This Day in Ancient History: ante diem xvii kalendas quinctilias

ante diem xvii kalendas quinctilias

  • Quinquatrus minusculae (day 3 of a five-day festival honouring the birthday (maybe) of Minerva )
  • Quando stercus delatus fas (“When the ‘trash’ is taken out”) and the Temple of Vesta is closed to the public
  • 302 A.D. — martyrdom of Hesychius
  • 303 A.D. — martyrdom of Vitus (and companions)

This Day in Ancient History: idus junias

idus junias

This Day in Ancient History: pridie idus junias

pridie idus junias

  • 456 B.C. — Herodotus recites his Histories at Athens (according to one reckoning; supposedly on the 12th of Hekatombaion)
  • 17 B.C. — venatio, ludi circenses, lusus Troiae (the latter was a sort of precision equestrian drill put on by the sons of the rich and famous, probably a lot like the RCMP’s Musical Ride)
  • 86 A.D. — ludi Capitolini (day 7)

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem iii idus junias

ante diem iii idus junias

  • Matralia — a festival held in honor of Mater Matuta involving matrons and their nieces (with some slave abuse thrown in as well)
  • 1184 B.C. — Greeks capture Troy (according to one reckoning)
  • during the time of Servius — dedication of the Temple of Mater Matuta and the Temple of Fortuna in the Forum Boarium
  • 17 B.C.. — ludi Latini et Graeci honorarii(day 7)
  • 86 A.D. — ludi Capitolini (day 6)
  • 204 A.D. — lusus Troiae performed during the Saecular Games

Dig Permit Problems in Turkey?

Very interesting item in Spiegel:

It used to be easy for foreign archaeology teams to get excavation permits in Turkey. This year, though, dozens of scientists are still waiting for government permission even though the dig season has begun. Some suspect that politics and nationalism are in play.

On the surface, the mood is buoyant at the annual archaeology conference in southern Turkey. Eager academics, more than a few of them clad in khaki vests and breathable pants, engage in animated conversation as they network and discuss their pet projects. Outside, a warm sun is shining.

But looks are deceiving. For many of those present, the future is filled with uncertainty. The Turkish government in Ankara has still not granted annual permits to many of the excavations that the careers of the scientists present depend on. And there is concern that the reason for the delay has much more to do with the state of Turkey’s relations with the West than with the merits of the projects in question.

“This is not a scientific meeting,” says one German archaeologist who asked to remain anonymous because his permit is still pending(he had hoped to begin digging this month). “It’s all about politics. Everyone is talking about permits and being nice to the bureaucrats.”

The Germans here have reason to worry. The new Turkish minister of culture and tourism, Ömer Çelik, told SPIEGEL in March that some German-led excavations in Turkey are sloppy. “There are many that simply leave sites however they happen to look at the end of an excavation, disorderly and without having been restored in any way — a deserted landscape,” he said.

The interview was essentially a delayed response to insensitive comments made by the head of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Hermann Parzinger, who told SPIEGEL a year ago that “Turkey doesn’t have an established system for preserving historical artefacts” and that cultural heritage “is the last thing they think about.”

The harsh words are part of a long quarrel between Germany and Turkey about the provenance of Turkish antiquities that fill German museums. Ankara wants them back and German museum directors have, in some cases, been slow to respond. German archaeologists fear that Çelik’s comments could be a hint that permits might be difficult to come by this year as a result — that science might fall victim to politics.

Becoming Frustrated

Numerous international teams in Turkey that were hoping to start digging in May have not yet been granted permits and dozens of archaeologists from universities around the world are simply waiting. Many archaeologists here at the 35th Annual Symposium of Excavations, Surveys and Archaeometry in Mugla are becoming frustrated by the delays.

“I want to start excavations soon,” said the German archaeologist. “I have a large team and I can’t tell anybody what is going to happen.”

He said there is a real possibility the team will break apart. For one, as the vacation season approaches, flights to Turkey are getting more expensive by the day — making it more difficult for scientists still in Germany to travel to the dig site. Furthermore, funding organizations can’t wait forever to find out if the dig will go forward. In short, a process that used to be a formality has become a ritual of nail-biting.

