Hmmm … Maybe We Should Have Asked a Classicist?

An item which will, no doubt, give you that feeling of smug, self-satisfaction … From the Independent:

The University of York has been embarrassed after it emerged that the logo of its new Constantine College features the head of the wrong Roman emperor – Hadrian.

The mistake was revealed in an interview with Jane Hawkes, a professor in the History of Art department, and a specialist on Constantine.

“As far as I can see this is definitely Hadrian,” she told student paper Nouse. “It was much more common for Constantine to be depicted without a beard.

“I suspect the decision was made, somewhere, to farm out the design project to some firm not really specialising in such niceties as getting the portrait right!

“It would have been very easy for the university to consult the History of Art Department.”

The Constantine College crest will now be redesigned as Jane Grenville, deputy vice chancellor of the university, admitted that despite being an archaeologist herself, she hadn’t spotted the mistake.

“As an archaeologist I should have spotted this when the logo came back from the designers. We shall re-design the logo to feature a more accurate depiction of a beardless Constantine.”

She added: “Many thanks to the vigilant student body. I am proud that they are interested and engaged enough to notice this and confident enough to challenge us.”

Students have also responded to the news. York’s union resident Kallum Taylor said: “Even if you do a quick Google image search it does look more like Hadrian.”

Helena Parker, an English Literature student said: “Classic York uni trying to get in on a heritage which doesn’t really belong to us and then getting it wrong.”

George Hesselgren, a History student, said that the mistake “reeks of amateur hour”.

He added: “It reminds me of something stuck up on the front of a frat house, designed by 12-year-olds. It’s not very impressive for a university trying to add prestige to its image.”

… and no, the University of York doesn’t have a Classics department

Classicists and the 9/11 Monument

Didn’t know there was a controversy raging over the quotation from Vergil on the 9/11 monument … perhaps there isn’t, but the New York Times asked three classicists (Helen Morales, Llewelyn Morgan, and Shadi Bartsch-Zimmer) to weigh in on the appropriateness of the out-of-context sentiment Nulla dies umquam memori vos eximet aevo … You can read their thoughts here:

Then, for old times’ sake, you can check out one of our posts from 2010 (when the inscription  is first mentioned in the 9/11 memorial context):

… and even earlier (2009) when we noted the quote had been used on the Valiants Memorial in Ottawa:

In any event, if there’s a problem with it now, they had four years (at least) to speak up (“they” not being the Classicists mentioned above, but the people who figured Classicists should be asked at this point in time) …

Return to Tauris?

Brief item in the Greek Reporter, inter alia:

[...] According to the Russian newspaper “Izvestia,” far-right LDPR MP Mikhail Degtyarev proposed that the Peninsula should be renamed to Tauris or Taurica, which would bear more resemblance to the historic path of the region. [...]


Commemorating Augustus Project

Caught wind of an interesting site being developed by Dr Penelope Goodman and co. with a view to marking the bimillennium (spellcheck doesn’t like that word) of the death of Augustus (this August!). The site includes assorted information including a growing calendar of events associated with the markage … if your department is doing something, please send it in to Dr Goodman. Even if your department isn’t, the site is worth perusing:

Also Seen: Amazon Women

A feature over at Smithsonian Magazine … not sure if someone should mention specifying ‘women’ in regards to the Amazons is somewhat redundant, but then again, it might be necessary for search engine purposes:

If you want a bit more depth, check out Adrienne Mayor’s posts over at Wonders and Marvels (and I think she has an Amazon book coming out soon):

… and if you have access to academia edu:


Barry Strauss on Matters Putinesque

Cornell is one of those universities where the school website advertises the expert opinions of its professors to comment on newsy situations. Not surprisingly, Barry Strauss has a page that advertises:

Barry Strauss, professor of history at Cornell University notes that how Russian tactics in Crimea echo centuries-old Roman tactics, and point to Russian President Putin’s understanding of history.


“Events in Crimea remind us that the region has an ancient history. Finding a friendly minority across the border to roll out the welcome mat, using military ‘volunteers’ in unmarked uniforms, and threatening your neighbors with force were old tricks when the Romans used them. Now the Russians are employing them in Crimea. Putin is nothing if not a historian.”

… so I had that in my email and was poking around Cornell’s site to see if there was something with a bit more detail. Then I came across this:

Barry Strauss, an expert on international relations, author of 11 books on military history and professor of History at Cornell University, highlights the deep historic roots for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Ukraine.

