Recreating Roman Pantomime

Just a week or so ago we mentioned the Practicing Pantomime Project  … the folks involved should maybe talk to this guy, or he should talk to them … from Pressconnects:

For his final project as a Binghamton University undergraduate, local theater wunderkind Santino DeAngelo has decided to re-create an art form that’s been lost for 2,000 years.

No examples of ancient Roman pantomime — a popular entertainment that incorporated music, dance and storytelling – have survived in written form to the modern day. Scholars debate the reasons for that: Some think it’s because the pantomimes were considered “low” entertainment, while others speculate that many aspects of the performances were constructed through on-the-spot directions to actors and singers that were not preserved.

“It was basically the equivalent of television,” DeAngelo said in a recent interview. “Plays were known by their writers, but these pantomimes were famous for the artists — people would go to see the performer.

“We know that several famous Roman playwrights wrote pantomimes but didn’t attach their names to them because it was considered ‘low art.’ People would go every night to see them, though.”

DeAngelo’s re-creation, “Narcissus,” pulls directly from his undergraduate studies, which include classical civilizations, mythology and performance. He believes this is the first attempt at ancient Roman pantomime in the United States (with the only other effort in England during the 1970s).

Along with a full choral score (which will be performed by community members and BU students), DeAngelo also composed solo parts for local singers Judy Giblin, Jana Kucera and Charlie Hyland. DeAngelo himself will perform all the roles using a variety of masks.

Austin Tooley, a graduate student in BU’s theater department, will direct the production, and it will be recorded at the BTV studios on campus with the hope of broadcast at a later date. (A limited number of audience seats are available.)

DeAngelo said he hopes to capture the flavor of what ancient Roman pantomime would have been to an audience of that era.

“The great thing about reconstructing it is you’re putting yourself in the position of the writer, so I find myself thinking, ‘OK, if this has to be done quickly’ — they didn’t have a lot of time to put these together — ‘then how do I cut corners?’ If I can tell my chorus to do this and this, I don’t have to write it down,” he said. “There are many questions that come up.”

‘Gun Control’ and the Ancient Greeks and Romans

Very interesting post at the New Yorker‘s Culture Desk by Melissa Lane … here’s a bit in medias res:

The pioneers of citizen armies were also pioneers of withdrawing weapons from the places of civilized life. The ancient Greek armies were manned exclusively by citizens who brought their own weapons into battle. Getting to serve in an élite combat unit required being wealthy enough to afford to buy one’s own armor. It was this vision of citizen militias, further developed by the Romans, that went on to inspire the English revolutionaries of the seventeenth century and the American revolutionaries of the eighteenth—so shaping the values expressed in the Second Amendment.

Nevertheless, when one early-nineteenth-century American reflected on what the new American Republic could learn from the ancient Greeks, he drew attention to another feature that was widespread in their politics: refraining from carrying weapons in public spaces. In some cities, this was a matter of custom, in others it was a matter of law. Citizens carried their weapons abroad when serving in the military for public defense. But, even in these cities, it was believed that carrying weapons at home would be tantamount to letting weapons, not laws, rule.

This point is emphasized in a study of ancient-Greek laws attributed to Benjamin Franklin, though apparently composed by the founding editor of the Western Minerva, who published it in 1820. The laws, the author insisted, “apply with peculiar energy and propriety to the circumstances of the United States.” Number fifteen in this collection of a hundred “principles of political wisdom,” drawn from the school of Pythagoras, legislators for Greek settlements on the Italian mainland, was this: “Let the laws rule alone. When weapons rule, they kill the law.”

This is the opposite of the view attributed to the Founding Fathers by the N.R.A.’s chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, in 2009, when he said that “our founding fathers understood that the guys with the guns make the rules.” On the contrary, letting the guys with weapons make the rules of ordinary life was the opposite of the classical practices that inspired the American founders. Writing of the evolution of Greek societies in the first book of his “History of the Peloponnesian War,” the Greek historian Thucydides reported that the Athenians were the first to lay aside their weapons. Whereas men in all Greek societies used to carry arms at home, this had been a sign of an uncivilized era of piracy in which the most powerful men could dominate all the rest. Laying aside the everyday wearing of weapons was part of what Thucydides believed had allowed Athens to become fully civilized, developing the commerce and culture that made her the envy of the Greek world. The Romans, too, banned the carrying of weapons within the pomerium, the sacred boundary of the city.

The banning of carrying weapons in public was based on the idea that civilized coexistence could not tolerate public spaces that were dominated by those wearing weapons, on pain of intimidating those around them. Apart from the physical risks posed, such intimidation would inherently undermine civic equality. It is hard for the unarmed to argue with the armed. Key to civil society was that citizen-warriors put their weapons in storage when they returned to everyday social and political life.

… definitely worth reading the whole thing. I suspect this question comes up frequently in Classical Civ type classes …

Roman Wedding at Nicopolis ad Istrum

I really think focus-fen ought to look into a better translation service:

The wedding ritual will start at around 4 p.m. The entire ceremony and the wedding festivities will be held in the spirit of the Ancient Rome. Though the wedding will observe all the Roman traditions and rituals it will be also in line with the legal requirements of the nowadays marriage procedure.

All guests at the wedding will be dressed in Roman tunicas. The wedding will start with the dance of the Vestal Virgins, who symbolically clean the house where the wedding ceremony will be held. The couple, which is to wed, will be brought in by their parents. Mayor of Veliko Tarnovo Municipality Daniel Panov will play the part of a senator, while a young man will be the pontiff, who will addressed a series of prayers to Jupiter, Venus and Diana.

After the wedding ceremony there will be treats for the guests, which will be made under ancient Roman recipes.

Let’s hope they at least consulted Karen Hersch’s recent book and didn’t just take their info from the internet …

On Rome Disarming Her Subjects

In the wake of the evil deeds in Aurora, Colorado last week, I was trying to remember whether the Romans had an ancient equivalent of ‘gun control’ and I seem to recall some prof or another in my distant past suggesting that Rome did, in fact, disarm their subjects. I also recall reading from time to time on the web that the Romans did this sort of thing and I have also wondered if those folks have considered the logistics of it. Whatever the case, the source for this view is likelyRamsey MacMullen’s Roman Social Relations, where it is mentioned sort of in passing (p. 35, with a list of exempla in n. 26). Without coming down on one side or the other of the ‘gun control debate’, I do want to point out that MacMullen’s views need to be tempered with the extensive study by P. A . Brunt in Phoenix 29.3, 260-270, “Did Rome Disarm Her Subjects”, wherein Brunt examines MacMullen’s exempla and counters with several others.  Here’s the opening paragraph:

In his Roman Social Relations 50 B.C.-A.D. 284 New Haven and London 1974) Professor Ramsay Macmullen presents a sombre picture of the condition of the lower orders in the Roman empire, which in general appears to me to represent the truth only too well. But among the many suggestions he throws out which provoke reflection, at least one may challenge dissent. In his sketch of Roman taxation he urges that the resistance movements it caused “reveal in rough outline a common pattern of desperation: first, initial conquest by the Romans; next, the rapid confiscation of all hidden weapons;” and then assessments and “recurrent spasms of protest against the weight of tribute harshly calculated and still more harshly exacted.” His belief that even in the early empire taxation was heavier than is commonly assumed seems to me justifiable, but that is not my subject here. Is it right that disarmament, indeed rapid disarmament, was normally the first act of the conquerors as a prelude to taxation? Macmullen founds this claim on (a) a few texts relating to the disarmament of particular peoples and (b) an interpretation of the law or laws de vi, which in his judgement show that disarmament was universal.’ By implication, it was also permanent. There is perhaps some risk that this view will gain credit, unless rebutted. A fuller survey of the evidence suggests to me that disarmament was far from normal and, where attempted, without lasting effect.

… and the conclusion:

When Roman conquest deprived a people of “liberty,” the loss affected not so much the masses as the old ruling class; we must, however, remember that most of Rome’s subjects had been previously under the control of some other king or hegemon, and that relatively few of the provincial civitates had any real sovereignty to lose. Whatever political loss they did sustain was compensated from the first by the blessings of peace and by Rome’s readiness to uphold their local dominance, and in course of time by an increasing share in the imperial government. The notables were in the best position to discern the difficulty or impossibility of successful revolt, and to enjoy the benefits of order, civilization, and actual participation in Roman power. Without the leadership they alone could give, resistance to Rome could not be effectively organized and had even less chance of success. The rise of provincials in the imperial service and the endless panegyrics they pronounced on Rome’s beneficence alike attest the growth of active consent to Roman rule among the subjects who mattered most, if that rule was to endure. It was by winning over the magnates and not by disarming the masses that the Roman government secured submission and internal peace. Disarmament was neither practicable nor necessary as a systematic rule of policy; it was a mere expedient of no more than temporary utility, to be employed against some peoples at the moment of surrender or when there was some particular reason for apprehending disturbances. The “common pattern” is quite different; the local ruling class is left to control the masses and share in their exploitation, and Rome adapts the warlike proclivities of her subjects by giving them arms to protect and maintain her own empire.

… definitely worth a read if you’re asked “What would the Romans do in this situation? Didn’t they …”

Ancient Roman Cinema Projector? I Hae Me Doots Big Time

This has been an aggravating post to get out … first of all, tip o’ the pileus to Richard Campbell for alerting us to this story early this a.m.; a pox on my slow internet connection which prevented me from writing while it was still fresh in my mind. Now I see the story popping up in my Twitter feed and it’s bugging me even more. The story seems to be breaking in Filmaker Magazine, which is a magazine devoted to independent film, in a blogpost with an extremely provocative title: DO ANCIENT ROMAN ARTIFACTS REVEAL THE WORLD’S FIRST MOTION PICTURE PROJECTOR?

After a brief intro to the thing, folks can watch a youtube video which is designed to promote/drum up funds for a project. Here’s the video (and it really should be watched in its entirety … and listen very carefully!):

If you listened carefully, there is a pile of stunning doublespeak about a ‘multimedia installation’ about a ‘speculative archaeological discovery in Zadar’ which ‘may be’ the world’s first cinema projector. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of the phrase ‘speculative archaeology’ before, so alarm bells should be going off. Immediately after telling us that archaeologists are divided about the Antikythera Mechanism (which suggests this guy doesn’t keep up with research) we are told that a coin found ‘nearby’ supports his claim (shades of some Talpiot Tombs, no?). So here’s the coin, supposedly, with one side which says Inventori Lucis (“to the contriver of light” … all pix can be clicked for larger versions):

Screencap from the video

… then they show a shiny new version:

I have never seen this phrase on a coin (not that that means much) but it’s worth mentioning that even Wikipedia mentions its existence not on a coin, but on a phalera (a ‘medal’, for want of a better term) dating stylistically to the Second Century A.D. (there is a reference there to an article by Guarducci, which I am not in a position to track down). The phrase does, of course, refer to Sol Invictus, who was popular among the military set. The other side of this ‘coin’ is similarly Sol-oriented:

Screencap from the Video

… and the shiny new one:

Screencap from the Video

Here we have a reference to Sol Indiges, whose title is pretty controversial as I mentioned years ago before this blogging thing was even thought of. As far as I know, the Sol Indiges thing was largely Republican and so having the ‘Sol Invictus’ on one side and ‘Sol Indiges’ on the other seems kind of strange. I will happily be disabused of this notion, but this medal doesn’t strike me as genuine.

In a similar category are the supposed painted glass panes which — we are led to believe — are Roman in date. Here’s a photo of one of them:

Screencap from the video

I’m sure I’m not the only person who watched this and said, “Hey, that looks just like that Primavera/Flora thing from Stabiae.” In case you’re wondering what I’m referring you, this should give you an ‘oh yeah’ moment:

The dress-off-the-right-shoulder clearly suggests that the ‘glass slide’ was either inspired by or derived from this one. It’s also salutary to point out that the glass slide seems to have a clear border all arond the outside. That’s a giveaway that it was meant either to go in a frame or some sort or that it actually is a Magic Lantern slide from the 1800s (tons of examples on eBay), if it isn’t actually a modern copy. Why would it be modern? Here’s a little quote from the video:

The installation will feature the original archaeological evidence from Zadar, all of which has been fabricated by me …

There’s more info to be had at the Ancient Cinema Project webpage, including more photos that aren’t screencaps. Of particular importance is a quote there which I don’t think is in the video:

Yet another archaeological mystery was recently discovered at a flea market in Zadar: oxidized piece of metal, a cache of hand-painted glass tablets (mostly shattered), a clay lamp, and an unusual coin with the Latin inscriptions “Sol Indiges” and “Inventori Lvcis”. These artifacts form the basis of the installation “Ancient Cinema,” a meta-historical reflection on archaeology and storytelling.