Many believe that the delays may be simply because Çelik has not been in office for long and that the efficiency of the permit system has suffered. Others, though, fear that Turkey’s approach to archaeology and artefacts is becoming suffused with nationalism.

There are currently far more Turkish-led sites than foreign-led digs. And the latter have been decreasing, from 48 in 2009 to 39 in 2012 — against 116 permits granted to Turkish teams, according to the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Many of the foreign permits, though, are for important sites that have been continually excavated by researchers from that country for decades and withdrawing permits in favor of a Turkish team could be detrimental.

Changing the Surgeon

“From my point of view, one could not excavate without the archives and without knowing what’s been done there for the last 100 years,” said a German archaeologist. “You could think about archaeology as a very complicated surgery. You don’t want to change the surgeon halfway through.”

Ankara denies that it is pursuing a strategy of nationalizing digs in the country. In a statement provided to SPIEGEL ONLINE, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said it treated all permit applications equally, regardless of who they came from.

But many of the scientists at the symposium in Mula aren’t so sure. “The mistake of the last few years has been that of trying to combine science and politics,” said Mehmet Ösdoan, a professor emeritus at Istanbul University. “That hurts science.”

Money, though, could also be a motivation. Many Turkish and international archaeologists say that the current administration prioritizes economic development above everything else, including science. It is a complaint that echoes those of protesters who have been marching through the streets of cities and towns across the country in recent days. Archaeologists can cite numerous examples where important sites were destroyed in recent years during the rush to build things like dams, hotels and subways.

Furthermore, tourism in the country is booming; the number of annual visitors has skyrocketed in the last decade, from 15.2 million in 2002 to 36.7 million in 2012, and a visit to an archeology museum or important site from antiquity is on most itineraries. The grander the site or object, the better the tourism draw — a connection which, given that tourism and archeology permits are managed by the same ministry, Ankara is sure to have made.

“In the past, tourists went to a few select places,” said Ösdoan, who has worked in the field for 50 years. “Now they are everywhere.”

Turkey has also been flexing muscle when it comes to the return of artefacts and has adopted a much harsher tone. Indeed, the increasingly brusque and frequent demands being made of museums like the Metropolitan in New York, the Louvre in Paris and London’s British Museum are what prompted many archaeologists at the conference to bring up their concerns of nationalism. German museums in particular, which hold many excellent pieces from Turkish antiquity, have been a target.

Ethics and Politics

Often, though, it is difficult to determine just how a given object found its way out of Turkey. Despite the fact that the Ottoman Empire banned the export of antiquities in 1884, exemptions were sometimes granted, meaning that the decision as to whether a specific object should be returned is often more about ethics and politics than about legality and science.

“If they have the papers, they should put them on the table,” one German archaeologist, who asked not to be named, said about museums holding controversial items. “And if they don’t, they should return them. We are not in an age where we can fill our museums with stolen objects. That is not compatible with our values.”

Turkey has managed to get some items returned. But archaeologists have often played the role of pawn in the battle. For example, Germany sent the ancient Sphinx of Hattusa back to Turkey in 2011, but only following threats and, later, the withholding of digging permits for German teams. In 2009, German-led teams held 14 permits to lead excavations in Turkey; by 2012 that number had dropped to eight.

Germany is particularly vulnerable to such pressure. The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation oversees several significant museums in the country while at the same time holding sway over the German Archaeological Institute that coordinates and funds German digs.

“In the US, archaeology is totally independent. We have no real sway nationally or among other universities (pertaining to the return of antiquities). Putting the pressure on archaeologists is just not effective in the US because we have no power,” said one American archaeologist who asked not to be named because he is waiting for a permit. “Germans are more under threat because there is more at stake.”

