's psychology department, notes with pardonable pride, though it is dated in some sense, it "still has merit as being probably the most detailed account of the topic which is available".

The detail is impressive. In most men the right testicle is higher (62.1% or 65.1% according to which survey one cites) and larger than the left, but few are aware that the average weights are 9.95g and 9.36g respectively and 9.69 and 9.10ccs in volume.

Dr McManus' interest, however, is really in why the ancient Greek sculptors, so meticulous and observant when is came to depicting the human body, so often got it wrong when it came to the male organ. From observations of 187 sculptures, he notes that in the largest single group the right testicle is placed higher (correct), but the left is larger (wrong) and the second most frequent group depicts the left as higher and the right larger. Why?

Seeking answers for this question leads Dr McManus into the symbolic importance of right and left found in many cultures and the beliefs of the ancient Greeks about how the sex of babies was determined. There were competing theories, and Pythagoras and Aristotle also had things to say on the subject.

Empedocles believed the sex of the child was determined by the heat of the womb, whereas Anaxogoras proposed that male seed came from the right testis and female from the left. This idea certainly had legs. Long after it was influencing how Greek sculptors saw the male body, men were being given extremely uncomfortable-sounding advice on conception. "As late as 1891, Mrs Ida Ellis in her Essentials of Conception (see Pearsall, 1971 p.303) stated: 'It is the male who can progenate a male or a female child at will, by putting an elastic band round the testicle not required'." It brings tears to the eyes just to think about it.

::Friday, March 18, 2005 6:27:22 AM::
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~ AWOTV: On TV Today

7.00 p.m. |DCIVC| MTA: The Lost City of Roman Britain

10.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Conquerors: Alexander the Great

DCIVC = Discovery Civilization (dna - "description not available")


::Friday, March 18, 2005 6:20:59 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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