Celebritizing Greek Philosophy?

From time to time my spiders bring back strange things, most of the time involving people I haven’t heard of and/or were only vaguely aware of. So this time they brought back and item from Digital Spy, citing an interview in Metro with Alain de Botton, who appears to be an atheist who has penned some influential books. Inter alia:

Are you friends with Harry from One Direction?
That would be overegging it. I was introduced to him at a party. Neither of us had heard of each other. We had a nice chat. It was fun.

Did you have much in common?
My plan is to shut the Arts Council and get people such as Harry Styles to go on television and recommend to everyone they read Proust and Hegel, which would achieve more in five minutes than the Arts Council achieves year in, year out. David Beckham could do Aristotle and Plato. The cause of intellectual life in this country would be helped immeasurably. The problem we’ve got is the most famous people in the country tend to believe in things that aren’t particularly ambitious whereas the people who believe in really ambitious things are stuck away in an ivory tower and no one bothers listening to what they think. In an ideal world Harry Styles would be teaching his 10million Twitter followers a little more about Greek philosophy.

Then from Digital Spy we learn that Harry Styles actually took up the suggestion:

… which, as Digital Spy notes, is cribbed directly from Wikipedia … we might cynically observe that a Diogenes might mark a watershed in a different sort of way (horrible puns abound!) … anyhoo, I think it would be more impressive if he tweeted something Plato put in Socrates’ mouth … in Greek.

Classics Confidential: Andrew Simpson on his Operatic Oresteia

This week, our Classics Confidential vodcast features Dr. Anastasia Bakogianni (OU) talking to Professor Andrew Earle Simpson (Benjamin T. Rome School of Music of The Catholic University of Washington, DC) about his operatic reception of Aeschylus’ Oresteia. You can listen to extracts from this three-part opera on the website http://www.andrewesimpson.com, which also contains additional links to photographs, video footage and reviews of the performances, and much more.

CFP: ‘Mass & Elite in Antiquity’ (Unisa Classics Colloquium)

Seen on the Classicists list:

THEME: ‘Mass & Elite in Antiquity’
14th Unisa Classics Colloquium, 24-26 October 2013

The conference organisers invite paper proposals on a topic with bearing on
many current issues and debates. Scholars of the ancient world are
encouraged to approach the theme from various perspectives and with
cognisance of literary and material evidence, in order to shed light on
elite formation, social exclusivity and class interaction. We are
particularly interested in political and economic aspects pertaining to the
many and the few, but other discourses should add to the intended range:
power in general, association and lineage, intellect and morality, taste,
ability and the like. The Classics Colloquium focuses on Greco-Roman
antiquity, but contributions from other ancient cultures will be considered

The Unisa Classics Colloquium is hosted annually by the Department of
Classics and World Languages at the University of South Africa, Pretoria.

Please submit titles and abstracts of approximately 300 words to Philip
Bosman at bosmapr AT unisa.ac.za, as soon as possible. Final deadline: 15 May.

More on the conference:

Convening in 2013 for the 14th time, the Unisa Classics Colloquium combines
stimulating scholarship with a pleasant and intimate atmosphere. Over two
and a half days, approximately 16 scholarly contributions are to be
presented, with ample time for discussion and valuable feedback. Parallel
sessions are avoided in order to promote unity of focus in the conference,
and delegates get to know each other properly.

Venue: The Muckleneuk Campus of the University of South Africa (UNISA) in

Dates: 24-26 October 2013.
We start on a Thursday morning, meaning that participants should arrive in
Pretoria on the 23rd at the latest and book a flight out not earlier than
the afternoon of the 26th, but preferably later.

A preliminary programme will be compiled from the received proposals and
published on the departmental website after the final date for submissions.

Conference Fee
US$150, inclusive of transport and meals during the conference.
Postgraduates, other students and interested parties not able to claim back
conference fees from their institutions should please contact the
organizers for a discount.

During past conferences, guests stayed at the Brooklyn Guest Houses
(http://www.brooklynguesthouses.co.za/) situated in a picturesque and safe
suburb close to Unisa, the University of Pretoria, and the Brooklyn,
Hillcrest and Hatfield shopping centres. A discounted group booking for
delegates is negotiated.

