[interesting antefix from Cerveteri]
[interesting antefix from Cerveteri]
So as is my wont, yesterday, prior to setting off for my nightly appointment with Morpheus, I sort assorted email items to post at rogueclassicism and/or my explorator newsletter. One of those items was a piece at the BBC by Oxford Classicist Armand D’Angour, whom we have mentioned several times at rogueclassicism. Dr D’Angour penned a nice little piece commenting on the veracity of assorted Greek legends: How many Greek legends were really true? It is a well-written piece, with nothing which a Classicist would take umbrage at. Imagine my surprise, however, when I woke up to an item from the Greek Reporter, which oddly seems to have seen Dr Armand’s piece as an attack on Greek Culture: BBC Attempts to Rewrite Ancient Greek History!
As longtime readers of rogueclassicism know, I have often criticized Greek Reporter for ‘losing things in translation’ or not reporting things as clearly as a news source should. In this case, however, Greek Reporter has not only ‘missed the boat’ … they didn’t even make it to the pier, washed away in a wave of false inferences and insinuations. Even worse, Greek Reporter doesn’t even provide the name of the author of the piece. Sadly, however, it is clear that Dr D’Angour is now being excoriated online (at Twitter) by the trolls who suck at the teat of Greek Reporter. E.g.:
So let’s begin with Dr D’Angour’s opening paragraph:
The culture and legends of ancient Greece have a remarkably long legacy in the modern language of education, politics, philosophy, art and science. Classical references from thousands of years ago continue to appear. But what was the origin of some of these ideas?
… and this is how Greek Reporter appears to have interpreted it and/or decided to spin it:
BBC published a not so flattering article regarding ancient Greek legends. The article’s author, Armand d’Angour, associate professor of classics at the University of Oxford, raises a series of questions and attempts to clarify if all of the ancient Greek legends are actually true or if they are myths, a figment of Greeks’ colorful imagination. The article seems as an unsuccessful attempt to devalue the significance of Greek culture and the contribution of ancient Greeks to modern civilization.
Wow … from dealing with ‘legends’, you get that? Moving on, Dr D’Angour deals first with the question of the veracity of the Trojan Horse:
The story of the Trojan Horse is first mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, an epic song committed to writing around 750BC, describing the aftermath of a war at Troy that purportedly took place around 500 years earlier.
After besieging Troy (modern-day Hisarlik in Turkey) for 10 years without success, the Greek army encamped outside the city walls made as if to sail home, leaving behind them a giant wooden horse as an offering to the goddess Athena.
The Trojans triumphantly dragged the horse within Troy, and when night fell the Greek warriors concealed inside it climbed out and destroyed the city. Archaeological evidence shows that Troy was indeed burned down; but the wooden horse is an imaginative fable, perhaps inspired by the way ancient siege-engines were clothed with damp horse-hides to stop them being set alight by fire-arrows.
… personally, I had never heard of the “damp horse-hide” interpretation, but it is interesting and not really offensive as far as I can tell. Greek Reporter, however has this:
According to the writer, even though archaeologists have proven that Troy was indeed burnt down, there is no significant evidence regarding the existence of the wooden horse that Greeks used to hide and pass the city gates. It was probably an “imaginative fable, perhaps inspired by the way ancient siege-engines were clothed with damp horse-hides to stop them being set alight by fire arrows.”
It is perhaps ironic that one has to use a Latin phrase to describe the Greek Reporter‘s fallacy here, but obviously it’s a non sequitur to infer that because there’s evidence of Troy being burned at some point, that the Trojan Horse part must be literally true. But it gets worse. The next question to be dealt with is whether Homer actually existed. Dr D’Angour presents an answer which will be familiar to anyone who has taken a first year Classical Civilization course (and plenty who haven’t):
Not only is the Trojan Horse a colourful fiction, the existence of Homer himself has sometimes been doubted. It’s generally supposed that the great epics which go under Homer’s name, the Iliad and Odyssey, were composed orally, without the aid of writing, some time in the 8th Century BC, the fruit of a tradition of oral minstrels stretching back for centuries.
While the ancients had no doubt that Homer was a real bard who composed the monumental epics, nothing certain is known about him. All we do know is that, even if the poems were composed without writing and orally transmitted, at some stage they were written down in Greek, because that is how they have survived.
