Roman Shipwreck from Antibes

I’ve been trying to find out a bit more about this Roman shipwreck find which seems to be an ‘exclusive’ of the Past Horizons folks (A Roman shipwreck in the ancient port of Antibes). To supplement that, I’ve come across a podcast with an interview with a couple of the archaeologists involved (in French):

… and here’s the INRAP press release (also in French):

Kiddy Bling from Yeronisos

From the Cyprus Mail (tip o’ the pileus to our long-time Explorator source Dave Sowdon for this):

ARCHEOLOGISTS digging a small island off Cyprus’ western coast have discovered amulets bearing male names, believed to have been worn by male toddlers over 2,000 years ago, it was announced yesterday.
The artefacts were found on the island of Yeronisos, or Holy Island, near Peyia, an important place of pilgrimage during the later Hellenistic period – 325-58 BC – when worshippers crossed the waters to pray at its sanctuary of the god Apollo.
“A series of small amulets that may have been worn by toddler boys brought to Yeronisos to mark their transitional time of weaning have been recovered,” the department of antiquities said. “One recently discovered amulet is inscribed with the male names Minas, written along the side, and Diophantes, written on the bottom. These may represent the names of boys who wore the talisman during special ceremonies on Yeronisos.”
A sherd also recovered from the site bears the male names Chariton, Thrasayis, Nikkon and Hereas.
“These are perhaps the names of boys who participated in the weaning rituals,” the department said.
Other shells found on Yeronisos preserve the writing exercises of children practicing their Greek letters. “These suggest that a school for boys may have been part of the sanctuary.”
That these amulets were made on Yeronisos is suggested by the discovery, this season, of an unfinished charm, not yet pierced for suspension and not yet engraved with designs.
In the north side of the island, archaeologists unearthed a circular platform, which they believe was used for dancing – an integral part of the boys’ education and a means of pleasing Apollo – the Olympian god of music and song, prophecy and oracles.
Late Hellenistic pottery excavated this season includes drinking cups, bowls, and juglets.
The excavation was undertaken by the New York University Yeronisos Island Expedition, under the direction of Professor Joan Breton Connelly.
NYU started exploring the island in June 1990, at around the same time as it was officially declared an ancient monument.

The original article has links to a couple of webpages associated with the project … here … and here. The Cyprus Mail also had a more general feature on the dig which is worth checking out: People-friendly green archaeology.

CJ Online Review: de Melo, Loeb Plautus I-IV

posted with permission:

Wolfgang de Melo, editor and translator, Plautus, vol. I: Amphitryon; The Comedy of Asses; The Pot of Gold; The Two Bacchises; The Captives. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 2011. Pp. cxxxiii + 628. Hardcover, $24.00/£15.95. ISBN 978-0-674-99653-3.

Wolfgang de Melo, editor and translator, Plautus, vol. II: Casina; The Casket Comedy; Curculio; Epidicus; The Two Menaechmuses. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 2011. Pp. x + 562. Hardcover, $24.00/£15.95. ISBN 978-0-674-99678-6.

Wolfgang de Melo, editor and translator, Plautus, vol. III: The Merchant; The Braggart Soldier; The Ghost; The Persian. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 2011. Pp. x + 569. Hardcover, $24.00/£15.95. ISBN 978-0-674-99682-3.

Wolfgang de Melo, editor and translator, Plautus, vol. IV: The Little Carthaginian; Pseudolus; The Rope. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 2012. Pp. xi + 571. Hardcover, $24.00/£15.95. ISBN 978-0-674-99986-2.

Reviewed by Timothy J. Moore, Washington University in St. Louis (tmoore).

The Loebs of Plautus by Paul Nixon (Cambridge, MA, 1916–38) have served us well for many years but are showing their age. Wolfgang de Melo’s new Loebs (one volume remains after those reviewed here) are therefore most welcome. De Melo has not only provided a worthy updated successor to Nixon, but he has gone well beyond his predecessor in many ways to produce a work that will be of considerable value both to students and to scholars.

As befits the Loeb format, de Melo’s aims in terms of textual criticism are limited: he does not produce a full apparatus criticus. Unlike Nixon, however, who for the most part simply reproduced Friedrich Leo’s text (Berlin, 1895–6), de Melo has clearly thought long and hard about Plautus’ text, both incorporating the work of contemporary editors and doing some emending of his own. The result is a text that, while by no means definitive, is superior to previous full-corpus texts of Plautus, including Wallace Lindsay’s OCT (Oxford, 1904–5). Particularly notable are de Melo’s work on the lacunose Cistellaria (this benefits much from de Melo’s consultation with Walter Stockert, who has recently completed a critical text of the play [Urbino, 2009]), and on the Punic passages of Poenulus, described in a long appendix to that play. Inevitably, of course, there is room for disagreement. In spite of the authority of Roberto Danese (Asinaria [Urbino, 2004]), I remain skeptical that Diabolus and not Argyrippus delivers Asinaria 127ff. Nor do I find de Melo’s transposition of Menaechmi 72–6 to earlier in the prologue persuasive (adopted from Adrian Gratwick’s Menaechmi [Cambridge,
1993]).

Most readers will probably turn to these volumes for the translation as much as for the Latin text. Here again de Melo is decidedly superior to Nixon, much of whose translation now seems painfully archaic. De Melo’s English versions, appropriately, are generally quite literal. As is often the case with such close translations, they sometimes sound stilted: they will not serve well as texts for performance, and students seeking a “feel” for Plautus’ exuberant Latin would do better to turn to translations that are less exact but more lively. They will, however, prove an excellent guide for those seeking greater understanding of the Latin.

De Melo also does a better job than Nixon at annotating his translations. Obscure passages and places where Latin puns cannot be recreated literally are usually well explained with notes on points of Roman culture, history, Latin semantics, and other areas. De Melo has a good eye not only for items that might give students difficulty, but also for areas where some additional information will make our understanding richer. He notes, for example, that when Daemones invites Gripus to dinner at the end of Rudens, he suggests that the slave has been freed, even though Daemones does not explicitly manumit him.

Where de Melo differs most from Nixon is in his introductory material. He begins his first volume with a 121-page introduction that includes discussions of Plautus’ life, the history of ancient comedy (including Plautus’ Greek and Italian sources and questions of adaptation), themes and characteristics of Plautine comedy, Plautus’ language and meter, questions of performance, the history of Plautus’ text, and (very briefly) Plautus’ influence. Some areas here could be improved. De Melo is to my mind overly skeptical regarding native Italian influence on Plautus; and while he covers well the iambic senarius and the trochaic septenarius, other meters, most notably the very important iambic septenarius, get short shrift. De Melo’s claim that Terence’s characters, because they are sympathetic, are unrealistic, seems unnecessarily cynical. De Melo perhaps spends more time on the intricacies of Plautus’ Latin than is necessary in this context. All in all, though, de Melo’s ambitious opening is an excellent introduction to the plays. Particularly praiseworthy are de Melo’s clear account of the manuscript tradition and his extensive bibliography.

De Melo also offers, in contrast to Nixon, introductions to individual plays. Each includes a synopsis of the play and discussion of the Greek original and the date of the play’s original performance. These discussions are inevitably somewhat speculative, but de Melo is consistently cautious and forthright about his assumptions. De Melo generally avoids aesthetic judgments and broader questions of literary criticism in these introductions. When he does judge the plays, he sometimes seems a bit out of touch with current critical work, as when he concludes that Persa is “unpleasant” and Asinaria “less than edifying.” Each introduction ends with a brief bibliography that includes editions, commentaries and other secondary scholarship. These feature, admirably, works in French, German, and Italian as well as English, but they seem rather idiosyncratic, sometimes including discussions of minor points and ignoring important studies of whole plays.

Finally, de Melo includes schemata metrorum for all the plays. These are vastly superior to those of Lindsay’s Oxford texts. Those interested in the details of the polymetric sections will still want to turn to Cesare Questa’s T. Macci Plauti Cantica (Urbino, 1995), but de Melo’s metrical appendices should now be the standard resource for those following metrical changes throughout whole plays.

CJ Online Review: Roisman and Luschnig, Euripides’ Electra

posted with permission:

H. M. Roisman and C. A. E. Luschnig, Euripides’ Electra: A Commentary. Oklahoma Series in Classical Culture. Norman, OK: Oklahoma University Press, 2011. Pp. xvii + 366. Paper, $32.95. ISBN 978-0-8061-4119-0.

Reviewed by Karelisa Hartigan, University of Florida

What a pleasure it was to see this commentary arrive on my desk. Having used the Roisman–Luschnig commentary on the Alcestis in my middle-level Greek class for years, I was delighted to see I would have another Roisman–Luschnig work for my students to use. This commentary is, as the authors say, designed for students at various levels in their reading of Greek tragedy. It provides basic information for those reading the Electra early in their Greek studies, and both review and guidance for the more advanced student. In their Introduction Roisman and Luschnig include common grammatical and literary terms, and the standard abbreviations for Greek authors and their works. They then offer basic information about the three tragedians, the myth that forms this play, and the form and conventions of Greek drama production in ancient Athens, including three line-drawings of the Greek theater. Graduate level students could use these pages for refreshers and then turn to the straightforward presentation of meter and prosody; note that metrical analyses for the odes and monody are given in Appendix I. Roisman and Luschnig conclude the Introduction with a discussion of the play’s date, presenting both sides of the issue and tentatively favoring (I myself am happy to note) a post-Sophoclean date of composition.

