COMU Applies to ‘Take Over’ Troy Excavations

Another somewhat strange item from Hurriyet:

Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University (ÇOMU) has applied to the Culture and Tourism Ministry to carry out the archaeological excavations at the ancient city of Troy in the northwestern province of Çanakkale.

Excavations at the site have been carried out by foreign institutions for 150 years. Germany’s Tubingen University has been conducting excavations since 1998, first headed by Professor Manfred Osman Korfmann and then by Professor Ernst Pernicka since 2005. The university halted excavations because of financial problems in 2012. In a written statement, ÇOMU Rector, Professor Sedat Laçiner, said Turkish universities were experienced enough to carry out international excavations such as those at Troy.

“Foreigners worked for very short periods of time and spent very little money. We think the Troy excavations will be accelerated with ÇOMU. Its team is made up of very experienced archaeologists,” Laçiner said. “The [Culture and Tourism] ministry has resources for the excavations and the university will also allocate some. We are also thinking of private financial providers. In this way, resources for excavations will increase five fold.”

Why this has suddenly become news is beyond me.  Back in October we noted a UW-Madison press release outlining an expedition heading to Troy under the direction of William Aylward. That press release also noted the participation/partnership/under the auspices with COMU (UW-Madison Heads to Troy). So why did it take so long for this to make the Turkish papers?

Greek/Roman Inscription in the Grave of a Muslim Judge

This one popped up the other day and sadly, Hurriyet’s coverage seems to be all there is:

A grave stone from the Roman period has been found in the grave of a Muslim judge, in the garden of a mosque in the Kadı village of the Black Sea province of Kastamonu’s Taşköprü district.

The gravestone, which is broken into three separate parts, has been determined to be 1,800-years-old by archaeologists. Examinations of the writings on the stone indicate that it was placed for a Roman woman who died in 213 A.D. Pempiopolis was the capital city of the Paflagonia state in this period.

The following is written on the gravestone: “I am Julia, your mother. I proudly remember you. I am Loullos, your son. You were loved by me in the sweetest way. You were called mother while you were alive, now you are dead. Your memory will never be forgotten.”

A small photo (too small to be useful, as usual) accompanies the article. A search of the Turkish press for more coverage seems to only have things derived from this one (e.g. Nisan Romawi Berusia Ribuan Tahun Ada di Makam Muslim) … I did try to put the two pieces together via photoshop, but didn’t have any useful success. I really wanted to see if the word ‘Loullos’ was there … and Iulia, for that matter; I can’t make out any of the phrases from the photo.

CJ Online Review: Cobbold, The Red Flare

posted with permission:

The Red Flare: Cicero’s On Old Age. Translated by G. B. Cobbold. Mundelein, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2012. Pp. xxvi + 92. Paper, $15.00. ISBN: 978-0-86516-782-7.

Reviewed by Patrick Hogan, Independent Scholar

Cicero’s short dialogues On Old Age and On Friendship once occupied a prominent place in high school and collegiate Latin curricula as intermediate texts and as morally instructive guides for the young. Bolchazy-Carducci has done much to bring them back to the fore by reprinting school texts of both for use in Latin classes. Now G. B. Cobbold’s The Red Flare (the title is a phrase from Yeats), an English translation of the former, has appeared in their catalogue to extend the audience beyond language students.

Cobbold intends his new translation of Cicero’s famous dialogue Cato or On Old Age “to be read by anyone interested in Roman history or ancient philosophy, or reading the Classics in translation” (xxv). He assures a wide audience by leaving nothing for granted in setting up the background of the work. In his introduction he gives a short summary of Roman history from its mythical beginnings to Cicero’s own bloody end in the Civil Wars (“Cicero’s Place in History”) and then effectively and briefly introduces the three characters in the dialogue (“On Old Age”), emphasizing Cicero’s imaginative recreation of statesmen long dead by his own time and noting differences between Cicero’s method and his model Plato’s. An undergraduate student with little to no background in ancient civilization or philosophy will be sufficiently prepared to begin reading the text, if he reads this introduction.

