Circumundique ~ A Few More

… still catching up:

Ovid in L’Osservatore Romano

Some rather turgid prose — and it seems incomplete (?) — from the culture pages of L’Osservatore:

A classical author, if he truly has all the trappings of classicism, raises “a monument more enduring than bronze”, according to the proud assertion of Horace (Ode 3.30.1). He is contemporary in every age, and therefore also our contemporary. He might even be considered, citing an acute reflection by Giuseppe Pontiggia, a “contemporary of the future”.

One such auctor and an opus magnum of Latin literature that has solidly settled within the dimensions of our present, and is projected into our future, is Publius Ovidius Naso (Sulma, 43 BC – Tomis, Ponto Eusino, 17/18 AD) and his masterpiece, Metamorphoses. Having crossed the threshold of another decade in the 21st century, we see today concretized in the intensity of philological studies and publications in abundance the prophetic intuition of the insatiable reader-hermeneutic of the Classics, Italo Calvino. In his now legendary Lezioni americane (Garzanti, 1988), accompanied by the meaningful subtitle [which is the title it was published under in its English translation] Six Memos for the Next Millenium, Calvino favoured, since Latin works were fated to influence the cultural climate of the Third Millenium, Lucretius’ De rerum natura, and with warmer emphasis, the very Metamorphoses of Ovid. It is known that the five “values or qualities or specificities” held up by the Ligurian writer as paradigms on which the “trust in the future of literature” should be founded are: lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility and multiplicity. It is no coincidence that two of these categories, lightness and multiplicity, are chosen by his predecessor the metamorphic Ovid.

For the ancient poet from Abruzzo, the hour of redemption and of full recovery to the summit has struck, which is his due, after the centuries of gloom that followed the judgment of the penumbra of Seneca and Quintilian who will rebuke him for insufficient self control in the discipline of the font of his exuberant ingenium. Of course, attendance in the school of long discourses was fashionable in Rome during the Augustan period that had made of Ovid, already naturally endowed with an inexhaustible vein of imagination, an artist of carved by rhetoric. Governed by refined technique, thought, passion and feelings, often superficial or strictly emotional, the verses are in the form of an elegiac couplet (hexameter + pentameter) with fluidity, flexibility and amazingly melodic. Sponte sua carmen numeros veniebat ad aptos, / et quod temptabam dicere versus erat, “But verse came, of itself, in the right measures, / and whatever I tried to write was poetry”, he recalled during his exile to the Black Sea (Tristia IV 10, vv. 25-26).

Academic Minute: Elizabeth Markovits on Greek Tragedy

One (of many) which I’ve neglected posting … Carl Sandler Berkowitz alerted us to WAMC’s ‘Academic Minute’ and way back in July, well, here’s the official description:

In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Elizabeth Markovits of Mount Holyoke College explains a striking similarity between the plot elements that define Greek tragedy and the democratic process.

Elizabeth Markovits is an assistant professor of politics at Mount Holyoke College where her research interests include ancient Greek political thought, modern feminism, and democratic theory. In 2008 she published The Politics of Sincerity: Plato, Frank Speech, and Democratic Judgment.

You can listen online at:

CFP: TiGA – Theory in (Ancient) Greek Archaeology

From Dan Diffendale:

Theory in (Ancient) Greek Archaeology (TiGA): The University of

Michigan, Ann Arbor, Friday 4th and Saturday 5th May 2012

The organizing committee at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, is
pleased to announce a conference on Theory in (Ancient) Greek
Archaeology (TiGA). This event is intended to offer an opportunity to
explore approaches to the archaeology of the ancient Greek world which
are informed by explicitly theoretical frameworks. We invite
expressions of interest in participating from both established
scholars and graduate students.

Our goal is to highlight certain changes which have been taking place,
often unacknowledged, in the study of ancient Greek archaeology. In
recent years, colleagues in Aegean prehistory and Roman archaeology
have placed increasing emphasis on overtly theoretical approaches,
informed by discourse primarily in the social sciences and in
historical archaeology. A variety of conferences have facilitated this
development, providing fora for exchange of ideas. While
archaeologists of ancient Greece have not ignored these developments,
there is a widely-held perception that, as a field, we have been slow
to put comparable ideas into practice. This is partly because we have
lacked a venue for discussion of theoretical issues in relation to our
data. TiGA is intended to fill that gap: while not in any way wishing
to devalue empirical approaches, our specific aim is to offer
archaeologists studying the ancient Greek world an opportunity to
discuss the potential benefits of overtly theoretical frameworks for
enhancing our understanding of ancient Greek society and culture.