Pretoria herself becomes a tourist destination when the jacarandas bloom in
October, but we plan excursions to the Winex wine festival in Sandton
(Johannesburg) (http://www.winex.co.za/ RMB_WineX_Sandton/details.asp) and
after the conference (the 27th) to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve

Publication of papers
Depending on quality, a collection of articles on the colloquium theme is
envisaged. Submitted papers are subject to a refereeing process. If you
would consider submitting your paper for publication, please indicate that
to us via return mail for further guidelines on style.

CFP: Talking Back to Teacher: Orality and Prosody in the Secondary and University Classroom (APA)

seen on the Classics list:

*Talking Back to Teacher: Orality and Prosody in the Secondary and
University Classroom
*Chris Ann Matteo, Organizer
*Sponsored by the Society for the Oral Reading of Greek and Latin Literature

Since Distler’s *Teach the Latin, I Pray You*, Traupman’s *Conversational
Latin for Oral Proficiency* and the target-language approach of Balme and
Lawall’s *Athenaze*, there has been an active reconsideration of the value
of orality in the Greek and Latin classroom, whether the level is
elementary, intermediate or advanced. How should both experienced and
novice teachers incorporate oral Greek or Latin in the high school or
college classroom? Currently, such topics are debated on social networks,
where independent groups of like-minded spokespersons are debating the
value of prosody, production of meaning the target language, assessment and
philosophy.The papers for this panel are expected neither as apologetics
for nor as censures of oral techniques of teaching.

This panel invites new contributions from the university or secondary
classroom as well as the outreach community of oral reading enthusiasts.
Some of the questions open to debate include: Is orality a fad or an
indispensible teaching strategy? What theories guide the pedagogy of oral
language acquisition? What texts are optimal for students at all levels,
ages and interests? What training ought to be offered to extend the
appreciation of oral Greek and Latin in classroom settings?What effects
does orality in the classroom have on our understanding of ancient Roman or
Greek poetics and versification, prose rhythm, figures of speech or sound?
What is the benefit of oral teaching for the philologist? What effects
could orality in the classroom have on our understanding of performance and

The Society for the Oral Reading of Greek and Latin Literature (SORGLL)
heartily encourages oral reading or performance of texts as part of the
papers chosen for delivery.

Abstracts should be sent to *Andrew Becker (Virginia Tech) **
andrew.becker AT vt.edu **by March 1 2013. *Abstracts must conform to APA
guidelines (see
details). All abstracts will be evaluated anonymously by three external

CJ Online Review: Fisher, et al., Ancient Nubia

posted with permission:

Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile. Edited by Marjorie Fisher, Peter Lacovara, Sue D’Auria, and Salma Ikram, with photographs by Chester Higgins, Jr. Cairo and New York: The American University in Cairo Press, 2012. Distributed by Oxford University Press. Pp. xx + 452. Hardcover, $59.95. ISBN 978-977-416-478-1.

Reviewed by Giovanni Ruffini, Fairfield University

The editors have compiled a beautiful work on ancient Nubia. Its purpose is to “document some of what has recently been discovered” and show “Nubia’s vast beauty, as well as the current state of research into its culture” (1). The book is divided into two parts, the first on specific subjects in history and culture, and the second on specific Nubian sites. Several of the subject chapters are exceptionally good. Lacovara’s chapter on the history of Nubian archaeology is entertaining and clearly written. Morkot’s chapter on Nubian kingship challenges assumptions on matrilineage in Nubia, and critiques reliance on comparative anthropology and external Greek observers. Yellin’s chapter on Nubian religion untangles the interconnections between Egyptian-influenced “elite” temple-based religion and indigenous “non-elite” religion, with its emphasis on worship at natural settings and pilgrimage to sacred places. Haynes and Santini-Ritt’s chapter on Nubian women is quite rich. To their observation (172) that the “king had to be born to a woman who had the title Sister of a King,” we should add that the same succession scheme seems to have held in medieval Nubia.

The book is rich in maps and photographs. But sometimes these photographs come to us in a vacuum. The beautiful blue glass chalice from Sedeinga (116) appears with a caption translating the inscription (“Drink and you shall be alive!”). But the surrounding article says nothing about the chalice or Sedeinga more generally. The reader has no way of knowing that the language of the inscription (Greek) suggests considerable cultural interchange between Nubia and the Mediterranean. A similarly taciturn approach to Hellenism appears elsewhere: the appearance of the Hellenistic sun god Helios at “the southernmost Meroitic monument” indeed “illustrates the cosmopolitan nature” of Nubia (229) but it also does much more. The chapter on Naqa is comparably tightlipped in its treatment of the Roman architectural features of the “Kiosk” now dated to the first century ad. The chapter on Meroe refers to Greco-Roman grave goods (267), but we learn nothing about the economic processes bringing them to Nubia’s capital. Complex Mediterranean/African exchanges are at work here, but receive little attention.

This brings us to the nature of Nubia itself, and the challenge of how to take Nubia on its own terms and separate it from its interactions with Egypt. This volume starts off on the wrong foot, with Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s former minister of state for antiquities, whose Foreword casts the story of Nubia as a story of pharaonic Egypt’s involvement in it. The problem recurs in Hawass’ chapter on salvage archaeology, which is more preoccupied with the pharaonic Egyptian than the indigenous Sudanese half of the story. Hawass is not alone in this approach. The chapter on Abu Simbel, for instance, is not really about Nubia at all, but about an Egyptian site that happens to be in Nubia.

The problem is present in more subtle ways and highlights editorial discontinuity. Marjorie Fisher and Peter Lacovara are the first two editors of the four listed on the cover. Fisher’s chapter on “The History of Nubia” speaks of the “rapid Egyptianization” (17) of Nubia’s C-Group, the name given to a people whose material culture appears throughout Nubia from circa 2300 bc. Here she appears to mean only that Egyptian goods began to appear in Nubian graves. Much of the rest of the chapter narrates Nubian history solely through Egyptian involvement. Fisher thinks (84) that Nubia “was clearly influenced artistically by Egypt” during the New Kingdom. When she claims (106) that Nubian influence is also seen on Egyptian iconography, she does not develop the point.

But Lacovara seems more willing to take Nubia on its own terms. He stresses (47) that Reisner was wrong to think of the Kerma culture—an independent Nubian kingdom rivaling Egypt in the Nile valley in the third and second millennia bc—as an Egyptian accomplishment degraded through Nubianization. He also notes (78) that Nubians “were fundamentally more experimental and adventurous” artistically than their northern neighbors, and indeed, highly influential on New Kingdom Egyptian art (83). His best discussion of this theme comes in his chapter on Kushite art and architecture, in which he outlines the artistic innovations of the Nubian rulers of the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty.

Elsewhere in the volume, the chapter on Kerma stresses that site’s local traditions and specificities. Local specificities matter throughout Nubia. Yellin argues that the “Egyptian gods adopted by Nubians underwent a ‘Nubianization’” (126) and that the elements of Egyptian religion surviving the longest in Nubia “survived because they resonated with aspects of indigenous religion” (143). The chapter on ceramics reports (205) but does not endorse or reject claims that the “resilience of C-Group material culture during the Egyptian occupation was a form of cultural resistance in the face of overwhelming Egyptian military and political might.” This volume cannot solve these questions of Nubia’s relationship with Egypt. Internal conceptual tensions on the issue highlight how much work on Nubia remains. The editors have in the meantime compiled a thorough and aesthetically enticing introduction to the subject.

Classical Words of the Day


This Day in Ancient History: idus februariae

idus februariae

  • Parentalia (day 1) — a festival for honouring/appeasing the dead began on this day with a number of signs: temples were closed, altars did not have fires burn on them, people were forbidden to get married, and magistrates set down the trappings of their office.
  • Fornacalia (day 1) — this was actually a “feriae conceptivae”, which means that it probably wasn’t always held on the same day. Originally, it was a feast of the curiae (an early division of the Roman people) which also seems to have involved a sort of banquet for the gods, although scholars are unsure which gods were specifically honoured. Then again, Ovid claims that rural folk would pray to a divinity called Fornax.
  • 196 B.C. — dedication of a Temple of Faunus on the Tiber island
  • 194 A.D. — Septimius Severus recognized as Emperor in Egypt
  • 250 A.D. — martyrdom of Polyeuctus of Melitene