Strauss says:

“Putin may be brutal and dictatorial but he is pursuing what he sees as his nation’s interest, that is, to re-establish Russian power in the area of the former Soviet Union, if not beyond.

“He is following the traditional, expansionist Russian policy of Peter the Great. From the peaceful perspective of today’s United States or Western Europe that seems totally out of place, if not mad. Yet it remains to be seen if Putin will pay much of a price for his actions. Until and unless he meets more resistance than he has so far, he is unlikely to stop.”

… I’m curious which spin modern journalists will prefer. Most know the Romans, but Peter the Great, well, he was great …

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Online Delphic Oracle

Greek Reporter tells us:

The ancient Delphic Oracle was the inspiration for a recent application created by the Department of Classical Studies at the University College of London. This application will give the user the chance to have a unique experience. The application is very tempting and attractive as one can ask whatever he wishes online.

Ancient Greek myths claim that Apollo was the founder of the temple of Delphi in Thessaly central Greece, which was dedicated to him. The god spoke through his oracle: the sibyl or priestess of the oracle of Delphi was known as the Pythia. She had to be an older woman with sober life and be of good character and often chosen from among the peasants of the area. According to legend, the Pythia would chew laurel leaves in order to fall into a trance, allowing Apollo to possess her spirit and to receive a prophecy. While in a trance the Pythia was speaking in a wild ecstatic manner and her words were translated by the priests of the temple.

The Delphic oracle played an important role in many political matters. People consulted the Delphic oracle on everything from important matters of public policy to personal affairs. She was consulted before all fundamental state decisions such as wars or establishment of colonies. The oracle was giving prophecies nine times a year, however, she could not be consulted during the winter months, when Apollo would live among the Hyperboreans.

Despite the implications of the above, I’m sure women can consult this oracle as well. Check it out here, where you are limited to yes or no type questions. A request to know whether the Apollo of Gaza was genuine gained the response “The gods are against you, for you have incurred the wrath of Athena.” When asked whether Putin would prevail in Ukraine, the response: “Possibly, but you must beware the Ides of March”. We’ll file those away for retrojective prophecy purposes …

A Typical Classics Student?

A piece in the Globe and Mail, wherein a mature student recounts her experience at the University of Western Ontario, includes inter alia this description of one of her fellow students:

Still, the blond-haired girl in my Classical Studies class makes me feel like an absolute slacker. I watch, drop-jawed and with a twinge of envy, as she effortlessly texts, take notes, checks her Facebook page and shops for incredibly expensive and completely impractical Ugg boots online. “Pay attention!” I want to say. “This course costs $1,200, and those boots are never going to keep your feet warm.” [...]

… except for the shopping part, I wonder how many folks reading this fit that description (or know someone who does); kind of sounds like me in a staff meeting

Classical Ukraine?

As events evolved over the past week in Ukraine and environs, there was an interesting item in BBC’s Magazine Monitor section, which included comments from Dame Averil Cameron and Charlotte Roueche:

In an extraordinary ceremony in Ukraine, potential cabinet members are to be paraded in front of crowds of protesters to seek their approval, it’s been reported. It has strange echoes of Ancient Roman practices, writes Finlo Rohrer.

Apart from the X Factor, it’s hard to think of a modern parallel for the event planned in Independence Square, at the heart of anti-government protests in Ukraine. Candidates for the new cabinet of ministers are to be paraded and – only if approved by the crowds – formally confirmed later.

It has, one assumes, unintentional echoes of the tradition of acclamation in later Roman times and particularly in the Eastern Roman or Byzantine empire. A candidate for the imperial throne would present themselves in front of a crowd of soldiers, or even ordinary people, lap up the adulation, and then go on to overcome their rivals aided by a handy sheen of legitimacy.

“The emperor Constantine was acclaimed by his father’s soldiers in Britain – that didn’t guarantee the role. He then had to battle with several rivals,” says Prof Dame Averil Cameron, of Oxford University.

Then there was regular contact with large crowds who had a chance to voice disapproval. “Among the early Julio-Claudian emperors of Rome, they appeared in the Circus. That is where you met the people. There might be shouts or demonstrations,” says Cameron.

What happened was not necessarily always a reflection of the real will of the people. Even Rome in the republic was not any kind of modern-style democracy. “The Romans got really good at orchestrating it [acceptance by the crowd],” says Byzantinist Prof Charlotte Roueche, of King’s College London. “In Kiev, the main cathedral actually has wall paintings showing activities in the Hippodrome in Constantinople, where the emperors were acclaimed.”