Judging by the more-than-weekly announcements of finds from various sites in Turkey, it sounds as if Turkey figures they have hit the point where they believe they can do things on their own. Still, it’s kind of disappointing that the archaeologists (and students going on digs) are the ones who get caught in the middle of fights which began probably before they were even conceived …


Nuntii Latini (YLE)

This week’s Latin news from our friends at YLE … this week’s translators are Reijo Pitkäranta and Saara Honkanen:

De tempestate Europae

Hac aestate ineunte tempestas in Europa multum variavit. In Finnia, imprimis in partibus terrae septentrionalibus, aer tam calidus fuit, ut cives de aestibus molestis et saluti nocentibus publice praemonerentur.

Civitates autem mediae Europae, praesertim Tzekia, Austria, Germania, imbribus et inundationibus vexatae sunt, quibus complures homines vitam amiserunt et multa milia domum relinquere coacta sunt.


Tumultus in Turcia orti … De statu Lettoniae novo … Sarinum in Syria adhibitum … Jansa corruptionis convictus … De re scholastica Russiae … Aquae ad natandum purissimae

Digging to Resume at Sebastapolis

From Hurriyet:

After a 22-year hiatus, archaeological excavations will begin once again in the ancient city of Sebastapolis in the Central Anatolian province of Tokat’s Sulusaray district.

Sulusaray district administrator Yaşar Kemal Yılmaz said Sebastapolis was known as one of the most significant ancient cities in the Central Black Sea and Northeastern Anatolian region.

Yılmaz said the ancient city had been the capital of a number of states in the past. “One of the leading Roman cities, Sebastapolis, is regarded as a ‘second Ephesus’ by archaeologists and experts. It is a highly significant area. But because of some technical problems and a lack of interest, the excavations that were carried out between 1987 and 1991 were insufficient. The ancient city is in a bad and idle situation. We are doing our best for the protection of ancient pieces there with the help of security forces. Excavations should begin as soon as possible to unearth these works and present them to the world,” he said.

Yılmaz added that unearthing the ancient city was also important for Sulusaray district in terms of attracting visitors. “Sebastapolis has strategic importance. The ancient works will shed light on the past. Once the ancient city is unearthed, the district will be a center of attraction,” he said.

Yılmaz said the excavation works would begin this month under the leadership of the Tokat Museum Directorate and the scientific consultancy of Gaziosmanpaşa Univesity History of Department member Associate Professor Şengül Dilek Ful.

Ancient city of Sebastapolis

It is reported in some resources that the ancient city of Sebastapolis was established in the 1st century B.C. The ancient city was included in the Cappadocia region after being separated from the Pontus Galatius and Polemoniacus states at the time of the Roman Emperor Trajan between 98 and 117 A.D. It was known as one of the five largest cities in the Black Sea 2,000 years ago because of the fact that it was located on passageways and thanks to its thermal sources, which are still being used today.

As an indicator of its wealth at the time of the Roman Empire, Sebastapolis had the authority to print money. It is reported that the city lost its importance and was forgotten over time, largely due to big wars, destruction, disasters and changes to passageways.

Finds from Zakynthos

I’m somewhat skeptical about this one as it is being reported … from the Greek Reporter:

A submerged underwater archaeological site with extensive sunken architectural remains was found by the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities team at a depth of 200 to 600 m. off the Alikanas beach on northeast Zakynthos, the Ionian Sea Island, as revealed.

The team has begun exploring around the area since May 13, 2013, after an invitation made by the Municipality of Zakynthos.

The large site covers about 30,000 sq. m., something that reflects the existence of a significant ancient settlement in the Alikanas area. It contains a visible courtyard, ancient building material and at least 20 circular column bases, with a 34 cm hollow in the center where a wooden column may have been inserted.

Initial assessment leads to the result that the remains belong to a large ancient public building, which is probably related to the ancient city’s port. However, due to the absence of pottery from the surface, it is still not that easy to date the find.

The Municipality of Zakynthos along with the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities will proceed to more extensive research and mapping of the site as soon as possible, so as new evidence will be found of the history and topography of ancient Zakynthos.

