Ed: Summer Intensive Greek at Baylor

Not just classical, but early Christian and Byzantine Greek are immensely alive and productive fields in the modern academic world. This program is specially designed to open possibilities for you in all these areas. With dedication, you can follow these avenues as far as you like in almost any period and style of Greek, Classical or Christian, at an undergraduate and eventually professional level.

Pompeii’s Pyroclastics Phollow-up

T’other day we had a couple of postings mentioning the final hours of Pompeii, both of which used the dreaded “lava” word in their various descriptions (which commenter Walter Muzzy pointed out: Blogosphere ~ Top 5 Representations of Pompeii (from Pop Classics) and Reconstructing the classics: from Pompeii to Athens. (Mary Beard)). It apparently also got the ‘ire’ of Dana Hunter over at Scientific American going enough to write Mary Beard:

[...] So how could Cambridge Professor Mary Beard, who had actually written books about Pompeii, get that important geological detail so very wrong? I figured I’d better ask. We had a brief conversation on Twitter, which brought to light the fact that she uses the word “lava” as a way of saying she’s not a volcanologist, and her book isn’t about the eruption but about life in Pompeii (not just the last few minutes of it). Fair enough. I asked her if she could at least use ash instead, to spare the feelings of geologists everywhere, and we ended up deciding that the Italian word “fango,” which means “mud,” must be popularized. It wasn’t mud that destroyed Pompeii, but the pyroclastic flow deposits did get reworked into lahars by water after deposition, so I’ll take it.** I’m glad Professor Beard wrote this article, and I’m even glad she made geologists the world over grind their teeth, because it’s a thought-provoking look at how we react to the people of Pompeii. It also points out that the city we see today is a lot more put together than Vesuvius left it. And her intentional use of the word “lava” makes us look harder at what really happened to Pompeii. I think a lot of us see the restored ruins and think of ash raining down, almost gently. Sure, it suffocated people and buried them, but it also lovingly preserved the buildings. Look! Even crockery is intact!

… the article goes on to give a very nice discussion of the various phases of destruction at Pompeii.

Crowdsourcing Akrotiri Fresco Reconstruction Postdoc

I don’t usually mention postdocs in these pages, but one that was mentioned over on AegeaNet sounds too interesting to not mention. Here’s the description of a postdoc for a Research Associate for Computer Graphics at UCL:

Applications are invited for a Research Associate (i.e. postdoc) post on an EPSRC-funded grant in the Computer Graphics group at UCL. We seek a candidate with a track record of expertise in some combination of computer graphics, machine learning, computer vision and human-computer interaction. The post is for someone who is interested in computer graphics and crowdsourcing applications, with primary focus on and responsibility for the funded project “Laymen To The Help Of Experts: Crowdsourcing To Aid The Reassembly Of Ancient Frescoes” (EPSRC EP/J014338/1). The project aims at developing a game-like, mobile-phone-based crowdsourcing application that will enable unskilled volunteers to contribute to the reassembly of the shattered Late-Bronze-Age wallpaintings of Akrotiri, Greece. The post involves the design and implementation of an (iOS-based) client-server infrastructure to collect and analyse data from users’ mobile devices, as they playfully engage with the “Akrotiri Jigsaw”. The research associate will also conduct a field study, closely interacting with the site on Santorini, Greece. Funding for this appointment is for 9 months in the first instance, to start before March 2013.

… full ad here: Research Associate in Computer Graphics

CJ Online Review: Griswold and Konstan (eds.), Ancient Forgiveness

posted with permission:

Ancient Forgiveness: Classical, Judaic, and Christian. Edited by Charles L. Griswold and David Konstan. New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. xv + 260. Hardcover, $90.00/£47.50. ISBN 978-0-521-11948-1.

Before Forgiveness: The Origins of a Moral Idea. By David Konstan. New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp. xiii + 192. Hardcover, $89.00/£61.00. ISBN 978-0-521-19940-7. Paper, $28.99/£18.99 ISBN 978-1-107-68020-3.