In many societies throughout history it was seen as a mark almost of divine inspiration to have a unanimous shout from a crowd. But even with bribery and cajoling, unanimity isn’t always easy to come by. “If the [Roman or Byzantine] people were feeling grumpy they would shout out that they wanted more bread,” says Roueche.

… and I also remembered an item I had been sitting on for a while. Longtime readers of rogueclassicism might remember one of my posts in which I drew a comparison between a bust in Anthony Quinn’s collection (which had come to auction at Bonham’s: Classic Vlad) and Putin’s visage. A short while ago, Putin was interviewed by assorted journalists and the Telegraph coverage of the event had an interesting intro:

If Julius Caesar had ever granted an interview, the spectacle might have been similar to Vladimir Putin’s audience with Andrew Marr and sundry other journalists in Sochi. Regal, relaxed and chuckling, Mr Putin clearly regarded the whole session as a bit of a joke. He treated his interlocutors with genial contempt – and they were so grateful to be in his presence that they appeared not to notice.

Mr Marr’s “interview” with Mr Putin turned out to be four questions posed alongside various other journalists and then a few minutes one-on-one. Poor Mr Marr behaved like an overawed prefect interviewing his headmaster for the school magazine – and failing to spot how he was being mocked and played with. [...]


… I wonder if we’ll see Putin saying Veni, Vidi, Vici soon …

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OMG!!! Loeb Classical Library Going Digital

This one is making the rounds of various lists and social media … the good news is that you’ll soon be able to walk around with a searchable, shareable version of the Loeb Classical Library on your iPad (and possibly other devices). Here’s the promo video:

More info here: Forthcoming in Fall 2014: The Digital Loeb Classical Library®

The bad news: I don’t see a price anywhere …

Historians Freebies from CQ

Until March 31st, you can access the following articles at Classical Quarterly for free!

    Theodora Suk Fong Jim
    K.L. Katsifarakis and I. Avgoloupis
    Matthew Leigh
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More Ass-Kicking Athletes of Antiquity

Back in July we first mentioned some of the installments of Karl Smallwood’s Ass-Kicking Athletes of Antiquity series (at Man Cave Daily) and there have been a few more over the ensuing months that you might want to check out (keeping in mind the previous warning about potentially-offensive items popping up in the sidebar):

Folks wanting to see some ‘Classical Tradition’ might like:

Papal Prodigies?

Well since the news seems to be exploding with the tale of the raven, the dove, and the gull at the Pope’s place today, it seems like a good time to compare what might have happened a couple millennia ago had the same thing happened. But first, an account of the events in St Peter’s Square. Here’s how the BBC reported things (tip o’ the pileus to Terrence Lockyer for this one … pictures can be found at the link):

Two white doves released by children standing alongside Pope Francis in Vatican City as a peace gesture have been attacked by other birds.

A seagull and a crow swept down on the doves after they were set free from the Apostolic Palace during the Pope’s weekly Angelus prayer.

Tens of thousands of people watched as one dove struggled to break free.

But the crow pecked repeatedly at the other dove. It is not clear what happened to the doves that flew away.

via: Pope’s peace doves attacked by crow and seagull

When looking for precedent from ancient Rome, one naturally turns to Julius Obsequens … In 99 we read of a land law being passed by Sextius Titius — despite his colleague’s objections — at the meeting for which a couple of crows fought so vehemently above that they tore each other with their beaks and talons. In that case, the matter was referred to the augures and the law, which had passed, was overtuned. Here’s the Latin text via the Latin Library (46):

Sex. Titius tribunus plebis de agris dividendis populo cum repugnantibus collegis pertinaciter legem ferret, corvi duo numero in alto volantes ita pugnaverunt supra contionem ut rostris unguibusque lacerarentur. Aruspices sacra Apollini litanda et de lege, quae ferebatur, supersedendum pronuntiarunt.

In a couple of other situations, crows appear as a portent of defeat in the case of Mithridates, it seems. In 88, at Stratopedon, where the Senate was accustomed to meet, some crows killed a vulture of some sort (Latin Library, 56):

Mithridati adversus socios bellum paranti prodigia apparuerunt. Stratopedo, ubi senatus haberi solet, corvi vulturem tundendo rostris occiderunt.