The original article includes a photo of what might be one of the column bases. Even so — and acknowledging that the area around Zakynthos is earthquake prone — we’re talking a very large site which is supposedly 200m to 600m below the surface of the sea. That’s pretty deep for a major site to sink and no one to mention it. I’m very curious how this was explored (divers? submarine? robot?) and whether it might not make more sense to see this as one or more shipwrecks full of building materials … we definitely need more details on this one.

That Ovid Test

You’ve probably already heard about the ‘scandal’ that teenagers were asked to comment on a racy passage from the Amores, but in case you haven’t … here’s a sort of roundup of it all. The original coverage was at the Times, which is behind a paywall, but the Daily Mail — that bastion of moral rectitude — seems to have put on its blinders so as not to have to glance at the stories in its Femail section and started/augmented  the ‘outrage’ reaction (if there was, in fact, such a reaction):

Even the most diligent of AS-level students may not have been fully prepared for one of the questions in their recent Latin exam.

Young classicists – usually aged between 16 and 17 – were asked to read and offer a ‘personal response’ to an ancient but explicit account of sexual intercourse.

The passage from The Amores – one of Ovid’s collection of erotic poetry – describes in the racy embrace of two lovers.

A version of the poem translates on passage as ‘… slip off your chemise without a blush and let him get his thigh well over yours.

‘And let him thrust his tongue as far as it will go into your coral mouth and let passion prompt you to all manner of pretty devices.

‘Talk lovingly. Say all sorts of naughty things, and let the bed creak and groan as you writhe with pleasure.’

The addition of the passage, which was part of a longer section of verse from Ovid’s poems published in the 1st century BC, in the exam for children provoked consternation from one leading academic.

Professor John Ellis, a reader in physics at Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, and fellow at Gonville and Caius College, said the exam board was not in their ‘right minds’ to include the passage for children as young as 16.

He told the Times: ‘How would a school react to such material distributed on their premises?

‘Many teachers would have glossed over this extract, assuming no one in their right minds would set it in an exam.’

The text featured in an AS-level Latin paper on Tuesday set by the University of Cambridge OCR board.
Controversial: The inclusion of passages from explicit erotic poetry in AS-level exams – typically sat by pupils aged 16 and 17 – has been criticised by a leading academic. (file picture)

Controversial: The inclusion of passages from explicit erotic poetry in AS-level exams – typically sat by pupils aged 16 and 17 – has been criticised by a leading academic. (file picture)

Students were awarded up to 10 marks out of a total of 100 on the paper for their answers. Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge, defended the inclusion of the text, telling the Times: ‘Please, let’s not go back to the days when kids were not supposed to read some poems of, say, Catullus, because some old codger had thought they might get corrupted.’

An OCR spokesman said not including the passages would be tantamount to ‘censorship’ and would deny students the opportunity to study some of the finest elegiac poems ever written.

The elegiac style is a poetic technique where each couplet usually makes sense on its own, while forming part of a larger work.

The spokesman said: ‘Ovid’s Amores poems are considered by professionals to be some of the finest examples of elegiac poetry that there are.

‘To censor such material would only leave young adults with a false perception of their area of study. If such censorship were to be applied to English literature it would preclude coverage of the works of DH Lawrence, Chaucer and even Shakespeare.’

Tip o’ the pileus, by the way, to Nick Lowe for sending me assorted links. His daughter actually sat the exam and just in case you were wondering, the passage was Amores iii.14.21-6 … here’s the text from the Latin Library:

illic nec tunicam tibi sit posuisse pudori
nec femori inpositum sustinuisse femur;
illic purpureis condatur lingua labellis,
inque modos Venerem mille figuret amor;
illic nec voces nec verba iuvantia cessent,
spondaque lasciva mobilitate tremat!

I think I got those right … whatever the case, it really does have to be admitted that there is probably more lasciviousness in a random ten minute television show after 8:00 p.m. than there is here. The incipit of the Guardian’s coverage is rather more fitting with this particular century:

Despite the well-known adage that all literature is about sex and death, the Times and the Daily Mail got rather agitated today about the inclusion of that Playboy-esque filthfest, Ovid’s Amores, in the most recent Latin AS-level exam. “Slip off your chemise without a blush”, reads a translation of the extract. “Say all sorts of naughty things, and let the bed creak and groan as you writhe with pleasure.” All sorts of naughty things? Dear God, spare the innocence of our nation’s teenagers!

Forgive me if I don’t join the moral outrage brigade in this instance, but I’m pretty sure the average UK teenager isn’t going to balk at much in Ovid. Take the UK singles chart – a compilation predominantly controlled by the consumer habits of teens – where the present number one, Blurred Lines, includes the lyrics “Lemme be the one you back your ass up to /… Had a bitch, but she ain’t as bad as you / So, hit me up when you pass through / I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two.” Even at its most risqué, Ovid at least preserved a semblance of mutual pleasure. In a world where “tearing you up”, “smashing you”, and “hitting it” is commonplace, exposure to sensual – rather than violent – language surrounding sex might even do the little scamps some good.

Meanwhile, it would be prudent to bear in mind that this is hardly the first time 16-year-olds have encountered amorous literature in the classroom. Studying sex is almost as old as the act itself – as the list below shows. [...]

The list in the Guardian, by the way, includes such items as Solomon’s Song of Songs and the Miller’s Tale. That said, today we read in Cambridge News the reaction to the reaction from some of the head teachers involved:

The headteacher of a Cambridge sixth form has defended an exam question which gave teenagers a raunchy description of sexual intercourse.

Cambridge exam board OCR asked AS-level Latin candidates about Ovid’s Amores, in which the poet tells his mistress she can sleep with other men.

In part of the 16BC elegy reproduced in the exam he tells her to “slip off your chemise without a blush and let him get his thigh well over yours” and to “let the bed creak and groan as you writhe with pleasure”.

The exam board has come under fire from some quarters saying the racy material is inappropriate for AS-level students, who are typically aged 16-17.

Latin sixth formers from Stephen Perse Foundation were among those who have been studying the passage.

Simon Armitage, director of sixth form at the Cambridge private school, said the section they studied was “very tame” compared with other parts.

He said: “It’s not a lad’s mag list of obscentities or provocative statements. It’s not designed to trivialise or titilate. It’s poetry, beautifully constructed.

“The story is all about Ovid explaining how his girlfriend is cheating on him. He is appealing to her not to tell him what she’s up to.

“The students really engage in the way the emotion is being conveyed through the poetry in a way they can’t if they are studying farming practices or bee-keeping.”

He added: “It says a lot about this text that we’re still talking about it thousands of years later.”

Cambridge Classics professor Mary Beard is glad the censoring of some of the greatest Latin poetry has been confined to the past.

She told The Times: “The Amores is a hugely popular text and, inevitably, like many aspects of ancient culture, it prompts all kinds of discussion about gender, mysogyny, eroticism and how these were differently negotiated by the Greeks and Romans.

“Please, let’s not go back to the days when kids were not supposed to read some poems of say, Catullus, because some old codger had thought they might get corrupted.”

An OCR spokeswoman said: “Ovid’s Amores poems are considered by professionals to be some of the finest examples of elegiac poetry that there are.

“To censor such material would only leave young adults with a false perception of their area of study. If such censorship were to be applied to English literature it would preclude coverage of the works of DH Lawrence, Chaucer and even Shakespeare.”

The News reported on Monday how Cambridge law students were confronted with a graphic depiction of oral sex, male rape and naked torture, which the university said was needed to test students’ understanding of criminal law.

A passage from Ovid’s Amores:

“…slip off your chemise without a blush and let him get his thigh well over yours. And let him thrust his tongue as far as it will go into your coral mouth and let passion prompt you to all manner of pretty devices.

“Talk lovingly. Say all sorts of naughty things, and let the bed creak and groan as you writhe with pleasure. But as soon as you have got your things on again, look the nice demure little lady you ought to be, and let your modesty belie your wantonness. Bamboozle society, bamboozle me; but don’t let me know it, that’s all; and let me go on living in my fool’s paradise.”

