Honours for Mary Beard!

Congratulations to Mary Beard, who has been awarded an OBE for services to Classical Scholarship. Very nice that such things continue to be recognized …. here are Dr Beard’s own thoughts on the matter:

  • OBE? (A Don’s Life)

FWIW, I tried to track down other Classics types who have been similarly honoured and they are few and far between:

  • Michael Grant OBE, CBE
  • Peter Jones MBE
  • Christopher Rowe, OBE
  • Martin Ferguson Smith, OBE

… I’m sure there are more, but not many more. Now I’m wondering if Dr Beard is the first woman Classicist so honoured …  Again, congrats to our favourite Don!!

UPDATE (an hour or so later): Averil Cameron received a DBE in 2006

CJ Online Review: Wight, Molten Color: Glassmaking in Antiquity

posted with permission

Molten Color: Glassmaking in Antiquity. By Karol B. Wight. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2011. Pp. 128; 92 color and 2 b/w illustrations, 36 line drawings, 1 map. Paper, $20.00/£13.99. ISBN 978-1-60606-053-7.

Reviewed by Susan Walker, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

The well-chosen cover photograph of a multi-colored ribbon flask, a product of early imperial Roman glass-making, illustrates both the sense of flow in the title and the visual appeal of this short survey of glassmaking in antiquity. Recently appointed Director of the Corning Museum of Glass, Wight has retained her sense of wonder at the technical brilliance of ancient glass, and communicates her passionate interest in glassmaking throughout the book. The work is addressed to a non-specialist audience.

A short introduction makes the modern reader aware of the omnipresence of glass in our daily lives; a first chapter explains what glass is and how its properties have been exploited. Good use is made here of illustrations from early books. Wight alludes briefly to the advances made in recent decades in our understanding of the chemistry of ancient glass. The map of the Roman Empire is puzzling: the sites marked on it require explanation as centers of glass-making at various times in antiquity. An historical overview begins with the earliest techniques used in Bronze Age Mesopotamia and Egypt: casting, core-forming and mosaic glass. Wight moves on to the Mediterranean of the first millennium BC, where there is a frustrating lack of surviving glass of monumental scale, but where gold-glass was first exploited and Hellenistic glass-makers developed mosaic glass to new heights of perfection. The processes of core-forming and making mosaic glass are well explained and clearly illustrated.

Much space is devoted to the glass of the Roman Empire, for the Romans exploited to spectacular effect the newly discovered technique of glass-blowing. Raw glass was exported to Europe from Judaea and Alexandria. Early imperial control of the Alpine regions allowed the exploitation of abundant local resources of metal and wood to turn glass from a small-scale, luxury product into a convenience for the masses. Secondary workshops employed glassmakers using iron blowpipes; these could hold heavier gobs of molten glass than the earliest known pipes of glass or ceramic found in Judaea. Large containers were produced, and, most significantly for the future of the craft, glass could be recycled.

Glass thus acquired a much wider range of uses, which are explored in the last chapter of the text. The excellent photographs are not scaled but dimensions are given in the captions, along with a brief description of the glass’s function and technique of manufacture and, most usefully, a museum inventory number. A glossary explains technical terms printed in bold font in the text. The layout of the chapter headings is irritating, set within the first page of text.

The focus of Molten Glass is technological and exclusively focused upon the Getty Museum’s collection. In the preface, the author explains that the book draws upon an exhibition prepared in 2006. Temporary exhibitions of ancient glass have been a major source of scholarship in recent years: within the short bibliography Wight refers to another influential display organized by technique: Glass of the Caesars, held at the British Museum and other venues in the late 1980s. Vitrum: Il vetro fra arte e scienza nel mondo romano, held in Florence in 2004, produced a catalogue of lasting value, perhaps omitted because the publication, edited by M. Beretta and G. Di Pasquale, is in Italian. I missed any recommendation to read E. Marianne Stern’s seminal article “Roman Glass-blowing in a Cultural Context”, AJA 103 (1999) 441–84. Scholarship on ancient glass is international, with significant publications in all the major European languages, comprehensively summarized and critically reviewed every five years by Marie-Dominique Nenna in Revue Archéologique.

Notwithstanding these limitations, Wight gives her readers a valuable, well-illustrated and clear account of the techniques of glass-making in antiquity as seen through the remarkable collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum. The museum would do well to commission a series of similar books on the making of other classes of object within its collections.