Even earlier, in 133, a crow dropping a piece of roof tile is among the prodigies Tiberius Gracchus ignored on the day he met his demise (a serious toe stubbing too!). Again, from the Latin Library (27a):

Proditum est memoria Tiberium Gracchum, quo die periit, tristia neglexisse omina, cum domi et in Capitolio sacrificanti dira portenderentur, domoque exiens sinistro ad limen offenso pede decusserit pollicem, et corvi fragmentum tegulae ante pedes eius proiecerint ex stillicidio.

Folks who are challenged in the Latin department might want to check the translation of Obsequens that is online, but appears to be a work in progress here.

It’s interesting that there doesn’t seem to be a dove (Palumbus) or seagull (Larus) mentioned in Obsequens. I guess you don’t get omens about peace in the Roman world.

Whatever the case, crows seem to be a not good omen of some sort. Thinking out loud on facebook, I suggested:

one is a seabird and one is a land bird … one is white and so a portent of the gods above, one a portent of the gods below … the seabird apparently annoying but unsuccessful, ditto the land bird … plenty of spins and potential expiations. … or if the doves did escape, merely a portent and no need of expiation.

Having consulted Obsequens, the crows seem to portend something dire, but don’t really seem to require expiation … a Roman would see this as a warning of some sort. Sadly, like the Romans, we won’t be able to match it up to an event until the event happens of course. Then we can do some retrojecting!

UPDATE (the next day): other Classics types are approaching the question from different angles see now:

Seen in Passing: Latino Latin?

One of my fave comedians — Paul Rodriguez — seems to put the Latin in Latino every now and then:

Paul Rodriguez, a Latino comedy pioneer, is trying something new. He’ll count down to 2014 in Latin.

“Just to see how smart people are,” he said with a mischievous laugh. [...]

Latin on the Rise in the UK

Latin always seems to be on the rise, and yet there are still contrary opinions about its utility … from Skynews:

A growing number of children as young as seven are learning Latin in a move to improve their literacy and understanding of ancient civilisations.

Existing teachers are being trained to take the lessons with funding from the charity Classics for All , and a group of 20 schools in Norfolk is showing what can be achieved.

Project co-ordinator Jane Maguire said: “It gives them the ability to understand sometimes quite hard words in English and to interpret them through their knowledge of Latin.

“It gives them an understanding of the grammatical structure of a language which helps them when they come to learn a modern language and it opens up the whole legacy of the Roman empire which is all around us.”

Her view is shared by the Department for Education. All seven-year-olds will learn a language from September with Latin and ancient Greek included as options.

Antingham and Southrepps Primary is a tiny, rural primary school in Norfolk where Year 4 pupils have had the chance to dress up as Romans and act out the tale of an ancient birthday party in Latin.

Emma, aged nine, said: “I think it’s helping us because it’s nice to learn that lots of our words come from Latin.”

And eight-year-old Emily says she can imagine continuing with the subject at secondary school. “It’s fun!” she said.

Down the road at North Walsham High, pupils of all ages are learning the subject.

Rachel, aged 13, thinks it could help with her career. “I want to be veterinary nurse when I’m older and some of the medicines are in Latin so I wanted to try it out.”

And Michael, 12, said to start with he was not keen “but I’m doing good in it now and I like it”.

But teacher and author Francis Gilbert believes it is a waste of time.

Mr Gilbert said: “It is not a living language, it’s a dead language. You can’t go to ancient Rome and to speak it as you can with Spanish or German.

“The vast majority of children find it completely removed from their lives … not relevant to who they are. It’s very, very difficult to present it in an energetic and enthusiastic way.”

The Mayor of London disagrees. Boris Johnson recently pledged a quarter of a million pounds so that children in the most deprived parts of the capital could learn Latin.

In the past two years, the number of pupils taking Latin GCSE has risen by 9%.

But up to 70 classics teachers retire each year while only 25 emerge from university ready to replace them.

Classics for All is trying to bridge that gap and more grants are available to give teachers the skills they need to teach it.

The biggest challenge for many schools may be fitting another subject into their already busy timetables.

Just a note in passing to Mr Gilbert: the “vast majority” of schoolchildren find EVERYTHING we teach “completely removed” and “not relevant” to their lives. That’s a feature of education in general, although I question the sweeping “vast majority”. That said, suggesting that something “[is] very, very difficult to present it in an energetic and enthusiastic way” perhaps says something about Mr Gilbert’s teaching abilities than the teachability of Latin, (it *is* rather easier to get hormone charged kiddies interested in Romeo and Juliet than perhaps Caesar … but howzabout Ovid?). Gilbert, by the way, writes frequently on matters educational in the Guardian … he seems to be generally against ‘the system’ and much that actually challenges students. He also uses the word “I” an awful lot.