We might cynically hope that all the publicity from this attracts a few more teens with raging hormones to consider Latin/Classics as study fodder …

Lecture | Patrick Hunt: Hannibal’s Secret Weapon in the Second Punic War

The blurb:

Dr. Patrick Hunt, Stanford University, speaks. Hannibal, a Carthaginian commander who lived ca. 200 BCE, is considered one of the greatest military commanders in history. His use of the environment in his warfare against Rome in the Second Punic War—often called the Hannibalic War—set precedents in military history, utilizing nature and weather conditions as weapons to complement his generally smaller forces. This strategic marshaling of nature could be described as a “second, secret army,” as demonstrated in his battles at Trebbia, Trasimene, and Cannae.

JOB: Roman History @ Yale (tenured)

Seen on various lists:

The Yale University Departments of Classics and History intend to make a senior tenured appointment in Roman History, beginning July 1, 2014. Preference will be given to historians whose scholarship focuses on subjects in the Roman empire. Candidates should expect to demonstrate exceptional qualities of scholarship, teaching, and University citizenship. The search committee will begin considering applications on September 1, 2013. Yale University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. Yale values diversity among its students, staff, and faculty and strongly welcomes applications from women and underrepresented minorities. Applicants should send a curriculum vitae and a statement about their work and professional plans to Professor J.G. Manning, chair, Roman History Search Committee, c/o Linda Dickey-Saucier, Classics Department Yale University, 402 Phelps Hall, Department of Classics, Yale University, 344 College Street, New Haven CT 06520-8266. Inquiries also to J.G. Manning: joseph.manning AT

Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews

  • 2013.06.12:  Gianfranco Nuzzo, Publio Papinio Stazio, Achilleide.
  • 2013.06.11:  Pierre Sauzeau, André​ Sauzeau, La quatrième fonction: altérité et marginalité dans l’idéologie des Indo-Européens. Vérité des mythes​.
  • 2013.06.10:  Benjamin W. Millis, S. Douglas Olson, Inscriptional Records for the Dramatic Festivals in Athens: IG II2 2318-2325 and Related Texts. Brill studies in Greek and Roman epigraphy.
  • 2013.06.09:  Simon Goldhill, Sophocles and the Language of Tragedy. Onassis series in Hellenic culture.
    2013.06.08:  Gregson Davis, The Interplay of Ideas in Vergilian Bucolic. Mnemosyne supplements. Monographs on Greek and Latin language and literature, 346.
    2013.06.07:  Danielle Gourevitch, Pour une archéologie de la médecine romaine. Collection Pathographie, 8.
  • 2013.06.06:  Rachel Barney, Tad Brennan, Charles Brittain, Plato and the Divided Self.
  • 2013.06.05:  Sherry Lou Macgregor, Beyond Hearth and Home: Women in the Public Sphere in Neo-Assyrian Society. Publications of the Foundation for Finnish Assyriological Research, 5; State Archives of Assyria studies, 21.
  • 2013.06.04:  W. R. Paton, F. W. Walbank, Christian Habicht, S. Douglas Olson, Polybius: The Histories. Volume VI, Books 28-39 (revised edition), Unattributed fragments. Loeb Classical Library, 161.
  • 2013.06.03:  Andrew Monson, From the Ptolemies to the Romans: Political and Economic Change in Egypt.
  • 2013.06.02:  Anthony Kaldellis, Dimitris Krallis, Michael Attaleiates: The History. Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, 16.

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem iv idus junias

ante diem iv idus junias

  • 17 B.C. — ludi Latini et Graeci honorarii (day 6)
  • 38 A.D. — death of Drusilla, the much-beloved sister of the emperor Gaius (Caligula)
  • 86 A.D.. — ludi Capitolini (day 5)
  • 120 A.D. — martyrdom of Gaetulius and companions at Tivoli
  • 204 A.D. — ludi Latini et Graeci honorarii (day 7)