Speaking of Ovid …

… and the Huffington Post … the latter has a lengthy item from Narrative Magazine focussing on Diane Middlebrook’s final years (as she was working on a biography of Ovid — she was working on it at the time of her death in 2008; not sure if it was ever published). Here’s a bit from the middle … it’s an interesting (and sad) , but melancholy read overall:

The project Diane turned to with her customary verve after “Her Husband” was a biography of the Roman poet Ovid, who rejected his family legacy of membership in the Roman senate and instead became the most famous poet of his era, author of the “Metamorphoses”—a writer intrigued by transformations and also overtly concerned with the survival of his art beyond his lifetime. In the prime of his life, at the apex of his brilliant career, Ovid did something that so offended the deified Caesar Augustus that he was exiled to the barbaric outskirts of the empire and never allowed to return to Rome.

Diane had been reading and studying Ovid since graduate school, had taught him and lectured on him numerous times over the years, and it was not on a whim that she finally dug in to write his biography. Even so, it was an ambitious project since there is virtually no biographical material on Ovid beyond the pages of his own works. Most of what is factually known about Ovid comes from his letters from exile, which were not merely private correspondences but poems intended for posterity by their author, who was certain his words would last. It was Ovid’s confidence in his survival that had always intrigued Diane, and she closed the introduction to her book with a poem Ovid wrote to his stepdaughter from the lonely shore of the Black Sea, urging her not to give up on art:

In brief, there’s nothing we own that isn’t mortal

save talent, the spark of the mind.

Look at me . . .

they’ve stripped me of all they could take,

yet my talent remains my joy, my constant companion:

over this, Caesar could have no rights. What if

some savage’s sword should cut short my existence?

When I’m gone, my fame will endure,

and while from her seven hills Mars’ Rome in triumph

still surveys a conquered world, I shall be read.

As the four years unfolded during which Diane was working on Ovid and—suddenly, unexpectedly—fighting for her life, Ovid’s words took on an urgent poignancy that none of us who loved her, still less Diane herself, had anticipated. “I am not ready to die,” she said again and again, her voice brisk and decisive, that elegant index finger held aloft, underscoring a declarative that carried with it a refusal to become anything but what through will and self-confidence and keen intelligence and pluck she had determined herself to be. She was not going to be a victim, and she was not going to give up. In the face of Diane’s strategic and uncompromising pursuit of survival—looking at this woman so rampantly alive—it was impossible, inconceivable, to think otherwise.

Socrates as Islamic Prophet?

It’s always interesting to see how non-Western cultures deal with our subject matter. This is a book reviewish/hypish thing from the Iran Book News Agency:

Seyyed Abdolhadi Ghazayi said his book deals with the philosophy of Socrates and the backgrounds to the emergence of his philosophy.

Referring to the history of philosophy before Socrates, Ghazayi explained: “Before Socrates philosophy existed in the East and then it travelled to the west. Therefore, we can infer that Socrates is the heir of Eastern philosophies of his time. An analysis of the emergence of Socrates and his remaining works makes another chapter of this volume.”

Ghazayi added: “For this book I have used a simple writing style intentionally avoiding difficult expressions. My stress on simple writing even includes philosophical terms of Socrates.”

His interest in Socrates began with his interest in classical Greek philosophers and added: “A sage should, first of all, be a theologian and so was Socrates. I consider him a divine prophet. God has not revealed the names of all his prophets to us, and since Socrates was a theologian I have no doubt that he has been a divine messenger.”

Ghazayi continued: “Each prophet had a particular mission in his life and the significance of that mission in a historical period made him everlasting in history. Some philosophers do not even regard Socrates as a sage, whereas he was martyred in the path of philosophy and theosophy.”

He added: “Philosophy is a kind of knowledge that departs from theology. Islamic philosophers are not pure philosophers. What was translated into Arabic and given to Arabs of that time was pure philosophy, but Farabi, Ibn Roshd and Ibn Sina mingled it with Quranic sciences.”

He continued: “Ibn Sina’s The Healing is a philosophical text inspired by Islamic tradition and Quran.”

Socrates’s words could not be understood in his time and that was why he was killed by poison, explained Ghazayi. His manners and ideas were unique among his disciples. They used to drink wine whereas Socrates avoided it. In fact, he was the first person that banned drinking and this proves that he had a relative understanding of Divine law.

Ghazayi emphasized: “The surviving works of Socrates show that he stood beyond the ideas of his contemporaries and taught them what was useful for their minds and bodies. Theology had no meaning for the people of that time, but he instructed people of divine knowledge lake a wise prophet.”

“Sage Socrates” is published by Koumeh and Negaran Ghalam Publications in 1000 copies.

Five Thracian Tombs from Mogilets

Another tantalizingly brief item from Novinite:

Bulgarian archeologist announced Friday the latest precious and unique finds in the country, discovered near the village of Mogilets in the area of the town of Omurtag in northeastern Bulgaria.

100 objects have been found during the digs of 5 tombs.

The area around Mogilets is the most researched in the entire Targovishte region because it has a large number of mounds and a villa, dating from Roman times, as a geo-magnetic test had shown.

The place is also among the very few in Bulgaria that have been spared from illegal treasure hunters.

Archeologist, Stefan Ivanov, quoted by the Bulgarian new agency BGNES, says four of the tombs are in close proximity to each other. The way the burials have been done leads to the conclusion the toms date from Thracian times.

The finds need to undergo restoration before being displayed for the public.

Putin Dives Phanagoria II – As Suspected

Tip o’ the pileus to the Huffington Post who brings up Putin’s dive which we mentioned the other day and links to a video of the ‘adventurer’  on the dive … ecce:

 

As my late father would say, “Don’t eat that Elmer … that’s bullsh**” … such staged garbage … they’re in less than two metres of water …

Ovid Never Exiled?

Interesting article on the Ars Amatoria up at the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers blog (I thing it’s a blog) which mentions, inter alia:

Then there’s another theory that has bounced around scholars for the last century or so: Ovid never was exiled. The main reason for this theory is that the only record of it is Ovid’s, except for “dubious” mentions by Pliny the Elder and Statius, but no one else until the 4th century CE. He did apparently die in Tomis in 17 CE, however, and has been adopted by Romanian nationalists as “The First Romanian Poet”.

I didn’t realize that the ‘phoney exile’ claim was still kicking around — near as I can tell, it hasn’t really been around (i.e. taken seriously)  for at least twenty years or so. For a summary of the scholarship , check out the Wikipedia article’s section on ‘exile’ upon which the above appears to be based. Whatever the case, it’s one of those ‘literary oppositional arguments’ which can stand up because of the nature of our sources, but really is the Classics Department version of a conspiracy theory.

Classics Confidential: Henry Stead and Helen Slaney

Today it’s a bit different … the Classics Confidential folks are interviewing the folks responsible for staging Seneca’s Medea back in February:

There’s a somewhat disturbing trailer for the production at the Oxford Medea webpage (blog?)  as well … There are also some clips from other productions of Medea (movie treatments) … Pasolini’s has always been a fave of mine …