Greek Reporter‘s response:
The article claims that Homer may in fact have never existed. His greatest works, Iliad and Odyssey were both composed orally under his name, but even though ancient Greeks were certain that he was the one who recited them, there is no actual way of knowing if that was the case.
Again, we are to infer that Greeks should be raising their ire at this. And yet, we probably should note that Greek Reporter pretty much said the same thing about Homer just a few months ago (10 of the Most Significant Writers of Ancient Greece:
He is mainly known for Iliad and Odyssey, the most famous epic poems. The Iliad is the oldest work of western literature. In ancient Greece, people considered themselves uneducated if they had not read both the Iliad and the Odyssey. What is odd is that there is no knowledge of Homer’s life to such an extent that historians dispute his existence.
Skipping something on the alphabet (which Greek Reporter also skipped), we proceed to the question of the Pythagorean theorem … Dr D’Angour:
It is doubtful whether Pythagoras (c. 570-495BC) was really a mathematician as we understand the word. Schoolchildren still learn his so-called theorem about the square on the hypotenuse (a2+b2 =c2). But the Babylonians knew this equation centuries earlier, and there is no evidence that Pythagoras either discovered or proved it.
In fact, although genuine mathematical investigations were undertaken by later Pythagoreans, the evidence suggests that Pythagoras was a mystic who believed that numbers underlie everything. He worked out, for instance, that perfect musical intervals could be expressed by simple ratios.
… and Greek Reporter:
Even though schoolchildren around the world are taught the Pythagorean theorem during math class, d’Angour believes that the Babylonians had been using the theorem for centuries before Pythagoras even mentioned it.
The logic — if it can be called that — in that one is mind-boggling, and once again, we should point out that a couple of months ago, in a piece entitled Pythagoras: A Mysterious Personality, Religion and the Infamous Theorem, we read:
His mysterious personality was noticeable during his teaching; no notes and questions were allowed, that is why a great part of his works are lost. There is no additional information even on the renowned Pythagorean Theorem.
It is also not known if Pythagoras invented this theorem on his own or with the help of his students. The simple phrase saying that “the square of the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides” was proven right before the Babylonians.
Skipping a few more (as does Greek Reporter) Dr D’Angour deals with the question of whether Alexander really was ‘great’. His brief assessment:
According to ancient sources, however, he was physically unprepossessing. Short and stocky, he was a hard drinker with a ruddy complexion, a rasping voice, and an impulsive temper which on one occasion led him to kill his companion Cleitus in a violent rage.
Alexander the Great
As his years progressed he became paranoid and megalomaniacal. However, in 10 short years from the age of 20 he forged a vast empire stretching from Egypt to India. Never defeated in battle, he made use of innovative siege engines every bit as as effective as the fabled Trojan Horse, and founded 20 cities that bore his name, including Alexandria in Egypt.
His military success was little short of miraculous, and in the eyes of an ancient world devoted to warfare and conquest it was only right to accord him the title of “Great”.
Greek Reporter ends their piece with:
Alexander may have been given the title “Great” but according to the article his character was far from that. In fact, the Oxford professor claims that he was a heavy drinker, a megalomaniac, paranoid, short man with a “rasping voice and impulsive temper” which even led him to kill one of his closest associates, Cleitus.
To which we can only say: So what?
Seriously, Greek Reporter? There is NOTHING in Dr D’Angour’s piece which should cause Greeks to take umbrage. Indeed, they should be grateful to Dr D’Angour and every Classicist who goes out of his or her regular academic duties to pen things in the popular press which are essentially promoting the study of the culture you claim is being disparaged. Until such time as you realize that we’re all on the same side, you’ll be continued to be dismissed as a feeder of trolls rather than a responsible promoter of a proud Greek heritage.
Something that has popped up on a semi-regular basis (usually in the context of one of golf’s majors) is a claim that golf can be traced back to the Romans. Most recently it’s popped up at the News.Az site in an article that begins:
Some historians trace the sport back to the Roman game of paganica, in which participants used a bent stick to hit a stuffed leather ball. One theory asserts that paganica spread throughout Europe as the Romans conquered most of the continent, during the first century BC, and eventually evolved into the modern game. [...]
This link to ‘paganica’ is popular on a pile of sites, all apparently deriving (it seems) from an entry in Encyclopedia Britannica. A little digging and one finds the rather tenuous base on which the claim is made. In an aged tome called Gallus: or, Roman scenes in the time of Augustus, we get a nice summary of what is known about paganica in a section on Roman ball games (I don’t think our knowledge on it has advanced in a century and a half). Here’s the text version (I think I caught all the OCR typos; a link to the original follows):
Roman authors mention numerous varieties of the game of ball, as pila simply, follis or folliculus, trigon, paganica, harpastum, sparsiva, in addition to which we have the expressions, datatim, expulsim, raptim ludere; geminare, revocare, reddere pilam. But it seems that we can only admit of three different kinds of ball; pila, in the more confined sense, the small regular ball, which however might be harder, or more elastic, for different kinds of play; follis, the great ballon, as the name indicates, merely filled with air (like our foot-ball) and paganica. Concerning the use of the last we have the least information; Martial mentions it only in two passages, vii. 32:
Non pila, non follis, non te paganica thermis
Praeparat, aut nudi stipitis ictus hebes.
and xiv. 45:
Haec quae difficili turget paganica pluma,
Folle minus laxa est, et minus arta pila.
As the paganica is opposed in both places to the follis and the pila, and no fourth kind is mentioned in addition to them, we must suppose that one or other of these three balls was used in all varieties of the game. The words paganica, folle minus laxa, minus arta pila, are incorrectly explained by Rader and Mercurialis, as applying to the contents of the ball. The use of both adjectives leaves no doubt that the size of the ball is spoken of, and in this respect it stood between the follis and pila. No doubt it also so far differed from the former, that it was stuffed with feathers, and was consequently somewhat heavier; this is all that we know about it. The poet gives no hint concerning the origin of the name, nor about the game for which it was used. On an intaglio in Beger, (Thes. Brand. 139), a naked male figure sits holding in each hand a ball, supposed to be the paganica, because apparently too small for the follis, and too large for the pila, for they are not clasped within the hand. But this is evidently a very insecure argument, and, as regards the game, nothing would follow from it.
… so it seems likely that the golf connection was solely made on the basis of balls filled with feathers (as were early golf balls); no mention of a ‘club’ really, so, as often, a likely spurious connection.
A press release from the DFW Elite Toy Museum begins:
The original Cleopatra was so beautiful that two Roman generals competed for her affections before Christ was born. In 1623, Shakespeare retold the tale of her ill-fated love affair with Mark Anthony and dramatic suicide. Egypt’s most famous queen still captivated the public in 1885 when a British company manufactured a life-size Cleopatra automaton to draw throngs to a London wax museum.
Recently acquired, the “Death of Cleopatra” automaton will be the centerpiece of DFW Elite Toy Museum’s new Oddities, Antiquities and Rarities exhibit that will run July 15 to February 28, 2015.
“The automaton depicts a slowly breathing, bare-breasted Cleopatra expiring from the bite of an asp as other asps writhe at her ankles,” said DFW Elite Toy Museum Curator Rodney Ross. [...]
The subject matter seems to have been popular; here’s a Youtube video of another one:
Not sure how many rogueclassicism readers frequent the Reddit site (the front page of the internet), but one of its more interesting features come in the form of a couple of subreddits called AMA (which is actually an abbreviation for “Ask me anything”) and IAMA (which has subjects that start with “I am a” but also have the “ask me anything” aspect). While most of the people who take part in the AMA side are regular folks with an interesting story (e.g. as of this writing there’s one by someone who has a meth-addicted mother, another who has survived a tornado, etc.), celebrities and others frequently schedule IAMAs for promotional and/or other purposes. I can’t recall ever seeing an ancient history type do one, so when I received an email from Princeton University Press’s Jessica Pellien about Eric Cline, I couldn’t get to the keyboard fast enough! Here’s the salient bit of her email:
As you may, or may not know, the book 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric Cline has been a sleeper best-selling book (kindle, print, and audio) for Princeton University Press this spring. We had a fantastic early review from Adam Gopnik on The New Yorker web site and ever since have been reprinting to keep pace with demand.
Eric has scheduled a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) on May 22nd at 8 PM and I thought you might enjoy following along or wish to alert friends, colleagues, and readers to the event. This is a chance for Eric to answer questions related to the book and the collapse of the Bronze Age, life as an archaeologist, his dig at Meggido, or anything else that comes up. I hope you will help us spread the word about the AMA session and will consider joining the fun with your own question or two.
If you want to participate with questions, you’ll have to set up a reddit login and password, but if you just want to follow along, you should be able to do that. Here’s where you should be on May 22 at 8:00 p.m. (Eastern):
As some folks are no doubt aware, last week was Star Wars Day (May the Fourth Be With You!) and it was celebrated around the world, including Rome. In the latter case, there was much going on in front of the Colosseum, and assorted Siths seem to have been very much at home in that environment. Here are some links with photos, many of which you will probably right click …
… and I have to include my fave photo, included in a number of the collections (click for a larger version):
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government plans to turn Istanbul’s Hagia Sofia Basilica into a mosque in the afternoon and evening and a museum in the morning. The historical monument, which draws millions of tourists every year, will have the Byzantine frescoes covering its walls cast into shadow by ‘dark light’ so as to avoid offending Islam.The government would thus like to turn what is today seen as a symbol of Christianity back into a place of worship for Muslims, as it was after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Confirmation of the plan came on Thursday from the Turkish pro-government daily Yeni Safak, after press leaks last week in Radikal reported the prime minister’s intention to pray in the Byzantine basilica prior to the August presidential elections, possibly as early as May 29. The date is a highly symbolic one, as it marks the 561st anniversary of the fall of Constantinople into the hands of the Ottomans. A few days later the basilica became a mosque on the orders of Mehmet II the Conqueror ad remained so until 1934, when on the decision of the father of the modern Turkish ‘secular Republic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk it was made into a museum. A campaign to turn the Hagia Sofia back into a mosque has been brewing for quite some time in the country, raising alarm among Christian communities in the east. Over the past few months appeals have been made by Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc and the imam of the Sultanhamet mosque, Mustafa Akgul.The threat to reopen Hagia Sofia to Muslim worship has already led to heated criticism from Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I and the Greek government. The head of the Eastern Orthodox Church warned that ”we and all other Christians will oppose it”. Athens has called it an ”insult to the religious sensibilities of millions of Christians”. Radikal reports that the risk of a strong reaction from the West is what has prevented the Turkish prime minister from going ahead with the plan thus far, as his image at the international level has already suffered quite a few blows.Nevertheless, an Islamic-leaning MP recently submitted a formal motion in the parliament to make Hagia Sofia into a mosque.
… I’m sure folks will forgive me for raising a skeptical eyebrow at the “cast into shadow by ‘dark light'” thing, but we’ll see if this turns out to be a workable compromise.
From the Daily Northwestern:
Late at night on the Lakefill, Northwestern students will experience a different kind of Greek life as they conduct a marathon reading of “The Iliad” from May 23 to 24.
Participants will read Homer’s famous epic about the end of the Trojan War beginning at 10 p.m. on May 23 and continuing until dawn the next day.
The Department of Classics, which is hosting the event, received funding in the fall from the Alumnae of Northwestern University, a volunteer organization, to bring to NU a production of “Socrates Now,” an interpretation of Plato’s “Apology of Socrates,” featuring Emmy-winning actor Yannis Simonides.
Francesca Tataranni, a professor of classics, said the idea for “The Iliad” reading was inspired by a group called The Readers of Homer, which performs marathon readings of “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” all over the world.
Weinberg senior Maria Kovalchuk, co-president of the NU chapter of Eta Sigma Phi, a classics honor society, said those organizing the event wanted to mimic the epic poem’s original presentation.
“Greek epic poetry was sung by a bard often over the course of a few nights, and people would come to these recitals to be entertained,” Kovalchuk said. “Here at Northwestern, we’re trying to recreate this ancient Greek experience. I think it’s going to be a humanizing and educational event for Northwestern.”
Weinberg senior Brian Earl, also a co-president of Eta Sigma Phi, said he and other members worked on editing “The Iliad” down to fit in the allotted time.
“The whole thing takes about 24 hours to read if you do it uncut, so we’re going to do about a third of it,” Earl said.
Earl said he hasn’t studied the Iliad, but is familiar with the story as a criticism of war.
“It’s just about actually a very short period in the Trojan War — it takes place over a couple of weeks in the whole ten-year war,” he said. “’The Iliad’ has been called the greatest peace story of all time because it shows war how it really is — very bloody, grim, somber, heart-wrenching, terrible.”
