Classical Ukraine?

As events evolved over the past week in Ukraine and environs, there was an interesting item in BBC’s Magazine Monitor section, which included comments from Dame Averil Cameron and Charlotte Roueche:

In an extraordinary ceremony in Ukraine, potential cabinet members are to be paraded in front of crowds of protesters to seek their approval, it’s been reported. It has strange echoes of Ancient Roman practices, writes Finlo Rohrer.

Apart from the X Factor, it’s hard to think of a modern parallel for the event planned in Independence Square, at the heart of anti-government protests in Ukraine. Candidates for the new cabinet of ministers are to be paraded and – only if approved by the crowds – formally confirmed later.

It has, one assumes, unintentional echoes of the tradition of acclamation in later Roman times and particularly in the Eastern Roman or Byzantine empire. A candidate for the imperial throne would present themselves in front of a crowd of soldiers, or even ordinary people, lap up the adulation, and then go on to overcome their rivals aided by a handy sheen of legitimacy.

“The emperor Constantine was acclaimed by his father’s soldiers in Britain – that didn’t guarantee the role. He then had to battle with several rivals,” says Prof Dame Averil Cameron, of Oxford University.

Then there was regular contact with large crowds who had a chance to voice disapproval. “Among the early Julio-Claudian emperors of Rome, they appeared in the Circus. That is where you met the people. There might be shouts or demonstrations,” says Cameron.

What happened was not necessarily always a reflection of the real will of the people. Even Rome in the republic was not any kind of modern-style democracy. “The Romans got really good at orchestrating it [acceptance by the crowd],” says Byzantinist Prof Charlotte Roueche, of King’s College London. “In Kiev, the main cathedral actually has wall paintings showing activities in the Hippodrome in Constantinople, where the emperors were acclaimed.”

In many societies throughout history it was seen as a mark almost of divine inspiration to have a unanimous shout from a crowd. But even with bribery and cajoling, unanimity isn’t always easy to come by. “If the [Roman or Byzantine] people were feeling grumpy they would shout out that they wanted more bread,” says Roueche.

… and I also remembered an item I had been sitting on for a while. Longtime readers of rogueclassicism might remember one of my posts in which I drew a comparison between a bust in Anthony Quinn’s collection (which had come to auction at Bonham’s: Classic Vlad) and Putin’s visage. A short while ago, Putin was interviewed by assorted journalists and the Telegraph coverage of the event had an interesting intro:

If Julius Caesar had ever granted an interview, the spectacle might have been similar to Vladimir Putin’s audience with Andrew Marr and sundry other journalists in Sochi. Regal, relaxed and chuckling, Mr Putin clearly regarded the whole session as a bit of a joke. He treated his interlocutors with genial contempt – and they were so grateful to be in his presence that they appeared not to notice.

Mr Marr’s “interview” with Mr Putin turned out to be four questions posed alongside various other journalists and then a few minutes one-on-one. Poor Mr Marr behaved like an overawed prefect interviewing his headmaster for the school magazine – and failing to spot how he was being mocked and played with. [...]

(Telegraph)

… I wonder if we’ll see Putin saying Veni, Vidi, Vici soon …

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Caesar in Germania … the Evidence Mounts

Back in September, we were pondering some new evidence that Caesar’s troops may have been in Germany (Evidence of Caesar’s Troops … In Germany?) and it never did seem to make it to the English press. Now, however, a blog put out by the publishers of Ancient Warfare Magazine put out a nice summary (with appropriate links) of our long-time webfriend Jona Lendering’s investigations into same … definitely worth a look (and do follow the links to Jona’s blog):

Caesar’s Assassination Site Redux ~ “Excessive Interpretation”

Last week or so we mentioned the media flurry about the discovery of the purported site of Caesar’s assassination (Site of Caesar’s Assassination Found?) … those reports were generated by one of the archaeologists working at the Largo Argentina site (Antonio Monterroso) … now fellow archaeologist Marina Mattei is saying ‘not so fast …

Site of Caesar’s Assassination Found?

A zillion versions of this one bouncing around the interwebs right now … the clearest seems to be AFP via France 24:

Archaeologists said Wednesday they believe they have found the exact spot in Rome where Julius Caesar was stabbed to death on March 15, 44 BC.

The stabbing of the dictator by Roman senators was recorded by ancient historians and dramatised by William Shakespeare who gave Caesar the last words: “Et tu Brute? Then fall, Caesar.”

Now, a team from the Spanish National Research Council say they have unearthed evidence that, they believe, reveals precisely where the attack took place.

They say they have found a concrete structure, three metres (10 feet) wide and two metres (nearly seven feet) high, that was erected by his adoptive son and successor, Augustus.

After taking power himself, Augustus ordered the structure be placed exactly over the place where the attack took place so as to condemn the slaying of his father, the scientists said.

