CFP: Latin, National Identity and the Language Question in Central Europe

Seen on the Classicists list:

We would like to call your attention to the conference entitled
"Latin, National Identity and the Language Question in Central Europe"
organised by Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Neo-Latin Studies. The
conference will take place in Innsbruck on 13-15 December 2012, the
conference call is posted on the homepage of
the institute:

We warmly encourage the application of all interested scholars. The
150-200 words abstract of the paper proposal should be sent to
language.conference AT no later than 30 April 2012.
Travel and accommodation grants are available within the limits of the
conference budget.

CFP: An End to Unity? East and West in the Fourth Century

Seen on the Classicists list:

The fourth century was a pivotal age in the history of the Roman Empire, an
age of transition: New residencies of imperial power emerged in both West
and East, with Constantinople as upcoming principal court and stage for
imperial triumphs and celebrations. The attitude of the emperors towards
Christianity changed from proscription to prescription, though religious
belief and practice – Christian as well as traditional – were still diverse.
Rome‟s ever-growing status as the Christian city culminated in its claim for
primacy over other sees in the early 380s. The political division between
East and West after the death of Theodosius I, in 395, would, in retrospect,
be a definitive end to administrative unity.
The concepts of concordia and discordia pervade late-antique textual and
visual as well as material sources. Romans developed and exploited these
notions with fairly different (geo-)political, religious, geographical and
social ambitions in mind: some strove for unity within the empire, others
pursued unity within Christianity. There were advocates for unity among
„real‟ Romans opposed to threatening „barbarians‟ and agents for (a
cultural) unity within the senatorial aristocracy. And there were those who
rejected these initiatives for uniformity and opted for separation: the
split of the empire in 395 was final, but it was certainly not the first
division. Besides occasional geographical separate entities, the Latin
speaking West and the Greek oriented East had been polarized in intellectual
and theological matters. From a religious perspective, Christian and
traditional groups rejected or extricated themselves from the binding
Christian doctrine, some going underground as „heretics‟, others as monks
dwelling in isolated places. At the same time, traditional cults still
persisted or revived, of which Mithraism is but one example.
In all cases, people used the concepts of unity and discord in constructing
their identity. As a result, the Roman Empire in late antiquity was – maybe
more than other periods in its history – characterised by its many
identities and different groups trying to control the empire.
This conference seeks to explore the degree of unity and discord between
East and West in the fourth century from different angles. Therefore we
invite scholars of all fields working on Late Antiquity to present their
views on the topic. Our hope is that this meeting will prompt a dynamic
interchange among scholars with a focus on ancient history, literature,
archaeology, architecture, religion, law and philosophy, (but also on)
cultural memory and identity building. Comparisons of political, social or
cultural phenomena in the Eastern and Western part of the Empire are as much
appreciated as papers which discuss fourth century views on unity (or
separation). With this conference, we hope to deepen our understanding of
the complexities of unity and discord in the late Roman empire.

* Practicalities

Organisation: drs. Roald Dijkstra and drs. Sanne van Poppel, Radboud
University Nijmegen
Location: Radboud University Nijmegen (the Netherlands)
Date: 24-26 October 2012

Papers are accepted in English, German or French (30 minutes length).

Abstract (500 words) should be sent in before 1 May 2012 to unity@ AT
15 May at the latest, you will be informed about your admission to the
conference. For further questions, please mail to the address mentioned

The conference opens with a keynote lectureby prof. dr. David Potter
(University of Michigan) on the 24th, followed by a reception, for both of
which everyone is cordially invited. There will be an optional dinner
afterwards (on own expenses). Confirmed speakers are offered hotel
accommodation for two nights (24 & 25 October) and conference meals
(breakfast, lunch and refreshments; dinner on the 25th). Given our
restricted budget, we kindly ask participants to declare travel expenses at
their own institution.

* Confirmed speakers:
Dr. Jan Willem Drijvers (University of Groningen) – tba
Prof. dr. Christian Gnilka em. (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster) –
“Die Reichsidee des Prudentius”
Prof. dr. Mark Humphries (Swansea University) – "The Centre and the
Centrifuge: Imperial Unity and Civil War in the Fourth Century"
Prof. dr. Hervé Inglebert (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense) –
"Concordia, Romania et Ecclesia catholica : les discours de l’unité romaine
au IVe siècle"
Prof. dr. David Potter (University of Michigan) – "Can we measure the might
of Rome?"
Dr. Alexander Skinner (Cardiff University) – “Aristocrats and Imperial
Service: Observations on an East-West Contrast”
Prof. dr. Paul Stephenson (Radboud University Nijmegen) – tba

* Chairs:
prof. dr. Sible de Blaauw (Radboud University Nijmegen)
prof. dr. Bas ter Haar Romeny (Leiden University)
dr. Daniëlle Slootjes (Radboud University Nijmegen)

CONF : “Gender and sexuality in the city : Politics of sex in Plato’s Dialogues”

Seen on the Classicists list:

Colloque international – International symposium

Genre et sexualité dans la cité La politique du sexe dans les dialogues de Platon

Gender and sexuality in the city Politics of sex in Plato’s Dialogues

1-3 mars 2012 INHA Auditorium 2, rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris

Les dialogues de Platon constituent un espace propice à la réélaboration des questions de genre, de sexe et de sexualité dans l’Antiquité ; l’un des enjeux de ce colloque international, qui annonce le Symposium Platonicum qui se tiendra à Pise en 2013 sur le Banquet de Platon, consiste à réaffirmer l’importance de ce philosophe quant à la constitution de repères et de thèses pour l’ensemble de l’Antiquité grecque. Tout d’abord, les dialogues sont une source textuelle pour le philologue, l’historien, l’anthropologue et le sociologue. Les travaux récents sur le genre et la sexualité étudient Platon dans un ensemble de sources et de textes sans lesquels la pensée de ce philosophe demeurerait inintelligible. Le Banquet, la République, le Phèdre ou les Lois sont ainsi conçus comme des textes où se reflètent et s’élaborent une culture, des pratiques et des rituels que Platon prend comme objet de réflexion. Il s’agira, dans ce colloque, de repérer et de présenter les différents éléments d’héritage qui aident à la compréhension des questions du genre, du sexe et de la sexualité dans les Dialogues. Mais Platon est également une figure importante dans l’infléchissement qu’il donne aux concepts d’homme, de femme, d’erôs dans l’Antiquité plus tardive : législation sexuelle, reconfiguration du rôle et des fonctions des hommes et des femmes dans la cité, élaboration d’un erôs philosophique, sont autant de points qu’il s’agira d’exposer dans leur reprise par des auteurs de l’Antiquité, jusqu’à la Renaissance où « l’amour platonique » devient un véritable leitmotiv de la philosophie néoplatonicienne et dans la littérature.

Plato’s Dialogues constitute a propitious space for re-elaborating questions of gender, sex and sexuality in Antiquity. One of the goals of this international Conference, in preparation for the Symposium Platonicum to be held on Plato’s Symposium at Pisa 2013, consists in re-affirming this philosopher’s importance for the constitution of landmarks and theses for all of Greek Antiquity. In the first place, the Dialogues are a textual source for philologists, historians, anthropologists and sociologists. Recent works on gender and sexuality study Plato within a set of sources and texts without which this philosopher’s thought would remain unintelligible. Thus, the Symposium, Republic, Phaedrus and Laws are conceived as texts in which a culture, practices, and rituals, which Plato takes as the object of his reflection, are reflected and elaborated. The purpose of this Conference will be to identify and present the various inherited elements that aid the comprehension of questions concerning gender, sex, and sexuality in the Dialogues. However, Plato is also an important figure in the reorientation he gives to the concepts of man, woman, and erôs in later Antiquity. Sexual legislation, reconfiguration of the role and functions of men and women within the city, the elaboration of a philosophical erôs : all these points will be expounded as they are taken up by the authors of Antiquity, down to the Renaissance, when “Platonic love” becomes a veritable Leitmotiv in Neoplatonic philosophy and literature.


Jeudi 1 mars Matinée : Usages des concepts de genre, de sexe et de sexualité dans l’Antiquité (10-12h30)
– Sandra LAUGIER (allocution d’ouverture)
– Violaine SEBILLOTTE-CUCHET (Université Paris 1 – Panthéon-Sorbonne) : « Le genre dans la cité des historiens : y a-t-il eu une ‘politique du sexe’ dans l’Athènes de Platon ? »
– Table ronde autour de David HALPERIN, en présence de l’auteur.

Après-midi : Eros et politique (14h-16h00)
– François de POLIGNAC : « D’Aphrodite à Eros, quel genre pour l’érotique politique ? »
– Claude CALAME : « Education chorale et ‘homosexualité’ initiatique dans les Lois de Platon : relations et identités de sexe »

Après-midi : Les réformes platoniciennes : communauté, genre, et législation sexuelle (16h00-18h)
– Nathalie ERNOULT : « Construction, déconstruction de l’identité sexuelle dans la République de Platon »
– Gabriele CORNELLI : « Seducendo Socrate : retorica di genere e politica della memoria nell’ ‘Alcibiade platonico’ » « Seducing Socrates : rhetoric of gender and policy of memory in the platonic Alcibiades »

Vendredi 2 mars

Matinée : Eros et philosophie (10h-12h00)
– Carolina ARAUJO : « To orthos paiderastein : righteousness and eroticism in Plato’s Symposium »
– Angela HOBBS : « Transformations : the daimonic power of eros and philosophy in Plato’s Symposium »

Après-midi : Figures du Banquet(14h-17h30)
– Olivier RENAUT : « Le discours de Pausanias : un discours négligé ? ».
– Luc BRISSON : « Le discours d’Aristophane dans le Banquet lu du point de vue du ‘genre’ ».
– Clara ACKER : « Diotime de Mantinée »

Samedi 3 mars

Matinée : Interprétations anciennes et contemporaines du Banquet (10h-13h)
– Ruby BLONDELL et Sandra BOEHRINGER : « Platon, Lucien et les courtisanes »
– Florence DUPONT : « Du Banquet de Platon à la Cena Trimalchionis : la construction du genre chez des affranchis romains ».
– Annick JAULIN : « Le Banquet de Platon selon Leo Strauss »

Comité scientifique : Sandra BOEHRINGER, Luc BRISSON, Annick JAULIN, Arnaud MACÉ, Olivier RENAUT et Violaine SÉBILLOTTE-CUCHET Contact : Luc Brisson (lbrisson AT et Olivier Renaut (olivier.renaut AT

CONF: A Theatre of Justice

A Theatre of Justice:
Aspects of performance in Greco-Roman oratory and rhetoric
University College London, 19-20 April 2012 (Gordon House, Room 106)

The notion of “performance” has recently attracted considerable scholarly attention both in literary criticism and in cultural history. In
fundamentally “performative” societies, such as the Greek and Roman, a “performance” approach seems to be a sine qua non for the understanding of the nature of several genres. Oratory is, certainly, among them: for the Greeks and Romans, oratory was not primarily something they wrote or read, but something they performed before the audience. Despite the significant scholarly advances that have been made on the area of oratory in/as
performance, there is still a lot more to be explored, further questions need to be asked and answered.

Our postgraduate conference aims at bringing together not only classicists, but also students from other fields of study such as law, reception and theatrical studies, in order to present their on-going research work in this fertile area.

Registration is now open for the conference and those interested in
attending will find details on the webpage of UCL department of Greek and Latin: (where there is also the full conference programme and a compilation of titles and abstracts of papers)

For questions about the conference, please feel free to contact Andreas Serafim (andreas.serafim.10 AT or Beatrice Da Vela (beatrice.vela.10 AT

Keynote speakers:
Ian Worthington (University of Missouri)
Edith Hall (King’s College London)

Alice Bonandini (Università degli Studi di Trento)
Andreas Serafim (University College London)
Arina Patrikova (University of Oxford)
Beatrice Da Vela (University College London)
Bogdan Cristea (University of Leeds)
Brenda Griffith-Williams (University College London)
Emmanuela Schoinoplokaki (University of Crete)
Evan Jewell (Macquarie University)
Guy Westwood (University of Oxford)
Jakub Filonik (University of Warsaw)
Janet Mowat (University of Toronto)
Kamila Wyslucha (University of Wroclaw)
Laura Viidebaum (University of Cambridge)
Maria Galanaki (University of Crete)
Matthew Kears (University of Birmingham)
Michael Hardy (King’s College London)
Nefeli Papakonstantinou (University of Paris-Sorbonne)
Tzu-I Lao (University College London)
Verena Schulz (University of Munich)

Flipping the Bird ~ Ancient Precedents

In the wake of Super Bowl shenanigans last week which seemed to eclipse the half time show in press coverage later,  Law Professor Ira Robbins was on NPR’s All Things Considered and suggesting that the gesture isn’t considered obscene any more … in the introductory bits he did give some history:

CORNISH: So, to start, where does this gesture come from? And how far back in history do we have to go to find people taking offense to it?

