Citanda: Eleven Reasons Plutarch and Herodotus Still Matter

This is really good and I’m sure many Classicists will miss it because of its source. The incipit:

Is the study of classical history pointless? What useful knowledge will I glean from reading about some dead Roman governor of Britain? How will studying what the Delphic oracle had to say about the Persian advance into Greece help me in my future job at the State Department?

I hear such questions often in my seminar on Thucydides and other classical writers, which I teach at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. My students — future policymakers, pundits, and managers — approach the class with a good dose of skepticism about the value (aside from mere amusement) of reading about ancient times. Thucydides’s history of the Peloponnesian War — in particular the Melian Dialogue, a quintessential tale of the small, neutral Melians defending themselves against the strong Athenians — is relatively common reading among budding wonks. But Tacitus, Herodotus, Julius Caesar, Plutarch? Most students favor the latest tome on the rise of China over the insights of these long-dead writers.
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My students’ predilections reflect a wider skepticism about the present-day relevance of old texts. For modern academics and policy analysts, ancient authors are guilty of adopting an unscientific approach, relying on anecdotes, and showing a primitive fear of natural events. What good does it do the reader to know that before battle the Romans often consulted a pullarius, a chicken-feeding augur? Such texts say nothing about modern life, critics say, and certainly will not help one get a job at Goldman Sachs or the Pentagon. The ancients were not worried about the movement of the IS and LS curves.

But that’s precisely the point. Reading Thucydides’s description of the revolution in Corcyra, Tacitus’s praise of Agricola, or Julius Caesar’s tale of Vercingetorix’s uprising is refreshing because these works do not simplify human affairs to logical models. These books are full of contrasts and contradictions, showing above all that not everything can be understood. Human affairs cannot be fully understood through a single lens, whether politics or economics; we are often at the mercy of incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces. Events can sometimes only be appreciated when taken as they are.

With that understanding, let me relate 11 ancient lessons relevant to today’s world.


… and you really just have to watch the news for half an hour or so to know these lessons are bang on …

Eleven Reasons Plutarch and Herodotus Still Matter — By Jakub Grygiel | Foreign Policy.

Citanda: My Sweetest Lesbia by Thomas Campion

As I wade deeper into the catchup file, I note this one from a while ago (I think I should give Terrence Lockyer a tip o’ the pileus on this one … not sure if I saw it on my own or whether he brought it to my attention):

Poem of the week: My Sweetest Lesbia by Thomas Campion | Guardian.

… and we note that Ralph Hancock pointed the Classics list to a very Elizabethan-sounding performance of the poem

Citanda: Pergamon Altar as Gateway to Hell?

This is actually interesting, if somewhat nutty … here’s a relevant excerpt to get you to ‘make the jump’:

The Altar’s notoriety in Christian circles stems from the aforementioned poss­ible reference in the Book of Revelation 2:12–13:

And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

Dr Volker Kästner is a leading archæo­logist specialising in the city of Pergamon. He has worked at the Pergamon Museum since 1982 and has been heavily involved in its continuing restoration. For him, the idea that Pergamon is “where Satan’s seat is” can be explained: “Pergamon was seen by Byzantine sources as a particularly pagan place where unchristian cults thrived, and with some imagination the Altar could resemble a throne. Secondly, the Altar’s frieze encompasses many sculpted snakes, which since Antiquity have been viewed as a symbol connected to the underworld, representing something inhuman – but it’s all speculation.”

The article goes on to mention the altar as backdrop to his DNC acceptance speech as well, which is interesting insofar as that is what it reminded ME (innocently … no Satanic overtones) of when we mentioned it, although I might be confusing events. I hadn’t found the CBS item mentioned in the Fortean Times footnotes which also made the connection …

Also Seen: Galba in the Times

Galba rarely gets any press from anyone, much less the mainstream press, so when he is mentioned, we better note it. Inter alia from an item in the Times:

Martha Lane Fox is to establish a special unit in the Cabinet Office as she steps up her part in Gordon Brown’s plan to get ten million adults who have never used the internet online. As this was announced her father, the classicist Robin Lane Fox, was comparing Brown’s rule to that of Galba, one of the less successful Roman emperors.

via There are ways of stopping you laughing | Times Online.

… and I note that I saved the Daily Mail coverage:

Robin Lane Fox, Fellow of New College, Oxford, and father of internet whizz kid Martha, gave his verdict on Gordon Brown at a dinner for Oxford classicists.

He quoted Roman historian Tacitus on the Emperor Galba: ‘Capax imperii nisi imperasset’ – capable of being in charge if only he had never been in charge.

I think something was lost in the translation.

