This is Susan Treggiari’s obituary of Dr. Wells as it appeared in the Canadian Classical Bulletin (used with permission):
Colin Wells died on 11 March, at Bangor in North Wales, with his family around him, after a short illness. He was born on 15 November 1933. After Nottingham High School, where he was very well taught, he went up to Oriel College, Oxford, to read Lit. Hum. After taking Honour Moderations, he interrupted his studies in order to do his military service, during which he was stationed in Egypt and enjoyed early-morning riding in the desert. Returning to Oxford, he completed his Greats work. At this stage, he was especially interested in philosophy. But he nearly opted for a military career. Instead he began his teaching at Beaumont, an appropriate choice as he had become a Roman Catholic at 21. In 1960 he married Kate Hughes, daughter of the novelist Richard Hughes. He was asked by Fr. Etienne Gareau O. M. I. to accept an appointment at the University of Ottawa. After two years’ teaching and the birth of a son, Christopher, Kate and Colin returned to England so that he could start a doctorate in Roman Archaeology under the supervision of Ian Richmond. The seed for his work on the frontiers under Augustus was in an essay he had written as an undergraduate for P. A. Brunt, his tutor, who was a major influence. Another son, Dominic, was born during their two-year stay in England.
Colin served the University of Ottawa with energy, enthusiasm and vision. He was one of the pioneers of an interdisciplinary Classical Civilisation course. He served as chairman of the Department of Classical Studies / Département des Etudes anciennes (overseeing a period of growth) and as Vice-Dean and was secretary to an important committee which reviewed the structures of the university. Concurrently he was editing Echos du monde classique / Classical News & Views. At the same time, he was active in research and participation in learned societies. The Wells house in New Edinburgh was a centre of hospitality for classicists and other guests from all over the world. After over a quarter of a century, he regretfully left Ottawa in 1987 to take up a new and exciting post in Texas as Distinguished Professor at Trinity University, San Antonio. Here, with a new culture to explore, an office big enough for most of his books on Roman history and archaeology and a strikingly elegant house designed for entertaining, he and Kate entered upon a new period of their lives, making new friends while maintaining old contacts. Teaching continued to fascinate and pre-occupy him until he was seventy. At that point, they came back to their house in Oxford, before moving definitively to a house in Normandy, which offered a barn which could become a library. He had always loved France.
An able administrator, Colin served many organisations in the course of his career: the AAH, AIA, APA, CAC, Rei Cretariae Romanae Fautores, the Limes Congresses (he only missed one congress) and others. He was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and Visiting Professor at Berkeley. He was Visiting Fellow at Brasenose (1973-4) and ever after, as a member of Common Room, enjoyed the hospitality and communal life of the college.
The German Policy of Augustus, the fruit of his work on frontiers, came out in 1972. It was followed by the exceptional introduction, The Roman Empire (1984), which has delighted and stimulated undergraduates ever since. An impressive production of articles in history and archaeology went on all the time, the rhythm accelerated recently, as the history and archaeology of northern France seized his attention. From 1976, initially with the late Edith Wightman, Colin was directing the Canadian team excavating in Carthage, an involvement which continued for over twenty years. His lectures on the dig, delivered in his inimitable style, will be long remembered. He was happily engaged in writing a short history of the Roman army and had just finished the first chapter. A book on the hellenistic period was in view.
A man of manifold interests and warm sympathies, Colin Wells made the most of his exceptionally full life up to the end. He will leave a big gap in the many circles to which he belonged.
All of us offer our sympathy to his wife, sons, grandsons and the whole family.
The funeral will be held on 18 March and there will be a memorial service in July.
A bit out of the period of our purview, but of interest for those first classes of Classical Civ:
The oldest stone wall in Greece, which has stood at the entrance of a cave in Thessaly for the last 23,000 years, has been discovered by palaeontologists, the ministry of culture said Monday.The age of the find, determined by an optical dating test, singles it out as “probably one of the oldest in the world”, according to a ministry press release.
“The dating matches the coldest period of the most recent ice age, indicating that the cavern’s paleolithic inhabitants built it to protect themselves from the cold”, said the ministry.
The wall blocked two-thirds of the entrance to the cave, located close to Kalambaka, itself near the popular tourist area and monastic centre of Meteora in central Greece. Greek palaeontologists have been excavating the site for the last 25 years.
From the Northern Echo:
FORMER colleagues will join family and friends at Durham Cathedral for the funeral of a respected classics academic next week.Professor Gavin Townend died following a recent illness at Hallgarth Nursing Home, in Durham City, on Saturday, aged 90.
A widower, he survived his wife, Elspeth, by ten years.Their daughter, Julia, who is in social work, lives in Bristol.Following his wife’s death, Prof Townend formed a relationship with partner Elizabeth Still, with whom he lived until her death in 2007.
Born in Surrey in September 1919, he was educated at Haileybury School and at Merton College, Oxford University.Following the war, he taught at Liverpool University from 1946-66, after which he came to Durham as Professor of Latin for the last 18 years of his working life, up to retirement in 1984.He remained active in the classics field, publishing three books and several articles.Prof Townend was, primarily, an expert in Latin, Latin history and Latin historians.Former colleague, retired ancient historian, Professor PJ (Peter) Rhodes, said: “We like to think we’re the next best classics department after Oxford and Cambridge, and he certainly played his part in that.”
Citanda: Sex in the Service of Aphrodite: Did Prostitution Really Exist in the Temples of Antiquity?
Sort of a state-of-the-debate piece:
From Balkan Travellers:
Around 20 coins with the image of the father of Alexander the Great, Philip II of Macedon, and “other ancient Macedonian rulers” were found by archaeologists during excavations along the road between the south-western Macedonian towns of Ohrid and Struga, national media reported today.In addition to the coins, a space with around 1,000 arrows was also discovered, Director of the Cultural Heritage Protection Office Pasko Kuzman told the Alsat-M television station.The archaeological find was made in the vicinity of the Cyclops Fortress, which – according to Kuzman, dates to the 358 BC when Philip II passed through the area with his army. The fortress, he added, was a strategic military position for the ruler’s army.Although Philip II of Macedon’s biggest claim to historical claim is perhaps his fathering of Alexander the Great, the ancient Greek personage 382 – 336 BC was a great ruler and military strategist in his own right, who largely realised his expansionist vision.
I’m not clear whether the photo accompanying the original article depicts one of the coins found or not …
Seen on Classicists (please send any responses to the folks mentioned in the quoted text, not to rogueclassicism!):
Laughter in the Library: a colloquium on Old Comedy for Penny Bulloch
Ioannou Classics Centre, Oxford
Saturday 5th June 2010
10.30 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.
To mark the retirement of Penny Bulloch and her contribution as Fellow Librarian at Balliol College,
Oxford, and earlier in Cambridge, and as a mainstay of all things Aristophanic and Old Comic in
the Classics Faculty of Oxford University, there will be a day of papers on Old Comedy in her
honour by friends, colleagues, and former students.
Edith Hall (RHUL): “The Aesopic in Old Comedy”
Angus Bowie (Queen’s, Oxford): narratology of space in Old Comedy (title TBC)
Matthew Wright (Exeter University): “Pea Soup and Old Jokes”
Peter Brown (Trinity, Oxford): Walter Braunfels’ opera Die Vögel (title TBC)
Matthew Leigh (St Anne’s, Oxford): topic TBC
All are welcome and there will be no fee for attendance, though for the purposes of planning it
would be very much appreciated if you could let the organizers know that you plan to come by
Friday 21st May. Tea and coffee will be served, and a small reception held afterwards. There will
also be an optional buffet lunch at a cost of £6. Please let the organizers know if you would like
lunch, by the same date, and make cheques payable to Dr. R.W. Cowan.
Any enquiries may be addresses to Bob Cowan (bob.cowan AT balliol.ox.ac.uk) or Adrian Kelly
(adrian.kelly AT balliol.ox.ac.uk).
From the Tripod:
Trinity College’s Classics Department is in danger of being dissolved and replaced as an interdisciplinary program.
This process involves numerous steps, the first of which is the notification of Department Chair and Associate Professor of Classics Dr. Martha Risser by the Educational Policy Committee (EPC).
The EPC consists of various members of the Trinity Faculty, including the Dean of the Faculty, who serves as the chair but does not vote. There also are six elected tenured members of the faculty on the EPC, who must have been at Trinity for at least five years. These six members serve three-year, staggered terms on the EPC, and none of the members may serve consecutive terms.
There is at least one, but no more than three, representatives from the following departments: the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities/arts. The EPC also cannot have more than one member from any one department.
Now that the EPC has delivered a notification of its thoughts to Risser, a series of rigid steps will follow. Risser will first have to present a statement to the EPC, which she says “will vote on whether or not to bring a motion to the faculty, requesting permission to conduct an inquiry into the possibility of discontinuing the Classics Department and organizing an interdisciplinary program in its place.”
If the committee decides to bring a motion to the faculty, they will do so and wait for the faculty to vote. If the motion is approved, the EPC will conduct an inquiry and decide whether or not it is necessary to discontinue the Classics department. If they decide in the affirmative, they will allow the faculty to vote on the motion. If that motion is also passed than the ultimate decision lies with President James F. Jones, Jr.
“The questions concerning the role of a traditional classics department have been around for a great many years,” said Jones, “Several different solutions have been tried: from the Five-College Consortium model in Massachusetts to the IT classics network in the South sponsored by the Mellon Foundation. We here are trying to think of ways to increase the role of classics by extending traditional language (Greek and Latin) and literature offerings to classics studies. Some may wish for days of yesteryear where, at Trinity and elsewhere, Latin and Greek were required. But those days are never going to return, however much we might pine for them. The Dean is trying to think, with senior faculty here, of ways to extend our offerings rather than to have to justify tiny-enrolled courses for a very few.”
Jones also was sure to point out that his opinion was just one of many.
“I should state my own prejudices. I was a student at a military academy in the South where, if one were in the upper form, one had to read all the way through Ovid, Cicero, Livy, and Virgil. If I live long enough, I hope to end my career where I first started it: teaching Caesar, Cicero, Ovid, and Virgil in the morning and coaching soccer in the afternoon.”
The Classics Department was recently looked at by external reviewers who came to Trinity last spring and argued against the replacing of the department with a program. According to Risser, they recommended both of the vacant tenure-track positions be returned to the Classics Department and filled as soon as possible.
Risser also noted that the only NESCAC school without a Classics Department is Bates, where an interdisciplinary program is anchored by three tenured professors who specialize in Greek and Roman literature.
“Some have expressed concern about enrollments,” said Risser, “While it is true that some of our classes (e.g. Advanced Greek) are consistently small, others (e.g. Mythology, Ancient Warfare, Ancient Athletics) are large. Our average enrollments are equivalent to those of other departments.”
When asked about her own thoughts on the possible changes to the Classics Department, Risser expressed her uncertainty of the future.
“I really do not know what will happen, but I hope Classics will always be valued at Trinity. Classics has a long tradition of being an interdisciplinary field in which we examine the societies, cultures, values, laws, arts and ideas that form the core of the world in which we live. Through studying the ancient Greeks and Romans, our students become acquainted with the cultures that are at the very foundation of Modern Western and Middle Eastern civilizations, and gain understanding of the rich classical tradition that is still present in our lives today.”
A group in support of keeping the Classics Department has been created on Facebook by Trinity alumnus James Sickinger ’86, who majored in Classics while at the College. According to the Web site, the group is “intended to serve as a focal point for fostering support for the Classics Department at Trinity College, which is threatened with elimination. It will serve as a forum to provide information and foster communication.” At the time of press, the group had 340 members.
Facebook seems to be blocked where I am right now; I’ll post the site later or, if some intrepid soul has access, please post it in the comments.
From the Local:
Twenty students from the University of Regensburg plan to live and train in the style of Roman gladiators from 79 AD and stage a battle for scientific research this summer, the project’s Bavarian organisers said on Monday.
“We know hardly anything about the gladiators,” historian Josef Löffl said. “There are a lot of myths and clichés attached.”
Löffl and his colleagues plan to find out this August whether they can make modern young men into authentic gladiators following the Roman example.
The student warriors, who are all studying various disciplines at the university, won’t be eating pizza, hamburgers or steaks during their training. Instead they’ll have berries and white beans on their plates as the ancient Roman doctor Galen recommended in his texts.
They will also learn to fight wearing bronze helmets that weigh almost five kilogrammes at a camp that won’t allow girlfriends, showers, or washing machines.
“For me it’s a welcome change from sitting in front of the computer,” said athletic archaeology student Martin Schreiner.
He and the other gladiators are already training together four days a week. Following the summer training camp the group plans to perform at the former Roman army camp Carnuntum in Austria.
“We assume that those involved will weather the experiment quite well,” Löffl said.
Regensburg was once an important Roman stronghold along the Danube River, and historians at the university have conducted similar experiments in the past. In 2004 students built a Roman galley along the banks of the river, while others lived like legionnaires in the Alps.
This year’s project has been funded by €200,000 from businessman Hans Schaller, whose hobby is recreating historic events and participating as the character “Schallus Brutalus Maximus.”
Dr Loffl seems fond of putting grad students through these reenacment exercises …
- Learning how to be a gladiator – in the 21st century | Earthtimes
- Learning how to be a gladiator — in the 21st century | China Post
The incipit of an item at the BBC:
A series of finds in 1980s completely changed the perception of the effect the Romans had on Guernsey.
Tanya Walls, La Société Guernesiaise archaeology secretary, said before the finds it had been thought they had little influence.
However, when evidence of settlements, trade and industry came to light it told a different story.
The island became a centre for trade, most obviously shown by the wreck of a Roman trading ship found off Guernsey.
Before the Romans, Guernsey had been well-known as a trading point for wine in the Iron Age as ships made their way north from Bordeaux.
The Romans capitalised on this settling in St Peter Port following their occupation of Gaul (modern day France).
In the 1980s a site was discovered at La Paladerie, in St Peter Port, where Roman artefacts and the remains of buildings were uncovered.
Amongst the items found on the site were locally produced Iron Age pottery alongside the finer type produced in Europe by the Romans and also remains of the household gods found in every Roman home before the empire’s conversion to Christianity.
A few years before this the Asterix, a Gallo-Roman trading vessel, was found in the mouth of the harbour and these two finds combined to show how Guernsey was used as a trading post.
Tanya explained that it is thought the Romans settled in Guernsey shortly after they conquered what is now France, but before they reached England, sometime in the first century BC, and: “Their influence would have been strong for around 300 years.”
Tiles from a Roman building were used in the construction of Castel Church
The idea that there was a Roman settlement in St Peter Port was furthered when the Town Market building was redeveloped in 2000 and a further series of settlements were found.
We mentioned the plans for the Asterix a few months ago …
Most of a very interesting item from the Independent:
A team of archaeologists have unearthed five chamber tombs at Ayia Sotira, a cemetery in the Nemea Valley in Greece, just a few hours walk from the ancient city of Mycenae. The tombs date from 1350 – 1200 BC, the era in which Mycenae thrived as a major centre of Greek civilization.
They contain the remains of 21 individuals who probably came from Tsoungiza, an agricultural settlement close to the ancient city. Despite the significant human remains, however, the team have found no evidence of elite burials, prompting speculation that Tsoungiza may have been an egalitarian society without leaders.
The team excavated the five tombs between 2006 and 2008, containing the skeletal remains of 21 individuals, including what appears to be an extended family made up of two men, one woman and two young children. Detailed analysis of the remains will be difficult to carry out as they are generally poorly preserved. The team have been advised by scientists that DNA analysis will not be possible, but it is hoped that analysis will reveal further information about the diet of the individuals.
The team also discovered pieces of obsidian and flint debris in the tombs, and believe that these tools would have been used to cut up bodies as part of ‘secondary burial’ procedures – a funerary practice that was not uncommon in the ancient world. Professor Angus Smith, of Brock University in Canada, is one of the directors of the excavation project. He explained:
“You bury somebody, then you wait for that person to decompose, then you go back into the tomb or grave and you collect the bones after all the flesh has decomposed”.
Professor Smith suggested that there were practical reasons to bury bodies in this way, in that the bodies would take up less space. But there may also have been ritualistic reasons. In Tomb 4 the team found a small pit that contained the secondary burials of two adult men. Both of their skulls were “displayed at a higher level than the rest of the skeleton,” said Professor Smith, suggesting that the men were “carefully placed in this pit”.
The team were surprised to find a lack of burial goods in the tombs. The Mycenaean civilization is known for its rich elite burials, but the goods found at Ayia Sotira were modest. They included alabaster pots, bowls, jugs, faïence and glass beads, and a female Psi figurine (one of three styles typical of Mycenae). After water-sieving the remains, they also found stone micro beads that were no bigger than a millimetre in size. One tomb contained 462 of these beads stowed in a side-chamber, and are thought to be the remains of a necklace.
There were no findings of the gold or silver artefacts expected in an elite burial, although they did find fragments of a conical rhyton – a two-hole vessel that can be used for libation rituals and is often associated with elite burials.
Professor Smith described the tomb complex as having a “distinctly different character to those around Mycenae. The wealthy and very wealthy tombs are missing”.
One explanation could be that the elite tombs were looted, either in ancient times or more recently. When the team arrived at Ayia Sotira, they found ‘probe holes’ that had been dug into the ground by looters searching for airways.
Another possibility is that the elite tombs at Ayia Sotira just haven’t been discovered yet.
A third possibility is that these people lived in a classless society – that despite being close to a rich city, the people of this settlement, for whatever reason, had no elites.
“It does seem to be a community of agriculturalists who don’t seem to have a clear leader or clear elite mixed in amongst them,” said Professor Smith. “Were they governed by the palace at Mycenae which sort of oversaw them? Or were they removed enough that they had their own system of politics and government but one that didn’t produce clear elites?”
Interesting questions … it will be interesting to see where this all ends up going …
pridie kalendas apriles
- rites in honour of Luna at her temple on the Aventine
- c. 130 A.D. — martyrdom of Balbina
- 250 (?) A.D. — birth of the future emperor Constantius I Chlorus
- 307 A.D. – Constantine marries Fausta, the daughter of Maximian
- 1596 — birth of Rene Descartes (author, of course, of that bit of Latin which a pile of folks know)