Call for Papers:

We welcome proposals for 20 minute papers or for posters which explore
the potential benefits of well-articulated theoretical concepts in the
context of data-sets from the ancient Greek world. (We define ‘ancient
Greek world’ to encompass material which might be viewed as
culturally-Greek, from anywhere in the Mediterranean, dating from the
period ca. 1000 BCE to mid second century BCE – while also allowing
that such boundaries are often imprecise and permeable).

Abstracts should be 500-600 words in length and should show clearly
how the authors propose to address the goals of the conference. To
facilitate the refereeing process, please include a separate cover
page giving your name, affiliation and poster or paper title. Your
abstract should include only your title and no other identifying

Submissions may be emailed as PDF attachments to: tiga-conf AT

Alternatively, they may be sent to:
TiGA Conference,
Department of Classical Studies,
The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor,
1260 Angell Hall,
436 S. State St.,
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 (USA)

Review of proposed contributions by the organizing committee will
begin on 1st October 2011 and will continue until all slots are filled
(please refer to the conference website for up-to-date announcements):

CFP: Virgil and Renaissance Culture

Seen on the Classicists list:


Virgil and Renaissance Culture / Virgilio e la cultura del Rinascimento

A two-day international conference to be held at the Accademia Nazionale Virgiliana di Scienze Lettere e Arti, Mantua, Italy, 15-16 October 2012

Organisers: Luke Houghton (University of Glasgow), Marco Sgarbi (University of Verona)

Confirmed keynote speakers: Craig Kallendorf (Texas A&M University) and Peter Mack (The Warburg Institute)

Et quis, io, iuvenes, tanti miracula lustrans
eloquii, non se immensos terraeque marisque
prospectare putet tractus?

(Angelo Poliziano, Manto 351-3)

For scholars and intellectuals of the Renaissance, the poetry of Virgil was not merely a pervasive presence in their world; it was in many respects an embodiment of that world. In addition to the traditional status enjoyed by the Aeneid as a ‘mirror for princes’, a guide to virtuous and reprehensible conduct, and a repository of spiritual and allegorical wisdom, poets and rhetoricians, artists and composers, philosophers and theologians, political theorists and educators all sought and found in Virgil’s works models of good practice and expert instruction in their respective fields. The poet’s sway over Renaissance thought and imagination was by no means confined to the library: throughout the courts, the palaces and the public buildings of Europe, the rich mythological apparatus of the Aeneid was harnessed to convey imperial and dynastic claims, to assert proud traditions of civic liberty, and to associate rulers and their subjects with particular social, moral and ethical values, as well as to advertise the learning, taste and culture of individual patrons.

In literate society, Virgil was everywhere; but the extent of his influence reached far beyond the wide circle of his readers, through the appearance of scenes and motifs from his poems – and sometimes also the figure of the poet himself – in frescoes, sculpture and woodcuts, and even on objects for domestic use and display. Contact with Virgil and his texts took many forms and was shaped by a variety of external factors, in addition to being filtered through countless previous literary and artistic adaptations, a long tradition of critical and pedagogical engagements, and strident expressions of both devotion and censure from different quarters during the centuries between the poet’s own day and the age of the humanists. Among these successive interventions, a place of particular honour is occupied by Dante, whose choice of ‘the sea of all knowledge’ as his guide and master through the caverns of the Inferno and along the slopes of Purgatory was to have a lasting impact on perceptions of Virgil, not only as a literary character and aesthetic model but also as a poet and historical figure.

Proposals are invited for papers in English or Italian, of no more than 30 minutes’ duration, on any aspect of the place of Virgil in Renaissance culture, in any medium. Abstracts should not be longer than 500 words, and should include the author’s name, institutional affiliation (if applicable), and current e-mail address.

Proposals should be sent to one of the conference organisers, Marco Sgarbi (marco.sgarbi AT or Luke Houghton (luke.houghton AT, before 31 December 2011. It is hoped that papers from this event will in due course form a substantial publication.

