Classicists in the News

Assorted tidbits that have accumulated over the past while …

Timothy Howe is amongst a handful who were granted tenure at St. Olaf:

Peter Struck was talking about ‘Ancient Heroes and Superheroes’ in an appropriate venue:

Marie Bolchazy was making some reading suggestions:

Mary Boatwright was talking about grade inflation:

A review of Leslie Mitchell’s bio of Maurice Bowra:

Exhibition: Carvers and Collectors: The Lasting Allure …

Carvers and Collectors: The Lasting Allure of Ancient Gems
March 19-September 7, 2009

Getty Villa

Marcus Antonius by Gnaios
Marcus Antonius by Gnaios

The official webpage includes several nice photos (with descriptions) of assorted items from the exhibition and there’s a short little video demonstrating gem-carving techniques (I’ve always wondered about that). There are some audio commentaries which require you to have RealPlayer installed.


Getty Villa Showcases Intricately Carved Ancient Gems (Art Daily)

On TV: Druidic Human Sacrifice?

On the National Geographic Channel tonight  is a potentially interesting show about the Druids and evidence of human sacrifice by them in Roman times. They’ve got a video teaser of Caesar meeting the Druids… There’s also a lengthy text accompanying that (and another video) which starts with the evidence from Lindow Man and then goes on to:

Other grisly clues come from a cave in Alveston, England.

Skeletons belonging to as many as 150 people and dating back to about the time of the Roman conquest were discovered in 2000.

Druids may have killed the victims—who show evidence of skull-splitting blows—in a single event. It may have been the Roman invasion itself that escalated the Druids’ ritualized slaughter, researchers say.

Mark Horton, an archaeologist at the University of Bristol, thinks the pile of bodies suggests savage resistance to the Romans, either on the battlefield or through deadly ritual.

“Maybe the whole thing is a gigantic sacrifice … an appeasement to the gods in order that they will get ultimate victory against the Romans,” Horton said.

The Alveston cave bones hint at something even more sinister—cannibalism.

A human thighbone in the cave had been broken open in exactly the same method people use to get at the nutritious bone marrow of nonhuman animals.

But if the bone is proof of Celtic cannibalism, the practice was probably extremely rare, Horton said. It may be evidence of increasing hunger and desperation as Roman invaders closed in, he added.

“Least Bad Evidence”

Researchers have struggled in the past to link any archaeological evidence to the Druids, let alone signs of human sacrifice or cannibalism, said archaeologist Simon James of the University of Leicester, U.K.

“There has always been a suspicion that what the Romans were saying was atrocity propaganda. But some recent finds like Lindow Man suggest that there were dark and bloody goings-on,” said James, who was not involved in the new documentary.

The mistletoe pollen from Lindow Man is the “least bad archaeological evidence we’ve got that fits in with these stories about the Druids,” he added.

“Maybe mistletoe plants had been dusted on his food ritually, a bit like spraying holy water around, or dunked in his drink,” James said.

If Lindow Man and others were in fact sacrificed in a bid to stop the Romans, their lives were lost in vain.

Alveston Cave was on TV back in 2001 as part of the Time Team series. There was also a nice feature on it in British Archaeology from around the same time. Back then, the claims of evidence of cannibalism were controversial and I suspect they remain so today.

Persian Treasures in the Black Sea?

This is another one of those weird claims … according to a brief item in Standart:

The countless treasures of Persia seized by Alexander the Great, are buried at the bottom of the Black Sea at Kaliakra Cape, said oceanographer from the city of Varna Trayan Trayanov yesterday. Recently the Space Research Institute in Moscow confirmed his thesis.
Scientists believe that the treasure was buried in underwater catacombs and caves under Kaliakra Cape. Ancient Greek geographer and historian Strabo proposed the hypothesis for the first time. Many centuries later Bulgarian writer Tsoncho Rodev revived the legend. His short story, published in the 1960s, stirred the emotions of black archeologists in Bulgaria. A ferryboat captain even made a photo of Kaliakra and kept it for a long time in a safe in the Institute of Oceanography in the city of Varna.
However, to this very day the treasure has not been found.

While I do know that Kaliakra is the ancient Tirizis, I can’t find anything remotely resembling this claim in Strabo. Does it sound familiar to anyone else?

UPDATE: 03/29/09 ~> Jack Linthicum and I have been discussing this offblog. He has usefully provided a link for the relevant passage from Strabo and notes that most of the Bulgarian sources are identifying Lysimachus as “Lysimah”. Perhaps that’s being mistaken for a Persian name? I couldn’t find anything to help with the question in the limited preview version of Helen Lund, Lysimachus: A Study in Early Hellenistic Kingship.

CONF: Lucretius: Poetry, Philosophy, and Science

Conference Programme

6 July

11.00 Registration
11.45-12.45 Daryn Lehoux (Queen’s, Ontario), ‘Soul in a World without
Spirit: The Ethics of Sensation in an Inanimate Universe’
12.45-1.40 Lunch
1.40-2.40 Monte Johnson (California-San Diego), ‘Lucretius and the cause of
2.40-3.40 James Hankinson (Texas-Austin), title tbc
3.40-4.00 Tea
4.00-5.00 David Konstan (Brown), ‘Lucretius and the Epicurean Attitude
toward Grief’

7 July

9.30-10.30 Monica Gale (Trinity College, Dublin), ‘Lucretius and Hesiod’
10.30-11.00 Coffee
11.00-12.00 Duncan Kennedy (Bristol), ‘Lucretius, Virgil and the Instauratio
Magna: Knowledge as a Project of Universal Empire’
12.00-1.00 Katharine Earnshaw (Manchester), ‘Lucretius and Lucan’
1.00-2.30 Lunch
2.30-3.30 Brooke Holmes (Princeton), ‘Lucretius and the Poetics of Cosmic
3.30-4.00 Tea
4.00-5.00 Andrew Morrison (Manchester), ‘Nil igitur mors est ad nos?
Iphianassa, the Athenian plague, and Epicurean views of death’

Venue: S.1.7, Samuel Alexander Building, The University of Manchester,
Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK (building 67 on the campus map):

The booking form is now available on the webpage for this conference: