Latest Colosseum Concerns

I find it kind of curious that the only English language coverage of this seems to be from South Africa’s IOL:

Rome’s Colosseum, one of the world’s most famous monuments, is at risk of collapse from upcoming works to expand an underground station next to it, activists said Tuesday.

The 1st century structure, where Roman emperors once staged gladiatorial battles and public executions, is the most popular tourist site in Italy, drawing around 5 million visitors every year.

“The Colosseum is at risk,” heritage association Italia Nostra said in a statement. “Nobody at the moment can guarantee that the Colosseum’s foundations will not be affected by the deep excavation of land just dozens of meters away from the monument,” it added.

“We cannot remain silent,” Italia Nostra President Carlo Ripa di Meana told reporters in Rome. He said his association would turn to the courts to halt the project if the National Archeological Superintendent for Rome’s Monuments drops its opposition to it.

“The question of stability of the foundations is a real concern,” said Emma Bonino, a former European Union commissioner and Italian government minister from the Radical Party, which hosted the Italia Nostra press conference.

Ripa di Meana, also a former minister and EU commissioner, said that “a huge section” of Via dei Fori Imperiali – the road crossing the ancient Forum and leading to the Colosseum – will be cordoned off “within days.”

A 50-meter-deep tunnel is to be excavated to expand the existing Colosseo metro station, currently serving line B. It would be an interchange for line C, which was first planned in 1990 but has not yet been built. Works are expected to cost billions of euros and last until 2020.

Ripa di Meana criticized the lack of transparency over the project, due to be launched before mayoral elections slated for May-June. He warned that pedestrian areas around the Colosseum would be severely narrowed during the works, hampering tourism.

Italia Nostra is campaigning for a smaller-scale metro line which it says would not jeopardize the Colosseum’s stability and would cost much less. It says the option has been vetoed by construction firms eager to scoop up lucrative tenders for the Metro C.

The Colosseum is already in a poor state, as fragments continue to fall off its structure. A 25-million-euro (33.3-million-dollar) restoration, sponsored by luxury goods maker Tod’s, has been ready to start since 2011, but been blocked by legal and bureaucratic wrangles.

… I suspect there is probably more politics behind this than anything else …

d.m. Georg H.B. Luck

From the Baltimore Sun:

Georg H.B. Luck, whose career teaching the classics at the Johns Hopkins University spanned two decades and included studying the role magic and witchcraft played in the theology and world of the ancient Greeks and Romans, died Sunday from complications of cancer at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.

He was 87 and a longtime resident of the city’s Poplar Hill neighborhood.

“Georg was a modest man who had great gusto for the things that interested him,” said Richard A. Macksey, a noted Baltimore bibliophile and professor of humanities at Hopkins. “He was the kind of person who could interest the general public in what might appear to many to be very dry work. He saw the relationship between theology, witchcraft and magic.”

“He was a pioneer in the study of magic and witchcraft in the theology of the ancient Greeks and Romans,” said Matthew B. Roller, a professor and former chairman of the classics department at Hopkins. “It was the first serious study and he collected all of the material.”

The son of a government worker and a homemaker, Georg Hans Bhawani Luck — pronounced “Luke” — was born and raised in Bern, Switzerland, where he graduated in 1944 from the Kirchenfeld Gymnasium.

Dr. Luck served in the Swiss army, first as a volunteer during World War II and later in the regular armed forces, where he attained the rank of lieutenant in the infantry.

Dr. Luck graduated from the University of Bern and also studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. He earned a master’s degree in classics in 1951 from Harvard University, and his doctorate in classics in 1953 from the University of Bern.

He began his academic career in 1952 as a classics instructor at Yale University and joined the faculty of Brown University in 1953; he taught there for two years.

He taught at Harvard from 1955 to 1958, when he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was a lecturer in Greek and Latin from 1958 to 1962 at the University of Mainz.

Dr. Luck taught at the University of Bonn, where he attained a full professorship, for eight years, until he came to Baltimore in 1970 and joined the Hopkins faculty.

In addition to his regular classwork, Dr. Luck taught various courses in the Johns Hopkins School for Continuing Education.

For 12 years, he served as editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Philology.

His book “Arcana Mundi: Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds” was published in 1986; he added a second volume in 2006.

“I think ‘Arcana’ is his most famous work,” said Dr. Roller. “He was in his 80s when he issued the second volume and it showed that he was still thinking about the subject.”

“No one currently at work in ancient magic or related fields can remotely compare with Luck for the breadth and profundity of his knowledge of the literary texts, for the humanity and sympathy of his exegeses of them, or for the humanity and lightness of touch with which he conveys his scholarship,” wrote Daniel Ogden in a 2007 review for the Literature Resource Center.

He had contributed a chapter to the “Athlone History of Witchcraft,” and a collection of his articles dealing with ancient morals, religion and magic — “Ancient Pathways, Hidden Pursuits” — was published by the University of Michigan.

“I am still interested in the history of magic and the occult sciences in Antiquity,” Dr. Luck wrote in an online Hopkins departmental profile.

Dr. Luck felt that certain plants, herbs and mushrooms played an important role in the practice of religion by the ancient Greeks.

“The analogies with the medieval witch-cults in Europe and with the practices of South American shamans are very instructive,” he wrote. “The Greek experience was, perhaps, on a higher level, but they worked within a very old, very ‘primitive’ tradition.”

A 1983 Baltimore Sun profile said that during the day Dr. Luck taught tenses and declensions to undergraduates studying Latin and Greek and “by night, however, the amiably rumpled, mild-mannered Johns Hopkins University professor turns his attention from Caesar and Cicero to witches and warlocks.”

The article also observed that through years of research and translation, Dr. Luck had “compiled a veritable cookbook of spells and incantations for almost every conceivable occasion.”

“His scholarship was theologically grounded,” said Dr. Macksey.

Dr. Luck also maintained a serious academic interest in Roman poetry and poets such as Ovid, Tibullus, Lucan and Propertius, who are considered love elegy poets.

Dr, Luck wrote widely in the field of classics in both English and German and was author of “The Latin Love Elegy,” published in London in 1959.

Even though Dr. Luck had retired, he maintained an office at Homewood.

“He was a genial presence and was always in good spirits. He also was willing to step in and teach a course if need be,” said Dr. Roller.

“Work and writing were his big interests along with playing classical guitar,” said his wife of 56 years, the former Harriet Richards Greenough.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 811 Cathedral St.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Luck is survived by a son, Hans Andreas Luck of Bern; two daughters, Annina Luck Wildermuth of Huntington, N.Y., and Stephanie Luck Coic of Paris; and two grandchildren.

via: Georg H.B. Luck, Hopkins professor (Baltimore Sun)

CJ Online Review: Keller and Russell, Learn to Read Greek

posted with permission:

Learn to Read Greek. By Andrew Keller and Stephanie Russell. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012. Part I: Textbook. Pp. xxiv + 384. Paper, $45.00. ISBN 978-0-300-11589-5. Workbook. Pp. xi + 632. Paper, $32.00. ISBN 978-0-300-11591-8. Part II. Textbook. Pp. xvii + 512. Paper, $45.00. ISBN 978-0-300-11590-1. Workbook. Pp. ix + 544. Paper, $32.00. ISBN 978-0-300-11592-5.

Reviewed by Wilfred E. Major, Louisiana State University

This latest entry among beginning textbooks for Greek continues in the vein of expansively detailed presentations geared toward making students highly sophisticated readers of Classical Greek. Teachers who consider this book should be certain that this approach matches their teaching style and students’ learning abilities. Teachers who find this level of detail overwhelming may yet find the supplementary workbooks a valuable resource.

Keller and Russell offer across two volumes comprising sixteen chapters, each with very full and precise presentations of grammar and reading samples, mostly gnomic utterances (the “short readings” from Chapter 3 onward) and samples of mostly high literary and philosophical texts (“longer readings,” usually a short paragraph, from Chapter 6 on). These selections form a trove of interesting material, and teachers of intermediate or advanced Greek classes might find them valuable for review or as sight passages. Unfortunately the readings are often not congruent with what students have been learning and practicing in the grammatical material. For example, the first readings (seven short sentences) conclude Chapter 3, where students have been introduced to the present, imperfect and future tenses, indicative and infinitive moods, in the active, middle and passive voices, of –ω verbs. All the verbs in the reading, however, are present indicative (except for one aorist, which is glossed). The sentences do manage to work a range of noun forms (Chapter 2 introduces nouns of the first declension, including variations, and the second declension, along with the full definite article), although there is nothing like the range of the fourteen case usages described in Chapters 1 and 2. A couple of instances of κακός constitute their exposure to the adjective forms (also included in Chapter 2). Even more extreme is the introduction of the paradigm of οὗτος (p. 48), which does not appear in a reading until Chapter 7 (p. 233) and not with any regularity until Chapter 8 (pp. 261ff.). The correspondence of the vocabulary lists (one in each chapter) to the readings is no better. By Chapter 3, students have met 98 words in the vocabulary lists (many with extensive notes), but only 25 of these (+ the definite article) are used in the first readings, even though the authors have to gloss an additional ten words so students can read even these seven sentences.