ROBBINS: If you go back in recorded history, it’s about 2,500 years, although there are apocryphal stories that it goes back even further. The Greek playwright, Aristophanes, refers to the middle finger in his play, “The Clouds,” basically treating it as a phallic symbol.

We see this in Roman literature, as well, and Roman history. In fact, the use of the middle finger was so prevalent in those times that they gave it a special name. They called it the digitus impudicus, meaning the impudent finger.

Interestingly, way back when rogueclassicism was young (and hosted on a different platform), we mentioned a case in Houston wherein the court decided ‘flipping the bird’ did not constitute disorderly conduct. At that time, we also mentioned that folks might want to check out a Straight Dope page for more Roman precedents for the gesture, and happily that’s still where it was almost a decade ago. What isn’t so easy to get to now, however, was a discussion of the Greek side of the gesture which we had on the Classics list, which was once our only bit of ‘social media’ (and so easy to remember where you were chatting about it). That convo now languishing in the Internet Archive, so to make it more ‘available’, I’ll reproduce the discussion (From June 10/11, 2002):

Initially, amicus noster, the late James Butrica asked:

A colleague is wondering whether the Greeks had a specific term for what the Romans would have called the digitus infamis. I haven’t been able to come up with anything better than “mesos” (which might not even be right, if the thumb wasn’t considered a finger).

J.F. Gannon responded:

You are right about mesos. At least you have the support of the Scholia ad Nub. 653. Dover does not have much to say in his commentary and cites no parallels. It is tempting to think the Athenians might have thought of it as the daktylos aischros but I do not know of any text that supports this. But if I were a betting man…

Ernest Moncanda added:

There are several references in the literature to “daktylos mesos” as has been pointed out, and surely Dr. Gannon’s suggested “daktylos aischros” sounds convincing. For the act of “giving” the finger, we have “skimalizein.” For the “eskimalisen” of Arist. Pax. 549, the scholia explains this as to hold up the middle finger: skimalisai gar esti kuriOs to ton meson tOn daktulOn eis ton prOkton ton orneon embalein. Burton, in The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night writes: “Debauchees had signals like Freemasons whereby they recognized one another. The Greek ‘skematizein’ was made by closing the hand to represent the scrotum and raising the middle finger as if to feel whether a hen had eggs; hence the Athenians called it ‘katapygon’ or sodomite and the Romans ‘digitus impudicus’ or ‘infamis,’ the ‘medical finger’ of Rabelais and the Chiromantists–though properly speaking ‘medicus’ is the third or ring-finger, as shown by the old Chiromantist verses.”

Erasmus (Adag. III.iii.87) writes: “Eskimalixthai. To be a target for the finger. Eskimalixthai se XrE, you should be a target for the finger. This insulting gesture was used to convey supreme contempt. Eskimalisai in Greek is to display the middle finger while keeping the others closed, to show disrespect…..Hence too that line in Juvenal” (10.53) [alluded to in Adag. II.iv. 67-68]: “Bade her go hang, showed her his middle finger-nail.” Erasmus says that Suidas who discusses the word (E. 3150. He also cites Pax, 549) uses it more elegantly and more like a true proverb. (Have our hard working “SOL” brothers reached this yet?).

To which James Butrica responded:

Naturally I got the TLG on the case and turned up what has been reported here, and more, though nearly all of it can be traced to two passages of Aristophanes and the comments that it generated, in a sort of mini-history of Atticism in later Greek.

I’ll have to do another search to find exactly where eskimalikhthai turns up in Greek literature, but “eskimalikhthai se khrH” is one of the proverbs in the collection of Michael Apostolius, with an entry only similar to what Erasmus gives: “of those who deserve hubris:’skimalisai’ applies when, wanting to insult someone, they extend the middle finger, draw the others together, and show them to him: properly it means to insert the finger into the bum of a bird.” (There’s a slight grammatical incoherence here, with both plural and singular forms used in reference to the same person(s).)

Hesychius s.v. siphniazein says that the word means “katadaktulizein,” i.e. “to finger up,” and reflects the slander that the Siphnians (of the fabulous Siphnian treasury at Delphi) were pederasts, and he gives the aorist infinitive siphniasai as having the same meaning as skimalisai. Later his entry for skimalisai defines it as katadaktulisai. The Atticist Lexicon of Moeris says that skimalisai is the Attic equivalent of katadaktulisai in other dialiects. Photius also notes the equivalence, but defines skimalisai as “to finger up in unseemly fashion” (askhHmonOs). Similarly, Phrynichus defines katadaktulizein as “shamelessly [aselgOs] touching the seat of someone nearby with the finger” and says that skimalizein is the Attic equivalent.

The scholion on Acharnians 444 glosses Aristophanes’ skimalisO with “with the small finger so that I might touch their womanish bums,” and notes that properly it refers to using “the small finger” to find out if birds are carrying eggs. The scholion to Peace 549 is a little different, saying (in the exact same words found in Michael Apostolius) that it refers to putting a finger up a bird’s bum (no purpose expressed) but also refers to extending the middle finger and drawing the rest together as an insult (pretty much as in Michael again).

Much the same language can be found at Suda epsilon 3150, s.v. eskimalisen; first, however, it says that the word means to put the middle finger together with the “big” one (i.e. the thumb) and strike as an insult (is this a finger-snap?), then it gives katadaktulizein as a synonym, and then the finger in the bird-bum and the extended-finger insult.

A second Suda entry, sigma 606, s.v. skimalisO, provides much the same information as the Acharnians scholion — not surprisingly, since the Suda entry evidently exists simply because Aristophanes used the word. In fact, the two passages in Aristophanes seem to have generated pretty much everything else said about this verb, with the exception of an anecdote in Diogenes Laertius’ life of Zeno (7.17). It appears that Zeno was at a banquet, third in sequence on a couch. Zeno kneed a neighbour who had just stuck his foot in his own neighbour’s bum, and asked “So what do you think the one above you is having done to him by you?” (ti oun oiei ton hupokatO sou paskhein hupo sou?). The Loeb translation of Hicks takes this all somewhat innocently, with kicking and nudging, but skimalizO seems after all to be somewhat more intimate — in this case perhaps a “foot-goose.” (Hey, wasn’t Kevin Bacon in that movie?)

I wouldn’t care to guess which potent variety of hashish Burton was using when he spun out the nonsense quoted above about “debauchees.”

We might also point to a photo of a statue of Venus being unpacked at the Michael C. Carlos Museum (Venus Flipping the Bird), which we didn’t mention in that Focus Magazine cover thing (Venus Still Causing a Stir)… I seem to recall we had at least one other conversation on these sorts of things on the Classics list (mostly from the Latin side); if I find it, I’ll add it.

ADDENDUM (a few hours later) … Just found this lurking in my mailbox with a bit of ClassCon too:

ADDENDUM (the next day) … as I catch up on my rss feeds, I note that James Warren of Kenodoxia fame has also been waxing on this subject: One-fingered salute

Gladiator Latin

From the Wanderer:

One of the big decisions for students entering Old Rochester Regional (ORR) Junior High School next fall is which foreign language they will elect to study for a year and a half. Usually this decision is heavily influenced by the advice of friends, parents, and older siblings, as the elementary schools do not offer language classes during school hours.

But for the past few years, Latin and Spanish teacher Marcia Ross of ORR High School has been working with the principals of Old Hammondtown School, Sippican Elementary School, and Rochester Memorial School to create after-school enrichment programs through which students can explore the three language programs available at the junior and senior high schools – Latin, Spanish, and French. This past week, the first four-week session of language classes at OHS ended.

This particular partnership, between the Classical and Modern Languages Department of ORR and OHS, developed from the organizational teamwork of Ms. Ross and OHS Principal Matthew D’Andrea.

From the ORR end of things, Ms. Ross helped high school students create their classes and provided both resources and advice for lesson planning, which the students-turned-teachers accomplished independently. Mr. D’Andrea, from the OHS end of things, made classrooms available after-school for the language classes to use, and the front office of OHS helped the ORR students locate supplies for their pupils’ projects.

Last year, the schools partnered to offer a single eight-week session of after-school language classes. This year, however, it was decided to have two four-week sessions divided by the February vacation, thereby giving the students and volunteer teachers a break to explore other extra-curricular interests. The first classes began the week of January 8 and ended the week of January 29.

This year, classes focused primarily on Latin and Spanish. With the support of sophomore Ruhi Raje and fellow senior Katie Holden, I taught a Latin class to an assorted group of 10 fourth, fifth, and sixth-graders who already had extensive knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology.

The goal of the class, the three of us decided, would be to teach our students about Latin through the eyes of a gladiator. The lesson content was primarily based in culture, as the grammar of Latin is not discussed in full until the upper level Latin classes at the high school. There was no way that Ms. Raje, Ms. Holden, and I could teach elementary-aged students about conjugating verbs and declining nouns without permanently scarring and scaring them.

Besides, we had agreed at our first meeting that the culture of the Romans is incredibly rich and rather weak in the high school’s program of study; it would be an excellent subject for our students to learn.

Ms. Holden and I were novices to this after-school language program; Ms. Raje was not, as she had taught a Spanish class the year before. Our classes were only an hour long, but we always ended up putting twice that amount of time into our lesson planning. We spent the January vacation creating an outline for our four classes and figuring out how to build from one lesson to the next.

In the days leading up to each class, we’d visit the spare room in the language hallway of the high school where Ms. Ross kept books and binders full of readings, crosswords, arts and crafts projects, and games. Using a collection of four books designed for teaching Latin to young children, we’d photocopy pages and arrange them by theme in a packet for our students to complete and take home. We’d sometimes borrow a box containing whiteboards, dry erase markers, and erasers so that our students could practice their lessons – they were very helpful in our lesson on Roman numerals.

The first week was spent covering Roman mythology and the Latin roots that appear in the Harry Potter series. Ms. Raje, Ms. Holden, and I were pleasantly surprised to see how familiar our students were with the mythology. They had already learned about the gods, goddesses, and myths of the ancient Greeks, so we used that knowledge to teach them about the Roman version. The students were also adept at identifying the Latin roots that J.K. Rowling used for her spells and characters’ names. Our students were surprised to learn, for example, that Severus Snape’s name comes from the Latin adjective “Severus,” which means “severe” or “stern” in English.

In the second and third weeks, we tackled the ambitious goal of teaching our students the Latin names for animals. Using worksheets, crosswords, a chart, and a game called Vinco, we taught everything from domestic and barnyard animals to the ferocious wild animals that the Romans would import into Italy – such as lions and tigers. We enhanced their vocabulary with a crossword teaching the English adjectives such as “ursine,” which means “like a bear.” The class quickly learned how to take the Latin names for the animals and change the endings to find the corresponding adjectives. The OHS students thoroughly enjoyed the round of Vinco, which is an exact replica of Bingo. Cleverly, “vinco” means “I win” in Latin and the two winners from our class loved shouting it!

In our last class, the three of us taught a variety of cultural facts. We largely focused on the Colosseum, Circus Maximus, Roman theater, and the sheer magnitude and importance of the Roman public bathhouses. Our students were intrigued and shocked by revelations such as the Romans’ method for getting clean — using oil and a metal scraper, called a strigil — and the number of participant deaths in the naval battles staged in the Colosseum.

After learning about the different ways someone could end up becoming a gladiator, our class applied their knowledge to an arts and crafts project that required matching pictures of the four kinds of gladiators to their description. The finished product was a pop-up book entitled “The Mighty Gladiators.”

The capstone to this final class was a demonstration of the different fighting styles the gladiators would use in their combats. With the help of Ms. Holden, the pair of us acted out two battles. The first was between a Thracian and a Murmillo, or a lightly-armed gladiator against a heavily-armed one. Our second battle was between a Retarius and a Samnite; the children enjoyed this fight immensely as I entrapped my opponent, the Samnite Ms. Holden, using my “fishing net,” which was really Ms. Raje’s jacket. At the conclusion of our demonstration, the class unanimously agreed that if they were a gladiator, they would have liked to be a Retarius so that they could fight using a trident and fishing net.

It was a successful end to the first session for our class, as well as for the other Latin and Spanish classes. The volunteers from ORR will begin preparations soon in anticipation of the second session.

… an interesting strategy …

Hurricane Reveals an Unknown Roman Site in Bulgaria

A couple of brief items from Standart are — as often — tantalizingly vague. First:

The strong hurricane which rages near the city of Bourgas made a favour to the Bulgarian archaeologists.
The hurricane has unearthed an ancient Roman town,” mayor of Bourgas Dimitar Nikolov was happy to say.
The merciless wave washed away tones of mud to discover the relics. The finding is located in the northern part of Sarafovo residential district as part of the town lies on the border with a vacation house of the ministry of defense. “We have no idea what the name of the settlement was because it is not described or seen on the old maps and documents. A stone pillar with inscriptions has been discovered and the future excavations will definitely find other written sources to help us learn the name of the place,” the director of the Bulgarian National Museum of History Prof. Bozhidar Dimitrov told the Standart.
In Mr. Dimitrov’s opinion, the settlement had a strategic significance in the past.
“The relics are quite monumental and tell us it was a big town,” Mr Dimitrov states.

The original online article has a subtitle referring to a sarcophagus find … that appears to have been dealt with in a separate piece:

The hurricane that has recently hit Bourgas, southern Black Sea coast, has made an unexpected gift to archeologists. The stormy seas unearthed the ruins of an ancient Roman settlement and an adjacent port. Having raged for two days and nights the waves uncovered twelve metres of the frontal walls of a huge building – about 2.5 metres high. The sea has also brought to light something that resembles a stone sarcophagus. Archeologists believe a noble Roman might have been buried in it. A day later, however, some of these same archeologists expressed more reserved views on the finding assuming this could be just the pool of an ancient fountain. Nothing, though, can be known for sure before the sea calms down and archeologists get access to the place.

That second item is accompanied by a sort of ‘coastal’ photo … not sure if it’s meant to be a photo of the finds or what, but adds the detail that the finds date back to the time of Justinian.

More press coverage:

Camels In the Roman Empire? There’s Evidence for That!

Hot on the heels of our questioning of a claim over at Gizmodo (Camels in Greece? Really Gizmodo? Source? comes news of a paper on archaeological evidence for camel use in the Roman Empire in — of all places — Belgium! I first saw it in USA Today, but the abstract for the source article is available at the Journal of Archaeological Science page at Elsevier:

Fabienne Pigièrea, Denis Henrotay, Camels in the northern provinces of the Roman Empire


This paper describes the camel bones discovered in two Late Roman contexts from Arlon (Belgium). The morphological and metrical analyses identify the animal as a dromedary.

The goal of this paper is also to provide an inventory of all camel finds published for the northern provinces of the Roman Empire. Based on a review of twenty-two archaeological sites with camel bones, it is shown that both the dromedary and Bactrian camel were imported to the northern Roman provinces and that the camels were present throughout the whole Roman period. This study also demonstrates that the camel discoveries cannot be linked exclusively with military contexts, as traditionally postulated. Indeed, several finds derive from civilian settlements (villas and cities). All sites with camel remains are located close to roads and are widespread throughout the Roman road network. It is suggested that the camels imported to the northern provinces might have been originally pack animals linked with both military and civilian traffic.

► We describe the remains of a Late Roman dromedary from a site in Belgium.

► A review of camel finds from 22 sites in the northern Roman provinces is provided.

► Both dromedary and Bactrian camel were imported throughout the whole Roman period.

► Camel discoveries derive from both military and civilian settlements.

► They might have been pack animals linked with the traffic on the Roman road.

As might be expected, if you want to read the whole thing you have to shell out 30+ dollars … that said, for no particular reason except this is one of those things that stuck in my head from grade school when we were studying the assorted gold rushes in British Columbia (or maybe I saw a picture in a museum): some enterprising guy back in the 1860s brought 23 camels to B.C. to serve as pack animals

Michael Scott on Life in Ancient Greece

From a Cambridge press release (which is being picked up by other services) comes hype for a talk which will be part of the Darwin Lectures … this one’s by Michael Scott on life in ancient Greece:

There’s a general feeling that we don’t get the Greeks – ancient or modern. Many, including heads of state like Angela Merkel, visibly shake their head in exasperation, rightly or wrongly, at the Greek response to the(ir) economic crisis. And most newspaper articles either start or round up their coverage of the modern situation with some expression of nostalgic comparison to the glory days of ancient Greece. But to what exactly are we referring? Just what was life like in ancient Greece?

