Another Latin Program Bites the Dust

Alas … from the Denver Post:

In Laurie Lawless’ Latin class at Dakota Ridge High School, 18 eager students study the classics: works by Vergil, Ovid, Horace — and, of course, the timeless … Seuss?

“Imber tortum diem fluit,” says 16-year-old Ryan Cutter, reading with earnest precision. “Urceatim semper pluit.”

Lawless helps him through a literal translation of the opening lines of “Cattus Petasatus” and then opens the English-language version of “The Cat in the Hat​” and reads it aloud again: “The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play.”

This sort of playfulness with a purpose has cultivated a devoted following of students in the 11 years since Lawless launched the Latin program. And it’s one of many reasons they lament its official demise with next year’s budget cuts.

World languages have been hit hard, as have art, business and marketing and physical education, says Dakota Ridge principal Jim Jelinek. The Jefferson County school district has held off on requiring two years of a foreign language for graduation as it deals with successive years of $30 million-plus cuts, he said.

“It’s a quality education we want to provide for kids,” Jelinek says, “and we’re having to make real tough choices of what to trim.”

Lawless understands. Her student numbers have declined to the point where Latin I and II dissolved, with the most advanced students forging ahead into the combined Latin III and IV class she teaches this year.

“The time was right, if they had to cut it,” she says. “But it breaks my heart.”

That isn’t lost on her remaining students.

“Latin is her passion,” says Niki Martschinske, 17, who has taken the language four years under Lawless. “Latin is like our little family. It’s something to look forward to each day.”

No one looks forward to it more than Lawless, for whom this 90-minute block of classroom time has been nothing less than the realization of a dream.

At age 7, she knew she wanted to become an archaeologist and dig through the ruins of Pompeii. The archaeology part of that dream eventually disappeared.

“But the ancient world had already captured me,” she says. “I loved the literature, the language, the linguistic aspect of the history of the English language.”

She ended up with a bachelor’s degree in the classics and accrued 30 hours of graduate-level credit. All she needed for her master’s was to pass some comprehensive exams.

The tests didn’t go all that well. She aced Latin but couldn’t pass Greek art and history.

The demands of family life kept her from retaking the tests — something she regretted years later, when it was too late. She volunteered in her daughters’ Jeffco schools and worked as a paraprofessional before going back to college to earn a math degree.

In 1999, Lawless signed on to teach math at Dakota Ridge. But the principal at the time also zeroed in on another line of her resume.

“He liked the fact I could also start up a Latin program,” Lawless recalls.

She started teaching Latin the following year, welcoming 50 students. Over the years, some of her recruits were eighth- graders who had come to the high school for the advanced geometry class she taught and decided to try Latin as well.

Senior Lacey Hull spent three years in Lawless’ Latin class before moving to Chatfield High this year. Still, she returns to Dakota Ridge in time to catch the last hour of each class.

“It’s an opportunity I have that a lot of other people aren’t allowed,” Lull says. “Why would I give that up?”

Students talk about the value they’ve found in Latin when it comes to expanding their English vocabulary — a factor some see particularly helpful as they plan to pursue a career in the medical field.

“It applies to so much,” says Martschinske. “It’s a lot more helpful than you’d think, for a dead language.”

“I think I’d be lost in my English class without this class,” adds Stephanie Mark ham, a 17-year-old senior who’s taking an Advanced Placement literature course.

Lawless has promised her remaining students that next year she will shepherd them through Latin IV. Like other teachers whose passion for a subject moves them to aid students on their own time, she probably would supervise independent study projects.

“No way I could leave these kids without a fourth year of Latin if I could teach it,” says Lawless, who will take on additional math duties next year. “Call it selfish on my part, me hanging on with my fingernails. I want to give this all I’ve got.”

Izmir Archaeological Park Opens

From Today’s Zaman … interesting as well for the info about the Oracle of Claros

An archeological park exhibiting exact replicas of excavated pieces opened on Monday at Klaros, the site of an important ancient Greek shrine to Apollo, in Menderes, İzmir province.