Keller and Russell present a phenomenal amount of detail, but narrowly and sometimes overlooking other crucial details. Thus they include lunate sigmas (in alternate chapters) and Ionic dialectical forms, but Koine Greek (and most post-Classical Greek) is kept to a minimum. Keller and Russell boast that they used the TLG search engine to root out vocabulary items that are rare in Attic Greek (pp. xv–xvi), but they have given little thought to high-frequency material. Thus students learn 2nd-declension nouns in Chapter 2 and begin seeing the regular noun οἶνος in the readings starting in Chapter 3 and repeatedly thereafter in Part 1 (Chapters 1–9), which is fine, except that οἶνος does not appear in a vocabulary list until Part 2 (Chapter 12). Many high-frequency words are delayed until Part 2, presented alongside much less common material. Excessive schematization sometimes trumps what is in students’ best interests as beginners. Thus Chapter 3 presents the relatively rare future passive forms before Chapter 5 introduces the very common forms of εἰμί, and common –μι verbs are delayed to Part 2, mostly in the final three chapters, meaning that students meet forms like the aorist optative passive before they meet the simplest forms of δίδωμι, τίθημι, ἵστημι, and ἵημι. Granted that this is a problem found in a number of beginning Greek textbooks, but that is no reason to repeat the mistake in a new one.

To Keller and Russell’s credit, they have also put their attention to detail and thoroughness to good use in the supplementary workbooks. Numerous exercises provide opportunities to practice forms and translate (both Greek to English and English to Greek). While the drills are numbered and keyed to the chapters in the grammar, many of them can stand alone as exercises for practice or review. Generally there is a shortage of such straightforward practice and drill resources for Greek, so teachers seeking such materials can consider the workbooks even if they are not using the textbook.

The present reviewer has not had the opportunity to use this book in the classroom, but two teachers have generously offered their perspectives for this review. Independently they agree that students successful with these books will be formidable readers of Greek. Conversely, the books can be unforgiving for students who do not control the details. They also agree that chapters are of unequal length and difficulty. Ultimately, preference depends on the value a teacher puts on the detail work. Those who favor the comprehensive, detailed presentations in beginning Greek textbooks should consider the presentation in this book. Teachers put off by detail will find nothing attractive here.

Finally, there is a broader issue to consider. In an age when students look to their phones and tablets for information, these books dwarf all other Greek textbooks in mass (2,000+ pages across four volumes, all 8½” by 11”) and weight (more than 10 lbs. total). Inside, despite the efforts of the press, the graphic presentation of the grammatical material, no matter how clearly demarcated and presented, is not an appealing read. It is the great challenge of the digital age to be faced with huge amounts of data and then to find a mechanism for navigating it in a meaningful way. Keller and Russell have embedded an enormous amount of valuable data here. Perhaps they will have an opportunity in the future to embed it in an interface that will make it accessible to a wider range of teachers and students.

Warrior Grave from Russia

LiveScience’s Owen Jarus reports on an interesting find from the Caucasus … it’s on the periphery of our purview … here’s the incipit:

Hidden in a necropolis situated high in the mountains of the Caucasus in Russia, researchers have discovered the grave of a male warrior laid to rest with gold jewelry, iron chain mail and numerous weapons, including a 36-inch (91 centimeters) iron sword set between his legs.

That is just one amazing find among a wealth of ancient treasures dating back more than 2,000 years that scientists have uncovered there.

Among their finds are two bronze helmets, discovered on the surface of the necropolis. One helmet (found in fragments and restored) has relief carvings of curled sheep horns while the other has ridges, zigzags and other odd shapes.

Although looters had been through the necropolis before, the warrior’s grave appears to have been untouched. The tip of the sword he was buried with points toward his pelvis, and researchers found “a round gold plaque with a polychrome inlay” near the tip, they write in a paper published in the most recent edition of the journal Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia. […]

via: Treasure-Filled Warrior’s Grave Found in Russia

… there is a slide show of the finds (Image Gallery: Ancient Treasure Trove Discovered in Russia ) which includes a couple of very interesting helmets:

Valentina Mordvintseva photo via Live Science

Valentina Mordvintseva via Live Science

So we’re talking 2000 years b.p. or so … dare we say these helmets have Roman influence? Probably not, but there’s some interesting comparanda here to both Greek and Roman worlds, I suspect (and this culture is probably one of many lacunae in my repertoire) … also worth checking out is the chain mail that was found.

Recreating the Kithara

From a University of Vermont press release:

How do you create a three-dimensional design for an ancient Greek musical instrument when all you have to go on are flat two-dimensional images on vases and coins and a few timeworn statues?

That’s the assignment Classics professor John Franklin and student Tanner Lake gave themselves in 2009 when they decided to recreate an ancient Greek instrument called a kithara, a seven-stringed version of the lyre used by professional musicians in public concerts, choral performances and competitions beginning in the seventh century B.C.

“We looked at any medium we could find to get the measurements and all the angles,” Franklin said. Franklin and Lake also consulted ancient texts that described some elements of kithara construction.

Lake, a classics major who graduated in 2010, designed the instrument under Franklin’s supervision.

The task of building the kithara fell to luthier John Butterfield of Butterfield Lutes in Seattle, who introduced his own design ideas when technical challenges presented themselves.

All three will be on hand on Friday, Feb. 15 at 4 p.m. in John Dewey Lounge to talk about the project and show off the product of their collaboration.

Franklin will demonstrate the kithara and will use it to accompany several ancient Greek songs performed by the Halcyonids, the Classics Department singing group.

Lyres as an instrument family gradually morphed into lutes of various types. The word “guitar” is descended directly from “kithára,” even though the shape and stringing changed radically.

CJ Online Review: Faraone and Naiden, Greek and Roman Animal Sacrifice

posted with permission:

Greek and Roman Animal Sacrifice: Ancient Victims, Modern Observers. Edited by Christopher A. Faraone and F. S. Naiden. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp.xiv + 209. Hardcover, £55.00/$95.00. ISBN 978-1-107-01112-0.

Reviewed by Sarah Hitch, University of Oxford

Is animal sacrifice the central act in Greek and Roman religion, or is this a modern construct borne out of Christian criticism of pagan practices? So the editors begin their reassessment of the theoretical interpretations of ancient Greek and Roman sacrifice predominant in the 20th century. The emphasis on sacrifice as the center of Greek religious practice in the models of Walter Burkert and the scholars working with Jean-Pierre Vernant in Paris is the main issue addressed by the eight papers in this collection. The papers are organized into pairs in four topical sections, concluding with a brief “Afterword” by Clifford Ando. This volume joins a series of edited collections on this topic; like those edited by Pirenne-Delforge and Prescendi (Kernos 2011) and Knust and Várhelyi (Oxford University Press, 2011), the papers cover both Greek and Roman sacrifice. Indeed, one of the criticisms often levied at the prevailing theories of Burkert and Vernant is the exclusive focus on Classical Greek culture; this volume has a much wider scope anchored within an overview of the history of scholarship on the topic.

Part I, “Modern Historiography,” establishes the limits of theoretical objectivity through a penetrating look at the social contexts in which the great theories of sacrifice were developed. Bruce Lincoln locates early interpretations of sacrifice as part of sectarian French discourse between the French revolution and the end of the second world war (“From Bergaigne to Meuli: How Animal Sacrifice Became a Hot Topic”). Lincoln points to the French political milieu in which Hubert and Mauss wrote their study on sacrifice, which they intended as a “political intervention” (15), situated by Lincoln in the development of the “Aryan” and “Semite” opposition that colored much of the contemporary scholarship in religious studies. Fritz Graf picks up the thread with a discussion of the wave of new theories in the wake of the second world war (“One Generation after Burkert and Girard: Where are the Great Theories?”). Graf illustrates how J. Z. Smith’s interpretation of sacrifice as a “meditation on the domestication of animals” (44) is a sensible theory with much to offer the discipline, but without the following of the more sensational approaches of Burkert, Girard and Vernant. Although Jaś Elsner’s chapter on “Sacrifice in Late Roman Art” comes in Part III of the volume, his richly illustrated test of the application of grand theories to the wide variations in visual representations of sacrifice in third-century art echoes many of the points raised by Lincoln and Graf. Based on the virtual disappearance of animal sacrifice in the decoration of public monuments throughout the empire, with some notable exceptions in North Africa and in Jewish iconography, Elsner concludes that the centrality of animal sacrifice in theoretical interpretations of ancient Roman practice reflects the importance of sacrifice to Christian polemicists rather than historical fact. All three contributions raise the importance of perspective, both ancient and modern, an aspect commented on by Ando: “virtually all reflections on cult surviving from the Greek and Roman worlds have the status of interpretation” (197).

Part II, “Greek and Roman Practice,” moves from hierarchies of scholarship to the hierarchies of participation in public sacrifices. Naiden gives a functionalist critique of the evidence for sacrificial feasts as a method of food distribution in Greek cities (“Blessèd are the parasites”). He outlines the varying modes of meat distribution, emphasizing the social hierarchy expressed by honorary portions of meat reserved for special participants, often pieces set aside for gods which were then appropriated by priests. While Naiden focuses on the dynamics of human participation in Greek sacrifice, the divine portion is outlined in John Scheid’s chapter, “Roman Animal Sacrifice and the System of Being.” Drawing on the inscribed records of the fratres arvales and evidence for libations without sacrifice, Scheid shows the theological hierarchy implicit in the Roman offering system. Variations in scale of offering reflect differentiation of divine status, such as between the Olympian gods and the smaller offerings given to deified emperors by the Arvals. Libations without animal sacrifice may fall on the small side of the offering scale, but still reflect the importance of ceremonial sharing with gods in recognition of their superior status. These papers make a nice pair, although Scheid’s presentation of evidence seems abbreviated in comparison with the voluminous case put forward by Naiden for the varying distribution of meat to human participants. In this way, even within a framework explicitly designed to criticize and analyze the sociological trend in twentieth century scholarship, the theological arguments still take a back seat.

Part III covers “Visual Representation” and Part IV “Literary representation.” These papers mostly address the much-discussed notion that sacrifice is central because it is violent. With reference to Athenian sculpture, Richard Neer (“Sacrificing Stones: On Some Sculpture, Mostly Athenian”) questions the centrality of sacrifice per se, proposing that manipulations of sacrifice as image, such as the “Procne and Itys” statue group from the Acropolis, suggest the centrality stems rather from “everything that went on around sacrifice” (119). A compelling aspect of his argument is the relative marginalization of sacrifice in comparison to sacred buildings and decorations, which are demonstrations of immortal and mortal relationships on a scale which completely overshadows the theoretical centrality of sacrifice. In Part IV, the violence of sacrifice leads to the pleasure of eating in Redfield’s discussion, “Animal Sacrifice in Comedy: an Alternative Point of View.” Redfield revives Vernant’s thesis that sacrifice is a prelude to meat-eating in the context of New Comedy, which generally depicts social harmony through feasting. He critically applies Vernant’s structural interpretation of sacrifice as expressive of the cosmic order to the motif in Old Comedy, which is as transgressive as New Comedy is affirming. Most notable in Redfield’s essay is his comparison of Hesiod’s aetiology of sacrifice in the Theogony with the book of Genesis; whereas the Hebrew narrative illustrates divine sanction of meat eating through sacrifice, the relative silence of Hesiod on the link between sacrifice, meat eating and divine will opens the doors for the problematization of sacrifice as “murder.” In the final chapter, “Animal Sacrifice in Greek Tragedy: Ritual, Metaphor, Problematizations,” Albert Henrichs pulls together the relevant descriptions in tragedy and the schools of interpretation to which they gave rise, concluding that, although corrupted or failed sacrifices are frequent signposts of disorder in tragedy, the distinction between sacrifice and murder is carefully maintained. He points out the popularity of tragic representations in theories on the topic, without consideration of the context.

The editors have gathered together essays by senior scholars with long experience in the discipline and the result is mature and concise, particularly their coverage of the history of scholarship on the topic. The individual essays are highly polished and extremely well written, providing a sophisticated valediction to the prevailing theories of the 20th century.

Classical Words of the Day


This Day in Ancient History: ante diem ix kalendas martias

ante diem ix kalendas martias

  • Parentalia possibly comes to an end with the festival of Feralia, during which sheep were sacrificed to the dead; the additional rites mentioned by Ovid (Fasti 2.565 ff) apparently in connection with the Feralia probably have nothing to do specifically with the festival.
  • 4 A.D. — death of hoped-for-successor-to-Augustus Gaius Caesar (either February 21 or 22) in Limyra