“This finding confirms that the general was stabbed right at the bottom of the Curia of Pompey while he was presiding, sitting on a chair, over a meeting of the Senate,” the Spanish research council said in a statement.

The Curia of Pompey was a closed space used sometimes for senate meetings at the time. The building’s remains are in the Torre Argentina archaeological site in the centre of Rome.

What the archaelogists found was not the spot where Caesar died but the point where he must have been stabbed and fell, Spanish council researcher Antonio Monterroso told AFP.

“We know this because there is a structure that seals the place where Caesar must have been seated presiding over the senate session where he was stabbed,” he said.

“There is a structure from the later period of his successor, the period of Augustus, placed where Caesar must have sat, and that is how we know.”

A comparison of the archaeological remains and the ancient texts led the researchers to their conclusion, said Monterroso, a member of the Institute of History of the Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences.

It was impossible to know if Caesar died in the same place, however, the researcher said.

“From there the body was taken to the Roman Forum for his veneration and then it was cremated,” Monterroso said.

“We don’t know if he died in that instant or if he died hours later.”

He agreed that the finding was open to dispute.

“It is not indisputable. All archaeological science is open to dispute, it should be open to dispute, it should be open to argument, it should be open to debate and open to criticism, of course.”

The three-year archaeological project, which began last year, is supported by the Rome City Council, Spanish government financing and the Spanish research council’s Spanish School of History and Archaeology in Rome.

The discovery in the centre of Rome was impressive, Monterroso said. “Thousands of people today take the bus and the tram right next to the place where Julius Caesar was stabbed 2,056 years ago.”

The original press release (which almost all the other sources print verbatim) is here.

… I always find it odd when they call archaeologists “scientists”, but I won’t argue. What I’m not clear about, however, is the source for this “structure” they’re referring to … anyone know?

Evidence of Caesar’s Troops … In Germany?

This one seems to be just filtering out to the English press … the most coherent so far is News.com’s coverage:

THE remains of a Roman military camp in Germany have been linked to Julius Caesar, making it the oldest Roman site in the country.

The ruins, near the present-day town of Hermeskeil in western Germany, was first associated with the Romans in the 19th-century but was thought to date from long after Caesar.

In her first public presentation on the site, archaeologist Sabine Hornung explained on Monday how more than 70 rusty studs from the soles of sandals were discovered in the cracks between the cobbles of the camp gate, evidence that connects the site to the time of Caesar.

Although there is no proof the general ever visited the camp, his forces had massed at the site during the Gallic War, in which Caesar conquered the Celts and extended Rome’s territory to the English Channel and the Rhine River.

“It’s so lucky that we found these nails here,” she said. “This moment in world history is now archaeologically accessible.”

The nails, resembling drawing pins, occasionally fell out as soldiers walked. They can be precisely dated to the Gallic War period, along with lost coins and fragments of broken pottery in the camp’s rubbish tip.

Much of the site has been levelled under fields growing maize, but a several metres high earthen wall, built by Roman soldiers with their spades, still exists in nearby woods.

“To see remains like this of a Caesarean military camp is unique,” she said. “It’s incredible good luck to have found it.”

The Romans evidently picked the 26-hectare site – big enough to accommodate 5,000 to 10,000 soldiers – because it has its own spring.

Hornung said she was still looking for evidence that the unnamed camp was constructed as a springboard to attack a major hilltop Celtic stronghold five kilometres away.

“We would like to find catapult ammunition, because the commanding general’s name might be embossed on it,” she said. A dig at the site is expected to continue for five or six years.

via: Ruins in Germany linked to Caesar era (News.com)

See also (in the German press … doesn’t seem to add much):

FWIW, I really don’t get the Caesar connection … I can’t figure out which legions these would supposedly be. XIII? VII?

UPDATE: a few seconds later … must have missed this in my own Blogosphere updates … Adrian Murdoch (who follows the German press much more closely than I can) is covering this … the most recent links to his previous coverage:

Colin Nouailher’s Alexander and Julius Caesar

I’m always interested in seeing how folks in different eras portrayed the big names of the folks within our purview and, as it happens, the Metropolitan Museum’s ‘Featured Artwork of the Day’ (via Facebook) is Colin Nouailher’s plaque of Alexander the Great, which forms part of a series of depictions of the ‘Nine Worthies’ a.k.a. ‘Nine Heroes’ which were popular ‘at court’  in sixteenth century France (due to Jacques de Longuyon’s Les Voeux du Paon). In any event, check this depiction out:

from the Metropolitan Museum

… the official description page with further details can be found here but it is interesting how — to a Classicist — ‘unAlexander-like’ this depiction is, not least because of the beard. One could make a similar comment about another plaque in the series depicting Julius Caesar:

via the Metropolitan Museum

… more info here. Both look more like oriental potentates than anything else, which probably reflects on the French court’s ideas of ‘power’ at the time (that’s me drawing conclusions rather quickly). The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History does have an interesting article on this sort of thing: Images of Antiquity in Limoges Enamels in the French Renaissance.
Outside of that, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France has a very nice manuscript of Les Voeux du Paon online, although it isn’t illustrated. The Bodleian has some pages of illustrations  from the same work (I think), but they are kind of grotty. I’m sure there are better ones out there …

