This Day in Ancient History

ante diem iv kalendas maias

  • ludi Florales … a.k.a. Floralia (day 2) — a festival originally ordered in response to an interpretation of the Sybilline books in 238 B.C., it fell into desuetude only to be revived in 173 B.C.; it was a general festival of drinking and other merriment in honour of Flora, who presided over (of course) flowers and their blossoms
  • 12 B.C. — consecration of the signum et ara Vestae on the Palatine; it was a shrine built by Augustus as pontifex maximus to house the palladium (maybe) which Aeneas brought from Troy
  • 32 A.D. — birth of the future emperor-for-a-little-while Otho
  • 1st century — martyrdom of Aphrodisius and companions in what would become Languedoc
  • 304 A.D. — martyrdom of Pollio in Pannonia
  • Floralia update: yesterday I was wondering about the connection to Chloris … an rc reader (Elspeth) emailed me via the forum (thanks!) to say: In his “Fasti”, Ovid tells the story (through an interview of Flora) of how she was once a nymph called Chloris who was loved by Zephyr, the west wind, who gave her power over flowers. Her name became Flora in Latin. I think this is in book five of the Fasti

Dance of the Muses

Dance of the Muses: Choral Theory and Ancient Greek Poetics is a very interesting website designed to accompany A.P. David’s book of the same name. Additional content at the website includes audio of Homer’s poetry being recited according to the book’s theory, videos of Homeric dance and other items of interest. Worth checking out!

CONF: Writings of Early Scholars in the ANE, Egypt and Greece

Writings of Early Scholars in the Ancient Near East, Egypt and Greece:
Zur Übersetzbarkeit von Wissenschaftssprachen des Altertums
Interdisciplinary and international conference,
Johannes Gutenberg University, 27-29 July 2009

The historiography of the sciences in antiquity (including Egyptian
and Mesopotamian cultures) has changed fundamentally during the past
40 years. Changing methodologies and aims have led to a focus on
recognition and reconstruction of ancient scientific concepts, which
can differ significantly from “similar” modern concepts. As a way of
bringing these changes to light in a useful way, the conference will
focus on the problem of translations.

Translations are directly affected by respective cultural beliefs of
the translator. How then can ancient concepts that differ from our
modern ones be expressed in modern languages? And how can these
differences be understood by a modern reader?

Currently, some translations which are likely to mislead a historian
of science, a scientist or a mathematician may still be accepted as
correct by the philologists of the individual cultures.

The conference aims to explore problems involved in translating
ancient scientific texts and to create a methodological framework to
improve the quality of future translations. To achieve this goal, we
aim to bring together leading representatives and junior researchers
with a philological background or a background in history of science
(Egyptology, Assyriology, Classics, editors of ancient scientific
texts and scholars using them).

After an attempt to determine characteristic features of individual
sciences in antiquity, and how they can be distinguished from
non-scientific texts, specific examples will be used to enable
interdisciplinary and intercultural discussion.

The preliminary programme can be found at

We invite interested participants to join the conference and
contribute to the discussions.
Please register by 31 May 2009 at
The conference fee of 15 € to compensate for expenses is to be paid in
advance (registration).

Organized by:
Prof. Dr. Annette Imhausen (am Historischen Seminar der Universität Frankfurt)
Dr. Tanja Pommerening (am Institut für Ägyptologie und
Altorientalistik der Universität Mainz)
Conference webpages:

Funded by the Thyssen Foundation and the ZIS (Center for Intercultural
Studies) of Mainz university.

CFP: Classical Association 2010

Classical Association Annual Conference 2010

Cardiff University, Wednesday 7th April – Saturday 10th April 2010.

Call for papers

The Classical Association Annual Conference 2010 is to be hosted by Cardiff University. Panels and plenary lectures will be held in the Cathays Park campus of the University. The President’s address and conference dinner will take place in the National Museum and the City Hall in Cardiff’s civic centre.

We welcome proposals for papers (20 minutes long followed by discussion) and coordinated panels (comprising either 3 or 4 papers) from academic staff, graduate students, and school teachers on the topics suggested below, or on any aspect of the classical world. We are keen to encourage papers from a broad range of classical, historical, and archaeological perspectives.

Suggested topics: ancient warfare; family life and the built environment; western Greek historians; early Rome; ancient and modern contexts of Greek and Roman drama; currency; time and calendars; ancient skies; nostalgia and ancient attitudes towards the past; electronic publishing; epigraphy, literacy and society; mobility and connectivity in the Mediterranean; frontiers and boundaries; mosaics and visual culture; art and imperialism; religion and society in late antiquity; classical heritage in Wales; literary and cinematic historical fiction.

Title and an abstract (no more than 300 words), and any enquiries should be sent to the address below (preferably by email) not later than 31 August 2009:

Dr Guy Bradley, CA 2010,
School of History and Archaeology,
Humanities Building, Cardiff University,
Colum Drive,
Cardiff CF10 3EU,
Wales, UK
Email: ca2010 AT
Tel. +44 (0)29 2087 4821


This Day in Ancient History

ante diem v kalendas maias

  • ludi Florales … a.k.a. Floralia (day 1) — a festival originally ordered in response to an interpretation of the Sybilline books in 238 B.C., it fell into desuetude only to be revived in 173 B.C.; it was a general festival of drinking and other merriment in honour of Flora, who presided over (of course) flowers and their blossoms (Chloris is also mentioned … I’m still trying to figure that one out).
  • 4977 B.C. — birth of the universe, according to the calculations of Johannes Kepler
  • 1737 — Birth of Edward Gibbon (he wrote some sort of book apparently)

Movie Gossip

There was quite a bit of movie gossip this past week … First, from the Hollywood Reporter (and other sources) we hear of a movie-to-be called Odysseus … inter alia:

Warners is going back to ancient Greece, winning a major spec script bidding war to pick up “Odysseus,” written by Ann Peacock, with Jonathan Liebesman attached to direct. Gianni Nunnari is producing via his Hollywood Gang Prods.

The story centers on the legendary hero Odysseus, famed king of Ithaca, who returns to his island after 20 years of fighting the Trojan Wars, only to find his kingdom under the brutal occupation of an invading force. Odysseus single-handedly defeats every last man and takes back his wife, his son and his kingdom.

Centurion (based on Eagle of the Ninth) is being touted as a sort of allegory … The incipit of a brief item in the Telegraph:

Both are intended as allegories of recent American experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kevin Macdonald, the director of The Last King of Scotland and State of Play, is directing the adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliffe’s 1954 novel The Eagle of the Ninth.

It tells of a disillusioned young Roman soldier who travels to Scotland to find out what happened to his father who fought there.

The Romans will be made to resemble American GIs in the film in a clear attempt to draw parallels between past and present, said Macdonald.

“In a way it is an Iraq or Afghanistan war film taking place in the second century,” he told The Times.

The second film to explore the same theme is Centurion, directed by Neil Marshall, who helped make the horror movie Dog Soldiers. It will look at the Roman army’s apparent defeat directly, rather than through the lens of the next generation.

… and last, but not least, Clash of the Titans has begun filming:

ED: Iris Festival

The Iris Festival for inner London schools
17-19th June, 2009
The Scoop at More London

The Iris Festival is a free three-day festival of Classics, run by educational charity The Iris Project (, including plays and performances of Greek drama by London state schools from London’s most deprived boroughs, as well as activities, workshops and talks on Latin and ancient Greek.

Hundreds of pupils from London state schools will be acting on stage. The festival is a culmination of a year’s work with schools, introducing Greek and Roman civilisation and culture in the form of classes and workshops that aim both to teach about ancient languages and culture as well as working into the school’s social curriculum: Greek drama is inextricably linked with themes such as civic and social responsibility. These themes will be brought out both in the plays and in the workshops through discussion and role play.

The festival is an opportunity for children of all ages in inner London state schools to perform in public to a wide audience in an exciting professional venue and a chance for members of the public and schools to enjoy a three-day festival of Classics and Classical drama.

For more information, please contact us using the details below.

Dr Lorna Robinson
Director, The Iris Project
Registered Charity No. 1121868

8 Pond Close

tel: (01865) 308698
mob: 07988 819158

Tomb of Cicero’s Daughter?

In light of all the Cleo hype (about which I’ll probably have more to add later), it’s interesting perhaps to direct the readers of rogueclassicism to an interesting section of Lanciani in which he describes an amazing discovery in Rome from 1485 (hat tip to Man of Roma for this) … here’s a useful excerpt (via Lacus Curtius):

There have been so many accounts published by modern writersin reference to this extraordinary event that it may interest my readers to learn the truth by reviewing the evidence as it stands in its original simplicity. I shall only quote such authorities as enable us to ascertain what really took place on that memorable day. The case is in itself so unique that it does not need amplification or the addition of imaginary details. Let us first consult the diary of Antonio di Vaseli:—
(f. 48.) “To‑day, April 19, 1485, the news came into Rome, that a body buried a thousand years ago had been found in a farm of Santa Maria Nova, in the Campagna, near the Casale Rotondo. . . . (f. 49.) The Conservatori of Rome despatched a coffin to Santa Maria Nova elaborately made, and a company of men for the transportation of the body into the city. The body has been placed for exhibition in the Conservatori palace, and large crown of citizens and noblemen have gone to see it. The body seems to be covered with a glutinous substance, a mixture of myrrh and other precious ointments, which attract swarms of bees. The said body is intact. The hair is long and thick; the eyelashes, eyes, nose, and ears are spotless, as well as the nails. It appears to be the body of a woman, of good size; and her head is covered with a light cap of woven gold thread, very beautiful. The teeth are white and perfect; the flesh and the tongue retain their natural color; but if the glutinous substance is washed off, the flesh blackens in less than an hour. Much care has been taken in searching the tomb in which the corpse was found, in the hope of discovering the epitaph, with her name; it must be an illustrious one, because none but a noble and wealthy person could afford to be buried in such a costly sarcophagus thus filled with precious ointments.”

Translation of a letter of messer Daniele da San Sebastiano, dated MCCCCLXXXV

“In the course of excavations which were made on the Appian Way, to find stones and marbles, three marble tombs have been discovered during these last days, sunk twelve feet below ground. One was of Terentia Tulliola, daughter of Cicero; the other had no epitaph. One of them contained a young girl, intact in all her members, covered from head to foot with a coating of aromatic paste, one inch thick. On the removal of this coating, which we believe to be composed of myrrh, frankincense, aloe, and other priceless drugs, a face appeared, so lovely, so pleasing, so attractive, that, although the girl had certainly been dead fifteen hundred years, she appeared to have been laid to rest that very day. The thick masses of hair, collected on the top of the head in the old style, seemed to have been combed then and there. The eyelids could be opened and shut; the ears and the nose were so well preserved that, after being bent to one side or the other, they instantly resumed their original shape. By pressing the flesh of cheeks the color would disappear as in a living body. The tongue could be seen through the pink lips; the articulation of the hands and feet still retained their elasticity. The whole of Rome, men and women, to the number of twenty thousand, visited the marvel of Santa Maria Nova that day. I hasten to inform you of this event, because I want you to understand how the ancients took care to prepare not only their souls but also their bodies for immortality. I am sure that if you had the privilege of beholding that lovely young face, your pleasure would have equalled your astonishment.”

Long time readers of rogueclassicism might have their memory tweaked to a post I did a few years ago on so-called Ever Burning Lamps, which cited the American Chronicle for, inter alia:

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.

By an interesting bit of synchonicity, t’other day I also came across a suitable skeptical article on these ‘perpetual’ lamps in an issue of Saturday Magazine from 1842 … the ‘tomb of Tulliola’ is al mentioned in a couple of clippings:

Text not available
The Saturday magazine

Text not available
The Saturday magazine

I’m sure I could crawl the web and find zillions of other examples; the sad thing to note, though, is that despite skepticism in regards to identities of folks in tombs and the like, and despite obvious chronological difficulties with discovery of evidence and the like, folks will still believe occupants are whoever they want them to be … alas.


A review of Iphigenia and Other Daughters in the Columbia City Paper suggests, inter alia:

Classicists hate to admit it, but Homer and all who proceeded him in the tradition of ancient Greek theater (Euripides, Sophocles, Aeschylus, etc.) were of a mind to entertain just as much to educate and elucidate.

… er, no … it’s probably the other way around if anything. Actually, it doesn’t really reflect what Classicists think at all …