It sounds a simple question, one which scholars around the world have been working on in various ways for hundreds of years. Surely, we should have a pretty good answer by now. And yet, the moment you scratch beneath the surface of the traditional comparison, the issue becomes more confusing. Compare, for a moment, the Romans. Most people, I would argue, have a pretty good picture in their heads about what the Romans were like. But the Greeks? If the heavily divided reactions to portrayals of ancient Greece in recent Hollywood movies are anything to go by (remember the furor around Oliver Stone’s Alexander in comparison to the more general triumph of Gladiator), we are much more divided over how to imagine the ancient Greeks than we might initially think. In short, while we know we owe them a lot, we struggle to agree on what they were really like.

In part, that continuing uncertainty and conflict over what life was like in the ancient Greek world is a product of the very fact that we have been so interested and absorbed in the question. Since the 15th century, at the moment when people began to become interested in the surviving ruins of ancient Greece (as opposed to only its surviving literature), what life in ancient Greece was like has been an increasingly busy battleground not just for academics interested in the ancient world, but for artists, collectors, writers, politicians and philosophers to name but a few. For much of that time, ancient Greece has been held up as an ideal, and as such, something in which much of Western Europe has a heavy stake. But an ideal of what? In part because so little was known about the realities of ancient Greece in the 15th-17th centuries, the articulation of ancient Greece as an ideal rested upon modern re-imaginings of the pictures conjured up by ancient literature, populated with increasing numbers of pieces of ancient ‘art’ and architecture as they came to light, which were then ‘fitted in’ to that model. It was in effect something of a blank canvas, an ‘ideal’ ancient world which in fact could be fashioned to look like whatever the modern world wanted their ‘ideal’ to be.

As a result, our picture of life in ancient Greece not only became a fundamental part of the geology of the mental landscape of Western Europe, but also, more importantly, was fundamentally fashioned by the events, needs and ideas of that world. And as those events, needs and ideas have changed and been debated in our world over the centuries since, so too has the resulting – often conflicted – picture of ancient Greece. At times it has been a place of ideal grandeur, at others primitive reality. Sometimes the epitome of noble simplicity and at other times one of savage cruelty. A perpetual holiday realm, a foreign distant never-never land, a ‘twin’ of the modern era, a waste of space – ancient Greece has been all of these things and more to us over the centuries.

Nor has the growing ‘academic’ study of ancient Greece and particularly that of archaeology – itself born from and motivated by the perception of Greece as an ideal – been able to settle that debate. Sometimes, early Greek sculpture was brutally transfigured to ensure it fitted with modern morality (like the hacking off genitals and the covering up of nudity). At other times, it has fired up the debate even further, for example when the detailed study of the Parthenon marbles led many scholars to deny they were Greek at all, so far did they diverge from what was thought to be ‘the’ nature of ancient Greek art and ancient Greece. Today’s scholarship continues to complicate the debate by making clear just how much Greece was not a monolithic unchanging entity in the ancient world either, but rather a flexible grouping of peoples with sometimes very different ideals, forces and attitudes, all responding to a harsh and constantly changing world.

The result of all this is two-fold. First, it makes the question ‘who were the ancient Greeks?’ far more interesting: we need to think not only about the complexities of their ancient reality, but also about how they have been represented over the centuries. Second, it means that studying the ancient Greeks actually offers us a mirror with which to study ourselves. How we have chosen to envisage them at any one time tells us as much about us as it does about them. And as the Greeks come to the fore once again as the barometer of the world financial crisis, coupled with nostalgic longings for ‘the good old days’ of ancient Greece, at the same time as the Olympics, with its own ancient Greek heritage, hits London in 2012, it seems clear that the question ‘what was life like in the ancient world’ has a long life of its own still to live.

Dr Michael Scott’s lecture ‘Life in the Ancient World’ is at 5.30pm at the Lady Mitchell Hall, Sidgwick Site, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge, CB39DA. All welcome. Please arrive by 5.15pm to ensure a seat. For more on Michael Scott’ work or follow him on Twitter at @drmichaelcscott