Dissection in Early Alexandria

Very interesting item at History in an Hour … here’s a tease:

During the third century BCE, the city of Alexandria was home to a remarkable event in the development of ancient medicine as two physicians, named Herophilus and Erasistratus, conducted ground-breaking investigations into internal human anatomy. This research was important not only because it corrected many ancient misconceptions about the body, but because the doctors are believed to have reached their conclusions by dissecting human corpses, a practice outlawed in the Ancient World.

Here’s the rest:

d.m. Evelyn Byrd Harrison

From the ASCSA:

Renowned art historian Evelyn Byrd (Eve) Harrison died peacefully in her New York City apartment on November 3.

Born in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1920, Eve Harrison received her A.B. from Barnard College in 1941 and her M.A. from Columbia University in 1943, but her graduate studies were interrupted by the Second World War. Until the end of 1945, she served as a Research Analytic Specialist, translating intercepted Japanese messages for the War Department.

In 1949, she joined the staff of the ASCSA’s Athenian Agora Excavations. She received her Ph.D. from Columbia in 1952, and a revised version of her dissertation on the portrait sculpture found in the Agora inaugurated the series The Athenian Agora: Results of Excavations Conducted by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Her Portrait Sculpture was followed in 1965 by Archaic and Archaistic Sculpture, volume XI of The Athenian Agora.

Professor Harrison began her teaching career in 1951 at the University of Cincinnati, where she taught not only art history but also first-year Greek and Latin. After a second research position with the Agora Excavations between 1953 and 1955, she joined the faculty of the Department of Art History and Archaeology of Columbia University, where she was named full professor in 1967. Four years as Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University followed, and in 1974 she was named Edith Kitzmiller Professor of the History of Fine Arts at the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University.

She was honored for her contributions to art history and archaeology by election as an Honorary Councilor of the Archaeological Society of Athens, a member of the German Archaeological Institute, a member of the American Philosophical Society, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Archaeological Institute of America recognized her lifetime of accomplishment by awarding her its Gold Medal for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement in 1992.

d.m. Glenys Lloyd-Morgan

From the Guardian:

My friend Glenys Lloyd-Morgan, who has died aged 67 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, devoted her career to the appreciation and understanding of Roman archaeology.

She was born in Halifax and brought up in Caernarfonshire; her father was a merchant sea captain and her mother was an entomologist and teacher. Glenys graduated from the archaeology department at Birmingham University in 1970 and acquired fine skills in excavation. Former contemporaries recall how she practised it at Droitwich, Worcestershire.

Under Richard Tomlinson’s supervision, she did a PhD at Birmingham on Roman mirrors, which she studied, along with any potential Celtic-related predecessor artefacts in museums throughout Britain and Ireland. Venturing into the world of Roman Europe, she spent a very happy period at the Museum Kam in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, in 1973-74. At the British School at Rome, she met Sir Anthony Blunt, who vividly recalled Glenys’s enthusiasms for Etruscan mirrors and how she had enlivened the school’s New Year’s Eve party by dancing on the table.

In March 1975, Glenys joined the Grosvenor Museum, Chester. There, she catalogued collections and did convincing re-enactments as a Roman lady. Though hoped-for promotion never materialised, she soldiered on until marrying and moving to Rochdale in 1989. She became a finds consultant specialising in Roman artefacts. In 1998, she returned home to north Wales, where it was recognised that she had developed Alzheimer’s. She was taken into a home soon afterwards and the rest of her life was spent in full-time care.

I first met Glenys at the Young Archaeologists’ Conference in Durham early in 1968, where she sang and danced, as was often her habit. Her dress could be unconventional and her eastern dances disarming to those more used to her authoritative archaeological presentations.

Made a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in March 1979, she published in mainland Europe, Britain and Ireland. Glenys was a warm-hearted and helpful collaborator who made lasting friendships, retained her youthful sense of fun, loved children and assumed the role of aunt without encouragement. Her scholarly works will endure.

She is survived by her sister, Ceridwen, her brother, Dewi, and three nephews.

Vomitorium Watch

Alas … after going over a year without catching an example of the egregious misuse of the word,  Will Self in an opeddish thing in BBC Magazine (of all places):

For what I think we require, as a society, is some sort of collective vomitorium. Not, you appreciate, that I expect you – like those mythical Roman patricians – to void the contents of your stomachs then limp groaning back to the dinner table.

… oh, and by the way, the Roman patricians weren’t mythical either.

