Lyre of Hermes

About once a year we hear of someone reproducing this or that ancient instrument. This time around, it’s the so-called “Lyre of Hermes”, which is the lyre you often see depicted on Hellenistic pottery.

Dixit Serkan Çelik (a lecturer at Ege University Turkish Music Conservatory):

“Some depictions were not too clear, that’s why we had some problems during the process. While reproducing the instrument, we used natural materials and brought it to life back. Its sound box was made from tortoise shells and strings from intestines.”

“We are the first ones to produce this instrument. Another example was reproduced by French musicologist Belis but that instrument’s sound box was created from wood rather than tortoise shell, so the one we produced is closer to the original.”

Queen’s Firsts

One of the fun aspects of going to Queen’s (where I did my M.A.) was reading the local paper, which had the great name Whig-Standard (which is almost as good as Times-Picayune) and I note a letter to the editor this past week from R. Drew Griffith, one of my former professors and current head of the department (I believe):

The story “Hate on campus” (Jan. 24) outlines Queen’s University’s uphill battle for inclusiveness, noting that last month the university’s board of trustees failed to endorse a plan to name a building on campus after Robert Sutherland (BA, 1852), the first black graduate of any college in British North America, later a successful lawyer and Queen’s first major benefactor.

When Sutherland’s story is fully celebrated, as it should be, I will note with pride that he majored in classics (my department) and mathematics, and that he graduated with a prize for translation from English into ancient Greek verse, a feat neither my colleagues nor I nowadays would dare to attempt.

Queen’s classics department scored another first, by the way, in 1917, when it and the English department appointed Queen’s first two female professors – not too shabby for a field devoted to the study of dead European males.

There’s actually a visiting professorship at Queen’s named for Sutherland as well, and the accompanying biography in the description thereof only mentions a Classics connection in passing (if that) … perhaps some rectification of this would be a good thing as well. Perhaps we need a Canadian version of Twelve Black Classicists

Mac Classics Redux (sort of)

Every so often you start to wonder whether ‘outsiders’ are seeking attention from rogueclassicism — and assorted parts of my brain usually kick in to set my head straight. But in the wake of our Mac Classics post last week, I can’t help but wonder whether Digital Daily is looking for some rogueclassicism love … check out this photo:

… which is accompanied by this incipit:

Apple observers sifting entrails for portents of iMacs to come have three new signs in which to put their faith this week.

… and this headline:

Romans At Silbury Hill?

A piece in the Telegraph suggests (n regards to Silbury Hill), inter alia:

So the mound wasn’t simply some ghostly feature that became abandoned in prehistoric times, says Rob Harding, the English Heritage project manager for the site. According to Harding, there is also evidence of Roman usage in the platforms along the side of the hill. “Often, the Romans adopted the local gods and forms of worship when they arrived in new countries, so we think it would have had some sort of ceremonial function for the Romans. But it is possible it was disused in the period prior to their arrival in 43BC. The Roman road to Bath (the A4) runs around the base of the hill, but we have nothing to suggest it was in use after the Romans until the late Saxon or earlyNorman period.”

Actually, back in 2007, archaeologists found remains of a substantial Roman settlement at the base of the hill. According to a Guardian article from the time:

It was already clear that the Romans knew Silbury – the largest prehistoric structure in Europe, nearly 40 metres high and estimated to have taken 35m baskets of chalk to build – because their ruler-straight road, which the A4 follows, jinked to avoid it.

However the revelation that regularly laid out streets and houses of a village the size of 24 football pitches lay hidden under the modern road and the fields around it astonished the scientists, who were surveying the site before restoration work on the hill.

Bob Bewley, regional director of English Heritage, speculated that Silbury may have been an overnight stop on the way to the sacred springs and bathing pools at Bath, but may also have been a Roman pilgrimage site in its own right.

… and even back then there was this ‘ceremonial’ bent to the interpretation (I think this was also said by the aforementioned Bob Bewley):

“Given the sacred value we know Romans attached to sites close to water it seemed impossible that they would not be drawn in the wake of their prehistoric forebears to Silbury Hill, which lies close to both the Winterbourne River and the Swallowhead springs. To have found such a substantial and organised settlement though is amazing.”

I can’t, however, find any mention of remains of a Roman shrine or evidence of votive offerings or whatever … is there any material evidence to back up this ‘ceremonial’/’sacred’ claim?

Extraterrestrial Rome

Can’t resist this one … a piece at io9 relates a dozen science fiction “Romes”, including the one in the “Bread and Circuses” episode of Star Trek,  Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series,  and even the “Problem with Popplers” episode of Futurama — in regards to the latter, Classicists might appreciate the involvement of the “Omicronians” too. Assorted trivia and script excerpts for the latter here