New Sappho Followup II ~ Implications for the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife

This is pretty much a duplicate of my previous post (New Sappho Followup ~ Some Questions Answered in TLS, but since it really is a separate issue (despite being mentioned in my initial post on the Sappho things: A New Sapphic Poem ~ Wading into the Morass ) it seems to merit a post of its own. As longterm readers of rogueclassicism might recall, the last we heard of the Gospel of Jesus wife was that they were waiting the results of testing (Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Latest). Most recently, Mark Goodacre has reminded the blogworld of the same thing (Whatever happened to the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife?). With that in mind, I think we really should compliment the diligence of Dr Obbink in regards to similar matters as described in the TLS:

Some scholars did, at first, doubt its authenticity, including one of the editors of the last “New Sappho” to be discovered. But other indicators leave no room for doubt. Metre, language and dialect are all recognizably Sapphic and (more difficult for a forger to achieve) there are no contrary indications whatsoever of date or handwriting . The authorship of Sappho was clinched, however, when the papyrus’s text was found to overlap, in two narrow vertical bands of letters, with fragments of two previously published papyri containing fragments of Sappho. The antiquity of the physical fabric of the papyrus is beyond reproach: indeed, it was damaged in ancient times, torn up the centre of the one complete surviving column, and still bears the ancient papyrus repair strips on its back applied in antiquity. It is written in black carbon ink in an identifiable professional bookhand, but with idiosyncratic stylistic traits that would be difficult for a modern calligrapher consistently to emulate. It also passes tests of spectral analysis for density of ancient carbon-base ink. The authenticity of the ancient mummy cartonnage panel, from which the papyrus was extracted, having been recycled in antiquity to accompany a burial, has been established through its documented legal provenance. The owner of the papyrus wishes to remain anonymous, but has submitted the papyrus to autopsy and multi-spectral photography, as well as Carbon 14 testing of an uninscribed portion of the papyrus sheet itself by an American laboratory, that returned a date of around 201 AD, with a plus-minus range of a hundred years.

So it appears that it really isn’t that difficult to arrange for this sort of testing. The obvious question: what’s taking so long to get it done with the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife?

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New Sappho Followup ~ Some Questions Answered in TLS

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s post (A New Sapphic Poem ~ Wading into the Morass), we now see that Dr Obbink has a very nice piece in TLS which deals with the two new poems and answers some questions (but probably not the most important ones) about provenance (and authenticity, interestingly enough). Inter alia, he confirms the mummy cartonnage origins:

But how can we be certain that such resemblances are authentically Sapphic and that these new fragments are genuine? After all, you might wonder, doesn’t “The Brothers Poem” rather too conveniently fill a gap in what we know of Sappho and her family? And doesn’t it rather suspiciously confirm Herodotus, in mentioning two names we know, and none that we don’t? Palaeography provides a criterion, but also a model for forgers. Some scholars did, at first, doubt its authenticity, including one of the editors of the last “New Sappho” to be discovered. But other indicators leave no room for doubt. Metre, language and dialect are all recognizably Sapphic and (more difficult for a forger to achieve) there are no contrary indications whatsoever of date or handwriting . The authorship of Sappho was clinched, however, when the papyrus’s text was found to overlap, in two narrow vertical bands of letters, with fragments of two previously published papyri containing fragments of Sappho. The antiquity of the physical fabric of the papyrus is beyond reproach: indeed, it was damaged in ancient times, torn up the centre of the one complete surviving column, and still bears the ancient papyrus repair strips on its back applied in antiquity. It is written in black carbon ink in an identifiable professional bookhand, but with idiosyncratic stylistic traits that would be difficult for a modern calligrapher consistently to emulate. It also passes tests of spectral analysis for density of ancient carbon-base ink. The authenticity of the ancient mummy cartonnage panel, from which the papyrus was extracted, having been recycled in antiquity to accompany a burial, has been established through its documented legal provenance. The owner of the papyrus wishes to remain anonymous, but has submitted the papyrus to autopsy and multi-spectral photography, as well as Carbon 14 testing of an uninscribed portion of the papyrus sheet itself by an American laboratory, that returned a date of around 201 AD, with a plus-minus range of a hundred years.

The opening paragraph is also interesting:

An “Oxford secret” is supposed to be a secret you tell one person at a time. Add social media and it’s across the world within hours, often in garbled form. In this case, the “secret” was the discovery on a fragment of papyrus of two new poems by the seventh-century BC Greek poetess, Sappho. The first concerns her brothers, “The Brothers Poem” for short. The second, “The Kypris Poem”, is about unrequited love and addressed to Aphrodite (by her other name, “Kypris”). The full evidence will be presented in an article in Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik (2014), and I am grateful to the editors Jürgen Hammerstaedt and Rudolf Kassel for permission to publish some preliminary facts here, and to raise some key questions: why is the discovery important, what do the poems tell us about Sappho, and how do we know they are genuine? [...]

… so it sounds like we’re passing blame for the kurrent kerfuffle onto the editors of ZPE?

January CSA Newsletter

Harrison Eiteljorg writes, inter alia:

Announcing that the January, 2014, issue – Volume XXVI, No. 3 – of the _CSA Newsletter_
is now available at

"The Levantine Ceramics Project"
Further exploration of the potential for collaboration. — Andrea M. Berlin

Archäologische Informationen in Open Access: A model case for changes in academic publishing"
Moving online requires careful planning. — Frank Siegmund, Editor, Archäologische Informationen

"Website Review: Israel Antiquities Authority: Archaeological Survey of Israel"
A model website for a country’s archaeological patrimony. — Andrea Vianello

"Technophobia and Technophilia"
Technology should not be feared or uncritically adopted. — Harrison Eiteljorg, II

"Miscellaneous News Items"
An irregular feature.

ED: Postgraduate Latin Summer School (UReading)

The Department of Classics, University of Reading
is delighted to repeat its successful

Postgraduate Latin Summer School

7 July – 8 August 2014
This Summer School is open to students who have graduated or are in their final year of a BA. This is an ideal course for those planning to do postgraduate work or to pursue a career in Classics teaching.

To apply for the School please go to

The Reading University – International Summer School

For further information, please contact Professor Barbara Goff: b.e.goff AT

CFP: Continuity or Change? The Hellenistic Near East on a Local Scale

CALL FOR PAPERS: Continuity or Change? The Hellenistic Near East on a Local Scale

American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA, November 19-22, 2014

Session Co-Chairs: Justin Winger (University of Michigan)
Katherine Larson (University of Michigan)

The Hellenistic period is commonly conceptualized and studied via political history and broad themes such as imperialism and resistance, cultural hybridization, and urbanization and cosmopolitanism. This session aims rather to investigate the Hellenistic Near East through focused probes into the lived, daily experiences of elites and non-elites as they are expressed in the material and historical record in order to understand the defining characteristics of the Hellenistic period on a local scale. “Continuity or Change” will focus on the rhythms of everyday life and the bearing that these routines have on how we conceptualize and define the Hellenistic period as a chronological, geographic, and cultural phenomenon. The question at the heart of this session is the degree to which there was a socio-cultural phenomenon in the Near East that can be convincingly described as “Hellenistic” when viewed at this level.

We are especially interested in, but will not limit consideration to, approaches such as production, use and consumption, individual mobility, exchange of ideas, elite vs. non-elite culture, and new theoretical and comparative perspectives.

Abstracts due: February 15, 2014 (abstracts will be accepted until March 1 with a $25 late fee)
To submit abstracts: Go to and click on “Abstract Submission System”

For more information, see kalars).

Professional membership in ASOR is a prerequisite for participation in the Annual Meeting Program for paper presenters. In addition, speakers will need to register for the Annual Meeting when submitting their abstracts.

CJ Online Review| Fitzgerald, How to Read a Latin Poem

posted with permission:

How to Read a Latin Poem If You Can’t Read Latin Yet. William Fitzgerald. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. 288. $35.00. ISBN 978-0-19-965786-5.

Reviewed by Ronnie Ancona, Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center

Since I do know Latin, I am not the intended audience for How to Read a Latin Poem If You Can’t Read Latin Yet. With that said, my evaluation of it has been formed primarily with its target audience in mind. In my judgment, it meets admirably its purpose of introducing Latin poetry to the Latin-less reader, while also offering material that the reader of Latin will appreciate as well. It is commendable that a Latin scholar of Fitzgerald’s prominence, well-known for his work on Catullus, Horace, Martial, and the image of Roman slavery, has considered it worthwhile to write such a book. I can think of no similar work currently available.

The impulse behind this task I think will be recognized immediately by Latinists who have taught Latin literature in translation or the early stages of reading Latin poetry in the original. With the first group, one wants to provide some enticing exposure to the original language of the text (perhaps, for example, teaching the first line of the Aeneid in Latin), while carefully avoiding the sense that only reading in the original is of value. With the second, one wants to slowly and carefully tease out the wonderful possibilities of how Latin poetry works, while showing students that even their still-forming command of Latin is up to seeing this. In his Introduction (7), Fitzgerald states: "…I will be talking as much as possible about how the poems work in Latin." He thus aims his book at those reading in English translation, but addresses many of the same issues we do with our Latin students. This unique approach proves very successful. He sets the bar high, but provides the necessary help along the way.

In a fairly short book, written in an accessible and engaging style, Fitzgerald manages to cover a great deal of territory, in terms of authors, genres, themes, and reading strategies and techniques. The reader who is up to the book’s demands can learn about word order (Latin’s flexibility as an inflected language, and specific features like hyperbaton, chiasmus, and enjambment), meter (quantitative versus stressed, as well as specific Latin metrical patterns), English derivatives from Latin (which are included in parentheses after many Latin words), and verbal ambiguity (such as the many senses of the Latin word "inanis/e"). All of this occurs in the context of close readings of a variety of Latin texts, with great attention to the Latin itself, despite the necessary presence of English translations (usually, but not always Fitzgerald’s).

The book contains an Introduction, a Guide to the Pronunciation of Latin, a Prelude, six chapters, an Epilogue, a Guide to Further Reading, a Glossary, an Index, and an Index of Poems Discussed. Footnotes are kept to a bare minimum and this generally works well. Occasionally, more information would have been beneficial, such as the source for Brigid Brophy’s memorable description of reading Lucretius as "like playing chess with one hand while masturbating with the other" (231), or the name of the scholar (I assume Amy Richlin is meant) who uses Priapus as the model for Latin poets of invective and satire (79).

Fitzgerald happily does not attempt to "cover" all of Latin poetry in this slim volume, but instead presents readings of select poetry, all the while introducing the "how" of reading and interpretation alongside the "what." Through careful selection and juxtaposition of texts (displaying his own version of Horatian callida iunctura), Fitzgerald covers a lot of ground and avoids limiting himself to the more obvious organizing principles of chronology or genre.

Here is a very brief overview of the six main chapters. In "Love, and a Genre," Sulpicia and Ovid define the poles of solemnity/intensity versus urbane humor, as Catullus displays the seeds of both. In "Hate, Mockery, and the Physical World," verbal abuse is the topic, with things like polluted mouths and assholes featured, and with Catullus, Horace, Martial, the Carmina Priapea, and Persius (the most difficult selection in the book) as the sources.

The next chapter, "Horace: The Sensation of Mediocrity," introduces the Odes with their transitions, closural devices, enjambment, mosaic quality, tensions, and elusiveness. "Vergil: The Unclassical Classic," treats Vergil’s pastoral, didactic, and epic works. Its discussion of the Aeneid deftly shows why the poem has been interpreted so diversely. Fitzgerald gives his Latin-less reader exposure to the power of the original Latin when he states, "It is no coincidence that the word used when Aeneas sinks his sword into Turnus is the same as the word for founding the Roman race (condere)…" (158).

"Lucan and Seneca: Poets of Apocalypse" traces the theme of fratricide (and, by extension, civil strife) through Lucan’s Civil War and Seneca’s Thyestes, using Catullus’ Poem 101 to his brother as counterpoint. Finally, in "Science Fiction: Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura and Ovid’s Metamorphoses" Fitzgerald explores epic as a vehicle for two very different visions of the world.

I recommend this book highly for its target audience of Latin-less readers. In addition, it will provide Latinists with many fresh readings as well as techniques for making Latin poetry more compelling and accessible to all.

2013 in review (the blog, not the Classics world)

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 390,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 17 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Guy MacLean Rogers on Learning from Alexander the Great

From a press release:

In 2009, the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States compared President Barack Obama to Alexander the Great. At the time, Obama brushed the comparison off with a joke. Almost five years later, after healthcare fiascoes and NSA spying revelations, terrorist attacks and other issues, Obama’s problems have never looked more complex and entangled. As approval ratings plummet in Washington, perhaps it’s time Obama and other leaders in Washington give more thought to the parallel.

Wellesley College professor Guy MacLean Rogers studies the leadership of Alexander the Great, seeking what lessons can be learned from the enigmatic warrior. Rogers, a world-renowned classicist, researches the leadership of history’s greatest warrior, and sees many similarities for the struggles of national leaders today.

“All leaders experience periods of great popularity and criticism for their actions and policies,” said Rogers. “Alexander was no exception. Although Alexander had legendary triumphs, he also made mistakes, some of them terrible ones.”

The key, Rogers said, was that when Alexander made mistakes he took responsibility for them. “He never evaded responsibility and when there was opposition to his policies he adjusted his policies. Maybe that is why so many people were willing to risk their lives to carry out his goals and were willing to follow him nearly to the end of the world.”

Today’s politicians, who may think more about what they look like on television or the concerns of a few stakeholders rather than what’s best for the country, could certainly learn from this example. “What many modern leaders have forgot or never knew is that the essence of effective leadership is sacrifice on behalf of others,” Rogers said. “No one was willing to sacrifice more than Alexander. His people knew that. That is why so many of them admired and even loved him.”

Rogers will be teaching a course, “Was Alexander Great? The Life, Leadership, and Legacies of History’s Greatest Warrior,” on WellesleyX/edX this spring. Among the topics the course will explore, one of the areas Rogers will focus on will be Alexander’s leadership and the questions: What were the qualities of leadership that Alexander possessed that allowed him to conquer the largest and most successful empire in the history of the ancient world before the age of 30? How did he plan to unite former enemies together? Are the leadership qualities Alexander had genetic? Can they be taught or learned? The course begins on early 2014 and registration is open now. The course, like all WellesleyX offerings, is free and open to the public.

“Alexander certainly was a controversial figure in his own times, and remains so to this day,” said Rogers. “In many ways, although Alexander lived more than 2300 years ago his life resonates with us precisely because he raises issues with which we continue to be obsessed.”

Guy MacLean Rogers, classicist and historian of Greek and Roman history, is the author of Alexander: The Ambiguity of Greatness (Random House, 2004) and The Mysteries of Artemis of Ephesos: Cult, Polis and Change in the Graeco-Roman World (Yale, 2013).

d.m. Victor Sarigiannidis

From Greek Reporter:

Eminent archeologist of Pontian-Greek origin Victor Sarigiannidis passed away early Monday morning in Moscow at the age of 84. Sarigiannidis was known for discovering a slew of Ancient Greek cities, temples and ruins.

He was born on September 23, 1929 in Tashkent (Uzbekistan) to Greek parents. In 1952, he graduated from the State University of Central Asia (Tashkent) and in 1961, he received a Master of Archaeology and Middle Eastern Studies from the Institute of Archaeology in Moscow. In 1975, he was named Doctor of Historical Science of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Since 1955, he had been working at the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow). He was an honorary member of the Greek Anthropological Association, a member of the American Society of Sciences and the Federation of Journalists in Russia.

He began his excavations in Central Asia and Afghanistan in 1949, and during his career he discovered many unknown civilizations and recorded the spread of Hellenic civilization and culture prior to Alexander the Great’s expedition. Among his most important findings are six undisturbed tombs at Tillya Tepe from first century AD, and the ancient ruins of the Bronze Age Kingdom of Margiana of the third century BC.

Sarigiannidis was honored with the title of the Ambassador of Hellenism in 1998, and received an honorary title from the University of Ioannina in 2000. He was also honored with the Gold Cross of the Order of Merit of the Greek Republic in 2002 and the High Distinction of Turkmenistan in 2001.

He wrote 20 books in Russian, which have been translated to English, German, Japanese and Greek. More than 200 of his articles have been published in international scientific journals.

Possible Papal Tweeting Howler?

As previously mentioned, I’m planning on doing some sort of analysis of Papal tweets and was going to sort of do a weekly compilation. However, I’m not sure I can sit on this one I just noticed (from yesterday) … first, the English version:

Now Latin:

… seems rather Catullan, no? (here’s the entry for frico from L&S if you need a refresher)

CJOnline Review | Heimback, A Roman Map Workbook

(re)posted with permission

A Roman Map Workbook: Second Edition. By ELIZABETH HEIMBACH. Mundelein, Ill: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2013. Pp. vii + 140. 2012. Paper, $22.00 ISBN 978-0-86516-799-5.

Reviewed by Michele Valerie Ronnick, Wayne State University

This workbook designed for the secondary schoolroom opens with an introductory unit of explanatory text and practice exercises concerning the origin of the word cartographer, some Latin based directional terms (e.g. N, S, E, & W), and other phrases from astronomy and myth such as the Four Winds, the Big Dipper and the Northern Lights.

Then follow thirteen chapters on specific places and topics in the Graeco-Roman world: I. Italia Antiqua; II. Orbis Terrarum Romanus; III. Viae Romanae; IV. Urbs Romae: Seven Hills and a River, Districts and Landmarks, V. The Forum; VI. Sinus Cumanus; Pompeii; VII. Historia Romana: Part I- The Conquest of the Italian Peninsula, Part II- The Punic Wars, and Part III- The Roman Empire; VII. Graecia; IX. Athenae; X. Gallia; XI. Britannia; XII. Epici Antiqui; XIII. Scriptores Latini: Part I- Latin Authors, and Part II- Later Writers of Latin.

Each chapter has its own map indicating places of importance. Eleven of them provide blank versions of he chapter maps which have been stripped of their labels. These ready-made templates are ideal for quizzes or certamen contests. While some chapters are longer than others, all of them provide a series of exercises using matching, short answer (sometimes in Latin, sometimes in English), and fill-in-the blank questions. In addition each chapter has a set of ideas for further work on a variety of projects. Most are stimulating. However, those that have been linked to internet sites/links may already be out of date, and the map making project in Chapter III using several sugary ingredients may be less than ideal.

Some of the problems raised by R. Scott Smith (BMCR 2011.06.61) concerning the quality and coverage of the maps in the first edition of this workbook remain. The section of Chapter VII (and its map) titled ‘The Punic Wars’ still deals only with the Second. Adding a map of Carthage to this chapter would be a plus. However, the map of Gaul (75) has been corrected and the map of the Roman Empire (85) has been changed to show the empire’s boundaries. A good number of Greek and Latin accent marks are still missing. Here are a few examples:

a) Exercise II. 6, (p. 15) should read nōmen.

b) The text in para. 5, line 4 (p. 18 ) should read Nīlus.

c) The phrase "into the city," para. 1, line 6, (p. 18) should read εἰς τὴν Πόλιν or failing that transliterated to eis tēn polin. On the same page, para. 3, line 3, should read Apollōnius.

d) The map of the Roman world (p. 21) should read Borysthenēs.

e) Exercise X.17, (p. 26) should read Judaea.

f) Exercise I.13, (p. 52) should read Statōris. Thus a thorough re-reading of the text needs to be performed and a list of errata issued.

For further editions, I suggest that the author consider adding names and birthplaces of writers such as Seneca (Corduba), Emperor Claudius (Lugdunum), Quintilian (Calagurris), Fronto (Cirta), Apuleius (Madaurus) and Augustine (Thagaste) to Part I of the chapter on Latin authors, and that she consider including a few women such as Hildegard von Bingen (Bermersheim) and Anna Maria van Schurman (Cologne), as well as men famous for their Latin like John Milton (London), Isaac Newton (Woolsthorpe) and William Harvey (Folkstone) to Part II on later writers.

Maps of other ancient cities (Delphi, Epidaurus, Knossos, Leptis Magna, and Mycenae) would add interest and variety to the workbook. An appendix for further study would be useful for the more ambitious and/or sophisticated student mentioning such ancient things as the map of the world in the Porticus Vipsania, the Marble Plan of Septimius Severus, and the Tabula Peutingeriana, as well as giving important modern sources such as Imago Mundi: The International Journal for the History of Cartography, founded in 1935 for the study of early maps, and Richard J. A. Talbert, (ed.), Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World (2002). Despite its flaws this is a useful little workbook. A Teacher’s Guide $22.00 (ISBN: 978-0-86516-801-5) is also available.

[©2013 by The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. All rights reserved.]

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem xii kalendas decembres

ante diem xii kalendas decembres

  • Mercatus — time to restock the cupboards after the Jupiterfest!
  • 63 A.D. — shipwreck of St. Paul (by one reckoning)
  • 270 (?) — birth of the future emperor Maximinus Daia
  • 284 A.D. — elevation of Diocletian to the rank of Caesar  Augustus

… a decade ago at rogueclassicism, the major news appears to be the discovery of an inscription referring to Simon the Just (if the links are dead to that one, try: Gospel verse found on ancient shrine )

CFP: Greek Art in Context

seen on the Classicists list:

Greek Art in Context
An International Conference at the University of Edinburgh
7th-9th April 2014

We invite offers of papers and posters for the forthcoming conference, Greek Art in Context, to be held at the University of Edinburgh, 7th-9th April 2014.
The deadline for electronic abstracts is FRIDAY 20TH DECEMBER 2013.

This two and a half-day conference will explore the broad notion of context in relation to Greek Art. Its aim is twofold: to address the problem of defining and determining context from a theoretical point of view and to explore how it affects the interpretation of the material culture of ancient Greece from the Dark Ages to the end of the Hellenistic period. What do we mean by context? In which ways and under what circumstances does context become relevant for the interpretation of Greek material culture? Which contexts should we look at – viewing context, political, social and religious discourse, artistic tradition…? What happens when there is no context?

We welcome proposals for papers of 30 minutes addressing questions relevant to the scope of the conference. There will be 8 three-paper sessions followed by Q&A. Topics for discussion may include, but are not limited to:
– Same iconographies, different meanings. Greek images abroad
– Interpreting old works through new lenses
– Reading objects in context
– Images and social realities
– Distribution, consumption and trade of Greek art.
– Contexts of use of Greek vases and how they affect our interpretation of the object and its images
– Interpreting monumental sculpture and non-portable objects
– Greek art in its modern contexts (museums, collections etc.)

KEYNOTE speakers: Prof. Carmen Sánchez (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) and Dr. Antonis Kotsonas (University of Edinburgh).
Abstracts of ca. 300 words are invited from scholars working in the fields of classical archaeology and history of art and with an interest in contextualization as an integral part of the study of ancient Greek art. The conference is open to advanced postgraduate students. Please send title and abstract of your proposed paper/poster to the conference organiser, Dr. Diana Rodríguez Pérez (diana.rodperez AT, by Friday, 20th December 2013. We will inform you by 15th of January if your abstract has been accepted. The language of the conference is English.
Posters related to the topics outlined above are also welcome. Instructions regarding the posters format will be provided at a later stage. Posters will be exhibited throughout the conference in the McMillan Room of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology. Authors will have a chance to give a short 5-minute presentation on their poster during the drinks receptions. Small prizes will be awarded to the best posters of the conference.
The conference fee is £50 standard rate and £35 for students. It includes coffee and tea on the 7th, 8th and 9th, sandwich lunch on the 7th and 8th, as well as the drinks receptions on the 7th and 8th. Delegates are expected to arrange their own travel and accommodation. They are also encouraged to apply for funding at their own institutions.
This conference is made possible through the generous support of School of History, Classics and Archaeology of the University of Edinburgh, and of the Institute of Classical Studies. Several student bursaries will be available thanks to a contribution from the Classical Association.

Classical Words of the Day


CFP | ORGANS: Form, Function and Bodily Systems in Greco-Roman Medicine

Seen on various lists:

‘ORGANS: Form, Function and Bodily Systems in Greco-Roman Medicine’

Sponsored by the Society for Ancient Medicine and Pharmacy (SAM) SAM is an affiliated group of
the American Philological Association.

Accepted papers will be presented at a SAM panel at the APA at the 2015 meetings, which will be
held January 8-11, 2015 in New Orleans, LA. Panelists must be members of the APA at the time of

Largely hidden from sight, the organs of the body have always offered fascination as well as
frustration. We sense their function in the course of sustaining a biological life, but can for the
most part only infer the details of their processes. In antiquity this alienation of the self from the
material components of the human body and their interactions was especially acute, and so many
of the ancient medical texts are clearly groping for ways to understand the role of individual
organs in health and disease, both physiological and psychological. We invite papers for this
session on all aspects of the organs in Greco-Roman medicine, and particularly encourage
contributions with cultural and philosophical dimensions, as well as clinical, therapeutic and

Please send an abstract of 500-600 words of your proposed paper (20 mins.) by e-mail to Ralph
M. Rosen (rrosen
AT Deadline for submission of abstracts is March 1, 2014.

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem vi kalendas novembres

ante diem vi kalendas novembres

  • 97 A.D. – The emperor Nerva adopts the future emperor Trajan
  • 312 A.D – Battle of the Milvian Bridge; Constantine I has a vision and defeats Maxentius to become sole emperor (not sure the vision was the same day as the battle?)

… and a decade ago at rogueclassicism, in addition to some nice eye candy from an auction, we were reading about the discovery of Trajan’s bridge across the Danube (which, incidentally, was presented as a ‘new’ find (albeit with sonar) in that documentary a short time ago: Review: Rome’s Lost Empire) …

Curse Tablet from Jerusalem

Owen Jarus’ interesting piece at Livescience is getting picked up all over the place … some excerpts:

A lead curse tablet, dating back around 1,700 years and likely written by a magician, has been discovered in a collapsed Roman mansion in Jerusalem, archaeologists report.


The text is written in Greek and, in it a woman named Kyrilla invokes the names of six gods to cast a curse on a man named Iennys, apparently over a legal case. [See Photos of the Ancient Curse Tablet ]

“I strike and strike down and nail down the tongue, the eyes, the wrath, the ire, the anger, the procrastination, the opposition of Iennys,” part of the curse reads in translation. Kyrilla asks the gods to ensure that “he in no way oppose, so that he say or perform nothing adverse to Kyrilla … but rather that Iennys, whom the womb bore, be subject to her…”

To obtain her goal Kyrilla combined elements from four religions, Robert Walter Daniel, of the Institut für Altertumskunde at the University of Cologne, told LiveScience in an email. Of six gods invoked, four of them are Greek (Hermes, Persephone , Pluto and Hecate), one is Babylonian (Ereschigal) and one, Abrasax, is Gnostic, a religion connected to early Christianity . Additionally, the text contains magic words such as “Iaoth” that have a Hebrew/Judaism origin.

A professional magician likely created the curse for Kyrilla, who may have literally used a hammer and nails to perform a magical rite that enhanced the effectiveness of the curse, Daniel said.

“The hammering and nailing is a form of gaining control over the person(s) targeted in magical texts,” he wrote in the email.

Kyrilla and her curse-recipient, both probably members of the Roman middle or upper class, were likely in some legal dispute, as the curse tablet bears similarities to others found in Cyprus that are known to have been used in legal cases. Additionally the word “opposition” in this text hints at a legal matter.


Archaeologists Doron Ben Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets, both with the Israel Antiquities Authority, told LiveScience in an email they discovered the remains of mosaics and frescos that contain geometric and floral motifs near the tablet. They also found carved bone fragments from a box that depict the “Triumph of Dionysus,” a Greek god , along with maritime imagery such as seahorses.

The team also uncovered roof tiles in the mansion that contain the stamp of the Roman 10th legion, a unit that, for a time, was stationed in Jerusalem. “This practice is common for all the provinces of the Roman Empire . In peaceful times soldiers were responsible for ‘civil engineering': They built roads and aqueducts, produced tiles and bricks, etc. The 10th legion produced so many tiles, that it was enough for many more years of construction activity in the city, long after the legion itself left Jerusalem,” Ben Ami and Tchekhanovets said.

The researchers also found female figurines, probably depicting a goddess. They were likely used in a “private cult” whose members included residents of the mansion. These figurines were found at or below floor level and may not have been part of the second-floor room that the curse was placed in.


… the original article has more info about the ‘mansion’ itself and there’s also a nice slideshow.

That said, I thought we had another example of a curse tablet from Jerusalem in the last five years or so … my search engines are failing me.  Whatever the case, the full story (as Jarus tells us) is in the latest ZPE …