York ‘Superstar’ Gladiator Remains on Tour

From the Northern Echo:

NEARLY 2,000 years after they wowed the bloodthirsty crowds in the arena, six skeletons thought to be the remains of Roman gladiators will go on display today.

The skeletons were discovered in York, but are on temporary display in Durham City as the centrepiece of a new exhibition.

Laid out in glass-topped display cases, the skeletons are thought to have been the Premier League football stars of their day, gladiators gathered from the far corners of the Empire and as famous as today’s sports stars.

Excavation leader Kurt Hunter-Mann, from York Archaeological Trust, said analysis had shown the skeletons came from a range of backgrounds. Some were native Yorkshiremen and others had lived near the North Sea, while others were from the Alps, Mediterranean, Africa and Germania, which lay outside the Empire and includes modern Germany.

He said: “Like good footballers, if you look around the Premier League teams, there are Africans and Europeans and a mix of people.

“A lot of gladiators were seen as sporting superstars.

“Some were buried with a lot of honours and grave goods or had a very impressive tombstone.”

Several bear what appear to be the scars of the arena, blunt trauma wounds, animal bites consistent with a beast such as a tiger and, in many cases, they had been decapitated.

Decapitation is thought to have been practised in some parts of Roman society as part of the funeral rite, perhaps to let the spirit leave the body. But the skeletons found at York appear to have met a more brutal end, in some cases their heads being hacked off, which was perhaps the fate of losing a bout.

Mr Hunter-Mann said: “There are some decapitations in the rest of the country which are a very careful, surgical cut after death from the front, which suggests some sort of ritual.

“But these are decapitations from the back and in some cases there have been multiple blows.”

Nearly 100 skeletons were excavated from a linear cemetery, perhaps as much as two miles long, that ran alongside the main road into York. The remains appear to show a particular section of the Roman cemetery, with a larger than expected number of young men, many showing trauma injuries, and many more decapitations than in wider Roman society.

The speculation that the find may have been a gladiators’ cemetery led to worldwide publicity, fuelled by a Channel 4 documentary recreating a coliseum, clips of which are being screened during the Durham exhibition.

About 40,000 people saw the skeletons when they were on display at a small exhibition near Jorvik, in York. They have gone on display in Durham while experts from the university carry out detailed analysis on the bones, which may help prove or disprove the theory that they were gladiators.

Dr Anwen Caffell, of Durham University, who is involved in the research, said: “I feel very privileged to be involved with it.

“Every case is interesting in its own way.

“You have to remember they are real people and treat them with respect, but you also have to retain objectivity and record the information correctly.”

I’m not sure we had this ‘hacked off from behind’ detail before, which I don’t think would be consistent with a coup de grace gladiator-style (which would be from the front). This would likely support my earlier argument that this suggest execution in an arena situation (as opposed to ‘gladiating’proper); I wonder if it’s possible to determine whether the death-dealing blows came from ‘above’ from someone, e.g., on horseback … our previous coverage: York “Gladiators” On Display

Brown and Digitizing Manuscripts

Interesting item from the Brown Daily Herald:

John Bodel, chair of the classics department, is one of only a few scholars in the world working to digitize ancient manuscripts. On the other side of the Atlantic ocean, Michele Brunet, professor of Greek epigraphy at University of Lyon 2 in France, is working on a similar project, looking at ancient documents housed in Paris’ Louvre Museum. Now, thanks to a new global exchange program launched by the University, professors like Bodel and Brunet will be able to share expertise in all disciplines by traveling to far-flung campuses to learn from their international colleagues.

Brown Global Forums, a new initiative administered by the Office of International Affairs and aimed at establishing research collaborations between faculty in partner institutions from around the world, is in its formative stages.

“International collaborations are quite important,” especially because the field needs scholars who are skilled in digital encoding and speak Latin, Greek and modern European languages, Bodel said.

Going forward, Brown will invite professors from partner institutions and will in turn send its own faculty to foreign universities for about a week. The forums could lead to collaborative research and projects bringing together Brown professors with their colleagues around the world, said Matthew Gutmann, vice president for international affairs.

The forums will aim to foster collaboration between professors and institutions through lectures, seminars, workshops and meals between faculty, according to the Office of International Affairs website.

They will be open to faculty members from all disciplines, Gutmann said. Though the University is still negotiating partnerships with foreign institutions, early plans include exchanges with the University of Sao Paulo, State University of Campinas, Nanjing University, Zhejiang University, University of Science and Technology, Ifaki-Ekiti, the University of Hong Kong, Peking University, University of Lyon 2, Bogazici University, Koc University, University of Cape Town and University of the Witwatersrand.

Brunet, the French epigraphy professor, was invited by the classics department to participate in the initiative last month. She lectured in a graduate student seminar and gave a public lecture on the significance of water in the construction of ancient Delos.

The visit also helped spark dialogue between scholars at Brown and their European colleagues. Bodel said Brown Global Forums “planted the further connection” between two members of a “small but growing international consortium” of scholars, who are trying to develop standards for the digitalization of ancient inscriptions.

Brown was once an early pioneer in digital humanities, and the new collaboration will help “invigorate” the University’s reputation as a leader in the field, Bodel said. Global Forums is planning the second part of the exchange, which will send a Brown professor or graduate student to the University of Lyon 2 to continue the collaboration.

On the ‘Latinitas’ of the Roman Missal

Michele Somerville has some commentary on the translation of the Latin in the new Roman Missal, inter alia:

It was interesting to watch, at the Saturday night vigil, my exemplary priest muddle through these changes with his usual open heart, and it was interesting to see the highly sophisticated reader, homilist and teacher struggle through the stiff and unwieldy and language of “corrected” sections of the mass.

When I first started to study Latin in college, I began to try to translate the lyric poems of Catullus. Catullus was a contemporary of Caesar Augustine, so the Latin vernacular in which he wrote would have been about the same as that used by Romans during the time Jesus lived on earth. The grammar and Latin in many of Catullus’s poems are straightforward, and often the verse is bawdy, so young poets who can manage a little Latin are often drawn to translating it. It was through translating Catullus that I learned the little Latin I know, and through reading bad translations of Catullus that I first began to observe that a good translation of any text finesses a compromise between sense and literal meaning. In the case of a poem, some measure of “melopoeia” (Ezra Pound’s word for the melodious aspect of verse) must enter in and infuse the text in question.

The Eucharistic Prayer may not be a poem in a technical sense, but it functions as one. Besides its obvious purpose — to catalyze the consecration — its rhythms reach into the heart like a song with its “word made flesh” message pertaining to hope.

Those who don’t care about poems probably think it does not matter that the Eucharistic Prayer, as of last night, is no longer a poem (in English), but poetry is powerful and one of its strengths is its ability to sneak up and evoke strong response from the unsuspecting. The pope didn’t do himself any favors when he had the scholars siphon the poetry out of the English Eucharistic prayer, and the translation team’s failure to achieve a compromise between certain of the larger truths of our faith and the literal meaning of the words reflects the Vatican’s readiness (nothing new) to sacrifice the glory for the power. People will feel the power of the lost poem through its absence.

I came away from mass last night feeling that these new changes are designed to stick it to priests at the parish level. The implementation of the new procedures makes marionettes of priests. It has every Catholic in the U.S. dutifully holding “pew cards” (in my parish they took the form of laminated “cheat sheets”) so that all could follow the new, old, unwieldy script. It has congregations doing an obedience dance.

I attended a meeting about a year ago in which these changes in the liturgy were introduced. At one point in the discussion, a friend seated behind me tapped my shoulder. “Psst,” he said, pointing to the new translation of the Nicene Creed, “looks like they missed something.” He pointed to this:

 “For us men / and our salvation…”

As Vatican scholars in search of a more faithful translation of this prayer labored over every syllable seeking to bring each into line with the original Latin and the true message of the mass, they failed to make some significant corrections.

Maybe the boys in lace and their scholars were absent the day the Latin class learned that “homines” is a form of the noun “homo, hominis,” which means “man” as in “human being” or “person.” (There’s an alternative word for “man” that would have been used to refer to those with Y chromosomes.)

Or maybe the boys in lace just forgot that women are included in the salvation.

The Vatican’s choice to revisit the text of the Nicene Creed with the aim of perfecting the English translation from Latin is understandable. When it comes to translating our unified profession of faith (which, in going from “we believe” back to “I believe,” would seem to make the prayer less unified.) precision should matter. What is less easy to understand is why the painstaking revision did not include a second look at “for us men / and our salvation.” Every Magisterium-sanctioned text we have tells us that women are included in salvation, yet the translators of the “New” (old) Missal thought it unnecessary to pause, in the course their painstaking parsing, to notice what is essentially erroneous about “for us men and our salvation.”

This non-oversight says all one needs to know about the spirit of this translation. One should expect nothing better from this pontificate. Why did they not correct this inaccurate language when the Vatican experts were in there fixing everything else? Why does the Credo retain this inaccurate and misogynist language?

You know why. The He-man Woman Haters are sending a message. Swinging their censers. This show of power is Ratzinger’s billet doux to lockstep Catholics. He’s tossing the sheep a bone. Even the smallest evidence of devolution thrills them. So, why did they boys in lace change the words to the mass?

Because they can.

But do we have to say those words? No. One doesn’t get kicked out of mass for not saying the words right. Not yet, at least. I have always love the words of the mass, but I’ve been tweaking my whole life, correcting sexist language in my own prayers at will.

I’ll say some of those new old words when they make sense and decline to say others. Catholics don’t need no stinking “pew card.” Roman Catholics don’t an imprimatur to pray. [...]

… not sure why, but that last quoted sentence sounds best if given a ‘honey badger don’t care’ inflection …

Roman Soldiers and PTSD (and other freebies from G&R)

Assorted notices are filling my box of some free content at Greece and Rome … on which immediately caught my eye:

  • Aislinn Melchior, Caesar in Vietnam: Did Roman Soldiers Suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Here’s the abstract:

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) made its first appearance in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980, partly as a result of the ongoing treatment of veterans from the Vietnam War. Although PTSD is not only or even primarily a disorder caused by combat, combat is a regular trigger and my chief concern in what follows. Therefore I will not be examining such evidence as exists for the psychological traumas of civilians in the ancient world who were exposed to violence, rape, enslavement, or the execution of family members in the context of conquest. My focus is on the soldier.

The article is available here

Other freebies:

  • Caleb, Ellicott Finch, Evolving views of Ageing and Longevity from Homer to Hippocrates: Emergence of Natural Factors, Persistence of the Supernatural
  • Felix Bdelmann and Pat Easterling, Reading Minds in Greek Tragedy
  • Charlotte R. Potts, The Art of Piety and Profit at Pompeii: A New Interpretation of the Painted Shop Façade at ix.7.1–2
  • T. J. Leary, Kipling, Stalky, Regulus & Co.: A Reading of Horace Odes 3.5
  • Paul Millett, Aristotle and Slavery in Athens

… all available here

Peter van Minnen and BASP in the News

From a UCincinnati press release:

Education, jobs, religion and even the cultural effects of bilingualism were as topical in the ancient world as they are today.

All of these topics and more are featured in translations of ancient papyrus in the University of Cincinnati-based journal, “Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists,” due out Dec. 2.

The annually produced journal, edited since 2006 by Peter van Minnen, UC associate professor and head of classics, features the most prestigious global research on papyri, a field of study known as papyrology. (Papyrology is formally known as the study of texts on papyrus and other materials, mainly from ancient Egypt and mainly from the period of Greek and Roman rule.)

Below are five topics treated in the 2011 volume of the “Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists.”

Nailing Down Job Training
Chris Eckerman of the University of Oregon edits a Greek apprenticeship contract for an uncle to teach his nephew the carpentry trade in an Egyptian village. The contract dates from the time of Roman rule in Egypt, which began in 30 BC. About 50 such contracts exist from that time period in Egypt. For instance, one contract from Alexandria calls for four years of musical training for a slave. Today’s college students can probably relate.

What Language Do Bilingual Dreamers (and Gods) Use?
Stephen Kidd of New York University publishes an essay on dream records in bilingual (Greek and Egyptian) papyri from the second century BC. Dreams were then regarded as messages from the gods, and it would be safe to assume that in ancient Egypt, it was the “local” gods speaking to the local population. But this was a time when there were fully bilingual people in Egypt under Greek rule. Did they dream in Egyptian or Greek? Were the gods that were speaking the local Egyptian gods or “imported” Greek gods? It would seem that Egyptian interpretations held sway. While Greeks or sufficiently Hellenized people would record their dreams in Greek, the dream interpreters were Egyptians or at least thoroughly trained in Egyptian dream interpretation, and the record shows that essential portions and word associations (puns) were provided and unraveled for meaning in Egyptian.

A Miracle Find
Albert Pietersma and Susan Comstock of the University of Toronto edit pages that, until recently, were missing from a famous early Christian papyrus codex (manuscript volume) from the fourth century AD. The codex itself has a fascinating history. It was acquired in the 1950s by the University of Mississippi with funds raised from, among others, William Faulkner. But, as things go, the university later sold the codex to a private collector in the 1980s, and it later wound up in the hands of a Norwegian shipping magnate who now owns the bulk of the codex. However, Pietersma and Comstock found missing pages from the codex in Dublin.

The codex, with its early Christian texts in Greek and Coptic, originally came from a monastery in Upper Egypt that was founded by Pachomius, an Egyptian Christian, who was the originator of the monastic way of life in which male or female monastics live together and have their possessions in common under the leadership of an abbot or abbess.

The recently found missing pages contain a Coptic prayer written by Pachomius for the annual Easter celebration. Arguably, Pachomius himself first recited this prayer at the end of the Easter service near the middle of the 4th century AD.

The Great Grain Robbery
Ryan Boehm of the University of California, Berkeley, edits a 4th-century petition BC on papyrus, seeking justice from an administrator from Hermopolis. The petition charges an evil doer in an Egyptian village of stealing agricultural produce belonging to minors who are likely orphans.

Foregoing Magic
Theodore de Bruyn and Jitse Dijkstra of the University of Ottawa publish a study of magical amulets from Egypt that contain Christian elements such as crosses and saints’ names. About 200 such texts survive from Late Antiquity (4th to 8th centuries AD), a time when the church fathers were combating the use of magical amulets by Christians. These amulets ranged from those seeking revenge and cursing opponents (for example, an insomnia curse) to those seeking healing, prosperity, success, protection and even exorcism.

Past issues of the BASP are available via the University of Michigan: Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists

Venus Still Causing a Stir

Back in February of 2010, the German news magazine Focus published a cover critical of the way Greece was occupying its place in the European Union and there was a big brouhaha back then … I thought I had posted about it here, but it might have been on Twitter or Facebook (I might have feared rc being blocked at a school because of this). In any event, this is the cover I’m referring to (if it disappears, follow the Kathimerini and/or Hollywood Reporter links that follow; the url is kind of weird):

via Focus

… and here’s the latest, via eKathimerini:

An Athens court on Tuesday postponed until December 9 the libel trial of 13 journalists employed by the German magazine Focus in connection with a front page of the publication from February 2010 depicting a statue of the Venus de Milo making an obscene gesture under the title “Cheats in the Euro family,” in reference to Greece.

Focus has denied the charges, which were brought after a group of Greek lawyers filed a complaint. The magazine has claimed that the front-page image of the statue and the text of the article, with its criticism of Greek profligacy, might have been upsetting to some but was not punishable offense.

Hollywood Reporter glosses the legal issues with a bit of ClassCon, inter alia:

[...] Americans have become accustomed to certain standards for bringing defamation claims. Lawsuits have been constrained by free speech outlined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Not all countries agree with the U.S. standard, however. Greece is one territory where there’s criminal liability for insulting someone, where you can defame a corporation, where disparaging the memory of a deceased individual carries a penalty of six months in prison, and not last nor least, individuals have to be careful about not disparaging the honor of national symbols and heads of a foreign state.

According to local reports, the charges against the journalists in this Venus de Milo case carry up to two years in jail as a penalty, though it’s not clear how the country intends to enforce a judgment. None of the journalists showed up at the most recent hearing. If they do, Greek law allows journalists to pursue a defense that they were serving the public interest.

We’d like to report that the defamation laws derive from ancient Greece, but according to our best research, they seem more attributable to the Romans, specifically from edicts made by the Praetors around 130 A.D. Back then, it was illegal to shout at someone of good morals in the public square, use obscene language, and make some questionable declarations of a woman’s chastity.

… we should note that Focus did something similar a few months after (May 2010):

via Greek Reporter

Greek Reporter seems to have been the only publication that noticed: “Focus” Insults Greeks, Once Again

Someone has a little too much time on their hands … (how’s that for an ambiguous closing line?)