Classical Ink

So there was a bit of twitter chatter about the Daily Mail’s claims about celebrity tattoos ‘causing’ a revival of interest in Latin, and it was decided that we’d start a new feature here which possibly is a bit more realistic in regards to Latin and tattoos by showcasing the Latin/Classical ink festooning the dermises (dermides? dermida?)  of Classicists and/or folks who actually work in Latin or Greek. Francesca Tronchin graciously consented to inaugurate this ongoing series:

Next we have a medievalist — Liam – who works with Latin, of course:

So … if you’re a Classicist or regularly use Latin and/or Ancient Greek in your daily pursuits, whether student or prof, and you sport some Classical ink, feel free to send it in so we can help drive this Latin revival along  (don’t forget to send a link to your blog or website if you have one too!)…

Roman Shipwrecks off Zannone

This one just started filtering in this a.m. … here’s the Reuters coverage:

A team of marine archaeologists using sonar scanners have discovered four ancient shipwrecks off the tiny Italian island of Zannone, with intact cargoes of wine and oil.

The remains of the trading vessels, dating from the first century BC to the 5th-7th century AD, are up to 165 meters underwater, a depth that preserved them from being disturbed by fishermen over the centuries.

“The deeper you go, the more likely you are to find complete wrecks,” said Annalisa Zarattini, an official from the archaeological services section of the Italian culture ministry.

The timber structures of the vessels have been eaten away by tiny marine organisms, leaving their outlines and the cargoes still lying in the position they were stowed on board.

“The ships sank, they came to rest at the bottom of the sea, the wood disappeared and you find the whole ship, with the entire cargo. Nothing has been taken away,” she said.

The discoveries were made through cooperation between Italian authorities and the Aurora Trust, a U.S. foundation that promotes exploration of the Mediterranean seabed.

The vessels, up to 18 meters long, had been carrying amphorae, or large jars, containing wine from Italy, and cargo from North Africa and Spain including olive oil, fruit and garum, a pungent fish sauce that was a favorite ingredient in Roman cooking.

Another ship, as yet undated, appeared to have been carrying building bricks. It is unclear how the vessels sank and no human remains have been found.


The vessels are the second “fleet” of ships to be discovered in recent years near the Pontine islands, an archipelago off Italy’s west coast believed to have been a key junction for ships bringing supplies to the vast warehouses of Rome.

“One aim was to test the hypothesis that the Pontine islands, which are very small and which were barely inhabited in antiquity, were really important maritime staging posts because they had very good natural harbors,” Zarattini said.

The team hope to find a secondary cargo of smaller items which they believe would have been stowed in straw and may be well preserved under the crustacean-clad sediments.

Last year, the project found five wrecks off nearby Ventotene, an island used in Roman times to exile disgraced Roman noblewomen. The Emperor Augustus sent his daughter Julia there to punish her for adultery.

Italy has signed a new UNESCO agreement that requires them to leave the wreckage in place, potentially opening the way to would-be treasure hunters although Zarattini said the benefits in terms of tourism outweighed the risks.

“We think the sea, which is particularly beautiful around these islands, can become a real museum,” she said.

“In the future, not so far off, a lot of people will be able to go down and see the wreckage themselves.”

via: Sonar scanners find ancient wrecks off Italian coast | Reuters

As mentioned in the article, last year this same group of folks found those five shipwrecks off Ventotene, and the project does have a website about their activities which is worth looking at. Their blog relates a press conference, however, which seems to suggest these shipwrecks are connected to the shipwreck found at Panarea which we mentioned a few weeks ago. Not sure if that suggests we may be hearing more in the near future or not, but a clarification post/article might be a good thing.

More coverage:

What To Do With a Classics Degree

The incipit and a bit of an item in the Guardian:

As experts warn the ongoing cuts in the public sector could result in record levels of graduate unemployment; despondent graduate jobseekers may find comfort in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Of course, Nietzsche was a great philosopher, but not many people know he originally studied classics; it was only after a book he authored on the subject was rubbished by a rival that he switched disciplines.

For today’s classics graduates, Nietzsche’s famous quote may be particularly relevant. Six months after leaving university, only 51.6% of 2008 classics graduates were in employment compared with 61.5% of graduates in other subjects. However, the subject is held in high regard by employers, and graduates in the subject often acknowledge its indirect importance; as London mayor (and classics graduate) Boris Johnson, has said: “I’m hugely grateful to my degree. The mere possession has been of no assistance at all – what’s invaluable has been the philosophy.”

So if you do initially struggle to find a niche, you should at least, like Johnson, be able to remain philosophical about life’s hardships.

What skills have you gained?

Studying classics will highlight your ability to learn and comprehend challenging subjects. You will also develop your ability to research, collate and analyse materials and learn to critically evaluate resources in order to formulate arguments, which you can present competently. You will be able to work alone or within a team and to think imaginatively, a talent Harry Potter creator and classics graduate JK Rowling (pictured) has in abundance. Perhaps she also found studying different societies, cultures and civilisations helped her create a completely new fictitious one. Classics graduates therefore enter the jobs market with specific, practical, intellectual and theoretical skills.

What jobs can you do?

