Latest update: 4/1/2005; 5:33:15 AM
quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca
~ This Day in Ancient History

ante diem viii kalendas apriles

::Friday, March 25, 2005 6:56:57 AM::
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~ Classical Words of the Day

Today's selection:

pestiferous @

habeas corpus @ Merriam-Webster

refractory @ Wordsmith

::Friday, March 25, 2005 6:49:16 AM::
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~ Vegetius

WorldNet Daily has a feature written by a National Guard member who is about to serve in Iraq; interestingly, the feature is basically a summary of what the U.S. Army owes to Vegetius

::Friday, March 25, 2005 6:25:38 AM::
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~ Fallujah and Dionysus

The Jewish Press has an interesting item reflecting on the murder a year or so ago of four American contractors in Fallujah, inter alia:

An intended function of religious sacrifice is to restore harmony to the primitive community, to strengthen a fragile social fabric. The murders in both Ramallah and Fallujah offered exactly such restoration. Having stumbled upon vulnerable surrogates for their own overflowing violence, the perpetrators in both cases revealed that their surface affinity for mutilation was part of a much deeper passion for "sacred" sacrifice of despised "others." In both cases, the sacrifices were approved widely by Islamic clerics round the world.

We can also learn more about all this from the world of ancient Greece, from the myth of Dionysus described by Euripides in The Bacchae. Idyllic at first, the Bacchantes` celebration quickly evolves into a bloodthirsty nightmare. The delirious women of Thebes hurl themselves indiscriminately on men and beasts. They are reportedly in the midst of a "strange illness," one that we can now recognize unquestionably as a sacrificial crisis.

It is futile, it seems, to try to restrain the still-growing tide of violence and mayhem in parts of the Arab/Islamic world. The Dionysian outbreak prevails over all. So it was that terrible morning in Ramallah, and again several years later in Fallujah.

The murderous mutilations of Ramallah and Fallujah are strikingly similar to the sacrificial violence of Dionysian ritual practice. We can better understand the contemporary events by looking backward to ancient Greece. In Dionysian ritual, "Sparagmos, or dismemberment, is always included. Moreover, as many of the Bacchantes as possible take part in the collective frenzy. This is meant to satisfy the requirement of unanimity, which figures importantly in sacrifice.

Significantly, few or no actual weapons are used in Dionysian practice. The victim is always torn apart by the killers` bare hands. This dismemberment of a living victim, by multiple assailants each participating wholly in the act assumes a clear religious meaning. A mob rapidly comes to a high pitch of mass hysteria, then throws itself on a fragile individual or individuals victims who serve thereby to polarize all the fears, anxieties and hostilities of the profane assembly. Finally, the victims` death provides the desired outlet for mass frustration while it simultaneously restores intracommunal peace.

::Friday, March 25, 2005 6:18:37 AM::
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~ Narcissistic Ajax

The Age has an (edited) excerpt from yet another one of those business/motivational books tapping the ancient world for inspiration (Organisations Behaving Badly - A Greek tragedy of corporate pathology, by Leon Gettler)... here's the incipit:

Charismatic leaders sometimes destroy themselves and their followers. Leon Gettler turns to Greek tragedy to seek an explanation.

Of all the Greeks at Troy, Ajax stood out as a giant. After Achilles, he was the most revered and inspirational leader. On the battlefield, he was certainly the bravest. That all changed, however, when Achilles was killed and the Greeks had to decide what to do with the armour of their fallen hero.

Ajax felt that the armour was his but his comrades decided it should go to the one he most despised, Odysseus. Insulted and outraged, Ajax decided to take revenge but his plan was foiled when the goddess Athena intervened.

She blurred his vision and threw him into a state of confusion. Deluded and not being able to tell what was real from what was not, he rounded up their sheep and cattle, drove them out of their pens and then perpetrated a hideous massacre of the animals, thinking he was extracting revenge on his former comrades who had in his view exhibited the most appalling ingratitude.

When Sophocles' play Ajax begins, Odysseus is searching for Ajax. Slaughtered animals are strewn across the ground, the drovers dead beside them. Odysseus tells Athena that they suspect Ajax was the culprit. He had been seen running through the camp in the night with blood on his sword. Athena tells Odysseus how she had intervened. When Ajax emerges from his tent, he is convinced that he has taught his rivals a lesson. But as the day begins to unfold, the terrible truth emerges.

Shattered by the revelation, he decides that he must die, despite the pleading from his subservient wife, Tecmessa. He announces that he will travel to the seashore to redeem himself by burying his sword, the one he took from the dead Trojan warrior Hector. Instead, however, he plunges the sword into himself. Tecmessa finds his body and is thrown into grief.
The Greeks have decided that Ajax should not be given a full burial and that his body be left to rot in ignominy. His half-brother Teucer confronts one of the leaders, Menelaus, telling him he has no right to make such orders given that he was not the commander of Ajax. He is then confronted by the commander Agamemnon, brother of Menelaus.

Agamemnon is furious at Teucer's impudence and raises doubts about Ajax as a leader.

Odysseus then enters and tries to reconcile everyone. He persuades them to bury Ajax with the respect that he deserves. Whatever his faults, Odysseus said, Ajax still had qualities that needed to be acknowledged. Agamemnon unwillingly consents and Teucer is left to bury his half-brother. The reputation of the Greek hero is restored.

Legend has it that charismatic leaders are blessed by the gods. Indeed, the word "charisma" comes from the ancient Greek word "charis", a gift or reward. As noted earlier, a charism is a divine endowment from the Holy Spirit, and in I Corinthians St Paul says these gifts include the power of healing, to work miracles and to speak in tongues. According to Paul, good leaders are blessed with these gifts.

Ajax had been offered gifts from the gods and, in one pitched battle, he had even been approached by Athena who told him how to attack his enemies. He infuriated her by telling her he was far too good to require her assistance like mortal men.

Holy One,
Give your assistance to some other Greeks.
The line won't break where I am in command.
Infuriated by the snub, Athena took her revenge when Ajax decided to slaughter his comrades for not paying him the honour he thought was rightfully his. She presented him with another "gift": sending him into a state of temporary madness and paranoid delusion.
The fallen hero had some features in common with the many failed business leaders brought undone by the illusion of omnipotence and invincibility. He, too, had been blinded by a veil of fantasy and flaws in a seemingly brilliant vision. And like them, he had a powerful ego that could cast a shadow. In Ajax's view, the armour of Achilles was rightfully his. He was, after all, the bravest of all the Greek commanders at Troy. As he said, no one else deserved it:
One thing is certain - had Achilles lived
To name the champion worthiest to receive
His weapons in reward for valiant service
That never would have fallen to other hands
Than mine.

Pup another way, Ajax had a quality displayed by too many corporate chieftains: he was a charismatic narcissist. But then, that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. As Freud pointed out, narcissists are natural leaders. They are the ones who can take a group to dizzying heights - or send it to hell.

"People belonging to this type impress others as being personalities," Sigmund Freud wrote in Libidinal types. "They are especially suited to act as support for others, to take on the role of leaders and to give a fresh stimulus to cultural development or to damage the established state of affairs."

Freud identified three main personality types. Now, people generally are a mix of all three but his schema is useful as a template.

First are the erotic types. These people are not so much focused on sex as on giving love and being loved. Many teachers, social and welfare workers, nurses, counsellors, psychologists, occupational and speech therapists fit into this category. The second type are the obsessionals: highly conservative, self-reliant, conscientious; they do everything by the book. Think accountants, middle managers and the people who buy self-help books. They can also be great team players and line managers.

Finally, there are the narcissists. Independent and not easily intimidated, they are aggressive can-do people who think for themselves and who are determined to blaze their own trail. [more]

::Friday, March 25, 2005 6:12:30 AM::
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~ Yet Another Online Game

Ye gods ... a couple of weeks ago I wrote about not one, but two forthcoming online games set in Rome ... today I hear of yet another! Roma Victor is set in the time of Commodus ... not sure I like the graphics, but they seem to be further along than the other two I mentioned (Imperator, Gods and Heroes)

::Friday, March 25, 2005 6:04:50 AM::
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~ Canadian on the Acropolis Followup

An excerpt from a CBC followup piece about that fellow Canadian charged with taking things from the Acropolis:

The 16-year-old student from Duncan, B.C., claims she was just picking up a rock on a path near the Parthenon to have her picture taken, when she was arrested, charged and jailed.

Gierc says she was never told about the rules at the ancient site.

"I didn't see any of the signs and we were never told 'Don't touch,' and I had no idea we couldn't pick up things on the ground and have closer looks," said Gierc.

But a spokesperson for the tour company, EF Travel, says there are many written notices at the Parthenon. Brent Ronning says his company also uses licensed tour guides who warn against touching artifacts.

"She really has to take responsibility for her own actions, but we do think that the Greek authorities overreacted," said Ronning.

... yep, I don't buy the "I never was told" argument either. In other reports, she is quoted as saying something to the effect that 'we don't have things like this in Canada, so I didn't know' ... well, she's from Duncan, B.C.. I'm sure she's been to the Butchart Gardens (on Vancouver Island) ... not exactly an antiquity, but a tourist attraction. It doesn't take a lot of brainpower when you're there to figure out you're not supposed to pick the flowers ...

::Friday, March 25, 2005 5:58:16 AM::
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~ Sejanus

The Royal Shakespeare Company is planning a buch of productions to commemorate the Gundpowder Plot which is having its 400th anniversary later this year ... one of the plays will be Ben Jonson's Sejanus ... an interesting excerpt from the Independent:

There's an interesting twist to the official disapproval that was trained severely on the play that Doran himself is going to direct in the season. Published in 1605, the year of the Gunpowder Plot, Ben Jonson's Sejanus: His Fall - a deliberately travestied tragedy that charts the rise and rise and then headlong fall of an unscrupulous favourite in the decadent court of Tiberius Caesar, and which conveys the close-to-home feel of what it is like to live in a virtual police state, with show trials and oppressive censorship - caused its author to be hauled before the Privy Council to be called on to answer the accusation that his play showed Popish and unreasonable tendencies. For Doran, this demonstrates that anything felt to be anti-establishment by the establishment "could find itself tarred with the anti-Catholic brush. The charge of having 'Popish tendencies' had become a convenient catch-all term of abuse". Does that ring any bells with now?

::Friday, March 25, 2005 5:45:34 AM::
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~ AWOTV: On TV Today

5.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Lost Treasures of the Ancient World: The Celts

7.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Ancient Ancestors: The Princess and The Pauper

7.00 p.m. |HINT|   Augustus: First of the Emperors
Story of the bloodthirsty leader who was also one of the most able statesmen in world history. His rule launched the Pax Romana (Roman Peace) that marked the high point of the empire.

9.00 p.m. |HISTU|The Search for John the Baptist
John the Baptist's time on the biblical stage was brief, yet he left an indelible mark on Christianity. We know that he began the sacrament of baptism, but was he also the man behind the message of Jesus? Does a secretive Middle Eastern sect practice ancient rituals handed down directly from John? Despite mentions in the Gospels and the works of the Jewish historian Josephus, little was known about the historical John until now. We follow in the footsteps of the prophet and examine startling new archaeological evidence that provides the first concrete proof of the life of this enigmatic biblical character.    

9.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Mary: Mother of Jesus

Channel Guide -

::Friday, March 25, 2005 5:38:42 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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