Tour de France Gladiator Style

Tour De France 2 (Crop)

Image by Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr

I saw a brief mention of this a week or so ago with a video that couldn’t be embedded … now  we’ve found a very nice Youtube video of the very Roman-themed presentation of the Tour de France teams at the Grand Parc du Puy du Fou. :

The Youtube one is over an hour long, but has a lot in it … follow the other link if you just want the gist.

Everyone Jump on the Omnibus!

Saw this at the Save RHUL Classics facebook page … Boris Johnson writes in the TES:

We now have barely a year until we welcome the world to London for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and it is testimony to the incredible speed of preparations that we have virtually finished the construction of the athletes’ village. In fact, we are even test-marketing it as new homes for London families to move into as soon as the park reopens in 2013.

One quadrangle of housing is particularly exciting because, I am proud to say, like all truly megalomaniacal politicians I played a part in designing it.

It was three years ago that they brought me the architects’ drawings. I felt like Napoleon III looking at Haussmann’s sketches, or Pericles himself beholding the plans to redevelop the Acropolis. I could see it was going to be a fantastic place to live. Nearby is the Westfield shopping centre, the Stratford railway hub, and Anish Kapoor’s Orbit tower sprouting like some mutant red trombone.

And yet, as I looked at the drawings I couldn’t help feeling that something was missing. Where was that sense of history, the indication that this village was the direct descendant of the sacred groves of Ancient Greece? Where was the Olympic spirit?

I tried to explain my feelings to the great David Higgins, then chief executive of the ODA and a brilliant mind. He said, you want Greek sculptures on the flats in the village? I do, I said. Whereabouts, he asked. How about on the walls, I said. Anything in particular, he asked.

I reflected – the Discobolos of Myron or the Farnese Heracles? They wouldn’t go on a wall. I realised, it had to be the Parthenon. Get me Phidias, Ictinus, Callicrates. Let’s have the metopes or the frieze. No worries, said David Higgins. And to my amazement, he went away and found the right frieze – frieze a jolly good fellow!

So, if you look up at our Olympic village you will see the horsemen of the Panathenaic frieze. It thrills me to see them up there because we can offer to house the Greek team there during the Games. But more so because those horsemen remind us of the greatest epoch of the civilisation that made our own and how nearly that Athenian civilisation was conquered.

There are 192 horsemen, chariot passengers, grooms and marshalls on the Panathenaic frieze – the exact number of the Athenian Hoplite dead at the Battle of Marathon, when Athenians under Miltiades saw off the barbarian hordes of the Persians, killing at least 6,400 of them.

The TES revealed last month that Latin was now taught in more comprehensives than independent and grammar schools, because of the work of charities like the Iris Project that offer extracurricular tuition. In recent years classicists have had some remarkable successes. Classics for All has raised £300,000 this year to help get classics into schools. Barbara Bell’s primary Latin course Minimus has sold 125,000 copies.

The Iris Project has set up Latin teaching in 40 primary schools in boroughs across London, including Hackney, Brent and Tower Hamlets. The Cambridge School Classics Project has almost doubled its take-up from 600 schools to 1,115. We have saved the A-level in ancient history, and the new English Baccalaureate ranks Latin, Greek and ancient history with other mainstream subjects.

This is not a bad record for supporters of a subject that is meant to be dying – and with scarcely a penny of taxpayers’ money. But these hardy and hunted classical guerrillas, Odyssean in their cunning and tenacity, must step up the fight because we have not won – far from it. We still have 70 classics teachers retiring every year and just 30 being trained to replace them. The Training and Development Agency for Schools has once again cut places for potential classics teachers, meaning more schools in the maintained sector must use non-specialist teachers to try to satisfy demand.

It has been said that very few parents are pushing for the subject and few pupils want to study it, but how to accurately judge when so little is still taught in the maintained sector: 75 per cent of state schools offer no classical education at all, but 70 per cent of the fee-paying sector does.

This is not a debate about the classics versus design, technology, or indeed any other subject. But I believe fervently that a training in classics is one of the best, if not the best, that a young mind can have. It is a universal spanner for so many other languages, and it also gives young people access not just to London’s Roman history, but to an understanding of world history, from our ideas about democracy to the Arab Spring.

It can equip a young mind to run the greatest city on earth, thanks to a knowledge of a civilisation that was in so many ways like our own and yet so very different. It is not right that a great degree course, great careers and the untold riches of the classical world should be effectively restricted to a small minority of kids from fee-paying schools.

That’s why we are appealing to all who have an interest – those who still dimly remember their Latin tolling like the bell of some sea-drowned church – to get involved in a new scheme we are bringing in from the next academic year. As part of our volunteering programme Team London, we want them to consider helping to teach Latin and Ancient Greek to young people across the capital.

The aim is to reach 2,500 kids in the first year, opening them up not just to the ancient world, but to a way of approaching problems and ideas that will serve them well for the future. And if it’s good enough for the children of Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow, why not other kids? So come on, get on board. Yes, get on board the omnibus.

Another Burrito Burial from Gabii

From Adnkronos:

Archaeologists have discovered an ancient Roman sarcophagus in the central Italian Lazio region surrounding Rome. It is the second burial casket discovered during a major dig being coordinated by the University of Michigan.

The casket was uncovered in the area of Lazio believed to the site of the ancient Roman city of Gabii, located 18 kilometres east of Rome.

Both caskets are made of lead and are believed to date from the 1st or 2nd century AD.

The second casket was found just a few metres from the first one, which was unearthed in 2009 by archaelogists working on the same dig, the ‘Gabii Project’, which began in 2007.

According the site director, archaeologist Anna Gallone, the two sarcophagi are examples of a unique local burial custom found in Gabii.

“The massive use of lead in the tombs is unique, it has never been seen before in central Italy,” Gallone told Adnkronos International (AKI).

Gabii was a rival of ancient Rome and the original site extended over 60 or 70 hectares.

The complex history of this important city is currently being investigated by team led by Nic Terrenato of the University of Michigan, made up of over 70 American students and 20 graduates and archaeologists.

“It is probably the largest US-led excavation in Italy,” Gallone told AKI.

For last year’s discovery: Burrito Burial From Gabii

The Gabii Project’s blog continues to be a useful thing to check out when the digging season is on (although I don’t think this discovery has been mentioned yet); also worth a look is their facebook page

Caligula Tomb/Statue Redux

This is one of the reasons I love the summer …. I can happily blog things as they land in my email box. In this case, Martin Conde has alerted us to the fact the the MIBAC has formally presented that statue of Caligula — which was supposed to be an indication of the discovery of his tomb back in January — to the press. The coverage in La Repubblica does have some useful updates:  they’ve found all sorts of fragments of things in the area where the tombarolo said the statue came from and what might be a nymphaeum (as opposed to a mausoleum).  Perhaps more interestingly, they’ve found the name of the “first owner”, a certain “Julius Gaius Silanus”, which seems to me to be more likely Gaius Julius Silanus, which is interesting given that assorted Julii Silanii are prominent in the late Republic and early Empire.

Other than that, the piece does include a tiny, tiny photo of the various bits of the statue. As is often the case, I can’t connect to the MIBAC site myself, but Martin Conde has posted a pile of photos from the presentation and again, questions seem to be raised. I don’t think I had a chance to blog it at the time, but I recall discussing with Francesca Tronchin offline the problem of identifying the statue as Caligula, based solely on the boots (as it seemed at the time; for the record, statues of Jupiter often sport caligae as well — the Repubblica piece now suggests the statue was Caligula-as-Jupiter, for the record). Well now we get some better photos, and until I can embed better ones, I’ll suggest that folks start with this ‘overview’ photo at MC’s flickr page, then look at the one of the head. If that is the head that was with the statue, I have a very difficult time seeing this as a statue of Caligula, although the condition doesn’t help much, identification-wise.  If nothing else, it looks to be too small to actually go with this statue. Aside from that, though, this head looks like that of a balding, 50+ years of age man whose eyes seems a bit close together (and it actually reminds me of this bust of Vespasian; or maybe it’s the Julius Silanus mentioned above). In any event,  anxiously await to see if I can get more from the MIBAC site or other press coverage … until then, here’s the Repubblica piece:

Quando i tombaroli diventano “ciceroni” e si trasformano in guide provette per una task force formata da Guardia di Finanza e Soprintendenza ai beni archeologi del Lazio per portare a termine una delle scoperte più importanti degli ultimi anni. E’ accaduto con l’Operazione Caligola, al lago di Nemi, territorio storicamente legato all’imperatore romano ucciso nel 41 d. C. a 29 anni, dove fin dagli anni ’60 gli scavi hanno riportato alla luce complessi straordinari come la Villa e il santuario di Diana, e dove il Museo delle Navi custodisce la storia delle due gigantesche strutture galleggianti, andate distrutte durante l’ultimo conflitto.

E’ qui, sul versante nord-occidentale intorno al lago che nell’aprile scorso sono cominciati i sondaggi da parte degli archeologi su segnalazione di due tombaroli che tre anni prima vi avevano condotto una scavo clandestino trafugando un capolavoro della statuaria antica, il colosso riferibile a Caligola assiso in trono e assimilabile a Zeus, ridotta in frammenti. I risultati dell’indagine sono stati illustrati oggi, con una conferenza stampa al ministero per i Beni culturali.