In a speech given at the opening ceremony, İzmir Governor Cahit Kıraç said Turkey and İzmir are a paradise for tourists, and that the historical artifacts left in the city by various civilizations should be viewed by the world.

“I resent the fact that only 15 percent of the site has been excavated so far. I expect that this work will be completed as soon as possible. This project is important to our minister of culture and tourism. The İzmir Chamber of Commerce and İzmir Development Agency [İZKA] extends its full support to the Smyrna and Agora excavations. More than 210,000 archeological pieces are in storage [in İzmir]. I would like to express the need for a Museum of Aegean Civilizations,” Governor Kıraç went on to say.

Ege University Rector Candeğer Yılmaz said the park is a model project built jointly by the university and the local and national governments. Pointing out that archaeology is not as popular as it should be in Turkey, Yılmaz said: “Archaeology is real science. It can teach the past and shape the future. It is important to exhibit archaeological finds in their original environment. I believe it is important to get tourists out of their hotel rooms and into every corner of Turkey.”

The district governor of Menderes, Tahsin Kurtbeyoğlu, said the archeological park project was launched on July 17, 2010, and Klaros was chosen for its importance as an archeological site. Significant improvements were made to the site, Kurtbeyoğlu said, adding that exact plaster models of 13 pieces from the site will be exhibited in the park.

Professor Nuran Şahin, who supervised the excavation, praised the Klaros Archeopark Project and noted that they have made replicas of pieces in museums and exhibited these replicas at the site.
Oracle of Claros

Historical records show that the Oracle of Claros was founded about 1300 B.C. as a temple dedicated to Apollo, and it remained an important sacred site throughout the Hellenistic and Roman eras, with the high point of its fame having been in the second century C.E. A sacred cave near the site points to the existence of a Cybele cult here in earlier periods. The first historical reference to the oracle involves Alexander the Great, who ordered the building of a new city at Smyrna based on the oracle’s interpretation of a dream.

Located in the Ahmetbeyli Valley in modern-day Menderes, the Oracle of Claros is known as one of the oldest centers of prophecy in the world. The first excavation on the site began in 1904, and most recently excavation was resumed by a Turkish team in 2001. In 2010 a decision was made to transform the area into an archaeological park; the project was completed jointly by the Menderes District Governor’s Office, Ege University and İZKA.

Undergrads and Papyri @ Baylor

We learn of an interesting undergrad course at Baylor (lucky kids) via a press release:

Fragments of ancient, rare manuscripts of Greek classical poetry, Greek philosophy and Judeo-Christian Scriptures are being retrieved from papier-mâché-like mummy wrappings on loan to Baylor University — all part of an international project that will give undergraduate humanities students rare hands-on research.

The project, called the Green Scholars Initiative, eventually will include more than 100 universities, with Baylor University as the primary academic research partner. Professor-mentors will guide students through research and publication of articles about rare and unpublished documents, among them an ancient Egyptian dowry contract on loan to Kent State University and an ancient papyrus of Greek statesman Demosthenes’ famed “On the Crown” Speech, said Dr. Jerry Pattengale, initiative director and a Distinguished Senior Fellow with Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion.

Research materials are provided from the massive Green Collection, one of the world’s newest and largest collections of items such as Dead Sea Scrolls, a letter by Martin Luther and a fourth-century Alexandrian casket cover. The collection is named for the Green family, which owns the arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby.

“A lot of universities are able to study ancient texts by digital access, but to have actual access to the original manuscript is unusual and quite lucky,” said Dr. Nancy Hensel, executive officer of the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Undergraduate Research. “It’s a really wonderful opportunity to learn research skills through original and primary materials and also to learn how to preserve and handle them.”

The first step in the research adventure was taken in April by Dr. Scott Carroll, director and principal investigator of the Green Collection research projects and a research professor of manuscript studies/biblical tradition in Baylor’s ISR.

