Space History and Ancient History Collide

Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean holds a special ...
Image via Wikipedia

Tip o’ the pileus to Richard Campbell for pointing this one out … Sands of Time is one of those online art dealers who regularly sell ancient items and currently they’re offering a very interesting little mosaic which is labelled as first century A.D. and “possibly” coming from Volubilis. So far, nothing overly surprising or exciting … as described, though, the mosaic was once owned by astronaut Alan Bean, who was given the mosaic by the king of Morocco back in 1969. The description has some words from Bean:

“In November of 1969, I became the 4th human to walk on the moon as the Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 12. After the flight, Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon, and I along with our wives were invited to spend the night at The White House by President and Mrs. Nixon.

In the evening, after dinner, The President asked us to visit the leadership of 21 countries around the world, as his direct personal representatives, to relate the story of our moon landing mission. To facilitate this Assignment we would use an Air Force One with two complete flight crews and a number of State Department coordinators. As representatives of The President of the United States we were treated with much celebration and respect everywhere we went.

In Morocco, King Hussan II presented me and my wife Sue with, among many other gifts, a handsome Byzantine Mosaic Panel with an image of a short-legged bird, possibly a Duck. I later learned that the Duck is a symbol of Vigilance and Watchfulness in early Christian Art…”

Photos of the piece at Sands of Time

Classics and Wikileaks II

Here’s an interesting detail about Mr Assange that just popped into my mailbox:

Mr. Assange’s exploits were detailed in a 1997 book he co-authored called Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier. The book chronicles some of the most notorious hacking incidents of the 1980s and 90s – back when Mr. Assange went by the nickname Mendax, from the poet Horace’s “splendide mendax,” or “nobly untruthful.” In his introduction to the book, Mr. Assange quotes Oscar Wilde: “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”

via CTV News | 2010 may go down in history as the year of the hacker.

…  Classicists will probably recognize splendide mendax as coming from Horace Odes 3.11, which tells the tale of those daughters of Danaus, most of whom ended up as ‘sieval engineers’ in the underworld. The ‘nobly untruthful’ one was Hypermnestra … we’ll have to see if Assange is saved by Aphrodite’s intervention …

Waterloo Institute of Hellenistic Studies Launched

From the Waterloo Record:

It was a time of change, a time when the developments of a single culture were felt, as never before, beyond its borders.

The Hellenistic Age spans the roughly 300 years between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the death of Cleopatra VII in 30 BC — not an overly-lengthy period of time, but a significant one.

It marked the first time in the western world that the changes within one society — Greece — had lasting impacts on neighbouring cultures and civilizations to come, from Spain to India.

It represented the most cross-cultural interaction that had ever been seen, at every level of life — economics, politics, religion, language, science, culture — said the University of Waterloo’s Riemer Faber.

“This period is particularly rich, both in developments and in ideas,” Faber said.

It is in recognition of the significance of this often-neglected area that a new research institute dedicated to the period has been launched at UW.

The Waterloo Institute for Hellenistic Studies is believed to be the first of its kind in North America to conduct interdisciplinary research focusing on this period, said Faber, its director.

Although it has been operating since the spring, an official launch was held Thursday night to coincide with a three-day workshop that hopes to build a framework for international collaboration in the future.

Faber said the Hellenistic Age has often been overlooked because it wasn’t the time of classical Athens, and it wasn’t the Roman Empire. But more and more, scholars are recognizing its importance — and its historic similarities to the globalization occurring in today’s world.

“It is a period in which precedents were set, or parallels created, that apply today,” Faber said. “The world view, the perspective of people, changed dramatically.”

The institute’s steering committee consists of six faculty members from UW’s Department of Classical Studies who have research interests in the period, Faber said. His specialty lies in the literature and language of the time.

There are already numerous research associates from UW and abroad with a connection to the institute, and Faber said it plans to embark on a number of collaborative projects and publications with other academic centres. There are also hopes to raise funds to support a chair for the institute and to attract visiting researchers.

The institute is developing a resource database and will also launch an online journal in the near future.

