Dulcedo Oculis: Perseus and Medusa on Scena Illustrata

Another thing lurking in the bottom of my mailbox was a link I saved ages ago to a number of magazine covers from assorted late-19th/early-20th century magazines with a Classics bent … one of my faves was this one (via posterclassics.com):

I’ll post others from time to time … this one could be such a cool t-shirt …

Five Books Interviews on Topics Ancient

My evenings are usually spent reading assorted items in assorted ways on my iPad and one of the many things I do consult is an app/site called The Browser, which collects lengthier items from the web which it considers to be ‘worth reading’. One of their own regular features is something called a ‘Five Books’ interview, wherein they interview various personages for recommendations for five decent books on a particular subject. As I burrow through my email box, I notice that I had set aside some of these to post here, but I don’t think I ever did, so:

Also Seen: A Roman Lead Curse Tablet @ the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum

An interesting item the folks at the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum were promoting back during Hallowe’en:

… it involves imprecations hoping for a malaria-like fever to be imposed on someone, specifically before the end of February. Considering that February is a ‘month of fever’, I wonder whether the curse-tablet folks had a ‘run’ during that month …

CFP: New Voices in Classical Reception Studies

Seen on the Classicists list:

Submissions are invited for the 2012 issue of New Voices in Classical
Reception Studies.

The journal is particularly concerned with promoting the work of scholars
(both early career and established) who are new to publishing in the field
of Classical Reception Studies. Articles are welcome on any and all
aspects of the reception of Greco-Roman antiquity.

Papers should not normally exceed 6,000 words (not including endnotes) though shorter papers are also welcome. (If you wish to submit a longer paper, please contact the editor in advance). All submissions will be peer- reviewed by members of an international advisory board. Papers should also be accompanied by a short CV (which will not be sent to the referees. The referee process is mutually anonymous).

The deadline for submissions for the 2012 issue is January 31st 2012. The journal is e-published annually in the late Spring/early Summer. Articles for consideration by the editorial team should be sent to the editor, Dr Trevor Fear (t.fear AT open.ac.uk), as email attachments (contributors are asked to consult the house stylenotes available on the journal’s website prior to sending in submissions). The editor is also happy to receive informal inquiries at any time.

Latest from the Paphos Dig

From the Cyprus Mail:

AUSTRALIAN archaeologists have announced the end of their excavations in Nea Paphos uncovering more of the mediaeval walls built on top of an ancient theatre, and exploring a water fountain a stone’s throw away.

A team of 20 archaeologists and students from the University of Sydney opened up two trenches between October 1 and 28 at the site, which marks the spot which was once the capital of the island during the Roman and Hellenistic period.

The team kept a blog throughout the excavations, documenting progress and giving specialists space to explain their role.

“As a supervisor this year, I’d like to motivate my team with helpful phrases like ‘dig harder’… Only joking, everyone is hugely enthusiastic and working as a smooth, well-oiled machine in the trenches,” Rhian Jones wrote on October 5.

The theatre was build around 300BC when the city of Nea Paphos was founded. But earthquakes in the fourth century AD eventually spelled its demise.

The team also explored the nymphaeum – a water fountain house probably built in the first century AD – where people could get fresh cool water.

The nymphaeum was close to the north-eastern city gates and near the theatre’s main entrance.

The team’s main job however was to completely record and interpret finds from previous seasons for an academic publication of the architectural history of the theatre, expected in two years.

The Nea Paphos site is home among others to the House of Dionysus and the House of Orpheus, Greco-Roman house types arranged around a central court; the Villa of Theseus built over the ruins of earlier Hellenistic and early Roman periods; the Agora, whose foundations still remain; one of the largest basilicas built in the fourth century AD; and a Byzantine castle.

… we first started paying attention to this dig (it appears) back in June: Finds from Nea Paphos

Seen in Passing: Pompeii Trilogy Drama in the Works

From an NBC interview with playwright Tom Jacobson:

Q. What projects are you currently working on?

A. I’m working on a trilogy about Pompeii: Three full length plays about a Roman family putting on a fake Greek play in their private theater on the day that the Vesuvius erupted in 79AD. I was inspired by the Getty Villa, which was modeled on a villa that was destroyed by the Vesuvius in 79AD. I want to do a play some time at the Getty Villa and I realize that the plays that they do there are adaptations of Greek plays, so I thought, why not write a Greek play.

via A Playwright’s LaLa Land (NBC)

… we’ll keep our jaded eyes open … (not sure whether they should be jaded in this case, but you never know …)

Roman Fort from Alderney?

Interesting item from the BBC:

An overgrown site on Alderney has been found to be one of the best-preserved Roman military structures in the world.

Island tradition had long suggested the site, known as the Nunnery, dated back to Roman times, although excavations since the 1930s had always proved inconclusive.

A joint project between Guernsey Museums and the Alderney Society was set up in 2008 to find the answers.

Over four August bank holiday weekends, a team of a dozen volunteers undertook various excavations to determine the history of the site.

Dr Jason Monaghan, Guernsey Museums director, said: “In 2009 we proved there was a Roman building inside the Nunnery and began to suspect this was a tower as all the northern English forts have a tower in the middle.

“In 2010 we went back specifically looking to prove there was a tower there – and ‘wow’ is there a tower.

“The walls are 2.8m (9ft) thick, we don’t know how high it was, but it would have been a very big structure – it’s as thick as Hadrian’s Wall.”

The tower was found to be about 18 sq m. (58 sq ft).

He said the team dug down to prove the outside walls were also Roman before doing the same for the gateway.

The site has been extensively built on.

It medieval times it was a fort and barracks, and later the governor’s residence, a farm, a German barracks during World War II, British military accommodation and holiday homes.

Dr Monaghan said: “It’s in an extremely good state of preservation… it’s better preserved than all the other small Roman forts in Britain.

“It’s in a better state than what they call the Saxon shore forts off southern England, it’s in better nick than most of Hadrian’s Wall.

“The other beautiful thing about it is that it is very small and very easy to understand. A lot of archaeological sites you go there and you actually need a PhD to understand what’s going on.

“But the Nunnery you can understand – it’s a fort, it’s guarding the bay, it’s got walls, it’s got towers, you can very easily get your head around it.”
‘Nervous’ Romans

Dr Monaghan added: “It probably guarded the entrance to Longis Bay, Alderney’s only natural harbour, and I think they would probably have based a couple of Roman warships there.

“It’s only eight miles to the French coast, you can see right the way across from there, and if you want to control that waterway and stop pirates or anybody else going past, that’s the ideal place to do it.

“The fort protects the beach because we know there was a settlement as well, probably a little Roman village or little town underneath the sand of Longis.”
Small excavation being carried out at the Nunnery in Alderney in 2011 The work to excavate the site was carried out by a team of a dozen volunteers over four years

He said the fort was constructed very late in the Roman period: “This was built in the late 4th Century.

“It’s a time when they were very, very nervous about what was going on in the Roman Empire, they weren’t feeling very happy at all, so they put these forts all over the place.”

The most obvious sign of the old Roman fort are the battlement crenellations, which were built on with medieval stone but are still visible.

As to the future care of the site, which is currently tenanted, Dr Monaghan said funding was an issue and at the moment its preservation was down to the volunteers who were carrying out their work with the permission from the landowner.

He said he hoped the project highlighted its importance and would mean the site would receive the care it deserved.

… there are some photos with the original BBC article, but they aren’t very enlightening. Fortunately, I have come across a series of videos of the excavations … I think I’ve put these in the right order … first, the initial stages of the dig (back in September … the talking does start about 30 seconds in):

Then the excavation of the Gatehouse (from October):

Then the Roman Tower (ditto):

Also Seen: Temple of Aphrodite Threatened?

Haven’t seen anything about this except at Popular Archaeology:

… there’s a link to a website devoted to preserving the monument (in Thessaloniki/Thermaikos), but curiously there is no online petition or the like. Not sure whether we’re getting the complete story on this one …

Iliad Translation Contest ~ Stephen Mitchell as Judge

Saw this mentioned on the Classics list last week … here’s the skinny from one of the official pdfs associated with the contest:

The best translation of Iliad, 3.380-420 will win a prize of a class set of The Iliad and a Skype class session with translator Stephen Mitchell. The winning translation will also be posted on the http://www.IliadBook.com website. No knowledge of Greek is necessary. Contestants are welcome to be as free or as literal as they wish. Entries will be evaluated on the basis of the clarity and eloquence (music of the English). Stephen Mitchell will be the judge.

Contest ends May 15, 2012. See official rules for details.

Sadly (and somewhat bizarrely to me, given that the prize is a class Skype session), the contest is only open to people in the 50 states of the US and DC. Still, it could make for an interesting project …

An Oedipus Retelling

Interesting item which came though the email last week and I only now had a chance to read it … some excerpts:


DAVID Guterson is proud of the risk he took in his new novel, Ed King.

The Bainbridge Island, Wash. resident and author of Snow Falling on Cedars opted to retell the story of Sophocles’ tragedy Oedipus Rex, a Greek myth whereby the main character, Oedipus, is fated to kill his father and marry his mother.

“There’s a risk involved when you retell a story that people already know,” says Guterson, adding some readers may peruse the book’s cover copy and decide there’s no point in reading it when they already know how it ends.

“But I think most of the time people are really interested in not what happens but how you get there,” he says. “We go back to the same stories over and over again. People will rewatch the same movie or reread the same book or go to four or five different performances of Hamlet in their lives knowing full well what’s going to happen to Hamlet but wanting to experience it again and see how it’s worked out this time around by this director and this actor. I hope that it’s the telling, it’s the journey so to speak, and not the end point, that interests readers.”

And the journey of Guterson’s contemporary Oedipus, Ed King, whom the book is named after, is entirely unique. Set in the Pacific Northwest, the novel begins in 1962 in Seattle with an actuary who errs when he sleeps with and subsequently impregnates his underage au pair while his wife is recovering from mental illness. The au pair leaves their son on a doorstep and Ed is adopted by an adoring Jewish family and goes on to lead a successful career as an Internet king; however, the Greek myth continues to shape his fate.


Guterson started writing Ed King, his seventh book, in 2007.

“At the time I was dealing with a couple of strange relationships,” he says. “One person seemed to me to be a sort of pathological liar.”

The concept intrigued him, particularly that people could be unaware of their own lies.

“They’re blind to it,” he says. “I started getting really interested in the idea that we could be blind to something so fundamental about ourselves, but something that’s so obvious to others, about which we’re ignorant. I wanted to tell a story about that. I wanted to explore that in narrative.”

He was attracted to the Oedipal myth as blindness is such an important element of the story. “Oedipus, it’s completely unwitting as he kills his father and marries his mother. He’s completely blind to himself,” he says.

While Guterson has long been a fan of classical literature, Greek in particular, he’s never drawn on it before. In his former career as a high school English teacher, Oedipus Rex was a play he taught for 10 years. In recent years, he’s enjoyed reading Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Guterson feels the classical tale of Oedipus has much to say to a modern audience.

“A story about hubris and blindness is maybe appropriate to the American moment if you will,” he says. “I think post-World War Two, America emerged as a world power, that we have struggled with those very things, with hubris and with blindness to ourselves. And so perhaps the story of Oedipus is appropriate to our own historical moment here in the United States,” he says.

As it’s a dark tale, Guterson didn’t feel comfortable retelling it in a straightforward manner as tragedy; rather, he employed a tragicomic tone.

“It’s a social satire,” he says. “Yes, this book is dark but I’d say in the vein of dark humour. I think people will laugh a lot reading it and do laugh a lot reading it. It’s not dark in the sombre tragic sense at all.”

When asked what he’s most proud of with Ed King, Guterson says it’s that he took a risk.

“I did something very different from what I’ve done before. I didn’t play it safe and just sort of stay in the vein that was familiar. I didn’t travel accustomed ground. I think I stretched myself creatively and made demands on myself artistically and I’m glad that I did that. I think it’s an opportunity for some growth as a writer,” he says.


From the Italian Press: Speaking of Tsunamis …

I’m starting the day by going through the Italian press and came across an interesting-sounding exhibition which takes an Early Bronze Age tsunami which hit the region around Salerno:

I think we need to start a list of such aquatic events in the ancient world … we’ve just mentioned the on at Lechaion mentioned by Corinthian Matters: Did a tsunami destroy ancient Lechaion? … we’ve also heard of one hitting ancient Olympia: Olympia Hit by a Tsunami? — both Lechaion and Olympia, interestingly, in the 6th century A.D. … our initial mention of ancient tsunami related to a 4th-century event in Alexandria: Ancient Tsunami