What Have the Greeks Ever Done For Us? Christmas Edition

Hopefully you’ve already read the Roman side of Christmas (see the previous post), which has some scholarship behind it … the Greek side, however, strikes me as a bit wanting and rather rambling. As often, it hails from the Greek Reporter, which seems to let its minimal editing down even more during holiday times:

Christmas is the most important, and perhaps the most treasured, celebration of Christianity filled with joy and love. Every country celebrates with different customs that have deep roots within history and tradition. We can find a variety of similarities in the commemoration of the birth of Christ and Dionysus between ancient and contemporary Greece. If we look at the ancient Greek history and the traditions within, we will see that some of our customs have their roots in ancient Greece.

In December, the Ancient Greeks celebrated the birth of Dionysus, calling him “Savior” and divine “infant.” According to Greek mythology, his mother was a mortal woman, Semele, and his father was Zeus, the king of the Gods. The priest of Dionysus held a pastoral staff as did the Good Shepherd. On December 30, ancient Greeks commemorated his rebirth.

The most well-known custom throughout the Christian world are the Christmas carols that have roots deriving from ancient Greece. Specifically, Homer — during his stay on the island of Samos, along with a group of children — composed the carols. In ancient Greece, carols symbolized joy, wealth and peace, and the children sang the carols only in the homes of the rich. Children would go from house to house, holding an olive or a laurel branch adorned with wool (a symbol of health and beauty) and different kinds of fruits. The children brought the olive branch to their homes and hung it on the doors where it remained for the rest of the year.

The Christmas tree appeared for the first time in Germany at the end of the 16th century. It became globally known in the 19th century. In our religion, the Christmas tree symbolizes the rejoicing of the birth of Jesus Christ. The tree was adorned first with fruits and later with clothes and other household objects. Ancient Greeks also used to decorate the ancient temples with trees, symbolizing the divine gift offering. The Christmas tree tradition made its way to Greece in 1833, when the Bavarians decorated the palace of King Otto.

Santa Claus, who travels around the world on Christmas Eve delivering gifts in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, is another impressive similarity. A similar tradition also existed during the celebration of Dionysus in ancient Greece who resembled light. Then, the chariot transformed into a sleigh and horses transformed into reindeer.

The New Year’s cake is also the evolution of an ancient Greek custom. Our ancestors used to offer Gods the “festive bread” during the rural festivals, like the Thalysia or the Thesmophoria.

In an interesting bit of synchronicity, if it can be called that, the original article tries to make a visual connection between Phaethon/Apollo flying in a chariot and Santa with his reindeer. I think my efforts from a decade ago — recalled by Dorothy Lobel King earlier today: A Rogue Classicism Christmas ..(thanks for the plug!) — is rather more convincing and probably has more scholarship behind it (maybe not). So often the historical/hysterical material in Greek Reporter seems to be cutting room floor items from My Big Fat Greek Wedding:

What Have the Romans Ever Done For Us? Christmas Edition

Nice little feature on Classical elements in Christmas … according to Matthew Nicholls at Reading (so it’s got a scholar behind it!) … via the University of Reading:

When opening your presents or enjoying a night out this Christmas spare a quick thought for the Romans. We owe much of our festive fun to them.

The Romans celebrated the winter festival of Sigillaria on 23rd of December, part of their Saturnalia¹ festivities. Just like on Christmas Day, Sigillaria saw presents exchanged. So how does Sigillaria compare to a modern day Christmas? And can we say that the Roman’s invented Christmas?

Dr Matthew Nicholls, a senior lecturer of classics at the University of Reading, has explored the work of Martial² and Seneca, writers of the time, and found striking similarities including gifts of ugly but warm ‘jumpers’, ‘Kindlesque’ portable storage for books and even a Roman bah-humbug!

Dr Nicholls is the creator of Virtual Rome, an ambitious digital model of the entire ancient city of Rome.

That’s just what I always wanted

“The poet Martial’s work indicates that gift recipients would have faced similar ‘reaction’ issues to our own. Quality of presents varied enormously. The traditional present for the Saturnalia was some nuts – not unlike old fashioned handful of walnuts in a Christmas stocking. Martial mentions ‘gifts given and received’ some of which sound rather familiar.

“Fish-sauce, jars of honey, bottles of wine, toothpicks, a pencil case, perfume, a flask encased in wicker-work and clothing – even an item that sounds like an ugly but warm Christmas sweater…a ‘shaggy nursling of a weaver on the Seine, a barbarian garment … a thing uncouth but not to be despised in cold December … that searching cold may not pass into your limbs … you will laugh at rain and winds, clothed in this gift’. (Ep. 4.19)

The Roman Kindle that could store the entire Iliad

“Many of us will be hoping for or a Kindle or similar come Christmas Day. Well carrying large amounts of literature was also an issue for the Romans. A scholar would have wished for a Kindle equivalent…which was available!

“Roman books were traditionally scrolls of papyrus – fragile, bulky, and not very practical for travellers. Martial sings the praises of a novel form of book, the sewn-leaf codex, made of tough parchment (ancestor of all of today’s books), and ideal for someone who wants to carry a lot of literature around in a small volume.

“He boasts that a single codex can hold the entire Iliad and Odyssey of Homer, or the whole of Livy’s multi-volume history ‘which my whole library does not contain’. These Roman ‘Kindles’ were ideal for taking on journeys -‘this parchment shall be your travelling companion. Imagine you are taking a journey with Cicero because they are light, tough, and pack a lot in’.”

It was still the thought that counted

“It’s warming to hear that the festive spirit was alive 2000 years ago. Martial tells us that the quality of a friendship can’t be measured by the value of the gifts, and even tells recipients of his cheap presents that he’s been ‘mean’ to save them the expense of buying something expensive in return (Ep. 5.59: ‘people who give much, want to receive much in return’). Simple presents were a token of friendship.
Party Time

Did the Romans get into the party spirit early too?

“Just like our festive season, it seems that the whole of Rome geared up early for Sigillaria. Seneca noted: ‘It is now the month of December, when the greatest part of the city is in a bustle. Loose reins are given to public dissipation; everywhere you may hear the sound of great preparations’. (Ep. 18.1).”

What tipple might they have enjoyed on the 23rd?

“There was no ‘set’ seasonal beverage. Wine was very much to the fore. Martial tells of ‘raisin wine, wine flavoured with pitch, honeyed wine, a not very good wine for serving to one’s freedmen. Even a special wine for loosening the bowels’…”

A Roman Scrooge….

“Of course not everyone embraced the Christmas sprit. As today, some people found it all a bit too bit much. The elder Pliny, the bah-humbug of his time, even had a special set of rooms in his house he could retreat to in order to hide from the festivities! (Ep.2.17.24).

And did the Romans invent Christmas?

“The works of Martial and his contemporaries tell us that Roman festive celebrations were in some ways not that different to what we enjoy today. Indeed many of those traditions can be traced back to that period. We know that during the conversion to Christianity the Romans weren’t keen to end the fun and tradition enjoyed during their annual pagan festival, so traces of Saturnalia celebration may survive in the Christian celebration of Christmas – and many cultures celebrate a winter festival at this darkest, coldest time of the year.

“It’s hard to say definitively who invented Christmas but how about raising a glass to the Romans this year. We can be sure our Christmases would be very different if it wasn’t for them.”

Perhaps more interesting for us cynical types, the article has a “notes to editors” section after it explaining some of those names and big words …

Post-Ford Classical Toronto?

The Toronto Star has an interview with Norm Kelly, the deputy mayor of Toronto who has basically inherited most of Rob Ford’s powers  (I’m assuming I don’t have to explain Toronto’s mayor to the world, judging from talk from various folks) after Toronto City Council basically stripped the latter thereof. Inter alia:


You have become known, or are becoming known, for your historical analogies.


You’ve made the Rome analogy — the two consuls. Is there a historical figure that, in this role, you see yourself as like, in some way?

Nooo. But: maybe yes, in a small way. If I could meet Alexander the Great — did you see the movie Alexander?


Oh. Have you read much about him?


Well, here he is. About five-foot-four, blond hair, one eye blue, one eye brown, a fearless warrior. I mean, he led his army into battle. Brilliant strategist. He loved fighting. But at the same time, he carried The Iliad with him — it was under his pillow when he slept at night. And he was a very thoughtful guy. He thought about things. I think one of the reasons he may have been bumped off by the Macedonian generals is that he began to think of a culture in the Middle East that was Hellenic, a blend of Hellenic and Eastern cultures. And a lot of historians have analyzed that period. And so I’d love to see life through his eyes.

