CONF: Belief and its Alternatives in Greek and Roman Religion

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

Belief and its Alternatives in Roman Religion
School of Classics, University of St Andrews, 2-3 July 2010

Organiser: Ralph Anderson (St Andrews)

Speakers: Robert Parker (Oxford), Tom Harrison (Liverpool), John Cottingham
(Reading), Peter Harrison (Oxford), John Scheid (Collège de France), Hugh
Bowden (King’s College London), Pramit Chauduri (Dartmouth College), Esther
Eidinow (Newman University College, Birmingham), Ido Israelowich (Tel Aviv),
George van Kooten (Groningen), Jennifer Knust (Boston), Jacob Mackey
(Stanford), Teresa Morgan (Oxford), Peter van Nuffelen (Ghent), Ivana and
Andrej Petrovic (Durham), Shaul Tor (Cambridge), Ralph Anderson (St Andrews)

Full details, including a booking form, are available at the conference
website and
registration is now open.

Carin Green on Tutulina, Sessia, and Messia

A vestal virgin, detail of an engraving by Sir...
Image via Wikipedia

I think this will be the last one from the Toledo series that I post today … one could kill a lot of time with these:

The Circus Maximus is generally considered a place of spectacle where emperors indulged an impotent public with displays of power and largess to ensure public complacency. Romans gave up their freedom for “bread and circuses” Juvenal famously says. It makes good copy (or Juvenal would not have said it), but it overlooks the importance of the goddesses whose place on the spina, the central spine of the Circus, put them at the heart of the drama, both in the races and in the theater, that took place there. Three goddesses, the protectress Tutulina and her companions Sessia and Messia, goddesses of Rome’s vitality and wealth, and the goddess Victory, all had shrines on the spina, which, not coincidentally, marked the sacred boundary of Rome. Rituals and ritual drama of crisis, sacrifice, and triumph, performed by the Vestal Virgins, among others, throughout the year at these shrines taught the audience about the power these goddesses had to defend Rome. The significance of the Circus as the place in which protection and safety were reified by divine power in feminine form was so much part of Roman culture that even after non-Christian rites were officially suppressed in Rome (ca. AD 380), Romans turned to it in times of crisis. Both St. Augustine and Pope Leo bitterly lament the fact that when the Goths sacked Rome in 410, and for decades after, the Romans sought the reassurance of the Circus at the times of the old rituals, rather than attending to the martyrs’ churches. Interestingly, the earliest martyrs’ churches in Rome seem to have been built in imitation of the layout of the Circus.

Carin M. C. Green is Professor and Chair of Classics at the University of Iowa. She received a B.A. in Latin from San Jose State College, an M.A. in Latin from the University of Texas, and a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of Virginia. She teaches courses in Latin composition, Augustan poetry, Roman religion, Lucan, and Greek prose. Her book, Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2007. She is currently—when not occupied with departmental administration—working on a monograph about the Roman deity Consus and the Vestal Virgins.

via Dr. Carin Green | ”Women, the Circus and the Defense of Rome” | March 20, 2010 | Toledo Museum of Art.

Andrea Mall on Roman Domestic Decor

Leda and the swan, House of the Gilded Cupids,...
Image by Tintern via Flickr

I suspect this one from the Toledo Museum of Art will be popular among our readers:

Andrea Mall discussed room groupings in Roman domestic architecture and their decoration at the Toledo Museum of Art. These suites of rooms, or diaetae as they were called in Latin, likely had their origin in lavish villas along the Bay of Naples. She first examined the extraordinary prototypes at the Villa of the Mysteries and the Villa at Boscoreale, then shifted to explore how Pompeians incorporated these decorative schemes into their urban homes. The Romans used several ways to distinguish suites from the rest of the home. Rooms could be associated through their architectural design, as in the House of Vettii; which has a suite consisting of successive rooms that recede into the residence. Rooms could also be linked through mythological depictions as in the House of the Centenary, whose frescoes display several myths, all tied together by a common theme of sacrifice. In the House of the Gilded Cupids, a suite likely intended for use by a woman, is completely devoid of men and focuses on feminine iconography.

Andrea Mall received her undergraduate degree in Classical art and archaeology and Latin from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and her master’s degree in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin with a focus in ancient art. In 2002, she participated in an Etruscan excavation at Poggio Colla in Tuscany, Italy. She moved to Toledo in 2006 to work with Dr. Sandra Knudsen on the exhibition In Stabiano featuring frescoes from villas located on the Bay of Naples. She has since taken a permanent position at the Toledo Museum of Art as the Assistant Registrar for domestic loans and exhibition. She recently made her publishing debut by contributing entries to the Toledo Museum of Art’s Masterworks publication.

via Andrea Mall | “Extreme Makeover: Decor in the Ancient Houses of Pompeii” | February 12, 2010 | Toledo Museum of Art.

CFP: Scholia 20 (2011)

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

Studies in Classical Antiquity
ISSN 1018-9017

Information about SCHOLIA and its contents is available at

After a period of three years of not accepting submissions in order
to clear a large backlog, SCHOLIA began list year to accept articles
for publication in volume 19 (2010). SCHOLIA is now accepting
articles for publication in volume 20 (2011). Potential contributors
should read the ‘Notes for Contributors’ located at the SCHOLIA
web site and at the back of the journal and follow the suggested
guidelines for the submission of manuscripts. Electronic submissions
are preferred and should be sent directly to the editor at
william.dominik AT

SCHOLIA features critical and pedagogical articles on a diverse
range of subjects dealing with classical antiquity, including late
antique, medieval, Renaissance and early modern studies related
to the classical tradition. It also includes review articles, reviews
and other sections dealing with classics.

SCHOLIA and SCHOLIA REVIEWS (volumes 1–18) have
published 954 contributions by 360 scholars and academics at
179 universities and other institutions in 32 countries. SCHOLIA has
been distributed to institutions and scholars in 43 countries.

SCHOLIA is archived in ProQuest and Informit, indexed and
abstracted in L’Année Philologique, indexed in Gnomon and
TOCS-IN, and listed in Ulrich’s International Periodicals
Directory. SCHOLIA REVIEWS, an electronic journal that
features the pre-publication versions of reviews that appear in
SCHOLIA, is available at

Sinclair Bell on Chariot Fans

Winner of a Roman chariot race
Image via Wikipedia

Here’s another one from the Toledo Museum of Art … here’s the official description of an interesting talk on the fanaticism of fans ar Roman chariot races:

Dr. Sinclair Bell, Professor in the Department of Art History at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, presented his program “Fans and Fame in the Roman Circus”.

In the first century CE, the funeral for Felix, a charioteer of the Red team, made headlines in Rome’s daily gazette when one of his fans immolated himself on his favorite’s funeral pyre. While an extreme example, fan behavior in ancient Rome is not unknown. Yet where charioteers assumed a highly visible presence in Roman society and have been much studied, the fans whom they inspired remain largely overlooked and poorly understood. This talk drew upon a wide range of literary, artistic, and archaeological evidence in reconstructing and reclaiming the interactive experience of the sport’s various followers.

Sinclair Bell is a specialist in the archaeology of ancient Italy and the history of ancient art. He has excavated in Italy and Tunisia, and worked as a curatorial assistant at museums in Germany and Greece. He studied Classical Art & Archaeology at the universities of Oxford, Edinburgh, and Cologne, receiving his Ph.D. in 2004. Currently an Assistant Professor of Art History at Northern Illinois University, he has taught previously in the School of Art & Art History at the University of Iowa and in the Department of Classics at the University of Winnipeg. Dr. Bell’s research is broadly concerned with Etruscan and Roman material culture and art, especially its social history, Renaissance reception, and contemporary theorization. He has published numerous articles, book chapters, and reviews on these and related topics. In addition, he has co-edited five books, including Role Models in the Roman World: Identity and Assimilation (Ann Arbor 2008) and New Perspectives on Etruria and Early Rome (Madison 2009). He is currently completing a monograph about the role of circus spectacles in Roman imperial culture.

via Dr. Sinclair Bell | “Fans and Fame in the Roman Circus” | March 20, 2010 | Toledo Museum of Art.

CFP: Call for papers: Ceramics, Cuisine and Culture: the Archaeology and Science of Kitchen Pottery in the Ancient Mediterranean World

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

Ceramics, Cuisine and Culture: the Archaeology and Science of Kitchen Pottery in the Ancient Mediterranean World

British Museum, 16 – 17 December 2010

The British Museum’s Department of Greece and Rome is pleased to announce its 2010 Classical Colloquium on Ceramics, Cuisine and Culture: the Archaeology and Science of Kitchen Pottery in the Ancient Mediterranean World, organized jointly with the British Museum’s Department of Conservation and Scientific Research and the ‘Tracing Networks’ Research Programme (Universities of Leicester, Exeter and Glasgow), funded by the Leverhulme Trust, and to be held at the British Museum in London 16-17th December 2010.

This conference is dedicated to the cross-disciplinary interpretation of ancient ‘kitchen pottery’, i.e. utilitarian wares used as food containers or for food processing in a broad sense. By bringing together established scholars and young researchers from a wide range of academic backgrounds, including archaeologists, material scientists, historians, and ethnoarchaeologists, Ceramics, Cuisine and Culture will stimulate an international and interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and approaches.

Themes will include:

science, archaeology and society – how scientific techniques can reveal technological choices, cultural preferences and knowledge transfer
production, consumption and the social biographies of utilitarian pottery – debates on the interplay of social and technological factors, social networks of production and consumption, development of specialist technologies (e.g. resistance to thermal shock), lifespan, re-use and recycling of kitchen pottery
cuisine, culture and social hierarchies – the impact of context and status on food processing and storage, the significance of ritual, feasting, funerary and other ‘special’ contexts
changing habits: cuisine on the move – innovations and adaptations in food processing and cooking in new or changing cultural settings, food and cultural identity, the impact of trade and migration

The conference aims to set this ubiquitous category of artefacts in its wider social, political and economic contexts, in order to exploit it more effectively for understanding ancient societies. The proceedings will be published in a peer-reviewed volume.

Abstracts for 20 minute papers and posters are invited for submission by 30 May 2010.

For further information and submission of abstracts, please contact the organizing committee at kitchenpottery AT

The organizing committee: Alexandra Villing (BM), Michela Spataro (BM), Lin Foxhall (Leicester)

Citanda: Rufus @ The League of Ordinary Gentlemen

For reasons unknown I seem to have lost my rss feed to the LoOG in the past weeks and in the non-process missed out on mentioning a number of Rufus’ posts … this link will take you to the page of his stuff:

Rufus F. | The League of Ordinary Gentlemen.

… I seem to have missed a pile of Plato and a touch of Euripides …

Warmongers v Senators in the Third Century

I think this is something many folks suspected …

Military warmongers took over the Roman Empire in the third century. The senate, the administrative elite of the Roman empire watched from the sidelines. Dutch researcher Inge Mennen investigated the balance of power in Imperium Romanum during the ‘crisis of the third century‘. Conclusion: senators lost their military power but retained their status. Meanwhile military emperors pulled the strings.

Inge Mennen studied biographies of the most prominent men from the turbulent third century to gain an impression of the shifts in the balance of power.

For decades power in ancient Rome was in the hands of the senators who traditionally came from a small group of wealthy aristocratic families. Status and network paved the way to the top. Military experience assumed second place. The senate was also the rearing ground for future emperors: only the ordo senatorius could cultivate emperors. At least that was the case until the third century AD. Then senators had to make room for men of an utterly different class: military emperors from the equestrians. Within just 100 years the Roman Empire changed almost beyond recognition: emperor Diocletianus realised large-scale reforms. He reorganised the army and shared the power with his most important general. The Roman Empire was then effectively split in two. How could that have happened within such a relatively short space of time? Inge Mennen attempted to answer this question.


In the third century the border areas of the immeasurably large empire came under pressure. Emperors had to spend increasing amounts of time dealing with the far corners of the empire and the increasing threat of war. Senators, with their limited military experience, were overshadowed by military leaders. Yet Inge Mennen’s research also reveals that some of the senators managed to use the new situation to their advantage. They retained their high social position but at the same time quietly expanded their power in the more peaceful parts of the empire. They relinquished some of their military might but flourished in legal, administrative and financial positions. Appointments up to the level of the senate were made via the emperor who in this way honoured the elite of Rome and at the same time could consolidate his own power.

Meanwhile the ‘new era’ at the start of the tumultuous crisis century ensured the expulsion of the equestrians from Rome. For a long time equestrians had occupied mainly advisory positions in the emperor’s palace. Yet with the absence of the emperor in times of war and the increasing power of cunning senators, this group became superfluous. That left the equestrians with just one option: defending the empire. Professional soldiers also saw an opportunity to climb up to the equestrians via a career in the army. Gradually the composition and culture of this social class changed. The Roman Empire at war made grateful use of this growing group of warmongers: they now advised the emperor and controlled the border areas. Equestrians who had won their spurs in the Roman army even rose to the rank of emperor, an honour which up until that time had been the exclusive privilege of the senators.

The senators continued to control Rome, the empire’s old seat of power, whereas the equestrians gained increasing control of the periphery of the empire. The focus came to lie on the peripheral provinces, in the regions of the empire where wars had to be fought. In order to retain control of these areas the emperors needed a military background. They also devoted an increasing proportion of their time to military matters and so they frequently felt obliged to put off other tasks. At the worst of times, the emperors were even forced to give up parts of their empire.

