The Ancient Lives Project (not Papyrus Transcription)

This seems to be from Cornell, but the page indicates it’s something called MyScience … whatever the case, this is an interesting project, even if it shares a title with that crowdsourcing transcription thing at Oxford:

In a corner of Verity Platt’s Goldwin Smith Hall office sits a large plaster reproduction of a famous classical sculpture fragment, the Belvedere Torso.

“It was discovered during the Renaissance and was influential on Michelangelo’s paintings for the Sistine Chapel,” said the Cornell professor of classics and history of art. “Unlike many surviving ancient sculptures, it’s an example signed by an artist [Apollonios] we’d never have heard of otherwise.”

Platt, who specializes in ancient theories of representation and on the relationship between image and text, is one of the lead researchers on the Ancient Lives Project, which aims to develop a new approach to the transmission and reception of classical poetry. She will act as a consultant on visual culture throughout the project.

The European Research Council has granted €1.125 million (about $1.47 million) for the project, including support for two years of research (2012-13) and funding for Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows.

The researchers will explore how listeners and readers imagined the lives of Greek and Roman poets, when the true facts of their lives were unknown or forgotten; and the relation of those perceptions to classical poetry’s shifting social and cultural value.

“We want to explore how the stories people told about ancient poets’ lives might serve as evidence for the ways that they read and responded to their works in different periods and places,” Platt said. “The biographical reception and reinvention of poets by each generation is a process which began in antiquity and extends right up to the modern day.”

She questions why, for example, “some biographies claim that Homer was blind, that Sappho committed suicide due to unrequited love, or that Virgil was a magician. Such stories are rarely based in fact, but rather than dismissing them as historically inaccurate, it is more interesting to ask what they might tell us about how the poets were perceived.”

The Ancient Lives Project will result in three major conferences, a website providing documentation and resources for scholars, and publications including an edited volume from each conference. The principal investigator is Barbara Graziosi, a professor of classics and ancient history at Durham University in the U.K.

A doctoral student based in Durham will visit Cornell for a year to work on portraits of poets with Platt and history of art professor Annetta Alexandridis.

“The project website will gather all the evidence for the lives of ancient poets, both textual and visual, and will collect extant ancient portraits,” Platt said.

The project offers important links between Cornell and classics departments in the U.K., including Durham and Warwick universities, she added.

Platt is conducting parallel personal research “on the lives of ancient artists, a fascinating situation if you consider all the literary material relating to artists whose works have been lost,” she said. “Much of the history of ancient art has been based on literary evidence for ’old masters,’ despite the fact that the majority of surviving works were made by anonymous craftsmen.”

She will give a lecture on artists’ lives Jan. 9 at York University in the U.K. She has researched ancient cult statues, such as the Athena Parthenos and Olympian Zeus, for her book “Facing the Gods” (2011, Cambridge University Press). Like most original classical Greek sculptures, neither survives.

“Both were attributed to Phidias, and attracted all kinds of controversial tales,” she said. “The role of the artist in making images of the gods is problematic. Is it true that Phidias concealed his own portrait in Athena’s shield? Or that he stole gold intended for her statue? What might such stories tell us about attitudes to sacred forms of representation in antiquity?”

Once published, the project research “will be an important resource for anyone using these texts. There will be a proliferation of work using what we’re going to make accessible,” Platt said.

Dial-a-Bishop for Latin Test Help?

Tip o’ the pileus to Steven Perkins on the Latinteach list for this intesting item from the Vatican Insider:

Students from two high schools will be taking quite a unique exam tomorrow at the Vatican, and they will be able to rely on a device usually banned from most exams: the cellphone. The Vatican newspaper “L’Osservatore Romano” posted this unusual piece of news this afternoon. The Biblical test, with its very seasonal title “Puer natus est” (The Child is born), will concern students from Austrian private high school “Sacré Coeur Bregenz” and the “Formatio” high school of Liechtenstein. The exam will be held at the Gregorian Museum, the secular section of the Vatican Museums.

Students will sit the Latin exam, which will be divided into two parts, either individually or in twos. In the first part, they will be asked to translate liturgical texts focusing on Christmas. They will then have to answer questions about the Church. The hard-to-believe part of the news, concerns the use of cellphones: not only are they allowed, but their use is practically mandatory. During the test, as a matter of fact, students answering questions about the Church will be able to rely on a “special help, calling – with their cellphones – eminent religious figures in the Vatican, in Austria and in other Countries”.

“L’Osservatore Romano” names a few of them: “let us mention cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, emeritus president of the Governorate, bishop Joseph Clemens, Secretary of the Pontifical Council of Laymen, Mgr. Waldemar Turek, from the Secretariat of State, and Flaminia Giovanelli, Under-Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. “Prompters” will also be able to ask pupils questions about Christmas and the Catholic Church.”

In brief, students, besides being allowed to use their cellphones, will be also provided with the phone numbers of bishops and cardinals who will be on hand to help them. According to the Holy See’s newspaper, “the aim of this examen pubblicum Vaticanum is to acknowledge and promote both the historical role played by Latin in the development of European languages, both the role played by the Catholic Church in the preservation of Latin language itself. With this respect, this public initiative means to foster the encouragement of the teaching of Latin at high school, and the comprehension of Latin liturgy by all the faithful.”

Even if nearly nobody living beyond the Tiber river can speak the language fluently, the Vatican does not hold Latin to be a dead langue. A dedicated office in the Holy See continuously updates the lexicon, composing neologisms that ancient Romans and early Christians could not know, to the scope of translating in Latin papal bulls and other documents.

Pope Benedict XVI’s social encyclical, Caritas in veritate, published two years ago in July, quite puzzled the Latin translators, who had to tackle the lexicon concerning the economical crisis and globalization. Thus, delocalization has been translated as “delocalization”, while liberalization was rendered as “plenior libertatis”. Unemployment is “operis vacatio”, sub-employment is “operis subvacatio” and the drop in birth rates is expressed as “natorum imminuitio”.

“Fontes alterius generis” is the syntagmatic expression used for alternative energy sources, while the non-renewable ones have been called “fontes energiae qui non renovantur”. One of the most used words is “globalizatio” (globalization, of course), a word which does not belong to ancient Latin but was constructed on the word “globus”, world.

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem x kalendas januarias

ante diem x kalendas januarias

  • Saturnalia continues (day 7)
  • Larentalia — a funerary ritual at the purported tomb of Acca Larentia, who was the wife of the shepherd who found Romulus and Remus being suckled by the she-wolf.
  • rites in honour of the Tempestates, which seems to be a Latin translation of the Punic divinity ‘Ba’al of the skies’ (i.e. this was a divinity taken over by the Romans, probably during the Punic Wars)
  • 179 B.C. — dedication of a Temple of Diana and A Temple of Juno Regina in the Campus Martius by M. Aemilius Lepidus
  • 250 A.D. — martyrdom of the Ten Martyrs of Crete