Si tratta di oltre cento frammenti pertinenti la statua (tra la testa, lo scettro retto dalla mano sinistra, il panneggio della spalla sinistra, un frammento rotondo ipotizzabile come il globo retto nella mano destra, le lastre marmoree del piedistallo), altri centocinquanta manufatti a carattere architettonico. Ma soprattutto, la grande rivelazione: un complesso ambiente identificato come un ninfeo, dalla forma planimetrica a ventaglio, delimitato da un colonnato che in origine appariva alto quasi sette metri.

“Abbiamo iniziato i sondaggi nel punto esatto indicato dai tombaroli – racconta Giuseppina Ghini, funzionaria della Soprintendenza responsabile dell’area archeologica – Uno di loro diceva di frequentare la zona per raccogliere legna. All’inizio pensavamo di trovarci di fronte a un mausoleo, in genere statue di questa straordinarietà non si trovano in ninfei, sia privati sia imperiali. Poi la presenza di vasche con pavimentazione a tessere vitree, il vasto sistema idraulico, il rinvenimento di una fistula plumbea con tanto di bollo col nome del primo proprietario, Caio Julio Silano, ci hanno fatto capire che si tratta di un ninfeo”.

L’operazione inizia però il 13 gennaio scorso a Ostia Antica, quando la Finanza ferma un tir che trasportava nascosta sotto calcinacci la statua, diretta a un magazzino dell’Eur da cui sarebbe partita per la Svizzera. Le due persone denunciate, a quel punto, hanno collaborato, indicando l’area di provenienza del reperto. “E’ una scultura unica – racconta la Ghini – perché restituisce un ritratto inedito di Caligola, soggetto alla damnatio memoriae”. Ricomponendo idealmente i pezzi arriva ad un’altezza di oltre 2 metri e mezzo.

Il dettaglio clou riguarda la “caliga” al piede sinistro, il tipico sandalo leggero che amava portare Caligola, da cui il soprannome, come racconta Svetonio. Splendide le decorazioni del trono e l’effetto realistico del cuscino con le frange. Il volto è giovanile, con una sorta di corona sulla testa. La parte posteriore è poco lavorata, segno che si trovava dentro una nicchia del ninfeo. La statua sarà restaurata nei laboratori di Palazzo Massimo, poi restituita al Museo delle Navi a Nemi. Nel frattempo, la speranza è continuare i sondaggi: “Ci servono, per il 2012, almeno 200mila euro”, avverte la soprintendente Marina Sapelli Ragni.

UPDATE (a Campari + IPA later): see now Dorothy King’s thorough post: The Statue of Caligula from Lake Nemi

UPDATE II (a few minutes after that): we’re now starting to get English coverage:

Classics Courses Online

From time to time I am asked whether I know about universities which offer Classics courses for credit online and usually I have to admit that I’m not up to speed in that regard. In response to a recent query, however, I did ask folks on the Classics list for help and these perhaps will be a start … perhaps seeing this post will bring others out of the woodwork. So … in no particular order:

  • Montclair State University regularly has an online component to various courses they offer. Although there does not seem to be a specific ‘online course page’, this page does give an idea. Click on the pdf handout to see what’s being offered this Fall … (tip o’ the pileus to John Alvares)
  • The University of South Dakota is currently offering Medical Terminology online (best to do a ctrl-f for CLHU 101) … it seems to be a go for the Fall as well (tip o’ the pileus to Judith Sebesta)
  • The University of Georgia has a number of offerings including Roman Culture, Classical Myth, and Medical terminology (details here) as well as a number of courses in Latin (tip o’ the pileus to Rick LaFleur)
  • The University of South Africa has pretty much an entire Classics degree sequence online (if I’m understanding correctly) with exam centres all over the place (tip o’ the pileus to Philip Bosman)

I’m terrible at tagging posts, but it seems worthwhile to create a Classics Online tag for this sort of thing … if your institution is offering an online Classics program of some sort, please drop me a line!


Recently Shared …

One of my summer projects is to find a way to better incorporate all these things which are done in widgets in WordPress in a way which works better (since I have a feeling much of the sidebar and below-the-fold stuff is not seen by many readers) … and so, as an experiment i wanted to see how long it would take me to compile the last 24 hours or so of things I’ve shared from my Google Reader account (I’m still working on a catchy title) … in any event, the following took about ten minutes, which isn’t bad … enjoy, if you haven’t already:

Digital Resources for Classicists

I tweeted this excellent blog post by John Birchall earlier — he just started blogging a week or so ago — and to judge by the number of times it’s being retweeted, it seems to be of great interest, so ecce:

Roman Vampires!!

Gladiators shown on the late Roman Gladiator M...

Image via Wikipedia

One of the reasons I eventually ended up in Classics (and I’m sure it’s the reason many folks end up there) is that no matter how long you’re at it, there is ALWAYS something ‘new’ that you can happen upon which has interest for various reasons. A case in point is an article at Scientific American‘s blog, which is chatting about the history of transfusions. Here’s the incipit:

Medea, the sensual and ravishing sorceress of Greek mythology, enters the royal chambers. Knife in hand, she commands the servants to bring her an old sheep. Plunging her knife into the animal, she bleeds it nearly dry and then casts the limp sheep into a bubbling cauldron.  Its feeble bleating is soon replaced by the frolicking leaps of a young lamb. In this marvelous spectacle, Medea has demonstrated her ability to transfuse life to the dead and dying.

Her husband’s enemy, the elderly and bedridden King Pelias, is next.

Medea turns impatiently to the king’s daughters, who hover in a trance, drugged by the witch’s herbs and humbled by her otherworldly powers.  “Why do you hesitate and do nothing?” the enchantress snaps, “Go, now.  Draw your swords and drain out his old blood, so that I may fill his veins with young blood.”

Slowly, the women approach their father, who looks up at them with trusting eyes.  Then, like ravenous beasts, they pounce.  Mimicking Medea’s brutal and precise cuts, the daughters deftly slice open Pelias’s veins and drain them dry. Medea flees the scene, smug in the success of her deception.

… no problem there,  but then it goes on a bit later:

For the Ancient Greeks, blood was a magical elixir.  Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79), one of the great historians of the Roman Empire, described the mad rush of spectators into arenas to drink the blood of fallen gladiators.

Despite my interest in ‘gladiator culture’ I had never heard of this before and — as often — I’m generally skeptical when I read unspecified references to Pliny the Elder on the internet insofar as they tend to be second or third hand, if they exist at all. In this case, however, it pans out … although it is put in the context of being a cure for epilepsy. Here’s the Latin (via Lacus Curtius … 28.4 using the numbering there):

Incipiemus autem ab homine ipsum sibi exquirente, inmensa statim difficultate obvia. sanguinem quoque gladiatorum bibunt, ut viventibus poculis, comitiales [morbi], quod spectare facientes in eadem harena feras quoque horror est. at, Hercule, illi ex homine ipso sorbere efficacissimum putant calidum spirantemque et vivam ipsam animam ex osculo vulu, cum plagis omnino ne ferarum quidem admoveri ora mos sit humanus. alii medullas crurum quaerunt et cerebrum infantium.

For the Latinless, here’s John Bostock’s translation (via Perseus … 28.2 using the numbering there):

Epileptic patients are in the habit of drinking the blood even of gladiators, draughts teeming with life, as it were; a thing that, when we see it done by the wild beasts even, upon the same arena, inspires us with horror at the spectacle! And yet these persons, forsooth, consider it a most effectual cure for their disease, to quaff the warm, breathing, blood from man himself, and, as they apply their mouth to the wound, to draw forth his very life; and this, though it is regarded as an act of impiety to apply the human lips to the wound even of a wild beast! Others there are, again, who make the marrow of the leg-bones, and the brains of infants, the objects of their research!

FWIW, Celsus also mentions the drinking of gladiators’ blood for epilepsy (3.23.7), and seems to specify that it’s from a recently-killed gladiator (again, via Lacus Curtius):

Some have freed themselves from such a disease by drinking the hot blood from the cut throat of a gladiator: a miserable aid made tolerable by a malady still most miserable …

Folks might want to read on in the Pliny translation for some other ‘cures’ “derived from man” … Since I’m not a Twilight fan and won’t make any connections to that — but seeing as it’s Julius Caesar’s birthday and all — we can all ponder whether all the gladiatorial interest mentioned in regards to Julius Caesar is somehow connected to his rumoured epilepsy … hmmmmm

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem iv idus quintilias

Bust of Gaius Julius Caesar in the National Ar...

Image via Wikipedia

ante diem iv idus quintilias

  • ludi Apollinares (day 7) — games instituted in 212 B.C. after consulting the Sybilline books during a particularly bad stretch in the Punic Wars; four years later they became an annual festival in honour of Apollo
  • 100 B.C. (?) — birth of G. Julius Caesar
  • 67 A.D. — martyrdom of Paulinus of Antioch
  • 1536 — death of Erasmus
  • 1922 — birth of Michael Ventris, who would decipher Linear B