‘Meta-historical’ and ‘speculative archaeology’ with ‘fabricated evidence’. All based on items found at that place where provenance goes to die known as the flea market. Don’t eat that Elmer … there’s nothing ancient Roman here and the double speak being used to raise funds (after a Canada Council Grant ran out??? That’s my tax money!) borders on dishonesty.

[by the way, I am aware of the possibility of Aristotle knowing how the 'camera obscura' worked; this has nothing to do with that]

Rethinking the ‘Domus of the Dancing Cherubs’ at Aquileia

This probably won’t last long at ANSA:

Archaeologists working on the remains of an ancient dwelling in northern Italy have reassessed their ideas about the site after uncovering lavish decorations and imposing architectural features. The building in Aquileia, which previously appeared to be a normal Roman villa, has now emerged as a majestic mansion complex, covering an entire block. Archaeologists say the house, or domus, was the largest building in the Ancient Roman city of Aquileia and was probably the residence of a powerful figure, perhaps an imperial official. The location of the ‘Domus of the Dancing Cherubs’, between the river port and the forum, has long indicated that its owner was an important person.

But a string of recent discoveries have revealed the extent of its inhabitant’s status, said the archaeologist leading the team, Federica Fontana.

“During the latest excavations we have found the eastern entrance to the home,” she explained. “This was preceded by a large, paved piazza with a well in it”.

This is considered an exceptional find, not only for its size, but also because few entrance ways have been identified at the underground site over the years. “We have also found a room, at the same level as the entranceway, which had underground heating and a floor decorated with an exquisite multicoloured mosaic,” she said. “Thanks to these and other discoveries we can conclude that the house probably covered the entire quarter. It was divided into a series of small courtyards with colonnades. “One of these even had a large, limestone canal with drainage for rain water, of a type usually only seen in public buildings”. The team also uncovered a beautifully sculpted woman’s marble bust in the complex’s innermost courtyard that was probably once part of the architectural decoration. “All these elements make it clear just how important this domus was in Aquileia,” said Fontana. Work on Via Gemina, where the Domus of the Dancing Cherubs once stood, has yielded up a number of key discoveries in recent years. In 2005, two coloured mosaics were uncovered in astonishing condition, while 2009 saw the discovery of an extremely rare “cage cup”.

These luxury Roman drinking vessels, only a handful of which have survived the centuries, consist of an inner glass beaker surrounded by an outer decorated cage of metal.

Much of Aquileia, which was once one of the largest and wealthiest cities of the Early Roman Empire, still lies unexcavated beneath fields. Adding the site to its World Heritage List in 1998, UNESCO cited the fact that most of ancient Aquileia survives intact underground, making it the most complete example of an Early Roman city in the Mediterranean world.

I’m pretty sure the mosaic mentioned is not the one which Adrian Murdoch mentioned on Twitter a couple of days ago (which dates from the fourth century) …. that said, here’s a photo from the ANSA coverage in La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno (English edition):

… which I find very interesting as I’ve seen that ‘fishing cupids’ motif at Piazza Armerina (when I find my portable hard drives that disappeared a couple of months ago, I’ll post the photos I took … until then, here’s an example I found at flickr … might have to dig into this motif a bit more).

Previous reports from Aquileia (where a major did has been going on for quite a while) includes the excavation of the public baths (2006) … not sure why we don’t hear more about this dig.

This Day in Ancient History

[a couple of years ago I was experimenting with this format]

ante diem iii nonas quinctilias

Poplifugia — a festival the origins  of which were forgotten by the time folks began writing about things; it possibly commemorates the flight of the people from Gauls in the fourth century, but that seems a rather strange thing for Romans to build a festival around (even with the story of Tutula/Philotis* attached to it).

*From Seyffert’s Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, s.v. Caprotina:

The festival [sc. of Juno Caprotina] was connected with another, called Poplifugium, or the “Flight of the People,” held on the 5th of July. Thus a historical basis was given to it, though the true origin of both festivals had been probably forgotten. After their defeat by the Gauls, the Romans were con­quered and put to flight by a sudden attack of their neighbours, the Latins, who de­manded the surrender of a large number of girls and widows. Thereupon, at the sug­gestion of a girl called Tutula (or Philotis), the female slaves disguised themselves as Roman ladies, went into the enemy’s camp, and contrived to make the enemy drunk, while Tutula, climbing a wild fig-tree, gave the signal for the Romans to attack by hold­ing up a torch. The Poplifugia were cele­brated by a mimic flight. [...]

Here’s the account from Plutarch’s Life of Camillus:

They say that the Latins (whether out of pretence, or real design to revive the ancient relationship of the two nations) sent to desire of the Romans some free-born maidens in marriage; that when the Romans were at a loss how to determine (for on one hand they dreaded a war, having scarcely yet settled and recovered themselves, and on the other side suspected that this asking of wives was, in plain terms, nothing else but a demand for hostages, though covered over with the specious name of intermarriage and alliance), a certain handmaid, by name Tutula, or, as some call her, Philotis, persuaded the magistrates to send with her some of the most youthful and best-looking maid-servants, in the bridal dress of noble virgins, and leave the rest to her care and management; that the magistrates, consenting, chose out as many as she thought necessary for her purpose, and adorning them with gold and rich clothes, delivered them to the Latins, who were encamped not far from the city; that at night the rest stole away the enemy’s swords, but Tutula or Philotis, getting to the top of a wild fig-tree, and spreading out a thick woollen cloth behind her, held out a torch towards Rome, which was the signal concerted between her and the commanders, without the knowledge, however, of any other of the citizens, which was the reason that their issuing out from the city was tumultuous, the officers pushing their men on, and they calling upon one another’s names, and scarce able to bring themselves into order; that setting upon the enemy’s works, who either were asleep or expected no such matter, they took the camp and destroyed most of them; and that this was done on the Nones of July, which was then called Quintilis, and that the feast that is observed on that day is a commemoration of what was then done. For in it, first, they run out of the city in great crowds, and call out aloud several familiar and common names, Caius, Marcus, Lucius, and the like in representation of the way in which they called to one another when they went out in such haste.

feriae Jovi

More from Sofia/Serdica

On the heels of last week’s announcement of the opening of a major Roman site to the public, the Sofia News Agency tells us that archaeologists are on the trail (they hope) of Constantine’s palace there too:

A large ancient building located under the St. Nedelya Cathedral in downtown Sofia might turn out to be a palace of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, according to Bulgarian archaeologists.

The building might also turn out to be the ancient thermae, or public baths of the ancient Roman city of Serdica, today’s Sofia, according to architect Konstantin Peev, head of the EKSA company, which is helping the Sofia Municipality with the excavation and restoration of the archaeological heritage of the Bulgarian capital.

The excavations at the Sofia Largo and the so called Metro Station 2-8 next to the Tzum retail store were made necessary by the construction of the second line of the Sofia Metro.

According to Peev, the bouleuterion of the city of Serdica was located under the northwestern corner of today’s building of the Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan. The bouleuterion was a small amphitheater-like building which housed the council of the citizens in the Antiquity period. The Serdica bouleuterion had a diameter of about 20 meters.

Peev also said that the archeaological excavations in the spring of 2010 have so far revealed a number of Roman insula, i.e. homes closed off among four streets.

He pointed out that the archaeologists have revealed the main streets of the Roman city of Serdica – the main street, decumanus maximus, connecting the Eastern and Western Gates, was wide about 7-8 meters and paved with huge pave stones. The cardo, the secondary street, went in the north-south direction.

Architect Peev stated that the municipality and the Culture Ministry were currently considering various options for conserving and displaying the archeaological heritage of Sofia.

via Bulgarian Archaeologists Hope to Find Constantine’s Palace | Sofia News Agency.

Roman Remains in Sofia

AFP seems to be the only one covering this … I can’t find that we’ve mentioned anything about this before either:

The remains of an ancient Roman town were on Thursday unveiled to the public in the centre of the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

Excavation of the site — which currently includes a Roman palace, baths and burial sites, as well as a more recent 13th century church — began several years ago.

It is hoped that the remains will be preserved as a major heritage site and tourist attraction.

Archaeologists believe the site — which formed the intersection of the two major streets of the ancient Roman town Ulpia Sedica — could prove even more extensive, with at least two more Roman palaces waiting to be uncovered.

Debate has raged for years over the fate of the site as the excavations notably proved a major headache for plans to extend the Sofia underground, with a major station situated right below the historical site.

But the authorities finally opted to preserve the remains where they were.

The total cost of the ambitious project, which will entail a complete reconstruction of central Sofia and is scheduled to be finished in 2011/2012, is an estimated 20 million leva (10 million euros, 12 million dollars).

“It’ll be a perfectly preserved underground museum covering an area of 1.9 hectares,” said Deputy Culture Minister Todor Chobanov at a tour of the site for the media.

“This could put Sofia on par with other major cultural heritage sites such as Rome,” Chobanov said.

With the help of EU money, “this huge space can be used as a centre for exhibitions and performances, which is something that Sofia did not really have until now,” said chief architect Petar Dikov.

An ancient Thracian settlement, Bulgaria’s capital was conquered by the Romans in the first century BC and renamed Ulpia Serdica.
Parts of the Roman fortress in the area close to the current excavations site and an adjacent church dating back to the fourth century have already been excavated and fully reconstructed.

via AFP: Spectacular Roman remains unveiled in Sofia | AFP.

Gladiator Graveyard?

From the Times … seems to be hyping an upcoming TV documentary:

Archaeologists believe that they may have discovered a Roman gladiator cemetery near York city centre. About 80 remains have been found since the investigation began in 2004, with more than half of them decapitated.

Researchers believe they may form part of the world’s only well-preserved Roman gladiator cemetery.

Kurt Hunter-Mann, a field officer at York Archaeological Trust who is leading the investigation, said: “The skulls were literally found somewhere else in the grave — not on top of the shoulders.

“We could see that in quite a few cases the skulls had been chopped with some kind of heavy bladed weapon, a sword or in one or two cases an axe.

“But they were buried with a degree of care. There are no mass pits. Most of them are buried individually.”

He said that bite marks on one of the skeletons helped to steer the team to its initial theory.

“One of the most significant items of evidence is a large carnivore bite mark — probably inflicted by a lion, tiger or bear — an injury which must have been sustained in an arena context.

“There are not many situations where someone is going to be killed by something like that, and also to have other wounds, and also to be decapitated. They may have been a gladiator involved in beast fights.”

He added: “Other important pieces of evidence include a high incidence of substantial arm asymmetry — a feature mentioned in ancient Roman literature in connection with a gladiator; some healed and unhealed weapon injuries; possible hammer blows to the head — a feature attested as a probable gladiatorial coup de grace at another gladiator cemetery, Ephesus, in Turkey.

“The arm asymmetry would also be consistent with weapons training that had already started in teenage years, and we know from Roman accounts that some gladiators entered their profession at a very young age.”

Most losing gladiators who were put to death were stabbed in the throat. However, decapitation may have been adopted as a custom in York in response to a prevailing local preference, he said.

“At present our lead theory is that many of these skeletons are those of Roman gladiators. So far there are a number of pieces of evidence which point towards that interpretation or are consistent with it.

“But the research is continuing and we must therefore keep an open mind.”

The size and importance of York suggested it might have had an amphitheatre, he said, but so far none has been found.

The skeletons date from the late first century AD to the 4th century AD. Fourteen of them were interred with grave goods to accompany them to the next world.

The team said that the most impressive grave was that of a tall man aged between 18 and 23, buried in a large oval grave some time in the 3rd century.

Interred with him were what appear to have been the remains of substantial joints of meat from at least four horses, possibly consumed at the funeral — plus some cow and pig remains.

He had been decapitated by several sword blows to the neck.

Additional research has also been carried out by forensic anthropologists at the University of Central Lancashire.

Dr Michael Wysocki, senior lecturer in forensic anthropology and archaeology at the university, said: “These are internationally important discoveries. We don’t have any other potential gladiator cemeteries with this level of preservation anywhere else in the world.”

