Not the Ides

I really wish our friends to the south would lobby the powers that be to change their tax-due-date from April 15 to something more sensible (say, April 30, like it is up here in the Great Overcast North). Every year, without fail, there will be some journalist who will write something along the lines of:

The prophets warned Caesar to beware the Ides of March (March 15), but most Americans shiver at the mention of the Ides of April. As other prophets have assured, only two things are certain: Death and taxes. The Ides of March assured Caesar’s death, and the Ides of April assures that we’ll be paying taxes up to and beyond our own final days.

… which keeps popping up in my box from the Valdosta Daily Times. Of course, non-American Classicists wonder why there might be this grave fear of April 13th (which is when the Ides of April falls), but we know better. Let’s all join hands Wholike and merrily chant:

In March July October May
The Ides fall on the fifteenth day

… we’ll leave the Nones bit off and hope folks can figure out the Ides of April ain’t the fifteenth.

Cleopatra’s Tomb Again!!

Okay … this is a long-developing story. Last year — almost to the day — Zahi Hawass was all excited about some major underground tomb at Tabusiris Magna; it seemed to be building on something announced a couple of years before that. A month later, we were pretty much getting the same story. Then we learned that the archaeologist in charge — Kathleen Martinez — had found an alabaster head of Cleo. In June, 2008, we heard pretty much the same. Then (in an item which didn’t get much attention) Dr. Hawass was saying there was nothing remotely connected to Tony and Cleo at the site. After that, we didn’t really hear anything … until today, of course. My mailbox is overflowing with coverage of this, but as most of the info seems to stem from an AP wire story, we’ll give the incipit of one version:

Archaeologists next week will begin excavating three sites in Egypt near the Mediterranean Sea that may contain the tombs of doomed lovers, Cleopatra and Mark Anthony.

In a statement Wednesday, Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities said the three sites were identified last month during a radar survey of the temple of Taposiris Magna as part of the search for the lovers’ tombs.

The temple is located on Lake Mariut which is today called Abusir, near the northern coastal city of Alexandria, and was built during the reign of King Ptolemy II (282-246 B.C.)

Teams from Egypt and the Dominican Republic have been excavating the temple for the last three years.

The celebrated queen of Egypt and her lover, a Roman general, committed suicide after being defeated in the battle of Actium in 31 BC. Ever since, questions have lingered over where the lovers’ bodies are buried.

Excavators have also found a number of deep shafts inside the temple, three of which were possibly used for burials. The leaders of the excavation believe it’s possible Cleopatra and Mark Anthony could have been buried in a deep shaft similar those already found, according to the statement.

Last year, archaeologists at the site also unearthed a bronze statue of the goddess Aphrodite, the alabaster head of a Queen Cleopatra statue, a mask believed to belong to Mark Anthony and a headless statue from the Ptolemaic era at the excavation site.

The expedition also found 22 coins bearing Cleopatra’s image.

There’s nothing here we haven’t heard before including this mysterious “mask believed to belong to Mark Anthony”. This detail is also mentioned in a press release posted at Dr. Hawass’ site (which may be the source of the AP coverage), but is described in a bit more detail:

Among the most interesting finds is a unique mask depicting a man with a cleft chin. The face bears some similarity to known portraits of Mark Antony himself.

The mask was also mentioned in coverage last May — in a piece with a slideshow depicting the ‘alabaster statue’ (maybe), but I have still yet to see a photo of the mask. Methinks there’s some movement afoot to deflect attention from all that Arsinoe business (or perhaps build on it) …

UPDATE (04/18/09): Giles Coren has an interesting oped piece in the Times on how  this drive to get the ‘truth’ (about things like Cleo, the Shroud of Turin, etc.) via archaeology “diminishes” us as humans — the idea being that we are asking questions we don’t really want the answers to. I think, however, we need to distinguish between searches for things like the tomb of Cleopatra (or even Alexander) by legitimate archaeologists from the fringe types who make the same look bad. It would also be nice if the press gave as much coverage to legitimate finds as they do to sensational claims …

Columnar Crime?

Somewhat strange (to me) item apparently circulating with not enough detail on the AP Wire … from PR Inside:

Police in northern Greece say they have seized six sections of ancient marble columns from a junkyard and arrested the owners for antiquity smuggling.
The sections of the 2,300-year-old columns are up to 13 feet (4 meters) tall.
The suspects, aged 21 and 28, told police they imported the antiquities legally from neighboring Bulgaria _ but the claim is being treated with suspicion after police examined their documents.

The two men were arrested Tuesday near the northern town of Veroia, 305 miles (490 kilometers) north of Athens, and are being held in police custody until they are formally charged.

New at the Getty

More news on the benefits the Getty is receiving from its agreement with Italy … the incipit of a brief item from Reuters:

California’s Getty Museum, one of the world’s richest art institutions, has received the first two artworks from Italy under a deal that settled a 2006 dispute over looted antiquities.

Getty officials said on Wednesday that two life-size ancient bronze statues discovered in the volcano-destroyed Italian city of Pompeii and owned by the National Archeological Museum in Naples will undergo restoration by Getty conservation experts.

The priceless statues, known as Ephebe as a lampbearer and Apollo as an archer, also will be on display for two years at the Getty Villa, a reconstruction of a Pompeii villa that is dedicated to the study of Roman and Greek antiquities, in the beach city of Malibu.

They are two of only about 30 surviving bronze statues from the period. The Getty will use the expertise it has gained in quake-prone California to strengthen the statues before their return to Italy, which also has a history of devastating earthquakes.

“As part of the collaboration agreement between Italy and the Getty, we wanted to contribute to the conservation of these artifacts,” said Karol Wight, senior curator of antiquities at the Getty. “Our staff are very good in this area.”

This Day in Ancient History

ante diem xviii kalendas maias

  • ludi Cereri continue (day 3) — games in honour of the grain goddess Ceres, instituted by/before 202 B.C.
  • 69 A.D. — first battle at Bedriacum; the forces of emperor wannabe Vitellius eventually would defeat the forces of emperor wannabe Otho
  • 73 A.D. — mass suicide at Masada (?)