Tataranni said as of now, she has received more than 60 requests to read passages from the text. Readings will be 50 to 100 lines long, and some readers will be responsible for multiple readings, Earl said. Students can sign up to read by sending an email expressing interest to Tataranni by April 30.
“We have people from the School of Communication, people from Weinberg, people from Medill,” Tataranni said. “The 60 people who contacted me are really from everywhere on campus.”
The group also organized an opening event which will be held in Harris Hall from 6-7:30 p.m. and will be dedicated to translations of “The Iliad,” Tataranni said. During this event, faculty members and students will read parts of the text in multiple languages, including Italian, German and Russian.
However, Tataranni said she is still deciding whether readers can use any language in the main Lakefill reading, because they will not be able to project translations to help people follow along.
Earl said he thought a variety of languages would enhance the experience.
“Because the Iliad is such a universal poem, it’s been translated I think into just about every language,” he said. “It allows people to read in the language that is most comfortable to them or that they feel most at home speaking. We want this experience to be both deeply personal and bringing the community together … and our community is not one language-speaking.”
Katie Hartsock, a fifth-year graduate student in comparative literary studies and assistant director of the reading, said community members don’t have to have knowledge of “The Iliad” to participate.
“Whatever experience you have with ‘The Iliad,’ please come, whether you’ve just heard of it and never read it or if you’ve spent a lot of time reading it,” she said. “Bring blankets and hang out for the night and listen to this poem unfold.”
Hartsock said the outdoor, nighttime locale would add atmosphere to the reading. She added that she hopes the reading will conclude just as the dawn breaks.
“Just as Achilles is wandering the beach at dawn, we’ll be reading those lines,” she said. “I think it’s going to be so awesome when Achilles is walking up and down the beach, and the sun is rising over Lake Michigan.”
via: Classics department to host ‘Iliad’ marathon (The Daily Northwestern)
From the Shorthorn:
Students get the opportunity to recite one of the greatest poems in history at Homerathon, senior in history Erin Lynch said.
The goal of the reading of Homer’s The Odyssey is to celebrate not only the text but where it comes from and what it does, she said.
“It allows us to celebrate the work of Homer along with reinforcing what it would have been like living in an oral culture like this,” Lynch said.
Reciting the poem is something that would have been done years ago, so it’s great to see something like this actually starting up again, she said.
Students were able to sign up to read 59 available parts.
Spanish studies sophomore Daniel Aidan Wright participated for the first time this year.
“I heard about it last year and really wanted to do it. So whenever I saw they were having it again this year, then I signed up for multiple parts,” Wright said.
Students who participated thought it was a cool thing to do and thought it was important to see the way Western literature was, Wright said.
“This is definitely something that I would do again because it’s so interesting,” Wright said.
Audience members also enjoyed the reading, and English graduate student Rod Sachs said he thought it was interesting.
“I think it is a fantastic thing to do and a great way to get classic narrative into the open air,” Sachs said. “I would actually try reading next year.”
It was a great experience seeing students and professors working together on a casual level reciting such a great work, Sachs said.
… not sure the question actually gets answered …
From the not-always-reliable Greek Reporter:
For the past few years the walls and the foundations of the Acropolis have been collapsing due to heavy rainwater flow.
Archaeologists have been aware of the erosion caused to the subsoil of the Acropolis by the rainwater and have already submitted a study to bring the problem to the attention of the Central Archaeological Council of Greece (KAS). Furthermore, once the walls started to collapse the authorities prevented the visitors from ascending to the Acropolis from the theater of Dionysus and the Asclepeion.
The erosion problem derived from the fact that the major monument of Greece doesn’t have an up-to-date drainage system to absorb rainwater. Five out of the six ancient gutters have been blocked for many years now and the drainage system of Acropolis hasn’t been connected that of the city.
The secretary-general of the Ministry of Culture, Lina Mendoni, acknowledging the major impact of this destruction on the image of Greece, has mobilized both the Acropolis Restoration Scientific Committee and the Committee for the Preservation of the Acropolis Monuments to launch a program addressing the collapsing of the Acropolis’ walls. At the same time, the archaeological authorities have launched restoration programs for the already collapsed stones, stressed the KAS.
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
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:
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) …
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. [...]
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:
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:
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.
“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 …
Tip o’ the pileus to Virginia Knight for sending this in:
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 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
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 …
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 …
Until March 31st, you can access the following articles at Classical Quarterly for free!
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:
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.
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: