Mary Beard‘s latest …
Hot on the heels of someone actually using the word ‘vomitorium‘ correctly, we lapse into our old sin … and it’s kind of surprising who is doing it. Here’s the incipit from the Times:
He owes his success to history, but the author Terry Deary has described historians as “seedy and devious”.
The bestselling writer of the Horrible Histories series added that all historians were out to “make a name for themselves”, denied that his books were history books at all and even started a spat with Niall Ferguson, one of Britain’s best-known historians.
“Historians are nearly as seedy and devious as politicians,” Deary, 64, said. “They pick on a particular angle and select the facts to prove their case and make a name for themselves … They don’t write objective history.”
Deary — whose books have sold more than 20 million copies — does not like any historians. “Eventually you can see through them all,” he said. “They all come with a twist.” However, he reserved his greatest ire for Ferguson, the former Oxford historian who now lectures at Harvard University.
… then further below, where we get some details of the Horrible History, we read:
During Roman feasts, guests could eat so much that they had to be sick, and a special room was set aside for them called a vomitorium. They would then go back into the dining room to continue eating.
… arrgh. The item concludes:
Meanwhile, Catharine Edwards, Professor of Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London, said that children “absolutely loved” the books. “If it takes toilets to get them interested in history, that’s fine. It’s the most gruesome side of things which attracts the young.”
Deary admitted that he was disappointed to be so closely linked to the Horrible Histories series, because he does not own the brand. He is also keen to turn his back on children’s books and move on to adult fiction. “It’s time for a new career direction,” he said.
I’ve got no problem with using disgusting items to get kids interested in history … but let’s make sure it’s accurate, no? Yes, it’s time for a new direction …
via the Canadian Classical Bulletin
Another item which was making the rounds this week related to the ‘basement’ of the Colosseum being opened up to visitors, e.g., in the Guardian:
Tourists in Rome will soon be able to visit the underground of the Colosseum, where gladiators once prepared for fights and lions and tigers were caged before entertaining a bloodthirsty public.
The city’s culture officials said today that, after several months of work to make the area safe for visits, the public will be allowed to add the underground section to tours of the arena starting in late summer. No exact date has been set.
Architect Barbara Nazzaro said tourists will be able to see the spaces where lions, tigers and bulls were kept in cages before they were hoisted on elevators to ground level for entertainment in the ancient arena.
Elephants were too heavy for the rope-hoisted elevators. They made their grand entrance into the Colosseum through main gates.
The ingenious system of lifts allowing the animals to suddenly pop up at ground level would have made for an awesome sight, she said.
The animal show was just one part of a day’s entertainment at the arena. First the audience watched a hunting spectacle, then came executions, and finally the gladiators squared off, said Nazzaro, who worked on the project to open the space to the public.
A piece of mortar recently broke off from a part of the Colosseum during closing hours, but caused no injuries. Officials say the monument is in need of constant monitoring and maintenance, but its overall stability is not at risk.
… but the AFP coverage included a different spin, inter alia:
However, Piero Meogrossi also said it was indispensable to put in place a more ambitious project encompassing restoration, maintenance, surveillance, the creation of a museum, and pursuit of scientific research.
A 23-million-euro plan (28 million dollars) supported by Rome’s mayor, would include cleaning the facade damaged by pollution from an estimated 2,000 cars passing the monument each hour, but it still needs sponsors.
“More than sponsors, we prefer to talk of partners, because we would like them to get involved along with us,” Meogrossi said.
Pointing out that the number of visitors to the Colosseum per year has grown from one to six million in a decade, Meogrossi deplored the lack of funds and staff at the Roman monument.
“We have a budget of between 400,000 and 500,000 euros a year for basic maintenance… there are checks, but not in a systematic way,” Meogrossi said, whose passion for the Colosseum goes back twenty years.
The monument, Meogrossi argues, is too narrowly associated with gladiatorial combat and the idea of the Colosseum as a “sacred place where Romans celebrated the past so as to better project themselves in the future,” should be restored.
… and coincidentally, Network World was pondering — with a slideshow — what would happen if tech companies owned the Wonders of the World. We won’t rag on them for not, apparently, knowing what the Wonders are/were, but will note this interesting bit of speculation in the context of branding the Colosseum:
… which would probably be somewhat appropriate, given the fact that pieces seem to be falling off the Colosseum and keys are always falling off my Dell laptops. For those interested, there’s also Windows-branded Parthenon in Network World’s slideshow (although I always figured he Parthenon for Apple)