Black Nobel Prize Winners

NewsOne has a list of the 16 persons of African descent who have won Nobel prizes of some sort. Included in the list:

Derek Alton Walcott is a Saint Lucian poet, playwright, writer and visual artist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992 and the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2011 for White Egrets. His works include the Homeric epic Omeros. Robert Graves wrote that Walcott “handles English with a closer understanding of its inner magic than most, if not any, of his contemporaries”

I’d never heard of Omeros before … the comments of Robert Graves had me thinking I’d missed a Classicists along the way. Turns out he isn’t a Classicst, but the Omeros (according to Wikipedia) does sound like an interesting ‘adaptation’ (not sure what the word for this sort of thing is …

Greek Farmers and Their Livestock

Okay … I’ve waited a couple hours to see if my spiders bring back something with a little more detail. They haven’t, so I’ll post this for now … from the Straits Times:

Archaeologists in northern Greece have found a rare group of ancient graves where farmers were interred with their livestock, a Greek daily reported on Friday.

At least 11 adults and 16 farm animals were found buried together near the town of Mavropigi in the northern region of Macedonia, some 21km from the city of Kozani, Ethnos daily said.

The men, women and a child lay alongside horses, oxen, dogs and a pig in two rows of graves, the area’s head archaeologist told the newspaper.

‘It is the first time that this strange custom is found at such a scale, and from this particular period of time, the late 6th century and early 5th century BC,’ head archaeologist Georgia Karamitrou-Mentesidi said.

… barring more details, we might speculate (and I’m only speculating here)  that we’re dealing with some sort of epidemic a la the plague at Athens (although it is earlier); something like anthrax that affects both animals and humans?

A Classics Student Does the Math

Interesting item by India Lenon in the Telegraph:

This afternoon I paid my tuition fees for the fourth and final time. A few minutes later, I received the lecture lists for the new term, and I’ve undertaken some mercenary calculations. Oxford, along with all other government-subsidised universities in the UK, charges the maximum tuition fee currently allowed: £3,375. With three terms, each eight weeks long, this means that every single undergraduate here will be paying £140.63 per week for their teaching this year.

At this point, value and money diverge, since different degrees offer different amounts of teaching. Personally however, each week this term I will have four hours of lectures to attend, 1.5 hours of classes and two hours of one-on-one tutorials. This means that per hour of contact time this term, I will be paying £18.75. It goes without saying that this is excellent value. Paying less than £20 to be lectured for an hour by academics who are experts in their field, let alone being taught on a one-to-one basis by them, is a privilege. Moreover since I do a humanities subject, my contact time is significantly less than those doing sciences, who have labs and classes all morning (if not all day) Monday to Friday: their value for money is even greater.

But what about next year, when the new batch of undergraduates are paying £9,000 instead of £3,375? For me this term, it would work out at £375 per week, and exactly £50 per hour of contact time. Research has shown that many others will be in the same boat. Now I love my subject, which is quite exceptional in its breadth (I study history, philosophy, literature and language), and I am also lucky enough to be being taught by some of the most eminent classicists around at the moment. But every undergraduate classicist would admit that the subject does not hold easily recognisable value in the “real world”. I believe it is valuable, but that does not mean that the employers on whose doors I will very soon be knocking will think the same.

For £20 an hour, diminished “employability” relative to someone with a law or an engineering degree was a risk I was willing to take. But for £50 an hour, I am very far from sure that it would have been. At this point, many will cry “why should the government pay the £30 difference?”, which is in effect what they do at the moment. This is a fair question – perhaps they should not. But it seems inevitable that the direct result will be that students – in particular underprivileged students – will no longer consider humanities degrees to be worthwhile. Optimists may argue that universities will be forced to provide better value for money. But to a realist, a sharp decline in the study of history, English, classics and many other such subjects is a far more likely outcome.

Theater of War Interview(s)

Very interesting items put up at Didaskalia today … here’s a bit from the page as a bit of a tease:

To describe Theater of War (hereafter ToW) as ‘theater,’ or ‘a theatrical event,’ or even a ‘performance’ is to surely miss the point. Working from the argument that Attic Greek drama was primarily (though not exclusively) a mode of performance “by veterans, for veterans,” Bryan Doerries—ToW’s creator, creative director, and one of its producers—focuses the event on multiple activities that dramatize the experience (and costs) of warfare and provoke discussion about them.1 The event itself falls into three stages. First, four to five professional actors sit at a table on a bare stage—no costumes, no props, no sets, no make-up, no special lighting—and perform a reading of Sophocles’ Ajax or Philoctetes. Next, the actors are replaced by another small group, made up of citizens, including veterans, often a veteran’s spouse, and usually a therapist with experience treating combat veterans, all of whom offer their own comments and experience. Finally, Doerries (in the role of emcee) invites the audience to talk about their reactions to the performance and comments, passing the microphone around. The entire event lasts approximately two hours, although discussions linger afterward.

In other words, ToW sits at the interstices between theatrical event and social tool. It is part classical homage, part Sophoclean revival, part town-hall meeting, part therapeutic group session, part social-impact project. Were it not for Doerries’s careful management of the audience, always steering the audience conversation back to the text of the performance, there is no little risk that ToW could also become part heated—even explosive—public debate on contemporary American military policy. In the open discussion, audience members speak thoughtfully, tearfully, passionately, even angrily. There is a simmering of communal emotion among the audience reminiscent not of the darkness of contemporary theater, but rather of the colorful, emotion-filled anecdotes found in the vitae of the Attic dramatists themselves. In short, ToW is a unique kind of event, a compelling amalgam of artifice and grassroots activity that asks (and answers) how ancient drama can serve society more than 2,400 years after the genre’s initial apogee.


Scholars may rightfully wonder whether ToW offers any meaningful insight into ancient performance. With its clear social aim, does ToW belong rather to the annals of contemporary theater history or reception studies? In Part Two, Doerries at one point suggests that part of his aim with ToW is in fact archaeological, to “excavate” and uncover the emotions and ideas of an ancient Athenian (male, citizen-soldier) audience.5 Doerries’s claim places him somewhat in league with a contemporary scholarly trend to examine the role of emotion in classical drama.6 We leave it to others to ask at least two further questions. First, how would we go about substantiating such a claim? Second, does or should this claim change the way we read, study, and perform Attic drama? [...]

The rest of the page is worth reading and on the page as well is a two-part video interview that is definitely of interest …

CFP: Swords, Sorcery, Sandals and Space: The Fantastika and the Classical World

Seen on various lists but I think Tony Keen may have mentioned this one to me personally as well:

Swords, Sorcery, Sandals and Space: The Fantastika and the Classical World. A Science Fiction Foundation Conference

29 June – 1 July 2013

At The Foresight Centre, University of Liverpool

Guests of Honour/Plenary Speakers: Edith Hall, Nick Lowe, and Catherynne M. Valente


Call for papers

The culture of the Classical world continues to shape that of the modern West. Those studying the Fantastika (science fiction, fantasy and horror) know that it has its roots in the literature of the Graeco-Roman world (Homer’s Odyssey, Lucian’s True History). At the same time, scholars of Classical Reception are increasingly investigating all aspects of popular culture, and have begun looking at science fiction. However, scholars of the one are not often enough in contact with scholars of the other. This conference aims to bridge the divide, and provide a forum in which SF and Classical Reception scholars can meet and exchange ideas.

We invite proposals for papers (20 minutes plus discussion) or themed panels of three or four papers from a wide range of disciplines (including Science Fiction, Classical Reception and Literature), from academics, students, fans, and anyone else interested, on any aspect of the interaction between the Classical world of Greece and Rome and science fiction, fantasy and horror. We are looking for papers on Classical elements in modern (post-1800) examples of the Fantastika, and on science fictional or fantastic elements in Classical literature. We are particularly interested in papers addressing literary science fiction or fantasy, where we feel investigations of the interaction with the ancient world are relatively rare. But we also welcome papers on film, television, radio, comics, games, or fan culture.

Please send proposals to conferences AT, to arrive by 30 September 2012. Paper proposals should be no more than 300 words. Themed panels should also include an introduction to the panel, of no more than 300 words. Please include the name of the author/panel convener, and contact details.