CONF: The Classical Body

seen on the Classicists list:

The Department of Classical Studies at The Open University warmly invites you to a one-day seminar on the theme of The Classical Body, to be held on Saturday February 2nd 2013 at the OU Regional Centre in London (Camden Town) 10am-4.30pm.

The conference charge will be 7 pounds (for catering costs). To register your interest and receive a booking form, please email Jessica Hughes on jessica.hughes AT open.ac.uk by January 15th 2013. Speakers and topics are listed below.

We hope to see you there!



Phil Perkins (OU) – ‘Images of Birth in the Ancient Mediterranean’

Helen King (OU) – ‘Reading the Bearded Lady: Phaethousa of Abdera’

Sue Blundell (OU) – ‘Both Feet on the Ground: Stepping Out in Ancient Greece’

Mark Bradley (Nottingham) – ‘Foul Bodies in Ancient Rome’

Rebecca Fallas (OU) – ‘Promoting Fertility: Regimes for Fertility in the Ancient Medical Texts’

Emma Bridges (OU) – ‘Bodily Mutilation and Despotic Power in Herodotus’ Persian Wars Narrative’

Emma-Jayne Graham (OU) – ‘Dying Disabled in Ancient Rome’

A map of the Camden area can be accessed via this link: http://www3.open.ac.uk/contact/maps.aspx?contactid=1

CFP: Translating Myth

seen on the Classicists list:


Date: 5-7 September, 2013

Venue: firstsite, Colchester, UK

An international conference organized by the Centre for Myth Studies at the
University of Essex, supported by the Department of Literature, Film, and
Theatre Studies and the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies.

The Centre for Myth Studies at the University of Essex is pleased to
announce an international conference to be held from 5 to 7 September 2013
at firstsite, the home of contemporary visual arts in Colchester. We invite
proposals for papers (of 20 minutes duration), or panel sessions (three
papers), exploring the theme of ‘Translating Myth’. The organisers would
particularly welcome interdisciplinary contributions, especially ones that
bridge the domains of literature and psychoanalysis, but we encourage
submissions on all aspects of myth that involve the idea of translation.
‘Translating myth’ is to be taken in a broad sense as encompassing any topic
that addresses the process of conversion or transfer of cultural sources
construed as mythic. The organizers list the following keyword combinations
as a stimulus to thought, but, as it always is with myth, your own ideas
should allow the imagination free rein in deciding on the possibilities
offered by the conference theme:

Accommodation and assimilation; adaptations of the classics; anamnesis and
orality; archetypes, prototypes, stereotypes; astrology and astronomy; babel
and fable; boundaries and interfaces; chaos and creation; enchantment and
ecstasy; gender and hybridity; genre and media; illud tempus and terra
incognita; interdisciplinarity and multiculturalism; identity and
intertextuality; mask and mandala; migration and transfer; monad, binary,
triad, quaternity; mythos and logos; omens and oracles; register and
revelation; resistance and change; rites of passage and cultural transfer;
roots and rituals; sacred and profane; stage and screen; storyteller, poet,
shaman, auteur; theories, poetics, dialectics; transformation and
transposition; versions and motifs; zero and hero(ine).

PLENARY SPEAKERS: David Hawkes (Arizona State University), Miriam Leonard
(University College London), Harish Trivedi (University of Delhi).

The deadline for proposals is Friday 25 January, 2013. Proposals should take
the form of a title for the paper and a 250-word abstract, accompanied by a
brief biographical note, including institutional affiliation where
appropriate. To submit a proposal, or for more information, please write to
Dr Leon Burnett, Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies,
University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, Essex CO4 3SQ or, by e-mail,
to mythic AT essex.ac.uk.

It is planned to publish a selection of papers on ‘Translating Myth’ after
the conference.

Note: Thanks to the generosity of the Bean Trust, a limited number of
bursaries are available for speakers contributing to a panel session on the
place that William Blake occupies in the field of myth. If you wish to apply
for one of these bursaries, please indicate in your proposal.

CJ Online Review: Smith, Virgil

posted with permission:

Virgil. By R. Alden Smith. Blackwell Introductions to the Classical World. Chichester and Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. Pp. x + 210. Hardcover, £70.00/$99.95. ISBN 978-1-4051-5949-4.