I’m not sure whether this is connected to the Roman ‘Cold Case’ we mentioned four years ago (which also seemed to be hype for a television program) … or the Roman Graveyard we mentioned a month before that (which also seemed to be hype for a television program). I think that program was a Timewatch episode called The Mystery of the Headless Romans, but perhaps this one is new.

FWIW, the Times seems to have also reported on an early stage of this excavation back in 2005: Mystery of 49 headless Romans who weren’t meant to haunt us

Overnight we appear to have had a pile of other coverage of this story, most of which are really playing up the ‘lion, tiger, or bear’ wound angle; we’ll forgive the media this time for not distinguishing between gladiatorial participants and those who participated in venationes:

Citanda: Why Can’t Rome Protect Its Cultural Treasures?

Rome - Colosseum long
Image by kevsunblush via Flickr

In the wake of last week’s chunk of mortar/plaster falling off the Colosseum, Newsweek has an interesting editorialish thing … here’s the last bit:

At the Coliseum, which attracts nearly 4 million visitors per year, pathetic preservation measures like flimsy safety netting and metal braces put in place almost 30 years ago are now inadequate. And a more recent effort—to sandblast the traffic soot off the porous exterior walls in 1992—was abandoned after the city and key sponsors ran out of money. In the meantime, decades of traffic, vandalism, and neglect have taken their toll. “The Coliseum suffers from its 2,000 years of history,” says Adriano La Regina, superintendent of Rome’s antiquities. “It needs constant, intensive surveillance and intervention; it is like a cancer patient with a bad prognosis.” The structure has an annual maintenance budget of just $867,000—half of what the Ministry of Culture says is necessary to save it. Now an emergency restoration plan by the culture ministry is in place, at a cost of $8.4 million. No one knows yet where the money will come from.

The ambitious project, set to begin later this month, again includes a much-needed exterior cleaning and replacement of key support structures—including new metal bands that hold some of the marble in place. Stone archways will be reinforced and safety netting under the fragile ancient ceilings will be updated. The area around the Coliseum will also be cordoned off, and pedestrian traffic near the monument will be restricted in case of further collapse during the work. In 2000, the city of Rome installed a gladiator exhibit on the second tier, complete with an elevator and gift shop. Now, the museum and elevator will likely be removed, and parts of the ancient amphitheater will be permanently closed to the public. Plans to open the third tier and the subterranean tunnel system to attract even more visitors were also in the works before last Sunday’s collapse. Those areas will likely now never be accessible to the public.

The Coliseum is open again, but a quota system is now enforced to control the number of visitors who are in the ancient amphitheater at any given time. This week the city will consider an emergency measure to limit traffic on the busy throughway that passes within a few hundred feet of the building, turning the entire area into a pedestrian island and diverting thousands of cars and buses that pass by each day.

In recent years, the city of Rome has rented out the Coliseum as a venue for special events like concerts to help offset the maintenance costs. But after Sunday’s collapse, all events scheduled for the busy summer season were canceled or moved to other venues. The vibration from loud speakers is simply too risky, according to La Regina. Smaller indoor events were also canceled, including boxing matches in the ancient underground cages and private VIP dinners and fashion shows, which were scheduled to be held on a wooden floor erected above the subterranean tunnels. The lost revenue from renting out the Coliseum will now have to come from other sources.

According to an archeologist for the culture ministry, Francesco Maria Giro, the priorities have now changed. “Sunday’s event was small, but it is yet another wake up call and confirms the need to study the ancient monuments of Rome,” he said during a walking tour of the Coliseum on Wednesday. “A plan of intervention and ongoing maintenance now supersedes everything else.” But until the government realizes that increasing, not cutting, its culture budget should be the real priority, saving Rome’s cherished symbols will be a race against time.

via Why Can’t Rome Protect Its Cultural Treasures? – Newsweek.com.

In a similar vein:

Aspendos Gladiator School

Gladiators from the Zliten mosaic.
Image via Wikipedia

The Aspendos Gladiator School is planning to train Turkish oil wrestlers to re-enact the gladiator fights of ancient Rome in the southern Province of Antalya.

The school is in the Serik district, which is also home to the ancient theater of Aspendos. The school covers 300 square meters near the site of the ancient theater and is expected to be open by the end of May.

