My classroom's almost set up ... but I still haven't found any coffeepods for my Melitta Machine ... (grumble):

Adrian Murdoch has found some more graeculus references ... he also points us to a relevant Monty Python sketch (which I've never seen either!) ...

Michael Gilleland has a couple of Latin epigrams by John Owen ... here too ... there's also a post on Hostile Laughter ...

Troels Myrups has a nice post on a couple of inscriptions outside the Colosseum (I saw them!) ...

Mischa Hooker continues to post (yay!) ... there's a post on Elephants and Power ... a time travelling Horace (!) ... comments on a review of Seamus Heaney's latest ...

Ed Flinn has a Gallienus/Genius Aug ...

Laura Gibbs has an interesting exercise for Latin teachers ...

There's some blogticism going on too ... both Jim Davila and Dorothy King are questioning the happy claims of the National Geographic Society's reports of the condition of monuments in Lebanon after the recent hostilities ... semi-related: David at Cronaca mentions how Hezbollah didn't use archaeological sites to hide ordinance (this time) ... I've always wondered why this is the case, considering Taleban actions in the past ...

Elsewhere, Dorothy King (on 'vacation' now) shows us where Nero and Alexander the Great left their mark on the Parthenon (I didn't know this!) ...

Today Luis Fraga da Silva offers us a map of the Antonine Itineraries in Spain ...
Homo sine pecunia mortis imago.

A human being without money is the image of death.

Pron = HOH-moh SEE-nay peh-KOO-nee-ah MOR-tis ih-MAH-go.

Comment: And once and the same time this statement is both something
that I think most people would have to agree with on one level, and so
deeply cynical as to be a shame to the human legacy, on another.

This is what we have come to. A human being without money is as good
as dead. A year ago the thousands abandoned at the dome in New
Orleans fit this picture. And yet, the response of Americans was
outrage. Homeless, penniless human beings were, indeed, worth rescue.

That's because the better motto would be this: homo sine pecunia
fratris, infantis, sororis, vicini, cordis mei imago. That is: a
human being without money is the image of my brother, an infant, my
sister, my neighbor and my own heart.

The cynicism still runs a silent course in most of our veins, though.
Who will I see today that I quietly, almost unconsciously, deem less
valuable than someone else? How might I see that person as my own

Bob Patrick
(Used with permission)
Latin Proverb of the Day Archive

From Cyprus Mail:

ARCHAEOLOGISTS believe they have uncovered evidence that shows the devastation wrought by an earthquake in Paphos in 17BC.

Excavations carried out on the island of Geronisos off the coast of Paphos revealed a structure made up of several small rooms of around 4.5 square metres each.

Quantities of drinking cups and bowls and jugs, as well as cooking pots and casseroles, showed evidence the rooms may have been used as dining rooms.

A courtyard outside the building, which contained a large “beehive” oven, was “virtually filled” with hundreds of roof tiles “carefully stacked as if being stored”.

“It seems these were ready to be used for the repair of a roof or some other construction activity,” a statement from the Antiquities Department said yesterday.

“But the builders never had the opportunity to put them in place owing to destruction by an earthquake, probably that of 17BC.”

Paphos itself was almost completely destroyed in that earthquake.

The Department said the neighbouring trench showed further evidence of the catastrophic event. “A great tumble of rubble wall material with some fragments of architectural mouldings and ashlar blocks was strewn across a level of broken roof tiles,” it said.

However, underneath the debris, archaeologists uncovered pottery from the first century BC, including a stamped Rhodian amphora handle. A bronze needle, a lump of lead, an iron nail and several fragments of cast glass bowels were recovered from the gravel floor.

Archaeologists believe the area was part of the cult of Apollo and that the extensive dining facilities pointed to a continual stream of pilgrims. They said that the island enjoyed its most robust period of activity in the first century BC.

Two years ago, a skeleton was unearthed in Geronisos. It has been identified as belonging to a child aged between seven and a half and 14.
From ANSA:

Two precious archaeological finds, recently returned to Italy after years in the US, are the centrepiece of a new exhibition on the ancient city of Selinus .

The artefacts are two inscriptions dating back to the 6th century BC, which have proved invaluable to scholars looking at Ancient Greek culture in Sicily .

The first item is a funeral stone, while the second is a text on religion .

Last year, California's John Paul Getty Museum returned both artefacts to Italy, which has embarked on a long-term project to recover archaeological finds and artwork removed from the country illegally .

The items are being showcased in the exhibit Selinunte Ritrovata (Selinus Rediscovered), running in this western Sicilian city until September 20 .

The stone bears the simple inscription "I am Latinos. I am the son of Reginos". The show will highlight how recent research has used phrasing, linguistic style and design to date the stone to the end of the 6th century .

The other inscription is a lex sacra, or religious text, minutely engraved on a thin layer of lead, once attached to a stand so it could be rotated .

The text provides a wealth of detail, which is not only helping experts identify religious practices but is also giving them insight into the political organization of the ancient city .

Also on display will be the contents of tombs from the 6th and 5th centuries BC, several Etruscan drinking vessels from the town's necropolis and a number of slabs from one of its temples .

Speaking at the presentation of the exhibition, Sicilian Culture Councillor Nicola Leanza highlighted the efforts involved in tracking down Italy's missing archaeological and artistic treasures .

"This exhibit is only possible thanks to the commitment and teamwork of state and regional authorities, and the Carabinieri," he said, referring to a special police force tasked solely with recovering Italian assets .

The head of the taskforce, Giovanni Pastore, also present at the ceremony, said the Paul Getty Museum is in possession of 52 items "illegally" removed from Italy .

"The museum has already recognized that 21 of these were exported illegally," he said .

Earlier this year, Italy signed what some hope will be a groundbreaking deal with New York's Met Museum. This envisages the return of artefacts in exchange for loans of equivalent value .

As well as the Met and the Getty, two other US museums with huge antiquities collections have come under the scrutiny of Italian investigators: Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and the Cleveland Museum of Art .

In November the Getty, reputedly the world's richest museum, returned three of 52 allegedly stolen Italian treasures it had acquired .

A former curator of the John Paul Getty Museum, Marion True, is on trial in Rome for allegedly acquiring stolen artefacts. It is the first such trial of an American museum curator .
From Radio Free Europe:

A Kyrgyz archaeologist believes he may have located the burial place of the Apostle Matthew.

Vladimir Ploskikh told a news briefing in Bishkek today that his team this summer uncovered on the northeastern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul what he believes are the remains of the Christian monastery that a 14th-century map indicates is the site where the Apostle Matthew was buried.

According to legends, Apostle Matthew died on his way to India and established several Christian communities during the course of his journey.

The document, which is kept in Venice and is known as the Catalan map, mentions a place named "Issicol," where it says there is "a cloister of the Armenian Brothers where the body of the Apostle and Evangelist Saint Matthew is."

Ploskikh, however, cautioned that further investigation is needed.

Four years ago, a Russian-born U.S. photographer, Sergei Melnikoff, said he had found Apostle Matthew's grave near Issyk-Kul. Kyrgyz scientists dismissed his claims.

... the Melnikoff thing is still available via Pravda:

Director Sergey Melnikoff is certain that he found the grave of one of the authors of the Gospel. Ancient legends say that Apostle Matthew died on his way to India. Archbishop of Bishkek and Central Asia Vladimir supported Sergey Melnikoff. Vladimir said that Matthew organized several new Christian communities during his journey, including on the territory of Kyrgyzstan. This journey was a hard one for an old man, he fell ill and eventually died. Specialists say that Matthew was buried on the shore of Issyk-Kul lake in one of Christian monasteries, which was inundated later.

Archeologists say that there are a lot of ancient towns on the bottom of the lake. Kyrgyz archeologists know about a dozen of drowned settlements. One of them was the town of Chigu, the capital of the powerful state of the Usuns. Usuns were the people that used to populate the entire Issyk-Kul basin.

Arabian chronicles also mention a lot about the ancient settlements in the Issyk-Kul region. Ancient Mideast travelers told many stories about the southern shore of the lake. They said that the towns of the “mountain pearl” were celebrated for their riches and a great number of people. There used to be a lot of little towns in the region in the eighth century B.C. the major one of them was the town of Barskhan.

This town was mentioned in the works of the outstanding Asian philosopher Biruni. He wrote that the residents of the Issyk-Kul town unraveled the secret receipt of the ferro-alloy, which only the Chinese used to know. However, any historic evidence of the ancient Kyrgyz cities are lost by the end of the 16th century. Scientists believe that the towns were inundated as a result of the monster earthquake. According to another version, the lake flooded those towns without any quake.

The attention to the Issyk-Kul basin is growing every year. The fame of the mountain pearl even reached the USA. IPV News USA’s success is basically explained with the so-called underwater radar that the company used in its research. This radar allows to see silt-covered objects on a computer screen. Nevertheless, the foreigner’s finding caused a negative reaction on the part of local scientists. Representatives of the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences claimed that Sergey Melnikoff falsified his discoveries in his chase after a piece of sensation. They also accused the American team of illegal activities, since they allegedly did not have a permission for the archeological research.

Nevertheless, the works are still going on. The news about the relics of the Biblical apostle attracted attention of other international companies. A special television expedition of the world-known Discovery channel is reportedly going to visit the Kyrgyz lake.

Whatever the case, as might be expected, the fate of Matthew is mired in varying tales ... see the summary in the last 'graph of the Catholic Encyclopedia ...

UPDATE: via Mark Goodacre's New Testament Gateway ... Perspective adds to the skepticism ...
Laura Gibbs has recently added feedburner's email service to Bestiaria and it reminded me that I wanted to reveal another one of my 'trade secrets' for keeping on top of blogs. About six months ago a new service called Squeet hit the internet world and it's extremely useful. It will convert any rss feed to email so you can have a summary of a new post emailed to you rather than having to go through an rss reader etc.

Why is this useful? Simply put, you don't visit sites without any new content. It's more passive, and, by definition ... easier. It also allowed me to check on the blogs rather more easily when I was on vacation and stopping in at an internet cafe with wonky access. When I get my act together, there will be a 'subscribe with squeet' button somewhere in that right column.


Comments on this post:

Interesting! I have to check this out.

I do have installed FeedBurner, including the e-mail notification, in my blog.

However, I do have a problem of Feedburner's Yahoo feed not showing up properly on my own My Yahoo Page, it's stuck at July 16!

I wonder whether someone could test this for me on their own page.

Also, I discovered that on Google's Personalized Home Page one can simply put the URL of the blog in, no RSS contortions necessary.

Irene Hahn
Since news of this is creeping across the lists and Classical blogosphere (I first saw mention of it at the Stoa), here's one version of the news that you can now download some Google Books in pdf (from the IT Wire):

Google search now gives users the option to search for book titles and download PDF files files of books out of copyright for free. However, the choice of downloads is still very limited.

The new Google Books search feature allows users to search on all books or full view books. If they choose the full view option, they can type in titles of books that are out of copyright and read them online. On some of the titles, there is a download button which allows readers to download the entire scanned book.

Thinking about titles that are out of copyright are enough to stretch the imagination - even with very old books. We tried to source a copy of Herodotus' The Histories for download and could only get an online version to read. However, we could download a published commentary on the book.

We were more successful in finding some copies for download of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, including a scanned version from the Harvard College Library (which is cooperating in the project) that is obviously hundreds of years old because the English is barely recognizable.

What seems to be missing is a link to some sort of index listing all the books available for download.

It seems that in order to stay out of hot water with publishers who have reprinted versions of very old books, Google may have to tread very carefully.

Fortunately for Google and the rest of us in the English speaking world, prestigious libraries in the US and UK are squarely behind the project. However, since those libraries carry mainly copyrighted works, which is what most people want to read, the questions remain as to how Google is going to be able to make them available online without incurring the wrath of publishers and authors.

It would be nice if Google had an rss feed for books in various categories as they're added ...
An excerpt from an item at the 24 Hour Museum:

Research has shown that Roman soldiers based at Hadrian’s Wall would have had a military tattoo, and the exhibition even explains the technique they would have used.

“It is a little-known fact, but it would appear that all of the legionaries and some of the auxiliaries on Hadrian’s Wall would have had a tattoo,” says the university’s Director of Archaeological Museums and expert on Roman history, Lindsay Allason-Jones.

Ancient symbols are often used in contemporary tattoos. Photo Newcastle University
photo of an arm with a knotted cross tattoo design on it

Evidence for the practice comes from the Epitome of Military Science, written around the 4th century AD by the Roman chronicler Vegetius. He recounted that recruits to the legions would have to earn their tattoo once they had been tested by physical exercises.

“We do not know what this official mark looked like,” says Lindsay. “It was possibly an eagle or the symbol of the soldier’s legion or unit.”

The 6th century Roman doctor Aetius recorded that soldiers sported tattoos on their hands and detailed the method they used to create them, noting how leek juice was used as an antiseptic to wash the area to be tattooed.

Designs were pricked into the skin with pointed needles until blood was drawn before the ink was rubbed on, which was made of Egyptian pinewood, corroded bronze, gall (bile) and vitriol (sulphuric acid), plus more leek juice.

... you have to visit the site and see the photo of the tattoo on one of the visitors to the exhibit.
A brief item from Ha'aretz:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday pledged NIS 22 million in government funds for the archaeological park in Tiberias. The project centers on excavating the Roman theater built in the second and third centuries C.E. at the foot of Mount Berenice, remnants of which were discovered in 1990 by the Israel Antiquities Authority. Archaeologists were surprised by the find, since written sources contain no mention of this theater. City officials believe the theater, located 200 meters from the shore of Lake Kinneret, has major economic potential. Olmert's pledge came during a tour of Tiberias with Minister Shimon Peres.
Let's see what's happening today ...

Good to see Mischa Hooker back at the keyboard over at Classics in Contemporary Culture ...

Adrian Murdoch is looking at the Historia Augusta ...

Irene Hahn tells us about Marcus Aemilius Scaurus ...

Ed Flinn presents us with a nice Valens/Securitas Republicae ...

N.S. Gill has a nice gallery of Artemis images ...

David Parsons relates another Roman site v car park tale ...

Laura Gibbs has some more from Alcatio ...

I think I neglected to mention this interesting post on Epiphanies from Michael Gilleland in the past few days ...

Mark Keith is talking about Latin word order ...

Luis Fraga da Silva has a very nice set of maps showing the progress of the Roman conquest of Spain ...
Now this would be good for Latin, no? From TotalCatholic:

The Vatican's daily newspaper has called for Latin to be made the official working language of the European Union, after attempts by the new Finnish presidency to promote its use in EU departments.

"While Latin has been given up as a compulsory subject in schools over recent years, interest in the language is growing in Europe and other parts of the world," the semi-official L’Osservatore Romano said in a commentary.

"In these circumstances, it would constitute a suitable instrument for international communication."

The paper said a Latin-language news programme, Nuntii Latini, had been broadcast weekly for the past decade by YLE, Finland’s equivalent to the BBC, making the ancient Roman language "potentially contemporary."

It added that Latin formulations had been found for numerous modern phenomena, such autocinetica (motorway), supervenalicium (supermarket), fullonica electrica (washing machine) and pilae coriaceae lusor (soccer star).

Besides Finland, which has a tradition of classical scholarship, other countries have reported a growing interest in Latin, whose renewed use as a once-universal language has also been encouraged by the Catholic Church.

The Finnish government set up a weekly news summary in Latin when it first assumed the EU’s rotating presidency in 1999, and has repeated the service, alongside English, French and Swedish, since taking over the six-months presidency for its second term on 1 July.

Classics scholars have insisted use of the language would "turn EU jargon into poetry". As examples, they said the Common Agricultural Policy could be rendered as "Ratio communis agros colendi" (“common scheme for cultivating the fields”), while the EU's Acquis Communautaire, or body of laws and regulations, could be Latinised as "Corpus legum institutorumque iuris Europaei."

"Using Latin is a way of paying tribute to European civilisation and it serves to remind people of European society’s roots, stretching back to ancient times," explained Mia Lahti, editor of the Finnish presidency’s website.

"Latin isn't dead – it’s still very much in use in different forms across the world today. After all, Italians, French and Spaniards all speak a new form of Latin."

Several Italian newspapers have backed the L’Osservatore Romano proposal, while noting that Finland itself was never part of the Roman Empire.
From ANSA:

A model of an Etruscan temple is to tour Italy to drum up funds for the excavation of what experts call one of the country's most exciting recent finds .

The temple to the fertility goddess Demeter was unearthed by chance a few months ago .

Since then the council in this town near Viterbo has been thinking of ways to dig up the cash for a complete examination of the site .

"We can't wait to get down there," said Vetralla's cultural heritage councillor, Maurizio Sensi .

"Experts have said we're onto something big but we've been stymied by a chronic lack of funds" .

"To show people what they're missing, we've decided to make a reconstruction of the temple and take it on tour, hoping somebody - maybe some big private sponsor - will come forward with the money" .

Archaeologists believe the temple could be one of the best-preserved ever found from the late Etruscan era in a area famous for its Etruscan treasures .

"It's virtually intact. The earth poured over it - probably in Roman times - has kept it sealed up in pristine state for more than 20 centuries" .

The artefacts discovered in the temple - many of them representing male and female genitals - have been taken to Rome's famed Etruscan museum at Valle Giulia .

But Vetralla is determined to get them back, Sensi said .

The suggestive sculptures will accompany the temple around the country once local authorities receive permission to have them loaned back, he said .

"They'll probably be our trump card in our bid to muster support for the project," Sensi said .

From the News Shopper:

PROBABLY the Bexley borough's oldest GCSE achiever was Mollie Hills. Aged 80, she lives in Welling and has just achieved a C grade in GCSE Latin.

Mrs Hills told News Shopper she had decided to take the subject because she has always been interested in the Romans.

Orginally from Greenwich, she studied Latin at school for a couple of years. But her education was disrupted by the Second World War and she has always felt she missed out.

So she took up the subject in an adult education class at Brampton Road adult education centre in Bexleyheath, taken by tutor Clive Madel who teaches at Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School in Sidcup.

She said: "I didn't think I would pass the exam because I only just passed the mock."

In fact, everyone in the class passed, including fellow student Peter King from Bexleyheath, who is a mere 74.

Mrs Hills is now planning to take up the AS level Latin course but she says she probably won't take the exam this time.

She explained: "My daughter says she will disinherit me if I do. She says she cannot stand the strain."
Michael Gilleland has an appropriate quote from Euripides for these (or practically any) times ... there's also a translation of Martial by Robert Louis Stevenson ... and I'm sure he's not the only one who made this translation in their early Latin career ...

Dorothy King tells us of some architectural refinements on the Parthenon ... there's news (in Italian) of a Temple of Demeter being found in Viterbo ... there's also a VERY INTERESTING post on the Sampul Tapestry ...

Eric is continuing Quintilian's talk of metaphor ...

Adrian Murdoch points us to an interview with Michael Aquilina on Augustine ...

Ed Flinn has a very nice Cornelia/Demeter(?) ...

The latest installment at Under Odysseus ...

Elginism links to some interesting Parthenon cartoons ...

Roger Pearse ponders the impact of JSTOR on scholarship ...

Amicus Noster Garrett Fagan is the latest scholar to get the Roman Scholars treatment ...

Peter Jones has put some recent Ancient and Modern columns up at the Friends of Classics site ...

The Center For Hellenic Studies has a new section that I just noticed ... First Drafts @Classics@ ... seems to be versions of papers; here's the first couple:

Chapter Four of Sarah Shelton Hitch's King of Sacrifice: Ritual and Authority in the Iliad
Yannick Durbec's "Callimaque Aitia Fr. 26 (Pfeiffer) et la tradition rhapsodique"
Benjamin Woodring's "Trajectories of things: Spears, Arrows, and Agency in Ancient Greek Epic Poetry"

I should also point out that Ginny Lindzey regularly has a rant about how high school Latin teachers are not respected by their university-level counterparts ... professorial types (and those pondering Latin as a teaching career) really should read some of the Latin teacher blogs out there just to see what's going on at the start of the school year ... get started with Mark Keith ... then check out Ginny (scroll down to the post called 'Inspired' and work your way up) ... Durandir has been giving almost a day-by-day account (amid some knitting ... scroll down to August 16) ...

I've also finally managed to connect to Christopher Francese's Latin Poetry Podcast at Dickinson College ... worth a listen (if you can connect ... I had a heck of a time)

New Classics blog: Nestor's Cup (by someone named Nicholas)
First, from BNN:

A unique gold treasure from Thracian times was found on Sunday near the town of Sinemorets at the Bulgarian seaside, news agencies reported.

The excavations near the mouth of Veleka River continued during the day and the field is guarded by the police.
Local people have dug the hill for inert materials and later archeologists discovered the gold treasure, Darik radio announced. There are lots of gold and silver vessels and cult clay tiles with the image of Mother Earth Goddess. Up to the Sunday evening an extremely valuable wreath and a set of golden earrings have been brought out of the hill. Archeological work goes on without stopping, Darik radio added.

... with more details from SNA:

Bulgarian archeologists suggested that the fresh sensational find was from a priestess funeral, media reported Monday.

The gold and silver objects found near Sinemorets the past weekend were dated back to the 3rd Century B.C..

Meanwhile, media revealed that a prosecution's check had begun at the site to determine whether there have been any violations by excavators.

There had been a signal that people were digging at the mound as early as June 7, according to reports, indicating that the treasure might has been rummaged.

On Sunday, archeologists brought out a tiara and ear accessories made of gold. Silver and ceramic objects have also surfaced.
In case you missed it at the start of summer, that Iliad-was-written-by-a-woman thing is still kicking around ... this time at DCN:

The author of the Greek epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey was probably a woman, according to an upcoming book by a British historian and linguist.

Andrew Dalby, author of Rediscovering Homer, argues that the attribution of the poems to Homer was founded on a falsehood.

Homer’s link to the poems, Dalby writes, stems from an "ill-informed postclassical text, the anonymous Life of Homer, fraudulently ascribed to Herodotus," a respected Greek historian who lived from around 484-425 B.C.

Herodotus does mention Homer in his work Histories, but by then the legend of the mysterious, blind, male poet had already taken root, Dalby says.

Dalby explained to Discovery News that the earliest references to Homer by writers such as Herodotus and the Greek poet Pindar indicate the poet lived around 800 B.C.

But based on geographical references in the poems, Dalby believes the Iliad was composed in 650 B.C., while the Odyssey was written in 630 B.C., well after Homer’s supposed lifetime.

Aside from the poems themselves, no concrete clues exist to identify their author, but Dalby builds a case that the person probably was a woman.

"In many oral traditions, the best and most reliable creators, the ones who are used by folklore collectors, happen to be women," he said.

Dalby explained that women throughout the ancient world were "often the last and most skillful exponents of an oral tradition."

For example, the world’s first named poet was a Sumerian woman named Enheduanna, who lived from around 2285-2250 B.C. Dalby said women also saved the ancient oral poetry of the northern Japanese, many Irish traditions, and numerous English folk ballads.

Another recent book, Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales, claims the Brothers Grimm gathered most of their famous stories from women. Author Valerie Paradiz told Discovery News that the brothers "only gave credit to one woman by name," but then linked most other tales to male editors who also gathered stories from women.

Dalby thinks both works were composed by the same person, but that the more developed female figures in the Odyssey — particularly the heroic character Penelope — reflect change in the author's life.

"By the time she came to create her second masterpiece, the woman poet understood at last that in consigning her work to writing, she was able to address a whole new audience (including women)," he said.

While no master copy of the poems exists, many different written versions of the poems were circulating in Greece by 300 B.C.

Anthony Snodgrass, emeritus professor of classical archaeology at Cambridge University, agrees that, because of its emphasis on domesticity versus aggression, the Odyssey could have been written by a woman. But he finds it hard to believe a female could have composed the violence-infused Iliad.

If the poet was a woman, Dalby believes her name is probably lost to history.

"I would guess that Sappho (a female Greek poet) and her contemporary, the male poet Alkaios, probably knew the name, but they did not mention it in their own poetry," Dalby said.


Comments on this Post:

Why not attribute it to Helen? book 3, lines 121-28.
alice browne

Here's Samuel Butler's translation for those of you who don't recall the passage:

Meanwhile Iris went to Helen in the form of her sister-in-law, wife of the son of Antenor, for Helicaon, son of Antenor, had married Laodice, the fairest of Priam's daughters. She found her in her own room, working at a great web of purple linen, on which she was embroidering the battles between Trojans and Achaeans, that Mars had made them fight for her sake. Iris then came close up to her and said, "Come hither, child, and see the strange doings of the Trojans and Achaeans till now they have been warring upon the plain, mad with lust of battle, but now they have left off fighting, and are leaning upon their shields, sitting still with their spears planted beside them. Alexandrus and Menelaus are going to fight about yourself, and you are to the the wife of him who is the victor."

From ANSA comes this good news:

One of Rome's prime tourist attractions, the ruins of Nero's Domus Aurea, is set to be re-opened to the public sooner than expected .

Visitors will next year be allowed in to the fabled 'Golden House' while it is undergoing repairs to its leaky and flaking walls and ceilings, Rome's architectural superintendent Angelo Bottini says .

The Domus was closed in December because of urgent safety concerns, and was expected to remain shut for two years .

But now, Bottini says, culture lovers will be allowed back in after the roof is water-proofed next spring .

"Once the roof is safe from leaking water people can come back in. They'll be able to see the repair work for themselves. We're thinking of putting up a special visitors' route amid the scaffolding," Bottini said .

Bottini added that the project will enable experts to "finally" unearth more of the massive baths that Emperor Trajan built over the Domus, "allowing visitors to see how the whole complex fits together" .

Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli has cited the restoration of the Domus among the city's major priorities, along with much-needed work on the Circus Maximus and a run-down Baroque gallery, Palazzo Barberini. In December, Rutelli's predecessor Rocco Buttiglione said it would take five million euros for the "most urgent" work on the damaged ceilings .

But after that two-year project, a further 60 million euros would be needed over ten years to preserve the monument for future generations .

Buttiglione's announcement that the 32 rooms open to visitors "were no longer safe" came after patches of brick and plaster showed worrying signs of becoming detached .

In recent years, there have been at least two incidents in which holes in the ceilings have appeared .

The top of the Domus is covered with parks, trees and roads whose weight and possible polluting effect was highlighted by some experts when the site was re-opened six years ago .

It had been closed for over 20 years after water seepage sparked fears of possible structural subsidence .

The Golden Palace of the ill-famed Emperor Nero (37-68 AD) re-opened in June 1999 after 21 years in which it was Rome's best-kept secret - open only to art officials and special guests .

Some 2.5 million euros was spent in refurbishing the rooms filled with surprisingly fresh and lively frescoes of weird animals like winged lions, griffins and tritons .

The images led to the original coinage of the word 'grotesque', from the Italian word for cave or grotto .

After Nero's suicide in 68 AD the Flavian emperors who succeeded him proceeded to bury all trace of the man who even in his own life was a byword for dissolution, cruelty and excess .

The Flavian amphitheatre, better known as the Colosseum, was built on the site of Nero's palace-side lake, while Trajan built his baths on top of the main part of the sprawling pleasure dome, located mainly on Rome's Colle Oppio (Oppian Hill) .

Ironically, the Colosseum is so-called because of the massive statue of Nero that his successors dragged beside their own monument - after changing the head, according to some ancient accounts .

Another irony is that, by burying the place, they actually preserved it so that the finest wall-paintings outside Pompeii, with almost equally vivid colours, can be admired today .

Other interesting touches are the chalk and tallow marks left by Renaissance masters like Raphael who were let down through a hole in the roof to admire its splendours .

At the time of its re-opening in 1999, officials said it would take another 25 million euros to uncover all 150 rooms of the palace .

They said the Domus Aurea had the potential to become a site rivaling that of the Palatine with its palaces of the first Caesars .

Among the highlights of any visit will be the frescoes, of course, many of them illustrating the emperor's taste for the exotic in scenes from Homeric myth .

Architecturally, the star of the site is the Octagonal Room where Nero is supposed to have entertained his guests with his singing and lyre-playing, all on a rotating floor .

At suitable moments in the fun, the sybaritic emperor is also reported - by Roman historian Suetonius - to have given the signal for marble panels to slide back, showering guests with petals and perfume .

When it was completed, a 50-hectare complex covering most of the Palatine, Celian and Oppian hills, Nero was reputed to have remarked that finally he was beginning to be housed like a human being .

si usus magister est optimus, mihi debet esse notissima.

If experience is the best teacher, I ought to know I(this expression) best of all.

(M.Tullius Cicero, Pro Rabirio Postumo 4.9, adapted)

Pron = see OO-soos mah-gis-ter est OHP-tih-moos MEE-hee deh-beht
ehs-seh noh-TIS-sih-mah

Comment:For a statement like this, the context almost doesn't matter.
Which of us doesn't immediately nod in agreement with this long dead
Roman, Cicero? Have there been any experiences that we've had which
have taught us invaluable lessons? Certainly we laugh at the thought
of anything but a "yes" in answer. And, I know for myself, the
experiences which teach the most resoundingly are those where I took
the wrong path, made a mistake, acted foolishly, didn't know what I
was doing.

And yet, I must affirm: in all of those circumstances, I was doing the
best I was capable of at the moment. That's why the experience
teaches. At the moment, I do the best I can, and when my best falls
short of a "good" outcome, I, of all people, stand to benefit from the
new insights from it all.

In my estimation, any human being who understands this kind of dynamic
can only be made more compassionate toward others who, today, while
doing the best they can, are having really awful experiences. Let's
greet them as fellow learners!

Bob Patrick
(Used with permission)
Latin Proverb of the Day archive
From the Conservative Voice:

How about the noun "data." What's its number? Is it singular? Plural? If so, why so?

The Associated Press says, without equivocation, that "'data' is a plural noun that normally takes plural verbs and pronouns." Then the AP waffles: When "data" is treated as a unit, the data IS sound. When data are treated as individual items, the data ARE carefully collected.

All clear? We're talking today about familiar English words that stay tangled in their foreign roots. A huge number of them date from the Romans 2,500 years ago, another substantial number from the ancient Greeks. They're all mixed in with contemporary foreign phrases.

Backing away from the AP, The New York Times treats the plural noun "data" as a singular noun that's been mugged. Your dear old high school Latin teacher may cringe at "The data IS persuasive," but that's the way the souffle falls. The noun has become "acceptable" as a singular term for information, e.g., "The data was persuasive." When "data" is hired to define a collection of some kind, the Times' style manual says, "the noun can still be plural," e.g., "The data arrive from bookstores nationwide." All clear? The Times' entry concludes with a gratuitous sneer at the singular "datum," a word "both stilted and deservedly obscure."

The lexicographer Bryan Garner, my favorite contemporary authority on these matters, has all but yielded the field. These days, he agrees, "datum" is "likely to sound pretentious." My advice is to rely absolutely on your ear. It will tell you when the data is and when the data are. There isn't any ironbound rule.

On many other classic words the rules are more prescriptive than permissive, e.g., one phenomenon, two phenomena; one criterion, two criteria; one bacterium, two bacteria; one addendum, two addenda; one male alumnus, one female alumnae. An "agenda" hasn't been a plural noun for years. As for the media, bless us, we are forever plural.

Sixty years of editing copy -- my own copy and other writers' copy -- have taught me a lesson for writers of all ages everywhere. Let me pass it along: Unless you are confident of your mastery of a foreign language, don't trot it out in public. Instead of providing that soupcon of sophistication, that lovely little apercu of wit, you are likely to wind up with scrambled oeufs on your figure. (Among the other hazards of foreign quotation is the typesetting problem that accompanies the diacritical mark. Without their cedillas, those sexy nouns look half undressed.)

If you want to quote foreign, you ought to spell foreign. It is a rule! Five years ago the outgoing president of the South Carolina Medical Association failed to observe the rule. He thought to end his valedictory editorial by quoting the state's Latin motto, Dum Spiro Spero . (While I breathe, I hope.) Sad to say, it came out "Dum Sprio Spreo," which sounded like a vegetable oil or a one-time vice president.

"In a sense," wrote columnist George Will, "the sturm and drang about this contest ..." The rule on German nouns is to capitalize the burly fellows. That goes for Zeitgeist and Schadenfreude, too.

If you are tempted to quote French phrases, I have some advice for you: Lie down until the impulse goes away. A snack by any other name is not usefully an amuse-gueule . Not everyone has met a roman a clef or punctuated it properly either. If you absolutely must speak of hoi polloi , do not speak of "the" hoi polloi. In sum, dear friends, stick with English unless you know an umlaut from a virgule, and back again. Viola! (STET!)

By the way, assorted regular features like Classical Words of the Day, This Day in Ancient History, etc., will be resuming in the next couple of days. For those of you who have asked for a separate rss feed for This Day, I figured out how to do it and now have it on my to do list.
Hopefully y'all kept up with the ClassiCarnies in my absence ... if you did, some of what follows might be redundant, but here are the posts which have caught my eye (and, in theory, my mailbox is empty!):

Bread and Circuses is looking at Monica and Augustine ... earlier, we note a post about Vin Diesel's Hannibal flick being 'downsized' ...

Blogographos points us to a 'paean' to Edith Hamilton at Thrutch ... meanwhile, Alun is wondering which Alexander flick is the least bad ...

Campus Mawrtrius began a new feature on Quintilian and figures and tropes ... the most recent installment is about metaphor ...

ARLT had a number of posts relating to the Latin Mass ... in chronological order, they're here, here, and here ... today there's a piece on Astronomy and Greek Mythology ...

Today, Bestiaria posts about the Goat and the Milk Pail ... among earlier posts, the tale of the Greedy Pelican caught my eye (the vulning pelican is feature on the Meadows coat of arms ... it was fun pointing out to the kids the 'pious' image in various churches during our travels) ...

PhDiva probably did the most to 'pick up the slack' during my absence and had well over a hundred posts (by my count) ... I'll choose three for various random reasons: Hannibal and Carthage (with a nice satellite photo) ... Missing Antiquities of Albania ... and a link to some Classical Paper Dolls (actually from Disney's Hercules) ... more recently, her comments on the return of that Parthenon piece are worth reading ... I notice too that a pile of more stuff from DK has hit the ewaves ... there's another Classical Paper Dolls post (they're up for bids on eBay) ... a piece on metopes ... a good bibliography of books on Athens and Athenian archaeology

Laudator is talking about ramming tactics and technology ...

Mary Beard had a number of good posts ... in no particular order: More Reasons to Visit Bologna, They Make a Desert and Call it Peace, Keeping Sex Out of Scholarship, Looting Ancient and Modern, Who Wrote I Claudius, Treasure Trove (alas, our schedule didn't allow me to get to the museums!!) ...

Iconoclasm has a really interesting post (with links to a paper) on analyzing the method by which some ancient monument/statue was broken (hard to describe this one) ...

Hobbyblog has a Gallienus/Minerva today, but I'm linking to the main page in case you've missed visiting lately ... (I've got some interesting coin photos of my own to show (eventually) ... items found by relatives while hunting or picking tomatoes) ...

Paleojudaica had a post on the Minimus Latin texts ... there are also some photos from JD's trip to Vindolanda ... (I'll start posting some photos from my own vacation later this week ... gotta sort through them all (well over 500)) ...

I'm a sucker for this sort of thing ... Codex posts a list of Jesus Kitsch objects (in my classroom I have a well-known internet pic of Jesus playing hockey with a kid ... no, he's not the goalie, but we always hear Foster Hewitt in our head saying 'A scintillating save by Jesus' ...) ...

I think I'll stop there for now (have to get ready to get ready for school) ... more ClassiCarnie links tomorrow
From the Guardian:

The French historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet, who has died aged 74, was famous for his denunciations of the torture practised by the French army during the Algerian war of independence (1954-62). He was one of the most distinguished contemporary exemplars of the French tradition, dating back to Zola and the Dreyfus Affair (if not indeed to Voltaire), of the intellectual engaged in politics.

Vidal-Naquet was born into a cultivated and bourgeois Jewish family. His father, Lucien, was a lawyer. The Vidal-Naquets had long abandoned religious practice, and like many assimilated French Jewish families, their religion, if they had one, was attachment to the democratic values of the French Republic. Vidal-Naquet's grandfather had been involved in the struggle to prove Dreyfus innocent; his uncle was named Georges (after Georges Picquart, the army officer who had helped uncover the affair), Emile (after Zola), and Alfred (after Dreyfus himself). The moral of the Dreyfus Affair was seen to be that the republic had triumphed over the army; truth over raison d'état.

Pierre remembered his father telling him the Dreyfus story during the German occupation. The family had taken refuge in Marseille and Lucien was excluded from the legal profession by Vichy's anti-semitic laws. From the end of 1942 the Germans occupied the whole of France, and Marseille was no longer safe. On May 15 1944, Pierre's parents were arrested and deported to Auschwitz. Pierre was not at home, and one of his teachers organised some fellow pupils to track the boy down and prevent him returning home. Thanks to this he was saved, with his two brothers and sister, and looked after by Protestant families in the Cévennes. Only after liberation did Pierre understand he would never see his parents again.

He completed his studies, and started a career as a historian of ancient Greece. His first posting was at Caen in 1955, but almost immediately he was catapulted into another parallel existence which absorbed him for years. In 1954 a revolt broke out in Algeria against the French. The French army rapidly resorted to ever dirtier tactics to break the rebels. In June 1957, Maurice Audin, a mathematics lecturer at Algiers University who opposed war, was arrested. Ten days later he disappeared after supposedly escaping from detention.

Vidal-Naquet was suspicious of the army's version of events, and he was one of the founders, in November 1957, of the Maurice Audin committee. In May 1958, Vidal-Naquet published his book, L'Affaire Audin, using his forensic historical training to demolish the official version, and demonstrate that Audin had been murdered by the French army (and probably tortured). His model in this exercise was the 1898 articles of the socialist Jean Jaurés demolishing the trumped up case against Dreyfus.

Thus began for Vidal-Naquet four years of political activism. In 1958 the Audin committee published an article entitled Nous Accusons. In 1960 Vidal-Naquet was one of 121 intellectuals who signed a petition defending the right of insubordination for conscripts called up to fight in Algeria. He testified in September 1960 in defence of Henri Jeanson, who was involved in actively supporting the Algeria rebels. For these activities Vidal-Naquet was suspended from his teaching post for a year in 1959-60.

After the end of the war, he published a Penguin Special, Torture: Cancer of Democracy, which denounced the entire edifice of torture, blaming not only the army, but the politicians who had authorised it (and also brought in cases of British torture in Cyprus and Kenya).

In 1962, Vidal-Naquet returned more fully to his teaching. From 1966 until his retirement in 1997 he taught at the prestigious Parisian École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. He produced original work on the origins of Greek democracy, on Greek slavery and what Greek myths revealed about the social structures of ancient Greek society.

But throughout his life, he continued to make his voice heard in politics, opposing the Vietnam war (he was among the founders in 1966 of the French National Vietnam Committee) and the military dictatorship in Greece. From 1967 he tirelessly advocated the need for a two-state solution in the Middle East. In the late 1970s he also began to turn his attention to the rise of "negationism" in France - the theory that the Nazi gas chambers had not existed - and wrote a book denouncing what he called the "assassins of memory". But equally his opposition to state sponsored official history led him to oppose the French law making negationism a crime. His last public act was to sign an appeal in Libération on July 27 criticising Israeli military intervention in Lebanon.

Vidal-Naquet was never in thrall to any particular political movement. Unusually for French intellectuals of his generation he was never a communist. He was motivated by a sense of justice and moral outrage deriving both from the political traditions of his family and the tragic circumstances of his parents' death. He was capable of anger, but unlike other supporters of the Algerian cause, such as Jean-Paul Sartre, he never romanticised the violence of Algerian nationalists. Sometimes he regretted that his passion had led him to exaggerate (for example talking of a genocide in Algeria), and he also came to feel disappointed in the failures of the new Algerian regime. In 1995 he wrote of Algeria: "Between military dictatorship and Islamic terrorism can one still hope that a free society will emerge? I continue to believe it will."

His political commitment was closely embedded in his metier as historian. His self description was: "A man of passion who commits himself, crossed with a historian who watches him closely, or at least should watch him closely."

His first lecture to his students after Charles de Gaulle was brought back to power in 1958 by a military coup was on the relationship between state and army in ancient Greece. He liked to quote a passage by Chateaubriand denouncing silence in the face of state criminality that he had found in his father's diary for 1942: "When in the abjectness of silence, one no longer hears the chains of the slave or the voice of the denouncers, when everyone trembles before the tyrant, the historian appears. It is in vain that Nero triumphs, Tacitus has already been born in the empire."

Vidal-Naquet's death has deprived France of one of the most noble examples of the committed intellectual.

He had three sons with his wife, Genevieve.
From the Western Mail:

WELSH historians believe they have uncovered the site of a 2,000-year-old city which they say is the most important location in ancient British history.

The Ancient British Historical Association (ABHA) claims that a field at Mynydd y Gaer near Pencoed is the fabled fortress city of King Caradoc I, or Caractacus, who fought the Romans between 42-51 AD.

The Roman leader at that time was the Emperor Claudius, immortalised by Derek Jacobi in the TV series and film I, Claudius, alongside Welsh actress Si n Phillips as his aunt Livia.

Historians Alan Wilson and Baram Blackett used old manuscripts to narrow their field of search and aerial photos obtained from Google Earth, which provides maps and satellite imagery, to find the exact spot.

Their findings have yet to be verified but the team are positive they have found the long lost site.

Mr Wilson said, "What we have is a clearly- defined walled city in exactly the place the records tell us it should be.

"The Welsh manuscripts and supporting records are always precise and allow us to make major progress in terms of identifying royal burial mounds, tombs, artefacts and more."

Tim Matthews, another member of the team, added, "We knew pretty much the area we were looking for and we knew that St Peter's Church nearby was an important meeting site and that it was at Caer Caradoc.