Carroll — surrounded by hushed students and other professors — dissolved ancient Egyptian mummy coverings in a gentle dissolving bath. Discarded texts made of papyrus plants were recycled for coffins and death masks by moistening them, covering an embalmed body, then plastering, drying and painting the material.

What emerged were more than 150 fragments of ancient papyri texts — treasures including funerary texts, letters in Greek and in Coptic, a fourth-century A.D. (C.E.) Coptic Gospel text and fragments of classical writings by Greek authors.

“As discoveries go, it won’t get much more dramatic than this,” Carroll said. He also unearthed new texts from a dissolved mummy mask on Sept. 8, which have yet to be studied.

Professors from Baylor’s religion and classics departments and Honors College will work with students on a manuscript commentary on the Gospel of Matthew that dates to somewhere between the 9th and 11th century A.D. (C.E.) and an illuminated 14th-century manuscript of a bestselling anonymous illustrated work of popular theology, said Dr. David Lyle Jeffrey, Distinguished Professor of Literature and the Humanities in Baylor’s Honors College and Distinguished Senior Fellow and Director of Manuscript Research in Scripture and Tradition at Baylor’s IRS.

Lending such materials for undergraduate research is “the opposite of an ivory-tower philosophy that would reserve them only for a few professors,” enthused Dr. Jeff Fish, an associate professor of classics at Baylor. “I’ve spend summers traveling to the National Library of Naples and to Oxford University, but this brings the world of research and the world of teaching together in a way I never thought possible. This is something that just doesn’t happen.”

He is mentoring student sleuth Stephen Margheim, a Baylor senior University Scholars major with a focus in classics, as Margheim painstakingly pieces together and studies fragments of a 1,600-year-old Iliad transcription by an unknown scribe.

Margheim, who has studied Greek, was stunned when he spotted the Greek words for “glory arose” amid the writings. He recognizing it as a theme of the fifth book of the Iliad, an epic poem about the Trojan War from about the eighth century B.C.E.

“Stephen had a concurrent class about Homer and was carrying that phrase around in his head,” Fish said. “When he saw it, he was on the scent. I’d get these e-mails from him at 4 a.m., saying, ‘I discovered . . . “‘

The scraps range in size from a flattened softball to a sesame seed. Margheim huddles for hours at a table, using tweezers to arrange and re-arrange pieces of the puzzle until they fit, then transcribes the words. The text eventually will be compared with other early transcriptions of the Iliad, which tells of the war between the Greeks and Trojans but focuses upon a power struggle between two Greek warriors, Achilles and Agamemnon.

Some of the fragments Fish and Margheim are examining are from one of the Iliad’s most touching passages, Fish said. In it, the warrior Hector has returned to Troy. He sees his wife, who begs him to stay behind and defend Troy from the walls and not leave her a widow. He picks up his baby boy, who is frightened by Hector’s helmet.

“The research is both very taxing and very rewarding,” Margheim said. “There’s something very different about reading Greek when it’s real handwriting, when you think that someone wrote that long ago. It’s a glimpse behind the veil of what professional classicists do. It’s my goal to become one, and this is just kind of a miracle.”

Archimedes Palimpsest Coming to the Walters

From a Walters Museum press release:

In 1999, the Walters Art Museum and a team of researchers began a project to read the erased texts of The Archimedes Palimpsest—the oldest surviving copy of works by the greatest mathematical genius of antiquity. Over 12 years, many techniques were employed by over 80 scientists and scholars in the fields of conservation, imaging and classical studies. The exhibition Lost and Found: The Secrets of Archimedes will tell the story of The Archimedes Palimpsest’s journey and the discovery of new scientific, philosophical and political texts from the ancient world. This medieval manuscript demonstrates that Archimedes discovered the mathematics of infinity, mathematical physics and combinatorics—a branch of mathematics used in modern computing. This exhibition will be on view at the Walters from Oct. 16, 2011-Jan. 1, 2012.

