CONF: Pliny the Younger in Late Antiquity

As part of the Panegyrici Latini Project, the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, University of Liverpool and the School of Classics, University of St Andrews are delighted to announce a one-day conference, to be held in the School of Classics, Swallowgate, St Andrews on Saturday 16th May 2009.

“Pliny the Younger in Late Antiquity”

9.30 Introduction: Bruce Gibson (Liverpool) and Roger Rees (St Andrews).

‘A couple of things Pliny can’t help with: Panegyrici Latini XI(3)’
John Henderson (Cambridge)

‘Managing the past: Plinian strategies in late antique panegyric’
Bruce Gibson (Liverpool)

11.30 Coffee

‘Pliny and Symmachus’
Gavin Kelly (Edinburgh)

12.45 Lunch (in Swallowgate)

‘Pacatus, a poet doing Plinian prose’
Roger Rees (St Andrews)

‘Pliny’s Panegyricus and the Historia Augusta’
Diederik Burgersdijk (Amsterdam)

3.15 Tea

‘Salvian, Pliny’s Panegyricus and the Gallic Panegyrics’
David Lambert (St. Andrews)

‘Sidonius’ Pliny: from Constantius and Clarus to Firminus and Fuscus’
Roy Gibson (Manchester)

5.15 End

The deadline for Registration is 1 May 2009.
The conference fee of £10 covers conference documents, lunch and morning and afternoon refreshments. Postgraduate students may attend without charge, but need to register. Full details and a downloadable booking form are available at:

For further information, please email rdr1 AT or bjgibson AT


CFP: Classical Commentary Writer’s Workshop

Call for Proposals:
Classical Commentary Writers’ Workshop
Georgetown University, October 15–17, 2009

Proposals are solicited for participation in the fifth annual Classical Commentary Writers’ Workshop, to be held at Georgetown University on October 15–17, 2009. The 2009 workshop will be devoted to Greek texts. The deadline for proposals is June 15, 2009. The workshop will consist of five 3-hour sessions, each devoted to discussion of a single pre-circulated chunk of text and commentary. We work in an intensely practical, hands-on way, asking questions, making suggestions, working out problems, and the like. Our expectation is not that the group will examine the whole of anyone’s primary text, but that all participants will return in the end to their projects with fresh insights, ideas and questions, new bibliographic resources, and a sense of working within a supportive scholarly community.

Workshop sessions are open only to the convenors, S. Douglas Olson and Alex Sens; the five participants; and (by invitation) previous participants and occasional graduate student observers. Participants are expected to arrive late in the day on the 15th, and to stay for the entire proceedings, including a final dinner on Saturday night.

Projects should be well enough advanced to provide a substantial sample of text and commentary, but not so far along that the Workshop will be unlikely to affect the final shape. Proposals should consist of (1) a brief (maximum one-page) description of the project, its intended audience, and the expected publication venue; (2) a 10-page sample of text and commentary. Proposals should be submitted, preferably in PDF form, to the convenors at sdolson AT and sensa AT Final Workshop samples will be due on Monday September 14, 2009, for pre-circulation to all participants.

Participants are asked to call first on their own research accounts and institutional resources to cover their transportation and housing costs. For those who lack such resources, the Workshop will provide up to $750 for travel and housing. All meals will be provided.

Support has been provided by the Loeb Classical Library Foundation, the Alexander Onassis Foundation, the Georgetown Provost’s Office, and the University of Minnesota’s Imagine Fund.


I was wondering if there’d be a claim trying to connect Easter eggs to the Romans … the closest seems to be a piece on the mystery of Easter eggs which mentions (but doesn’t make a specific connection):

pregnant young Roman women carried an egg on their persons to foretell the sex of their unborn children

… anyone have a source for this? It appears semi-frequently on the web with the exact same wording. Not sure how it would work … The only pregnancy-bird egg connection I can recall from Roman sources is Pliny’s suggestion that pregnant women avoid ravens’ eggs because they might cause ‘oral miscarriage’ (NH 30.130) (that one has stuck in my mind for quite a while!).

Rethinking the Via Dolorosa

This one’s interesting to me because it touches on something I’ve wondered about for years … the assumption that the Praetorium mentioned in the Gospels as the location of Pilate’s trial of Jesus (and, therefore, the starting point for the via Dolorosa) is to be identified with the Antonia Fortress. In a forthcoming study called The Final Days of Jesus, Shimon Gibson is suggesting otherwise. Cobbling together bits from various news reports, we begin with something from the Daily Mail:

Since medieval times, Christians have assumed that the Praetorium, the starting point of the route and the Roman headquarters mentioned in the Gospels as the scene of Jesus’s trial, was the Antonia Fortress which stood in the north of Jerusalem.

But Professor Gibson said there was ‘no historical basis whatsoever’ for this being the site where Jesus was tried and condemned to death by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.

Little of the fortress’s structure has survived but, having surveyed the remains of its rock-cut base in intricate detail, he concludes that it could not have been more than a military observation tower.

He said archaeological excavations pointed to the site of the trial being 900 metres away at the remains of a large paved courtyard south-west of Jerusalem, south of the Jaffa Gate.

It was situated between two fortification walls with an outer gate and an inner one leading to barracks where it is most likely that Jesus was held.

The open courtyard contained a platform of around two square metres – details that ‘correspond perfectly’ with the Gospel of John’s account of Pontius Pilate sitting on a judgment-seat at an elevated place.

From the Telegraph:

“When we measured the remains of the Antonia Fortress, we found it was so small it could have been no bigger than a tower.”

He thought it more likely that Pontius Pilate’s Praetorium was elsewhere: “With Pontius Pilate being a governor used to palatial surroundings, he would have got use of the old palace of Herod the Great, which was enormous.”

CNN’s coverage (which also has a video report/interview) includes these quotes from Gibson:

“You have a courtyard and a pavement and a rocky outcrop on one side … In the Gospel of John, you have a description of the trial taking place at the Lithostratus, Greek for pavement, at a place called Gabata, which is the word for an ancient hillock or a rocky outcrop, and this is what we have here.”

Of course, changing the location of the Praetorium will have implications on the Via Dolorosa … The Daily Mail has a good graphic of same:

from the Daily Mail
from the Daily Mail

… for my part, I still find the proximity of Golgotha and the tomb a little too ‘convenient’/close.