“Careers can vary from those that use historical knowledge, in roles such as museum education or exhibitions officer or archivist, historic buildings inspector or conservation officer to those that use the classics graduate’s understanding of language in roles within advertising, editorial work or public relations,” says Margaret Holbrough, a careers adviser at Graduate Prospects.

About 11% of classics graduates entering full-time work found professional roles as private and public-sector managers, while almost 15% entered retail, catering and bar work. Other clerical occupations accounted for the most number of classics graduates (22.2%) who entered employment, possibly a reflection that administrative roles tend to be the entry-level route for graduates wanting to work in creative, cultural and heritage-related positions. Teaching is an option – there is currently a shortage of classics teachers in the UK. As a classics graduate, you are attractive to recruiters from all sectors, including law, finance and consultancy.


The article goes on to mention ‘graduate’ opportunities. Not sure the exempla provided are useful or encouraging. I have created a delicious link (which I update as I find examples) to a pile of bios etc of famous folks who had/have Classics degrees which are probably more encouraging than the somewhat ‘sketchy’ connection of JK Rowling, but the variety of fields folks end up in after taking a Classics degree is incredibly interesting. We have, e.g., recently mentioned the anonymous ‘Hedge Fund Manager’ … not long before that, the Psychology Today blog was also listing a pile of things available for those with Classics training.  A followup piece in the same source had some useful advice on how to sell yourself as a Classicist in a non-Classical job market. One of the great things about the existence of the web is that it does allow you to find plenty of examples of folks who have ‘survived’ getting a Classics degree, should you have to convince your parents …

Saving Latin in Scotland – Followup

In today’s Scotsman:

IT IS the dead language of ancient Rome, the Declaration of Arbroath, law books and medical terminology.

But a new campaign is using that most modern of inventions – Facebook – to wage a battle to save Latin in Scottish schools.

An online bid to protect qualifications in the study of the ancient language is picking up global support with the rallying
cry “Heri, hodie, semper!” – “Today, tomorrow, always!”

The campaign was launched in response to proposals by the Scottish Qualifications Authority to cut back the exam options available to pupils.

Entry-level exams in the subject could go, deterring pupils from taking the language at a higher level, say opponents.

The plans have been branded “elitist nonsense” and a “regression to past inequality” by allowing only the brightest pupils to gain qualifications and axeing options for youngsters with lower academic ability.

Helen Lawrenson, a recently retired teacher of Latin and English in Fife who launched the online campaign, said: “I would argue that Latin isn’t a dead language, but a timeless language.

“And the acquisition of Latin is undoubtedly an advantage in the study of law and medicine.”

The Facebook page has attracted support from pupils, teachers and academics around the world, many of whom have also written to the SQA and education minister Mike Russell in protest.

via Modern drive for ancient language – News.

Latin Tattoos Causing Revival in Latin?

Angelina Jolie at the New York "A Mighty ...
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Tip o’ the pileus to Dorothy King for alerting us to this somewhat strange connection being made by the Daily Mail:

Celebrity Latin tattoos may be fuelling a revival of the ancient language in schools, it emerged today.

Pupils are increasingly demanding to study the subject, according to an exam board, as tattooed celebrities such as David Beckham and Angelina Jolie enhance Latin’s profile.

The OCR exam board today launched a new Latin qualification aimed at teenagers as secondary schools increasingly offer the subject, either during the curriculum or after-hours.

But examiners urged pupils not to emulate model Danielle Lloyd, whose Latin tattoo is riddled with errors.

While Beckham and Jolie’s Latin inscriptions are grammatically correct, Lloyd’s is meaningless, they said.

Her tattoo, ‘Quis attero mihi tantum planto mihi validus’, which is etched on to her shoulder, is intended to translate as ‘To diminish me will only make me stronger’.

But experts say the words in fact translate into something more akin to ‘Who I wear away for me only for me strong’.

Beckham, on the other hand, gets full marks for his two Latin tattoos.

The footballer has ‘Ut Amem Et Foveam’ (meaning ‘So that I love and cherish’) inscribed on his left forearm and ‘Perfectio In Spiritu’ (meaning ‘Perfection in spirit’) on his right.

Meanwhile Jolie chose ‘Quod me nutrit me destruit’, which means ‘What nourishes me also destroys me’.

Other celebrities embracing the trend include actor Colin Farrell, who has ‘Carpe Diem’ or ‘Seize the day’ inscribed on his left forearm.

OCR said the continuing influence of Latin in day-to-day life could be seen in baby naming.

It said three of the four top girls’ names have Latin origins – Olivia (from Latin ‘Oliva’ meaning Olive), Emily (from the Latin ‘Aemilianus’, a Latin family name) and the Grace (from Latin ‘Gratia’, meaning goodwill or kindness).

The OCR exam board said schools and youngsters were aware of the continuing influence of Latin and had expressed an interest in a qualification to recognise basic achievement in the subject.

The new ‘Entry Level Certificate in Latin’ is a qualification in its own right or could be taken as a precursor to a GCSE or A-level in Latin. It is likely to be taken by 13 to 17-year-olds.

It follows a surge in the number of secondary schools offering Latin over the past decade.

Surveys suggest that one in five secondaries now teaches the subject, including several hundred comprehensives.

A computer-based Latin course backed by Cambridge University is said to have made it easier for schools to offer Latin.

The team behind the project say schools are held back by a lack of access to Latin, rather than a lack of interest in it.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London and a long-standing advocate of Latin, said: ‘I’m delighted that OCR are introducing the first ever Entry Level Qualification in Latin.

‘It proves how much demand there is for this great subject and will provide the perfect platform for the next generation of classicists.’

Students will be introduced to the Latin language, including a list of 100 Latin words. They will also study aspects of Roman culture.

Paul Dodd, qualifications manager for languages and literature at OCR, said: ‘Latin vocabulary has had a rich and lasting influence on English, as well as being the foundation for modern day Spanish, French and Italian.

‘Latin language and culture have played a major part in shaping our own intellectual, literary, artistic and political traditions.

‘Many schools already teach Latin alongside other subjects but have no way of formally recognising their learners’ achievements below GCSE.

‘Our new Entry Level qualification provides a good bridge to further attainment as well as providing a way of recognising the skills learned.’

via: The celebrity tattoos that have sparked a Latin craze among schoolchildren | Daily Mail

The Daily Mail also has a sidebar with translations of assorted celeb tattoos. That said, all I can say is “Wow” … classic Daily Mail. Without even reading between the lines much it is pretty clear that the folks at OCR didn’t make this connection, nor does it seem like they even mentioned ink when launching this exam. Indeed, here’s the announcement from their site:

OCR has announced the launch of the first ever Entry Level qualification in Latin. The pre-GCSE level qualification, available from September 2010 for first teaching, is funded for use by the state sector and can be used as a stand-alone qualification or as a stepping stone to further study of the subject at GCSE and A Level.

The qualification provides learners with an introduction to the Latin language, and also includes study of aspects of Roman culture. Learning centres can choose the topics that they feel will best support their candidates’ introduction to the Latin language. Supporting topics include literature – either in translation or in Latin – a Roman site, Roman artefacts, slavery, the gladiators, the Roman army and more. The wide range of materials available to work with means teachers have flexibility to make the course both appealing and fun.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London and longstanding advocate of the value of Latin, said: “I’m delighted that OCR are introducing the first ever Entry Level Qualification in Latin. It proves how much demand there is for this great subject and will provide the perfect platform for the next generation of Classicists.”

Paul Dodd, OCR’s Qualifications Manager for Languages & Literature said: “Many schools already teach Latin alongside other subjects but have no way of formally recognising their learners’ achievements below GCSE grade. Our new Entry Level qualification provides a good bridge to further attainment as well as providing a way of recognising the skills learned.”

… which is clearly echoed in the Daily Mail piece. Now I’m all for highlighting celebrity tattoos in Latin and regular readers of rogueclassicism will know that I’ve made comments on same in the past (e.g. here and here), but to make the leap from one of Angelina Jolie’s body parts to some sudden surge in Latin interest seems a bit of a stretch and, quite frankly, is somewhat insulting.

Cleopatra’s Pearl

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A very interesting item in USA Today (ultimately deriving from an article in Classical World!) is bouncing around the interwebs … we’ll preface it with this excerpt from Philemon Holland’s 1847 translation of Pliny’s Natural History (9.119-121) via The Latin is available, as always, via Lacus Curtius:

There were two Pearls, the very largest that ever were
known in any Age, and they were possessed by Cleopatra,
the last Queen of Egypt ; having descended to her by means
of the Kings of the East. When Antony had feasted her
Day by Day very sumptuously, and under the Influence,
at one Time, of Pride and petulant Disdain, as a Royal
Harlot, after undervaluing his Expense and Provision, he
demanded how it was possible to go beyond this Magni-
ficence : she replied, that she would consume, in one Supper,
100 hundred thousand Sestertii. 2 Antony desired to learn
how that could be possible, but he thought it was not.

Wagers were, therefore, laid ; and on the following Day,
when the Decision was to be made (for that a Day might
not be lost, Antony appointed the next succeeding one), she
provided a Supper, which was, on the whole, sumptuous ;
but Antony laughed at it, and required to see an Account of
the Particulars. But she said, that what had been served up
already was but the Over-measure, and affirmed still, that
she would in that Supper make up the full Sum ; and her-
self alone consume in this Supper 600 huudred thousand
Sestertii. 1 She then commanded the second Table to be
brought in. As soon as the Order was given, the Attendants
placed before her one only Vessel of Vinegar, 2 the Strength
and Sharpness of which wasted and dissolved the Pearls.
Now she wore at her Ears that most remarkable and truly
singular Work of Nature. Therefore, as Antony waited to
see what she was going to do, she took one of them from
her Ear, steeped it in the Vinegar, and when it was liquefied,
drank it. As she was about to do the like by the other,
L. Plancius, the Judge of that Wager, laid hold upon it
with his Hand, and pronounced that Antony had lost the
Wager : whereat the Man became very angry. The Fame
of this Pearl may go with its Fellow ; for after this Queen,
the Winner of so great a Wager, was taken Prisoner, the
other Pearl was cut in two, that the half of their Supper
might hang at the Ears of Venus, in the Pantheon, at

Also of interest, is note on the story:

Cleopatra must have employed a stronger vinegar than that which
we now use for our tables, as the pearls, on account of their hardness and
their natural enamel, cannot be easily dissolved by a weak acid. Nature has
secured the teeth of animals against the effect of acids, by an enamel
covering of the like kind ; but if this enamel happen to be injured only
in one small place, the teeth soon spoil and rot. Cleopatra, perhaps,
broke and pounded the pearls ; and it is probable that she afterwards
diluted the vinegar with water, that she might be able to drink it ;
though it is the nature of the basis or calx to neutralise the acid, and so
render it imperceptible to the tongue. See BECKMAN’S Hist, of Inventions,
vol. ii. p. 1.

This story always reminds me of my Grade 12 biology class, where some poor soul decided to do the ‘Coca-Cola can dissolve teeth) thing as their final project (and it didn’t work, of course) … generally when one hears about Cleo’s pearl, it’s considered one of those urban legends of the ancient world. But check out the excerpts from the piece from USA Today:


“There’s usually a kernel of truth in these stories,” says classicist Prudence Jones of Montclair (N.J.) State University. “I always prefer to give ancient sources the benefit of the doubt and not assume that something that sounds far-fetched is just fiction.”

In the current Classical World journal, Jones details the history of the story. In it, Cleopatra won a wager with her befuddled Roman consort, Marc Antony, by consuming her pearl cocktail to create the costliest catering bill ever. Her 10 million sesterces (sesterces were the nickels of the ancient world) banquet bill, thanks to the destruction of the pearl, set a pretty early mark on extravagant consumption.


“I think there was a fairly good understanding of practical chemistry in the ancient world,” Jones says, by email. Fertilizer recipes and preparations to kill parasites on sheep appear, for example, in ancient Roman texts.

Pearls were a popular adornment for the wealthy in the Roman era. Because in antiquity the only pearls in existence were natural ones, they were considerably rarer than they are today, making dissolving one a truly wasteful act. “I think modern scholars dismiss the story more out of disbelief,” Jones says, noting a long line of references, such as a 1940 translation of the story, for instance, that says, “no such vinegar exists.”

The classicist B.L. Ullman of the University of North Carolina noted in 1957 that some experiments suggested that vinegar could indeed dissolve pearls, made of acid-unfriendly calcium carbonate by oysters. But the news never made it to most classicists, says Jones, author of Cleopatra: Life & Times. So, “I began to wonder if there was any truth behind it and started trying some experiments, at first with calcium supplement tablets and pieces of oyster shell and then with pearls,” she says.

To experiment with large pearls, Jones found a jeweler who had a couple of 5 carat ones that had been removed from pieces of jewelry. “They were not perfectly round and so were not suitable for other settings and were going to be disposed of,” Jones says. “He was willing to donate these to my experiment.”

So what did she find? “Experiments reveal that a reaction between pearls and vinegar is quite possible,” concludes the study. Calcium carbonate plus the vinegar’s acetic acid in water produces calcium acetate water and carbon dioxide, for chemistry fans. Jones finds a 5% solution of acetic acid, sold in supermarkets today and well within concentrations produced naturally by fermentation, takes 24 to 36 hours to dissolve a 5-carat pearl.


Biochemist Takeshi Furuhashi of Austria’s University of Vienna tried his own experiments with nacre shells from Red Sea oysters to see if he could reproduce Jones’s results for USA TODAY. He finds that without boiling or crushing the pearl, many hours would be needed for the acid to dissolve a large pearl. But at low concentrations of acetic acid, he reports, only an hour was required to dissolve a crushed pearl shell. So, if Cleopatra crushed the pearl, the story may be true, Furuhashi says. “However, if she put her earring directly into solution, it is impossible to obtain the same results.”

She may also have soaked the pearl in vinegar for a day or two to soften it up, he adds. Indeed, Jones says other stories about ancient wastrels knocking back pearl boilermakers involve prepared vinegar and pearl solutions being brought to the banquet table.

“I think the most likely explanations for the discrepancy between the experiment and the (legend) Pliny describes, during a banquet, are that the story compresses events for dramatic effect,” Jones says, “or that Cleopatra drank the cocktail with the pearl only partially disintegrated, having satisfied her guests that it was destroyed.”


via: Cleopatra’s pearl cocktail recipe revealed | USA Today

It’s a good article to print out for your ClassCiv classes; I’m sure you’ll all find one or more students willing to try to recreate the experiment. The abstract for the Classical World article is also online, as is Dr Jones’ abstract from a talk on the subject at the APA meeting quite a while ago should you desire to pursue this a bit further.  B.L. Ullman’s article in the 1957 Classical Journal is a good read as well …  Also of use is the Cleopatra and the Pearl page at Lacus Curtius.

More coverage:

UPDATE: USA Today now also has a brief interview with Dr. Jones:

Metis: a Wesleyan Undergraduate Journal

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One from deep, deep inside my mail folder (from over a month ago):

The Greek Titan Metis was considered the goddess of wisdom and deep thought. Her name in Greek also means “wisdom combined with cunning,” a highly desirable personality trait to the ancient Athenians.

This year, a group of Wesleyan students with a knowledge and interest in Classical studies, released their own collection of “cunning wisdom” in a publication titled Wesleyan Metis. The Metis editorial board draws on the abilities and creativity of Wesleyan students to showcase their best examples of undergraduate Classics writing.

“Classical studies go far beyond ancient languages and, as evidenced by the essays in the journal, include studies of archaeology and drama or even ancient medicine, sociology, mythology, poetry and more,” says Metis creator Christi Richardson ’10. “There are so many fields of interest in the classics that Metis can illuminate for Wesleyan students. We hope that Metis can get the word out to the Wesleyan community and showcase the wide range of areas of study available to students.”

The editors received 16 submissions for the first issue and selected six pieces to include.

The first issue of Wesleyan Metis features five articles and one photography section, including a short fictional story about the Athenian plague, an essay related to how ancients perceived statues of nude women that were modeled after Aphrodite statues, a look at Sir Arthur Evan’s Interpretation of the Palace of Knossos, and images of Pompeii and Rome.

In “The Plague,” author Kaitlin DeWilde ’13 writes about a young woman named Ariadne who played the nascent role of a doctor during the Athenian plague in 430-429: “As soon as I saw my sister, I knew there was nothing I could do. The worst red boils I had ever seen covered her skin; she thrashed around the bed in the throes of madness, indicative of close proximity to death.”

In “Balnea Mixta et Separata,” author Susie Howe ’11 describes how men and women used community baths as gathering places and centers of social activity. The oldest baths in Pompeii occupied a full city block and included many amenities like a swimming pool, courtyard exercise space, dry hot room and dressing room. “The baths have a separate entrance for men and women, labeled as such and leading to the separate non-communicable bathing suites.”

Richardson and her peers started Metis last fall, basing the publication on the Psychology Department’s journal, Mind Matters. The spring 2010 editors of Metis include Richardson, Howe, Ellie Damaskos ’12, Nathaniel Durant ‘12, Susan Howe ’11, Chris Kaltsas ‘11 Adam Peck ‘12. Dylan Griffin ’12 assisted with layout and printing of the 56-page journal.

Wesleyan’s Department of Classical Studies funds publication costs.

“In a discipline like Classics, as in almost any of the Humanities, collaborative work is much rarer than it is in science. This project made it possible for our students to work together. They had full responsibility for every aspect of the publication, most importantly for editorial choices, and they took that responsibility seriously,” says Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, professor of classical studies and the Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek.

The Classical Studies Department distributed copies to alumni during Reunion & Commencement Weekend. Other copies are available in Downey House.

“The response from our alumni was uniform enthusiasm, tinged with a trace of wry envy. ‘Wow – why didn’t we do something like this?’ It’s another way of keeping our grads in touch with us and with each other,” Szegedy-Maszak says. “I’m really proud of Metis, as are my colleagues, and we look forward to Volume 2.”

via: Metis Showcases Classical Studies Writing | The Wesleyan Connection

Statue of Artemis from Zajecar?

Tip o’ the pileus to Adrian Murdoch for this one:

At the site of the ‘Felix Romuliana’, an imperial palace near the Town of Zajecar, German experts of the Archeology Institute in Frankfurt, together with the colleagues of the Archeology Institute in Belgrade have discovered a sensational sculpture, unique in this area of the Balkans. This marble statue originates from the first half of the third century.

As ‘Blic’ learns unofficially, it is most likely a sculpture of Diana, the Goddess of the hunt. At the National Museum in Zajecar we were told that this discovery has been the most significant one since finding of archvault in 1984 with the inscription ‘Felix Romuliana’ and a head of Galerius in 1993.

It is supposed that the sculpture symbolizes victory by Rome over barberians. Unfortunately a fragment of the sculpture (a horse and a rider) is missing. The rider is believed to be Diana.

Experts claim that this discovery is absolutely precious for studying of the ‘Romuliana’, but for the world culture as well.

Huge interest of experts from all over the world is expected.

The German archeologists using geomagnetic and geophysics method of search outside the imperial palace have discovered about fifty objects. Recently a new three-year agreement on cooperation has been signed with the Institute in Frankfurt.

The ‘Felix Romuliana’ contains numerous floor mosaics and remains of monumental temples and buildings. The Portrait of Emperor Galerius, heads of Hercules and Jupiter, mosaic presentations of Dionis, Labyrinth and Venator are the very best of the Roman art of that time.

The article is accompanied by a photo:

from Blic

Now I’m not sure if this is just a portion of the sculpture (likely) or the whole thing (if it’s the sculpture in question at all), but it seems to me that they’re reading quite a bit into it; the boar might suggest some link to the Artemis – Adonis tiff, but in that one the boar wasn’t a victim …

Odrysian Site from Bulgaria

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Ivan Hristov is characterizing this as a ‘Bulgarian Machu Picchu’ … interesting how they get a dig in at Philip II in this one:

Bulgarian rchaeologists have uncovered a unique residence of the rulers of the Odrysian Kingdom, the state of the most powerful tribe of Ancient Thrace.

The residence is located on the Kozi Gramadi mount in the Sredna Gora mountain, close to the resort town of Hissar in central Bulgaria, at about 1 200 m above sea level.

“The residence of the Odrysian kings is a monument unrivaled in scope in Southeastern Europe. I am convinced there is no other fortress-sanctuary dating back to the 4th-5th century BC which is so well-preserved,” said Dr. Ivan Hristov, head of the archaeological team and Deputy Director of the Bulgarian National History Museum.

The Bulgarian archaeologists call the Thracian fortress “the Bulgarian Machu Picchu” because of the similarities in the organization of the two ancient cities.

The construction of the residence near Hissar is believed to have been started by the Thracian ruler Cotys I (384 BC – 359 BC)

The team led by Dr. Hristov has uncovered the remains of the palace of the Odrysian kings Amatokos II (359 BC – 351 BC) and Teres II (351 BC – 342 BC).

The latter is the last Thracian king who fought Philip II of Macedon (359 BC – 336 BC).

“Philip II of Macedon most likely also visited this fortress. It is about him that Demosthenes says that he spent 11 nightmarish months in the winter of 342 BC fighting the Thracians who inhabited the mountains,” explained Dr. Hristov.

The fortress-residence of the Thracian kings is located on a plot of 4 decares, not far from the village of Starosel, which is the site of the largest tombs of Ancient Thracian rulers.

The researchers believe that the connection between the newly-uncovered fortress and the Starosel tombs is clear.

“This is the holy mountain in the mind of the Thracians. We have various archaeological objects located on different levels – a fortress, a sanctuary, an altar of sacrifice. Therefore, the comparison with the ancient city of the Incas Machu Picchu is a good one,” said Dr. Hristov.

His team has already excavated two of the towers of the citadel, whose remains are about 2 m high.

The archaeologists’ guess is that the treasure of the Odrysian kingdom was also located in the newly uncovered residence but Philip II of Macedon most likely stole the gold kept there.

The Odrysian Kingdom was a union of Thracian tribes that existed between 5th and the 3rd century BC. The last Thracian states were conquered by Romans in 46 AD. The most famous Thracian in human history is Spartacus, the man who led a rebellion of gladiators against Rome in 73-71 BC.

UPDATE (a few minutes later): discussion on the Classics list suggests this isn’t a recent discovery; the site was actually found back in 2005; we don’t seem to have covered it but it seems connected with the Starosel tomb which has received quite a bit of coverage because of that gold mask found thereabouts, e.g.:

d.m. Mabel Lang

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It is with great sadness that I share the news that Mabel Louise Lang, Katharine E. McBride Professor Emeritus and Paul Shorey Professor Emeritus of Greek, passed away at home on Wednesday, 21 July at the age of 92. Professor Lang’s chief academic interests were Greek history and epigraphy, and she left a legacy of exceptional scholarship and institutional support at both the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and at Bryn Mawr College.

She earned her AB from Cornell (1939) and her MA (1940) and PhD (1943) from Bryn Mawr College. She commenced teaching at Bryn Mawr in 1943 and served on the faculty of the Greek Department for 45 years, before retiring in 1988.

Miss Lang, as she was known to many, began her service to Bryn Mawr as Warden of Rockefeller Hall (1942-1945). She served the College in a number of administrative capacities: Acting Dean of the College, Dean of the Sophomore Class, and Secretary of the Faculty (1970-1975). In 1961, she became Chair of the Department of Greek and held the position, without sabbatical, until her retirement 27 years later.

A revered and formidable presence on campus, Professor Lang was an inspiring, caring and demanding teacher. Professor Lang taught her signature undergraduate course—”Baby” Greek—almost every year, introducing nearly a thousand students to the language. Her graduate seminars on Homer and Thucydides set a standard across her academic field.

On a less academic note, Professor Lang was the beloved stage manager of a number of Bryn Mawr College Faculty Shows including: Standing Room Only (1943), Top Secret (1947), Kind Hearts and Martinets (1951), and The Profs in the Pudding (1955).

Professor Lang was a prolific and celebrated scholar, who wrote twelve books and more than fifty articles, spanning the fields of history, epigraphy, and archaeology. As a Fellow of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, she excavated at the Acropolis and the Agora; this led to the publication of the first guide to the Agora, four Agora picture books, and three scholarly volumes in the esteemed Agora series. In the 1950s and 1960s, she participated in excavations at Gordion (Turkey) and the Palace of Nestor at Pylos (Greece) that led to numerous publications. Particularly seminal were her reconstruction of the frescoes at Pylos and her interpretation of tablet fragments in Linear B (the script of the Mycenaeans). Professor Lang’s later scholarship on Herodotus, Homer, and Thucydides was equally impressive and well-received.

Professor Lang’s academic contributions were widely recognized. She was awarded the Blegen Research lectureship at Vassar College (1976) and chosen to deliver the Martin Classical Lectures at Oberlin College (1982). Honors included a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship to Greece, three honorary degrees, and membership in the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the German Archeological Institute, Phi Beta Kappa, and Phi Kappa Phi.

Details about memorial services will be forthcoming.

Legendary Professor of Greek Mabel Lang Dies at 93 | Bryn Mawr Now

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem x kalendas sextilias

Gran incendio de Roma
Image via Wikipedia
ante diem x kalendas sextilias

  • Neptunalia — an obscure festival (obscure in the sense that we really don’t know what went on) in honour of Neptune
  • ludi Victoriae Caesaris (day 4)
  • 64 A.D. — the Great Fire of Rome (day 6)
  • 79 A.D. — martyrdom of Apollinaris
  • 303 A.D. — martyrdom of Phocas the Gardener
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This Day in Ancient History: ante diem xii kalendas sextilias

ante diem xii kalendas sextilias

  • Lucaria (day 2) — the followup to a similar festival on the 19th commemorating the Sack of Rome by the Gauls; this day marked Rome’s subsquent victory
  • ludi Victoriae Caesaris (day 2) — games instituted by/adjusted by Octavian to honour his adoptive father shortly after the latter’s death (possibly moving Caesar’s own ludi Veneris Genetricis)
  • 64 A.D. — the Great Fire of Rome (day 4)

Pompeii Poop

University of Queensland

Image via Wikipedia

Tip o’ the pileus to the fine folks over at Blogging Pompeii for bringing our attention to an article in the Discovery Channel Magazine highlighting the work of Dr Andy Fairbairn and crew who have been poking around the potties of Pompeii to learn more about what the folks were eating etc. … very interesting article (pdf).

Amphora 9.1

In addition to the job listings (see below), new at the APA site today is the latest edition of Amphora, which appears to be the only one we’ll be seeing this year, alas, due to financial constraints … I’m still trying to decide whether it is reasonable to expect folks to pay 10.00 for two issues; I also wonder if this actually needs to be a print publication at all … it would look awfully nice on an iPad …

Classical Words on Youtube

One of the logos of Merriam–Webster.

Image via Wikipedia

Well, today my twitterfeed and Facebook feed has been inundated with this video on the plural of octopus (tip o’ the pileus to Terrence Lockyer, Francesca Tronchin, and a few others):

… fwiw, being a Classicist, rogue or otherwise, using octopodes is one of the few times you get to use your Greek plural endings in public, so that’s what I do.  And just so you don’t have to just blindly believe an editor at Merriam-Webster, here’s amicus noster Terrence Lockyer’s comments on matters similar brought up on the Classics list a year and a half ago, inter alia:

People will tell you that this should be “octopi”,
because it is from Latin, and Latin words ending “-us”
are pluralized in “-i”. This, however, ignores two
facts: (1) in Latin, common words ending “-us” may
belong to one of three different classes (called
declensions), and while it is true that the most common
class (the second declension masculine) pluralizes in
“-i”, the others simply do not – the second class
(third declension neuter) pluralizes in “-ra” (e. g.,
“opus > opera” [work], “corpus > corpora” [body], to
mention two words adopted by English), while the third
class has plurals spelled with “-us” like the
singulars, though pronounced slightly differently; and
(2) “octopus” is not originally a Latin word at all,
and does not belong to any Latin class.

In fact, “octopus” comes from ancient Greek (where it
could mean an eight-legged thing, specifically an
octopus, or a scorpion), and contains the elements
“octo” (eight) and “pous” (foot, leg: this is also
found in the famous name “Oedipus”, from Greek
“Oidipous”, but it is less common to pluralize personal
names; and the Latin equivalent is the word “pes”,
plural “pedes”, from which English gets words like
“pedal” and “pedestrian”). The hyperpedantic who wish
to pluralize “octopus” strictly according to derivation
should therefore use the correct Greek plural, which
would be “octopodes” (pronounced “ok-top-odd-es”), or
in English perhaps “octopods”. For the rest of us,
“octopuses” will do just fine.

That said, it has just come to my attention that this ‘ask the editor’ thing is an ongoing series from the fine folks at Merriam-Webster and there are a couple of others worth taking a look at. This one, ferinstance, looks at the Classical Roots of some English words:

Here’s one  that’s another one of my personal bugbears (and I don’t have any qualms about correcting folks):


CFP: Gods in Ruins

Seen on Classicists (please send any responses to the people/institution mentioned in the post, not to rogueclassicism!)

Gods in Ruins: The archaeology of religious activity in Protohistoric,

Archaic, and Republican central Italy


Gods in Ruins is a two-day conference to be held over March 20-22, 2011 at
Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

This conference invites presentation of the results of current or ongoing
work on archaeological evidence for religious activities in central Italy,
with a particular view to advancing scholarly debate on periods, places,
and phenomena under-represented in the literary sources. We aim to bring
together researchers across a range of fields including archaeology, art
history, history, anthropology, archaeozoology, and religious studies; and
to stimulate discussion of shared methodological concerns as well as
sharing new results.

Topics for discussion may include, but are not limited to:
• Methodologies for an archaeology of religion
• Cult sites
• Ritual objects and their cultural biographies
• Votives and dedicators
• Religious landscapes

We welcome abstracts from advanced postgraduate students, postdoctoral
researchers, and early career academics whose work engages in whole or in
part with the material remains of religious activities – sanctuaries,
religious architecture, votives, and organic and inorganic residue of
ritual practices – from any period or region in central Italy prior to
c.200 B.C. The language of the conference will be English. Presentations
will be limited to 20 minutes and followed by time for questions and
discussion. Abstracts of approximately 300 words should be sent to
charlotte.potts AT by September 30, 2010 with ‘Gods in Ruins’ as
the email’s subject.

Please note that this will be a residential conference at Lady Margaret
Hall, Oxford. Generous support from Oxford’s Craven Committee means that we
hope to subsidise accommodation for speakers with accepted papers on a pro
rata basis.

CONF: Second Qumran Institute Symposium

Seen on Classicists (please send any responses to the people/institution mentioned in the post, not to rogueclassicism!)

Second Qumran Institute Symposium, 21-22 October 2010

Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Groningen, the Netherlands

The Jewish War against Rome (66-70/74): Interdisciplinary Perspectives

For more information on the conference, short abstracts and to register, please go to


Thursday, 21 October 2010

8.30 Coffee and tea

9.15-9.30 Opening

9.30-10.15 1. Steve Mason: History as Narrative or Argument? Using Josephus for the History of Roman Judaea
10.15-11.00 2. Jan Willem van Henten: Rebellion under Herod the Great and Archelaus: Analogies, Tropes and Josephus’ Reliability
11.00-11.30 Break

11.30-12.15 3. Julia Wilker: Josephus, the Herodians and the Jewish War
12.15-13.00 4. Daniel Schwartz: Josephus on Albinus: The Eve of Catastrophe in Changing Retrospect

14.30-15.15 5. Robert Deutsch: The Coinage of the First Jewish Revolt, 66–73 c.e.
15.15-16.00 6. Donald Ariel: Identifying the Mints, Minters and Meanings of the First Jewish Revolt Coins
16.00-16.30 Break
16.30-17.15 7. Jodi Magness: A Reconsideration of Josephus’ Testimony about Masada
17.15-18.00 8. Pieter van der Horst: Philosophia epeisaktos: Some Notes on Josephus, A.J. 18.9
18.00 Reception

19.30 Dinner

Friday, 22 October 2010

8.30 Coffee and tea

9.15-10.00 9. Andrea Berlin: Identity Politics in Early Roman Galilee

10.00-10.45 10. Jonathan Price: The Jewish Population of Jerusalem from the First Century b.c.e. to the Early Second Century c.e.
10.45-11.15 Break

11.15-12.00 11. Werner Eck: Die römischen Repräsentanten in Judaea: Provokateure oder Vertreter der römischen Macht?
12.00-12.45 12. Brian Schultz: Not Greeks but Romans: Changing Expectations for the Eschatological War in the War Texts from Qumran

14.30-15.15 13. George H. van Kooten: The Earliest Literary Witnesses to the Jewish War: Mark, 2 Thessalonians and the Revelation of John
15.15-16.00 14. James McLaren: Going to War against Rome: The Motivation of the Jewish Rebels
16.00-16.30 Break
16.30-17.15 15. Uriel Rappaport: Who Were the Sicarii: Terrorists? Urban Terrorists? A Suicidal Sect (Group)? Religiously Motivated? Dynastic? Messianic? Territorial?
17.15 Reception

19.00 Dinner

Scythian Burial from Kazakhstan

From Eurasianet:

Archeologists in Kazakhstan have discovered the grave of a gold-clad ancient Scythian warrior who has already earned himself a nickname: “The Sun Lord.” Researchers uncovered the find in a Scythian grave consisting of seven burial mounds in Karaganda Region east of the capital, Astana.

The opulence of the warrior’s burial indicates that he was a leader as well as a fighter, expedition leader Arman Beysenov explained. “He was probably a ruler and a warrior simultaneously,” Beysenov said in remarks quoted by the Kazinform news agency on July 16. “The person’s torso was entirely covered with gold. The figure of a leader like this was associated with the sun. He was a sort of ‘sun lord.’”

The warrior was likely buried in the 4th or 5th century BC in a grave that was actually discovered half a century ago, though excavation work only started last year.

Robbers had looted the grave in ancient times, Beysenov said, but it still contained quite a horde of ancient treasure. One of the burial mounds alone yielded 130 gold objects that included the figure of a feline predator, pendants and parts of sword belts. Archeologists also found hundreds of gold beads and 14 bronze arrowheads in the grave.

Inevitably, the archeological discovery is being trumpeted as comparable to that of the Golden Man, found in the Issyk burial mound just outside Kazakhstan’s commercial capital, Almaty, in 1969. The Golden Man, who’s believed to have been a young Scythian prince who lived in the 4th or 5th century BC, was interred wearing some 4,000 gold ornaments.

He has become a national symbol — the image of the Golden Man, with his trademark conical gold headdress, decorates the monument to independence on Almaty’s Republic Square, and in 2006 President Nursultan Nazarbayev unveiled a statue of him outside the Kazakh Embassy in Washington. The original is on display at Almaty’s Museum of Gold.

Archeologists are now hoping that their digs in eastern Kazakhstan will reveal more information about the glorious “Sun Lord,” the latest find from the Scythian past.

… no photos, alas, but here’s a photo of the monument in Almaty’s Republic Square if you need some imagination prodding …

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem xiii kalendas sextilias

NYC - Metropolitan Musuem of Art - Scenes from...
Image by wallyg via Flickr
ante diem xiii kalendas sextilias

  • ludi Victoriae Caesaris (day 1)
  • 1262 B.C. — based on the ‘Canicular Cycle’ (a.k.a. the Sothic cycle) of the Egyptians, this day is suggested for the foundation of the Pythian Games and the embarkation of Jason and the Argonauts (!)
  • 356 B.C. — birth of Alexander the Great (one suggested date)
  • 64 A.D. — the Great Fire of Rome (day 3)
  • 1304 — birth of Petrarch