Archimedes lived in the Greek city of Syracuse in the third century B.C. He was a brilliant mathematician, physicist, inventor, engineer and astronomer. In 10th-century Constantinople (present day Istanbul), an anonymous scribe copied the Archimedes treatise in the original Greek onto parchment. In the 13th century, a monk erased the Archimedes text, cut the pages along the center fold, rotated the leaves 90 degrees and folded them in half. The parchment was then recycled, together with the parchment of other books, to create a Greek Orthodox prayer book. This process is called palimpsesting; the result of the process is a palimpsest.

On Oct. 28, 1998, The Archimedes Palimpsest was purchased at Christie’s by an anonymous collector for two million dollars. It is considered by many to be the most important scientific manuscript ever sold at auction because it contains Archimedes’ erased texts.

“The collector deposited the Palimpsest at the Walters for conservation, imaging, study and exhibition in 1999, but many thought that nothing more could be recovered from this book. It was in horrible condition, having suffered a thousand years of weather, travel and abuse,” said Archimedes Project Director and Walters Curator of Manuscripts and Rare Books Will Noel. “Detailed detective work and the serendipitous discovery of important documents and photographs allowed us to reconstruct what happened to the Palimpsest in the 20th century, when it was subject to appalling treatment and overpainted with forgeries. A team of devoted scholars using the latest imaging technology was able to reveal and decipher the original text.”

Before imaging could begin, the manuscript had to be stabilized. Conserving the manuscript took 12 years, including four years just to take the book apart due to the fragile nature of parchment damaged by mold and a spine covered in modern synthetic glue.

“I documented everything and saved all of the tiny pieces from the book, including paint chips, parchment fragments and thread, and put them into sleeves so we knew what pages they came from,” said Abigail Quandt, Walters senior conservator of manuscripts and rare books. “I stabilized the flaking ink on the parchment using a gelatin solution, made innumerable repairs with Japanese paper and reattached separated folios.”

In 2000, a team began recovering the erased texts. They used imaging techniques that rely on the processing of different wavelengths of infrared, visible and ultraviolet light in a technique called multispectral imaging. By employing different processing techniques, including Principal Components Analysis, text was exposed that had not been seen in a thousand years.

By 2004, about 80% of the manuscript had been imaged. The most difficult pages left were covered with a layer of grime or 20th-century painted forgeries. These leaves were brought to the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL), one of the most advanced light laboratories in the world, where a tiny but powerful x-ray beam scanned the leaves. The x-rays detected and recorded where beams bounced off iron atoms, and since the ink of the Palimpsest’s under text is written with iron, the writing on the page could be mapped. This enabled scholars to read large sections of previously hidden text. [...]

The press release goes on, but what is really nice is that the fine folks at the Walters have put up a pile of videos about the palimpsest and all the activity around it …

Latest From Perge

… as they celebrate 65 years of digging there … from Hurriyet:

Excavations at Perge, an ancient city in Antalya province, have entered their 65th year. The excavation leader believes the ancient city was an artisan workshop

Archaeological work at the ancient city of Perge in southern Turkey passed the 65-year mark recently and is successfully restoring many columns along the city’s streets, according the leader of the excavations.

“The Perge excavations are the longest-running in Turkey, and we are honored to be working on the site,” said Haluk Abbasoğlu, who has been leading the excavations since 1985.

Perge, also known as Perga, is located in southern Turkey’s Antalya province and is included on UNESCO’s world heritage list. This season excavations started on Aug. 2 and will finish Sept. 15, Abbasoğlu said, speaking to the Anatolia news agency.

“Over 65 years, we have unearthed 20 to 25 percent of the ancient city. The unearthed remains were some of the most important parts of the city,” said Abbasoğlu, adding that among those ruins there are two Turkish baths, city gates, an agora, streets, three fountains and some parts of houses.

Abbasoğlu said the team unearthed and restored 25 columns along the ancient city’s main streets this year with money earned by selling tourist information guides.

He said since the launch of the “Erect one column” campaign six years ago, they have unearthed 96 columns in total.

Abbasoğlu said in order to erect the columns, the team used original marble from the Roman period. “We brought the marble from the Marmara Islands. The marble columns have been processed in Afyonkarahisar and later we installed them in Perge.”

One of the largest sculpture ateliers

One column costs 1,300 Turkish Liras, said Abbasoğlu, adding that the Demetrios Apollonios columns contain 85 percent of original column material and will be erected in 2012.

Excavations were started by scholar Arif Müfid Mansel and continued by scholar Jale İnan, Abbasoğlu said.

The team discovered a script, a fountain, a god figure, a sculpture and an Eros sculpture, said Abbasoğlu.

“We have unearthed more than 200 sculptures in Perge. The sculptures exhibited in the Antalya Museum are all from Perge,” he said.

“We assume that Perge was one of the largest sculpture ateliers in ancient times. One scholar friend is preparing a dissertation on Perge and its significance as a production center for ancient tombs,” Abbasoğlu said. “We have discovered some tombs that came from the Marmara Islands and were processed in Perge.”

Perge hosted the final process works of sculptures during ancient times, Abbasoğlu said. “We thought that the tombs’ cages came from Athens and their upper parts were processed in Perge.”

Update on the Jordan Lead Codices

Thomas Varenna has provided a nice update to his previous article at the Bible and Interpretation site on those sketchy lead codices from Jordian. It incorporates a number of recent observations by bibliobloggers and the like and is worth reading as the Jordan Codices facebook page claims it will be having a big announcement soon. Get the update here … and in case you missed the video

From the Mailbag: Marathon 2500

An item of interest:

As you may be aware, the Marathon 2500 Project, has been conducting a year-long virtual lecture series to celebrate the 2,500 year aniversary of the Battle of Marathon. Our final lecture with Professor Paul Cartledge, Chair of Greek Culture at Cambridge University, will be taking place on September 21st (on the “actual” 2,500-year anniversary, as best as we can determine) and we would really appreciate your help with getting the word out with your readers.

Prof. Cartledge will discuss “The Context and Meaning of the Battle of Marathon: Why we have been celebrating the 2,500 year anniversary” by reviewing the yearlong lecture series and answering questions from the global audience. Also participating will by John Marincola, Professor of Classics at Florida State University, James Romm, Professor of Classics at Bard College, and Robert Strassler, publisher of the Landmark series of classics.

The lecture is completely free to join and we have participants from around the world signing up. Details of the event are as follows:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
1:00PM New York Time
Register here for a toll-free number: http://marathon2500-9.eventbrite.com

More information is also available at http://www.marathon2500.org/, along with podcasts of the previous lectures.

Thank you in advance for any help you can provide, and I hope that you will be able to join us for the lecture, as well.

Best regards,
Josh Kirschner
Member, Marathon2500.org

This Day in Ancient History: idus septembres

Bust of Domitian. Pentelic marble, second part...

Image via Wikipedia

idus septembres

  • ludi Romani (day 9)
  • epulum in honour of Minerva and others (connected to the ludi Romani)
  • ritual of the ‘driving of a nail’ by the Pontifex Maximus/Rex Sacrorum into the Temple of Jupiter (likely connected to the above and below entries)
  • 509 B.C. — dedication of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus (and associated rites thereafter; also incorporated into the ludi Romani, it seems)
  • 490 B.C. — yet another reckoning for the Battle of Marathon
  • 16 A.D. — revelation of the conspiracy of Lucius Scribonius Libo, leading to the first of the maiestas trials which characterized the emperor Tiberius’ principate
  • 81 A.D. — death of the emperor Titus; his brother Domitian is acclaimed as emperor
  • 122 A.D. — construction of Hadrian’s Wall begins? (I’m still wondering about the source for this claim)