The Greek text is based on Murray’s 1913 edition and Diggle’s 1981 text, with readings from Cropp’s 1988 edition, as well as the earlier texts of Denniston and Paley. The Greek is printed in easy-to-read italics. I mention this benefit because it is a definite plus for all who have peered intently at the very small print of the standard Oxford texts. Some might miss the formal app. crit. at page bottom; the authors explain (24) that they have noted any substantial changes from Murray and Diggle in the Commentary.

What makes this book exceptional are the pages which follow the Greek text. The Notes and Commentary are wonderfully inclusive. Roisman and Luschnig give line-by-line information that is far more than mere notes. History, geography, and mythic references are explicated, grammar and alternate readings are noted along with scholarly debate on theme and meaning. Students who turn to these will often find a translation for the more difficult passages, guidance in translating more straightforward phrases.

Appendix 2, “Discussions,” reviews the three Electra plays. The authors do not do this in the usual Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides presentation but rather set out the material by characters and theme: Electra’s plots, Orestes’ tokens, and how the major characters are portrayed, e.g., Orestes’ purposeful return in Sophocles’ play, his hesitation in Euripides’ script. The role of the divinities in the various plays is also discussed: how Aeschylus’ Orestes is god-directed, that deities do not appear until the end in Euripides’ play. Appendix 2 concludes with a discussion of two post-classical versions of Euripides’ play. Jean Giraudoux’s Électre was staged in 1937 Paris. Here the playwright wrote his script as a sort-of detective story focused on the ambiguity of the myth itself, and in which Électre is another one of Giraudoux’s exceptional young women. Michael Cacoyannis’ created his film Elektra in 1962. Film allows all action to be seen and Cacoyannis takes full advantage of his medium, allowing the visual to largely replace the verbal.

Roisman and Luschnig’s edition is a user-friendly text, for its appendices make it possible for a reader to need to have only one book on hand. In Appendix 3 they offer an Index of Verbs in the forms and lines in which they appear in the text. Such a listing makes such a difference to the student who cannot recognize the more unusual forms of a Greek verb. Appendix 4 is a Review of Grammatical and Rhetorical constructions. Here one can find clarification of crasis, the use of the objective clause after a verb of fearing or an example of anastrophe; again, all this information is offered line by line.

Appendix 5 permits readers to leave their LSJ on the shelf: here is a very complete vocabulary of words used in the text; those appearing more than five times are printed in bold face—an obvious encouragement for the early student to learn these words. A nine page bibliography rounds out the book followed by an inclusive index that covers themes, loci, and names mentioned in the commentary.

In sum, Roisman and Luschnig’s commentary on Euripides’ Electra is a masterful work and (as I have said before) after its publication “there will be no need for another commentary [on this play] for decades.” Finally, I must report that the authors kindly let me use their book in its nascent form when I was teaching the Electra in my final graduate seminar on Greek Tragedy at the University of Florida. So I can verify that my students found this book truly useful for their reading and understanding of Euripides’ Electra.

CJ Online Review: van Steen, Theatre of the Condemned

posted with permission:

Gonda van Steen, Theatre of the Condemned: Classical Greek Tragedy on Greek Prison Islands. Classical Presences. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. xiv + 354. Hardcover, £71.00/ $125.00. ISBN 978-0-19-957288-5.

Reviewed by Betine van Zyl Smit, University of Nottingham

Theatre of the Condemned deals with a topic that has hitherto received little attention in work on the reception of Classical Greek Tragedy. The reason for this neglect is that it inevitably revives memories of painful episodes in modern Greek history, for it deals with the role of Classical Greek Tragedy in the lives of those imprisoned on the islands of Makronisos, Trikeri and Aï Stratis from the 1940s to the early 1960s. The defeated opponents of the Greek nationalists in the civil war in liberated Greece were confined to the islands in an attempt to eliminate their influence by removing them from society.