Students will receive basic acting training to re-enact the gladiator fights and the chariot races of ancient times. Handmade costumes and weapons will be used during the shows, and there will be an 800-person spectator hall built to match Roman architectural tradition. There will also be a Roman market in the arena.

The school’s administrator, Ali Akay, said the spectators would also be provided with outfits of the time to increase the ambience, adding that the gladiators who will take part in the shows are set to begin horse-riding training in the next few days.

“We have 16 horses. Up to now, we have spent almost 300,000 Turkish Liras, and we are still holding auditions for gladiator candidates. They are supposed to be well built, and therefore we believe the best candidates will be Turkish oil wrestlers. We have already offered the roles to our local wrestlers, and we are waiting for the results.”

Akay also said 40 people will take part in the shows, which will be composed of many traditional Roman games. “We will re-enact the gladiator spirit in Anatolia with the shows we produce. Of course, we have commercial concerns, but our main motive is our love for and interest in history.”

via Local wrestlers to be trained as gladiators in south Turkey | Hurriyet Daily News.

… I guess these folks can have competitions from the gang at Regensburg who are Gladiating Through University … not sure ‘costumes’ is the right word to describe what they wear …

Sinclair Bell on Chariot Fans

Winner of a Roman chariot race
Image via Wikipedia

Here’s another one from the Toledo Museum of Art … here’s the official description of an interesting talk on the fanaticism of fans ar Roman chariot races:

Dr. Sinclair Bell, Professor in the Department of Art History at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, presented his program “Fans and Fame in the Roman Circus”.

In the first century CE, the funeral for Felix, a charioteer of the Red team, made headlines in Rome’s daily gazette when one of his fans immolated himself on his favorite’s funeral pyre. While an extreme example, fan behavior in ancient Rome is not unknown. Yet where charioteers assumed a highly visible presence in Roman society and have been much studied, the fans whom they inspired remain largely overlooked and poorly understood. This talk drew upon a wide range of literary, artistic, and archaeological evidence in reconstructing and reclaiming the interactive experience of the sport’s various followers.

Sinclair Bell is a specialist in the archaeology of ancient Italy and the history of ancient art. He has excavated in Italy and Tunisia, and worked as a curatorial assistant at museums in Germany and Greece. He studied Classical Art & Archaeology at the universities of Oxford, Edinburgh, and Cologne, receiving his Ph.D. in 2004. Currently an Assistant Professor of Art History at Northern Illinois University, he has taught previously in the School of Art & Art History at the University of Iowa and in the Department of Classics at the University of Winnipeg. Dr. Bell’s research is broadly concerned with Etruscan and Roman material culture and art, especially its social history, Renaissance reception, and contemporary theorization. He has published numerous articles, book chapters, and reviews on these and related topics. In addition, he has co-edited five books, including Role Models in the Roman World: Identity and Assimilation (Ann Arbor 2008) and New Perspectives on Etruria and Early Rome (Madison 2009). He is currently completing a monograph about the role of circus spectacles in Roman imperial culture.

via Dr. Sinclair Bell | “Fans and Fame in the Roman Circus” | March 20, 2010 | Toledo Museum of Art.

Iris (Summer 2010) is Available!

The Summer 2010 edition of Iris is out this month, and the theme of this issue is crime and punishment in the ancient world. Contents include:

* Romans behaving badly: crime and punishment in Rome
* Iris chat: Andrew Irvine, author of ‘Socrates on Trial’
* CSI Athens: the crime scene in ancient Greece
* Rules and rulers: law making and breaking in ancient world
* What lies beneath: off the beaten track in Northamptonshire
* Redemption and revenge: the story of Philoctetes

It also includes articles and features on outreach projects, news and reviews, puzzles, a what’s on section, translations, fiction, advice and more.

Iris magazine is part of The Iris Project, an educational charity which promotes access to Classics in inner city state schools and deprived urban areas. The magazine is sent free to state schools which don’t yet offer Classical subjects, and this is funded solely by subscriptions and advertisements in the magazine.

You can order a subscription at http://www.irismagazine.org/order.htm or by emailing editor  AT irismagazine.org. For more information on how you can help support the outreach work of the project or if you would like to make a donation, please get in touch at with us through our website.