… which is interesting, given the reports a short while ago that Greek at Wilfrid Laurier — with whom Waterloo shares ‘teaching’ — is threatened. How does this work? Or do the powers that be at WLU figure this Hellenistic Studies thing will pick up the slack and save them (WLU) some money?

Pylos Helmet Dispute

This one was kind of difficult to track down because the coverage in English was so vague. The inital report in Earthtimes went thusly:

The Italian government is going to court in Berlin this week to claim an early Greek metal helmet, which it claims was stolen from an archaeological site in Italy in 1993, a court spokesman said Wednesday.

Greek-speaking trading cities existed on southern Italy’s coasts in the 7th to 6th century BC when the helmet, distinctive for its geometric style of decoration with zigzags and concentric circles, was made.

Rome is demanding the surrender of the antique helmet from the agency running Berlin’s museums and the legal executors for a private art collector who has died, the spokesman said.

Museum officials said the helmet is in a Berlin safe and at the disposal of the Berlin public prosecutor. Justice authorities seized the spherical helmet in 2003 at Rome’s request.

A city newspaper, the Tagesspiegel, said it was very rare and practically priceless. It is believed it passed through various hands before a Berlin art-dealer obtained it for his private collection.

Italy noticed the item when his assets were offered at auction after his death.

Geometric style is a mark of very old Greek pottery and metalwork.

A few days later, their sister publication Monsters and Critics gave the outcome (while repeating much of the initial stuff too):

A German court rejected a demand by Rome Thursday for the return of an ancient Greek metal helmet allegedly stolen from an archaeological site in Italy in 1993.

The Berlin administrative tribunal said the Italian government’s claim had arrived too late. Rome will be able to appeal the ruling. The heirs of a private art collector say the helmet is theirs.

Greek-speaking trading cities existed on southern Italy’s coasts in the 7th to 6th century BC when the helmet, distinctive for its geometric style of decoration with zigzags and concentric circles, was made.

Public prosecutors in Berlin seized the spherical helmet at Rome’s request in 2003 and put it in a museum safe while the parties argued ownership in the courts.

Italy said it was stolen from an excavation site instead of being offered to the government. [...]

The initial German coverage was in Der Tagesspiegel:

Italien klagt gegen die Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz und das Land Berlin. Die Stiefelrepublik fordert von Berlin die antike Beute von Ausgrabungen zurück. Streitobjekt ist ein griechischer Kegelhelm aus der geometrischen Epoche, also aus den Jahren 675 bis 900 vor Christus. Er soll aus einer Raubgrabung in Süditalien aus dem Jahr 1993 stammen und illegal nach Berlin gekommen sein, sagt die Münchener Anwältin Levke Voß, die das italienische Kulturministerium vertritt. Nächsten Donnerstag wird der Fall erstmals im Verwaltungsgericht verhandelt.

Die Geschichte um den antiken Schutzhelm ist verworren. Weder genaue Herkunft noch damalige Funktion sind geklärt, schon gar nicht der Eigentümer. Es handele sich um einen „ganz seltenen Helm“ mit unschätzbarem Wert, sagt Anwältin Levke Voß lediglich. Der Pilos- Helm, wie er auch genannt wird, könnte sowohl im Krieg als auch als Prestigeobjekt getragen worden sein, vermutet Martin Maischberger von der Antikensammlung der Staatlichen Museen Berlin.

Sicher ist für den Staat Italien nur: Nach der Raubgrabung vor 17 Jahren sei das „wichtige Kulturgut“ über verschiedene Händler bei einem mittlerweile verstorbenen Berliner Kunsthändler gelandet, sagt Voß. Als Teile von dessen Sammlung verkauft werden sollten, sei das Land Italien auf das vermeintlich gestohlene Objekt aufmerksam geworden. Vor sieben Jahren kam dann das Schreiben der Italiener: Sie ersuchten Berlin um Rechtshilfe, um den Helm aus dem Privatbesitz des Sammlers zurückzubekommen. Daraufhin beschlagnahmte ihn die Berliner Staatsanwaltschaft und übergab ihn 2004 der Stiftung, um ihn fachgerecht zu lagern. Die Klage sieht deshalb in ihr und im Land Berlin die „Anspruchsgegner“, sagt Anwältin Voß. Die Klage richtet sich zudem gegen die Testamentsvollstrecker der Erben.

