Pantheon Sundial?

Alun Salt mentioned this on Twitter and I finally have time to explore it a bit … A piece in New Scientist relates Robert Hannah’s suggestion that the Pantheon served as a sundial of some sort. Here’s an excerpt:

When Robert Hannah of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, visited the Pantheon in 2005, researching for a book (see “Review: Time in Antiquity by Robert Hannah”), he realised that the Pantheon may have been more than just a temple. During the six months of winter, the light of the noon sun traces a path across the inside of the domed roof. During summer, with the sun higher in the sky, the shaft shines onto the lower walls and floor. At the two equinoxes, in March and September, the sunlight coming in through the hole strikes the junction between the roof and wall, above the Pantheon’s grand northern doorway (pictured). A grille above the door allows a sliver of light through to the front courtyard – the only moment in the year that it sees sunlight if its main doors are closed (see diagram).

Hannah reckons this is no coincidence. A hollowed-out hemisphere with a hole in the top was a type of sundial used in Roman times, albeit on a much smaller scale, to show the time of year. While the Pantheon’s dome is quite flat on the outside, it forms a perfect hemisphere inside. “This is quite a deliberate design feature,” says Hannah.

I tried to find a photo of one of these hollowed-out sundials, but Google is being very weird at the moment, but what I’d like to figure out is whether we can go beyond an ‘hour of the day’ idea to a full blown calendar idea. I think the interior of the Pantheon is much modified from Roman times and one could see the ceiling and walls being usefully used. Indeed, Cassius Dio (53.27) suggests:

2 Also he completed the building called the Pantheon. It has this name, perhaps because it received among the images which decorated it the statues of many gods, including Mars and Venus; but my own opinion of the name is that, because of its vaulted roof, it resembles the heavens.

If by ‘the heavens’ Dio is referring to actual decoration within the vaulted roof and those decorations were ‘accurate’, the dome could conceivably be used as a calendar, marking the sun’s position in relation to the zodiac or whatever, no?

“Lost” Latin Found

It’s been the buzz of all the lists over the past week, so if you missed it, ecce:

prisoner type one: Quare non sunt vestitus eis?
prisoner type two: Tace!

blonde: Cognoscitis qui sumus?

… there was apparently some later as well; I can’t find that one yet, but the blond (the character’s name is ‘Juliet’, apparently … sorry, not a regular Lost viewer) talks about it in this podcast:

CONF: Jews, Christians, Greeks, Romans


A symposium in honour of Professor Tessa Rajak

University of Reading

Thursday, 25 June 2009

10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.

The conference is to mark the long and distinguished career of our colleague, Tessa Rajak, and her many years of research, teaching, and service to the global academic community.


PHILIP ALEXANDER, Professor of Post-Biblical Jewish Studies and Co-Director of the Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Manchester. “Did the Rabbinic movement lose the West? Reflections on the fate of Greek-speaking Judaism after 70 CE”.

E. GILLIAN CLARK, Professor of Ancient History and Head of Subject (Classics & Ancient History), University of Bristol. “Augustine and the Septuagint”.

HANNAH M. COTTON, Shalom Horowitz Professor of Classics, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “The Conception of Jesus and the Documents from the Judaean Desert”.

MARTIN D. GOODMAN, Professor of Jewish Studies and Fellow of Wolfson College, University of Oxford. “Tolerance of Variety within Judaism in the Early Roman empire”.

ERICH S. GRUEN, Wood Professor of History Emeritus, University of California at Berkeley. “Perseus as a Multi-Culturalist”.

FERGUS G. B. MILLAR, Camden Professor of Ancient History Emeritus, University of Oxford. “Jews and Christians in Late Antique Mesopotamia”.

JOHN NORTH, Professor of History Emeritus, UCL, University of London. “Pagan Orthopraxy”.

TESSA RAJAK, Professor of Ancient History Emeritus, University of Reading. Moderator of final panel discussion.


For some time now, scholars have sought to undermine rigid distinctions between Jews, Christians, and other religious communities in Greco-Roman antiquity. Researchers have progressed far in understanding the complex religious and cultural interactions that flourished in the Hellenistic and Roman periods and in exploring the social and cultural milieux inhabited by different religious groups.

In bringing together distinguished international experts in the field, this conference aims to evaluate and interrogate long-established positions and to move discussion to the next level. We seek to build on the current understanding of religious interaction in the Roman Empire, and on the broader question of hybrid identities, and develop critical perspectives for future study. The primary focus is Jewish-Christian interaction, but within the context of a broader framework that includes other religious communities. What does religious multiculturalism mean in an ancient context? What becomes of categories such as “Jew” and “Christian” (or “Diaspora Jew” and “Judaean Jew”, or “Pharisee”, “Sadducee”, and “Essene”) in a scenario where religious and cultural identities appear to be fluid? How does the interpretation of sacred texts proceed in such a situation? How exemplary is the case of the Empire’s Jewish communities? What are the politics of religious contact and boundary-manipulation in the Roman Empire? What is the role of collective memory? These are the questions we hope to address in our papers and discussions.


Conference Only: Registration for the conference is £25 and includes lunch and a reception. If you would like to attend the conference, please send your name, address, email address, and a cheque for £25 payable to the “University of Reading” to: Nina Aitken, School of Humanities, University of Reading, P. O. Box 218, Reading RG6 6AA, U.K.

Conference and Dinner: Registration for the conference is £25 and includes lunch and a reception. The conference will be followed by a dinner, which has a separate fee of £30. If you would like to attend the dinner as well as the conference, please send your name, address, email address, and a cheque for £55 payable to the “University of Reading” to: Nina Aitken, School of Humanities, University of Reading, P. O. Box 218, Reading RG6 6AA, U.K.

Students: The conference is free for students. Please inform us of your participation by sending an email to Nina Aitken at However, students who would like to attend the dinner as well as the conference should send their name, address, email address, and a cheque for £30 payable to the “University of Reading” to Nina Aitken, School of Humanities, University of Reading, P. O. Box 218, Reading RG6 6AA, U.K.

The conference is sponsored by the Jowett Trust, Oxford, and the School of Humanities and the Department of Classics at the University of Reading.

For further information, please contact Phiroze Vasunia at p.vasunia AT or at the Department of Classics, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AA, U.K.

Telephone: +44 (0)118 378 8410.

“Spaghetti Gladiator” Flick reveals that Jonathan Liebesman — of Texas Chainsaw Massacre ‘fame’ — has a project in the works. Ecce:

Liebesman revealed that it’s a project he’s working on with the producers of 300 that he hasn’t said anything about until now. The film is about “the story of Odysseus and basically it’s like a Clint Eastwood story where he comes back after 20 years at war and finds his island overtaken by bad guys and it’s sort of a little kinetic action movie of how this guy wins his island back.” Liebesman also added that aforementioned bit about how it’s like a western, but set in the time of ancient Greece instead.

Oh oh …

Mac Classics

A piece in Tidbits — a blog for Mac types — turned up in the scan today with an article commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Mac with some interviews with some users … inter alia, “Matt” says:

As a programmer, I’d been working with computers since 1968, but as a Classics professor in the early 1980s, my immediate problem was typing Ancient Greek, or, more precisely, typing both English and Greek in the same document. I had an IBM Selectric typewriter with interchangeable typeballs, and later an Olivetti electronic typewriter that used interchangeable typewheels and had a tiny “memory” so that it was almost a miniature word processor. But the real solution was a personal computer: I got an Apple ][c clone called a Laser 128. This, together with an ImageWriter and a wonderful (now defunct) program called Gutenberg, gave me a full-featured word processor with the ability to alternate English and Greek letters at will.

While teaching at Cornell University in the late 1980s, I met Adam, who taught me to use the Macs in the computer labs; I remember us performing some clever tricks with Microsoft Word and QuicKeys (and swapping a lot of floppy disks). But the Mac still felt like a toy to me, and I didn’t actually want one.

Then, in 1990, I arrived at Swarthmore College and found that, like every professor, I was given an office Mac. It was one of those early squat all-in-one machines with a tiny monochrome screen – probably either a Plus or an SE. Naturally, since it was right there on my desk and hooked into something called the “Internet,” I started playing with it constantly. (Oh, the INITs! Oh, the bombs!)

But what turned me into a Mac person wasn’t the machine so much as the killer apps I got for it. Nisus, a fantastic word processor with amazing search-and-replace and macro features, along with LaserGreek, a gorgeous Ancient Greek font, allowed me to do all my multilingual scholarly writing. And HyperCard 2 made the Mac interface itself programmable, letting me create an Ancient Greek language lab for my students. By the end of that school year, I was a Mac convert, the proud owner of a brand new pizza-box Macintosh LC which, together with a StyleWriter printer, remained my workhorse machine for many years.

… hmmm … Matt at Swarthmore in the 1990s … can’t figure it out.

Breviaria 01/27/09

Akropolis World News (in Greek) has been updated (really wish they had an rss feed!):

If you think you’re too old to take up Latin:

An interview with the folks behind Brandeis Theater Company’s production of Hecuba:

Greece is campaigning to erect a statue of Alexander the Great at the site of Gaugamela:

The headline says it all:

Graeme Clarke was made an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia: