Kardashian (not that one) Quotes Socrates (not that one)

I think the gossip press gets all excited when one of their regular targets surprises them by quoting some famous dead white male. In this case, It’s Kourtney Kardashian commenting on Scott Disick’s recent hospitalization. Contact music was there and, inter alia we read:

[...] Although there have been reports that his relationship with 35-year-old Kardashian may be going through a rocky patch recently, Kardashian is apparently supporting her partner through his difficult time. It may not have been a coincidence that Kardashian posted a picture on Instagram, with a quotation from Socrates about change, on the same day the news of Disick’s hospitalisation broke. The quotation reads: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Right now I know there are thousands of Classicists in the wild saying to themselves, “That doesn’t sound like Socrates.” They’re right, of course, and even better, this is one of the quotes which one of our favourite blogs — Quote Investigator — dealt with ages ago in another context.  Here’s the relevant chunk (again, inter alia):

[...]In 1980 the first edition of “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” by the world-class gymnast Dan Millman was released. The book was a fictionalized memoir that explored the physical and mental challenges Millman faced in his early life and the spiritual growth he experienced. The main catalyst of his spiritual journey was an attendant at an all-night gas station who became his mentor in 1966. Millman gave this enlightened counselor the nickname “Socrates”, and the quotation above was spoken by the modern fictionalized character and not the ancient Socrates.


Read the Contact Music piece to find out who these ‘celebrities’ are, but more importantly, read the Quote Investigator item (which cites other uses of the quotation), because this will probably be important to know for the next fifteen minutes or so.

The 300 Workout Redux

Interesting that the Telegraph has a post about 300izing yourself (300: how to get a body like a Greek warrior)… it seems to have forgotten that the ‘prequel’ spawned a 300 Workout and a Spartan Diet … read the Telegraph article if you must (or if you just like the abs), and then reminisce about situps past at The Spartafication Continues

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.

Also Seen: On ‘Greek Life’

Lucy Ferriss at Lingua Franca/CHE ponders something I ponder every now and then … in medias res:

[...] Here’s a sign of my generation: For years after I began teaching in the 1980s, I didn’t understand what Greek life referred to. I thought GLO stood for some sort of financial category, as in “We’re having a lot of problems with GLOs this year.” Yes, I’d seen Animal House with its toga party, but the toga was an outfit worn in ancient Rome, not ancient Athens. My mother was a Kappa Alpha Theta and remembered her sorority chant, but she went to college during World War II. Attending college on the West Coast, I knew these organizations existed, but they didn’t add up to any sort of life, much less a Greek one.

By now I’m used to hearing Greek life bemoaned, but I got curious: How have the Greeks, those exemplars of philosophy, Olympic games, and misbehaving deities, become a metonym for student-run social clubs? It turns out that the Greeks themselves had such clubs, known as phratries, membership in which was at one point a requirement of Athenian citizenship. They seem to have been hereditary and to have been associated with various Greek deities. The idea of club membership didn’t begin with the Greeks, of course, and it persisted both in and out of academe right up to the founding of the College of William & Mary in 1693. But the Greek motif returned when a group of William & Mary men grew sick of the secret organizations on campus that were “noted only for the dissipation & conviviality of members.” They chose Greek initials for their new, more high-minded organization because many of the societies already on campus were Latin-themed; and although all students (unlike most today) entered college with some Latin and Greek under their belts, Greek was considered more scholarly and esoteric. As all current members know, the initials they chose, ΦΒΚ, or Phi Beta Kappa, stood for Philosophia Biou Kubernētēs, “Philosophy [is the] guide to life.”

Obviously, there’s a difference these days between honorary organizations like Phi Beta Kappa and Duke’s recently suspended Kappa Sigma. But what strikes me is how “Greek life” has changed its meaning from, say, 1895, the high point of the phrase’s use according to Google Ngrams, when it referred to the thought and customs of people living by the Mediterranean “from the age of Alexander to the Roman Conquest.” In the more recent uptick of the phrase, beginning in 2001, it refers more to Torn Togas: The Dark Side of Campus Greek Life or to Fraternities, Sororities, and the Pursuit of Pleasure, Power, and Prestige. [...]

Aspendos Gladiator School Closed!

From Hurriyet:

The closure of a “gladiator school” in the Mediterranean province of Antalya has forced would-be combatants to fight for jobs in other professions.

The Aspendos Gladiator School, where Roman-era gladiator fights were re-enacted, did not open its doors this tourism season due to concerns over low interest. The silence in the 800-capacity arena, built near the ancient theater of Aspendos, forced the performers portraying the gladiators, who were mostly from villages nearby, to seek jobs elsewhere.

Many of the performers who were once engaged in sword fights and re-enacted execution scenes, now work as waiters in hotels and restaurants in the region.

The Aspendos Gladiator School hosted its first “gladiator fight” one year ago on a stage transformed to resemble a Roman-era arena for the performance. However, organizers of the event were disappointed with the paltry audience and the limited interest in the performance.
The Aspendos Gladiator School Consultant Mehmet Bıcıoğlu expected to see interest increase in subsequent performances. “We plan to continue the performances for the next five years. This is a unique undertaking in the world,” he said at the time.

Gladiator fights were typically staged between slaves, or slaves and ferocious animals, as a form of entertainment in the Roman era. The dramatized fights in Aspendos were presented with hand-made clothes and weapons.

[insert quip about making sure you tip well here]

Our previous coverage:

… and here are a couple vids of the action … vocalizations appear to be a required course:

NASA Wants You to Help With a Latin Twitter Feed!

From the mailbag:

[M]y name is Ari and I work for a NASA mission called HiRISE, a camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that takes high resolution images of Mars. (uahirise.org).

We have an outreach effort called “The HiTranslate Project,” where we seek out volunteers to translate titles into various foreign languages; we have several Twitter feeds devoted to each specific language that we have volunteers for. But we are looking to create a Latin language feed that would be the most unique NASA resource. It would put Latin in a modern context to show the continued usefulness of the language especially as an educational resource.

If you know of people who might be interested in translating titles into Latin, we would appreciate any help. We do think this is a unique opportunity and we hope to get it moving.

Thank you,

Ari Espinoza
Coordinator, HiTranslate Project
HiRISE Media
The University of Arizona

If you’re interested, drop me a line and I’ll forward your message to Mr Espinosa. This could be an interesting ongoing thing for one or more senior Latin classes …

Total War Rome II Trailers

A new trailer for one of the most hyped PC games in ages (and yes, I’m buying into it) … this trailer could actually be used in a class when discussing Hannibal’s options (with some pedantry thrown in, of course):

I can’t remember if back in February I posted this one, which includes the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (with a scene that looks an awful lot like the opening of Gladiator):

Mindy Kaling on Latin

Tip o’ the pileus to Sarah Bond for pointing us to an interview with Mindy Kaling over at Warby Parker … inter alia:

Favorite school subject

Latin. I loved ancient Rome. It was so violent and sexy and interesting: things like Mount Vesuvius erupting and the remains of Pompeii. When you’re in seventh grade, that’s as close as you get to sex.

via: Dispatches from Warby Parker HQ

… which is one reason I fear proposed legislation in the UK … how many Classics sites/blogs (including this one) will be blocked?

Also Seen: Ass-Kicking Athletes of Antiquity

I’ve been meaning to mention this series by Karl Smallwood over at Man Cave Daily, which are written somewhat tongue-in-cheek and not with the historical accuracy/focus we might be used to. There are also images in the sidebars which might not sit well with some folks. Still, you might want to check out:

Minding the Bollocks?

Another interesting bit of synchronicity over the past few weeks has been some interest in Classical testicles (which is fun to say out loud) … first, in the latest issue of Rosetta, there was a study:

… meanwhile, there also came to my attention an interview with photographer Ingrid Berthon-Moine about her latest project, the topic of which can be gleaned from the title of the post:

… and more photos can be found at her website:

Which got me to thinking (and mentioned on twitter) … I wonder if this sort of thing is the sort of thing one could use to differentiate artists (like earlobes?) …

Classical Elements

If you’re looking to incorporate some Classical larnin’ into your science class or whatever, you might want to check out a couple of items by the Tribune-Review’s Wordguy Rob Kyff, who has had a couple of items on the origins of some of the names in the periodic table:

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ancient Rome … Actually, You Probably Did

As I embark on wading through the hundreds of items I have to catch up on, I figured we could all warm up by putting our pedantic hats on and watching this video, which just appeared yesterday:

Generally, it’s not bad, but number 2 and number 3 are rather silly (on Caesarian births (on which see here and here) and on the origins of the word ‘trivia’ (Wikipedia is good on this)) … so I guess 8 out of the 10 are okay (but there are quibbles with some of them as well)

Homeric Swimming a la Karl Lagerfeld?

I’ve been hemming and hawing about including this, but might as well … excerpts from the Telegraph:

If you have a penchant for Homeric poems, Chanel or swimming – or preferably all three, then book your summer break at Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo where the eclectic trio have pooled for a mural-style installation.

Karl Lagerfeld, head designer and creative director for Chanel, was chosen by the hotel – which won “Best Hotel in the World 2010″ – to create a unique poolside piece, named “Ulysses’ Journey around the Mediterranean Sea”, inspired by Homer’s epics: the Iliad and the Odyssey .


“We were not only thinking about Odyssey as a place to swim and tan, but rather as a living space.”


Lagerfeld’s bespoke installation is made up of twenty panels, measuring 18×3 metres, in which photos of models in togas are superimposed onto black and white images of Greek coastlines from 1850-60. The scenes are backlit by LEDs which change according to the surrounding natural lighting which adds to the intimate atmosphere and ambience.


… I was unable to find a better photo than the small one included with the original article … probably because my brain was still cringing from that toga reference …

Mary Beard at Town Hall

From the New York Review of Books:

On February 5, The New York Review celebrated its 50th anniversary at Town Hall in New York City. In this recording from the event, Mary Beard discusses the Review’s coverage of the classics from its first issue through to the present day, and the “inextricable embeddedness of the classical tradition within Western culture.”

The audio is here:

Romans and Computing

There’s an interesting post at Gizmodo that keeps popping up in my various feeds about the whether the ancient Romans were capable of building a digital computer … some interesting stuff and the author admits being a computer engineer and not a Roman historian. Still, he’s dying to experiment and throws down a challenge which some readers of rogueclassicism may want to take up:

… and in an interesting bit of synchronicity, a review from Aestimatio landed in my mailbox today of Ancient Computers: Part I. Rediscovery by Stephen Kent Stephenson …

Celebritizing Greek Philosophy?

From time to time my spiders bring back strange things, most of the time involving people I haven’t heard of and/or were only vaguely aware of. So this time they brought back and item from Digital Spy, citing an interview in Metro with Alain de Botton, who appears to be an atheist who has penned some influential books. Inter alia:

Are you friends with Harry from One Direction?
That would be overegging it. I was introduced to him at a party. Neither of us had heard of each other. We had a nice chat. It was fun.

Did you have much in common?
My plan is to shut the Arts Council and get people such as Harry Styles to go on television and recommend to everyone they read Proust and Hegel, which would achieve more in five minutes than the Arts Council achieves year in, year out. David Beckham could do Aristotle and Plato. The cause of intellectual life in this country would be helped immeasurably. The problem we’ve got is the most famous people in the country tend to believe in things that aren’t particularly ambitious whereas the people who believe in really ambitious things are stuck away in an ivory tower and no one bothers listening to what they think. In an ideal world Harry Styles would be teaching his 10million Twitter followers a little more about Greek philosophy.

Then from Digital Spy we learn that Harry Styles actually took up the suggestion:

… which, as Digital Spy notes, is cribbed directly from Wikipedia … we might cynically observe that a Diogenes might mark a watershed in a different sort of way (horrible puns abound!) … anyhoo, I think it would be more impressive if he tweeted something Plato put in Socrates’ mouth … in Greek.