Earlier today we highlighted Harvard’s Latin Salutatorian (Harvard Latin Commencement Oration 2012) … Princeton is also preparing to have theirs delivered, but it’s not for a couple of weeks. Just to build up the anticipation, though, Princeton has a profile (including a common typo that makes me cringe) of the Classics major who will be delivering that one:
When Princeton University senior Elizabeth Butterworth was in middle school she immersed herself in the richly imagined world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” The experience sparked her fascination for stories from other eras, along with an abiding passion for delving into texts.
“I fell in love with that book. It made me interested in mythology and epic stories,” she said.
At Princeton, Butterworth leapt at new opportunities to immerse herself intellectually. She became an exceptional student in classics and mastered Latin. In her sophomore year, she read her first book fully in Latin — poems by Catallus. Her motivation was to be able to “access the literature in its original text,” she said.
Such accomplishments as a classics major have led to Butterworth being named salutatorian for the Class of 2012. She will continue the Princeton tradition of delivering a speech in Latin at Commencement on Tuesday, June 5. Princeton’s first Commencement, held in 1748, was conducted entirely in Latin.
“Liz is an extraordinary young woman of character and purpose, whose intellectual gifts are more than matched by maturity and professionalism unusual for her age,” said Yelena Baraz, an assistant professor of classics who is Butterworth’s senior thesis adviser. “She is a brilliant reader and combines rigor with insight in a way that is quite inspiring.”
Butterworth grew up in Auburn, Mass., in a family who “loves reading and literature,” she said.
Accepted by several prestigious schools, Butterworth said attending Princeton Preview — a three-day program for accepted students sponsored by the Office of Admission — helped her decide to come to Princeton.
“Princeton seemed to take academics the most seriously,” she said, noting that Professor of Classics Joshua Katz sent her a personal email inviting her to meet with him during Princeton Preview and that President Shirley M. Tilghman spoke to the admitted high school seniors in Richardson Auditorium to kick off the event. “The other schools I looked at didn’t have that personal touch with the faculty, and I was looking for a very serious academic experience,” Butterworth said.
Butterworth’s commitment as a student is evident in the academic honors she has received. This fall she was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, which she will use to pursue a master’s degree in comparative and international education at the University of Oxford after graduation from Princeton. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, she twice received the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence and also earned the classics department’s Charles A. Steele Prize for high proficiency in Greek and Latin.
“Coming to Princeton has impressed upon me the importance of being able to interact with a broad, international community of scholars and read texts in other languages. An education with a strong humanities component is very important,” Butterworth said.
For her senior thesis, Butterworth chose to write on the Roman poet and satirist Horace, inspired by classes she took with Baraz and Denis Feeney, the Giger Professor of Latin and a professor of classics.
“Horace’s satires are a delight to work with because there are so many layers of meaning,” she said. “He strikes a voice that is oftentimes colloquial and crude, but behind it all is deep knowledge of and engagement with a wide range of literary and philosophical traditions.”
Butterworth has high praise for her thesis adviser. “Professor Baraz is a wonderful, extremely accessible and encouraging professor,” she said. “I was really engaged and interested in the way that she encourages [students in her] seminars to have productive and interesting discussions about texts. That was a very transformative experience.”
Observing Butterworth in his class on Horace, Feeney said he was struck by “her remarkable Latinity, her very high critical skills and her uncanny grasp of what the key issues in studying Horace were. This kind of intuition is incredibly rare in an undergraduate.”
Going beyond the classroom
Butterworth said it was also “transformative” to pursue activities beyond the classroom. To further dig into the ancient world, she spent the summer of 2010, on Baraz’s suggestion, working on an excavation in Gabii, Italy, run by the University of Michigan. The following summer she was among a group of Princeton students who joined Nathan Arrington, an assistant professor of art and archaeology at Princeton, on an excavation in Nemea, Greece, where he is field director.