Gonda Van Steen’s pioneering work presents the context in which these political prisoners were held and the ways in which they used the study, creation and performance of plays as a means of education, a release from their plight, but often also as an opportunity to express covert resistance to the regime. As there was no systematic documentation of these activities, Van Steen has supplemented available information by interviews with survivors. One of the merits of this volume is the creation of a permanent record of many aspects of theatrical activities on the prison islands which risked passing into oblivion with the demise of the participants. Plays studied, written and produced on the islands included many later and modern works as well, as indicated by Van Steen, but her concentration is on Classical Greek Tragedy. She demonstrates that Greek prisoner theatre in some of its features predates the radical revisionism of Classical Greek Tragedy that was to become the trend in the West from the 1960s onward.

Van Steen singles out four tragedies that resonated particularly with the inmates and could be understood to reflect the complexities of their situation and continued resistance to the regime. These were Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, Sophocles’ Philoctetes, Aeschylus’ Persians, and Sophocles’ Antigone.

The portrayal of Prometheus as a stalwart hero, who suffers but remains defiant in the face of his abuser, is situated in the context of similar wider leftist and Marxist interpretations of the tragedy in twentieth century Eastern European literature. The eponymous hero of Philoctetes was also seen as epitomising the plight of the exiles: “he remains an exemplum of integrity and defines the concept of tragic heroism anew in—temporary—defeat and isolation” (71). Van Steen points out that in some cases the people she interviewed could not remember whether a play had actually been staged, but that even the process of rehearsal had given the participants the opportunity to experience the emotions evoked by their collective engagement with the play.

In a production of Persians on Aï Stratis in 1951 the exiles explored the effect of the recent military defeat of the Left. It was a counterpoint to the National Theatre’s productions of the tragedy which identified the modern communist enemy with the Persians of antiquity. This is just one example of many instances Van Steen adduces of the authority and prestige of Greek Tragedy being claimed by both the regime and the prisoners as endorsing their cause.

Another tragedy which often gives rise to conflicting interpretations is Sophocles’ Antigone where some champion Antigone’s cause as the noble defence of freedom, while others support Creon’s desire to maintain order and control as desirable. Van Steen discusses several versions of this play associated with the prison islands. The first was produced on Makronisos in 1948 (65–70) by a group of actors who had “repented.” Thus their performance was intended by the authorities to enhance the importance of patriotism. Van Steen shows that players and audience nevertheless interpreted the themes in their own way. The second Antigone discussed (108–13) is a reading of the play by female prisoners on Trikeri. The process, led by an interned actress, served both to educate and to raise awareness amongst the female prisoners who saw Antigone as exemplifying their own predicament. The third Antigone analysed is offered as an example of creative playwriting by an island inmate. Van Steen argues that its inclusion compensates for the lack of detail of other productions. It is in fact the only play from the prison islands that has been published. The full text of this adaptation of Antigone by Aris Alexandrou is included (172–230), as well as an English translation by Van Steen (239–306). This play, which has influences from Brecht and Anouilh, was not produced during the lifetime of the playwright, but first staged in 2003. Van Steen notes that Alexandrou’s version has “an expressly democratic subtext that undermined dogmatic leftism” (150). Her analysis of the play and its production is sensitive and illuminates the complexities of the political and social identities that were involved in the prison camps.

The references (318-44) form a substantial bibliography for the topic.

Gonda Van Steen in this book sheds light on an important period in the recent history of Greece and in particular the part of Classical Greek Tragedy in it. Theatre of the Condemned contains scrupulous scholarship, sophisticated analysis and a huge amount of new material. Everyone who works on the reception of Greek drama should read it.

Thracian Remains at Tsarevo

Another tantalizingly brief item from Novinite:

Bulgarian archaeologists have discovered a Thracian settlement during the first ever excavations in the town of Tsarevo on the southern Black Sea coast.

The team is led by Milen Nikolov, an archaeologist from the Regional History Museum in the Black Sea city of Burgas.

The settlement is very close in location to the town church “Uspenie Bogorodichno.” The find proves that Tsarevo and nearby areas have a history more ancient that what was believed until now.

During the excavations, the archaeologists have found remnants showing that as early as the 4th – 5th century BC Thracians have built a town that existed until the 1st century AC.

Nikolov explains the discovery is a 2 500-year history rewind, saying the finds further include a four-wick lamp, tomb gifts, and a number of vessels.