Utter B.S.: Veni, Vidi, Vici Trademarked

Okay, this is officially ridiculous … first it was the Volvo nonsense, then Lamborghini with its Deimos nonsense, and now some town in Turkey has managed to trademark Julius Caesar’s phrase? From Hurriyet:

The municipality of Zile in the northern province of Tokat has announced the acquisition of the Turkish patent license for the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar’s famous saying “Veni Vidi Vici” which is believed to have been uttered in district’s 4,000-year-old castle.

It took two and a half years to acquire the patent, Mayor Lütfi Vidinel said.

“The copyright of the phrase belongs to our municipality for the following 10 years. We are planning to renew it every decade. A global tobacco company is using this phrase as part of its brand logo and we are planning to contact them and ask for our copyright share for the use of the phrase. We will allocate the funds we raise for the fight against tobacco use,” Vidinel said.

In May 47 B.C., Caesar defeated Pharnaces of Pontus near the town of Zile. He claimed he captured the enemy in four hours. To inform the Roman Senate of his victory, Caesar succinctly wrote, “veni, vidi, vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered).

This a.m. I quipped on Twitter that all the Classics departments should band together and trademark the name of every Greek and Roman divinity. We should add to that the name of every ancient author and everything they said. We clearly could easily fund Classics for eternity …

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem iv nonas sextilias

Second Punic War, The Battle of Cannae, Destru...
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ante diem iv nonas sextilias

  • 338 B.C. — Death of Archidamus III (King of Sparta)
  • 216 B.C. — Hannibal inflicts a massive defeat on Roman forces at Cannae (possible date)
  • 86 B.C. — Sulla defeats Mithridates at Chaeronea (possible date)
  • 49 B.C. — Julius Caesar defeats Afranius and Petreius (legates of Pompey) at Ilerda
  • 47 B.C. — Julius Caesar defeats Pharnaces II at Zela (and would later proclaim his victory with the famous “Veni, vidi, vici” )
  • 9 A.D. — death of Quintilius Varus (not sure about this one)

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem iii idus quinctilias

ante diem iii idus quinctilias

  • ludi Apollinares (day 8)– games instituted in 212 B.C. after consulting the Sybilline books during a particularly bad stretch in the Punic Wars; four years later they became an annual festival in honour of Apollo
  • 431 B.C. (?) — dedication of the Temple of Apollo outside the pomoerium (and associated rites thereafter)
  • 100 B.C. (?) — birth of G. Julius Caesar (another possible day)
  • ca. 251 A.D. — martyrdom of Myrope

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem iv idus quinctilias

Bust of Gaius Julius Caesar in the National Ar...

Image via Wikipedia

ante diem iv idus quinctilias

  • ludi Apollinares (day 7) — games instituted in 212 B.C. after consulting the Sybilline books during a particularly bad stretch in the Punic Wars; four years later they became an annual festival in honour of Apollo
  • 100 B.C. (?) — birth of G. Julius Caesar
  • 67 A.D. — martyrdom of Paulinus of Antioch
  • 1536 — death of Erasmus
  • 1922 — birth of Michael Ventris, who would decipher Linear B

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem vii idus junias

Temple of Vesta in the Forum Romanum in Rome.

Image via Wikipedia

ante diem vii idus junias

  • the ‘inner sanctum’ of the Temple of Vesta was opened to the (female) public
  • ludi piscatorii (?) — a private festival celebrated by fishermen
  • 17 B.C.. — ludi Latini et Graeci honorarii (day 3)
  • 20 A.D. — Nero Julius Caesar, son of the emperor-in-waiting Germanicus, dons his toga virilis; a congiarium is given to the people as well
  • 86 A.D. — ludi Capitolini — a festival involving poetic contests, inaugurated by Domitian based on something done by Nero (day 2)
  • 204 A.D. — ludi Latini et Graeci honorarii (day 4)

Julius Caesar Flick in the Works?

The initial couple of ‘graphs from a movie-industry blog (and there are no further details after these few words):

Gianni Nunnari and Mark Canton are teaming up with Exclusive Media Group on a potential franchise based on the life of Julius Caesar.

The partners are eyeing a trilogy of films adapted from Conn Iggulden’s four-book The Emperor Series. Exclusive Media Group co-chairman Nigel Sinclair said the company might finance the first project in a split-rights deal with a US studio.

via Exclusive Media Group, Nunnari, Canton to partner on Julius Caesar epic | Screen Daily.

Folks might want to check out an interview with Conn Iggulden from back in 2006 at the UNRV site on this (tip o’ the pileus to Viggen!)