Reviewed by Margaret Graver, Dartmouth College

An exceptional combination of philosophical depth and cultural interest marks these two new volumes on the history of forgiveness, both published by Cambridge University Press. Though different in important ways, the two works have in common an aim to add a historical dimension to the academic discussion that has recently developed around the act of forgiveness and the process of reconciliation. Both books consider in detail some important differences among a range of ancient and modern assumptions about how reconciliation is effected between human agents after one has seriously harmed or offended the other, with most depth of coverage in Greco-Roman literature and history, ancient Judaism, and early Christianity. In so doing, each work exposes some of the tensions within certain prevalent modern notions of forgiveness, especially unilateral and unconditional forgiveness, as a universal means of conflict resolution and personal growth.

Griswold and Konstan first engaged in serious discussion of the issues these works address in academic year 2004–5, when Griswold was engaged in writing Forgiveness: A Philosophical Exploration (Cambridge, 2007) and Konstan was working on The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks: Studies in Aristotle and Classical Literature (Toronto, 2006). Recognizing the interdisciplinary interest of the topic, Griswold subsequently organized a 2007 conference, “Liberty, Responsibility, and Forgiveness,” the papers from which now appear in expanded form in Ancient Forgiveness. Although appearing later, Ancient Forgiveness is thus in a way prior to Konstan’s monograph, and his familiarity with the twelve papers collected there is part of what enables him to offer his own more unified historical narrative.

In accordance with a methodology thoughtfully worked out by the organizers, Ancient Forgiveness treats its subject not as a single clearly defined notion but rather as a “forgiveness terrain” encompassing a whole range of interrelated and overlapping terms: from the side of the perpetrator remorse, excuse, atonement, and self-exoneration, and for the offended party pardon, mercy, clemency, and other forms of restoration. This bottom-up approach provides room for individual authors to work with the concepts and issues that are most salient in the periods and texts they study without presupposing any necessary relation (whether of sameness, difference, or historical connection) between ancient and modern concepts. Following an introductory essay by Adam Morton, sketching the methodological and philosophical issues, the volume comprises three segments: “Forgiveness Among the Greeks,” including papers by Konstan on a variety of ancient texts, Page duBois on Homer and Sophocles, and Kathryn Gutzwiller on Greek New Comedy; “Forgiveness Among the Romans,” including papers by Susanna Braund on Seneca, Kristina Milnor on the role of women, and Zsuzsanna Várhelyi on divine clemency; and the longest section, “Judaic and Christian Forgiveness,” comprising papers by Michael Morgan on ancient Judaism, Peter Hawkins on the Prodigal Son in Luke, Jennifer Knust on early Christianity, Ilaria Ramelli on patristic texts, and Jonathan Jacobs on Maimonides and Aquinas.

Among the points argued by this impressive assemblage of contributors, a few stand out as pivotal for their collective intellectual venture. In her paper on Greek literature, Page duBois states with particular force a problem of translation that is alluded to in many of the papers: if we are too quick to render an ancient term, in this case the Greek sungnōmē, as “forgiveness” or some related term in our language, we merely create an anachronism, falsely imposing a modern emotional landscape upon an ancient culture and thus merely colonizing the past. The risks of such a procedure are made evident in the segment of the volume devoted to the Romans, where all three papers are quick to point out that clementia, the voluntary mitigation of penalties by a superior, is emphatically not forgiveness of one individual by another but rather a public demonstration of social and political power. As such, Kristina Milnor observes, it is also a prerogative of the male gender. Nonetheless, women of the early Roman Empire are sometimes seen participating in clementia—the paradigm is Livia mediating Augustus’ clemency toward the conspirator Cinna in 16 bce—and their participation is key to the emperors’ reformulation of their acts of clemency from a gesture by a victorious general (think Caesar) into an act of healing by a father figure in his domestic sphere. More often, though, it is the participation of the divinity that sets ancient conceptions of forgiveness apart from their modern counterparts. The earliest versions of this are explored by Michael Morgan, who brings to light in the Mishnah and the Talmud a way of thinking in which the primary context for interpersonal reconciliation is the relation of human agents to God. In ancient Judaism, God is always the chief victim of the wrong, the one with whom relationship has been breached, and it is because of God’s abiding interest in maintaining his covenantal relationship with the people of Israel that repentance is mandatory for the transgressor. Meanwhile the human victim acts as a kind of mediator: conditional upon the penitent’s request, forgiveness is obligatory for him as an expression of the divine love and forgiveness.

A more disturbing conception of divine forgiveness emerges from Jennifer Knust’s penetrating historical study of Luke-Acts (“Jesus’ Conditional Forgiveness”). It is a startling fact that the words spoken from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” appear in only a few of the most ancient manuscripts of the New Testament. Whether or not the sentence was originally included by the evangelist, the discrepancy in the manuscript tradition suggests that the unconditional forgiveness it expresses was seen as problematic in Christian communities of the second and third centuries, as patristic sources indeed indicate that it was. Lurking behind Jesus’ partially elided appeal for forgiveness is a wish for divinely ordained destruction of the non-Messianic Jews as well as an eagerness to claim for the persecuted Christian community the elite status implied in bestowing mercy and forgiveness. From here it is not far to the Nazi’s “final solution”—and to the difficulties with the notion of “radical forgiveness” that is promoted by some of our contemporary theologians.

We turn finally to the second title under review. Konstan’s Before Forgiveness: The Origins of a Moral Idea crosses the broad wake of Ancient Forgiveness with quite a different methodological imperative. As the title suggests, Konstan takes as given the specific model of forgiveness in the modern era which was delineated by Griswold’s earlier analysis: for an injured party (“A”) to forgive the perpetrator (“B”) is for A to adopt a new way of seeing B as a changed person, one who is and remains culpable for a deliberate offence but who now repents and would not again commit any comparable action, such forgiveness being granted by A freely, potentially even without a request from B. This notion seems at first excessively stringent—do we not apply the word also to less well-defined cases?—but Konstan renders it increasingly familiar by comparison with a series of ancient paradigms or “scripts” which, he argues, are not forgiveness in this particular modern sense but are rather instances of exculpation, propitiation, mitigation of penalties, or other forms of reconciliation. His survey moves with characteristic ease through an imposing range of sources, taking up in turn explicit philosophical positions, especially those of Aristotle and the Stoics; Greek and Roman narrative material; the Hebrew and Christian Bibles; and the Church Fathers. While touching on many of the texts and examples treated in Ancient Forgiveness, Konstan has much additional material to contribute, from Greco-Roman rhetorical theory and the anonymous Life of Aesop through the Epicurean scholar Philodemus to the Confession Inscriptions of second- and third-century Lydia and Phrygia and many others. Like several in Ancient Forgiveness, Konstan objects to Hannah Arendt’s claim that the idea of forgiveness as a human capacity began with Jesus. He then offers his own linguistic analysis of the Lord’s Prayer (“as we forgive those who trespass against us”) and a series of other New Testament texts that allude prominently to forgiveness of sin, arguing that “even here a fully-developed conception of forgiveness as an interpersonal, human process is not yet present” (124). Nor does he find it, at least in any systematic way, in John Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa, or other Christian writers through Peter Abelard. With considerable subtlety, he teases out one historical conception after another in support of his main contention: that pre-modern strategies for reconciliation were noticeably different from the model of forgiveness with which we are familiar, and yet were entirely serviceable in their own times.

Konstan’s account is most likely to meet with resistance in his brief concluding chapter, which turns again to the modern conception of forgiveness with some thoughts about its origins and its difficulties. After some brief reflections on Molière, Shakespeare, Butler, Kant, and Hegel, Konstan zeroes in on several versions of a supposed paradox that some contemporary philosophers find in our notion of forgiveness. In brief, forgiveness requires us to see our offender as still culpable for the offense and yet simultaneously as a new person who deserves to be forgiven. As an interpreter one is thus confronted with the old problem of continuity of persons through change—but in no more acute form, surely, than meets us in many other contexts; in the love of a parent for an adult child, for instance, whom she remembers nurturing even while rejoicing in his new independence. Our past selves, and the past selves of others, live on in our memories; they are no longer agents, and yet we remain responsible for them even as we make decisions for a changing present.

Classical Words of the Day


Latest from Paphos

From the Cyprus Mail:

FRAGMENTS of marble sculptures from a monument consecrated to the nymphs of ancient Greek and Roman mythology have been uncovered during on-going excavations at Paphos’ ancient theatre, the archaeological team in charge of the dig have announced.

The 15th season of excavations into one of Cyprus’ largest ancient theatres unearthed a number of significant finds, including fragments of carved marble adornments from the stage and from a monument to the nymphs or nymphaeum.

Paphos was the capital of Cyprus in Greek and Roman times and its ancient archaeological remains are on the World Heritage List.

Of particular interest to the archaeological team, led by Dr Craig Barker and Dr Smadar Gabrielli of the University of Sydney, is that the Paphos theatre is the only ancient theatre of Cyprus not to have undergone modern restoration. As such it is a unique structure because it is the sole remaining theatre containing visible traces of its architectural development.

Investigations have revealed that the theatre underwent five phases of renovations between 300 BC and the 4th century AD, each phase representing the evolution of ancient performance and theatre architecture. Many of the architectural features were robbed in later antiquity, and the area of the site was built over in the Middle Ages.

Five trenches were opened by the team in 2012 in various locations around the theatre and the nearby Roman nymphaeum.

Trench 12A was on the eastern side of the stage building, and located the bedrock foundations of the eastern end of the Roman stage. A new entrance way leading from the south into the eastern section of the theatre was located at a lower level than a Roman period one which may provide a rare indication of the architectural layout of the earlier phases of the theatre building.

Trench 12B continued work in the area of the Roman road to the south of the theatre that began in 2010, clearing more of the road pavements and more of a medieval building above it.

Trench 12C was on the upper levels of the cavea, the underground cells where wild animals were confined before entering combat on stage, and indicates that there were significant buildings constructed on the top of Fabrika hill after the theatre was no longer in use for performance.

All areas provided new architectural information about the layout of the theatre and surrounding building, and all areas will be explored further in the future.

In parallel with the excavation, the team’s specialists continued the archaeological interpretation of the architecture for a final academic publication in the near future.

The Australian archaeological excavations in Paphos are supported by the Nicholson Museum and by the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens.

… we last heard from this dig a month or so ago: Digging Paphos’ Agora

CJ Online Review: Clark, Exploring Greek Myth

posted with permission:

Exploring Greek Myth. By Matthew Clark. Chichester and Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. Pp. xiii + 196. Paper, £19.99/$34.95. ISBN 978-1-4051-9455-6

Reviewed by Martha J. Payne, Indiana University-Purdue University; Ball State University

Noting the popularity of university-level Classical myth courses, and the variety of books for the general audience, Matthew Clark presents material beyond that found in introductory textbooks including “some of the research that has accumulated over the past decade in a way that is accessible for those who are not yet scholars in the field” (ix). The book is packed with useful references and discussions, which are both its strength and weakness.

This is a slim volume of thirteen short chapters, each with an interesting title: 1. “The Knife Did it”: myth definitions and characteristics; 2. “Six Hundred Gods”: myth and religion; 3. “Homer’s Beauty Pageant”: myth traditions; 4. “Pelops’ Shoulder”: myth sources; 5. “Ikaros’ Wings, Aktaion’s Dogs”: myth and meaning; 6. “The Bones of Orestes”: hero and society relationships; 7. “Born from the Earth:” city and family foundation myths; 8. “The Judgment of Paris”: Greek and non-Greek myth; 9. “Boys in Dresses, Brides with Beards”: gender; 10. “Agamemnon’s Mask”: history and myth; 11.”Orestes on Trial”: myth and thought; 12. “Plato and the Poets”: philosophy; 13. Conclusion. Each chapter has three to seven sections including boxed material such as: overviews of specific myths; use of a myth in Western tradition; and further explorations (exercises for essays). In the general myth classroom, many of these topics are touched on only briefly, so their discussion is welcome.

The use of authors not usually used as myth-book sources (Pausanias, Palaephatus, Diodorus Siculus, Hyginus), and works from standard sources (Homer, Hesiod, the tragedians, Apollodorus, and Ovid) makes the book unusual. The former authors appear when Clark goes beyond the standard stories, showing how myths that are less well known play a role in ancient Greek life. For example, Clark differentiates Panhellenic (e.g. the myth of Persephone, 6–10) from local myth (e.g. Bouphonia at Athens, 11–13).

Clark discusses myth theory from scholars such as Burkert, Detienne, Vidal-Naquet, et al. (the works of Joseph Campbell are largely ignored). Discussions presented after a particular story facilitate understanding of ancient Greek culture. For example, after the story of Myrrha and Adonis (box, p. 120) Clark unpacks Detienne’s structuralist understanding of the myth and the Adonia festival, and contrasts it with the Athenian Thesmophoria as festivals of sterility and fertility.

For all the book’s usefulness, several problems caution caveat lector. First, there are a plethora of references to places in Greece, some well known (e.g. Athens, Delphi), others not (e.g. Arcadia, Megara, etc.), but there are no maps to assist a reader unfamiliar with Greek topography.

Second, there are many references to images, and the book has ten figures, mostly from vase painting. Otherwise, the reader is referred to LIMC (pp. 63, 64), or to other sources, e.g. the figures referred to in T. H. Carpenter, Art and Myth in Ancient Greece: A Handbook (London: Thames and Hudson, 1991) for the Judgment of Paris (box, p. 99). The ten figures, however, are problematic, due to inconsistent contrast quality. For example, Fig. 12.1 (p. 162) has excellent contrast, while Fig. 1 (p. 8) is somewhat muddy, making details hard to see. While most images exemplifying ancient myths portrayed in vase painting are only mentioned in passing, the François Vase (Fig. 3.1, p. 40), is discussed in detail, band by band as an example of a “visual catalogue of Greek myth” (39). However, the image provided is so small that it is difficult to see what Clark is referring to.

Another problem lies in Clark’s accuracy. Several Pausanias references are incorrect by a section or two: the citation for the stallion Areion, progeny of Demeter and Poseidon (p. 9), given as Guide 8.25.5, should be 8.25.7; 1.15.6 as the citation for a statue of Athena next to a shrine of Hephaestus in Athens (p. 87) should be 1.14.6. The problem is not limited to Pausanias. Plato, Gorgias 485d, given as a reference to Euripides’ Antiope (p. 5), should be 484e. There is also an occasional problem with presentation accuracy. In discussing girls’ ritual (pp. 115–9) Clark notes stories of young women, Kyrene, Kallisto, and Daphne, raped by gods. These are examples of initiation patterns, which “… would turn … [girls] temporarily into boys or men, … either in behavior or in appearance.… All of these mythic women reject marriage and become hunters.” (p. 117). Yet, while Daphne was pursued by Apollo and became a laurel tree, there is nothing in her story that indicates that she was a huntress.

In addition, one wonders why Clark did not use certain sources. In discussing Indo-European myth and linguistics linked to Greek myth, Clark presents Ovid’s flood (Metamorphoses 1.163–421) and its connection to those in the Bible and Gilgamesh (pp. 101–3) yet does not mention the Hindu version found in the Mahabharata. This omission seems curious because in discussing the Ages of Mankind on p. 104, Clark cites the Mahabharata for the sacrifice of Purusha.

In overview, many of Clark’s secondary sources, such as the multi-volume LIMC and others, are only likely to be found in a university library, and not accessible to the ordinary, educated reader. These sources and the exercises given as essays for “Further Exploration” lead one to wonder for whom the book is intended. While the apparent audiences are students who have studied mythology and the general reader (p. ix), would a general reader wish to write an essay—a task more suited to a school exercise? Clark’s website at the Department of Humanities at York University states that this book is in fact “an upper-level textbook.” Thus, the book is an intriguing addition to the study of myth, but best appreciated by those in an upper-level myth course, or by a serious student of myth who wishes an in-depth survey.

Classical Receptions (November 2012)

The latest Classical Receptions is  entitled: Translation, trangression, transformation: contemporary women authors and classical reception

Here are the TOCs:

  • Elena Theodorakopoulos,Women’s writing and the classical tradition
  • Fiona M. Cox,Metamorphosis, mutability and the third wave
  • Isobel Hurst,‘Love and blackmail’: Demeter and Persephone
  • Susanna Braund,‘We’re here too, the ones without names.’ A study of female voices as imagined by Margaret Atwood, Carol Ann Duffy, and Marguerite Yourcenar
  • Sarah Annes Brown, Science fiction and classical reception in contemporary women’s writing
  • Fiona Cox and Elena Theodorakopoulos, Fidelity in an arranged marriage: Sarah Ruden and the Aeneid’
  • Harriet Tarlo, ‘An insurmountable chasm?’: re-visiting, re-imagining and re-writing classical pastoral through the modernist poetry of H.D
  • Josephine Balmer, Handbags and Gladrags: a woman in transgression, reflecting

Classical Words of the Day