On Your Classical Conference Calendar This Week …

We added the following to the Classical Conference Calendar (see tab above):

Calls for Papers:

  • The Decapolis: History and Archaeology (UOxford … deadline not specified but the conference is in July 2013)
  • Conflict in the Peloponnese (deadline October 1o)
  • Change and Identity in Ritual and Poetry (UTSA … deadline Oct 31)

Conferences:

  • Revenge and Gender (Bristol), September 5-6
  • Associations in Context (Copenhagen), October 11-13 (info to come?)
  • Ancient Cosmologies (St Andrews), November 2-4
  • The Sound of Latin (Oxford), November 8
  • AMPRAW (Birmingham), December 10-11 (registration by Oct 31)
  • ACL Institute (Memphis), June 27-29

CONF: The Sound of Latin

Seen on the Classicists list:

Conference: The Sound of Latin
Jesus College, Oxford (Ship Street Conference Centre)
Thursday 8 November, 2-6 p.m.

The Oxford Classics Faculty is giving advance notice of this conference, which will take place on November 8. Further details will be sent round in October. The title is self-explanatory.

Armand D’Angour, Jesus College, Oxford: Phonemic variations in Latin verse

Wolfgang de Melo, Wolfson College, Oxford: Laws of early Latin versification and why Plautus abides by them

Roland Mayer, King’s College, London: Ictus and Accent: to beat or not to beat

Llewelyn Morgan, Brasenose College, Oxford: ‘An almost unlimited range of effects': the nature and force of ‘elision’

James Morwood, Wadham College, Oxford: Hidden Quantities in Latin: how to recognize them and why they matter

John Penney, Wolfson College, Oxford: Spoken Latin and Latin Verse

Ian McAuslan will read a passage of Latin poetry.
All are welcome.

Medea … Vodka?

We’ve been searching for assorted products appropriate for our Ultimate Classics Conference (see, e.g., here) and last night my spiders came back with a mention of Medea Vodka (“The Most Loved Vodka in the World” … I’m thinking one better not go back to drinking Smirnoff or Stoli after) … I’m sure we could put it in our Caesars, but I doubt any Classicist would dare drink it. I’m sure folks will understand if I don’t put it on the catering list) … the bottle is cool (not Classical) though:

Also Seen: Thucydides v Jonah Lehrer

As you might be aware, Jonah Lehrer has been coming under fire of late for admitting that he made quotes up while writing his biography of Bob Dylan (i.e., he put words into the mouth of his subject to suit his purpose). I’m happy to say that I’m not the only one who (briefly) thought of Thucydides’ methods, as Robert Zaretsky (who does French history at the University of Houston) has written an OpEd in the Los Angeles Review of Books. Here’s on paragraph that caught my eye for different reasons, however:

In a situation Thucydides would recognize, the ridiculously young and improbably successful Lehrer — author of three bestselling books, an immensely popular lecturer, and staff writer for The New Yorker, all at the age of 31 — spurred the envy not of Olympus, but our blogosphere. Ever so slightly like Alcibiades, the young and gifted Athenian portrayed by Thucydides as the tragic victim of his overreaching, Lehrer brought upon himself our own age’s Furies — bloggers and internet vigilantes — enraged perhaps as much by his worldly success as by his professional sloppiness.

Bloggers as Furies … but guilty of envy themselves? In any event, read the whole thing at:

From the Italian Press: Patrician Burial from Riardo

Not a lot of detail in this one other than the fact they appear to have found some black-figure terracotta fragments, some roof tiles, and some polished/shaped stones. I can’t quite figure out if they think this is actually a necropolis or a villa site or both …  here’s the first paragraph from Corriere del Mezzogiorno:

Un nuovo sito archeologico è venuto alla luce sul territorio di Riardo. È bastata un’aratura più profonda per riportare in superficie resti antichissimi fra cui cocci di vasi a vernice nera, terrecotte, contenitori, tegole, vasi e rocce ben levigate e squadrate. Rapidissimo il sopralluogo della Soprintendenza di Caserta — con il funzionario Antonio Salerno responsabile dell’ufficio dei Beni Archeologici di Calvi Risorta — che ha delimitato la zona e inviato la necessaria comunicazione ai proprietari del fondo e ai carabinieri di Pietramelara, competenti per territorio. Immediatamente sospeso ogni intervento sul fondo agricolo in attesa di ulteriori accertamenti da parte della Soprintendenza. La scoperta, secondo alcune indiscrezioni, potrebbe assumere una grossa importanza anche in considerazione della sua ubicazione. La prima ipotesi indicherebbe la presenza di una struttura, probabilmente una grossa villa fortificata. Il sito si trova nei pressi del Campo dei Monaci e vicino alle sorgenti della Ferrarelle. [...]

The article goes on, but seems to be talking mostly about things found at other sites in the area. Not sure what Riardo would have been called in ancient times …