Although Cobbold states that he does not intend his translation as a “crib for Latin students,” a comparison of his translation with the new edition of the dialogue by J. G. F. Powell in the OCT series (2006) shows that he has been quite faithful to the Latin text. Foremost, he maintains the traditional division of the work into 23 chapters. Occasionally he adds material for the sake of clarity: e.g. he adds the Greek terms symposion and syndeipnon as parallels for the Latin convivium (37), although in the original text Cato notes that the Greeks have two words for the Latin banquet but gives only the very rare terms conpotatio and concenatio. Frequently Cobbold omits consular dates and the names of more obscure figures to smooth the text for the general reader, but he warns the reader explicitly in the introduction that he will do this (xxv–xxvi). The otherwise unknown centurion T. Pontius fittingly becomes “that centurion—what’s his name?” (26). Cobbold also sensibly omits discussion of textual questions, such as whether the name of Naevius’ play is Lupus or Ludus (p.16); those interested in such will naturally turn to Powell’s entry in the Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries Series (1988).

At the end of the book are three appendices. The first is a “Glossary of Names, Places, and Technical Terms” that elucidates the names and terms that Cobbold admits into his translation. The only possible omission I noticed was one for the Giants, whose war with the gods is referenced in the dialogue (5). The second appendix is a list of “Memorable Passages Quoted by Cicero in On Old Age,” which provides the original Latin and Cobbold’s translation of quotes from Ennius and other poets; these will probably be of interest only to Latin students. The third appendix, “Old Age in Literature,” lists over a dozen works and characters from Shakespeare to the modern day along with short comments by the author. Undergraduate instructors interested in placing the Cato in the context of a course on aging and dying in Western Civilization may gather other possibilities here, and of course the general reader is benefited by reminders of classic works.

In short, I recommend Cobbold’s translation for classroom and casual use alike, and I hope that soon he will complement The Red Flare with a new translation of Cato’s Laelius: perhaps he could title it So Great a Sweetness?

A Return to Consularity?

A somewhat strange bit of synchonicity or something like it has been going on over the past few weeks in regards to assorted politicos/people in power resorting to some sort of ‘consul’ type form of leadership in which two people share power. The example was sent to us via amicus noster John McMahon (tips of the pileus ensue, of course)  and described the situation which just went into effect in New York state. Here’s a taste of the media coverage:

Hopefully, they won’t become New York State’s version of Julius Caesar and Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus.

Come Jan. 1, Sens. Dean G. Skelos, a Republican from Long Island, and Jeffrey D. Klein, a Democrat from the Bronx, will embark on dual leadership to run the State Senate, the first time anything like that has been attempted in New York.

The two senators would do well to heed the lessons from Caesar and Bibulus during their time as Roman consuls – or co-leaders – in 59 B.C.

Let’s just say it didn’t go well, at least for Bibulus. In one of the nastier disputes with Caesar and his backers, Bibulus found himself beaten up and covered in feces by an angry crowd. Bibulus didn’t even complete his one-year term as consul, and he later went on to oppose Caesar in a civil war.

Albany may not be ancient Rome, and Skelos and Klein, unlike Caesar and Bibulus, insist they are allies. But in the days since Skelos and Klein hatched their deal, many experts across the country have been scratching their heads about the plan to keep Republicans in partial control of the Senate by sharing power with five breakaway Democrats.

Their agreement stipulates that Skelos will hold the title of temporary president of the Senate for 14 days and then give the title over to Klein for 14 days. And then back and forth it will go all next year.

“I don’t know how New York State got to the place it is,” said Ronald J. Mellor, distinguished professor of history and a Roman history scholar at the University of California at Los Angeles, when told about the power-sharing deal Skelos and Klein devised.

New York got to this place because Republicans did not win enough seats last month to keep control of the Senate, so they needed the help of the Klein-led Independent Democratic Conference to prevent Democrats from seizing control.

Experts say coalition governments – in other states, over the decades, or places such as Israel and Italy – have occurred. But they can often be forced, when there is a tie between Democrats and Republicans in a legislative body. That is not the case here. And dual leaderships are not unique.

But a coalition government and dual leadership at the same time?

“That’s absolutely unique,” said Timothy B. Storey, an election law analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver.

There have been dual leaderships to run an entire government or branch of government, according to scholars of international and United States legislative bodies. Many have come in response to authoritarian rulers, such as Rome’s approach to dual leadership that began in about 500 B.C.

Most, though, don’t last nearly as long as the Rome experiment, and most are merely transitional deals in which one individual, despite the theory of dual leadership, has far more power.

And the notion of switching power every 14 days?

“I’ve never heard of it,” said Ruth Wedgwood, an expert in international law and diplomacy at the Washington-based School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

There are some current examples of dual leadership in the world, but they are far-flung and don’t come close to the idea of flipping leadership titles every two weeks.

Kim Lane Scheppele, director of the law and public affairs program at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, cited some examples in which opposing political parties are able to check the power of those controlling a government through rotating leadership positions. But most involve areas of domestic spying, she said.

In the German Parliament, she noted, the G10 Committee reviews domestic surveillance matters; the rules mandate that the chairmanship rotate every six months.

In the Hungarian Parliament, membership of the National Security Committee, which reviews domestic security matters, must rotate every 10 months.

Mellor, the UCLA Roman history expert, said the Romans moved to dual-leadership titles – consuls – when an emperor was expelled in 509 B.C. The consuls, who mainly served as chairmen of the Senate, could veto each other’s decisions.

“It was a way of ensuring there not be a tyrannical government. Of course, this made for chaos sometimes,” he noted.

Often, the two consuls would end up being in charge of different functions: one the army in the field, the other the ministerial duties in Rome.

During times of crisis, the two could appoint a dictator who could hold complete power – but generally for no more than six months – over matters such as a military operation.

With some notable exceptions, the dual leadership in Roman times was effective for long periods of time, but chiefly because of the consul structure, which featured one-year term limits, Mellor said. […]

Meanwhile, down the road in Toronto, the mayor thereof (Rob Ford) has all sorts of problems legal-wise and possibly could lose his position. The Daily Brew then mentioned that dual mayorship situation might be in the offing as well:

If Rob Ford loses his appeal to remain mayor of Toronto, what would you think of two co-mayors holding the spot until the 2014 election? That is one of the latest solutions raised at city hall, where rumblings continue about how the city would proceed should Ford be ousted from office sometime in thee new year. […] Coun. Paula Fletcher raised the idea of appointing co-mayors as a way to appease both sides of the split council. […]

… haven’t heard anything more since that piece, however, and I doubt whether anyone in the Canadian media will make the Classical connections. In either case it would be interesting to see how it works in practice … could set a precedent for change of some sort. We’ll monitor developments …

New Year’s Toasting Redux

We haven’t read claims of the Roman origins of toasting — especially that once-common, and spurious, claim about putting a piece of burnt bread in wine to make it taste better  — for a while, but it seems that the latter-day mythologizers persist in wanting to somehow connect toasting to the Romans. The latest is a piece at NPR (for shame) which has a couple of questionable (perhaps) claims:

“There’s a thin line between history and folklore,” says historian Paul Dickson. He should know. He wrote a book about toasting called Toasts: Over 1,500 of the Best Toasts, Sentiments, Blessings and Graces. “But toasting definitely goes back to the ancient world.”

Ulysses drank to the health of Achilles in The Odyssey, he says. And in Rome, drinking to someone’s health was so important that the Senate demanded that all diners drink to their emperor, Augustus, before every meal.

… thin line indeed, and it seems to be crossed here. Near as I can tell, Achilles’ only appearance in the Odyssey is in book 11 and it’s as a shade of the dead. There is no toasting by Odysseus (why is he always Ulysses in US newspapers) … does Achilles appear elsewhere in a toast-worthy situation? As for the drinking to Augustus, I’d love to hear a source for that … so vague as to be meaningless and if thought about for even a few seconds, it makes no sense (enforceable? penalties? What about folks who couldn’t afford wine with their meal? Did it apply to drunks in tabernae?).

If you’re wondering about the ‘burnt toast’ thing:

CJ Online Review: Mellor, Historians of Ancient Rome, 3rd ed.

posted with permission:

The Historians of Ancient Rome: An Anthology of the Major Writings. Third Edition. Edited by RONALD MELLOR. London and New York: Routledge, 2012. Pp. xxx + 583. Paper, $42.95. ISBN 978-0-415-52716-3.

Reviewed by Herbert W. Benario, Emory University

When a volume intended for use in a college or university class reaches a third edition within fifteen years of first publication, it is a clear sign of the author’s success. Comparison with the first edition of 1997 shows evolution of Ronald Mellor’s concept.

The early volume was about fifty pages shorter than the present one, yet the philosophy behind them has changed dramatically. The former offered selections from only ten authors, the present one has twenty-one, including some whose names will likely be unknown to the average reader. In 1997 some works were presented in their entirety, such as Tacitus’ Life of Agricola. Now there are only twenty-two chapters, about half of the essay. Livy then had just over two hundred pages, now there are one hundred thirty-six. But the balance of the volume has been substantially improved, with a Timeline, an Introduction, brief comment on Reading Roman Historians, a Glossary, and a Select Bibliography. A student who comes to the study of the historians as a tabula rasa will now start the journey with some basic material at hand.

The additions are four historical inscriptions (the Twelve Tables, the Senatus Consultum de Bacchanalibus, Claudius’ speech on the Gallic senators, and the Lex de Imperio Vespasiani), Cicero (though not an historian in a strict sense, but whose letters often treat of history), Nepos, Velleius Paterculus, Josephus, Pliny the Younger (like Cicero in his frequent discussion of historical events), Plutarch, Cassius Dio, Lactantius, Eusebius, and Zosimus. In the first edition, the first two authors were Greek, the remainder Latin, in the present reincarnation there are four additional Greek authors. A student will be more fully aware that the later empire consisted of two halves, speaking different languages.

Any selection of passages for a collection of this sort will leave many readers wishing that certain passages had been included and perhaps some of the offerings omitted. But any author or editor is aware that the publisher’s limitation of allotted words constricts many efforts. Nonetheless, I wish that two others had been added: Tacitus’ discussion of Maternus in the Dialogue on Orators 1–13 and Caesar’s gripping narrative from B.G. 5.24–48, dealing with the slaughter of Sabinus’ and Cotta’s men and the rescue of Quintus Cicero’s camp.

This is, quite literally, a heavy tome, which I should not wish to lug in a backpack. The publisher has done a fine job in production. The pages are pleasing in appearance, the type is of ample size for steady reading, proof reading has been very good. I discerned only five slips in Mellor’s introductory and closing material. They are: (1) p. xxi, bottom: Tacitus tells us in Agricola 45.5 that he was absent from Rome for four years, not five; (2) p. xxiii: Ammianus was born c. 330, not 350; (3) p. 575, under Campus Martius: Augustus did not build the Pantheon, which was Hadrian’s glory—perhaps the Ara Pacis was intended; (4) p. 576, under Proconsul, propraetor; (5) p. 578, under Julius Caesar, Handford.

I shall conclude this discussion of Mellor’s fine book with a paragraph from page xxviii:

Moral historiography became the conscience of the Roman People, and it is in Sallust, Livy, Tacitus, and Ammianus that we find the most cogent Roman discussions of freedom versus tyranny, the corrupting effect of individual or civic power, and the decline of political and social institutions. And these remain central issues for the historian of any age.

The linking of the names of the “big four” recalled for me the first significant volume dealing with these four which appeared after the conclusion of World War II, M.L.W. Laistner’s The Greater Roman Historians (1947). The four would now be differently evaluated, but they remain the glories of Latin historiography.

Classical Words of the Day


This Day in Ancient History:

ante diem iv nonas januarias

  • 43 B.C. — Octavian is granted propraetorian imperium and admitted to the senate
  • 17 A.D. — death of Publius Ovidius Naso … a.k.a. Ovid
  • 18 A.D. — death of Titus Livius … a.k.a. Livy
  • 69 A.D. — dies imperii of Vitellius
  • 1866 — birth of Gilbert Murray

… interesting entry in the lists of martyrs I consult … The Many Martyrs Who Suffered in Rome, commemorated today.