New From Herculaneum – A Depiction of the Oschophoria?

Tip o’ the pileus to Francesca Tronchin for alerting us to a post at Blogging Pompeii about a new item installed at the National Museum of Naples’ Herculaneum section. For a full description, visit Blogging Pompeii, which includes this image (which is also available in much larger format there):

The official description suggests this is a Dionysiac scene, although they really aren’t very specific about it. It is much more interesting than the official description suggests, I think. When I first saw this (via my iPod), I wondered whether the two figures on the left were actually males in women’s garb (as does FT), and it is now clear that they are. The figure’s hair is clearly male hair cut close to the head (compare it to the dancing woman to the right), and they sport male cloaks over their female dress (and I’m not sure they are even Greek cloaks; they look rather Roman/Gallic to me). Whatever the case, men dressed as women in a Dionysiac context enables us to be rather more specific with the identification of what this scene depicts … the Oschophoria. Here’s what William Smith’s Dictionary says about this:
Text not available
A dictionary of Greek and Roman antiquities By William Smith, Charles Anthon

Text not available
A dictionary of Greek and Roman antiquities By William Smith, Charles Anthon

If you’re not a fan of reading clips from googlebooks, the same info (with appropriate links) is available at Lacus Curtius. But even if you don’t want to go to Lacus Curtius for an explanation of that, you will want to read there the excerpt from Plutarch’s life of Theseus, which adds a bit more explanation to the scene:

Whence it is, they say, that to this day, at the festival of the Oschophoria, it is not the herald that is crowned, but his herald’s staff, and those who are present at the libations cry out: “Eleleu! Iou! Iou!” the first of which cries is the exclamation of eager haste and triumph, the second of consternation and confusion.

So the mysterious thing in the hand of the individual on the left is likely a herald’s staff, although it seems rather short. A nice piece …

ADDENDA (09/21/09): just to clarify, the key elements identifying it as the Oschophoria are the two youths on the left (males in the guise of women) and the two on the right (Dionysus and Ariadne dancing). The Priapus seems Dionysian as well …

Whining about Wine

As I clean up my mail backlog, I find I am risking a serious injury from all the mind boggling claims of the past few days … an excerpt from a piece about the history of wine from the Jefferson Post:

Engel shared with wine aficionados that the ancient Egyptians were the first to reserve wine for only special occasions. Following the Egyptians were the Greeks, who Engel feels, provided more positive innovations for wine than any other culture. It was the Greeks who were the first to preserve wine in airtight clay vessels.

Despite the leaps and bounds made by the ancient Greeks in the evolution of wine, it almost went for naught as the early Romans nearly wiped wine from all of recorded history. Engel described the early founders of Rome as similar to early American Puritans. For the first 600 years of the empire, wine was forbidden for consumption as ancient lore compelled the citizenry to adopt milk as the official drink of choice in the empire. It was not until the advent of wheat and bread production that wine began to rise in popularity with the ancient Romans.

The person doing the lecturing is one Elliot Engel, who is elsewhere billed as a ‘much-sought-after’ lecturer … his background is also given:

Originally from Indianapolis, Ind., Dr. Elliot Engel now resides in Raleigh where he teaches courses at North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. Engel earned his M.A. and Ph.D. as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at UCLA. While at UCLA, he won the university’s Outstanding Teacher Award. In addition for his scholarship and teaching, he has received North Carolina’s Adult Education Award, North Carolina State’s Distinguished Outreach Professorship and the Victorian Society Award of Merit.

It appears Dr. Engel’s background is actually English literature. While I can’t be sure that he is making the claims suggested in the aforementioned quote or whether it has been misfiltered by a reporter, it’s clearly silly to think the Romans had nothing to do with wine.

Classical Epistles

I’m never quite sure whether I should bother to mention  when folks bring up Classical matters in letters to the editor — nine times out of ten, there is some glaring factual error — but here’s a trio of mentions which might be of interest. First, a letter to the Times advocating operating in imitation of Tiberius in regards to the financial crisis at Lloyd’s Bank:

Then there was a response (in the same newspaper) suggesting Solon’s seisactheia would be more appropriate:

Finally, we read in the Herald of plans to scrap Classics at Trinity High School (in Renfrew, Scotland) … haven’t heard any more about this, but perhaps a letter writing campaign is in order:

Poseidon’s Back?

A few weeks ago we mentioned a post by Poseidon in the World Weekly News in which he claimed responsibility for what was going on in Australia. It seems that Poseidon has a regular column in that now-web-only publication, so if you want to catch up with the divinity-o-the-deep’s resurgence, here be his three columns (most recent first):

In the accompanying photo, Poseidon is depicted as a ‘merman’, FWIW …

Champions League Roma ‘Finale’ Ball Unveiled

from the UEFA site

from the UEFA site

If you look very closely at the official ball for the Champions League final, you will see a number of figures on the ‘mosaic stars’ (as they’re being referred to).

Mosaic figures representing key sporting and Roman values such as speed, teamwork, justice and power are featured in each star – honouring European club football’s blue-riband event.

The ball was revealed in front of the Colosseum, so I’m assuming the Roman values (justice and power?) are ancient ones?

Santorini Update

A bit of a mindboggler from Kathimerini:

More than three years after the roof over the ancient Akrotiri site on Santorini collapsed, killing a British tourist, the project to build a new structure appears to have completely stalled, prompting local officials to demand a meeting with a government minister to resolve the situation.

Cyclades Prefect Dimitris Bailas yesterday requested a meeting with Culture Minister Antonis Samaras to discuss the latest delay, which has arisen because a presidential decree forbids construction at the archaeological site and this means the new roof cannot be erected.

It appears that the government will have to pass an amendment suspending the effect of the law before the work on building a new roof can begin. The huge steel roof covering the remains of the ancient Minoan settlement collapsed in September 2005 as workers were watering soil laid over it. Six people were also injured in the accident.

We should note that the roof which collapsed back in September of 2005 was under construction itself …

  • Disaster on Santorini (Kathimerini coverage from September 2005; includes a photo of the collapsed roof)

The Spectacle of Earth Hour

A brief item from GR Reporter:

This year the Earth Hour will start from Greece, which managed to get ahead of Australia and will be the first one to turn off all lights on March 28th as symbol protest against climate changes. All together 270 municipalities and 18 thousand citizens will participate in this protest. The third country after Australia is Canada. “We want to show that we are many and we are ready for action, in order to prevent climate changes,” said Georgios Velidis from the Greek branch of the ecological organization WWF. The Greek participation in the Earth Hour will not only be on a mass scale but it will also be spectacular.

Some of the most famous archeological landmarks will join the campaign, in order to add glamour and finesse. With a solid vote the central archeological council decided to turn off the lights of all Greek landmarks, which are of utmost world significance, from 08:30 pm to 09:30 pm on March 28th. Among them are the Parthenon, Poseidon’s temple on cape Sounio, Hephaestus temple, which is under the Acropolis, and the beautiful hanging bridge Rio-Antirio near Patra.

So we’ll attract attention to the fact that the monuments are lit up at night by turning the lights off … are the lights really necessary outside of Earth Hour?

Alexander the Great’s Tomb … In Australia?

When I first read this I had to double check the calendar and make sure it wasn’t April Fool’s Day … it wasn’t, but apparently it was a very slow news day for the ABC folks … or perhaps it was a very busy day for something so freakin’ bizarre to make it past the editors’ desks … whatever the case, my mailbox is being filled with this thing and the incipit should be enough … gentlemen (and ladies), start your gag reflexes:

Alexander the Great, whose tomb has been missing for nearly 2,000 years, could be buried in Broome in Western Australia, a Perth man says.

Macedonian-born Tim Tutungis told ABC Kimberley that he first heard the ‘Broomer’ from his old mate, Lou Batalis.

“We just got onto the subject of Alexander The Great’s tomb, and he said, ‘They’ll never ever find it, no matter where they look, because Alexander the Great is buried in Broome, in Western Australia’,” Mr Tutungis said.

“Approximately 50 years ago, some guy went into a cave in Broome and he saw some inscriptions in there and they looked like ancient Greek.

“He reported it to the government, then the government went and saw it and they confirmed there were some inscriptions there.

“They went to the Greek community and they asked the community, ‘Is there anyone here who can read ancient Greek?’

“Naturally Louis Batalis put his hand up and said, ‘Yes, I went to school in Egypt, I got educated, I can read it’. So they took him up there and he defined the inscriptions as saying, in ancient Greek, ‘Alexander the Great’.

“The government did say to him at that time, ‘You didn’t see this, OK, this never happened’.”

I don’t know what’s more bizarre here: that a Macedonian’s bona fides for reading ancient Greek is that he went to school in Egypt or the implication that the Australian government is involved in some sort of coverup of the ‘true’ location of Alexander’s burial … Oh what the heck, here’s the conclusion to the piece (I’ve skipped the bit where they give some traditional “stories” about what happened to Alexander’s body):

Mr Tutungis says he is 99 per cent convinced Mr Batalis told him the truth, because people “have looked everywhere” for Alexander’s grave, to no avail.

He says his friend is a very old man now and has virtually lost his memory, and others who heard the story had dismissed it.

But he says Mr Batalis was “a man of substance” who was very educated, and the story stuck with him.

“I drew my own conclusion because the war of the Macedonians ended up in India and I assumed that some of the soldiers went back to Macedonia on foot,” Mr Tutungis said.

“Some of the soldiers must have caught a ship. Why can’t we say that Alexander did catch a ship; they lost their way in the treacherous ways up there.

“Look where India is, look where Broome is; a ship could easily get wrecked in Broome.”

Mr Tutungis says a new documentary suggests that when the war ended, Alexander the Great ordered thousands of ships to built.

He takes that as further evidence to support his theory and has written to a detective from Scotland Yard who is looking for Alexander’s grave.

“Nobody ever, ever suspected that Alexander could have died in Broome,” he said.

The sound you hear is the minds of hundreds of rogueclassicism readers’ minds boggling …