Arrington was “phenomenal to work with,” Butterworth said. “He is a fantastic teacher as well as a fantastic archaeologist, and he is so interested in making sure that we were learning from our experience.”
Arrington commended Butterworth’s engaged approach to the work. “Liz is an outstanding archaeologist,” he said. “Perhaps more important for the excavation than her sharp intellect was her ever-present cheerful and patient disposition. She masterfully managed one of the excavation trenches, leading by example.”
Butterworth’s hands-on approach to various endeavors also is expressed in her commitment to public service.
Taking a year’s leave of absence in 2009, she returned to Massachusetts and volunteered at a weekly general enrichment after-school program at All Saints Episcopal Church in Worcester. There Butterworth, who had studied piano since age 6 and taught piano lessons in high school, founded a program called Afternoon Tunes, which offers free private and group music instruction. She still manages the program from campus.
During her four years at Princeton, Butterworth has tutored schoolchildren in reading in Trenton, N.J., through the Student Volunteers Council’s GetSET and imPACT programs, where she experienced firsthand the power of literature to turn around students’ apathy toward learning.
Last winter, after being awarded the Rhodes Scholarship, she established a peer-mentoring program for Princeton students interested in pursuing academic fellowships in the United Kingdom by giving them the chance to meet recent recipients in an informal setting. She is currently a peer academic tutor for Latin and a Whitman College peer adviser. She also has served as a stage manager for theater productions on campus.
Butterworth plans to pursue a career shaping educational policy, with a particular goal of increasing arts education and classical education at the primary- and secondary-school levels, and working hands-on with school systems.
“There is no cause more important to the country’s future than public education, and it is very heartening to see someone of Liz’s intellectual gifts and personal character committing herself to the mission of improving educational opportunities for underprivileged students,” Feeney said.
- via: Fascination for Latin and literature inspire salutatorian (Princeton)
Hopefully it makes it to youtube as well …
My spiders always seem to bring me back interesting things … this week, I was met with this photo (which seems to disappear a lot … if it does, there’s a couple of people at the top, and a pile of Greek-looking sandals at the bottom … visit the mentioned blogpost if you want to see it):
… which was attached to a blogpost at myfashiontlife.com: Five minutes with…Christina Martini and Nikolas Minoglou of Ancient Greek Sandals
Further investigation tracked down the company’s webpage for the product: Ancient Greek Sandals … which I’m sure will be of interest to plenty of readers of rogueclassicism. We can only hope they become a fashion trend which supplants whatever it is that is given the name ‘gladiator sandals’ these days.
… so cool, in fact, that I made it my facebook cover page yesterday. Here’s the beginning of Art Daily’s coverage:
A masterpiece by Swiss artist Arnold Böcklin depicting a dramatic retelling of a story from Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ is to headline Sotheby’s sale of European Paintings in London on Monday, 11 June 2012. Odysseus and Polyphemus, painted in 1896, is redolent of the fin-de-siècle spirit that enveloped Europe as a new century dawned. Estimated at £800,000-1,200,000 (€970,000-1,460,000), the oil on panel comes to the market from a European Private Collection and is being offered for sale at auction for the first time. The provenance of the work can be traced back directly to the artist, and the painting has featured in numerous exhibitions and monographs on Böcklin.
Odysseus and Polyphemus depicts the climax of the story of Odysseus and Polyphemus as recounted by Homer in Book 9 of his ‘Odyssey’, when Odysseus and his men flee the enraged Cyclops they have just blinded. Böcklin’s composition creates great movement and tension between the oarsmen who put all their strength against the swell in the sea that threatens to return them within the Cyclops reach, and the towering figure of the Cyclops himself, his face deliberately obscured so as not to distract the viewer’s attention from the struggle at hand. The story had fascinated artists through the centuries, from Antiquity to the Renaissance and beyond, making Böcklin’s work part of the canon of epic renditions that vividly illustrate tales associated with the eponymous Greek hero. [...]
… and, of course, the
photo (painting) itself:
From a Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena press release:
Archaeologists of the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena found one of the oldest archaeological evidence so far of Jewish Culture on the Iberian Peninsula at an excavation site in the south of Portugal, close to the city of Silves (Algarve). On a marble plate, measuring 40 by 60 centimetres, the name “Yehiel” can be read, followed by further letters which have not yet been deciphered. The Jena Archaeologists believe that the new discovery might be a tomb slab. Antlers, which were found very close to the tomb slab in the rubble gave a clue to the age determination. “The organic material of the antlers could be dated by radiocarbon analysis with certainty to about 390 AD,” excavation leader Dr. Dennis Graen of the Jena University explains. “Therefore we have a so-called ‘terminus ante quem’ for the inscription, as it must have been created before it got mixed in with the rubble with the antlers.”
The earliest archaeological evidence of Jewish inhabitants in the region of modern-day Portugal has so far also been a tomb slab with a Latin inscription and an image of a menorah – a seven-armed chandelier – from 482 AD. The earliest Hebrew inscriptions known until now date from the 6th or 7th Century AD.
From Jena to Jerusalem
For three years the team of the University Jena has been excavating a Roman villa in Portugal, discovered some years ago by Jorge Correia, archaeologist of the Silves council, during an archaeological survey near the village of São Bartolomeu de Messines (Silves). The project was aiming at finding out how and what the inhabitants of the hinterland of the Roman province of Lusitania lived off. While the Portuguese coast region has been explored very well, there is very little knowledge about those regions. The new discovery poses further conundrums.
“We were actually hoping for a Latin inscription when we turned round the excavated tomb slab,” Henning Wabersich, a member of the excavation reports. After all, no inscriptions have been found so far and nothing was known about the identity of the inhabitants of the enclosure. Only after long research the Jena Archaeologists found out which language they were exactly dealing with, as the inscription was not cut with particular care. “While we were looking for experts who could help with deciphering the inscription between Jena and Jerusalem, the crucial clue came from Spain”, Dennis Graen says. “Jordi Casanovas Miró from the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in Barcelona – a well-known expert for Hebrew inscriptions on the Iberian Peninsula – is sure that the Jewish name “Yehiel” can be read, – a name that is already mentioned in the Bible.”
Hebrew unusual in Roman villa
Not only is the early date exceptional in this case, but also the place of the discovery: Never before have Jewish discoveries been made in a Roman villa, the Jena Archaelogist explains. In the Roman Empire at that time Jews usually wrote in Latin, as they feared oppressive measures. Hebrew, as on the re-discovered marble plate, only came back into use after the decline of the Roman supremacy, respectively in the following time of migration of peoples from the 6th or 7th century AD. “We were also most surprised that we found traces of Romans – romanised Lusitanians in this case – and Jews living together in a rural area of all things,” Dennis Graen says. “We assumed that something like this would have been much more likely in a city.”
Information about the Jewish population in the region in general was mostly passed down by scriptures. “During the ecclesiastical council in the Spanish town Elvira about 300 AD rules of conduct between Jews and Christians were issued. This indicates that at this time there must have been a relatively large number of Jews on the Iberian Peninsula already”, Dennis Graen explains – but archaeological evidence had been missing so far. “We knew that there was a Jewish community in the Middle Ages not far from our excavation site in the town of Silves. It existed until the expulsion of the Jews in the year 1497.”
In the summer the Jena Archaeologists will take up their work again. Until now they have excavated 160 square metres of the villa, but after checking out the ground it already became clear that the greater part of the enclosure is still covered in soil. “We eventually want to find out more about the people who lived here,” Graen explains the venture. “And of course we want to solve the questions the Hebrew inscription has posed us.”
The PhysOrg rewrite of the piece includes this photo:
From a Getty Press Release:
The J. Paul Getty Museum today placed on view a Decree Relief with Antiochos and Herakles, the first Greek loan to arise from a 2011 framework for cultural cooperation between the Getty and the Hellenic Republic Ministry of Culture.
On loan from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the marble relief bears a historical decree, dated to 330 B.C., which honors Prokleides, a military officer (taxiarch) in the Athenian army. The relief will be on view at the Getty Villa for three years in a second-floor gallery devoted to Religious Offerings.
The relief takes the form of a stele, a stone slab decorated with images and text, crowned with the figures of Herakles and his son Antiochos, who was the mythical hero of the tribe Antiochis. Herakles is depicted as an athletic nude, holding a club and the pelt of the Nemean Lion he vanquished, referring to the first of the twelve labors he had to perform. Seemingly the elder, Antiochos wears a dignified mantle and holds a staff (no longer visible, but probably added in pigment). Both father and son heroes were the subject of cult worship, and are shown standing within a small temple framed by columns and a pediment.
Written in ancient Greek below the figures, an inscription describes the honors bestowed upon Prokleides by his soldiers and comrades, all members of an elite infantry corps known as the epilektoi. This is the earliest known inscription referencing the epilektoi, a group of men bound together by their military service, participation in sacrifices and theatrical performances, and membership in the Athenian Council. According to the decree, Kephisokles of the village of Alopeke proposed the resolution to praise Prokleides, who “has well and with distinction taken care of security,” and crown him with a gold diadem worth at least 1,000 drachmas (an enormous sum, considering the average worker in classical Athens could support a family of four on one drachma a day).
Soon after arriving at the Getty, the stele was photographed using a technique that captures the object numerous times with varying degrees of raking light. The resulting composed image reveals the shallow lettering with unprecedented depth and clarity and enables a more accurate reading of the inscription. A transcription of the ancient Greek text, translation, and detail photography of the historical inscription accompanies the installation.
“The Antiochos relief commemorates the affection and respect of troops for their commanding officer,” explains Claire Lyons, acting senior curator of antiquities at the Getty Villa. “We are delighted that it will be on view at the Getty Villa in time for Memorial Day, when we honor the contributions of fallen soldiers to their communities and country.”
This long-term loan results from the Framework for Cultural Cooperation signed in September 2011, which provides for joint scholarship, research projects, loans, and exhibitions between the Getty and the Hellenic Republic. “As part of this framework of cooperation between the Hellenic Republic Ministry of Culture and the Getty Museum, we are pleased to have the Antiochos relief on display at the Getty Villa,” said Maria Vlazaki-Andreadaki, director general of archaeology in Athens. “We believe that this collaboration will promote classical studies in the United States and will spread the values and the spirit of ancient Greek civilization.”
The relief was discovered in 1922 in the foundations of a house in the Athenian neighborhood of Dourgouti. In antiquity, the area was known as Kynosarges and was the site of a public gymnasium and a sanctuary of Herakles, the greatest of the Greek heroes. Believed to have stood in this sanctuary, where several other inscriptions mentioning the tribe Antiochis were found, the relief was a votive dedication erected in a prominent public location befitting a successful military leader.
The Antiochos relief is a primary document of democracy, and the language of its inscription shows that voting and public speech were deeply ingrained in civic life two centuries after the foundation of democratic political institutions in Athens.
The creation of the Attic tribes was the most important feature of the revolutionary reorganization of Athenian politics that followed the overthrow of the tyrants in 508 B.C. In this system, ten tribes composed of approximately 3,000 citizens and their families were created. Each tribe was assigned the name of a mythical Athenian hero: Antiochos was the eponymous hero of the tribe Antiochis.
Drawn from villages in three distinct zones of the Athenian territory—the coast, the inland farming region, and the urban/suburban zone—the tribes represented the entire citizenry of Athens. Josiah Ober, Professor of Political Science and Classics at Stanford University, observes: “Imagine a reorganization of the United States that would require citizens from Maine, Texas, and California to work, fight, and feast together on a regular basis. The communities constituting the tribe of Antiochis included Alopeke, the philosopher Socrates’ home village—so we might even imagine that a descendant of Socrates as among the signatories to the decree.” [...]
… the original press release has a smallish image of the relief (the images link doesn’t work!). Art Daily has one that’s rather better:
… which made me think of this, for some reason:
Raymond Van Dam, Remembering Constantine at the Milvian Bridge. New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. xiii + 296. $90.00/£55.00. ISBN 978-1-107-09643-1.
Reviewed by Brian Croke, Macquarie University/University of Sydney
At the Milvian bridge outside the walls of Rome on 28 October 312 Constantine and Maxentius, brothers-in-law and both sons of former emperors, fought to the death with the victorious Constantine becoming master of Rome and sole emperor in the west. Few battles have been so profound in their impact. Few battles have also been so contested in their interpretation. Controversy has always turned on Constantine’s claim, recorded by bishop Eusebius of Caesarea in his Life of Constantine (dated to 337), to have been inspired by the vision of a cross in the sunny sky before the battle and a dream in which he was instructed to place a Christian emblem on his military standards. What might he have seen and dreamed in October 312, if anything? How did it come to be so charged with exclusively Christian meaning? How do we know? Varying answers to these simple questions remain at the heart of most modern understandings of Constantine’s purpose as well as the character of the man and his reign, epitomized in the battle’s association with the “conversion of Constantine.” Van Dam was obliged to confront all this in a previous study of Constantine (The Roman Revolution of Constantine, 2007) but now he has produced a concentrated treatment of the potential meaning of that single decisive battle. What he provides is a systematic historiographical critique of one particular episode recounted both by and for Constantine at different points over his lifetime (at least from 313 to 336) and occasionally memorialized in stone and marble. The author’s technique necessarily requires philological and iconographical analysis to which he self-consciously adds more modern interpretative approaches involving “community memories,” oral traditions and narratology (p. 11). What results is a complex and subtle argument which at different points is both modern and postmodern, disciplined and undisciplined, decisive and speculative, compelling and tenuous. This is no book for Constantinian tyros.
The first three chapters introduce the story and its methodology (Chapter 1), trace the portrayal of the battle in medieval and Byzantine texts and visual arts (Chapter 2) and show how the fifth and sixth century church historians and their counterpoints, Eunapius and Zosimus, evaluated Constantine and the battle (Chapter 3). Chapter 7, the longest, highlights Constantine’s preoccupations in the years after the battle (not religious affairs and inclinations but classical culture, the traditions of Rome and the role of his army), followed by chapters on how to retell the story of the battle detached from its later religious significance (Chapter 8), especially by focusing on the contrasting imperial approach of Maxentius (Chapter 9) and concluding with the significance of bridges in Roman tradition (Chapter 10). The core of this book, however, is Chapters 4 to 6 (pp. 56–154) in which Van Dam outlines what Constantine says he saw and dreamed, how the battle subsequently impacted on him, then how it has been misrepresented ever since. Van Dam’s conclusion is that what Eusebius wrote in his “late, faraway, sectarian [and] partisan” (p. 56) Life was what he heard from Constantine in 325 when they first met at Nicaea and again at Constantinople in 336. By 325 the “raconteur” (p. 62) Constantine had slowly shaped his memory of events before and after the battle but was more influenced by the derivative accounts of others such as Lactantius than his own first-hand recollections. While Eusebius had noted the battle in his Church History well before meeting Constantine, he too kept refashioning it to suit his own theological purposes so that the version in Eusebius’ Life of Constantine is merely a theological confection of both participant and author. According to Van Dam, Constantine’s “conversion” needs to be divorced completely from his victory at the Milvian bridge.
