Bryn Mawr Reviews

  • 2012.03.56:  Ernst Heitsch, Platon, Größerer Hippias. Platon Werke. Übersetzung und Kommentar, VII 1.
  • 2012.03.55:  Dominique Lenfant, Les Perses vus par les Grecs. Lire les sources classiques sur l’empire achéménide. Collection U – Histoire.
  • 2012.03.54:  Carl Joachim Classen, Herrscher, Bürger und Erzieher. Beobachtungen zu den Reden des Isokrates. Spudasmata, Bd 133.
  • 2012.03.53:  W. R. Paton, Frank W. Walbank, Christian Habicht, Polybius: The Histories. Vol. IV, Books 9-15 (revised edition). Loeb classical library, 159.
    W. R. Paton, Frank W. Walbank, Christian Habicht, Polybius, The Histories. Vol. III, Books 5-8 (revised 2nd edition). Loeb classical library, 138.
  • 2012.03.52:  Nick Fisher, Hans van Wees, Competition in the Ancient World.
  • 2012.03.51:  Eva Mira Grob, Documentary Arabic Private and Business Letters on Papyrus: Form and Function, Content and Context. Archiv für Papyrusforschung und verwandte Gebiete, Beiheft 29.

Suspect Sarcophagus via Switzerland

Brief item from the Art Media Agency:

Turkey is claiming ownership of a sarcophagus discovered at the end of 2010 in Geneva free port during an inventory check conducted by Swiss customs officials.

The Journal des Arts stated that since the Swiss law on customs was reinforced in 2009 – following the discovery of 200 ancient Egyptian pieces in 2003 and the updated trafficking of diamonds through Geneva free port in 2005 -, port authorities must maintain detailed inventories of deposited goods. This explains why authorities at Geneva free port used by the Geneva gallery Phoenix Ancient Art were searched and how Swiss customs discovered a Roman sarcophagus dating from the second century BC. An investigation began in the summer of 2011.

Customs sequestered the sarcophagus and transferred the file to the public ministry of Geneva. Turkey is demanding its return. Their argument is clear: the excavation made near the southern Turkish province of Antalya was done illegally – which is what the investigation seems to have confirmed.

… no photos, alas, but David Gill has some additional coverage including video: Turkey pursues sarcophagus at Geneva Freeport

Goat Pen Kore?

Plenty of coverage of this one, but most seems to be variations on Nicholas Paphitis’ coverage for AP. Here’s the incipit of the Guardian‘s version:

Greek police have recovered an ancient statue worth €12m (£10m) that was illegally excavated and hidden in a goat pen near Athens, and arrested the goat herder and another man who were allegedly trying to sell the work for €500,000.

The marble sculpture of a young woman dates to about 520BC and belongs to the kore type, a police statement said on Wednesday. The 120cm (4ft) work was largely intact, except for a missing left forearm and plinth.

Although dozens of examples of the kore statue and its male equivalent, the kouros, are displayed in Greek and foreign museums, the type is considered important in the development and understanding of Greek art. New discoveries in good condition are uncommon.

Archaeologists who inspected the find estimated its market value at €12m. A spokesman for Athens police said: “They told us that this is a unique piece.”

Still bearing traces of soil, the statue has the hint of a smile on its lips, elaborately braided hair and an ankle-length gown.

Police said it had been concealed near the village of Fyli, in the foothills of Mount Parnitha on the north-western fringes of Athens. The goat herder, 40, and a 56-year-old man were arrested.

Detectives are seeking to determine where the statue was excavated, which could potentially lead archaeologists to a previously unknown ancient sanctuary or cemetery. […]


… et alia.

While the press seems not to be raising questions, various scholarly discussion lists (most notably Classics-l and AegeaNet)  have been questioning the authenticity of the piece, and for good reason. Check out this photo of the piece (tip o’ the pileus to Lampros Kallenos for tracking down the photos from the police press conference on this; the Washington Post piece referenced above also has a few photos):

… and compare it to the famous Peplos Kore in the Acropolis Museum:

via WIkimedia Commons

As Elena Drakaki (and others) astutely noted early on, the Goat Pen Kore is an obvious copy of the Peplos Kore in the Acropolis museum, right down to the ‘damage’ being duplicated (along the bottom and the left arm). As of this a.m., assorted folks are wondering what the thing is made out of, and plaster seems to be the most frequent suggestion. Whatever the case, it probably isn’t worth whatever the goatherders thought they could get for it, much less what the police seem to be valuing it at  …

Dalhousie’s Pythian Games

From a Dalhousie University press release:

If your Friday evening featured apocalyptic ramblings, verbose philosophers and an MC-ing Roman legionary, chances are you were at the Pythian Games.

Not the original Pythian Games – those were an Ancient Greek festival celebrating athleticism and artistic prowess, and they were millennia ago, so you’re a little late to get in on that action. Dalhousie’s Department of Classics, however, has resurrected the Pythian Games as an annual showcase where students of all majors can show off their Greek grammar, recite a favourite poem or otherwise indulge their dramatic side. And on March 16, indulge they did, togas a-flapping and tongues planted in cheek.

The Games were hosted by a Roman legionary who, rumour has it, strongly resembled assistant professor Jack Mitchell. “I’m only a humble legionary,” he introduced himself. “I’ve come here to see whether Apollo still breathes!”

The ancient soldier’s troubled soul was set at ease by the evening’s 17 performers, whose offerings ranged from skits to original translations to dramatic readings.

Standouts including Mr. James Campbell-Prager’s Gilbert and Sullivan send-up “I’ve Got a Little List,” a sung inventory of characters “whose loss would be a distinct gain to society at large” (textbook publishers, “idiot guest lecturers,” Helvetica hipsters, and people who eat chips in the library were all named and shamed); Cat Migliore and Sarah Black’s comedy sketch “An Ancient Squabble”, in which a Greek and Roman soldier bickered in oddly Cockney accents; Emily Varto’s Ever-Victorious Second-Year Greek Class performing their original work “The Dicaeopolidea” (subtitle, “a journey in Greeklish”); and Dominic Lacasse’s concluding Ancient Greek performance from The Book of Revelation (the audience, suitably chastened by Mr. Lacasse’s warning of dire days to come, quietly crept out to hide behind the reception’s chip bowls).
Cultural foundations

“I think [the Pythian Games are] a good chance to show what you’ve worked on… it’s a nice arena to do that,” says Zoe Vatter, secretary of the Classics Society and originator of the role of the woebegone farmer Dicaeopolis in “The Dicaeopolida.” Ms. Vatter has a passion for the Classics that goes way back.

“I have always been obsessed with the Greek gods ever since I was a child,” she says. “Classics kind of ties everything together… it’s a very versatile degree because the foundations of the world, I guess, are in Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece.”

Ms. Vatter was also kind enough to explain the mysterious “Dicaeopolida.” “[Dicaeopolis] was a character in our Ancient Greek textbook. Anybody who’s taken Ancient Greek would get the irony.”

The inside jokes and community spirit that characterized the Pythian Games is also one of the attractions of Dalhousie’s classics department generally. “I know all the professors and they all know me,” says Ms. Vatter. “Everybody who is very involved in the department was at the Pythian Games.” Best of all, this year’s games raised the bar: “Last year was a little crowded. It was nice to have a bigger space… there was a ton more people this year.”

While the contest winners haven’t been announced yet, prizes up to $250 await some lucky Sappho or Orpheus. And if you missed it this time around, keep an eye open (and a lyre tuned) for next year’s third annual Pythian Games.

… can’t believe no one has posted anything on youtube …

M.D. Usher Talks Arab Spring

Interesting talk coming up … via Seven Days:

University of Vermont classics professor M.D. Usher has a way of getting caught up in regime-change protests. During a conference in Cairo last month, he was hustled out of Tahrir Square, a site that struck him as “a kind of Occupy Wall Street space.” A year ago, in the middle of a monthlong teaching stint at the University of Malawi, he witnessed the campus erupting in blockades and overturned cars in reaction to the African country’s latest ruler.

“Without exaggeration, I can say that I saw it first,” Usher declares of the latter instance.

He’ll be showing slides from both experiences at a talk he’s giving at UVM this coming Tuesday evening. Entitled “Agamemnon in Africa, Ulysses in Ulaanbaatar: Classics Gone Global,” the talk is one of this year’s two public Dean’s Lectures — a series awarded to accomplished faculty with a knack for communicating their academic research to students and general audiences.

Why is a classics prof talking about the likes of the Arab Spring? Usher believes emerging democracies such as those in Egypt and Malawi could learn much from Greek literature, particularly Aeschylus’ triad of tragedies known as the Oresteia.

Aeschylus wrote Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides in 458 BC, when “small Athens had just defeated great Persia,” Usher explains. It was the height of Athens’ experiment with democracy, and new ideas of justice and governing were on the rise. Set mostly in a mythical era, the trilogy concerns the case of Orestes, who murders his mother because she murdered his father. Orestes is ultimately tried by a jury of Athenian citizens, who spare him the death sentence. Reason and democratic processes prevail over the old order’s endless cycle of revenge killings.

Usher isn’t the only classical scholar to deem the Oresteia relevant to ongoing struggles to establish democratic states. His talk will address the work of British classicist George Thomson, who developed the first Marxist interpretations of Greek literature. As Usher will show, Thomson’s late-1930s translation of the Aeschylus trilogy inspired filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1970 documentary Notes Toward an African Orestes, filmed in newly postcolonial Africa.

Though Usher will also comment on Greek epic poetry’s fundamental orality and his own encounter with a still-living oral epic tradition in Mongolia, the bulk of his talk will cast the tragedies as touchstones for political struggles around the world.

“The tendency is to see Western literature as insular and imperialist,” Usher observes. “But if you actually look at these texts with fresh eyes, they do speak to emerging democracies. The Greeks invented democracy, more or less, and if democracy is going to be the new paradigm, you need to look back at Greek literature.”

Hellenistic/Roman Cemetery from Thessaloniki

Tip o’ the pileus to Diana Wright for sending in this brief item from Athens News:

Part of an ancient cemetery dating from the Hellenistic and Roman eras was uncovered in Thessaloniki during excavations for the construction of a new metro station.

A total of 75 tombs, 45 of which have already been examined, were unearthed in an area of 500m2 at the site of the Dimokratia station.

Most of the tombs are box shaped, one is circular and others have tiled roofs. A large number of altars used for funerary ceremonies were also found, as well as many funerary offerings dated between the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.

… and it just occurred to me … I wonder if the frequent references to antiquities smuggling arrests in Thessaloniki are connected to the metro construction …