Lecturer in Classics,
School of Humanities / Sgoil nan Daonnachdan,
University of Glasgow,
Glasgow G12 8QQ.

Circumundique ~ First Catch Up of the Day

Sorry for the lack of action for the past few days … extraordinary hecticity in the week before school is messing with my attention span. This will probably be the first of a couple of posts like this during the course of the day:

This Day in Ancient History: pridie kalendas septembres

Emperor Caligula, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.

Image via Wikipedia

pridie kalendas septembres

  • 12 A.D. — birth of the future emperor Gaius (Caligula) at Antium
  • 40 A.D. — Gaius (Caligula) celebrates an ovatio after his attempted military campaigns in Gaul and Britain
  • 161 A.D. — birth of the future emperor Commodus (and his twin, Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus)


Zeus and Hera Have Left the Building!

From AFP:

A sculpture depicting Zeus and Hera, king and queen of the ancient Greek pantheon of gods, has been permanently removed from the Acropolis in Athens for safe-keeping, a project supervisor said Saturday.

The sculpture — one of the last of the original decorative pieces adorning the 2,500-year-old Parthenon temple — will be showcased in the Acropolis Museum in Athens and will be replaced by a copy, architect Vasso Eleftheriou said.

“This is the same method followed for other Parthenon sculptures that have been removed or are to (be removed),” Eleftheriou told state television NET.

The Parthenon metope, or decorative frieze space, removed this week had been defaced by early Christians during the fall of pagan worship in Greece, and further damaged in later centuries by acid rain.

Another five metopes are to removed in the coming months, the Ethnos daily reported this week.

The Parthenon has sustained significant damage in its long history. It was bombarded during a 17th century Venetian siege of Ottoman-held Athens and underwent modifications that turned it first into a church and then a mosque.

In the early 19th century, workers employed by British ambassador Lord Elgin tore down a large number of decorative friezes from the Parthenon.

They were shipped to London and were eventually put on display at the British Museum where they remain to this day.

The British Museum has turned down Greek calls for their return, arguing that the Marbles are part of a world heritage and are more accessible to visitors in London.

Inaugurated in June 2009, the new Acropolis Museum includes a section reserved for the disputed Parthenon Marbles.

It was Greece’s top tourist draw last year, attracting more than 1.3 million visitors, compared to some 990,000 people who visited the Acropolis ancient citadel itself.

… raising, of course, the obvious question: why can’t they put some copies of those things in the British Museum up on the Parthenon???

Tip o’ the Pileus

Since I say the phrase so much in these ‘pages’, it seems appropriate to point out a photo of an “iridescent pileus cloud’ which was the Astronomy Picture of the Day a couple days ago:

Of course, it clearly gets its name from the fact that is a sort of ‘cap’ on another cloud, but if you need a bit more detail, the Wikipedia article: Pileus (meteorology) is as good a source as any. If you’re wondering what an ancient Roman pileus looked like:

Cheesy Claims About the Romans

Illustration of a cheese wheel.
Image via Wikipedia

Okay … this is a strange item of TV hype for a Food Network show which (the hype) is being picked up by all sorts of papers in southeast Asia right now … the incipit  from the Indian version of Yahoo:

Food writer Troy Johnson has revealed that cheese is not only one of the tastiest foods invented by man, but it was also one of the greatest weapons of war in the ancient world.

Johnson is the host of a new show called “Crave” debuting August 29 on the Food Network that explains the bizarre origins of some popular foods.

“The Romans invented the cheese wheel and used to roll them along with everything else when they were doing battle,” AOL News quoted Johnson, as telling HuffPost Weird News.

“They think this is why the Romans were able to kick everyone’s asses in Europe.

“Since cheese doesn’t spoil very easily, they always had a hunk of protein-and-fat-jammed energy source tucked up their man-skirts. Other armies’ food would spoil, leaving them weak and hungry. The cheese-eating Romans kicked their ass,” he revealed.

Yes, the Romans had cheese, but that they “invented” the cheese wheel, well, I’d need some evidence for that. And as for the claim that they rolled them around while on campaign, well, I’d definitely need some evidence for that. And that ‘the enemy’ wasn’t as well-prepared, food-wise? Definitely need evidence there too. Then again, I tend not to go to the Food Network for history shows (heck, I don’t even expect history on the History Channel or History Television anymore) … we’ll put this in the “Don’t eat that Elmer” category.

Circumundique ~ August 24, 2011

In and around the Classical blogosphere t’other day:

Why Study Classics?

Tip o’ the pileus to Adrian Murdoch who pointed the Twitterati to an item at Jonathan Knott’s blog (now added to the curated blogroll) with the above title. The post includes a link to a pdf version of the article (which is also by Jonathan Knott) from the July 2011 edition of Club UK Magazine. Those with access to a decent colour printer might want to find a way to print this one out for bulletin board purposes:

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem viii kalendas septembres

Pliny the Elder: an imaginative 19th Century p...

Image via Wikipedia

ante diem viii kalendas septembres

  • Opiconsivia — rites in honour of Ops, an old Italian earth deity and usually considered the spouse of Consus
  • 79 A.D. — death of Pliny the Elder in the wake of the eruption at Pompeii
  • 325 A.D. — Council of Nicaea comes to an end, having come up with the Nicene Creed, the ‘Twenty Canons’, etc..


E.S. Posthumus ~ Pompeii

It being the traditional day for the eruption of Pompeii (I don’t think I’ve blogged yet about the alternate day theory), here’s something a bit different I found while poking around looking for Classics-inspired music t’other day:

… it’s just audio, so sit back, relax, and imagine August 24, 79 to get in the gloomy, epic mood of the day …

Circumundique ~ August 23, 2011

Around the Classical blogosphere (and environs) yesterday:

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem ix kalendas septembres

Computer-generated imagery of the eruption of ...

Image via Wikipedia

ante diem ix kalendas septembres

  • rites in honour of Luna at the Graecostasis
  • mundus patet — the mundus was a ritual pit which had a sort of vaulted cover on it. Three times a year the Romans removed this cover (August 24, Oct. 5 and November 8) at which time the gates of the underworld were considered to be opened and the manes (spirits of the dead) were free to walk the streets of Rome.
  • 72 A.D. — martyrdom of Batholomew at Albanopolis
  • 79 A.D. — Vesuvius erupts, burying Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae
  • 410 A.D. — Alaric sacks Rome
  • 1971 — death of Carl Blegen (excavator of Pylos)
  • 1997 — death of Philip Vellacott

Saving Classics?

Singling out a thought-provoking (hopefully)  blogpost over at Wopro: More Reader Mail: How Do We Save Classics?

… you’re invited to join the convo … for the record, I’m a big proponent of the ‘promotion’ side of things (obviously … I’ve been ranting about the lack of same from the ‘big organizations’ on that score for years) and I think much of Dr Krauss’ subsquent points all connect to that …

In Father Foster’s Footsteps …

Several folks have sent this one in and/or mentioned it on Twitter and/or Facebook (tip o’ the pileus to too many to mention) … interesting essay in Slate about the course which is heir to Father Foster’s efforts … here’s the first bit:

At the beginning of the last century, A.E. Housman, that cantankerous giant of classical scholarship, was already complaining about “an age which is out of touch with Latinity.” Around that time, philistines were excising classics from the popular curriculum, and the subsequent 100 years have hardly improved Latin’s apparent relevance in Western society. Classicists may tout the fact that Advanced Placement enrollment in Latin doubled between 1997 and 2007, but this mini-surge brought the number of upper-level high school Latinists to a minuscule 8,654—literally 1 percent of the number of secondary school Latinists in the mid-1930s. Like its nouns, Latin continues to decline.

In the face of these grim prospects, I boarded a plane to Rome this summer to join the small network of scholars dedicated to preserving the language by actually speaking it. I found myself in the company of 16 other twentysomethings, puttering about the center of the ancient world chattering not in English or in Italian but —ecce!—in Latin.

I can assure you that the enterprise was even stranger than it sounds. The Paideia Institute’s “Living Latin” program is an immersive, spoken-Latin summer course based in Rome. The mornings are spent at the St. John’s University campus reading poetry and prose and commenting on the texts in Latin; the afternoons are spent doing the same thing at various sites of literary or archaeological significance. If you vacationed in Italy this June, you might have seen us standing around the Ara Pacis on a scorcher, offering competing Latin orations on the pax Augustana. Other exercises were more modern: using hip-hop beats to memorize Alcaic meter, say.