Van Dam’s thesis is a novel approach to an old question and deserves serious consideration, but too many doubts remain to proclaim it convincing, especially his quest to defer and downplay the Christianity of Constantine immediately after 312. The extant records are far more ambiguous and open to interpretation than Van Dam allows: within weeks of the battle (313) Constantine was having the church of St John Lateran built at Rome on imperial real estate; within a year or so (313/4) at the imperial court at Trier, where so many of the battle’s participants and observers resided, Constantine’s success was being attributed explicitly to the Christian deity by Lactantius (an intimate of the emperor’s household) and at Caesarea by Eusebius (Church History 9.9, probably relying on the circulation of an official victory bulletin from Rome); at Arles shortly after, and for the first time ever, an emperor convoked a council of bishops (August 314) to resolve a theological dispute which had been referred to him from Africa, not merely to secure Rome’s African food supply as Van Dam asserts (pp.180-81); while at Rome around the same time a colossal statue relocated to the apse of the newly completed Basilica of Maxentius was modified to represent Constantine holding a long shafted object with its “saving sign.”
Van Dam has produced an interesting and provocative book but it is not helped by its cluttered and confusing timeline (pp. xii–xiii), by its total lack of illustrations and by the fact that the quality of the maps does not match the quality of the text. For Constantine the battle of the Milvian bridge clearly provoked a sense of divinely sanctioned destiny which eventually resolved itself in a self-conscious commitment to the Christian deity. More attention should be paid to this transitional conversion process which is now so well argued and illustrated, especially through the numismatic record, in Jonathan Bardill, Constantine: Divine Emperor of the Christian Golden Age (Cambridge, 2011).
- 2012.05.42: P. L. Chambers, The Natural Histories of Pliny the Elder: an Advanced Reader and Grammar Review.
- 2012.05.41: Björn C. Ewald, Carlos F. Noreňa, The Emperor and Rome: Space, Representation, and Ritual. Yale Classical Studies 35.
- 2012.05.40: Kenneth G. Holum, Hayim Lapin, Shaping the Middle East: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in an Age of Transition, 400-800 C.E. Studies and texts in Jewish history and culture, 20.
- 2012.05.39: Geert Roskam, Luc Van der Stockt, Virtues for the People: Aspects of Plutarchan Ethics. Plutarchea hypomnemata.
- 2012.05.38: Trevor Bryce, The Routledge Handbook of the Peoples and Places of Ancient Western Asia: the Near East from the Early Bronze Age to the Fall of the Persian Empire (paperback reprint; first published 2009).
- 2012.05.37: Niels Gaul, Thomas Magistros und die spätbyzantische Sophistik: Studien zum Humanismus urbaner Eliten der frühen Palaiologenzeit. Mainzer Veröffentlichungen zur Byzantinistik, 10.
- 2012.05.36: Josef Lössl, John W. Watt, Interpreting the Bible and Aristotle in Late Antiquity: the Alexandrian Commentary Tradition between Rome and Baghdad.
- 2012.05.35: Kyle Erickson, Gillian Ramsey, Seleucid Dissolution: the Sinking of the Anchor. Philippika, 50.
- 2012.05.34: Joachim Szidat, Usurpator tanti nominis: Kaiser und Usurpator in der Spätantike (337-476 n. Chr.). Historia Einzelschriften 210.
Been looking for this one and it suddenly turned up … Michael Velchik delivers (with Classical pronunciation) this year’s Harvard Latin thingie:
(keep your eye out for the guy in the background who doesn’t seem to get/like the humour; keep your ear open for “Linsanitatem” too!). Those of you with senior Latin classes might like to show this one (it has subtitles) as it’s rather really easy to understand.
Some background on the speaker from Harvard News (inter alia):
Latin has long been a part of Michael Velchik’s life. A native of Oakton, Va., he studied the ancient tongue at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., competing in Junior Classical League competitions throughout his teenage years.
“One thing led to another, and now I’m addressing 6,000 soon-to-be alumni,” Velchik said. “It’s quite a curious quirk, this tradition that Harvard’s preserved, and one I’ve certainly embraced.”
That’s something of an understatement: Velchik’s submission to the orations committee contained footnotes (“entirely excessive and gratuitous, perhaps pompous”) that ran longer than the speech itself. His address is bookended by the inscription on Dexter Gate — “Enter to grow in wisdom/Depart to serve better thy country and thy kind” — and modeled on the rhetoric and style of his favorite authors and orators, including Caesar, Isocrates, and Cicero.