"So our area of search was limited to that area but because some land owners are less happy than others about people traipsing though their land access wasn't always easy.

"If you look at other ancient walled cities and what they may have been like you start to get an idea of the shape and the delineation and the patterning and you can see this is exactly what we're looking for."

Some experts have received the news with caution. A spokesperson at the Council for British Archaeology said, "Clearly it is very difficult to interpret early Welsh sources in relation to what is on the ground today.

"Although aerial photographs can be very revealing they can be very deceiving too. Without ground surveys and geophysical surveys to establish whether there were buried features, it would be difficult to say for certain whether it was an ancient site.

"That would be the next stage of investigation."

However the ABHA are sure of their findings.

Mr Matthews added, "With our research there's no theory and no speculation. You can read every manuscript, visit every site and touch every stone.

"You can go to places and see things - South Wales is littered with about 200 stones, dozens of grave mounds, tombs, all sorts of artefacts."

The group has gathered evidence from a number of ancient documents which they say refer to Caer Caradoc, including the Brut Tyssilio (684AD) and the later Gruffyd ap Arthur (1135AD).

Another reference is that of Teithfallt or Theodosius, who buried the 363 British noblemen murdered by treacherous Saxons at the notorious "Peace Conference" circa 456 AD at the Mynwent y Milwyr at Caer Caradoc.

According to the ABHA the Mynwent y Milwyr [monument to the soldiers] - is still to be found on the second highest point of Mynydd y Gaer above the possible site of the city of Caer Caradoc.

A third reference is that of the "Uthyr Pendragon", King Meurig or Maurice, who lies buried at the giant circle at Caer Caradoc.

There is, at this location, a gigantic ditch and mound shaped like a boat, next to St Peter's Church ruin not far from the site.

Mr Matthews believes that a historical discovery of this size could have important implications for the local economy.

"South Wales is packed with historical stuff and people just don't realise this.

"It's an area which is rich in ancient history you can actually touch.

"People love this kind of thing, they love it everywhere. People will come and see these things.

"It's regrettable that people in tourism agencies haven't done more."

When King Caradoc I, son of Arch, fought against the Romans between 42-51AD he was taking on a pretty big task.

At the time Rome was ruled by Emperor Claudius, or Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus to give him his full name.

The first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy, Claudius nonetheless oversaw the expansion of his empire, including the conquest of Britain.

His life was immortalised by English writer Robert Graves in his novels I, Claudius (1934) and Claudius the God (1935), which were adapted into the 1976 BBC TV series and film I, Claudius starring Derek Jacobi and Si n Phillips, pictured right.

However, as with many of the great Roman leaders, Claudius met his death at the hand of someone within his own household, poisoned either by his taster or his doctor. He died on October 13, 54AD.
Lucy Hughes-Hallett writes in the Guardian:

Cleopatra - the last queen of Egypt; one of the most formidable enemies Rome ever faced; the woman whose two husbands, both of whom were also her brothers, died in their teens (one in battle against her, the other possibly murdered on her orders); the lover who thereafter chose her own partners with an eye not only to pleasure, but also to the augmentation of her own power. She appears on the Glyndebourne stage this summer, portrayed by Danielle de Niese, in an unfamiliar character: that of a sweet helpless girl desperately in need of a male protector. Handel's opera Giulio Cesare (libretto by Nicola Haym) introduces a surprising vision of Cleopatra. She is recognisably linked to the Cleopatra of Dryden's All for Love, a fluttery creature who describes herself as a "silly, harmless household dove". But she bears almost no resemblance to the more familiar Shakespearean "serpent of old Nile" currently to be seen at the Globe, where Frances Barber plays up her violence, forcing the unwelcome messenger's hand down on to a brazier full of hot coals, and at Stratford, where Harriet Walter endows her with fierce intelligence and sorrowful majesty.

All legends have a tendency to mutate, to be reshaped in each successive era according to the prejudices and preoccupations of those who retell the tale. But Cleopatra's is more than usually protean. It was first formulated in her own lifetime by her enemies' propaganda. Its primary purpose was to discredit her lover Mark Antony.

Cleopatra and Antony had formed a partnership that was as much a political alliance between two mutually useful potentates as it was a love affair. But the story, as Roman poets and historians tell it, was that Antony had become so besotted with the queen of Egypt that he was willing to give up his chance of ruling Rome in order to enjoy the pleasures of her bed. So Antony, the canny politician and commander with empire-building ambitions to rival Alexander's, was reinvented as a degenerate hedonist and a traitor to Rome. As a by-product of that successful exercise in news manipulation, Cleopatra was cast as the woman for whose love's sake the world would be well lost.

Cleopatra - the gratification of every conceivable desire - has been repeatedly reimagined by writers, artists and film-makers in accordance with desires of their own. She was one of the most powerful women in the ancient world, and she was defined by the Romans and their heirs as the foreigner - at once the menacing stranger and the temptress, offering the chance of escape from the tedious limitations of one's own known world. So sexual and racial politics have shaped the variations on her story, transforming her from serpent to dove and back again to suit her public's yearnings and fears.

Her moral status fluctuates. Cecil B de Mille offered the leading role in his sumptuous movie about her to Claudette Colbert with the words: "How would you like to play the wickedest woman in history?" His question anticipated the answer: "Very much indeed, please." "Wicked" was already, in the 1930s, a term of approbation meaning sexy, edgy, thrilling, an infinitely more alluring epithet than boring old "good": the hypocrisy at the heart of our culture has been part of Cleopatra's legend for most of 2,000 years. But back in 1380, Geoffrey Chaucer made Cleopatra the first heroine of his Legend of Good Women. To him and his contemporaries she was the paragon of feminine virtue, the proof of her goodness being that she didn't wish to outlive her man. In an age when love-matches were rare and widowhood the only condition in which a woman could be truly independent, men, it appears, found it hard to trust their wives.

The emphasis of her story wavers as often as her claim to virtue. To the Renaissance painters, it was about sex and money. They produced quasi-pornographic images of her suicide. Although all the ancient historians agree that Cleopatra had herself dressed in all her royal robes before applying the asp to her arm, artists almost invariably picture her dying in the nude, with the snake at her breast. Or they show her presiding over a magnificent banquet, in the act of demonstrating her prodigality and her wealth by drinking down a pearl dissolved in vinegar.

To the English and German dramatists who took up the theme after Shakespeare, it was about the relative status of wives and mistresses. In the Protestant cultures of post-Reformation Europe there was a lively debate about the new ideal of companionate marriage, one which spilled over into Cleopatra's story: the reason Dryden's Cleopatra feels so feeble is that she lacks a wedding ring. Next, in versions written in the period leading up to the American and French revolutions, the story became about the clash between rival systems of government. In some dramas (notably those produced under Louis XIV and his successors), Cleopatra and Antony represent the feudal nobility as opposed to Octavius's centralising and modernising regime. In others, Cleopatra stands for the decadence (and romance) of ancient monarchy contrasted with Roman republicanism.

The storyline shifts. So does Cleopatra's appearance. For several hundred years she was blonde. She was a famous beauty, and so medieval poets ascribed all the conventional attributes of beauty to her: hair like spun gold, sky-blue eyes and breasts "as white as ivory billiard balls". The tradition was persistent. Shakespeare's Cleopatra may have been darkened by "Phoebus's amorous pinches", but in Tiepolo's magnificent frescoes in the Palazzo Labia in Venice she is as pearly-pale as the earring she is about to drop into her gilded cup, with albino eyelashes and opalescent breasts. It wasn't until the very end of the 18th century, the period when Napoleon sent his troops and his scholars to Egypt, that Cleopatra's exoticism became once more (as it had been in her lifetime) the most important thing about her. Delacroix painted her as a kind of Gypsy fortune-teller, dark-eyed and tousle-haired.

Over the next century, as the European powers scrambled for territory in Africa and the Middle East, Cleopatra's legend became the vehicle for theories about racial difference and justifications of imperialism. Artists represented her as an enticing Turkish dancing girl in gauzy harem pants and sparkly bra; lolling indolently on a divan, she became representative of a terminally decadent culture ripe for annexation by a benignly energetic western power. In the latter pose, she is usually surrounded by slaves bearing cups of sherbet and peacock-feather fans. Or, in many cases, writhing in agony on the floor.

In the 19th century the Cleopatra plot ceased to be the familiar, more or less historical one of Antony, Actium and the asp. In 1837 Pushkin revived a scurrilous piece of fourth-century gossip alleging that Cleopatra used to offer a night in her bed to any man willing to pay for the privilege with his life. He expanded on the theme. Cleopatra, presiding over a banquet in a mood of idle boredom, makes her terrible offer. Her courtiers are aghast, but a line of men beg for the prize. She rejects princes and generals, accepting instead a fresh virgin boy, whose execution she watches with relish the following dawn.

Romantics and decadents alike adored the story. Cleopatra was reborn as the femme fatale, the personification of the bourgeois male's sexual guilt and the realisation of his most deliciously painful self-castigating fantasies. Plutarch had recorded that, in preparation for her own death, she tested poisons on her household slaves: the scene was represented repeatedly on canvas and on the stage, while Pushkin's scenario became the basis for dozens of later versions. The tragedy of Cleopatra in which Sarah Bernhardt starred repeatedly over three decades (doggedly continuing even after she had lost a leg) was not Shakespeare's, but one written to the actress's order by Victorien Sardou, in which the queen is a sadistic voluptuary given to performing elaborate striptease. Meanwhile, the bestselling novelist H Rider Haggard came up with a new twist when he revealed that the youth Cleopatra took to bed was actually her own son.

Cleopatra had become the personification of vice, flouter of every convention, breacher of every taboo. She was barely human. Algernon Swinburne, in an essay that is part art criticism, part masochist reverie, enthused about Michelangelo's drawing in which queen and asp seem to fuse into one Medusa-like being, while Gustave Flaubert called her "the pale creature with a fiery eye, the viper of the Nile who smothers with an embrace". Ruthless, beautiful, bestial, this fantastic Cleopatra seemed to offer Europeans, feeling cramped in an increasingly regulated society, an escape into a Nietzschean wonderland of moral irresponsibility and violent pleasure.

By the time the Ballets Russes staged Fokine's Cleopatra in Paris in 1909, she had become the figure of death. The dancer who played her, Ida Rubinstein, was carried on in a sarcophagus, wrapped mummy-fashion in yards of multicoloured gauze from which she was gradually unwound, her face chalk-white, her hair bright blue.

The fantasy of the death-dealing vamp flourishes in peacetime. In the face of the 20th century's wars it came to seem a bit of a joke, and a sick joke at that. In 1917 the movie Cleopatra, starring Theda Bara (described by the Fox publicity team as the "Ishmaelite of femininity" and the "torpedo of domesticity"), bombed at the box office. In a world where young men were being slaughtered en masse, the femme fatale was redundant. Bernard Shaw scoffed at the idea of sublime passion, and wrote a Caesar and Cleopatra in which the queen of Egypt is a petulant teenager. Claudette Colbert played her as a flirty good-time girl and, in 1945, Vivien Leigh brought to the part, in Kenneth Tynan's words, "the daintiness of a debutante called upon to dismember a stag". Cleopatra had become camp.

In the notorious 1963 movie she arrives in Rome on a mobile sphinx as high as the Senate house, accompanied by belly dancers, whirling dervishes, wheeled pyramids that open up to release flocks of white doves, scores of chariots, archers and armies of well-oiled, buff attendants in fetching pink loincloths. Arriving before Caesar, Elizabeth Taylor, heavily made up in early 1960s style with lots of eyeliner, false lashes and pale lipstick, bows deeply, her bosom looming large around the edges of her deeply cut gold-lamé bodice. And then, looking up at Antony, she winks. The scandal generated by Taylor's on/off-screen affair with her Antony, Richard Burton, was gleefully welcomed by the film's producers. To the 19th-century Romantic, the wages of sin might be death. To the 20th-century entrepreneur, it was good publicity. To a postwar generation avid for life and pleasure, Cleopatra offered not a fatal passion, but history's best ever holiday romance.

In the last three decades of the 20th century, Cleopatra got serious again. She was allotted a role in a debate about race relations. Afrocentrist historians, led by Martin Bernal, argued that the culture of ancient Egypt had been played down by racist scholars unwilling to acknowledge that Greek civilisation, and therefore all subsequent western civilisation, had African origins: it became fashionable to describe the pharaohs as black.

But whatever colour the pharaohs were, Cleopatra was not one of them. She was the direct descendant on her father's side of one of Alexander's generals, a Macedonian Greek. We do not know who her mother was: her ethnic inheritance can't be fully established. But we do know that when the director of a 1990s production of Shakespeare's play, who had cast a black actress in the role of Cleopatra, talked about emphasising her "earthiness" and "the kind of non-European regality which allows someone to sit on the floor", she was imposing yet another set of anachronistic preconceptions on to the image of the Hellenistic queen. Already, only a few years later, that director's remarks sound insulting: we do not now think of "earthiness" and a reluctance to use the furniture as particularly "black" traits. In fact, Cleopatra shocked the republican Romans by sitting not on the floor, but on a throne of solid gold.

More recently, Cleopatra's Middle Eastern identity has come to seem even more interesting than her African one. In 1929 the Egyptian dramatist Ahmad Shawqui, a campaigner against the British authorities, made her a nationalist heroine struggling to defend her country's independence. The theme is ready for further development. No one retelling her story today could do so without an awareness that she was the ruler of what is now an Islamic state, at the moment of its invasion by a western superpower.

In Cleopatra's lifetime, racist Roman propaganda characterised Egyptians as self-indulgent, sex-fixated and unmanly in their readiness to treat women as their equals, while Romans congratulated themselves on their abstemiousness, the austerity of their religion and their readiness for war. The stereotypes are still recognisable, but their ascription has been reversed. A militant Islamicist from the region that Cleopatra and Antony once ruled must now think of the west much as Rome once thought of Cleopatra's Egypt.

Cleopatra is still changing, and she will continue to do so as long as her name is remembered. The forces that have repeatedly transformed her image, the forces of anger and anxiety and covert desire, are still at their lethal work in the world.
From the Times:

THE prehistoric marble sculptures of the Cyclades are noted for their spare, elegant lines: they are also notorious for being in large part looted, with few having a known archaeological provenance, and for attracting the attentions of fakers. Recent discoveries on the island of Keros have shown that these enigmatic figurines, and the stone bowls made from the same marble, arguably by the same artists, were deposited in rituals equally puzzling.

Cycladic art dates to the third millennium BC, a product of the society which arose in the Aegean islands not long before Minoan Crete and then Mycenaean Greece emerged as Europe’s first literate civilisations. Originally thought rather crude, its figurines — ranging from hand-sized to more than a metre in height — gained stature in the eyes of collectors as the taste for simplicity in modern sculpture developed in the last century.

Their role in Ancient Cycladic society remained a mystery; research this summer on the island of Keros by a team led by Professor Colin Renfrew, of Cambridge University, has provided a wealth of quite literally hard evidence, although its significance is as yet unclear.

In 1963 Professor Renfrew, then a student, visited the island and “was staggered to pick up on the surface numerous fragments of marble bowls and figurines”. Looters moved in on Keros, and in the 1970s the “Keros Hoard” was cited as the origin of many unprovenanced pieces sold on the art market.

The “Keros Enigma” was that, while many scholars felt that the looted pieces had come from an ancient cemetery, none had ever been discovered: one grave was known, together with settlement remains on the neighbouring islet of Daskalio. A massive deposit, thought to have contained thousands of figurine and bowl fragments, was also known to have been looted in the 1960s.

Some ascribed the fragmentary condition of most pieces to looters, but Professor Renfrew, noting the lack of joinable fragments and the apparently ancient and weathered nature of the fracture surfaces, believed that they had been deposited already broken. Excavations this year at the site of Daskalio Kavos confirmed his thesis.

The team reported to the Greek authorities that “the discovery of a further, undisturbed, special deposit followed by its careful excavation shows that all the material found was already broken in fragments before it became buried in Ancient times.”

“The rarity of joining pieces, as well as the different degrees of weathering, make clear that they were broken elsewhere and brought, already in fragmentary form, to the exceptionally rich deposit.”

The cemetery interpretation is excluded by the lack of human remains. Pottery, such as the spouted “sauce boats”, was brought in from islands including Naxos, Syros and Amorgos, and possibly from the Greek mainland. Professor Renfrew believes that the figurines and bowls had equally diverse origins. The overall quantity of fine pottery and marble objects found at Daskalio Kavos “rivals the total from all the known Cycladic cemeteries.”

The site can therefore be recognised as “the first major ritual centre of Aegean prehistory”, antedating the Mycenaean shrine on the island of Milos excavated by Professor Renfrew some years ago.
Thought I should mention this one from the Guardian/Observer:

It looks like a heap of rubbish, feels like flaky pastry and has been linked to aliens. For decades, scientists have puzzled over the complex collection of cogs, wheels and dials seen as the most sophisticated object from antiquity, writes Helena Smith. But 102 years after the discovery of the calcium-encrusted bronze mechanism on the ocean floor, hidden inscriptions show that it is the world's oldest computer, used to map the motions of the sun, moon and planets.

'We're very close to unlocking the secrets,' says Xenophon Moussas,an astrophysicist with a Anglo-Greek team researching the device. 'It's like a puzzle concerning astronomical and mathematical knowledge.'

Known as the Antikythera mechanism and made before the birth of Christ, the instrument was found by sponge divers amid the wreckage of a cargo ship that sunk off the tiny island of Antikythera in 80BC. To date, no other appears to have survived.

'Bronze objects like these would have been recycled, but being in deep water it was out of reach of the scrap-man and we had the luck to discover it,' said Michael Wright, a former curator at London's Science Museum. He said the apparatus was the best proof yet of how technologically advanced the ancients were. 'The skill with which it was made shows a level of instrument-making not surpassed until the Renaissance. It really is the first hard evidence of their interest in mechanical gadgets, ability to make them and the preparedness of somebody to pay for them.'

For years scholars had surmised that the object was an astronomical showpiece, navigational instrument or rich man's toy. The Roman Cicero described the device as being for 'after-dinner entertainment'.

But many experts say it could change how the history of science is written. 'In many ways, it was the first analogue computer,' said Professor Theodosios Tassios of the National Technical University of Athens. 'It will change the way we look at the ancients' technological achievements.'

I think we've mentioned the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project website ...
From IOL:

Another subway in Greece, another look into the past.

Tunnelling work to build a metro system for the country's second-largest city started on Thursday, as culture ministry officials signed an agreement to protect antiquities they expect to be discovered during construction.

The agreement follows a massive horde of antiquities uncovered while building a new subway system in Athens, which opened in 2000, with extensions added before the 2004 Olympics. Some of the discoveries are on display at Athens stations.

The Thessaloniki subway system will span about 10 kilometres with 13 stations and is due to be completed by 2012.

Work involving two large tunnel-boring machines started Thursday. The machines were named Cassander and Thessalonica, after the king who founded the northern city 2 300 years ago and his wife.

Haris Tsimatzis, a government project inspector, said the position of several subway stations and tunnelling depth had been changed to accommodate archaeologists' recommendations.

"Antiquities will be on display at at least three subway stations - just as they are in Athens," Tsimatzis said.

He said the excavation site would span about two hectares.

Archaeologists are hoping to find a cemetery, more than 2 000 years old, and parts of the city's ancient wall, as well as centuries of old roads, public baths and other buildings.

"We're taking great care to protect the antiquities. Planning has been worked out in such a way that this care will not slow down the project," said Giorgos Yiannis, head of Attiko Metro, the state-run company, which is supervising the Thessaloniki subway.

Yiannis said most tunnelling would occur at 16m to 21m below ground, while most ancient artifacts were expected to be found at between 11m and 13m.

More than a million people live in greater Thessaloniki and about 430 000 cars are registered in the city.

Earlier reports that I seem to have missed (such as this one quoted at Roman Archaeology) mention that six stations along the route will be basically following the old via Egnatia, and there's much excitement (in me, anyway) of finding monuments etc. which lay along that important road.
This one is really only peripheral to our purview, but I strongly suspect it won't survive the week to be put in next week's Explorator for you all to decide for yourself ... so here's a reallllllly interesting item from the Independent:

Solid as a warrior of the Caledonii tribe, the man's hair is reddish brown flecked with grey, framing high cheekbones, a long nose, full lips and a ginger beard. When he lived three thousand years ago, he stood six feet tall, and was buried wearing a red twill tunic and tartan leggings. He looks like a Bronze Age European. In fact, he's every inch a Celt. Even his DNA says so.

But this is no early Celt from central Scotland. This is the mummified corpse of Cherchen Man, unearthed from the scorched sands of the Taklamakan Desert in the far-flung region of Xinjiang in western China, and now housed in a new museum in the provincial capital of Urumqi. In the language spoken by the local Uighur people in Xinjiang, "Taklamakan" means: "You come in and never come out."

The extraordinary thing is that Cherchen Man was found - with the mummies of three women and a baby - in a burial site thousands of miles to the east of where the Celts established their biggest settlements in France and the British Isles.

DNA testing confirms that he and hundreds of other mummies found in Xinjiang's Tarim Basin are of European origin. We don't know how he got there, what brought him there, or how long he and his kind lived there for. But, as the desert's name suggests, it is certain that he never came out.

His discovery provides an unexpected connection between east and west and some valuable clues to early European history.

One of the women who shared a tomb with Cherchen Man has light brown hair which looks as if it was brushed and braided for her funeral only yesterday. Her face is painted with curling designs, and her striking red burial gown has lost none of its lustre during the three millenniums that this tall, fine-featured woman has been lying beneath the sand of the Northern Silk Road.

The bodies are far better preserved than the Egyptian mummies, and it is sad to see the infants on display; to see how the baby was wrapped in a beautiful brown cloth tied with red and blue cord, then a blue stone placed on each eye. Beside it was a baby's milk bottle with a teat, made from a sheep's udder.

Based on the mummy, the museum has reconstructed what Cherchen Man would have looked like and how he lived. The similarities to the traditional Bronze Age Celts are uncanny, and analysis has shown that the weave of the cloth is the same as that of those found on the bodies of salt miners in Austria from 1300BC.

The burial sites of Cherchen Man and his fellow people were marked with stone structures that look like dolmens from Britain, ringed by round-faced, Celtic figures, or standing stones. Among their icons were figures reminiscent of the sheela-na-gigs, wild females who flaunted their bodies and can still be found in mediaeval churches in Britain. A female mummy wears a long, conical hat which has to be a witch or a wizard's hat. Or a druid's, perhaps? The wooden combs they used to fan their tresses are familiar to students of ancient Celtic art.

At their peak, around 300BC, the influence of the Celts stretched from Ireland in the west to the south of Spain and across to Italy's Po Valley, and probably extended to parts of Poland and Ukraine and the central plain of Turkey in the east. These mummies seem to suggest, however, that the Celts penetrated well into central Asia, nearly making it as far as Tibet.

The Celts gradually infiltrated Britain between about 500 and 100BC. There was probably never anything like an organised Celtic invasion: they arrived at different times, and are considered a group of peoples loosely connected by similar language, religion, and cultural expression.

The eastern Celts spoke a now-dead language called Tocharian, which is related to Celtic languages and part of the Indo-European group. They seem to have been a peaceful folk, as there are few weapons among the Cherchen find and there is little evidence of a caste system.

Even older than the Cherchen find is that of the 4,000-year-old Loulan Beauty, who has long flowing fair hair and is one of a number of mummies discovered near the town of Loulan. One of these mummies was an eight-year-old child wrapped in a piece of patterned wool cloth, closed with bone pegs.

The Loulan Beauty's features are Nordic. She was 45 when she died, and was buried with a basket of food for the next life, including domesticated wheat, combs and a feather.

The Taklamakan desert has given up hundreds of desiccated corpses in the past 25 years, and archaeologists say the discoveries in the Tarim Basin are some of the most significant finds in the past quarter of a century.

"From around 1800BC, the earliest mummies in the Tarim Basin were exclusively Caucausoid, or Europoid," says Professor Victor Mair of Pennsylvania University, who has been captivated by the mummies since he spotted them partially obscured in a back room in the old museum in 1988. "He looked like my brother Dave sleeping there, and that's what really got me. Lying there with his eyes closed," Professor Mair said.

It's a subject that exercises him and he has gone to extraordinary lengths, dodging difficult political issues, to gain further knowledge of these remarkable people.

East Asian migrants arrived in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin about 3,000 years ago, Professor Mair says, while the Uighur peoples arrived after the collapse of the Orkon Uighur Kingdom, based in modern-day Mongolia, around the year 842.

A believer in the "inter-relatedness of all human communities", Professor Mair resists attempts to impose a theory of a single people arriving in Xinjiang, and believes rather that the early Europeans headed in different directions, some travelling west to become the Celts in Britain and Ireland, others taking a northern route to become the Germanic tribes, and then another offshoot heading east and ending up in Xinjiang.

This section of the ancient Silk Road is one of the world's most barren precincts. You are further away from the sea here than at any other place, and you can feel it. This where China tests its nuclear weapons. Labour camps are scattered all around - who would try to escape? But the remoteness has worked to the archaeologists' advantage. The ancient corpses have avoided decay because the Tarim Basin is so dry, with alkaline soils. Scientists have been able to glean information about many aspects of our Bronze Age forebears from the mummies, from their physical make-up to information about how they buried their dead, what tools they used and what clothes they wore.

In her book The Mummies of Urumchi, the textile expert Elizabeth Wayland Barber examines the tartan-style cloth, and reckons it can be traced back to Anatolia and the Caucasus, the steppe area north of the Black Sea. Her theory is that this group divided, starting in the Caucasus and then splitting, one group going west and another east.

Even though they have been dead for thousands of years, every perfectly preserved fibre of the mummies' make-up has been relentlessly politicised.

The received wisdom in China says that two hundred years before the birth of Christ, China's emperor Wu Di sent an ambassador to the west to establish an alliance against the marauding Huns, then based in Mongolia. The route across Asia that the emissary, Zhang Qian, took eventually became the Silk Road to Europe. Hundreds of years later Marco Polo came, and the opening up of China began.

The very thought that Caucasians were settled in a part of China thousands of years before Wu Di's early contacts with the west and Marco Polo's travels has enormous political ramifications. And that these Europeans should have been in restive Xinjiang hundreds of years before East Asians is explosive.

The Chinese historian Ji Xianlin, writing a preface to Ancient Corpses of Xinjiang by the Chinese archaeologist Wang Binghua, translated by Professor Mair, says China "supported and admired" research by foreign experts into the mummies. "However, within China a small group of ethnic separatists have taken advantage of this opportunity to stir up trouble and are acting like buffoons. Some of them have even styled themselves the descendants of these ancient 'white people' with the aim of dividing the motherland. But these perverse acts will not succeed," Ji wrote.

Many Uighurs consider the Han Chinese as invaders. The territory was annexed by China in 1955, and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region established, and there have been numerous incidents of unrest over the years. In 1997 in the northern city of Yining there were riots by Muslim separatists and Chinese security forces cracked down, with nine deaths. There are occasional outbursts, and the region remains very heavily policed.

Not surprisingly, the government has been slow to publicise these valuable historical finds for fear of fuelling separatist currents in Xinjiang.

The Loulan Beauty, for example, was claimed by the Uighurs as their symbol in song and image, although genetic testing now shows that she was in fact European.

Professor Mair acknowledges that the political dimension to all this has made his work difficult, but says that the research shows that the people of Xinjiang are a dizzying mixture. "They tend to mix as you enter the Han Dynasty. By that time the East Asian component is very noticeable," he says. "Modern DNA and ancient DNA show that Uighurs, Kazaks, Kyrgyzs, the peoples of central Asia are all mixed Caucasian and East Asian. The modern and ancient DNA tell the same story," he says.

Altogether there are 400 mummies in various degrees of desiccation and decomposition, including the prominent Han Chinese warrior Zhang Xiong and other Uighur mummies, and thousands of skulls. The mummies will keep the scientists busy for a long time. Only a handful of the better-preserved ones are on display in the impressive new Xinjiang museum. Work began in 1999, but was stopped in 2002 after a corruption scandal and the jailing of a former director for involvement in the theft of antiques.

The museum finally opened on the 50th anniversary of China's annexation of the restive region, and the mummies are housed in glass display cases (which were sealed with what looked like Sellotape) in a multi-media wing.

In the same room are the much more recent Han mummies - equally interesting, but rendering the display confusing, as it groups all the mummies closely together. Which makes sound political sense.

This political correctness continues in another section of the museum dedicated to the achievements of the Chinese revolution, and boasts artefacts from the Anti-Japanese War (1931-1945).

Best preserved of all the corpses is Yingpan Man, known as the Handsome Man, a 2,000-year-old Caucasian mummy discovered in 1995. He had a gold foil death mask - a Greek tradition - covering his blond, bearded face, and wore elaborate golden embroidered red and maroon wool garments with images of fighting Greeks or Romans. The hemp mask is painted with a soft smile and the thin moustache of a dandy. Currently on display at a museum in Tokyo, the handsome Yingpan man was two metres tall (six feet six inches), and pushing 30 when he died. His head rests on a pillow in the shape of a crowing cockerel.
Another vague and strangely-written item from the SNA:

A unique Thracian gold treasure has been unearthed near the eastern Bulgarian village of Sinemorets, at the mouth of Veleka River.

Archeological digs are undergoing even in the late hours of the day, Darik News reported, while armed policemen are watching over the treasure.

Locals stumbled upon the amazing discovery while digging for sand for a construction. Archaeologists were quickly called to the scene and they discovered the treasure at dawn on Sunday.

Many golden and silver dishes and ornaments and clay stones with the image of the Mother Earth have been discovered. Ancient Thrace people worshipped the goddess, so this helped in dating the relics.

The most stunning piece that was dug out so far is a priceless crown, along with a pair of golden earrings.

All archaeologists working in the area have already joined their colleagues at the site, and are working without rest, adrenaline rushing through their veins.
From the Boston Globe:

Latin is alive.

At least it is on Nantucket, where 18 teachers converged last week to immerse themselves in what most people consider a dead language, one taught to be read but not spoken by anyone other than specialists.

The teachers had signed up for a week of Latin classes, but what they got was Latin boot camp, in which they could speak only the language of Virgil and Ovid to each other and their teachers for seven full days, a pledge sealed by an oath they signed upon arriving . Their unusual enterprise, the first of its kind in New England, drew puzzled stares from sunbathers, store cashiers, and waiters.

Classics professors from the University of Massachusetts at Boston organized the conventiculum, or mini-convention, to help Latin teachers improve their command of the spoken language and, in doing so, find ways to add appeal and relevance to a language that students rarely hear.

The results were at times maddening and hilarious, but also encouraging for teachers who have years of experience teaching the language but rarely have to speak it.

``There was shock in that room when we had to sign that pledge. Big shock. And horror," said Maria Giacchino , who teaches at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.

But as the week was ending Saturday , the teachers expressed appreciation of the course, and hoped they could use similar techniques to help students better internalize Latin and have an easier time reading ancient texts.

``Speaking it makes it seem more like a real language and not just some code," said Alexandra Garcia-Mata, who teaches Latin to middle school students at Austin Preparatory School in Reading.

Overhearing snippets of Latin in a beach parking lot, David Curtis, a senior at Phillips Academy, Andover, who was on vacation with his family, walked up to the teachers and asked them, in Latin, why they were speaking Latin.

``They said they always talk in Latin," said Curtis, 17. He scratched his head, crossed his arms and stood silent for a moment in bewilderment.

``I was kind of surprised. Then I got excited. A fellow Roman! This is cool," said Curtis, who has studied Latin for six years and is considering a classics major in college.

UMass Boston will launch a new master's degree program in January to address the shortage of Latin teachers. The teachers who attended the conventiculum will receive credit if they apply for the program, which will emphasize Latin and classical humanities.

The teachers attended nearly eight hours of classes a day, including applied linguistics and Latin, taught by two renowned University of Kentucky professors who were early proponents of spoken Latin and have held similar conventiculums for more than a decade.

Many of the teachers had imagined having to speak Latin only in class, not from the time they awoke in their twin-size bunk beds. They had to negotiate sharing one bathroom among six people, grocery shopping, and getting to know each other -- all in Latin.

``It's frustrating that I know this and if I had a piece of paper I could produce it, but when I open my mouth it just doesn't come out like it does with my pen," said Sophia Rovitti, who teaches at Concord-Carlisle High School.

The teachers attacked the task of having fun in Latin. Instead of sandcastles on Surfside Beach, they built sand replicas of the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine -- to scale, complete with blobs of sand to represent lions. They played games such as 20 Questions, and made up stories in Latin, activities many hope to re-create in their classrooms.

They toted Latin dictionaries in their backpacks and purses and spoke Latin at the beach, in art galleries, at the whaling museum -- at first only in the present tense, to ease the difficulty of verb conjugations. They told jokes in Latin, with references to ancient literature. They adopted Latin names, such as Calvus, meaning ``Baldie," which a 68-year-old Boston College High School teacher bestowed upon himself.

The week is ``definitely a little nerdy," said Jacqueline Carlon, an assistant professor of classics at UMass-Boston.

During a dinner, several belted out a drinking song from the Middle Ages in Latin while sipping white wine.

Despite the levity, the struggles were evident. At Surfside Beach on Saturday, one teacher pointed at the sky and exclaimed in Latin: ``Behold the airplane. It's hostile." She had meant to say, ``Look at the plane. It's flying low to the ground."

Teachers comparing tan lines uttered Latin phrases meaning ``You have the skin of a farmer" and ``I have summery feet."

Robert Smeltzer has taught Latin at Harwich High School for 17 years, and each year, students ask him why they never learn to speak the language.

``I would say, `No one speaks it, so why should we put emphasis on something you're not going to use?' " Smeltzer said. ``This week has convinced me that Latin can be spoken in the classroom. Now I realize that Latin is still alive."
One of the sadder emails I did manage to read while I was away told me of the death of amicus noster James Butrica of Memorial University in Newfoundland. Although I'd like a more detailed obituary (one will apparently appear in the Canadian Classical Bulletin), this one from the Telegram will have to do for now:

BUTRICA, James L. - Passed away on July 20, 2006 at the Miller Center, St. John's at the age of 55, after a year-long battle with cancer. Born in Camden, NJ, Jim came to Newfoundland to join the Department of Classics at Memorial University. For more than twenty years he was a devoted teacher and renowned scholar of Latin literature. He is survived by his brother Andrew and family of Bethesda, Maryland. Leaving to mourn also are his many friends and colleagues
PG sent this one in while I was away (thanks!) ... from comes a very good piece on why Classics is important:

When you hear the word classicist, perhaps you imagine a wrinkled old man peering through spectacles at a musty manuscript, a dim bulb flickering overhead. Or perhaps you imagine nothing at all.

Now picture this: a group of vivacious undergraduate students gathered over pints at Koerner’s Pub at the University of British Columbia, grasping copies of Homer’s Odyssey in the original ancient Greek. All of them are here voluntarily, not for credit. As Daniel Unruh begins to translate the tale of hero Odysseus’ post–Trojan War wanderings, he mistakes the word sea for “drink”. The others laugh good-naturedly and point out his error. When Rob McCutcheon interprets a phrase as “city-sacking Odysseus”, the professor in charge, Toph Marshall, commands him to “say that five times fast!”

This is a glimpse of today’s classics, which encompasses the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations in all their aspects, from art and architecture to history and philosophy. It is, in fact, a highly accessible discipline, by no means confined to an exclusive circle of tweed-attired scholars.

Only three high schools in B.C. offer Latin, all of them private: St. George’s School, Collingwood School, and Traditional Learning Academy. According to the Ministry of Education, in the 2004–05 school year just 17 students completed Latin 11, and only 20 finished Latin 12.

However, although classics courses are scarce at the high-school level, most Canadian universities have a classics department. Some are independent; some have joined forces with other departments. (Classics at UBC merged with religious studies in 1995.) Classics departments usually offer various streams. At UBC, students can pursue an archaeology-and-history track; classical studies, which examines the life, literature, and thought of the Greek and Roman worlds; classics, which explores the same subjects but with an emphasis on languages; and a myth-and-literature track.

But despite most universities having a classics department, enrollment remains low. At the University of Victoria last year, there were only 48 declared Greek- and Roman-studies majors.

Why don’t more undergrads choose classics? Marshall, who is an associate professor of classics at UBC, tells the Georgia Straight that besides a lack of exposure to anything classics-related in high school, there are societal and parental pressures to obtain a more obviously career- oriented degree. “Guidance counsellors tend not to emphasize this as a viable, career-based option that points to personal happiness and success,” he says over coffee at UBC. Assistant professor David Creese adds that parents are often concerned when a child expresses interest in pursuing an arts degree, asking, “What are you going to do with that?”

The answer is plenty, according to Oxford University classics tutor Scott Scullion. “It’s intellectually challenging and rewarding to study the cultures of two great civilizations very different from our own modern Western civilization,” Scullion writes in an e-mail interview with the Straight. “It stretches one’s sympathies and sensibilities and helps one contextualize one’s own cultural conditioning in a much more profound way than studying one’s own or another modern western culture can.”

Identifying similarities between these ancient civilizations and our own can also prove enlightening. After all, the Greeks and Romans confronted many of the same questions that we do today. Their writings examine fundamental issues of the human condition—love, death, justice, fate, the relationship of man to the divine—as well as more ordinary, everyday concerns. In Latin playwright Terence’s The Brothers, Demea is distressed by the unruly behaviour of his adolescent son Aeschinus. “Why these girls? Why these wild parties?” he cries.

There comes a point while deciphering an ancient text when you realize that its voices are not merely dead, distant echoes, but real human presences that continue to resonate today. It’s the closest we can come to having a conversation with an ancient. “It’s not an obvious thing that something written 2,500 years ago in a different language, from a different culture, should still have an emotional impact today,” Marshall says. “The fact that, even when mediated through incomplete knowledge and all sorts of obstacles, it can still communicate powerfully should surprise us.”

Classics is crucial for comprehending both the profound impact the Greek and Roman civilizations have had on western culture, and also the inspiration they continue to supply to arts and entertainment. According to Marshall, movies like Superman Returns draw on classical structures to create a definition of heroism. “The people who write these characters are doing the exact same thing that Sophocles [the ancient Greek playwright] was doing. They’ve got a character who is larger than life and are trying to create an emotional resonance with ordinary people.”

Any classicist will tell you that studying classics is a sure-fire way to guard against that most dreaded scholastic malady: boredom. Encompassing languages, literature, drama, philosophy, art, architecture, history, mythology, politics, law, economics, science, religion, and gender studies, it’s guaranteed to avert academic apathy. Whether you’re piecing together fragments of a vibrantly coloured wall painting from Akrotiri on the Greek island of Santorini or unravelling an enigmatic sentence of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, classics challenges the mind. As Lynn Sherr, ABC News correspondent and former Greek major, enthused in a talk given at a 2000 meeting of the Classical Association of the Atlantic States, “Studying classical Greek was, to me, not only fun and fascinating and eye-opening, it was like a puzzle—a new secret code.”
Brad Pitt is Achilles in Troy, which draws on classics to define heroism.

Brad Pitt is Achilles in Troy, which draws on classics to define heroism.

Contrary to popular belief, classicists do not shun modernity. Tufts University maintains a vast collection of on-line resources through its Perseus Digital Library. Joan Coderch of Oxford University regularly posts news stories in ancient Greek on his Web site, Akropolis World News ( And new findings are always being made. The Oxyrhynchus papyri, a collection of 400,000 literary fragments unearthed from an ancient garbage dump in Egypt in the late-19th century, were until last year illegible, suffering from severe decay. However, by applying imaging developed by NASA, scholars will now be able to read previously unknown works by Sophocles and the poet Hesiod, among other writers. The classical corpus is expected to grow by a colossal 20 percent, enough for some scholars to predict a second Renaissance.

Intellectual excitement aside, there are also the numerous practical benefits of studying classics. First, it will make you a better English speaker. Did you know that 60 percent of English words come from Greek or Latin? Take peninsula, from the Latin paene, “almost”, plus insula, “island”; or democracy, from the Greek demos, “common people”, and kratos, “power”. The ability to analyze the origins of a good portion of English vocabulary, combined with the intimate understanding of linguistic structure you will acquire, will improve the clarity and power of your English.

Second, classics provides an excellent general intellectual training. It “makes you a critical thinker and makes you enjoy being a critical thinker,” Creese notes. “You enjoy the combative aspects of really intellectually engaging with something. You want to be challenged. It’s like doing irreversible surgery to your brain. You’re never going to be the same again.”

Employers recognize the value of a classical education, Scullion asserts. “They reckon rightly that people who can successfully study two very difficult ancient languages and two great ancient civilizations from a variety of angles (history, art, literature, etc.) are capable of mastering other things thoroughly and thinking creatively. The wise employer wants the kind of employee who will become a great success, and that’s not somebody trained to do a particular job that will be done very differently in ten years’ time, but someone trained to master new, changing, and difficult realities and to react to them with a flexible and creative mind.”

Classics is therefore a successful stepping stone to many different careers. Some undergraduate classics majors go on to such diverse fields as government, law, medicine, business, and journalism. Toni Morrison, Sigmund Freud, Teller (of Penn and Teller), and J.K. Rowling all studied classics.

According to Marshall, applications from classics majors make a strong impression on graduate-school admissions committees. With an undergraduate degree in classics, he exclaims, “The prospects are fantastic. Your application will stand out above other candidates’ because of that rigour that comes from saying that you’ve got three years of Greek.”

Job opportunities in classics itself are on the rise. Assuming that you obtain a PhD and want to become a classicist, the outlook is much better than it was 10 years ago, Marshall says. Every month on its Web site, the American Philological Association ( posts positions for classicists and archaeologists at American and Canadian universities.

There are ample possibilities for travel to exotic locations, whether participating in conferences or archaeological digs. How would you like to partake in an underwater expedition exploring Roman shipwrecks off Menorca in the Balearic Islands? The Archaeological Institute of America ( lists pages full of such tantalizing fieldwork opportunities.

What does it take to become a classicist? “Being curious about the world and being brave enough to pursue those areas of it that interest you is what’s important,” Marshall responds. “You don’t need to do anything in high school to pursue a degree in classics. Any amount of reading that they [students] have done, seeking to understand the culture that they live in, is going to give them tools that they can use. Watch movies, but have conversations about them after. Work out why they’re funny or why they’re not. All these things are part of our culture.…If you’re willing to talk about [them], that’s the kind of person we want in classics.”

“The sort of person whose sense of curiosity is so strong,” Creese adds, “that if they were a cat, they would get killed.”

So if it’s intellectual adventure you seek, don’t hesitate to consider classics—the mouse is more enticing than ever.
From Reuters:

A priceless gold bust of emperor-philosopher Marcus Aurelius, one of Europe's greatest Roman relics, has returned to this quiet Swiss town where it was found in an ancient sewer 67 years ago.

One of only three golden imperial busts to have survived across the vast territories of Rome's empire, the excitement surrounding its discovery in 1939 was so great that residents who witnessed it still talk about it today.

Now, they are thrilled it has returned home, albeit only for the summer and under tight security at Avenches' Roman Museum.

"It is wonderful to have it here where people can see it in the context of our town and its history, and not hidden away from public view," said museum director Anne Hochuli-Gysel.

After its discovery, the bust was whisked off to bank vaults for safe-keeping and has only been occasionally loaned for major foreign and Swiss exhibitions, largely remaining locked away although people in Avenches have always regarded it as theirs.

The reappearance in the town of the pensive 22-carat image -- a power symbol carried at the head of legionary columns -- of the emperor who ruled from 161 to 180 AD has served to highlight the mysteries that still surround it.

Where was it made? How did it come to a town several days' march from the nearest legion garrison? Why was it in a sewer? And why did whoever put it there -- probably to keep it safe from "barbarian" attack -- never recover it?

The bust, displayed behind red plush curtains not far from the plaster copy that has stood in its stead for decades, has excited the local imagination.

Schoolchildren and students selling programs at the opera festival and youths selling coffee from portable dispensers on their backs point visitors to the tower.

"The bust has become a symbol of our town," said one official. "Having it in the museum, even if only for a few months, has given people a new sense of pride in their past."


A collection of wooden huts in the middle of a fertile plain in AD 15 when the Romans conquered what is now central Switzerland, as Aventicum the town quickly became capital of the rich province of Helvetia.

Standing on key military and trade routes linking Italy and the Lake Geneva region to the south with legionary outposts on the German frontiers in the north, it flourished to number 20,000 inhabitants 200-300 years later.

Today, Avenches is little more than a village of some 2,600 people just on the francophone side of the "rostigraben" border dividing French- and German-speaking Switzerland.

Older residents who recall the discovery of the unscathed bust speak of the general excitement at the time, with people flocking into the town from all over Switzerland to see it in a makeshift case on a table in the excavators' workshop.

"I got to the dig just a few minutes after they had found it," said 73-year-old Eugene Ruffy, who was 6 at the time. "In 1939 life was pretty difficult for us and the discovery of something made of gold was like a fairy tale.

"When I got home and told my parents, they were so surprised that they even asked if I had imagined it."

The bust was only displayed in Avenches for about a week.

Declared the property of the Canton of Vaud, to which Avenches belongs, it was taken away to be put briefly on show in Zurich at the Swiss National Exhibition of 1939 and then sent to the Vaud cantonal bank in Lausanne.


Some two-thirds natural size, the bust -- whose pure gold content would today fetch scarcely more than 26,000 euros ($40,000) but in Roman days would have paid the wages of 24 legionaries for a year -- is beyond price, experts say.

Some say it would have come to Aventicum as a gift to his home town from a Romanized Helvetian officer and then became an object of worship in a temple to Marcus Aurelius.

Archeologists who first examined the bust in 1939 thought it was his predecessor and patron Antoninus Pius.

But experts today, comparing it with his image on stone sculptures and Roman coins showing the same wide-set eyes, hair style and curling beard, have no doubt it is the author of "Meditations."

Local historians say the bust was probably hidden in the sewer -- perhaps by a sanctuary priest -- at a time of danger from rebellious tribes who roamed the region in the 4th century. The knowledge of its whereabouts was lost when its keeper died.

In late autumn, it will go back to the Lausanne vault.

"There is no barbarian threat now, but perhaps it is best to keep it safe. After all, no one saw it for all those years it was in the sewer," said one historian with a sigh.
From IOL's coverage:

In little over two months, famed Egyptologist Dr Zahi Hawass hopes to unearth the discovery of his lifetime: the tomb of one of history's greatest women, Cleopatra.

The celebrity archaeologist, who is on a whistle stop lecture tour of South Africa, said that "the discovery would even be bigger than that of King Tut".

Hawass told The Star on Wednesday that he suspects Cleopatra is buried with her Roman lover Mark Antony at a temple 30km from Alexandra called Tabusiris Magna.

This is Hawass's first visit to SA
"I believe it is a very sacred place and this is where they would have hidden Cleopatra and Marc Antony from Octavian," Hawass explained.

Access to the tomb, Hawass believes, is through a shaft. Previously he had descended 35m down the shaft but could get no further because of water.

"It has a high water table but I plan to go back in October," Hawass said.

Some of the clues that point to the tomb belonging to Cleopatra are a coin bearing her face and a statute. Cleopatra and Mark Antony committed suicide as the Roman leader Octavian hunted them in Egypt, in 30BC.

South Africans, particularly those with DSTV, would probably recognise Hawass as that Egyptologist who endlessly appears on documentaries wearing that Indiana Jones-styled hat.

But the Zahi Hawass who appeared in the Wits Great Hall cut a different figure... he was dressed in a charcoal suit.

This is Hawass's first visit to SA and he took the opportunity to introduce the audience to "adventure in archaeology", a slide show tour of some of his discoveries of Egypt.

"You know that 70 percent of Egypt's treasures still need to be uncovered," he said.

Some of these archaeological treasures, Hawass said, actually lie under the streets and houses of Cairo. His lecture also touched on how he organised a CT scan to be done of King Tutankhamun's mummy.

For years scientists have speculated whether the boy king was murdered. The project, which took place at the Valley of the Kings, had even Hawass wondering at one stage if the Curse of King Tut had returned. Unexplained power failures had workers fearing for their lives.

The results of the CT scan, believes Hawass, put to bed the theory that Tut was murdered by a blow to the head.

"What was originally thought of to be the hole in the back of his head that killed him, we found was part of the mummification process," Hawass explained.

While in SA, Hawass has also been in contact with several universities. "Perhaps we could collaborate in the future, talk about excavation techniques," he said.

When he gets back to Egypt, Hawass will have to start preparing for his next big operation - moving a 250 ton statute through the streets of Cairo.
No ... he's technically not a Classicist, but the incipit of his obit from the Guardian is interesting:

William "Bill" Russell, who has died aged 81, was a funny and erudite polymath who wrote science fiction novels, introduced the concept of replacement, refinement and reduction - the 3Rs - into animal research, and had successful careers as a psychoanalyst, zoologist, agronomist and sociologist.

His wide ranging knowledge and capacity to set almost anything he was going to say to a Gilbert and Sullivan tune made him immensely popular and earned him a place on BBC Radio's Round Britain Quiz for several years.

He was born in Plymouth, son of the zoologist director of the Plymouth marine biological laboratory, Sir Frederick Stratton Russell. From time to time his parents went abroad on long expeditions, leaving him in the care of grandparents. Later he was sent to Marlborough college, where he developed a fascination for the classics and which, he said, toughened him up for the army. He won a scholarship to study classics at New College, Oxford, in 1942.

A year later he joined the army and, being very leftwing, refused a commission and served as a rifleman in the 12th battalion of the King's Royal Rifle Corps. When the war ended, he returned to his classical studies at Oxford but later switched to zoology, earning a first class honours degree in 1948.

... the rest (no more ClassCon)
I'm starting to get really bugged by these polls/studies designed to take smug satisfaction in how little the American population knows (comedic approaches by Rick Mercer excepted, of course) ... here's an excerpt from one such poll which is getting a lot of press coverage around the world (this is from the CBC's):

60 per cent of respondents knew that, on The Simpsons, Homer's son is named Bart. Only about 21 per cent could name one of the ancient Greek poet Homer's epics (The Iliad and The Odyssey)

Then again, how many Classicists could tell us the name of Homer's brother? [I won't be adding comments with the 'answer' to this one]
The incipit of a piece in Slate on the LCL:

It has always been difficult to say exactly who the Loeb Classical Library, founded in 1911 by James Loeb, is meant for. The series—the 500th volume of which has recently been published with some fanfare by Harvard University Press—is set apart from other, often more reputable sets of classical editions (such as the Oxford Classical Texts or Teubners) by the inclusion of a translation on facing pages. Virginia Woolf celebrated the series soon after it began on the grounds that it offered "the gift of freedom" to "the ordinary amateur," whose existence was, through the Loeb Library, both acknowledged and "to a great extent made respectable." Yet from the start, people disagreed violently about the extent to which amateurish approaches to classical literature could ever, or should ever, be "made respectable." When James Loeb first approached publisher George Macmillan, he was summarily rebuffed: "I am sorry to say that we cannot form a favourable opinion of it from any point of view."

Indeed, the Loebs for many decades seemed fated to fall between two stools. Their versions of Greek and Latin texts were often not accurate or informative enough to be usable by scholars, plenty of whom considered the series the death-knell for true classical scholarship, an endorsement of the schoolboy habit of using "cribs" to get through Latin class. Meanwhile, those who turned to the right-hand, English page of the old Loebs encountered a text that could be next to impenetrable. Notorious for their bowdlerized translations of the more risqué classical authors, the volumes lapsed into Latin to handle the dirty bits of Greek authors or Italian when dealing with the ribald Romans. Even perfectly decent texts, like the Odyssey, were consistently translated into a stilted language that only very rarely resembled contemporary English.

The series surivived, despite these shortfalls, because it was the only thing of its kind, and because many authors have been hard to find in any other current English translation. (I believe that the Loeb Plutarch offers the only complete translation into modern English of this essential classical author.) But where have the "ordinary amateurs" gone, you might well wonder? One could argue that they have taken over the academy. Just as scholars once feared, there has been a steady decline in hard-core classical philology—and thanks in part to that, the Loeb Library has lately thrived. Figures like the Oxbridge don in Robert Browning's "A Grammarian's Funeral"—who devotes his whole life to parsing the minutiae of ancient Greek while proclaiming, "What's time? Leave Now for dogs and apes!/ Man has Forever"—are ever rarer in modern classics departments. We no longer feel we have forever: The tenure clock stops for nobody. Increasingly alive to the fact that ancient literature is about something, not mere grammar, even professional classicists want to hurry ahead to the gist and skip the boring stuff. Many of us turn to Loebs because there just isn't time to study every particle of classical literature in the detail it might deserve. (That Browning's shuffling, dusty don would be unlikely to find a job today perhaps shouldn't make the profession entirely proud.)

More ...
From the People's Daily:

Archaeologists have unveiled part of an ancient Thracian city dating back to 2000 B.C. in Turkey's northwestern of Tekirdag, local media reported on Thursday.

The excavation team of Turkey's Mimar Sinan University's Archaeology Department has been working for six years to unearth the ancient city named Heraion Teichos, which is located near Tekirdag's Karaevli village, according to the reports.

"Looking at the remains we have unearthed from the region so far, we believe this area was a health facility around 2000 B.C. when Thracians inhabited the region," said Professor Nese Atik, head of the excavation team.

"As a result of the excavation, we saw that they (Thracians) were very successful in producing gold and silver accessories, pottery and textiles," Atik added.

According to Atik, some 477 ancient coins and numerous historical remains had been transferred from the site to the Tekirdag Museum.
From the Scotsman:

A TEAM of archaeologists announced yesterday that they had uncovered part of what they believed to be the birthplace of Rome's first emperor, Augustus.

Clementina Panella, a leading archaeologist, said the team had dug up part of a corridor and other fragments under Rome's Palatine Hill, which she described as "a very ancient aristocratic house".

Ms Panella said that she could not yet be certain that the house was where Augustus was born in 63BC, but added that historical cross-checks and other findings nearby had shown that the emperor was particularly fond of the area.

Excavations on the Palatine in recent decades have turned up wonders such as another renewed Augustus' house, including two rooms with frescoes of masked figures and pine branches.

Ms Panella said there were at least two houses on the Palatine where the emperor was known to have lived. Much of the detail has yet to be uncovered, as it is hidden away in underground passageways.

We were in Rome for a couple of days on our recent road trip (more on that ... including photos ... in the coming weeks) but I was unable to find this site when we were there -- that might be associated with a rant I'll be having when writing about the Forum.
A brief item from AGI:

"There is an immense archaeological and historical patrimony in the Lazio region that must be given more value. We will do this together with the Region and the other local entities." This was stated by the vice premier and minister for Cultural Heritage, Francesco Rutelli, who this morning visited the archaeological park of Vulci. Rutelli added, "As minister of cultural heritage I am aware that the Etruscans are very fascinating for millions of potential tourists, especially northern Europeans, but we do not give the Etruscans enough value. It must be transformed into the culture, wealth, work and awareness of this entire region."
The incipit of an editorial from the Sun Star:

IT IS said that when Alexander the Great lay dying, he made three strange wishes. Faced with the prospect of never seeing his mother and his homeland again, this great warrior, this legendary conqueror of many lands, made three odd wishes. He gathered all his generals and told them his dying wishes.

The first was that only his physicians would carry his coffin. The second was that the path in which his coffin would pass should be strewn with gold, silver, and other precious items that he had collected in his conquests. And the third wish was that both his hands should be dangling outside the coffin.

Probably the generals would have thought these strange commands because they were at the very least, peculiar indeed. But this was their leader and they had no choice but to comply. But one particular general could not help himself and so he approached his dying leader and asked the reasons for the wishes.

The great Alexander then said: "The reasons I made those wishes is to show the world the lessons I have learned. I have asked my physicians to carry me to my grave because there is no doctor who can truly heal me. They are powerless in the shadow of death. Life should not be taken for granted.

"As for my second wish, I would like to tell the world that even though I have spent my entire lifetime accumulating the riches of this world, I cannot take them with me. It is a waste of time chasing wealth. And as for the third wish, I hope that people will understand that I came into this world empty handed and empty handed will I leave it also.

Soon after that Alexander died. And it said that all his wishes were granted.

I can't recall any of these (especially the third) ... anyone know of a source?
ESA has a real techie article on this ... here's the incipit (just after this my jet-lag-addled brain gives up):

Satellite images acquired by ESA’s Envisat satellite have revealed the volcanic region of the Phlegrean Fields, located in southern Italy near the city of Naples, has entered a new uplift phase.

Using Differential SAR Interferometry (DInSAR), scientists at the Institute for the Electromagnetic Sensing of the Environment (IREA) of the Italian National Research Council (CNR) mapped the changes in the caldera – a ring-shaped region which includes several volcanoes – and discovered the area has uplifted about 2.8 centimetres from 2005 to 2006.

The original article has a realllllllllllly nice satellite image of the Bay of Naples (click on it for a larger version) ...
From the Advertiser:

VISITORS to Verulamium Park are damaging one of St Albans most important Roman remains because English Heritage has failed to provide a new lock for a security gate.

The gate in the metal fence around part of the Roman wall in Verulamium Park has been without a lock for more than eight weeks.

At the weekend former museum worker Peter Wares photographed people walking on the top of the wall.

He had originally lodged a complaint with English Heritage at the beginning of June after he noticed that large flints had been dislodged from the section of wall known as the St Germain's Block.

He said: "I am surprised it has taken so long for English Heritage to get around to replacing the lock.

"If the gate in the fence was closed and locked people would not be tempted to climb on the wall."

St Albans District Council heritage and tourism portfolio holder, Cllr Melvyn Teare, said the council was dissatisfied with the service English Heritage provided in protecting the sections of Roman wall and added: "We will get something done about this as quickly a possible. It just needs someone to go and buy a lock out of petty cash."

A spokesperson for English Heritage said: "We fully accept that this should have been dealt with more promptly and it has been arranged for a contractor to fit a lock as soon as possible.
From Kathimerini's coverage:

A German university will be the first foreign institution to return part of the 2,500-year-old Parthenon sculptures to Greece, the government said late on Wednesday.

The small piece will be handed over by University of Heidelberg officials in early September, Greece’s Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said.

Measuring 8 by 12 centimeters (3 by nearly 5 inches), the relief sculpture of a man’s foot is far less significant than the British Museum’s collection of Parthenon masterpieces - also known as the Elgin Marbles - which Greece has fought for decades to reclaim.

But its return is a highly symbolic act which officials in Athens hope will lead to further the repatriations of the thousands of Greek antiquities in foreign museums and collections.

“This is very encouraging, and part of a series of things that are at last being put in order,” Voulgarakis said. “Our systematic efforts are leading to results.”

The Parthenon temple on the Acropolis, dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom, was built between 447 and 432 BC and is considered the crowning piece of ancient Greek architecture and art.

Large sections of its sculptured decoration were removed by Britain’s Lord Elgin in the early 19th century and since then have been displayed in the British Museum in London.

Greece claims these works were illegally removed and should be returned to Athens to be displayed alongside its own Parthenon sculptures.

Wednesday’s announcement came a day after the J. Paul Getty Museum said it had signed over to Greece the ownership of two ancient sculptures in its collections, following intense pressure from Athens. The pieces will be returned to Greece next week.

The private museum in Los Angeles is discussing the return of another two antiquities that Greece says were illegally excavated and spirited out of the country.

The Heidelberg sculpture belongs to the north section of the Parthenon frieze, a 160-meter (525-foot) strip of marble slabs decorated in relief with figures from a religious procession. It joins other parts of the frieze in Greece.

A Culture Ministry official said Greece would be offering an ancient artifact in return for the fragment - but did not offer further details.

The piece is expected to be displayed in a new 129-million-euro ($165 million) museum under construction in Athens to house finds from the Acropolis. The building is set for completion in March 2007.

Parts of the Parthenon sculptures are also held in the Louvre in Paris, and in museums in the Vatican, Vienna, Munich, Copenhagen and Palermo.
From Di-ve comes this interesting post:

The Cultural Heritage announced that after almost fifty years of silence, one of Malta's most fascinating Roman catacombs has been re-discovered by officers of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage within a traffic roundabout close to the Malta International Airport.

The important archaeological discovery was made at Hal Resqun, a site on the outskirts of Gudja and it was made possible due to a number of precautionary measures put into place by the Transport Authorit (ADT) on the recommendation of the Superintendence.

The road works at Gudja are in fact part of a road-improvement project being undertaken by the ADT.

The discovery consists of a Roman Catacomb which had been originally excavated by Sir Temistocles Zammit in 1912. However since then the catacomb has been completely obliterated under a wave of debris and asphalt. Following Temi Zammit's discovery of the site in fact, the catacomb was covered up by a road surface, following the development of the Luqa Airfield. The exact location of the Hal Reskun catacomb was lost, although it was generally understood to lie within a roundabout close to the Bir Miftuh chapel at Gudja. Various attempts to relocate the site had failed in the past, resulting in an increasing fear that the catacomb may have actually been destroyed or lost forever.

Cultural Heritage said that the Hal Resqun tomb is of particular scientific interest for Malta's archaeology due in part to the refined use of decoration within the tomb. These decorative schemes in the catacomb imitates Roman architectural motifs, such as a number of fluted columns etched into the rock face of the tomb.

The site is however unique in that it includes two scenes cut in low relief into the rock-face of the catacomb. These scenes include both human and animal figures, and offer a very rare insight into what religious notions the Roman in Malta entertained with respect to death and the afterlife.

Once re-discovered, officers from the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage have inspected the site and confirmed that this is the very same catacomb first sketched by Temi Zammit in 1912. The catacomb is in a good state of conservation considering its long abandonment. The tomb's important decorations and figurative scenes are also well preserved and are still very legible.

Cultural Heritage expressed its desire that the catacomb's re-discovery will hopefully lead to its permanent conservation, following 50 years of oblivion. It also said that the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage will continue to work to ensure that this site will be conserved for public benefit in terms of the Cultural Heritage Act.

Folks should be aware that there are other catacombs in Malta as well ... still not sure how one 'loses' a catacomb, though.
From IOL:

An ancient piece of jewellery known as the Theseus ring and dating from the 15th century BC, has been certified as authentic by Greece's top archaeological council (KAS), the Greek Ministry of Culture said on Wednesday.

Experts at the Democritus Institute had spent more than six months analysing the ring made with 20 grams of gold, which was found in debris at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens.

An archaeologist specialising in ancient Crete, Yannis Sakellarakis, and a member of KAS had argued that it could be a fake.