The old imperial dynasties were not reinstated in the third century. Instead military emperors emerged: powerful generals who, with the support of their troops, gained the emperorship for a short period of time. They reigned until the next coup by an ambitious general. Military and civil affairs came into the hands of two completely different groups until these issues were formally separated by emperor Diocletianus. According to Inge Mennen, the reforms implemented by this emperor are not as radical as they might initially appear. The biographies of the powerful men of the third century reveal that many changes had already been set in motion a good century previously. Although Diocletianus put these ideas in writing, they were not entirely new.

via Warmongers pushed ‘intellectual’ politicians aside | AlphaGalileo.

Roman Family Tomb from Syria

Not quite enough details in this one for my liking:

Idleb Antiquities Department has unearthed a Roman-era cemetery dating back to the 3rd century AD in al-Massasia Valley, north of Darkoush town, in the northern Province of Idleb (Northern Syria).

Head of the Syrian Archaeological Excavations Department Musstafa Kaddour said that the cemetery consists of three sarcophaguses, two of them are two-meter long by half a meter wide and another smaller.

All were covered with stone slabs inside the cemetery.

Excavations indicate that the cemetery belongs to one family as many clay and glass jars and some precious stones were discovered.

A flat seal which belongs to the cemetery’s owner was also found.

Darkoush is a very important tourist site in Idleb Province. It contains a number of archaeological monuments in addition to a Roman bridge over River Orontes.

via Roman Tomb Unearthed in Northern Syria | Global Arab Network .

Questioning the Pax Minoica?

A team of archaeologists have discovered a fortification system at the Minoan town of Gournia, a discovery which rebukes the popular myth that the Minoans were a peaceful society with no need for defensive structures.

The team’s efforts were led by Professor Vance Watrous and Matt Buell of the University at Buffalo. Located on the north coast, Gournia was in use during the neo-palatial period (ca. 1700-1450 BC), when Minoan civilization was at its height. The town sits atop a low ridge with four promontories on its coastline. Two of these promontories end in high vertical cliffs that give the town a defensive advantage, and it is here that the fortification system was discovered.

The team weren’t able to excavate the area, and so relied on photography, drawing and surveying to identify the fortifications. The eastern-most promontory had a heavy wall that was about 27 meters long. Beside it the team found a semi-circular platform of stone, almost nine meters in diameter, which they believe is the remains of a tower or bastion. The other fortified promontory had a two meter thick wall, running east-west, “as if to close off access from the sea,” said Buell.

The other two promontories slope gently down to the shore, and would have provided easy access to the town. “It was on these two promontories”, said Professor Watrous, “that the Minoans built structures.”

The town consists of around 60 tightly-packed houses, a ship shed, and a small palace in the centre, and archaeologists have discovered evidence of wine making, bronze-working and stone-working at the site. “Gournia gives you, the visitor, a real feeling of what an Aegean town was actually like. Walking up the streets, past the houses, you feel like you’ve been transported into the past,” said Buell.

In addition to the beach fortifications, it also appears that the Minoans built a second line of defence further inland. Heading back from the beach, there were two walls, together running about 180 meters east to west. Backed by a tower, or bastion, the walls would have posed a formidable challenge to any invader trying to march into the town.

Defenders manning this system of fortification would have rained projectiles down on attackers, by using bows and slings. The walls had stone foundations and were made of mud brick, making them sturdy enough to stand on.

It’s an open question as to whether the people guarding the fortifications were part of a militia or something more organized. There was “definitely a body of men who would have had that duty but we don’t know exactly what they were like,” said Professor Watrous.

Tombs uncovered by Hawes and other excavators have shown people buried with swords. Watrous said that there was one particular tomb that produced an entire collection of daggers, swords and other items.

However, Gournia’s fortifications did not prevent the town’s demise. The town fell around 1450 BC, along with other Minoan settlements. A new group called the Mycenaean appeared on Crete at this time, taking over the island.

Watrous said that Mycenaeans probably avoided attacking the town by sea. “Many other settlements were destroyed at the same time. My guess is that they just came along the land; they didn’t have to come up from the sea”.

He cannot say for sure if the town defences were ever actually put to their intended use. Any evidence of a battle near these fortifications, such as weapons or bodies, would be underground, and excavation would have to be carried out to see if they exist.

One thing that excavators can say is that the people of Gournia had something worth fighting for. Many of the goods they made – such as the wine and the bronze implements – were for export, suggesting that the people had some level of wealth.

via Crete fortifications debunk myth of peaceful Minoan society | The Independent (Owen Jarus).

Can’t tell from the article whether the ‘debunking the peaceful Minoan’ thing is something Watrous and Buell are bringing up or whether it is the journalist. FWIW, this seems to be flying in the face of some unfortified evidence from the same basic period which we mentioned a couple of years ago. While more folks seem to be questioning the ‘hippy flower children’ view of the Minoans, the question of how ‘peace-loving’ they actually were still seems to be an incipient topic of research