ICYMI ~ The Classical World in the News ~ January 12-17, 2016

[I’m thinking of making this a regular feature]

The Ancient Greece and Rome section of my Explorator newsletter for this week (full issue available here):

Horse burials from an 8th century necropolis in Athens:


Plenty of evidence found during A1 construction suggests the Romans were in Yorkshire a decade earlier than previously thought:


Remains of a Bronze Age village near Aquileia:


Nice feature on some Greek pots at Yale:


Bice Peruzzi is studying burial practices in Central Apulia:


That Bodicacia inscription is now in the Corinium Museum:


Studying/recreating Greek pottery:


Feature on the Battle of Watling street and other Boudiccan things:


Roman London was a pretty cosmopolitan place:


Lessons from the Iliad:


They drained the Great Bath at Bath:


On black Classicists:


Review of Holland, *Dynasty*:


More on Knossos being larger than previously thought:


More on Roman toilets and parasites:


January 1, 2016 … the Resolution

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions –I’ve never been quite sure why this particular point of revolving around the sun should have special meaning for changing up something in one’s life — but I think I’ll actually make one anyway in regards to this blog. Over the past couple of years, the workload of being a teacher has expanded astronomically, not on the teaching side, but on the (usually pointless) paperwork side which generally has left me in a state in which mental fuzziness makes blogging improbable. To keep my sanity, I have been, of course, posting and reposting a pile of items on Twitter (@rogueclassicist) which would once have been put in this blog (e.g. BMCR reviews,  links to news stories, etc.)  and for the past few months have been trying to regularly incorporate them in blog form has they sort of give a snapshot of what’s going on in the Classical world on any given day. I’ve tried to keep up with This Day in Ancient History postings for the past while as well, adding some ‘value’ with additional dates pertaining to some of the ‘big names’ in our field from the past. The past couple of months have demonstrated that this is ‘doable’ with my current workload.

With all that, however, I am increasingly bothered that I haven’t been able to comment on many of the news items that are out there and, to paraphrase Juvenal, difficile est non bloggam scribere on a regular basis. And so, over the past couple of weeks or so I’ve sort of come up with a plan which will form the basis of my  ‘resolution’.  Basically it goes something like this:

  1. Most of the links etc. will continue to be posted on Twitter as they have for the past couple of years; the Repititiationes posts will continue in ‘next day’ format as they have for the past while
  2. This Day in Ancient History will continue to be posted on a daily basis
  3. Many news items — especially press releases — from the ‘source’ (i.e. a university press release, in most cases) will be posted whenever relevant and anything added by the popular press in their interpretations will be noted
  4. Some news items may be rewritten by me  from time to time (a la the Daily Mail or Huffington Post), with full citations of sources etc.
  5. Whenever possible (and I want this to be the main thing), I am going to comment on the news coverage that is just plain silly … I used to do that a lot and I think it was a good thing for all concerned.

So that’s the resolution … we’ll see how well I can do with fulfilling it. Happy New Year y’all. We’re back.

Quotable: The Poetic Benefits of Latin

Frances Myatt in the Guardian, inter alia:

While drama also taught me the various names used to describe the form and structure of poetry, it was Latin that really taught me how poetry worked. It was in Latin lessons that we studied in detail why that word was next to that one, how having a verb at the beginning of a line affected the feeling of the poem, or why an unusual word gave a unique flavour to the piece of writing. The rigour of translating from Latin to English, and having to think about how to convey the effect of structure, word order, alliteration and so on, helped me understand poetry like nothing else. In one lesson our Latin teacher even got us to write our own poems in English, so that the process of creation would help us understand the Latin poetry we were reading. Writing your own poetry is a brilliant way of coming to appreciate poetry, but while we wrote poetry in Latin classes, in 12 years of English lessons I only wrote a poem once.

Speaking of Pompey’s Murder …

As part of our ‘Grand Tour’ this summer, our relatives took us to the Chateau  de Modave, which is in the province of Liege in Belgium and is a fine example of what the ‘second’ and ‘third’ tier nobility of the Renaissance would have enjoyed as a country house. Amongst several items of Classical interest (which we’ll return to, as time allows), is a rather large tapestry depicting the presentation of Pompey’s head to Julius Caesar:


photo D. Meadows

Interesting how ‘Renaissance’ the Romans look and how ‘eastern’ Pompey’s head seems to look … notice the bundle of fasces in the crowd at the back … the city in the background looks like Liege (the twin towers of St Bart’s)  … and is that a ‘pygmy’ delivering the goods? So much going on in this one ……

About Our Header Image: Sirens vs Muses

One of my favourite images from antiquity that I’ve come across long ago became the ‘official’ header image of rogueclassicism (scroll to the top of the page if you’ve never seen it). It comes from a sarcophagus currently in the Metrolpolitan Museum and depicts an incident mentioned in Pausanias (via Perseus):

On the market-place of Coroneia I found two remarkable things, an altar of Hermes Epimelius (Keeper of flocks) and an altar of the winds. A little lower down is a sanctuary of Hera with an ancient image, the work of Pythodorus of Thebes; in her hand she carries Sirens. For the story goes that the daughters of Achelous were persuaded by Hera to compete with the Muses in singing. The Muses won, plucked out the Sirens’ feathers (so they say) and made crowns for themselves out of them.

The official description of the Met piece doesn’t mention the story, alas:

On the front, the deities Athena, Zeus, and Hera, assembled at the far left, preside over a musical contest between the Muses and Sirens. The Muses, associated with man’s highest intellectual and artistic aspirations, are defeating the Sirens, creatures that are half woman and half bird who lured men to destruction with their song. […]

… especially the detail about the Muses actually winning and plucking feathers out to make their crowns.

Whatever the case, I can think of few images that better encapsulate the ‘struggle’ of using the Internet for one’s research. Does one heed the inspiration of the Muses and prevail or succumb to the song of the Sirens and get plucked?