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 …