… and the Daily Mail reveals, well, you know, what the Daily Mail often reveals …

CFP: Sport and Law

Seen on Classicists (please send any responses to the folks mentioned in the quoted text, not to rogueclassicism!):

Second Viennese International Colloquium on Ancient Legal History, Vienna,
Zweites Wiener Internationales Kolloquium zur Antiken Rechtsgeschichte


Sport and Law in Antiquity

Ever since the archaic period, athletic and musical contests were an
integral part of religious festivals. Research into ancient agonistics
therefore constitutes a crucial area of classical scholarship. The aim of
our conference in Vienna is to investigate the legal context of athletic and
non-athletic contests in classical antiquity from the archaic to the late
Roman period. Apart from considering the actual rules of such contests and
questions concerning umpires, we intend to focus in particular on the
different forms of organization of contests, their integration into the
framework of public administration and the status of founders, sponsors and
donors of such competitions. Moreover, we would like to discuss the social
status and legal privileges of participants. We are also open to suggestions
for papers on related topics outside the main lines of enquiry indicated
above. We are delighted to announce that one of the most distinguished
scholars in ancient athletics, Prof. Ingomar Weiler (University of Graz,
Austria), will present the keynote address.

We aim to assemble a varied and comprehensive programme, and we would
therefore like to invite potential contributors to submit a title and
300-word abstract by 25th May 2010. Papers should not exceed 30 minutes in
length, which will be followed by 20 minutes of discussion. The proceedings
of the conference will be published in the series edited by the Commission
for History of Ancient Law.

Dr. Kaja Harter-Uibopuu
kaja.harter AT

UD Dr. Thomas Kruse
thomas.kruse AT

CONF: ICS Ancient History Seminar

Seen on Classicists (please send any responses to the folks mentioned in the quoted text, not to rogueclassicism!):

University of London School of Advanced Study


joint ancient history — classical archaeology seminar

Thursdays 4.30 pm
Senate House South Block G22/26
Spring term – Organizers: Alexandra Villing (BM) and Hans van Wees (UCL)
Contacts: AVilling AT
ucrahvw AT


ANCIENT TRADE: textual and material evidence

This seminar series brings together ancient historians and classical archaeologists to discuss questions of evidence and method, focused on the topic of trade in the ancient world. In order to stimulate discussion, we propose an artificially strict separation of textual and material evidence. In each session, a historian will discuss what the textual evidence (literary and epigraphical) can and cannot tell us about a range of aspects of trade, and an archaeologist will do the same for the material evidence. We hope that this approach will serve to identify the most significant differences between the pictures which emerge from each kind of source, to determine the extent to which these pictures are complementary or mutually exclusive, and to explore the implications for our interpretation of the evidence.

13 May Archaic Greece

Errietta Bissa (Lampeter) and Thomas Brisart (Oxford / Brussels)

20 May Classical Greece

Robin Osborne (Cambridge) and Alan Johnston (UCL / ICS)

27 May The central Mediterranean 600–300

Tim Cornell (Manchester) and Gabriele Cifani (Rome)

3 June Imperial Rome

Neville Morley (Bristol) and Kris Lockyear (UCL)

10 June Indo-Roman trade

Dominic Rathbone (KCL) and Roberta Tomber (BM)

Academic Events Office, Institute of Classical Studies, Senate House South Block 245A

Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

admin.icls AT

020 7862 8700

CFP: ASGLE Epigraphy Congress

Seen on Rome-arch (please send any responses to the folks mentioned in the quoted text, not to rogueclassicism!):

5 January 2011, San Antonio, Texas

The American Society of Greek and Latin Epigraphy (ASGLE) invites
abstracts for the First North American Epigraphical Congress, to be
held on January 5th, 2011 in San Antonio, Texas at the Marriott
Riverwalk, over the course of a single day, immediately before the
Joint Annual Meeting of the American Philological Association (APA)
and the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA). The topic will be
broadly defined as Greek and Latin Epigraphy.

Abstracts will be adjudicated anonymously by a committee of ASGLE;
they should include the title but not the author?s name and they
should not be longer than one double-spaced page. There is a limit of
one abstract per person. The abstracts themselves, along with a
completed abstract submission form, should be sent electronically as
pdf files to: Nora Dimitrova, Vice-President, ASGLE, at
nmd5 AT The deadline is June 15, 2010.

Registration for the Congress must be made online here. The
registration fee before December 1, 2010 is $35 for student and $50
for non-student participants, which includes a group dinner. After
December 1, 2010 the rate will be $50 for students and $70 for
non-students. ASGLE full members receive a $10 discount and ASGLE
student/retirees a $5.00 discount. To become a member of ASGLE, see
here. There will be a stipend available for at least one student
whose abstract is accepted.

In the future, these congresses are expected to be held immediately
before the APA/AIA meetings. This should have the additional benefit
of attracting a large number of Classicists and archaeologists to the
audience of the congress and promoting epigraphy among graduate
students attending the meetings.

Interested scholars from all countries are encouraged to participate.

National Latin Exam Survey

Seen on Classics and possibly of interest (please send any responses to the folks mentioned in the quoted text, not to rogueclassicism!):

The National Latin Exam Steering Committee has asked me [sc. Matthew Webb] to expand the National Latin Exam Survey to be nationwide. As such, please visit the appropriate link if you wish to participate:

Teachers in the New England region:

Teachers outside the New England region: