CONF: Lucretius in the European Enlightenment

… seen on the Classicist list:

Lucretius in the European Enlightenment
A Conference hosted by the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology
The University of Edinburgh

3 – 4 September 2009
For more information and registration details, see

David Butterfield (W.H.D. Rouse Research Fellow, Christ’s College, Cambridge):
‘Lucretius’ De rerum natura and classical scholarship in the eighteenth century’

Gianni Paganini (Professor of the History of Philosophy, Università del Piemonte Orientale, Italy):
‘Lucretius and Bayle’

Ann Thomson (Professor of British History, Université Paris 8 Vincennes-St. Denis):
‘Lucretius and la Mettrie’
Piet H. Schrijvers (Emeritus Professor of Latin, Leiden University):
‘Lucretius in the Dutch Enlightenment’
Tim Hochstrasser (Senior Lecturer in International History, London School of Economics and Political Science):
‘The role of Lucretius in Diderot’s later political thought’
Wolfgang Pross (Professor of German and Comparative Literature, University of Berne, Switzerland):
‘»Atheorum antistes et oraculum«: Enemies of Lucretius in the European Enlightenment’
James Harris (Lecturer in Philosophy, University of St. Andrews):
‘Lucretius and Hume’

Alan Charles Kors (George H. Walker Term Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania):
‘Lucretius and d’Holbach’
Avi Lifshitz (Lecturer in History, University College London):
‘Lucretius and German debates over the origins of language, c. 1750’
Mario Marino (Post-Doctoral Fellow, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena):
‘Herder and Lucretius’

Ernst A. Schmidt (Emeritus Professor of Classics, University of Tübingen):
‘Wieland and Lucretius’
Andrew Laird (Professor of Classical Literature, University of Warwick):
‘Lucretius and Spanish Jesuit culture after the Bourbon Reforms: Diego José Abad and Rafael Landívar in Italy’

From Sword to Asp

One of the ongoing problems I have with this whole ‘tomb of Cleopatra’ thing is the assumption — it appears — that not just Cleopatra but also Antony will be found in Egyptian-style sarcophagi, all mummied up. But as with Arsinoe, I’m still not sure of what the burial practices of the Ptolemies were. Consider when the young Octavian made his journey and visited the tomb of Alexander (according to Cassius Dio 51.16, via Lacus Curtius):

After this he viewed the body of Alexander and actually touched it, whereupon, it is said, a piece of the nose was broken off. But he declined to view the remains of the Ptolemies, though the Alexandrians were extremely eager to show them, remarking, “I wished to see a king, not corpses.”

See also Suetonius, Augustus 18 … Does that suggest that the Ptolemies may have been ‘on display’ in the same manner as Alexander? I honestly don’t know. I’m also bothered by the fact that all the focus seems to have been on the manner of Cleopatra’s death and relatively little attention has been paid to what happened between that time and Antony’s death (hence the title of this post), specifically as regards the corpse of Antony. As far as I am aware, the main source for such things is Plutarch’s Life of Antony (written a century or so after the events in question, of course). In chapter 82 (via Lacus Curtius) we are told:

As for Caesarion, then, he was afterwards put to death by Caesar,— after the death of Cleopatra; but as for Antony, though many generals and kings asked for his body that they might give it burial, Caesar would not take it away from Cleopatra, and it was buried by her hands in sumptuous and royal fashion, such things being granted her for the purpose as she desired.

Keeping in mind that we’re dealing with events happening in the first couple of weeks (give or take a few days) of August, 30 B.C., we clearly aren’t dealing with a mummification opportunity, even if it is done with Cleopatra’s own hands. And from the next mention of Antony a few chapters later (84), it is clear that the obsequies are pretty much complete; just prior to Octavian’s departure for Syria:

After Cleopatra had heard this, in the first place, she begged Caesar that she might be permitted to pour libations for Antony; and when the request was granted, she had herself carried to the tomb, and embracing the urn which held his ashes, in company with the women usually about her, she said: “Dear Antony, I buried thee but lately with hands still free; now, however, I pour libations for thee as a captive, and so carefully guarded that I cannot either with blows or tears disfigure this body of mine, which is a slave’s body, and closely watched that it may grace the triumph over thee. Do not expect other honours or libations; these are the last from Cleopatra the captive. For though in life nothing could part us from each other, in death we are likely to change places; thou, the Roman, lying buried here, while I, the hapless woman, lie in Italy, and get only so much of thy country as my portion. But if indeed there is any might or power in the gods of that country (for the gods of this country have betrayed us), do not abandon thine own wife while she lives, nor permit a triumph to be celebrated over myself in my person, but hide and bury me here with thyself, since out of all my innumerable ills not one is so great and dreadful as this short time that I have lived apart from thee.”

The next chapter opens:

After such lamentations, she wreathed and kissed the urn, and then ordered a bath to be prepared for herself.

A pretty elaborate account, to be sure, and one where the translator’s decision might make a difference in regards to how the passage is interpreted. In this case, the translator (Bernadotte Perrin) tells us that Antony’s remains are in an urn. John Dryden’s translation tells us that they’re in a tomb (as do most of the other public domain translations). If we take Perrin’s translation, we might suspect that Antony was cremated in the time-honoured Roman fashion. If we take the ‘tomb’ translation, we might not be so dogmatic. Here are the relevant Greek passages from Plutarch (hat tip to DM and DP for tracking these down for me; I’m cutting and pasting from this) … I’ve highlighted the word in question:

84.3 ἡ δ’ ἀκούσασα ταῦτα πρῶτον μὲν ἐδεήθη Καίσαρος, ὅπως αὐτὴν ἐάσῃ χοὰς ἐπενεγκεῖν Ἀντωνίῳ· καὶ συγχωρήσαντος, ἐπὶ τὸν τάφον κομισθεῖσα καὶ περιπεσοῦσα τῇ [4] σορῷ μετὰ τῶν συνήθων γυναικῶν “ὦ φίλ’ Ἀντώνιε” εἶπεν […]

85. Τοιαῦτ’ ὀλοφυραμένη καὶ στέψασα καὶ κατασπασαμένη τὴν σορόν, ἐκέλευσεν αὑτῇ λουτρὸν γενέσθαι. λουσαμένη δὲ καὶ κατακλιθεῖσα, λαμπρὸν ἄριστον ἠρίστα.

… where we clearly see the word used is “soros”, a wonderfully ambiguous word which usually does refer to an urn for cinerary ashes (according to L&S), but there are some usages which refer generally to a tomb.

If we look to Cassius Dio’s account (51.11), the obsequies for Antony are mentioned in passing:

Following out this plan, they obtained an audience with Cleopatra, and after discussing with her some moderate proposals they suddenly seized her before any agreement was reached. 5 After this they put out of her way everything by means of which she could cause her own death and allowed her to spend some days where she was, occupied in embalming Antony’s body; then they took her to the palace, but did not remove any of her accustomed retinue or attendants, in order that she should entertain more hope than ever of accomplishing all she desired, and so should do no harm to herself. At any rate, when she expressed a desire to appear before Caesar and to have an interview with him, she gained her request; and to deceive her still more, he promised that he would come to her himself.

… and the word Dio uses for ’embalming’ is ‘taricheuo’, which is indeed the word one uses for embalming in the Egyptian sense.

Turning to Latin sources, Suetonius merely mentions in passing that he allowed them to be buried together and for the tomb they had begun to be completed (Aug. 17 via the Latin Library).

Ambobus communem sepulturae honorem tribuit ac tumulum ab ipsis incohatum perfici iussit.

The gist of all this seems to me to suggest that, by the time Plutarch et al were recounting this, the story of Cleo’s death had become elaborated on in so many ways that no one really had any idea what the details were. The ancient sources were fascinated by that whole asp thing and seem to be making their own assumptions when it comes to the burial of both Antony and Cleopatra. What is interesting, though, is that the only suggestion that mummification might be involved comes from a passing word from the epitome of Cassius Dio …

Cleopatra’s Tomb Update (sort of)

That dig purportedly into the tomb of Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius is currently on hold, but there’s still some news kicking around. Dominican Today had this a few days ago:

The attorney-turned-archaeologist Kathleen Martinez, who’s proud to proclaim that her work is part of a larger effort by a Dominican-Egyptian team, today said that her search for Cleopatra’s tomb continues and is convinced she’ll soon find it.

She said her search in the region, kilometers west of the ancient port city of Alexandria, has lasted four years in 4 to 5-month periods, and in addition to the Egyptian queen, expects to find at her side the mummified body 50 of her lover, Marc Antony. “Important evidence of a royal tomb was found and I affirm that it’s the tomb of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony.

Martinez also affirms that given the scope and sheer numbers of tombs, her team has found Egypt’s largest cemetery. “It’s the largest cemetery found in Egypt, with its artifacts, a series of 40 to 45 tombs cut into the bedrock 35 meters deep, with tunnels and passageways.”

The archaeologist, interviewed by Huchi Lora on Channel 11, said the digs had to be recently suspended given the extreme summer temperatures and more so from the dangerous conditions they bring about. “The appearance of snakes and scorpions to the surface in the summer season, with 40 plus centigrade temperatures, makes it impossible and risky to continue the excavation.”

Among the important sites found, she noted that of the Taposisirs Magna, or the temple of Osiris, and Isis, determined from the gathered evidence in Greek script, which she said reveal the link to Ptolemy, in Cleopatra’s lineage. “We’ve found artifacts including many coins, the mask of Mar Anthony, busts of Alexander the Great, but the most interesting point is that we’ve been able to find those tunnels.”

Martinez hailed the support given her project by Zahi Hawas, Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, and the “enthusiasm” with which the Egyptian crew works on the sites.

“The Egyptians and our team are working with much enthusiasm, because they are searching for their Queen,” she said of the pharaoh who died in 30 AC.

She said the zone, which had been excavated since 1831 by some of the world’s most renowned archaeologists, still holds many secrets and given he fact that the mummies are so well preserved shows that they belonged to the class of nobles, with the resources to make this type of procedure possible.

She added that the Discovery Channel is going to be filming the excavation, whereas the magazine National Geographic will publish a feature on her work.

Alas, this bit of reportage doesn’t lend any confidence to the claims being made. First of all, it seems rather disingenuous to suggest digs had to be suspended due to heat etc.; there are plenty of digs going on right now in Egypt in that same heat. The real reason — which was mentioned in several news reports (e.g. here ) — is that the site overlooks the summer home of Hosni Mubarek, and security concerns override archaeological ones. Not sure why one would feel a need to use heat and scorpions as an excuse unless one had rather romantic notions about what archaeological digging was about.

I also strongly suspect the “evidence” of a royal tomb is what was mentioned back in April (i.e., the presence of other burials nearby). Perhaps the tunnels are significant (but there might be some ‘parallel excitement’ going on here as well as just before the the Cleo tomb announcements, Zahi Hawass was excited about a mysterious tunnel in the tomb of Seti I), but claims about this being Egypt’s largest cemetery seem to fly in the face of say, the finds at the Bahariya Oasis just a couple of years ago.

I’ve got a bit more to say on this, but need to do some researchin’!

d.m. Edith Kovach

From the Detroit Free Press:

Thousands of Latin students around the country learned the language from the voice of someone they never met: former educator Edith Kovach.

Her enthusiasm and dedication in her Latin and Greek teachings endeared her in the hearts and minds of students and faculty alike.

A onetime chairwoman of the University of Detroit’s classical studies department and a longtime instructor in the Detroit Public Schools, Ms. Kovach died Wednesday of cardiac arrest in her Bloomfield Hills home. She was 88.

“Without a doubt, teaching was her passion and knowledge was the reward,” said her longtime friend, Alice McIntyre. “She had a marvelous ability for bringing all classic arts and languages together so that people developed a depth of understanding and a genuine appreciation.”

Ms. Kovach was a nationally recognized figure in the development of methods to teach Latin and Greek at both the high school and college levels, and conducted frequent summer workshops and seminars at college campuses around the country.

Fluent in Spanish and German, she was instrumental in the improvement of the drill tapes and tests she helped develop for Macmillan & Co. to accompany Latin textbooks. As a result, her voice became a familiar learning tool for students around the country.

Born in New York City, she graduated from Central High School in Detroit and received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Latin and foreign language education, respectively, from Wayne State University. She received her PhD in classical studies and Latin from the University of Michigan.

Ms. Kovach began her career as a language and math teacher in the Detroit Public Schools. She taught for more than 20 years and chaired the foreign language department at Mumford High School.

After going to work at what was then the University of Detroit in 1965, she was responsible for many improvements within the department. She was awarded the school’s President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1984 — the first woman to be so honored.

Survivors include her brother, Eugene Kovach, and several nieces and nephews.

CFP: Family As Strategy =10th Unisa Classics Colloquium

… seen on the Classicists list


University of South Africa, Pretoria

THEME: ‘Family as Strategy in the Roman Empire’

DATE: October 15 – 17, 2009

Papers are hereby invited on any aspect of the family in Greco-Roman
antiquity and early Christianity that may be seen to further illuminate
the conference topic. The approach of this conference seeks to emphasize
that family, house and household were contextualised within the social and
power relations of the time (see abstract below). Apart from literary
investigations, we would like to encourage contributions with an
historical or archaeological concern. Enquiries regarding theoretical and
methodological issues, such as the interaction between literary and
material evidence, the design of interpretive strategies and the
fabrication of a socio-historiography are also welcomed.

This year’s colloquium is a collaborative effort by Classics and New
Testament & Early Christian Studies at the University of South Africa and
aims at fostering interdisciplinary perspectives.

Abstracts and submission date
Please submit abstracts of appr. 200 words via e-mail attachment to
Olympus AT or bosmapr AT by the end of July/beginning of
August 2009.

More on the conference

The Unisa Classics Colloquium is a pleasant and intimate conference in a
relaxed atmosphere with ample opportunity for discussion. Over two and a
half days, appr. 20 papers from scholars around the world are presented.We
try to avoid parallel sessions to promote unity and focus in the
conference, and delegates get to know one another properly. We also try to
show guests from abroad a little of the country during the conference.


The colloquium takes place at the University of South Africa (UNISA) in
Pretoria, capital of the Republic of South Africa. Among other
attractions, Pretoria is famous for its Jacaranda trees, which are in full
bloom at the time of our colloquium


We start on Thursday morning the 15th and end at lunch time on Saturday
the 17th of October. This means that you should preferably book your
flight to arrive on the 14th at the latest. You may book your ticket out
for Saturday evening, but that might have cost implications (staying for a
Saturday night often reduces the ticket price considerably) and you will
lose out on the Pilanesberg outing (ses below).

A preliminary programme will be compiled from the received proposals and
will be published after the final date for submissions at

Conference Fee

The conference fee will be $150 for overseas visitors, inclusive of
transport (from and to the airport and during the conference) and meals
during the conference. You may work on an exchange rate of roughly ZAR
8.00/$, ZAR 13.50/£ or ZAR12/EUR.

Postgraduates, other students and interested parties not able to claim
their conference fees back from their institutions should please contact
the organisers for a discount.


We will provide more information on accommodation in due course. Pretoria
offers a variety in this regard. During past conferences, guests stayed at
the Brooklyn Guest Houses ( situated
in a safe and attractive neighbourhood close to Unisa, the University of
Pretoria, and the Brooklyn and Hatfield shopping centres.


We plan a trip for Sunday 18 October to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, 1½
hours drive west of Pretoria where the Big Five may be seen (if we are
lucky) in their natural habitat. Transport will be provided.

Depending on interest, a visit to Cape Town as a group is a distinct

Possible publication

Depending on the quality of submissions, the colloquium papers may be
published in an edited volume on the theme. Submitted papers are subject
to a refereeing process. If you would consider submitting your paper to be
published, please indicate that to us via return mail for further
guidelines on style.

Abstract on the conference theme

The last few decades witnessed an explosion of studies on a multitude of
aspects concerning the family in Greco-Roman antiquity. This conference
wishes to contribute to the ongoing debate by exploring the specific ways
in which the family was used as a strategy for a variety of social
purposes. On the one hand, the family was generated by political,
economic, cultural and moral forces. On the other hand, it functioned
reciprocally to cultivate, reinforce and sustain the very practices from
which it emerged.

The family may be interrogated in terms of its various dimensions; for
instance, as a social site occupying space. It may be asked how the
individual’s place was determined in interaction with his or her family?
How was the family, in terms of cultural discourses, strategically
utilised as microcosm within a particular macrocosm? Exactly what was
public and what was private in the workings of the Graeco-Roman family and
how rigid was this distinction? How was the family determined by and—in
its turn—fashioned material sites and cultural products: household
architecture, art, decoration, utensils, and the like? The family may also
be investigated in terms of its temporal dimension, such as its legacies
from pre-colonial times, its role in Romanization and the ideal of
Romanitas, as a nucleus of identity, cooption, and resistance.
Furthermore, Early Christianity emerged as part and parcel of this complex
discursive world and structured itself in continuity (e.g. patriarchy),
but also deviated from the model in significant ways, for instance in how
desire and gender was regulated within the structures of family life, and
in its cultivation of movements such as asceticism and monasticism. How
was the dominant family discourse appropriated by early Christianity and
to what extent did the family as a form of strategy cooperate in the
Christianization of the Roman Empire?

Finally, papers concerned with appeals to either the continuity or
discontinuity of the family formed in the Roman Empire will also be