The other one is Octavius. Augustus. Do you know much about him?

I don’t.

Everyone knows Julie. Big Julie. Julius Caesar. The republic is in decline; the leading politicians have personal armies and they’re beating the crap out of each other; thousands of lives are being lost. Areas devastated.

Caesar, obviously, people thought was reaching for the crown, or for a power that would pull everything together and end the republic. Octavius, his nephew, outsmarts Antony and all the other high-profile guys, and he establishes the empire — except he did it in the guise of the republic. He knew how to work with people; the only title he held was princeps, prince. And you know what that means? First speaker. And so he just stood in the Senate and said “Geez, I’m just like you guys, and I don’t have any — yeah, I speak first, but what the heck.” So just to get his understanding of what motivates people and how you react to them.

I think those two guys — one with flair and a dramatic sense of life and zeal, and the other guy cautious. [...]

For the two consuls ref:


The experienced politician — who has said determining the property tax increase is one of his top priorities — again assumed a diplomatic tone on Thursday, when asked about working with Ford on the budget.

“The Romans built the most successful empire, one of the biggest empires in history, under the leadership of two consuls occupying the same seat,” he said. “If they can make it work, then we should be able to do it.”


FWIW … worth noting the rare Classical references in a Canadian context. They don’t happen often …

Peter O’Tombarolo?

I’m sure many readers of rogueclassicism were saddened to read of the death of Peter O’Toole this past weekend, especially considering how many ‘classical’ roles he played. Indeed, I was one of many folks on Twitter retweeting obits and the like … all of which makes the following somewhat disturbing/uncomfortable. The Guardian has a thing wherein Malcolm McDowell (of Caligula fame, natch) is reminiscing about his experiences with O’Toole on the set. Inter alia we read:

I do recall one particular night shoot… We were called to the set at four o’clock in the afternoon. As usual, nothing was ready. They’d built a set of Tiberius’s grotto, on three acres, and were assembling all of the extras and background. The producers worriedly asked if I would go into Peter’s trailer (he was playing Tiberius) and go through the lines with him, which we did few times.

And then he told me the most remarkable story – whether it is true or not I have no idea – about his grave-robbing Etruscan tombs. He said the best way to find Etruscan jewellery and artefacts was to find the drains in the tombs, and very gingerly sift through them with your fingers because, as the bodies decompose, all of the artifacts deposit themselves into the channels. The thought of Peter O’Toole on his hands and knees in an Etruscan catacomb makes for a lovely image. [...]

A lovely image? It gets a bit more sinister … Sian Philips’ Public Places: My Life in the Theater, with Peter O’Toole and Beyond, which is available at Google Books. Check this excerpt (from Chapter 20) out:

otoole1 copy

Is this something that Classicists were aware of? Should someone be looking into these Etruscan-associated activities?

A New Metrologist: Odysseus

An interesting citation project discovers, inter alia, the work of a hitherto unknown metrologist. Froma CORDIS press release:

A research conducted at the Department of Classical and Romanic Philology has led to the creation of a pioneering database of bibliographical citations on authors of Ancient Greece and Rome, whose works, in many cases, have not survived in full until our days. The work of the team led by Professor Lucía Rodríguez-Noriega Guillén has conducted to, for example, the discovery of previously-unknown authors, such as Odysseus, a metrologist that offers the definition of “verse”, and whose existence and contributions had not been documented until now.

This is the first research that seeks to thoroughly analyze all the citations (whether literal or not) of an ample scholarly corpus, highlighting the special value of the literary tradition of the Late Antiquity. The references to other authors and their works (in literal or free citations, imitations, testimonies, etc.) detected in the 28 writers that compose the full cast of grammarians, rhetoricians and sophists of the 3rd and 4th Centuries, make up this open database. The exahustive analysis of these materials will help to better know not only the works of the authors who are being studied, but also the contributions and the impact that the contributions of other authors had, and whose legacy has not been directly preserved until today.

The new technologies have allowed that those materials are offered freely to experts from all around the world in a website that is updated as new milestones are achieved in the project. The innovative nature of the initiative and its strategical value as a source for consultations make the portal, inaugurate last October, a future reference for the international experts on this field.

The selection of authors and period is not an accident. “Grammarians, rhetoricians and sophists are writers who very frequently quote others, especially as a model or example, and that is why, in their works, there is an abundance of testimonies and fragments from past philosopher’s, poets, grammarians, orators, historians…”, explains Lucía Rodríguez-Noriega Guillén. On the other hand, the Greek authors of the 3rd and 4th Centuries BCE are specially valuable to recover the works of their unknown predecessors, since the popularization, starting on the 4th Century CE, of the book as we know it today, substituting papyrus rolls, was a critical moment that led to the loss of a sizable portion of Greek and Roman literature, since it was not copied into the new format. These authors, however, were still able to access many works that would, eventually, disappear.

The research project titled “La tradición literaria griega en los ss. III-IV d.C. gramáticos, rétores y sofistas como fuentes de la literatura greco-latina“, funded by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, aims at documenting the indirect transmission of the works of classical authors cited by others in the aforementioned corpus of scholars. The researchers from the University of Oviedo started their labor by thoroughly analyzing the works of the selected authors. “We extract absolutely every single reference to works or authors, regardless of the type of citation they are found in, and whether their authorship is explicitly stated or not. From there, we compose a file for each one of this citations, tracing its history from the original author to the late Byzantine period”, explains the main researcher of the project.

This task of thorough analysis creates a network of relations between authors and expands the information on those who are less known for the general public. The dedicated working of tracing each citation to find its origin and presence throughout history leads to, for example, knowing that Homer is the most cited author, and to be precise, his work The Illiad. “Homer would be the “trending topic” of the moment”, explains Lucía Rodríguez-Noriega, establishing a comparison with today. In the case of philosophers, the two most cited ones are Plato and Aristotle, in that order.

The researchers from the University of Oviedo work in collaboration with Philologists of the University of Zaragoza, who conduct their own coordinated project on Los gramáticos latinos tardíos como fuente para el conocimiento de la tradición gramatical greco-latina. The project also has the collaboration of researchers from the University of the Basque Country. [...]

Also Seen: JFK as Greek Hero?

Over at the New Yorker, Daniel Mendelsohn has penned a piece comparing JFK (and family) to various Greek heroes … here’s a bit from the middle, the ideas of which have probably crossed your mind every now and then:


The family-curse theme, especially, is one we like to invoke in thinking about the Kennedys. The motif is nowhere stronger than in the “Oresteia” itself, the text that Robert Kennedy quoted that April evening forty-five years ago. When the Chorus speaks of suffering and pain, it looks as if they’re referring to current events: the queen Clytemnestra’s plot to murder her husband, Agamemnon, in revenge for his decision to sacrifice their virgin daughter Iphigenia to win from the gods favorable winds for his fleet to sail to Troy. But this act, it turns out, is merely a grim continuation of a cycle of carnage that goes back generations, as the Chorus knows only too well: to Agamemnon’s father, Atreus, who murdered his brother’s children; to Atreus’s father, Pelops, who won his bride by violence and betrayal, and was cursed by the man he betrayed; to Pelops’ father, Tantalus, a king so favored by the gods that he used to dine with them, until he murdered his own son and fed his flesh to his divine hosts to test whether they were, in fact, all-knowing.

In many tragedies—certainly in the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles—the gods are indeed all-knowing, are pulling the strings unbeknownst to the mortals whose lives they control: works like the “Oresteia” or the “Oedipus” (whose hero learns, to his horror, that he cannot escape the “plot” the gods have written for him) seem to confirm an invisible but palpable order in things. We, too, often seek to discern a kind of order—to find a plot—in the hodgepodge of events we call history. When people talk about the harrowing catalogue of sorrow and violent death in the Kennedy family—not only the uncannily twinned assassinations but the wartime mid-air explosion that killed J.F.K.’s older brother, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.; the two airplane crashes, his sister Kathleen and his son, J.F.K., Jr.; the lobotomy and institutionalization of a sister; Chappaquiddick; the murder scandal involving a nephew of Ethel Kennedy; the drug addictions and early deaths of some of R.F.K.’s children—they often mention, in the same breath, the alleged crimes of the family patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy. (The bootlegging, the election-fixing, the Mob connections, Gloria Swanson.) In referring to a “Kennedy Curse,” they are, essentially, thinking “tragically”: thinking the way Aeschylus thought, assuming that there is a dark pattern in the way things happen, a connection between the sins of the fathers and the sufferings of the children and their children afterward.