… for those interested, Fr Coulter continues to have the latest info on Father Foster’s own courses …

Also Seen: Virgil and the Libyan Crisis

This kept popping up on Facebook and Twitter the other day …  here’s a bit of a tease to get you to check the item out at History Today … nice oppotunity to connect the ancient world with modern with a somewhat different spin than we usually get in those US-as-Rome pieces:

As Libya collapsed into chaos, its cities aflame, its leader filled with bloodlust and its people massing along the Mediterranean in quest of shelter, we perhaps told ourselves we had seen all of this before. Not on the BBC or Al Jazeera, but instead in a half-forgotten Latin class. More than two millennia ago, the Roman poet Virgil sang of arms and the man in his epic poem, the Aeneid. Like Virgil’s hero Aeneas, we are seeking answers to a deadly mayhem that, unwittingly, we in the West have helped create in Libya. [...]

… I’m still waiting for the media comparisons of certain leaders in Libya with Jugurtha …

Roman Port Near Caerleon

I have a backlog of things from Caerleon to post … we will get to them. For now, though, this seems to be the most important find … from the Guardian:

Archaeologists have discovered only the second known port of Roman Britain, where soldiers would have arrived in numbers from the Mediterranean to aid in the fight against some of the most stubborn and hostile of all the tribes they had to face.

Over the last year, archaeologists have been digging near the Roman fortress of Caerleon, just north of Newport, south Wales, and have made some remarkable discoveries. On Tuesday, the site was declared the only known Roman British port outside London.

“It is extremely exciting,” Peter Guest, leading the excavation team from Cardiff University, said. “What we have found exceeds all expectations. It now seems clear that we’re looking at a new addition to our knowledge of Roman Britain.”

Guest said the archaeologists had discovered far more than a quayside or harbour installation, adding: “It seems to be a deliberately founded and made port structure that goes with the legionary fortress in Caerleon.”

The remains are incredibly well-preserved, partly because the land has been used for grazing for so long and has not been intensively ploughed.

Archaeologists digging on the banks of the River Usk have found the main quay wall as well as landing stages, wharves and dockside tracks.

The port would have been for the fortress, the farthest flung of all Roman outposts and the place where, some believe, Arthur later convened his Camelot court. The fortress was constructed in AD74-75 as the military headquarters of the second Augustan Legion, one of four legions that invaded Britain during the reign of the emperor Claudius.

Having a port on the River Usk would have made it far easier to supply the frontline than “traipse over mile after mile after mile of bumpy Roman road”, Guest said.

Two thousand years ago, the locals in the area were the Silures, a tribe of ancient Britons who managed to keep the Romans at bay for a generation.

The Romans had a tricky time in south Wales, with the senator and historian Tacitus noting how fearsome, warlike and difficult to subdue the Welsh tribes were. He described a struggle of nearly 30 years in which the locals skirmished and avoided full-on battle before they were finally pacified.

The port discovery tops a list of amazing finds made during the excavation of a suburb of large public buildings over the last year, with bath-houses, marketplaces and temples all having been unearthed.

The dig ends on 1 September, and the area is open to the public until then.

… which reminds me of a joke which Jonathan Yardley (one of my professors at the University of Calgary) told on at least two occasions while we were doing Wheelock and/or Virgil (a variation on the one found here):

The Roman decided to invade Wales, the army had just crossed the border and came to the first forest when they heard a voice shout “One Welshman is worth two Romans”.

The army commander couldn’t resist the challenge and promptly sent two men into the forrest. After 10 minutes the voice shouted “One Welshman is worth ten Romans”.

The army commander again couldn’t resist the challenge and promptly sent ten men into the forrest. After 10 minutes the voice again shouted “One Welshman is worth 100 Romans”.

The army commander was now getting angry and sent two hundred men into the forrest. After 10 minutes the voice shouted “One Welshman is worth a Roman cohort”.

The army commander now really angry sent in one of his regiments. After 10 minutes one of the Romans emerged from the forrest bleeding and dying, and with his last breath he told the army commander…

“it’s a trap!.. there’s TWO of them in there!

Circumundique ~ August 22, 2011

Items that helped me fight antihistamine dozery yesterday:

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem x kalendas septembres

Vulcan. Bronze statuette, Roman work, 1st cent...

Image via Wikipedia

ante diem x kalendas septembres