Swords, Sorcery, Sandals and Space is organised by the Science Fiction Foundation, with the co- operation of the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology at the University of Liverpool.

Mosaic From Augusta Traiana

I thought we had blogged this before and bewailed the lack of a photo of the mosaic … if so, I can’t find it in my pre-coffee haze. Whatever the case, Focus-Fen has an interview with Dimitar Yankov on the mosaic:

Focus: Mr Yankov, the mosaic you discovered – what had it been part of, what building?

Dimitar Yankov: We are still in the field of hypothesis here, but on the basis of the image on the mosaic’s insignia we can speak about a private building or a temple to Dionysius. It is still to be interpreted, though. The insignia is still not fully uncovered, but what has been uncovered by now speaks of a scene connected to a procession by the retinue of Dionysus – one of the most worshiped Thracian deities. What we have so far seen from it is a figure of a satyr and two dancing maenads behind it. The image is really elegant and the figures on the insignia are well-preserved. This is only hypothetically a Dionysus temple, since we do not know what temples in the actual cities looked like back at the time. The information on a Dionysus temple in the Rhodope Mountains which both media and scholars have been mentioning a lot lately is one thing, but we have no idea what city temples looked like. What we have is preliminary data which leads us to thinking the building might have been a temple.

Focus: What century do you think that the mosaic originates from?

Dimitar Yankov: It dates from 3rd century, i.e. it is Roman and coincides with the time of the prosperity of Augusta Traiana.

Focus: What are the predominant techniques of workmanship of the mosaic?

Dimitar Yankov: It is made from small stone cubes with the opus tessellatum technique, but glass smalt has also been used for the finer parts of the figures – the chaplets of the two dancing maenads are tied with such glass cubes, which have a shiny colour, along the hands and the girdles of the chiton of the two dancing maenads are also tied with such smalt cubes. The mosaic is multi-coloured and more than 5 shades of red have been used, around 5-6 shades of blue-grey, as the red varies from pale pink to dark cerise. There is a certain vivacity of the figures of the dancers, a vivacity which springs from the figure of the satyr, who is leading the parade of these maenads, as well. We also have to point that the mosaic is very clear – there are no figures of animals, which are usually accompanying this plot – the retinue of Dionysus.

Focus: Have any such mosaics been discovered in the past?

Dimitar Yankov: This is the first mosaic of this type, not only in Bulgaria, but on the entire territory of the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. There is no exact analogue to this mosaic, and I am convinced that this is the only one discovered so far. It is the first of its kind in Bulgaria – that is 100% certain. The mosaic is a wonderful masterpiece of the Roman mosaic art in our lands.

Focus: What is the meaning of the mosaic and do you have any hopes that when you continue the excavations you will find something as valuable, or even more valuable than it?

Dimitar Yankov: The remaining part of the emblem of the mosaic must have Dionysus on it, as this is a compulsory figure in the retinue, and there will probably be one more figure from the emblem of the mosaic. This is at least what our expectations are. I am now sure whether we will manage to excavate this part of the mosaic, which is to the north. We have an issue with the adjacent land, where the owners have investment plans – it is difficult to dig as the mound is too big. For now I cannot say whether we will be able to discover the remaining part of the emblem of the mosaic. I hope that we will be able to. In the next 3 or 4 days things will be much clearer.

Focus: Where will the mosaic be stored after its restoration and will it be accessible to the general public?

Dimitar Yankov: The mosaic will be disassembled first. It needs conservation, as it cannot be left like this during the winter. After the conservation and restoration, which will be more a certain fortification of the mosaic with a new basis, it will be exhibited in the new museum building. We have such opportunities, and we are even considering exhibiting it in one of the halls of our current museum. The conservation and restoration process, however will cost a lot of money, and I hope that after the local elections the municipality will manage to find sufficient amount of money for that, and I also hope that local representatives of the business will contribute with donations.
I would like to add that the mosaic is unique not only for the history of our city, but also for the art history on Bulgarian lands in general and in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. There will probably be many discussions about the character of the building, as we are unable to make a thorough research of the complex in which the mosaic was included. This however could be done by next generations.

Here’s a small photo — hmmm … maybe it’s not so small after all —  that accompanies the original article; a larger one is available at the original site: