Spartacus: Blood and Sand Gossip

TV Squad is looking at some up-and-coming shows and the Spartacus series is one of them. Here’s some info on Lucy Lawless’ role:

During the Spartacus panel, Lawless was asked if she’s going to be naked during the first season, as the show involves a lot of sex scenes. “I’m afraid so,” she said. She plays Lucretia, a “proprietor of a camp for gladiators.” She takes up with a gladiator in the hope of having a baby. It’s tough for her to do those scenes because, while she tries to keep in fantastic shape, “when you get on set, you get the ‘freshman 15′,” she told the scrum afterwords.

Near the end of the scrum, I asked her if she thought a certain fanboy segment (coughXenacough) will be happy to see her nude. Her response included her experience seeing Caligula when she was a teenager. Say one thing for Lucy; she’s not the demure type.

In the “more than we need to know” department, apparently the show utilizes a prosthetic for when the various gladiators appear nude. Yes, that kind of prosthetic. “We had to create the ‘Kirk Douglas’, as it’s aptly named, so people had a prosthetic they could wear,” said EP Rob Tappert. Lawless said they hang it up in the prop truck “next to all the merkins.” Must be a fun set.

… there’s an audio clip at TV Squad (with Lawless) with a few more details … clearly this ain’t yo daddy’s Spartacus …

Antikythera Mechanism Older than Previously Thought?

Jo Marchant (Decoding the Heavens) writes, inter alia, in a post at New Scientist:

I gave a talk on the device at London’s Royal Institution last night. One new clue I mentioned to the origin of the mechanism comes from the Olympiad dial – there are six sets of games named on the dial, five of which have been deciphered so far. Four of them, including the Olympics, were major games known across the Greek world. But the fifth, Naa, was much smaller, and would only have been of local interest.

The Naa games were held in Dodona in northwestern Greece, so Alexander Jones of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World in New York has suggested that the mechanism must have been made by or for someone from that area.

Intriguingly, this could mean the device is even older than thought. The inscriptions have been dated to around 100 BC, but according to Jones the device may have been made at latest in the early second century BC, because after that the Romans devastated or took over the Greek colonies in the region, so it’s unlikely that people would still have been using the Greek calendar there.

That festival should be called “Naia”, I think, in honour of Zeus Naios. Whatever the case, I’m not sure one can infer that with Aemilius Paulus’ destructive foray into the area around Dodona that a calendar would cease to be used, especially in a religious context — Dodona presumably would be using the calendar of Epirus, about which I don’t think we know very much.

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem iii kalendas sextilias

ante diem iii kalendas sextilias

  • ludi Victoriae Caesaris (day 11)
  • after 101 B.C. — dedication of the Temple to “The Fortune of  this Day”  (Fortuna Huiusce Diei) and subsequent rites thereafter; presumably this is one of the temples vowed prior to the Battle of Vercellae
  • 69 A.D. — destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (Av 9)

Marathon Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

A piece in the Scotsman on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder includes this tidbit:

The modern understanding of PTSD dates from the 1970s, largely as a result of the problems that were still being experienced by US military veterans of the war in Vietnam.

One of the first descriptions of PTSD was made by the Greek historian Herodotus. In 490 BCE he described, during the Battle of Marathon, an Athenian soldier who suffered no injury but became blind after witnessing the death of a fellow soldier.

I couldn’t recall this one, so I tracked down what Herodotus said (6.117 – Rawlinson translation):

There fell in this battle of Marathon, on the side of the barbarians,
about six thousand and four hundred men; on that of the Athenians,
one hundred and ninety-two. Such was the number of the slain on the
one side and the other. A strange prodigy likewise happened at this
fight. Epizelus, the son of Cuphagoras, an Athenian, was in the thick
of the fray, and behaving himself as a brave man should, when suddenly
he was stricken with blindness, without blow of sword or dart; and
this blindness continued thenceforth during the whole of his after
life. The following is the account which he himself, as I have heard,
gave of the matter: he said that a gigantic warrior, with a huge beard,
which shaded all his shield, stood over against him; but the ghostly
semblance passed him by, and slew the man at his side. Such, as I
understand, was the tale which Epizelus told.

Pseudo Plutarch tells the same story in passing, but gives a different (but similar name … Babbitt translation):

Datis, the Persian satrap, came to Marathon, a plain of Attica, with an army of three hundred thousand, encamped there, and declared war on the inhabitants of the country. The Athenians, however, contemning the barbarian host, sent out nine thousand men, and appointed as generals Cynegeirus, Polyzelus, Callimachus, and Miltiades. When this force had engaged the enemy, Polyzelus, having seen a supernatural vision, lost his sight, and became blind.

The Cambridge Companion to Herodotus (p. 214-15) labels this as a case of “hysterical blindness” … not sure that’s the current term for it. Of course, the locus modernicus for all this PSTD in the ancient world is Jonathan Shay’s Achilles in Vietnam … I couldn’t find a reference to this case therein; not sure if it’s included in Odysseus in America (on my ‘to buy’ list) …

Remains of the Mauseoleum?

The Times of Malta had this a little while ago:

The murky water in Dock No.1 in Cospicua has witnessed much history over the years. Nobody ever imagined, however, that lying underneath could be the remains of an ancient Turkish wonder – the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.

No one, that is, but oncologist Stephen Brincat, who came across this precious piece of information while reading an article about the excavations of the site by the British in the 19th century in the Turkish magazine Cornucopia.

“There was one sentence which said that the wall of the mausoleum was dismantled to build a dock in Malta,” Dr Brincat said.

Blocks of marble that made up a wall of the mausoleum, built more than 300 years BC, are believed to be submerged in the dock, which is expected to be soon embellished in a €10 to €12 million project.

Armed with this piece of information, Dr Brincat, a history lover, started studying local archives to find out more. He struck gold when he found that what is today known as Dock No. 1 was built at the time when British archaeologist Charles Newton excavated the site in Bodrum, Turkey, and shipped crates of sculptures and other antiquities to London’s British Museum, which had commissioned the excavations.

According to Dr Brincat’s research, the Royal Navy ship HMS Supply, laden with crates of antique treasures, entered Grand Harbour in 1858, a year after the foundation stone of the dock was laid.

Mr Newton had justified the dismantling of the mausoleum wall by saying that it would have been broken up and used by natives of Bodrum anyway. He therefore removed it to be used in a “public object”, which Dr Brincat traced as being the Cospicua dock that had taken some six years to build.

When contacted, Prof. Anthony Bonanno, the head of University’s Department of Classics and Archaeology, was unaware of Dr Brincat’s lead but said he was “not terribly surprised”.

Prof. Bonanno said Malta had been used in the past for the loading and unloading of antiquities. In fact, the Elgin Marbles, a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures found at the British Museum, had passed through Malta, lying in the docks for several years on the way from Greece to England.

Emmanuel Magro Conti, senior curator at Heritage Malta’s Maritime and Military Collections, was also unaware of the use of the antique blocks in the building of the Cospicua dock.

“The plans of the dock show building blocks, but do not mention details of what materials were used or from where the blocks originated,” he said.

The mystery remains hidden under water which is so murky that it is impossible to see the bottom.

Dr Brincat had to paddle in a canoe to get to the area and admits that there is probably little to see.

After all, they are nothing more than blocks of stone. The only difference is that centuries ago, they were part of one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World.

Interesting suggestion, but I’m not sure why Newton would bother to ship antiquities that far, just to dump them in the water. The ‘public object’ intended surely wasn’t in Malta …

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem iv kalendas sextilias

ante diem iv kalendas sextilias

  • ludi Victoriae Caesaris (day 10)
  • 67 A.D./C.E. — fighting in Jerusalem between pro-surrender-to-the-Romans groups and their counterparts; the former set fire to some food supplies which apparently contributed to the fall of the city three years later (!) (need to track this one down)
  • ca. 260 — martyrdom of Lucilla and companions

JOB: Generalist @ Wayne State (one year)

Seen on the Classics list …

We finally have full approval to fill a one-year position at Wayne State in Detroit. The official posting follows; please note the very short deadline for applications.

The Department of Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures of Wayne State University seeks a classicist for a one-year lectureship beginning August 2009. This is a full-time, non tenure-track position with benefits. We specifically seek a candidate who can teach Classical Civilization, Greek Mythology, and/or Etymology. The teaching load is three courses each semester. Preference will be given to candidates with independent undergraduate teaching experience and a Ph.D. in Classics or a related field; candidates must have at least the M.A. Salary, to be determined, will depend on qualifications and experience.

The application consists of a letter of interest and a C.V., both to be posted online at under position number 036389. Applications will be reviewed starting August 1st. Please arrange for three letters of reference to be sent to Dr. Margaret E. Winters, Chair, mewinters AT, (CMLLC, 487 Manoogian, Wayne State University, Detroit MI 48202.) Questions should be addressed to Dr. Winters.

Wayne State University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Employment
Opportunity employer, which complies with all applicable federal and
state laws regarding nondiscrimination and affirmative action. Wayne
State University is committed to a policy of nondiscrimination and equal
opportunity for all persons regardless of race, sex, color, religion,
national origin, age, disability or veteran status, or any other
characteristic protected by applicable law.