“The speech certainly repays a learned listener,” the Dunster House senior said.
At Harvard, Velchik, 22, has embraced the polymathic scholar-athlete label with tongue firmly in cheek. Though he concentrated in the classics and served as editor of Persephone, the undergraduate-produced classics journal, math and science came more naturally to him than the humanities. “I always hated papers,” he said. He picked up a secondary field in astrophysics, which he chose for its mix of the theoretical and the hands-on.
“As long as you have a telescope and some gung-ho spirit, you can get something accomplished,” he said.
As a freshman, Velchik tried crew on a lark and ended up rowing with the varsity lightweights all four years. “It’s a fun way to incorporate the ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ maxim: ‘a sound mind in a sound body,’” he said.
This summer, he’ll travel to Greece and Italy on an Alex G. Booth ’30 Fund Fellowship, an award for graduating seniors, to further his studies in Greek. For now, he’s not too worried about the long-term future — or the immediate one.
“I’m giving a speech in Latin!” he said, incredulous at the suggestion that he might be nervous. “If I mess up, who would know?” [...]
- via: In full regalia, and ready to regale (Harvard News)
- Michael Velchik: “Of a Gate to Harvard Yard” (Harvard Magazine)
Okay … this one hit the internets yesterday and I’ve been nursing vipers in my breast ever since. It begins with an item at Discovery Newswhich begins thusly:
Jesus, as described in the New Testament, was most likely crucified on Friday April 3, 33 A.D.
The latest investigation, reported in the journal International Geology Review, focused on earthquake activity at the Dead Sea, located 13 miles from Jerusalem. The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 27, mentions that an earthquake coincided with the crucifixion:
“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open.”
To analyze earthquake activity in the region, geologist Jefferson Williams of Supersonic Geophysical and colleagues Markus Schwab and Achim Brauer of the German Research Center for Geosciences studied three cores from the beach of the Ein Gedi Spa adjacent to the Dead Sea.
Varves, which are annual layers of deposition in the sediments, reveal that at least two major earthquakes affected the core: a widespread earthquake in 31 B.C. and an early first century seismic event that happened sometime between 26 A.D. and 36 A.D. [...]
… I won’t bother getting into my abject disappointment that Discovery News could not even think of the obvious major difficulties of assigning an exact date to an otherwise unspecifically-dated ancient earthquake (although we will note that April 3 is one of the calculated dates for the crucifixion which we annually mention in our This Day in Ancient History feature; it is mentioned in Wikipedia as well). I also won’t bother commenting on all the various text-critical difficulties with the claim, which seems more the realm of our Biblioblogger colleagues and has been more-than-adequately dealt with by Mark Goodacre and Tom Verenna.
What actually bothered me the most about this was that it was yet another article with an ancient history sort of bent published in a high end journal outside of our field. They way I figure it, the publisher (Taylor and Francis) must have sent the article out as a way to promote the current issue of the journal — I really have a hard time believing that journalists sit around and suddenly think, “Hmmm … seems to be a slow day … think I’ll wander to the library and see what’s happening in the latest International Geology Review … I can’t wait to see the followup to that middle Cenozoic ignimbrite flareup thing I was reading about a while ago.” So it seems obvious that the publisher sent it out.
As such, if some roguescholar wants to see if the journalist is passing on sufficient information for the author of the article not to be ridiculed and happens to check it out, he/she will come across a nice abstract:
This article examines a report in the 27th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament that an earthquake was felt in Jerusalem on the day of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. We have tabulated a varved chronology from a core from Ein Gedi on the western shore of the Dead Sea between deformed sediments due to a widespread earthquake in 31 BC and deformed sediments due to an early first-century earthquake. The early first-century seismic event has been tentatively assigned a date of 31 AD with an accuracy of ±5 years. Plausible candidates include the earthquake reported in the Gospel of Matthew, an earthquake that occurred sometime before or after the crucifixion and was in effect ‘borrowed’ by the author of the Gospel of Matthew, and a local earthquake between 26 and 36 AD that was sufficiently energetic to deform the sediments at Ein Gedi but not energetic enough to produce a still extant and extra-biblical historical record. If the last possibility is true, this would mean that the report of an earthquake in the Gospel of Matthew is a type of allegory.
… which seems to suggest that there might indeed be some disconnect between the Discovery News article and the original journal article. Of course, if further perusal is wanted by the likes of myself), he/she will have to shell out $43.00!!!! (I really need to figure out how to put interrobangs in my posts). If not, one would have to hope to have access to an institution which was willing to fork out over two grand for an annual subscription (I don’t think regular folks can even subscribe)! Personally, if I were a scholar and some journal was promoting my article to get attention for their journal, I’d be doing all I could to ensure that the people to whom the article was being promoted — i.e. the general public — could access the article so I didn’t come across looking silly, unless I don’t know any better.
What’s even more annoying is the viral nature of the internet news cycle. The Discovery News coverage has already been picked up/is being rewritten by a number of other outlets (e.g. the Daily Mail and Huffington Post) Whatever the case, all this silliness merely emphasizes/underscores/insert-the-synonym-of-your-choice what I was suggesting earlier this week about the need for organizations like the APA and CAC to forge direct ties with journalists to promote conferences (Something That’s Been Bugging Me: Outreach II ~ The Conference). Give the journalist something to write about and they’ll run with it.
This is great! After years and years of listening to NFL commentators whine every year about the difficulties of having to deal with Roman numerals every time some major NFC AFC final comes around, we read today that one of our Latin-loving-recent-draft-picks will be the first to sport Roman numerals on the back of his jersey:
… a bit more detail on why this is a big thing (on the NFL side of things):
Of course, it’s a pretty simple set (Griffin III, just like he had at Baylor). The real triumph, of course, would be if he could have a big X on his jersey, rather than the fabrically-inefficient 10.
On RGIII’s Latin skillset:
Whatever the case, I’ll now happily refer to him as RGIII rather than RG3 and for those sports commentators (and others) who struggle with Roman numerals, there is a Dictionary of Roman Numerals available. Now if I can only figure out what the significance of MCLXIX might be (some English/Irish thing?)
This is the sort of thing I wish would happen with most conferences/panels … a month or so ago the University of Southampton was the host for a conference called the Connected Past, which somehow slipped through the cracks at rogueclassicism in terms of an announcement of some sort. The focus, broadly speaking, was on looking at cross-disciplinary methodologies in archaeological research in various time periods. In any event, a pile of the presentations — several of which have a Classical bent — were recorded and are now available online:
- pervade (Merriam Webster)
… and a dash of latinitas:
certiorem facere, to inform, apprise, show
certior, be informed—
Charlton T. Lewis (@LewisandShort) May 26, 2012
… and just a touch of Greek:
reach, stretch, stretch out
Med. and Pass.
abs., stretch forth one’s hand
c. gen., reach at or to a thing,—
Henry George Liddell (@LiddellandScott) May 26, 2012
106 A.D. — martyrdom of Zachary in Gaul
303 A.D. — martyrdom of Felicissimus, Heraclius, and others at what is now Todi (Umbria)
About.com Ancient / Classical History: On This Day in Ancient History – Trajan’s Dacian Triumph.
Mark Goodacre: Earthquake Research and the Day of Jesus’ Crucifixion.
History of the Ancient World: Conversations in History: Arrian and Herodotus, Parmenio and Alexander.
History of the Ancient World: Religious Assimilation and Roman Foreign Policy in the East.
res gerendae: Facebook rings a bell.
[Mark Zuckerberg as Greek tyrant?]
Bestiaria Latina Blog: Latin Without Latin: Senex et Iuvenis.