The KAS, however, backed the opinion of most of the experts and decided to pay €75 000, half the estimated value of the ring, to the ring's owner so it can be put on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

The signet ring, from the Mycenaean era on Crete, bears a seal engraved with a bull-leaping scene, recalling the Greek myth of Theseus and the minotaur.

According to the owner, the ring was found by her father-in law during expansion work in the 1950s of the museum at the ancient Acropolis site, but he kept it hidden in a chicken run at his country home.

After her father-in-law's death, she declared it to the authorities in order to get an estimate of its value and to sell it to the state.

Mediterranean Archaeology still has a good photo of the ring in question (or not in question?).
This obit comes from the New York Times, but doesn't appear to be available online any more:

Keith R. DeVries, an archaeologist and authority on the excavation of Gordion, the ancient Turkish city once ruled by King Midas of the golden touch, died on July 16 in Philadelphia. He was 69.

The cause was cancer, his family said.

From 1977 to 1987, Dr. DeVries directed the University of Pennsylvania’s dig at Gordion, where members of the staff of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the university have been at work since the 1950’s. Gordion is about 55 miles southwest of Ankara.

Dr. DeVries was an expert in Greek pottery and trade ware of the first millennium B.C. and was interested in the relationship between Greece and Anatolia in the Iron Age.

In recent work, he and others used pottery and artifacts to redate an early catastrophe in Gordion, which was believed to have been destroyed in Midas’s time, about 700 B.C. By coordinating stylistic studies of pottery with radiocarbon dating of seeds found in the same ground layers, the archaeologists concluded that the destruction probably took place between 800 B.C. and 825 B.C., or a full century before Midas, after which the city was rebuilt.

The study was published in the journal Antiquity in 2003, and “finally made the archaeology and chronology consistent, and brought sense to what had been unclear,’’ said Naomi F. Miller, an archaeobotanist and senior research scientist at the museum. Dr. Miller worked with Dr. DeVries at Gordion.

In the 1960’s, Dr. DeVries participated on digs at Corinth, Greece, and on Ischia, an island off Naples. In addition to examining pottery, he studied a type of decorated safety pin called a fibula, which has been recovered from excavations throughout the ancient world.

Keith Robert DeVries was born in Grand Rapids, Mich. He earned an undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan and his doctorate in classical archaeology from Penn in 1970.

He was named an assistant professor of classical studies at Penn in 1970 and an associate professor in 1974. Dr. DeVries was also an associate curator in the Mediterranean section at Penn’s museum.

He retired from teaching in 2004, but continued his research on Gordion and lived in Philadelphia.

Dr. DeVries is survived by two brothers, David, of Littleton, Colo., and Roger, of Lone Tree, Colo.

Throughout his career, Dr. DeVries deplored the looting of artifacts, which sometimes seemed to occur under the noses of the scholars who were uncovering them.

In a letter to The New York Times in 1973, he explained, “The preservation of exact proveniences could, in the end, reveal much about ancient commerce, which was, one hopes, more decent and aboveboard than the modern trafficking in antiquities.’’
From the BBC:

A Roman settlement has been unearthed in East Yorkshire by workers laying a new water pipeline.

Yorkshire Water contractors made the discovery in a field between Haisthorpe and Thornholme while laying 25 miles (40 kms) of pipeline into Bridlington.

Archaeologists have so far uncovered coins, pottery, irrigation ditches and the bones of five babies at the site, which is thought to date from 100 AD.

Experts have described the findings as "significant" and work is ongoing.

Upgrading pipework

Ben Westwood, who has been supervising the excavation, said: "We've had some nice imported pottery that's probably been traded into the area all the way from France in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries.

"We've also got evidence of industrial activity with metal slag and iron strips and nails."

Yorkshire Water spokesman Steve Parsley said a number of archaeological finds had been uncovered during the £12m project to upgrade the water system around Bridlington.

"Obviously when you're laying a pipeline there's always the chance that you could come across something significant," he said.

"The last thing we'd want to do is destroy it so the idea is that the archaeologists will follow us as we're digging."

I just realized this coverage from the Post is discussing the same discovery:

ARCHAEOLOGISTS in Yorkshire have stumbled across fascinating remains which are shedding new light on what life was like for ancient Britons under the rule of Rome.
The experts working along the route of a new water pipeline have discovered an ancient farmstead to the south west of Bridlington.
Its occupants kept cattle, sheep and possibly pigs and lived in wood-framed roundhouses which were only yards away from where children were buried in small, round graves.
So far five infant burials have been uncovered, including what is probably a foetus.
Archaeologist Ben Westwood said: "They are all buried in the same kind of area to the south of where the houses were, literally a few metres away.
"They are really buried within the domestic core of the settlement, keeping them very close to the centre of the village.
"Adult burials in this period were outside the confines of the settlement for obvious reasons.
"These baby burials for some reason were kept close to the houses.
"It hints at all sorts of things.
"My view is that it's evidence the difficult times people lived in, with high infant mortality."
Many dog bones have been found on the site – with a dog skull and jaw buried in the top of a ditch close to one of the baby burials – showing dogs were very much part of ancient Britons' lives.
There was also a wide variety of domestic and imported pottery, including high-class Samian ware. Smooth-surfaced and rich red-brown in colour, it was the finest tableware of Roman Britain.
The settlement had been lived in for centuries, with at least four phases of construction built on top of each other, between the 2nd and 4th century AD.
But everything was buried two feet under the pasture between Haisthorpe and Thornholme just off the A614 – and even the farmer did not have a clue what was there.
Archaeologists say you can now look at the field and see the ridge where the village used to be. "It is significant because it adds to the general picture of Romano-British settlements," said Mr Westwood, of Northern Archaeological Associates. "This is a native village, where native Britons were starting to adopt Roman ways and procedures.
"Just down the road at Harpham and Rudston there are rich Britons who started to build villas. Essentially this is a farmstead.
"It must have been a relatively successful farm because you have successive generations living there."
The new Yorkshire Water pipeline will destroy the roundhouses – but the finds will be preserved for posterity in the records.
Further work is going to be carried out on some of the water-logged deposits to find out what crops they grew. The skeletons will be reburied after further study.
Yorkshire Water is currently spending £12m upgrading the clean water infrastructure around Bridlington, including the construction of more than 30 miles of new pipeline.
From the Turkish Daily News comes word of an interesting ancient stage at Kaunos:

The ancient theater in Kaunos, located in Mugla's Dalyan district, had a rotating stage, archaeologists working on the site announced on Wednesday.

Professor Cengiz Isik, head of the excavations in Kaunos, said they have made numerous discoveries, which he says includes firsts in archaeology.

"Our latest discovery is that it incorporated a rotating stage system," Isik told the Anatolia news agency.

"Kaunos does not have the usual ancient structures built out of colossal white marble columns, but has very special features that can be called firsts in archaeology. One of them is the theater. The two-meter high rotating stage was triangular in shape with different decor on each side. As the setting changed throughout the play's plot, a mechanism rotated the stage," Isik explained.

"Ancient playwrights mentioned this system in historical documents but we did not have any archaeological evidence of this system until now," he said.

Isik said the rotating stage system would be utilized in a concert to be held on Aug. 25 to mark the 125th anniversary of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's birth.

Bas,kent University's Academic Orchestra will perform the concert accompanied by photographs of Atatürk on the three sides of the stage.

Excavations in the ancient city have been continuing since 1966 and are expected to last for years.

Kaunos was a significant trading port in ancient times, however, over time sand and silt filled the harbor over time.

According to Heredotos, who lived around 500 B.C., the people of Kaunos were descendents of the ancient civilization of Caria and considered themselves Cretans.

When the Persians captured Anatolia, the city came under the control of Mausolos.

After Alexander the Great defeated the Persians in 334 B.C. the city was ruled by Princess Ada, then by Antigonos, one of Alexander's generals and later by Ptolemy of Egypt.

Kaunos doesn't seem to have a website, but here's a photo from a site to give you an idea of what this Carian city was like (kind of like a coastal Petra).
Holy jet lag ... made one post and then crashed for four hours! In any event, here's a good intro to the reasons behind/for the interest in the trade of antiquities ... from the Guardian:

For the connoisseur of ancient art, 6 rue Verdaine in Geneva's old town is a jewel to behold. Set in its windows, like pearls in an oyster, are an elegant Attic red figure krater attributed to a 5th-century BC painter, an Etruscan pouring vessel and an array of vases.

Enter the plush showroom and the antiquities get better. Just in from the collection of an anonymous Swiss gentleman is a rare, 4th-century AD portrait of Helena, the mother of Constantine, the founder of Byzantium. The bronze bust, though severe of expression, is the showpiece of Phoenix Ancient Art - and comes with a £1.2m price tag. "Great-quality antiquities are a great investment," says Ali Aboutaam, the gallery's Lebanese proprietor. "They're a fraction of the price of, say, buying a Picasso."

In a world where cynicism and forgeries prevail, Mr Aboutaam insists no piece is purchased without being checked first, through the vendor, Interpol and various publications. "We're against dealing in illegally excavated antiquities and we don't support that market at all."

But in the increasingly sophisticated international art market, even items sold openly and legally with apparent provenance can cause controversy. Six years ago Phoenix Ancient Art sold a 3,200-year old mummy mask to the St Louis Art Museum that Egypt claims was stolen from the Cairo Museum, although Mr Aboutaam says "there is no evidence to support" the accusations.

In 2004 a life-size bronze sculpture of Apollo Sauroktonos stood in the showroom before it was sold for an undisclosed amount to the Cleveland Museum of Art. Carved by Praxiteles, the master artist, the work is seen as the finest piece of classical sculpture purchased by a north American museum since the second world war.

"[We] acquired the Apollo ... after over a year of extensive research. An international team of specialists thoroughly considered the acquisition from legal, art-historical,and technical perspectives, including laboratory testing. An emphasis was placed on research into its history," says a spokeswoman, Donna Brock, adding that the museum remains confident about its decision.

'We stand by its provenance'

Mr Aboutaam also says the statue was bought in good faith. "We stand by its provenance." An account of the statue's ownership history released at the time of the acquisition by the Cleveland, and endorsed by Phoenix Ancient Art, says the monumental bronze was "a part of a private estate" in the former East Germany until it was rediscovered "in pieces" in 1990. The family who reclaimed the estate upon reunification, sold the work in 1994 to unnamed persons before it was acquired by Phoenix Ancient Art.

But, this month, as Greece stepped up its campaign against the illegal antiquities trade and announced it would demand the repatriation of hundreds of looted works, the statue again became the focus of scrutiny. Mr Aboutaam may have exercised due diligence when he bought the masterpiece but authorities in Athens believe that before it entered his showroom it was passed through a chain of traffickers on the underground market. "We're investigating this statue and whether it was stolen very closely," says Giorgos Gligoris, who heads Greece's art squad. "We believe that it was, that it's a typical case of antiquities theft. We're in the process of studying photographs. The Italians, we have learned, may be claiming it and so may we. Our information from informers is that it was found in the Ionian Sea and then passed on, through I don't know how many hands, before being sold."

From his sixth-floor office in the Orwellian building that is the Athens police headquarters, the detective oversees a web of informants in and outside Greece. Among his targets is the freeport in Geneva where the sellers of museum-quality pieces often store their stock and where specialists believe the illicit journey of plundered art into some of the world's greatest museums often begins.

"We have people in Geneva because it seems that containers always pass through the freeport," he says. "Smugglers like Switzerland, with its flexible laws and good location, but they can see we're closing in on them."

In 1997 Swiss police found and seized 10,000 antiquities, many still covered with dirt, all bearing the stamps of well-known auction houses, hidden in four of the huge grey warehouses that girdle Geneva's freeport transit area.

Open-air museum

Home to an estimated 34,000 archaeological sites, Greece is viewed as Europe's biggest open-air museum. Along with Italy, it has attracted tomb raiders since before its foundation as a nation state in 1830.

But Athens is toughening its stance, homing in on the dealers, curators and collectors that are the source of demand. This month the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles agreed to yield ownership of two pieces that Greece had long claimed.

"All these illicit digs have resulted in an extraordinary loss to our heritage," says Maria Pantou, the director of the department of museums at the Greek culture ministry. "Every time an object is removed from the ground [illegally] it immediately loses 85% of its worth, even if it is a masterpiece," she said. "Unless something is documented, it's very hard to prove from where it came."

As supplies have dwindled and demand has grown traffickers have become ever more expert. Greece's network of dealers and smugglers have been forced to look further afield.

After the Balkans, where illegal excavations have escalated alarmingly, thieves have turned their attention to the Middle East and the far east - especially the estimated 11,000 precious artefacts still missing after the notorious plundering of the Baghdad Museum in April 2003.

"Unlike Italy, in Greece there's not a lot of stuff left because smugglers have been around for hundreds of years," says Nikolas Zirganos, an Athenian journalist who has researched the subject extensively. "These rings have begun to understand that both Athens and Rome are determined to clamp down on the trade so now they're expanding to places like Babylon and Cambodia."

Illegal excavations

· The illicit trade in antiquities world-wide is worth about $2bn (£1.1bn). Tomb-robbing is said to be the world's second oldest profession

· During the past 20 years, between 65% and 90% of antiquities put on sale on the London art market were of unknown provenance and were probably illegally excavated. More than £3m worth of antiquities are traded in London auction houses every year

· John D Cooney, a former curator of ancient art at Cleveland Museum, announced in 1970 that 95% of all antiquities in the US had been smuggled
From the Contra Costa Times:

Bob Thaves, whose nationally syndicated comic strip "Frank & Ernest" amused newspaper readers for decades with its quirky observations on life, has died of respiratory failure. He was 81.

Thaves died Aug. 8 at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance, said his daughter, Sara Thaves.

His long-running strip stars the happy-go-lucky punsters Frank and Ernest, who travel through time and the universe -- and sometimes change shape -- as they comment on everything from science to world politics.

The strip, which was syndicated in 1972, is distributed to 1,300 newspapers worldwide by Newspaper Enterprise Association and is read by more than 25 million people a day.

Thaves' son, Tom, has collaborated with his father on "Frank & Ernest" since 1997 and will continue to produce it, according to a statement from United Media, whose Newspaper Enterprise Association syndicates the strip.

Sara Thaves said her father's curiosity about the world made his comic strip unique.

Bob Thaves, who held bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology from the University of Minnesota, began cartooning as a child and was published in a college humor magazine at the University of Minnesota.

He went on to cartoon for various magazines and created "Frank & Ernest" while working as an industrial psychology consultant in Los Angeles.

The strip wasn't syndicated until Thaves was 48, and he didn't quit his consulting job until several years later.

"Frank & Ernest" went on to become one of the most popular comic strips in the world, as well as one of the most innovative.

According to United Media, it was the first newspaper cartoon to run in a strip format; the first to use block lettering; the first to use comic book-style digital coloring for the Sunday pages; and one of the first to have its own Web site, in 1997.

The Web site features interactive cartoons as a way to draw Internet readers without losing newspaper fans, Sara Thaves said.
Susan Mazur has penned a(nother) very thought-provoking piece for Scoop on how the media (and the New York Times in particular) should be held accountable for 'legitimizing' (if that's the right word ... mine, not SM's) the sale of antiquities without provenance. Here's the incipit:

While various American antiquities dealers, curators and collectors are "subjects of interest" of Italian and Greek prosecutors who, in the last year, particularly, have opened the floodgates for the return of their countries' cultural patrimony - the question is: Why not the media?

For instance, there is no finer example of promotion and protection afforded the antiquities trade than New York Times reporter Rita Reif's June 1988 plug for art dealer Bob Hecht in the story titled, "Archaic Smiles Have Persisted for 2,000 Years". Hecht is on trial in Rome for trafficking in ancient art --charged with being one of the capos, if not the mastermind of an international conspiracy.

But the media's entanglement starts much higher up than Reif. It begins with the NYT Sulzberger publishing family and includes its stable of art critics who have for decades serviced Hecht and other dealers selling antiquities without provenience (site from which artifact is plundered or excavated) with their unquestioning reviews of exhibitions and objects.

Arthur Sulzberger, Sr. (Punch), while publisher of the paper and as a member of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Acquisition Committee, even voted to purchase Italy's priceless Sarpedon Euphronios vase from Hecht -- which, after 34 years, finally bears the legend "the Republic of Italy" and awaits its 2008 ticket home. Punchy Sulzberger has been a member of the Met's Acquisitions Committee for more than 34 years and chaired the committee for a time.

No one has been more vocal in pointing out the connection between the Times and the antiquities trade than Met Ancient Near East expert, Oscar White Muscarella, one of the heroes of the 1974 book by John L. Hess, Grand Acquisitors , as well as Peter Watson's recent Medici Conspiracy (Muscarella's "scholarship, his attention to detail, his sheer resoluteness, has a certain magnificence").

Muscarella now says this regarding the collusion of the NYT with the traffickers of plundered ancient art:

"Rita Reif is only one of the New York Timespimps covering up her bosses' plundering. Reif innocently betrayed her consciously corrupt behavior when she went berserk a few years ago after discovering that art stolen from her family in Austria decades ago had recently surfaced. She was furious that anyone would steal from her family. She demanded justice, demanded with a fervor that art stolen from her family -- now belonging to her -- be returned immediately! Indeed, Reif's behavior over the years manifests loud and clear that defending and covering up her employers' corrupt actions -- the plundering and destruction of sites and cultures all over the world -- is fine, correct, honorable behavior by a United States citizen. Just don't mess with her property.

It was New York Timesreporters John Canaday and Grace Glueck, however, who first set the pace for this behavior: Never, ever, ever mention the word PLUNDER when writing -- always a glorious, excited review about either the Met's own plundered ancient art or such looted material on loan from a very rich collector or another plundering museum. The proof of collusion is all there in the Times reviews written through the years, particularly by Rita Reif and Holland Cotter; also Michael Kimmelman ( NY Times, December 12, 2005, Arts , pp. 1, 4). Not one has written a word about the real origin of the objects they gush over, how the museum and collectors acquired them, or even hinted that the objects are stolen. Nothing of the dark journey of the loot to the United States. That the Met's Director and Trustees, including Chairman Arthur A. Houghton and Punchy Sulzberger, purchased such objects from dealers in plundered art is the terrible truth not fit for printing in the New York Times."

Now with Bob Hecht in the hot seat, the Reif NYT "Smiles" article stands out as particularly egregious, almost as an unpaid ad for Hecht's 1988 Atlantis Antiquities gallery show in Manhattan: "Greek and Etruscan Art of the Archaic Period". Reif even went so far as to give prices of the artifacts then for sale. Many, if not most, of the pieces were without provenience, winding up later on the block at Sotheby's and in Hecht's own auction.

More ...
A piece in the American Chronicle mentions the phenomenon of ever-burning lamps ... here are the examples which are of interest to us:

Plutarch wrote of a lamp that burned over the door of a temple to Jupiter Ammon. According to the priests, the lamp remained alight for centuries without any fuel and neither wind nor rain could put it out.

St. Augustine described an Egyptian temple sacred to Venus with a lamp which wind and water could not extinguish. He declared it to be the work of the devil.

In 527 A.D., at Edessa, Syria, during the reign of emperor Justinian, soldiers discovered an ever-burning lamp in a niche over a gateway, elaborately enclosed to protect it from the air. According to the inscription, it was lit in 27 A.D. The lamp had burned for 500 years before the soldiers who found it, destroyed it.

In 140, near Rome a lamp was found burning in the tomb of Pallas, son of king Evander. The lamp, which had been alight for over 2,000 years, could not be extinguished by ordinary methods. It turned out that neither water nor blowing on the flame stopped it from burning. The only way to extinguish the remarkable flame was to drain off the strange liquid contained in the lamp bowl.

In about 1540, during the Papacy of Paul III a burning lamp was found in a tomb on the Appian Way at Rome. The tomb was believed to belong to Tulliola, the daughter of Cicero. She died in 44 B.C. The lamp that had burned in the sealed vault for 1,550 years was extinguished when exposed to the air. Interesting about this particular discovery is also the unknown transparent liquid in which the deceased was floating. By putting the body in this liquid, the ancients managed to preserve the corpse in such a good condition that it appeared as if death had occurred only a few days ago.

I thought we had discussed this on the Classics list at some point in the past, but I've come up empty on that score. I did mention the Tullia lamp in a page I put up about Tullia ages ago (and needing some updating, links wise). Fans of esoterica might want to check out the chapter on ever burning lamps in Jennings' The Rosicrucians (via Sacred Texts).

UPDATE: see Dorothy King's related post at PhDiva ...
Not sure the analogy works in this editorial from Ynet (this is just the incipit):

Carthage was an empire that ruled from Libya in North Africa to Sicilia to Sardinia to parts of Spain. It was the center of world finnnace.

Rome stood in opposition, but encountered Carthage's naval superiority. The fighting between them continued for 200 years and ended with the destruction of Carthage.

Theodor Mommsen, in his classic "The History of Rome", describes the people of Carthage as a nation not driven by freedom, or even by power. All they cared about was money. And they tried to use their money to buy peace and quiet from Rome, but were systematically rejected.

Corrupt peaceniks

Carthage was ruled by a "peace party" of elites - corrupt, incompetent and sold on the Romans. In opposition stood the "war party," who claimed that compromise bought only time, and that Rome's goal was to destroy, not co-exist, with Carthage.

Mommsen's description could well be talking about modern-day Israel: "In a country clearly threatened with a war of destruction, the geniuses, the determined and the committed will plan immediately to attack, but they will be swallowed up by the lazy, cowardly money-worshippers, who will push off the final battle at any cost, in order to live, and to obtain their deaths, in peace."

Army chief Hamilcar Barca and his son Hannibal planned the defensive war against Rome far away from home, with funding they had to raise themselves - from provinces they'd captured in Spain.

Hannibal crossed the Alps, attacked the Romans on their own territory and reached the gates of Rome. His fall was in part due to the fact that he was not supported financially from home, and reinforcements arrived sporadically.

Following the loss Carthage became a liability to Rome, and it appeared the peace camp had been right all along: Carthage thrived and succeeded, much to Rome's chagrin. Cato the Elder uttered his famous phrase, "Carthage must be destroyed!" at every opportunity. And after 56 years of "peace now," the Romans attacked. Hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered or sold into slavery.

Love peace, prepare for war

The people of Carthage, descendants of Tyre and Sidon, were our cousins. We, too, love peace, and have built a thriving, flourishing economy. Our army and our political policies were almost thrust upon us. We, too, are torn between an approach that it is possible to appease the Arab enemy, and an approach that the enemy means exactly what it says.

More ... Israel as Carthage?
From EDP 24:

A spectacular villa dating from the reign of the emperor Commodus is being painstakingly re-excavated in the county after lying untouched for more than 80 years.

First uncovered by locals in 1922, the site in Gayton Thorpe, near King's Lynn, would have been home to generations of wealthy Romano-Britons.

Filled with intricate mosaic floors and opulent wall-paintings, it was a display of ostentatious wealth to rival any of Norfolk's modern crop of grand buildings.

Covered with concrete and left largely forgotten until this month, the villa is now being re-evaluated by academics and amateur enthusiasts using cutting-edge archaeo-logical techniques.

Manager of the excavations, John Shepherd, of University College London, said: "The villa was very large, made probably around 160 to 180AD.

"The quality of it suggests that the family who owned this building would have probably had a large estate in the area, and also would have been very wealthy and influential in local affairs.

"They probably also would have had a large retinue and a few slaves."

Archaeologists arrived at the site on August 11 and are working on the dig until the end of next week.

Workers believe this flooring would have occupied a large area in the villa's reception hall, with a large roundel in the middle and geometric patterns surrounding it.

The walls of the room would have been further adorned with exotic wall paintings.

Mr Shepherd said: "I think we have demonstrated that this was a very large estate and very important in the part of the province.

"The main building would have been about 70m long and 30m wide."

The building is believed to have been constructed at around the time of the emperor Commodus, who was depicted in the Hollywood blockbuster Gladiator as an evil, incestuous malcontent.

Historians believe the notoriously unhinged ruler dressed as the Greek hero Hercules, wearing lion skins and carrying a club.

Archaeologists at the site have appealed for more information on the original dig from locals who may have seen the site before it was cemented over.

They would particularly like to see old pictures of the dig, which was regularly looted by trophy hunters in the first half of the 20th century.

As a 10-year-old, he would scour the same field for clues of Roman existence and was keen to help re-excavate the site.

He is helping to record the dig and said the company would produce a film on it which may be sent out to local schools as an educational tool.

An open day is being held at the dig on Bank Holiday Monday for visitors to come and see what has been found.

Visitors will be given guided tours and have the opportunity to view the finds made by the team.

The site is off the B1145 close to Gayton Thorpe.

The project has a useful website ...


This post of yours brought back memories of my visit to the Roman Villa in Ahrweiler, Germany in 2003. I went back to my web page about it, updated it, and blogged it today myself:
Irene Hahn
The Indian town where there is evidence of Roman-Indian contact is apparently threatened by development ... from Middle East Times:

Pottery shards, beads, Roman copper coins, and ancient wine bottles litter the strata beneath this small seaside village in India's southern Kerala state.

The 250 families, mostly agricultural laborers, who live in Pattanam, 260 kilometers (161 miles) north of Kerala's capital Thiruvananthapuram, find the objects pretty, but would rather dig up the ground and build larger homes.

But according to archaeologists K.P. Shajan and V. Selvakumar, they may be destroying the remnants of Muziris, a well-documented trading port where Rome and India met almost 3,000 years ago.

They say that, based on remote sensing data, a river close to Pattanam had changed its course and the ancient port may have been buried due to earthquakes or floods.

The two are worried that construction activity in the village will destroy evidence about the existence of the port before they get the chance to examine it scientifically.

"There is no doubt that Pattanam was a major port that is linked to Indo-Roman trade," Shajan said. "But we can't confirm whether it was Muziris. We need more collaborative evidence to support our findings."

A majority of the families that live in Pattanam are demolishing old tiled-roof structures and replacing them with concrete buildings right in the middle of the 1.5-kilometer zone where Shajan and Selvakumar say that Muziris was possibly located.

Muziris was a port city mentioned in several ancient travelogues and scholarly texts as a major center of trade between India and Rome, especially in pepper and other spices around the second century BC to probably as late as the sixth century AD.

Christianity may have been introduced to the sub-continent through Muziris, historians say. But Muziris mysteriously dropped off the map - maybe to war, plague, or disaster.

The two archaeologists say that they want to find out for sure and have asked local preservation groups to help.

Kerala's Historical Research Council, an independent body that promotes research in history, says that it has written to the Archaeological Survey of India, which is in charge of protecting monuments and historical places, to take steps to protect Pattanam.

But K.V. Kunjikrishnan, a professor of history, says that neither the government nor the Archaeological Survey of India has responded.

"The construction activity in the area may destroy vital evidence of historical importance," says Kunjikrishnan.

Pattanam housewife Sheeba Murali says that ancient beads pop out from the ground after heavy rains and the 30-year-old history graduate, like some other villagers, collects them and hands them over to the archaeologists.

Villagers say that they used to get gold coins from the site, but kept the finds quiet.

"Nobody admits whatever things they get. We are scared that the government may take over our land for archaeological survey," says villager Arun Rajagopal.

It was from Rajagopal's land that the two archaeologists discovered beads, layer of bricks, wine bottles, jars, pendants, and copper coins.

Selvakumar says that the ancient bricks, which the villagers used to build their homes, bore a close resemblance to those used 2,500 years ago.

"During my excavations I collected a wide range of pottery which goes back to the historic date. Amphorae, roulette ware, beads, nails and several other artifacts such as copper coins were also recovered," he says.

But Sheeba says that villagers will continue building new homes.

"My children need a decent place to stay when they grow up. But I am thrilled to live in a place where history sleeps," she says.
From the Sofia News Agency:

A Thracian town dating back to IV century B.C. in central Bulgaria has the potential to become one of the country's archaeological hotspots, according to experts.

Local authorities in the town of Kazanluk plan to turn it into a place of great importance to Bulgaria's tourism. The municipality and four Dutch companies will set up in September a foundation, aimed to promote the ancient town and fund its restoration.

The attractive site, which is the only one of its kind preserved in Bulgaria spreads on a 50 dca area.

Currently, the Thracian heritage is under water after the near dam overflowed it, but the mayor plans to drain the site by erecting a dam wall around it.

Preliminary estimates show that the whole project will be worth some EUR 50 M and may be carried out in eight to nine months.

Maybe I'm becoming jaded and suspicious (becoming?), but I'm starting to wonder about these reports ... seems every other week there are plans to exploit the tourist potential of this or that Bulgarian site. Do these things ever come to fruition?
Looks like the complete first season has been released ... time to dig out all those blockbuster coupons ...
A piece originally from the New York Sun picked up by the Evening Bulletin:

Of all the golden ages in history, the one enjoyed by Athens in the fifth century B.C. remains the most awe-inspiring. With a population of around 200,000 - equivalent to a Manhattan zip code or two - Athens produced men like Pericles and Socrates, created the tragic drama, built the Parthenon, instituted the West's first democracy, and dominated the Greek world. Yet this moment of supremacy only lasted about 70 years, short enough for a single lifetime to encompass Athens's rise and fall. Worse still, Athenian power was not simply lost; it was recklessly squandered, in the decades-long contest with Sparta known as the Peloponnesian War. After 404 B.C., when the city finally surrendered and agreed to tear down its fortifications, Athens would remain a cultural center - the age of Plato was just around the corner - but it would never again rule Greece.
The world has been studying the Peloponnesian War ever since, and not simply because of its momentous consequences for Western history. It continues to fascinate historians, above all, because it was the subject of the first work of modern historiography. Thucydides, an Athenian general who played a significant (and rather inglorious) role in the conflict, became the father of history-writing with his "The Peloponnesian War." Unlike Herodotus, his greatest predecessor, Thucydides refused to base his account on colorful legends or venerable hearsay.
"With reference to the narrative of events," he declares, "far from permitting myself to derive it from the first source that came to hand, I did not even trust my own impressions, but it rests partly on what I saw myself, partly on what others saw for me, the accuracy of the report being always tried by the most severe and detailed tests possible." At the same time, Thucydides provided his dramatis personae with speeches that, if not verbatim transcripts, brilliantly evoked the significance of the events they were living through. Pericles's funeral oration, which boasts of the glories of Athenian democracy, and the Melian dialogue, in which the Athenians set out the iron laws of power politics, still help to shape our imagination of power.
The latest modern historian to drink from the Thucydidean spring is Sir Nigel Bagnall, whose study of another classic conflict, the Punic Wars, appeared in America last year. Bagnall, who died in 2002, ended his long military career as Chief of the General Staff of the British Army, and he brings to the study of ancient wars a unique breadth of modern experience. In The Peloponnesian War (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's Press, 318 pages, $29.95), he does not set out to challenge the traditional story with any shocking new theories or evidence. Rather, he reads the ancient sources - Thucydides, Xenophon, Plutarch - with the eye of a professional soldier, and digests them into a clear, accessible survey.
The resulting book is an excellent introduction to the subject, helping to make sense of the incredibly complex military and diplomatic maneuvers that determined the war's outcome. Bagnall divides the war into four major theaters: the Central Theater of mainland Greece, where Athens and Sparta began the war in 431 B.C.; the Western Theater of Sicily, where the Athenians mounted a disastrous expedition in 415 B.C.; the Eastern Theater of Asia Minor, where the mighty presence of the Persian Empire helped to alter the balance of forces in Sparta's favor; and the largely peripheral Northern Theater of Thrace and Macedonia. Beginning the book with a catalog of the major cities and islands that took part in the war, Bagnall proceeds to narrate the military campaigns in considerable detail, turning from one theater to the next as events dictate.
The origins of the Peloponnesian War lay in a still earlier conflict, the Persian War, to which Bagnall devotes his first chapters. If the Peloponnesian War is a sordid tale of internecine struggle, the Persian War is easier to idealize - a desperate struggle for survival in which the whole Greek world joined together. At the battle of Marathon in 490 B.C., and then at the naval battle of Salamis 10 years later, the Greek coalition, led by Athens, fended off a massive Persian invasion, which could well have extinguished the first sparks of Western civilization. That triumph that gave Athens its dominant position in the Aegean, allowing her to unite many of the Greek cities in an alliance known as the Delian League.
In the following decades, however, as Athenian power and pretensions grew, the Delian League morphed into something more like an Athenian Empire. Instead of allies, the minor Greek states were treated like subjects, forced to pay tribute in money or ships. This set the stage for a conflict with Sparta, the other major Greek power, whose intense system of military training made her army as invincible on land as the Athenian fleet was at sea. After a series of proxy conflicts, the tension between Athens and Sparta broke into open war in 431 B.C., continuing without a decision until a truce was reached in 421 B.C.
Hostilities were reopened six years later, when the Athenians recklessly embarked on the invasion of Sicily. This adventure, urged on by the charismatic and unscrupulous politician Alcibiades, ended in a crushing defeat for Athens, which in turn gave Sparta an unprecedented opportunity. With Athens's allies in open revolt, and the Persians brought into the conflict on the Spartan side, the Spartan admiral Lysander could finally achieve naval supremacy. When the Athenians finally surrendered, in 404 B.C., they feared they would end up like some of the cities they themselves had conquered - the men exterminated, the women and children sold into slavery, the temples razed to the ground. In the event, the Spartans agreed to moderate terms, allowing Athens to resume its cultural life, if never to regain its military supremacy.
In analyzing the campaigns and battles, blunders and treacheries, which constitute the Peloponnesian War, Bagnall always keeps in mind the three levels on which every war is fought. These are strategy, "the definition of strategic objectives to be achieved in fulfillment of government policy"; operations, "the planning and execution of military operations to achieve stated strategic objectives"; and tactics, "the planning and conduct of battles in pursuit of the operational aim." What doomed the Athenians, he concludes, was their confused strategic aims and their undisciplined operational approach. Unable to decide exactly what it wanted out of the war, or where to concentrate its forces, Athens could not capitalize on its ability to win battles. Bagnall's experience of command, and his clear, unpretentious style, allow him to draw this and many other conclusions about the nature of warfare. Even today, he shows, the Peloponnesian War remains fascinatingly and alarmingly relevant.
From the Free Lance Star (including the 'well duh' moment in the third paragraph):

AS A SENIOR in college, I spent much of my last term down in a pit every morning, scraping dirt with a little trowel.

It was an archaeology class and we, the students getting six credits and a tan, were searching for evidence of a small academy that predated the college on the back of the current campus.

Compared to those ruins, which were a few hundred years old, the work that Adam Janney of Stafford County did this summer was downright ancient.

The graduate of Randolph-Macon College in Ashland joined several dozen college students, doctoral candidates and a collection of others at the decades-old excavations at The Agora in Athens.

From June until August, the James Monroe High School graduate found himself digging in four different trenches, some of which produced artifacts left there long before the birth of Christ.

Janney was one of the few American students and recent grads to get the opportunity this year, thanks largely to a class he took with professor John Camp.

When not teaching in Ashland, the professor runs the excavation in Athens, conducted by the American School of Classical Studies there.

Janney, who got a degree in history, said he jumped at the opportunity to get a firsthand feel for the history and society of the ancient Greeks.

Though he hadn't done much archaeology before his trip to Athens, Janney said the supervisors at the dig gave him and the 45 others a quick primer on how to slowly scrape their way into the ancient soil.

Soon enough, he was looking for artifacts, changes in soil color and texture, and any other clues that the ancient rock and ground might yield.

He and the others were digging on the site of The Agora, the major hub of activity in ancient Athens.

The American School of Classical Studies online describes The Agora as a marketplace and civic center.

"In addition to being a place where people gathered to buy and sell all kinds of commodities, it was also a place where people assembled to discuss all kinds of topics: business, politics, current events, or the nature of the universe and the divine," says a description on the site.

It continued that "The Agora of Athens, where ancient Greek democracy first came to life, provides a wonderful opportunity to examine the commercial, political, religious, and cultural life of one of the great cities of the ancient world."

Janney said knowing the importance of the excavations made the work he did seem worthwhile, even when it got tedious in the hot summer sun.

The 23-year-old said he spent most of his time working in the area that has been determined to be the site of a general's office or building.

"They had found a coin hoard there--money they said was probably kept to pay the soldiers," he said.

Janney said the most exciting find he had while scraping through the layers of history with trowel, brush and dust pan were the remains of a baby in a burial jar.

"That was a little creepy, but interesting," said Janney, noting that a paleontologist examined the bones to determine that the child most likely was stillborn.

He said the big push this year, as it has been in recent summers when work on the dig is concentrated, is the search for an ancient wall mentioned in many works of literature.

"One of the students working near me found something that might be a start on that," said Janney. A block of stone was discovered that might provide clues to the wall's location.

While the dig was hard, hot work from 7 a.m until 2 p.m., the schedule left plenty of time to explore Athens and learn more about Greek society.

"One of the neat things about this dig is that it's not miles out of town somewhere," he said. "There are stores and shops all around there. In fact, the excavation from time to time buys a business so they can take it down and do excavations under it."

Aside from the dig itself, highlights of the trip included touring with family after his work on the dig and attending a function at the American Embassy in Athens.

Though the articulate young Janney will treasure his memories from the excavations, he doesn't plan a future in archaeology.

He's mulling over some opportunities in business, but has not ruled out attending law school.

Wherever he goes, the patience and diligence honed at the site of democracy's birth will serve him well.
From the Alligator:

Working in an archaeological trench in Romania, I was on my knees for eight hours a day. We dug in teaspoon-sized scoops so that we didn't miss any small coins or bone fragments. My hands ached, and dirt stuck to my sweaty skin. Every once in a while, we had to chase off a stray cow or horse.

My fellow excavators and I were digging up the long-buried Roman city of Porolissum. I had signed up for a foreign archaeological field school with no training or experience. I was with 20 strangers in a country where horses and buggies are as common as automobiles, and where the language was foreign to me, ready to spend a month doing hard labor in the sweltering heat - for fun. I received no pay, no credit and no letter of reference.

But we uncovered structures that proved the city was bustling long after it was believed abandoned.

We were briefed on the town before we began digging. Porolissum was conquered by the Romans in 106 A.D., and it defended the Roman Empire at its very edge. Over time it expanded into a civilian town.

The Romans withdrew in 271 A.D., and many scholars believe that once they abandoned the area, everyone left, including the indigenous people. But the Romanian director of our dig, Alexandru Matei, believed that people might have continued living there afterward.

We dug in Porolissum's forum, which is similar to a present-day town center. It held government buildings, shops and possibly temples. These buildings were set up in a rectangle around a central courtyard. We were attempting to define the dimensions of the forum and get a better understanding of life at Porolissum.

Early in the dig, in the first trench that we opened, we found a rubble layer composed of stones and roof tiles, indicating that a building had once stood there.

After we documented the rubble layer, we removed it to see what was beneath. We found what we were looking for: an intact wall that, we guessed, outlined the courtyard of the forum.

As we dug deeper, we found another wall at a perfect right angle to the original wall.

In the corner of these two walls, we found a pile of domestic animal bones. The building rubble we found earlier must have constituted the remains of the town butcher shop, which would have been located along the courtyard of the forum.

By analyzing those courtyard walls, we eventually proved correct Matei's theory about habitation after the Roman withdrawal. It was obvious that buildings had been converted for use other than their original purpose.

The walls of these buildings were not at perfect right angles to the original walls, which they would have been if the Romans had built them. They were also built in a different style.

The Romans used large stones and mortar to build walls, but people from later periods also used cement and small bits of marble.

Finding these two types of walls conjoined shows that the later people used the Roman walls to help in their construction, but changed the building plans for their own uses.

We also determined that most of the trading was done locally, not with major centers such as Rome or North Africa. This was rare because almost all of the Roman provinces traded solely with Roman commerce centers.

Throughout our dig, we found many ceramics that, according to past archeological findings, were fired in Romania.

At one point, one of our Romanian workers tossed a piece of this ceramic into a pile with a shovelful of dirt.

We saw the shard of orange amid the flying dirt, and we panicked. Two of us climbed out of the trench and raced over to the pile to dig through it and look for this artifact.

We found it, but from then on we kept a closer eye on the workers.

The Porolissum Forum Project has a website (a report from the 2006 season is pending) ...
I missed the news of this one while I was in Sicily ... the only edicola was in town and I was at the mercy of relatives (and/or my wife) to pick up something for me to read ... this one comes from ANSA:

Archaeologists have unearthed 40 sarcophagi in what was once the sacred Phoenician burial grounds of Birgi, near the ancient colony of Motya .

The tombs were discovered by chance by a group of construction workers excavating the foundations of a house close to the westernmost tip of Sicily near Marsala, culture officials said .

Archaeologists said the sarcophagi were made of simple stone slabs and resembled those found on display outside the museum on the neighbouring island of Motya (present-day Mozia), site of a prosperous Phoenician colony .

"The tombs were of different dimensions, including several used to bury children, and spread apart in irregular order," archaeologists said .

Although they failed to find objects inside the sarcophigi, archaeologists unearthed several vases of different sizes and shapes in the field .

"The vases were most likely used during propitiatory rites just before the burial took place," the experts said .

According to the experts, the tombs had clearly been ransacked by tomb raiders or perhaps by Joseph Whitaker, an archaeologist related to a noble British family that produced and exported Marsala wines from Sicily in the 19th Century .

Whitaker, who was responsible for the rediscovery of Motya, built a house on the island and moved all his finds there in 1908 .

His house now serves as the archaeological museum .

Motya - whose name means "wool-spinning centre" was founded in the 8th century BC, about a century after the foundation of the most famous Phoenician colony in the ancient world, Carthage in Tunisia .

Greeks also began to colonise Sicily at the same time as Motya's foundation and conflicts broke out between Greek and Phoenician settlements .

The Greek tyrant ruler of Siracusa, Dionysius I, destroyed Motya in 397 BC .

Half a century later, Rome's intervention in the Greek-Carthaginian conflicts led to the Roman conquest of Sicily, which became Rome's first province .

The Phoenicians were a trading people who formed a massive commercial empire across the Mediterranean from their bases in modern-day Lebanon .

Among the Italian cities they founded is today's capital of Sicily, Palermo .

Other colonies included Cadiz and Malaga in Spain, Tangiers in Morocco and Tripoli in Libya .

Late last year, archaeologists announced they had found the remains of an ancient Phoenician temple off Motya, saying it was "unique" in the West .

"You have to go all the way to Amrit in Syria to find a similar one," said Lorenzo Nigro of the Rome University team, who headed the digs .

The temple came to light after a portion of a lagoon surrounding Motya was drained .

The pool began to fill up again and a fresh-water spring was found - a fact Nigro believes proves it was used as a holy place .
From the Manchester Evening News:

AN ancient Roman gold ring, supposedly found in a farmer's field, is at the centre of a police investigation after it emerged the relic had been sold on the internet just weeks earlier.

Amateur treasure hunters Colin Hilton and Gary Moore claimed to have found the 2,000-year-old trinket buried six inches under the surface of a field.

But a hearing in Oldham was dramatically halted after evidence was produced to suggest that the treasure had previously appeared on the internet auction site eBay and been sold for 42.23, plus 1.85 postage and packing.

Coroner Simon Nelson adjourned the case to allow police to investigate whether a fraud had been committed.

The two treasure hunters, aged in their early twenties, had claimed they found the ring - confirmed by experts to be a Roman finger ring dating from the first or second century - while using metal detectors in a field near Daisy Nook Country Park, Failsworth, last November.


Anyone who finds an archaeological treasure is legally obliged to inform the local coroner within 14 days and the item is analysed by British Museum experts who decide if it should be added to the national collection, making the finder and owner of the land eligible for a reward.

Coroner Mr Nelson revealed evidence in court that the same ring had been listed for sale on eBay about two weeks before it had supposedly been found in the Oldham field.

Mr Nelson told the hearing: "Given that this item was clearly bought and sold on eBay prior to the date it was found I am not satisfied that a criminal act has not been committed. Therefore I am proposing to involve Greater Manchester Police.

"I know from the British Museum that this case is unique. This is the first circumstance of this type nationwide."

After the inquest was adjourned, Mr Hilton said: "I didn't want to make money or get in the papers.

"I did everything according to the law and look what I got for my troubles."

He claimed that someone he knows has since admitted hiding the ring in the field as a prank, hoping he would find it.

He added: "I know exactly who it is. I've known him half my life and he admitted it. He thought it would be a right laugh."
As frequent visitors to rc know, there hasn't really been a comment feature here. I did set up links for folks to post comments at Classics Central, but although it did get some use, the 'disjunction' between comment and article has always bothered me. To make matters worse, I find that spambots (or some group of people with an awful lot of time on their hands) have -- in my absence, of course -- been spamming Classics Central big time. I spent close to an hour yesterday 'disapproving' posts making various offers having nothing to do with Classics. They seem to be coming every hour and I'm pondering closing Classics Central down for that reason (but I might not).

Even so, I'd still like comments to be a bit 'closer' to the article they're associated with, so now (as you hopefully noticed) the 'comment on this post' has become 'drop me a line'. I'll read your comments and attach them to the original article when I get a chance (with proper attribution, of course, and possible editing).


Just trying out the facility ... seems to work!
David Meadows
And the saga continues ... AP (Via Yahoo):

The J. Paul Getty Museum has signed over to Greece ownership of two ancient artifacts at the heart of a major cultural heritage dispute, officials said Tuesday.

The private museum in Los Angeles agreed in July to return the two sculptures following intense pressure from Greece, which says they were illegally spirited out of the country.

The ownership deeds were signed in Los Angeles on Sunday in the presence of Greek officials, the museum and the Greek culture ministry said in a joint statement.

The artifacts — a sixth-century B.C. votive relief and a fourth-century B.C. carved tombstone — will be flown to Greece by the end of August, a ministry official said.

Talks will continue in Athens, the statement said, on the possible restitution of another two ancient treasures in the Getty collection — a gold wreath dating from about 400 B.C. and a sixth-century B.C. marble statue of a young woman.

"The two parties ... will explore the possibility of cooperation on matters of mutual interest," the statement said.

Museum and Greek officials have indicated that Greece would be prepared to offer the U.S. museum long-term loans of Greek antiquities.

The two artifacts to be flown back have been displayed at the Getty Villa in Malibu, Calif., which houses the museum's extensive antiquities collection. The Getty agreed to hand them over "after a thorough internal investigation, which concluded that it would be right to return the works," the statement said.

The marble relief, which depicts two women offering gifts to a seated goddess, was found by French archaeologists on the island of Thassos about 100 years ago and stolen from a storeroom. The Getty bought it in 1955.

The black stone tombstone, incised with the figure of a young warrior named Athanias, was acquired by the Getty in the early 1990s. Greek authorities say it was illegally excavated near Thebes — an antiquities-rich town some 56 miles northwest of Athens — between 1992-96.

Greek police have launched a crackdown on antiquities smuggling, with raids this year on two island villas whose owners are linked with the international art trade.
The incipit of a piece in the New York Times:

The artist Omero Bordo has a message for Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He is prepared to offer the museum what he says is an exact replica (down to the fractures) of the Euphronios krater, a 2,500-year-old vase that the Met has agreed to surrender to Italy after three decades of haggling over its legal status.

The artist Omero Bordo specializes in replicating ancient Etruscan art. Earlier in life, he says, he had a different specialty: robbing tombs.

“If the museum is interested, it’s a perfect copy, same height, same everything,” said Mr. Bordo, who made the faux-Etruscan piece by hand about 20 years ago. Of course, he added, some money would have to change hands.

“As they say, no one sings Mass for free,” Mr. Bordo said.

Should Mr. de Montebello wish to inspect the replica of the vase that Italy contends was stolen from Italy’s archaeologically rich underbelly 35 years ago, he will have to trek to this former Etruscan stronghold about 50 miles north of Rome and venture into the depths of an underground grotto, beneath one of the city’s newer suburbs.

There, Mr. Bordo has transformed a mushroom farm that was once an ancient quarry into Etruscopolis, a quirky museum celebrating the art of a civilization that flourished in roughly the eighth to second centuries B.C. The imitation krater is displayed in one of the glass cases that line the 3.7-acre underground site, each one filled with “Etruscan” pieces fashioned by hand by Mr. Bordo.

Mr. Bordo, 62, describes himself as an artist who creates “contemporary Etruscan” pieces. Less than 40 years ago, however, he was a self-professed tombarolo, or tomb robber.

His trajectory from clandestine digger to attention-hungry entrepreneur reflects the changing attitudes here regarding the looting of antiquities. In the old days, Mr. Bordo said, the government was largely indifferent to the nighttime activity of poor farmers poking about the countryside. But as the artifacts became big business, the state began clamping down, through police action and legal prosecutions.

So Mr. Bordo, a talented artist, moved into an equally lucrative field.

“Don’t call them fakes; I’ve never made fakes,” Mr. Bordo, a compact man with powerful stubby hands and a gravelly voice, said of his pots and frescoes.

Charges of passing off his pieces as the real thing landed him in jail once - “30 years ago,” he said vaguely, waving off requests for firm details - and he is still testy about the subject. (He was also feeling a bit exasperated because he was housebound, his legs spattered with buckshot and bandaged, after what he said was a recent hunting accident.)

“If someone mistakes them for antiques, that’s their business,” he said.

There's more (including a photo of some of the reproductions ... they're really good) ... but let's see ... former tombarolo making 'not-fakes' evading questions about sales ... hmmmmmmmmm
From a EurkekAlert press release giving abstracts of the latest issue of Geology:

Young Danube delta documents stable Black Sea level since the middle Holocene: Morphodynamic, paleogeographic, and archaeological implications

Liviu Giosan, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Geology and Geophysics, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543; et al. Pages 757-760.

Sea level in the Black Sea has long been controversial, at a variety of time scales. Sea level curves from the region show large magnitude (up to 15 meters) and high frequency level variations since the early Holocene despite the fact that the Black Sea was already connected to the World Ocean. A new chronology for beach ridges in the Danube delta -based on mass spectrometry radiocarbon measurements and supported by optically stimulated luminescence dates - shows that the Black Sea water level remained within -2 m and +1.5 m of the current level for the last five millennia. Hydroisostatic effects related to a catastrophic reconnection of the Black Sea to the World Ocean in the early Holocene may have played a role in reaching the Holocene highstand earlier than estimated by models. The new dates also demonstrate that the Holocene Danube delta started to build out of a Black Sea embayment only ~5200 years ago, rather than ~9000 years ago as previously proposed. The new chronology allows for a better understanding of the Danube delta paleogeography, including the demise of Histria, the main ancient Greek-Roman city in the region, whose harbor has been shoaled with sands transported alongshore from the updrift Danube coast. Further, submergence at several ancient Chalcolithic/Bronze Age to Greek-Roman settlements along the Black Sea coast may be better explained by local factors such as subsidence, rather than by basin-wide sea level fluctuations.

There's a fairly good website for the ongoing excavations at Histria ...
From the incipit of a piece in the Herald comes some info about something I've long wondered about:

They hold our empire together as well.

The types of nails used in modern construction almost defy counting.

They include box nails, common nails, finishing nails, casing nails, brads and sprigs, to name a few.

Most countries quite intelligently use the metric system to describe nail sizes. For example, a "50 x 3.0" nail refers to a nail 50 mm long and 3 mm in diameter, with the lengths rounded to the nearest millimeter. Canada uses a similar system, except that nail lengths are given in inches.

But not the United States. Here, the length of a nail is designated by its "penny" size. This system began in England about the time carpenters were hammering stages together around Shakespeare's ears as he was furiously working on "Hamlet." In the U.S., we still walk into a store and ask for six-penny nails or 12-penny nails, with the size of the nail getting progressively larger.

Just why this is goes back to the Romans. D is a designation for denarius, a Roman coin sort of like a penny. In Elizabethan England, nails were sold by the pence, which adopted the "d" for shorthand because the Romans once invaded England and left behind a lot of nails along with their forts. Under this system, you could get 100 4d nails for 4 pence, 100 16d nails for 16 pence, 100 60d nails for 60 pence and so on.

Today in the U.S., the "d' refers to the length of the nail, prices having changed a bit. This incredibly confusing system remains.

More (but no more ClassCon) ...
From ANSA:

The once majestic mausoleum of Roman Emperor Augustus, now a dank and overgrown ruin, is to be spruced up and opened to the public in a bid to add a new 'must' to the Eternal City's tourist itinerary .

The burial site, one of the most sacred monuments in ancient Rome, was originally covered with white travertine marble and its entrance flanked by two huge obelisks, signalling the passage into the afterlife. With a diameter of 87 metres, it is the biggest circular mausoleum known. Today, only a shell remains, sitting six metres below street-level at the centre of an ugly Fascist-era piazza. According to Rome authorities, it is expected to be ready for paying visitors by 2009. By this time Rome council officials say the area around it will have also been revamped, with an underpass removing car traffic so that visitors can walk through gardens to a balcony overlooking the Tiber. An international competition for plans to renovate the monument and its surroundings is already under way. The winner, who will oversee the 20 million euro project, is due to be announced in November .

Among other things, the project means archaeologists will begin new excavations and experts on ancient Rome will carry out the first definitive study of the ruin .

"We're a long way from knowing everything about this monument, which is one of the most important in the city," said Paola Virgili, a senior official at Rome's cultural superintendant's office .

"Experience shows that whenever you start digging, the chances are something interesting will turn up. We could find more pieces of the marble that used to decorate the mausoleum," she added .

The last excavations were carried out in the 1930s under Mussolini but not everything was uncovered. Officials also say the restoration work carried out then will need to be looked at again .

Augustus, the first emperor of Rome and the architect of the famed 'pax romana', began building the mausoleum in 28BC. He was inspired to build a magnificent tomb for himself and his dynasty after he saw the mausoleum of Alexander the Great in Egypt. Augustus was entombed in his creation in AD 14, in a cell at the centre of a series of passages and rooms arranged in concentric circles. After him, many other emperors and their loved ones were buried in niches which, as time passed, were placed further and further from the centre .

Little remains of the original internal structure. The mausoleum, about a mile and a half northwest of the Colosseum, was pillaged for its travertine blocks as early as the 8th century. But the basic floorplan is known and authorities say computer-generated reconstructions of the monument could be used to show tourists exactly what it would have been like .

Less than a hundred metres away is the Ara Pacis, the famed altar that Augustus built to celebrate peace in the empire. In the city council's vision, this smaller monument - now housed in an ultramodern museum designed by Richard Meier will be incorporated into one big area devoted to Augustus.

... another new 'must': put up some &@#$ signs on the monuments in the Forum (more on that in a later post)
From King's Lynn Today:

Gayton's Roman villa bigger and better than thought
NEW pieces of history are being unveiled at a West Norfolk Roman villa, after archaeologists discovered it is much larger than anyone had first thought.
Previously-unearthed rooms and artwork dating back to the gladiatorial era have been revealed at Gayton Thorpe, thanks to a team of enthusiasts re-excavating the site for the first time in more than 80 years.
Originally uncovered by locals in 1922, the opulent villa boasted grand corridors and intricate mosaics, and would have been home to generations of wealthy families.
For many years its main mosaic – the only one recorded in situ in Norfolk – was partially exposed until a hut that had been protecting it fell into disrepair in the 1960s.
Now archaeologists have started to uncover the mosaic again, and more, in a year-long project which started on the site earlier this month.
Manager of the excavations, John Shepherd, of University College London, said: "The importance of the site is known but we are adding to the knowledge and have discovered that it may well be much more important and much bigger than originally thought."
He said the villa was very large, built around 160 to 180AD, and probably belonged to a very wealthy and influential family.
Archaeologists are now preparing to open the site to the public on Bank Holiday Monday to give a guided tour of the dig. The event, from 9am to 5pm, is free and will also include Roman re-enactments.
The team is also appealing for information on the original dig from locals who saw the site before it was covered over. They are trying to contact relatives of Mr W. Charlton, who started the first ever excavation, but died before he could finish.
They would particularly like to see old pictures of the dig, which was regularly looted by trophy hunters in the first half of the century.
Michael de Bootman, managing director of Heritage Marketing and Publications, from Great Dunham, is co-funding the project, together with Chris Birks Archaeology.
He is extremely excited to be working on the site, having scoured the same field for clues of Roman existence as a ten-year-old budding archaeologist.
"It's absolutely fantastic to be here. Having visited the site as a child I never thought 20 years later I would be working here," he said.
Mr de Bootman is helping to record the dig, and said the company would be publishing the findings within 18 months of project completion, and making a film which may be sent out to local schools as an educational tool.

For more information on the dig visit: gaytonthorpe.asp

The incipit of a piece from the L.A. Times:

THE great-great-grandparents of drama — the ancient Greek and Roman playwrights — have a permanent new home at the Getty Villa museum near Malibu, where they will live off the largesse of the multibillion-dollar J. Paul Getty Trust and see how much noise, figuratively speaking, they can still make after two millennia or more.

The villa, which reopened in January as the repository for the Getty Museum's collections of Greek, Etruscan and Roman art, aims now to foster fresh takes on the texts, tales and themes of Sophocles, Aristophanes, Plautus and the rest of their decisively influential clan. Like a newborn Athena popping full-grown and fully armed from the cranium of daddy Zeus, the program debuts as the only amply funded (a first-year production budget of more than $350,000), professionally acted initiative in the English-speaking world dedicated to the annual staging of the ancients.

It was launched this year with three experimental workshop presentations in the villa's 250-seat indoor auditorium, each a radical reworking or futuristic updating of a Greek comedy or myth created by L.A. theater artists at the Getty's invitation. Now comes Euripides' "Hippolytos," the first full production in the 450-seat outdoor theater.

The aim in this outdoor space inspired by ancient theaters — including much larger ones in the Greek cities of Epidaurus and Delphi that continue to host festivals of classical Greek drama — is to stick closely to the original plays. Unlike the anything-goes indoor workshops, the productions will aim for an ancient or timeless feel. The seldom-seen "Hippolytos," in a new translation by Anne Carson, a Canadian poet, scholar and MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" winner, concerns an austere, fanatically celibate young hunter whose spurning of his own sexuality and his stepmother Phaidra's illicit advances ends badly for both.

In ancient lore, the power of the Olympian gods to do as they pleased bumped up against limits imposed by a higher order of things called moira, or fate. It's the villa's fate to be surrounded by wealthy, well-organized neighbors who sued to have the outdoor theater excluded from the museum's $275-million renovation and expansion, for fear of traffic jams and nighttime noise. Although the courts ruled in favor of the Getty Trust in a battle that delayed the project more than three years, the villa's outdoor productions will be governed by strict conditions set by the city.

Only 45 performances a year can be staged in the theater, a rule that would limit the Getty Villa to two outdoor productions a year. Only live voices can be amplified — and then only to a moderate peak level of 65 decibels that will be monitored at the back row. The Getty plans to end shows by 10 p.m., so the property can be cleared by its 11 p.m. curfew. Luckily, ancient plays are epic in subject but not length, typically lasting no more than 90 to 120 minutes.

In the spirit of compromise, "Hippolytos" director Stephen Sachs hopes the neighbors will extend some courtesies as well. "The last thing you want is to be in an intense scene and hear the neighbors' television set blasting out 'Desperate Housewives,' " he says, "although it might fit in, because Phaidra is the original desperate housewife."

Sachs, co-founder and artistic director of the Fountain Theatre, an 80-seat house in Hollywood, says necessity has bred invention for this, his first go at directing outdoors. For the sound design, created by local theater composer David O, he'll rely on what the original Athenian players used — singing and chanting by a 16-actor cast that includes a 10-member chorus. With help from choreographer Tamika Washington, Sachs is injecting dance and synchronized choral movement, a defining element of ancient Greek drama. Key roles are being played by some of his favorite L.A. stage actors, including Linda Purl as Phaidra and Fran Bennett, head of Cal Arts' performance program, as her servant. Morlan Higgins, acclaimed for Sachs-directed roles at the Fountain in Arthur Miller's "After the Fall" and Athol Fugard's "Exits and Entrances," plays Theseus, the absentee father and husband, respectively, to Hippolytos and Phaidra.

The Getty chose not to open with the hoopla that a star director and famous cast might have generated. Karol Wight, the acting chief curator of antiquities who oversees the villa, says it simply makes sense to give such an unusual and restriction-encumbered venue an ample breaking-in period. Then, after it's more of a known quantity, the villa could invite such eminences as Peter Sellars and Peter Hall to take a crack at the space, officially known as the Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater.

More ...
From the BBC:

An international group of archaeologists has shown photos of a well-preserved 2,500-year-old mummy of a Scythian warrior found in Mongolia.

The mummy was hailed as a "fabulous find" at a news conference in Berlin.

It was unearthed at a height of 2,600m (8,500ft) in an intact burial mound in the Altai Mountains this summer.

Until now remains of the Scythians - who were Iranian nomadic peoples - had only been found on the Russian side of the Altai, the scientists said.

The mummy was found in the snow-capped mountains by the team of scientists from Germany, Russia and Mongolia.

Presenting the find, the president of the German Archaeological Institute, Hermann Parzinger, said the ice had helped to preserve the mummy.

"We just had to sweep away some dust and could begin," Mr Parzinger said.

Skin on the warrior's upper body was virtually intact, revealing tattoos.

The man - who the archaeologists believe was a nobleman - was dressed in a fur coat and wrapped into sheep's wool lining that was in remarkably good condition.

Two horses with saddles and weapons and also vessels were also found in the burial mound, or kurgan.

The archaeologists say they were placed in the tomb to accompany the warrior into the next life.

The recovered items are currently in storage in Mongolia's capital, Ulan Bator.

Some photos accompany the original article; more links in this weekend's Explorator.

Update: PhDiva has a nice set of photos accompanying her coverage of this one ...
as it happens, i've got a new version to play with too ... in theory, i can show more recent posts over there on the side
... and I'm trying to do some cosmetic/retooling stuff here ... things might be strange for the next couple of days.

The University of Western Ontario

Applications are invited for a probationary (tenure-track) position at the rank of Assistant Professor to begin July 1, 2007. The successful applicant will participate in a programme with a full range of courses in classical civilization and languages, and be expected to have a strong commitment to research and teaching, as well as a solid background in Greek and Latin philology. Preference will be given to candidates with a research-interest in Roman archaeology. Applicants should have the Ph.D. or be in the final stages of its completion. The closing date for applications is November 30, 2006. A curriculum vitae, letters from three referees (or a dossier from a university placement office), university transcripts, and a sample of scholarly writing should be sent to Professor C. G. Brown, Chair, Department of Classical Studies, The University of Western Ontario, Talbot College, London, Ontario, N6A 3K7. Positions are subject to budgetary approval. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadian citizens and Permanent Residents will be given priority. Applicants should have fluent written and oral communication skills in English. The University of Western Ontario is committed to employment equity and welcomes applications from all qualified women and men, including visible minorities, aboriginal people, and persons with disabilities.