Criminalita from the Italian Press

I’ve got a major backlog of items from Italian sources, so I’ve decided to break them up a bit and treat all the ‘busts’ in a single post — besides being an organizational principle, it does highlight how the marketing of illicit antiquities continues to be a major problem in Italy, despite recent successes (some of these date back to May). Ecce:

We’ll begin with an item detailing the outcome of four major operations which resulted in the recovery of some stolen Byzantine frescoes stolen from Caserta in 1982, the return of some 250 items from Switzerland (apparently out of goodwill by a pair of dealers whose names aren’t given), a pile of items recovered from a villa, and some Egyptian-related items which some tombaroli had taken (value – some 3 million euros):

Not sure if this is the same as the ‘pile of items recovered from a villa’ mentioned above; a pair arrested at Salerno:

A man from Orta Nova was found in possession of 18 coins dating to the 3rd/4th centuries, as well as a pile of amphorae and other antiquities with a value of some 400 000 euros:

Brief/vague item on the recovery of a pile of fourth century items:

Brief/vague item on the recovery of some amphorae from some villas (not sure if this is the same as mentioned in the first piece):

700 items found in various tombaroli homes in Foggia after some information from Germany (not sure if this is connected to the Orta Nova thing above)

Discovery of a 50m long tunnel at Pompeii and the arrest of a tombarolo who was apparently using it are raising concerns about the security of antiquities there:

Arrests in Taranto arising from attempts to sell ancient/medieval coins and jewelry on the Internet:

An ongoing archaeological dig was hit by thieves in Montebello:

Police at Messina recovered five amphora taken from an unknown (nearby?) shipwreck:

A couple of metal detectorists were found working on the archaeological site of Torre Mordillo:

A seventy-year old at Torino was arrested with a pile of ancient coins:

… and another 70-year-old from Ivrea was similarly arrested with a pile of ancient coins:

… while a seventy-two-year-old from Frosinone was arrested with a couple of hundred Etruscan artifacts:

I guess they need to keep a closer eye on the pensioners in Italy … what’s sad, of course, is that the above only represents those who managed to get caught …

Socrates Had it Coming

… or at least that’s what Paul Cartledge asserts in his most recent tome (and I tend to agree with him), which is beginning to get some media attention (although the various news outlets seem unsure whether to consider this news or a review). Here’s a bit from the Independent:

In his new book, Ancient Greek Political Thought In Practice, published today, Professor Cartledge says that while politicians and historians have used the trial to suggest that democracy can sometimes descend into mob rule, this was not one such example. “Everyone knows the Greeks invented democracy, but it was not democracy as we know it, and we have misread history as a result,” he said. “The charges Socrates faced seem ridiculous to us but in ancient Athens they were genuinely felt to serve the communal good.”

In his book, Professor Cartledge questions traditional arguments that Socrates was purely the victim of political infighting. Historians influenced by ancient writers, including Plato, have claimed that Socrates’ open criticism of prominent Athenian politicians had made him many enemies, who then pinned the impiety and corruption charges on him to silence him. Other historian believe Socrates’ teachings stirred political rebellion, and he was made an example at his trial by those seeking to quash dissidents in Athenian society.

Professor Cartledge said Socrates questioned the authority of many of the accepted gods and claimed to be guided by his inner “daimonon”, a term which he may have intended to mean “intuition”, but which could also be interpreted as a dark, supernatural influence, which would have outraged conventional believers.

The charge of “impiety” was entirely acceptable in a democracy deeply reverential of their gods, Professor Cartledge said. Accusations were brought by amateur prosecutors before a jury of 501 ordinary citizens of “good standing” who acted on behalf of what they took to be the public interest. If the prosecution could prove that a defendant was responsible for jeopardising the public good, he was likely to be found guilty.

The author also believes that Socrates invited his own death. Under the Athenian system, in this kind of trial a defendant could suggest his own penalty. Instead of taking this opportunity seriously, Socrates first joked that he should be rewarded and eventually suggested a fine that was far too small.

Unsurprisingly, his jurors did not see the funny side and passed the death sentence. Instead of fleeing, Socrates accepted the verdict, claiming that “he owed it to the city under whose laws he had been raised to honour those laws to the letter”.

FWIW, I’ve always felt that the ‘traditional’ view of the trial of Socrates –which tended to see the religious side of things merely as a pretext, as mentioned above — has been one of the longest-lingering examples of modern scholars imposing modern values on the ancient world. There continues (I think) to be a view that the ancients — especially those rational Greeks, but even those brutish Romans — in general didn’t really take their religion seriously. Whenever they used it, it had to be for some other, cynical reason. Did Socrates take it seriously? Perhaps … perhaps not. But it seems to me that a large portion of the jury likely did and when he suggested an alternate form of punishment, he alienated a pile of others as well … I’ll have to keep my eye open for this one.

CONF: Archimedes 2010 International Conference

… seen on various lists

23 Centuries of Influence on
Mathematics, Science, and Engineering
Syracuse (Sicily) Italy
8-10 June 2010

(From official website, 23/06/09)

This World Conference will celebrate the extraordinary achievements and enduring influence of Archimedes, and it will take place in the ancient City of Syracuse where Archimedes lived and worked 2300 years ago.

The Conference will bring together researchers and academicians from the broad ranges of Mathematics, Engineering, and Science. Historians of Science are also invited to participate.

The three-day meeting will take place in the ancient city of Syracuse (Ortygia) on the island of Sicily. A richly appealing social program will surround the Conference, including the opportunity to view an ancient Greek play in the city’s 2500-year-old Greek Theatre—where Archimedes himself enjoyed dramatic performances in the third century BC!

Seed funding for the Conference has been obtained from a division of the European Union. Additional funding is anticipated from international cultural and professional organizations.

The Conference is Organized by
# The City of Syracuse (Italy)
# The Western Greece Region (Greece)
# The Institute of Culture and Quality of Life (Greece)
# The University of Cassino (Italy)
# The University of Patras (Greece)
# The Hellenic Open University (Greece)
# The e-RDA Innovation Center (Greece)

And is under the patronage of
# IFToMM, The International Federation for the Promotion of Mechanism and Machine Science
# The Hellenic Mathematical Society (Greece)
# European Society for the History of Science

For further information:
(official website)


CONF: The Olympian Gods: Local Representations, Universal Principles

… seen on the Classicists list

The Olympian Gods: Local Representations, Universal Principles

Department of Classics & Ancient History, Durham University
5th – 7th July 2009

This interdisciplinary workshop investigates how the local characteristics with which the Greeks invested their gods related to the view that they operated as universal principles within the cosmic economy. Everyone is welcome, and there is no registration fee. Places are available at dinner in Hatfield College on Monday, 6th July (please e-mail barbara.graziosi AT

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*6th July*

ROBIN OSBORNE, The style of the Gods

FRITZ GRAF, Divine Epithets


MARIANNE SCHIEBE, ‘Air is Ether’s sister and consort.’ Primeval metaphor & the anthropomorphic image of the divine.

SHAUL TOR, Parmenides and the Love of Double Headed

IVANA PETROVIC, Divine powers in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo: an allegorical interpretation

LIZ IRWIN, Anthropomorphic gods and deified emotions in Euripides’ /Hippolytus/

*7th July*

SARAH ILES JOHNSTON, Demeter in Hermione: Local Variations on a Panhellenic Theme

ANDREJ PETROVIC, Chaining Ares: Panhellenic narratives, local cults

JULIA KINDT, The Local and the Panhellenic Reconsidered: Representations of Zeus at Olympia

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All sessions will take place at 38, North Bailey, Durham DH1 3EU (opposite Hatfield College). For further details please contact: barbara.graziosi AT or g.r.boys-stones AT