„Nach unseren Informationen stammt der Helm aus der Raubgrabung und wurde illegal nach Deutschland eingeführt. Er steht deswegen Italien zu“, sagt Voß und pocht auf das Kulturgüterrückgabegesetz. Das besagt, dass unrechtmäßig ausgeführte kulturelle Gegenstände dem Ursprungsland zurück gegeben werden müssen. Die Gegenseite sieht das anders. Die Italiener hätten keinerlei Beweise für ihre Version der Geschichte, sagt der Anwalt der Erben. Sie selbst waren bisher nicht zu sprechen. Der Helm sei viel früher als 1993 gefunden worden und die Erben die rechtmäßigen Besitzer. Das entscheidende Datum bei Ausgrabungen ist indes das Jahr 1970, erklärt Maischberger. In Europa habe man sich Ende der 80er Jahre darauf geeinigt, alle nach 1970 illegal ausgegrabenen Kunstwerke als Raubgrabungen zu betrachten.

… it included this photo (the source is ‘privat’):

We’ll see where this one goes …

Curse Tablet from Lebanon

I doubt this brief item from Japan Times will get much attention elsewhere:

An excavation team from Kyoto University working in Lebanon has found a lead plate believed to date from between the second and fourth centuries that was apparently used to invoke the spirits of the dead.

The 6-cm-wide, 14.7-cm-long plate, discovered near the entrance of an underground grave, is adorned with ancient Greek text that reads “May the unjust be removed from them” and “May signs of a gag and shame, and disgrace be given to them,” along with the names of four people, the team said Tuesday.

Hiroshima University associate professor Hiroshi Maeno said, “Common people in a weak position may have made a wish for the supernatural to accomplish what they were unable to.”

The article includes a photo from Kyoto University:

… not sure ‘invoke the spirits of the dead’ is the best way to describe this. We’re clearly looking at a lead curse tablet … for comparanda, see, e.g. one from Leicester or a very interesting one from Cyprus.

This Day in Ancient History:

ante diem vi idus decembres

  • Rites in honour of Tiberinus and Gaia — not a lot is known about these rites; Tiberinus had a temple on the Tiber island and presided over the Tiber (of course); Gaia seems to have originally given the Campus Martius (a.k.a. Campus Tiberinus) to the Roman people.
  • 65 B.C. — birth of the poet Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus)

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Elgin Marbles Redux: It Ain’t So

Amazingly brief item in Kathimerini:

The Culture Ministry yesterday rebuffed a report in the Times newspaper suggesting that Minister Pavlos Geroulanos had offered to forgo its claims to the Parthenon Marbles, which are on display at the British Museum, in return for a long-term loan of the artifacts. Sources at the ministry told Skai that the government has not changed its position regarding its demand for the return of the Marbles. The museum said it had not been informed of any official proposal by the Greek government.

via: Ministry denies reviewing position on Parthenon artifacts | Kathimerini

(tip o’ the pileus to ArchaeoinGreece on Twitter)


This Day in Ancient History: ante diem vii idus decembres

Marcus Tullius Cicero, by Bertel Thorvaldsen a...

Image via Wikipedia

ante diem vii idus decembres

  • 424 B.C. — accession of Darius II (according to one reckoning)
  • 424 B.C. — battle of Amphipolis (according to one reckoning)
  • 424 B.C. — battle of Delium (according to one reckoning)
  • 43 B.C. — death of Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero) as he half-heartedly fled the proscription of Marcus Antonius et al.
  • 1985 — death of Robert Graves (I Claudius, among others)
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Greece Gives Up Ownership Claim of Elgin Marbles?!

Really? Bloomberg reporting on something in the (now behind a payfer wall) Times:

Greece offered to end the long- running dispute with Britain over the Elgin Marbles by saying it would forgo its claim in return for a long-term loan of the artefacts, once a frieze on the Parthenon, the London-based Times reported, citing Greek Culture Minister Pavlos Yeroulanos.

The frieze was removed in 1801 by British diplomat Lord Elgin with the permission of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, which then ruled Greece, and shipped to London after parliament agreed to buy them. Greece regards them as having been looted, the newspaper said.

The marbles have remained in London’s British Museum ever since and the museum’s curators said in a statement that no new approach had been made, and there was no reason to suppose the Trustees would change their view that the sculptures must stay in the museum, the Times said.

The Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, was completed in 438 BC.

via Greece Offers to Forgo Claim to Ownership of Elgin Marbles, Times Reports – Bloomberg.

… I think this is a ‘wait and see’ situation …

Rethinking Naukratis

Interesting item from EurekAlert which will likely be picked up by a few sources:

Naukrtis, a Greek trade emporium on Egyptian soil, has long captured the imagination of archaeologists and historians. Not only is the presence of a Greek trading settlement in Egypt during the 7th and 6th century B.C.E. surprising, but the Greeks that lived there in harmony hailed from several Greek states which traditionally warred amongst themselves.

Dr. Alexander Fantalkin of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology is delving deeper into this unique piece of ancient history to come up with a new explanation for how Naukrtis developed, and how its inhabitants managed to operate on foreign soil and create a new sense of common identity.

The Greeks that inhabited Naukrtis, explains Dr. Fantalkin, may have come from warring city states at home, but they formed a trade settlement in Egypt under the protection of powerful Eastern empires. This link not only brought them together as a culture, but explains how they were allowed to operate in the midst of Egyptian territory. Dr. Fantalkin’s theory was recently presented at the Cultural Contexts in Antiquity conference in Innsbruck, Austria, and will soon be published in the proceedings of the conference.

Making the best of oppression

Naukrtis is remarkable for two main reasons, Dr. Fantalkin says. First, the Egyptian empire allowed Greeks to operate a lucrative trade emporium at the delta of the Nile, complete with special privileges. Second, the Greeks who lived there, though from different tribes, lived and worshipped together, pointing to the emergence of a national Greek identity. The city also acted as a symbiotic nexus for the interchange of Greek and Egyptian art and culture.

How this arrangement came to be has always puzzled researchers, Dr. Fantalkin notes, explaining his new theory about Naukrtis. In Eastern Greece, the Greeks were plagued by powerful Eastern empires such as Lydia, which was located in the central and western parts of current day Turkey. The Greeks were forced to operate under the Lydian regime, paying tribute to their overlords.

Despite this situation, the so-called Eastern Greeks continued to lead advances in material culture and intellectual achievements. They were also politically savvy, Dr. Fantalkin says, when it came to economics. At the time Naukrtis was created, Lydia had a formal alliance with the Egyptian empire. A select group of Greek businessmen used this connection to set up a trade emporium ― they paid tribute to their Lydian benefactors and were guaranteed rights and freedoms as Greek representatives of the Lydian empire. Thus, they made the best of an oppressive regime.

The land of the free?

Previous theories suggested that the Greek traders settled in Naukratis of their own free will, creating a brotherhood of merchants in the process, indifferent to interstate rivalries at home and bound firmly by a common interest in trade. In reality, Prof. Fantalkin speculates, they operated as formal representatives of the Lydian power.

“On one hand,” he continues, “the Greeks were given new opportunities for trade. On the other, they owed taxes to the empire that ruled over them. This was not a free settlement of Greek merchants as was previously thought, but an organized move on behalf of a more formidable empire.”

Naukratis, in his opinion, should be considered a unique and particularly important instance of “contact zones” in antiquity, in which Greek trade, although controlled by the Egyptians and mediated to a certain extant by the Lydians, both contributed to and profited from the imperial ambitions of others.

The British Museum has a nice project focusing on Naukratis …

Yet Another Collapse at Pompeii!!!

The incipit of a piece from ANSA:

Pompeii on Friday saw its fourth wall collapse this week, the cultural heritage branch of the UIL trade union reported in Rome.

UIL said it had already warned of dangers to the wall before the 2,000-year-old site’s famed Gladiators’ School caved in and spurred an international outcry on November 6.

The wall that came down Friday was “some 20 metres from the school,” UIL said.

It was about three metres long, three metres high and supported part of the House of Trebius Valens.

“There is an emergency, horrifying the world, that is not being tackled,” UIL said.

The latest collapse took place as UNESCO inspectors began the second day of their tour of the world heritage site to report back on its maintenance and conservation.

Some international experts suggested taking Pompeii’s care out of Italy’s hands after the school collapse which President Giorgio Napolitano called “a national disgrace”.

… it goes on with the sort of handwringing we’ve already heard about, for the most part. What’s REALLY INTERESTING about all this, though, is the collapse is at the House of Trebius Valens. In our post pondering the collapses from the other day, we referenced a webpage which presented a first person account of the damage incurred at Pompeii during WWII. We also suggested that the buildings restored after WWII might be the ones which were having this collapsing issue. Well guess what … the House of Trebius Valens was one of the houses damaged during WWII and subsequently fixed. Is anyone (besides me) making the connection that perhaps the materials used in the post-WWII repairs are contributing to this problem? Just for those of you who want to keep score, these are the buildings mentioned in the account:

  • Gladiator’s Training School
  • House Rex Tiburtinus
  • House of Trebius Valens
  • House of Epidius Rufus
  • Temple of Jupiter
  • Temple of Apollo
  • House of Triptolemus
  • Temple of Hercules
  • House of Sallust
  • House of Pansa

UPDATE: Dr Tronchin informs us that the so-called House of Rex Tiburtinus mentioned above is now generally referred to as the House of Loreius Tiburtinus or Octavius Quartio … folks also will want to see Martin Conde’s links to photos of the WWII damage (and other items) which are appended in the comments to our previous post on this.


From Explorator 13.33

As many of my readers know, in addition to rogueclassicism I put out a weekly newsletter called Explorator in which I hubristicly try to cover the whole world of archaeology in the popular press. As might be imagined, much of what gets posted to rogueclassicism appears there (including additional links to similar stories), but items also appear in Explorator which are of Classical interest which don’t make it to rogueclassicism for various reasons (e.g. lack of time, editorial letheia, etc.).  Whatever the case, at one time I used to post excerpts therefrom at rc and had stopped doing it for some reason (can’t remember why … it was something ‘technical’) but now I resume … hopefully you’ll find something of interest:

Thanks to Arthur Shippee, Dave Sowdon,Diana Wright, Patrick Swann,
Edward Rockstein, Joan Griffith,Rick Heli,Hernan Astudillo, Feral Boy,
John Hall, Kurt Theis, Keely Lake,John McMahon, Barnea Selavan,
Joseph Lauer, Mike Ruggeri, Richard Campbell,Richard C. Griffiths,
Bob Heuman, Rochelle Altman,and Ross W. Sargent for headses upses
this week (as always hoping I have left no one out).

More collapses at Pompeii this week:

… so UNESCO went on an inspection:

They’re looking for Agrigento’s theatre again:

Plenty of opEds about Italy’s cultural heritage problems:

… and there was an interview with Andrew Wallace-Hadrill on the problems:

… and we’re hearing of a ‘plan':

… while they deny problems are due to budget cuts:

… while an Italian shoe tycoon is offering to restore the Colosseum:

Polychromic and gilded statuary from Corinth:

Somewhat vague item on Roman and Byzantine finds from al-Gharia (Syria):

Elevating Arsinoe’s status:

On the return of Latin to primary schools in the UK:

… and every child deserves classics too, of course:

No Romans needed to explain Chinese blondes:

Eubulides makes the New York Times:

What Kurt Raaflaub is up to:

Robert Garland has been working on Hannibal:

An interview with Stacy Schiff:

… and reviews, of course:–the-real-cleopatra-power-not-beauty

… and now opEd pieces based thereon:

Review of Anne Carson, *An Oresteia*:

Review of Tom Payne, *Fame*:

Review of James Romm, *The Landmark Arrian*:

More on that legionary bath in Jerusalem:

Latest reviews from Scholia:

Latest reviews from BMCR:


Museums are lining up to host the Staffordshire Hoard:

… and the Hoard won the “Acquisition of the Year” award:

The Cleopatra exhibit is heading to Cincinnati:

Budget cuts:
Past issues of Explorator are available on the web via our
Yahoo site:

To subscribe to Explorator, send a blank email message to:

To unsubscribe, send a blank email message to:

Roman Imperial Horses?

Potentially interesting item from the Telegraph:

The Maremmano horses of Lazio, the region around Rome, are believed to be the descendants of steeds ridden by emperors such as Marcus Aurelius 2,000 years ago.

Their distinctive characteristics include a strong build, a broad chest, thick manes and tails, and robust legs.

The archetype of the breed can be seen in many of Rome’s bronze and marble equestrian statues, most notably one of Marcus Aurelius which stands in front of the city’s town hall, in a piazza designed by Michelangelo in the 1530s for Pope Paul III.

Genetic studies have shown that the breed is unique to the Maremma, a marshy region which straddles the border between Lazio and Tuscany.

They are different even to a breed of horses in the Tuscan part of the Maremma, which is famous in Italy for its home-grown cowboys, known as “butteri”, skilled horsemen who manage the region’s herds of sheep and huge white bulls.

The Lazio horses are about to be officially recognised as a separate breed by the Association of Italian Breeders.

The genetic make-up of more than 130 of the horses was studied by Donato Matassino, from the agriculture department of a university in Naples.

He is preparing to publish the results in an American science periodical.

“We’re establishing a regional register for the protection of the genome, which is unique to Lazio,” he told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Breeders hope that the historic link with Rome’s emperors will increase the value of the horses and help to preserve the breed.

via Roman emperors’ horses to be recognised as distinct breed – Telegraph.

… only ‘potentially interesting’ because most sites on the Marremmano horses will tell you that it is a mixed breed (Spanish, Barb, Arabian with some Thoroughbred added for good measure) and that the breed didn’t become ‘fixed’ until the late nineteenth century. See, e.g., the Breeds Guide and, of course, Wikipedia, among others.

Wallace-Hadrill on Pompeii’s Problems

Via Blogging Pompeii and Adrian Murdoch comes an audio interview with Andrew Wallace-Hadrill on Vatican Radio:

Inter alia, Wallace-Hadrill says “The whole site is at risk” … “What’s missing is a proper system of maintenance and monitoring …” He also notes that  Pompeii is relatively well-off financially compared to other sites in Italy, but the money could be spent better.

Searching for Agrigento’s Theatre and Hippodrome

Interesting item from the Telegraph:

Alexander Hardcastle spent a decade searching for the fabled theatre, which is said to be buried beneath the remains of Akragas, a city established by Greek colonists six centuries before Christ on the southern coast of Sicily.

The World Heritage site is best known for the Valley of the Temples, a cluster of five Doric temples which draws tens of thousands of tourists each year.

Hardcastle, a former soldier who had served with the Royal Engineers in the Boer War, believed that remains of the stone-built theatre had survived, despite Akragas being shaken by earthquakes, sacked by the Carthaginians and plundered for its stone.

The Harrow-educated gentleman scholar, who was born in Belgravia, spent a fortune on the quest between 1920 and 1930, but lost all his money when his family’s bank collapsed in the wake of the financial crash of 1929.

He died in poverty in a mental asylum in the town of Agrigento, which overlooks the ancient site, in 1933.

He had achieved a restoration of the city, partly rebuilding temples, uncovering perimeter walls and clearing ancient roads, but found no trace of the legendary theatre.

Now a team of archaeologists is to resume the hunt, embarking in the next few months on a dig that will be funded by a two million euro grant from the European Union.

The team will be led by Giuseppe Castellana, 64, the director of the Valley of the Temples Archeological Park.

“We want to resume the research started by Alexander Hardcastle in the coming months. It will be a way of honouring his memory,” Prof Castellana, who has been involved in more than 80 digs over the last 30 years, told La Stampa newspaper.

“The discovery would go down in history and it would also benefit the modern city of Agrigento, which needs to survive on archaeological tourism but hasn’t managed to make the most of its enormous potential,” he added.

Akragas was described by the ancient Greek poet Pindar as “the most beautiful city in the world inhabited by mortals” and scholars think it highly likely that it would have boasted a theatre.

The archaeologists also hope to unearth evidence of a hippodrome, a stadium for horse and chariot racing.

Excavations were carried out at the site in the 1970s and 1980s but archaeologists found no evidence of the theatre or hippodrome

via: Archaeologists to embark on quest for 2,500-year-old lost Greek theatre – Telegraph.

One of the books I’ve been keeping my eye open for (but still haven’t seen) is Alexandra Richardson, Passionate Patron: The Life of Alexander Hardcastle … Hardcastle is one of those names that you ‘hear once’ while wandering around the sites of Agrigento, making a note to ‘look him up’ when you return home, only to find very little info about him generally available. He is on Facebook (of course, along with a myriad other dead scholars like Franz Cumont and William Warde Fowler), but I’m waiting for him to accept my friend request  …

Classics and Wikileaks

Logo used by Wikileaks

Image via Wikipedia

Excerpt from the end of an opEd piece in the Guardian:

We could be entering a period of history as in the ancient world where people relied on the oral tradition and eventually wrote down some time later what they thought people might have said or thought. Did Thucydides actually hear Pericles’ funeral oration or was he repeating what others had told him about it? Through a process of Chinese whispers messages can be transmogrified beyond recognition …

via WikiLeaks could kill the goose that laid the golden egg | Guardian.

… and the incipit of an item in the Huffington Post:

Aeschylus wrote nearly 2,500 years ago that in war, “truth is the first casualty.” His words are no doubt known to another wise man, whose strategic “maneuvers within a changing information environment” would not be an utterly foreign concept to the Greeks in the Peloponnesian War. Aeschylus and Thucydides would no doubt wonder at the capacity of the Information Age to spread truth and disinformation alike. In November 2010, it’s clear that legitimate concerns about national security must be balanced with the spirit of open government expressed by the Obama administration.

via What Wikileaks and Cablegate Mean for Open Government | Huffington Post

Secret Inspection at Pompeii?

As news filters out of an impending ‘official inspection’ of the condition of Pompeii, La Stampa includes an interesting detail:

L’ispezione è coperta da stretto riserbo. Nessun contatto con la stampa, anzi l’annuncio, fatto filtrare, che non ci saranno dichiarazioni prima dell’invio della relazione all’Unesco. Alle 14 la Soprintendente ha dato disposizione di bloccare l’accesso al sito per operatori televisivi e fotografi a caccia di immagini del gruppo di ispettori, che si sono dissimulati tra i circa sei mila visitatori quotidiani del sito archeologico, dove oggi è tornato a splendere il sole dopo una pioggia quasi ininterrotta di 15 giorni. Gli ispettori dell’Unesco visiteranno anche i siti archeologici di Ercolano, in parte della giornata di domani, e di Stabiae, e resteranno in Campania fino a sabato. Il ministro Bondi – la cui mozione di sfiducia ad personam è stata bloccata dalla decisione di fermare l’attività della Camera fino al 14 dicembre quando si voterà la mozione di sfiducia al governo – ha spiegato che nell’ambito delle decisioni di oggi c’è anche quella di continuare a lavorare al progetto di una Fondazione per il sito archeologico di Pompei sul modello di quanto già fatto con il Museo Egizio di Torino.

via “In arrivo una task force per Pompei”-

Why the ‘strict secrecy’? Why don’t they want the press (even just one select crew) present? They’re not helping their cause …

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem iii nonas decembres

Julius Caesar, from the bust in the British Mu...
Image via Wikipedia
ante diem iii nonas decembres

  • Possible date for rites in honour of the bona dea: essentially private rituals for Roman women only held in the house of a consul or praetor and attended by the Vestal Virgins and assorted upper class types. The actual date does not appear to have been ‘fixed’ and, of course, this ritual was ‘crashed’ by P. Clodius (dressed as a woman) in 62 B.C. with all sorts of nasty spinoffs, not least of which was the Julius Caesar’s divorce from his wife Pompeia.
  • 313 A.D. — death of the retired emperor Diocletian
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