Reviewed by Christopher B. Polt, Carleton College

To introduce an author like Vergil broadly but briefly to audiences of students and scholars alike requires deep and sweeping knowledge, the practiced eye of a seasoned teacher, and writing that is both clear and engaging—all traits that Smith brings to his contribution to Blackwell’s series of Introductions to the Classical World. The centerpiece of the volume consists of three brief but heady studies of the Eclogues, Georgics, and Aeneid, each of which is analyzed using a different thematic lens; these are framed by four chapters that try to contextualize Vergil’s work within its literary and socio-political milieu and to explicate its winding journey from the poet’s death to today, and the volume closes with an ample selection of suggestions for further reading. Smith has produced an admirable and useful introduction that should become a standard starting point for students on initial and subsequent excursions into this complex poet, although as a whole the book suffers from a somewhat hazy sense of its audience and needs to be supplemented carefully for beginners to use it effectively.

The three central chapters offer lucid introductions to Vergil’s works that explicate each clearly while at the same time tying them all together through a sustained and wide-ranging analysis of Vergil’s relationship with prior literature and of the complex dualities that permeate each work. In Chapter 3, Smith examines the Eclogues in terms of “dialogue,” primarily between pairs of complementary and contrasting poems in the collection, but also between individuals within each poem and between Vergil and his predecessors, especially Theocritus. Using a series of readings of paired poems, Smith sensitively brings out the persistent presence of “two voices” throughout the Eclogues, illuminating the balance and tensions between rural/urban, male/female, life/death, and light/weighty poetry. He also touches briefly on Vergilian metapoetics, a topic that he takes up in greater depth in his fourth chapter on the Georgics. Here Smith analyzes the poem book by book through the theme of “wisdom,” especially poetry’s power to teach wisdom about common human experience. He maintains his focus on contrasting pairs and the balance of optimistic and pessimistic that he sketches in Chapter 3; rather than finding the same equilibrium displayed in the Eclogues, though, he shows that the narrative movement of the Georgics continually flows from positive to negative and back, highlighting the presence of both sides in human civilization. As with the preceding chapter, Smith keeps an eye on Vergil’s interactions with his predecessors, particularly Hesiod and Lucretius. In Chapter 5, Smith also analyzes the Aeneid book by book, paying special attention to the ways in which the theme of “mission” plays out in the poem and sets it apart from the Homeric epics. Vergil’s dualities remain a major interest of Smith’s here—Greek/Roman, Trojan/Italian, success/failure, heroism/humanity—but in place of the Eclogues’ balanced tension and the Georgics’ ebb and flow, Smith argues with clarity and nuance that the Aeneid works to reconcile these competing elements at it moves towards the telos of Rome’s founding.

These three studies can each be read individually with benefit and enjoyment, but much of their strength derives from the interesting ways in which Smith relates the poems to each other and to the three primary themes that he explores. Chapter 1 aims to set out some of these connections explicitly, though it manages this less successfully, as many of its sections are too compressed or vague (e.g., on Vergil’s “Model Reader,” whom Smith promotes as an ideal that readers should emulate but whose precise qualities he sketches only loosely), wander into relatively obscure and seemingly unconnected material (e.g., on Turcius Rufius Apronianus’ subscription in the Codex Mediceus), or require more knowledge than a novice reader would have (e.g., on Vergil’s poetic models). This last issue also detracts from Smith’s sketch of the historical Vergil in Chapter 2, which (quite refreshingly) avoids rehashing the standard narrative derived from the ancient vitae, but in doing so assumes the reader already knows a fair amount of this biographical information. His discussion of the socio-political context of the 1st century bce, however, is accessible and touches on many issues that are central to Chapters 3 through 5.

The real gem of this book comes in Chapter 6, where Smith offers a wonderfully concise and comprehensible overview of the Vergilian manuscripts with examples of textual problems that he teases out carefully to show why and how editors emend; teachers who wish to introduce textual criticism to advanced Latin students or to explain how Vergil got from ancient Rome to modern readers will find this section a superb resource. Chapter 7 rounds out the book with a rundown of some of the many ways in which Vergil’s work has influenced literature, visual art, music, and culture from his death up until today, with welcome nods to artists who rarely appear in Classical scholarship (e.g., Ursula LeGuin and the singer Dido), but as with Chapter 1’s outline of Vergil’s models, novice readers will likely struggle in the flood of unfamiliar names. Chapter 8 closes the volume with ample suggestions for further reading that will be especially useful for those teaching Vergil for the first time, including much readily accessible material that can be used to fill those gaps in Smith’s book that will present difficulties to newcomers to Vergil and Classical literature.

Classical Words of the Day