Classics and Latin Threatened in Scottish Schools

Seen on Classicists (please send any responses to the people/institution mentioned in the post, not to rogueclassicism!)

Dear all,

I am contacting you in anticipation that you will be able to assist in efforts to ensure that Latin does not disappear from the curriculum in Scotland, particularly in the state sector. The examination board, the SQA, proposes not to develop qualifications in Latin at the first/lower levels, contrary to the Curriculum for Excellence.. Qualifications for Classical Studies have now been secured but is essential to secure a discrete Latin qualification at National Level 4 to ensure parity of esteem and progression with other languages.

If there are no qualifications at the first/younger levels for pupils, schools will inevitably remove Latin from the school curriculum.

A Facebook has been set up outlining the concerns encouraging classicists and those who care about education to contact the SQA and Michael Russell, the Education Secretary for Scotland to ensure a “re-think” of these proposals, which appear to discriminate against Latin.

Could I ask you to look at the Facebook page, simply titled Keep Latin and Classical Studies in Scottish Schools, and give your support to ensure that a classical language remains available to pupils in Scottish schools. (You do not need to be a Facebook user to access these pages.)

Regards

Shona J.A. Harrison
Classics Teacher

With apologies for cross-postings. The link to the Facebook page for the campaign (which also gives details of email addresses at the Scottish Qualifications Authority where letters of concern might be sent) is:

Bruce Gibson

Roman Wall Paintings from Bulgaria

Flag of the city of Svishtov, Veliko Tarnovo O...
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been waiting for my spiders to bring me this one … but they seemed to have stopped at Francesca Tronchin’s first (tip o’ the pileus). Brief item from Balkan Travellers:

An archaeologist has discovered unique wall paintings in an ancient residence in the late Roman town of Novae, located in northern Bulgaria.

Over 21 days, Pavlina Vladkova, an archaeologist from the Regional History Museum in Veliko Tarnovo, researched a residence, located outside of the territory of the erstwhile legionary base, which was located in Novae. She studies rooms that date to the second, third and fourth centuries.

One of the premises she studied was a dining room with a length of 12 metres and width of 4.5 metres and heating built into the floor and walls. The room was divided into two parts, and Vladkova stumbled onto the valuable frescos in one of them.

One of the room’s walls was covered in coloured paint, while the other had paintings on it. The decoration is reminiscent of contemporary wall paper, the archaeologist explained and added that the colouring has been well preserved.

The residence where the frescos were found used to house representatives of the imperial family, Vladkova said. Work on preserving the wall paintings has already started.

Meanwhile, a team of Polish archaeologists continues excavations at the Novae site this summer, with plans to study the military hospital at the site. At the same time, a group of archaeologists from the National Archaeology Institute at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences will be studying the officers’ residences in Novae.

The site of Novae is situated on the southern bank of the Danube near the present-day town of Svishtov. The site was an ancient Roman legionary base. During the reign of Emperor Trajan, the legio I Italica settled in the base, from where it was supposed to guard the borders of the Roman Empire from the barbarians. A settlement was established and grew around the base.

The archaeologist in charge is one whom we mentioned last summer (in passing) as having discovered a nymphaeum at Nicopolis ad Istrum ; interestingly, at Novae (I think) three or so years ago a Polish team also came across an nymphaeum.

Pistillus’ Workshop Identified in Autun

Tip o’ the pileus to Franz Cumont, who is back from the dead, living on Facebook, and posting interesting things every now and then. This one comes from Le Monde:

Pistillus était un grand potier. Du moins par l’abondance de sa production. Pour le goût, c’est une autre histoire. Ses céramiques auraient leur place au milieu des madones de plastique vendues à Lourdes, ou des santons de Provence. Cette bimbeloterie connaissait pourtant, dans le monde gallo-romain, un vif succès. D’où le bonheur de l’équipe de l’Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives (Inrap) qui vient de découvrir leur foyer, à Autun, en Saône-et-Loire.

D’ordinaire, les fouilleurs de terre exhibent leurs plus belles trouvailles, les pièces les mieux ouvragées, les objets les plus raffinés. Occultant ainsi des pans de la vie des sociétés passées. Rien de tel ici. Les vestiges sortis de l’humus sont triviaux. Et c’est ce qui fait tout leur intérêt.

Nous sommes dans l’antique Autun, Augustodunum, la ville d’Auguste. Le premier empereur romain (de 27 avant à 14 après J.-C.) l’avait fait édifier en cadeau aux Eduens, peuple gaulois habitant l’actuelle Bourgogne, dont la capitale était l’oppidum de Bibracte, sur le mont Beuvray. Là même où Vercingétorix fut proclamé chef des Gaules et où François Mitterrand pensa un temps se faire inhumer. Période trouble, alliances contre-nature. Les chefs éduens étaient amis de Rome, avec qui ils commerçaient, et c’est à leur appel, face à la menace d’une invasion par les Helvètes, que César s’était lancé dans la guerre des Gaules (58-51 avant J.-C.)

Bâtie ex nihilo, comme une ville nouvelle, par le fils adoptif de César, Augustodunum est “l’exemple type de la romanisation” des régions conquises par les légions puis intégrées à l’Empire, décrit Stéphane Alix, responsable scientifique des fouilles. Celles-ci sont menées dans le secteur nord de la cité, sur une friche où doivent être construits des logements sociaux. Le chantier, ouvert en mars, pour six mois, a permis de dégager les niveaux d’occupation tardive, jusqu’à la fin du IIIe siècle. Ils révèlent une promiscuité, inhabituelle dans l’urbanisme gallo-romain, de l’habitat (maisons à un ou deux étages avec salles à hypocauste chauffées par le sol et enduits décoratifs) et de l’artisanat (forges, creusets de fonte, enclumes).

Le temps risque de manquer pour atteindre les strates inférieures de la fondation augustéenne, au début du Ier siècle. Mais, déjà, les archéologues sont comblés : ils ont mis la main sur le four de l’un des plus fameux coroplathes (fabricants de figurines) de la fin du IIe et du début du IIIe siècle, connu par la signature de ses moules.

L’installation est de taille modeste : une chambre de cuisson d’un peu plus d’un mètre de diamètre et de profondeur, recouverte à l’origine d’un dôme, où circulait par des évents, à une température de 800°, un air chaud produit par un feu de bois. Elle suffisait à cuire, en une seule fournée, plusieurs centaines de poteries qui inondaient le marché. On en a retrouvé jusqu’en Germanie et dans les provinces de Rhétie (Alpes centrales) et du Norique (Europe centrale).

Ces figurines de terre blanche, de facture soignée, étaient confectionnées par moulage, à partir d’une argile très fine, les deux faces, moulées séparément, étant collées à la barbotine. Une fois cuites, certaines étaient peintes, comme le montrent des fragments de pigments rouges. De petite taille (une dizaine de centimètres pour les plus grandes), elles représentaient des déesses nourricières se pressant le sein pour en faire jaillir du lait, des Vénus callipyges, ou encore des animaux, tels que des moutons ou des ours.

Dans son Histoire de la Gaule, Camille Jullian (créateur de la chaire des Antiquités nationales du Collège de France) cite “l’Eduen Pistillus, qui passa maître dans le genre familial, remplissant toute la Gaule de mères pouponnières, d’enfants au berceau, de lits domestiques, de chiens gardiens du foyer”.

Peut-être ces statuettes servaient-elles de “porte-bonheur”, avec, pour les figures nourricières, “une fonction propitiatoire”, suppose Stéphane Alix. Moins chères que leur équivalent en bronze, elles étaient destinées à une clientèle modeste. Mais Pistillus (“piston” en latin) avait aussi une veine d’inspiration plus érotique. Des médaillons signés – dont aucun n’a encore été exhumé à Autun – représentent des personnages dans des postures sans équivoque : sur l’un d’entre eux, deux hommes entourent une femme à quatre pattes. Clin d’oeil de l’histoire, le site gallo-romain était occupé, à l’époque moderne, par un lupanar, qui fut démoli au milieu des années 1980.

Similar coverage at:

The latter (from Inrap)  seems to be the source for all the other coverage, and includes a link to a very interesting video report. There’s also a slide show which seems to be informative, but didn’t work well on my little netbook for some reason.

For those who can’t read the French, the gist of all the reportage is that archaeologists have found the workshop of the celebrated Gallo-Roman potter Pistillus, whose name and marks appear on all sorts of domestic ware and pipes in Gaul. The workshop was long suspected to be in Autun/Augustodunum and now seems to be confirmed in the excavation of a block dating back to the first century. The identification of his workshop seems to be based on the identification of a kiln with his name on it.

Elgin! Elgin! Elgin! Oy! Oy! Oy!

With all the crises going on in Greece, it’s probably not surprising we haven’t heard much about the campaign to get the Elgin/Parthenon Marbles back for quite a while, but interestingly, over the past few weeks there’s doings afoot in Australia, of all places. First I read of an impending legal challenge in an article in the Australian Greek Reporter:

For years political and populist attempts to induce the British Museum and the British government to return the Parthenon marbles to Greece have been rebuffed and rudely ignored. The British may rely on a threadbare claim of legality because of a supposed sale or contractual transaction but with whom? The Ottoman bey of Athens at the time? Certainly there was no Greek national representative as there was no Greek nation to protest the ravishment of porticos and frescoes from the outer decorations of this, the most revered building in Western civilization. For too long, supporters of the return of the Parthenon marbles have seen a legal challenge in the English High Court to be too daunting and unlikely to achieve the desired result. But a new initiative coming from the AHEPA organization in Sydney Australia may be able to construct a respectable argument to put before the English courts in such a claim – to release the marbles to the representatives of the Greek government for a return to their home and origin Athens. The two Decisions one legal the other administrative are of Interest Mabo Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (commonly known a Mabo) was a landmark Australian court case which was decided by the High Court of Australia on June 3, 1992. The effective result of the judgement was to make irrelevant the declaration of terra nullius, or “land belonging to no-one” which had been taken to occur from the commencement British colonisation in 1788, and to recognise a form of native title. It is argued by some historians[who?] that the Royal Proclamation of 1763 was seen to apply to Australia at the time of settlement, and therefore governed unceded territories. Although Mabo was litigated within the legal context of property law, the decisions clearly had much wider implications which have still to be determined.

Thus in 1992 the Australian High Court made a historical determination to release land back to the “original owners” Aborigines of the northern Australian islands, As with all Australia the first English colonists had claimed land in the name of the King of England by ignoring the fact that people were already living there by declaring it as “terra nullius” – i.e. nobody’s land. Eddie Mabo took on the state of Queensland and with help from support groups won the day overturning what had been established custom and law. The result was that the Australian government was forced to admit that his island and large swags of the Northern Territory and Queensland came under the same heading and should be returned to their original owners. It was conditional that the original owners had never left which in most cases it applied to was true. Land that had passed into private hands as settled property affecting the lives of white Australians and in the cities was excluded from the court’s ruling. The historical decision is simply known as “Mabo” Mabo dealt with land rights but a later development has occurred which sets a precedent which could be even more relevant. Bringing Them Home Then some years ago indigenous people of Australia again made a claim this time supported by the Australian government for the return of human remains such as bones, skulls and teeth. Tasmanian aborigines who demanded the return of bones, skulls and body remains of their ancestors which had been taken away to England during the 19th. and early 20th century for anthropological investigation. The claims were based on religious and cultural grounds and that the taking was unauthorised by the descendants of the deceased whose body parts were scattered in universities and museums in England. In 1996 and again 1999 the British government conceded the claim and the desired items were returned to the lineal descendants of the long dead aborigines. These two significant circumstances could well give rise to the thread of an argument for a claim to be brought in an English court of law by applying Mabo as a persuasive precedent from the highest Australian court and the human remains ruling of the British government. The Parthenon Marbles The marbles were extracted crudely and wantonly between 1801 to 1812 from the Parthenon and sustained significant damage in the process. Whatever claim to some purchase or contract that could be relied on by supporters of Elgin, the fact remains that the Greek peoples were a conquered race, there was no nation, the Ottomans ruled as part of their empire then but in the way of history and other empires only held sway in Athens for a few years after the looting. The marbles were not removed either to protect them or to glorify them in England. Elgin simply had them installed in his private gardens along with the garden gnomes. The British Museum later acquired them by purchase from Elgin or his representatives to meet his debts. Were they “stolen” in the sense of English law or not is one question that would rise in any claim. If found to be stolen no title passes to a third party and that what would be part of the claim. No Greek Representative or authority or even lay person sanctioned the original looting of the marbles. They were certainly not Ottoman Turkish property other than being part of the captured territory. That they have deep cultural significance and meaning to the Greek peoples cannot be denied. They are integral to the linings of the most famous building in Europe when Greek learning and art laid the basis for western civilization and set standards of beauty and grace apparent to this day in the great museums of Europe and America. Other magnificent remnants of that time, Niki of Samothrace and Venus de Milo in the Louvre are stand alone statues. But the Parthenon marbles are integral adornments to an existing building and belong if not in position at least in the dignity of the new Athens Acropolis Museum in the hands of the people who are the lineal descendants of the age of Pericles, Phideas, Iktinos and Kallikratis and like the ruling in re Mabo as to continuity of residence, never left the site of Athens. Contacts have been made with other concerned people such as George Bizos a senior counsel in South Africa and other organizations and it is important that the best brains get together to coalesce money and intellectual input and to bring the arguments to a sharp point using the best legal people for the actual hearing. The Australian branch of the world wide Ahepa organization though its Marbles representative Manuel Comino OA and legal advisor Victor Bizannes believe that the time has come for an international fund to be set up to finance an action in the English High Court using these two significant cases as part of the argument for the return of Hellenic property to its original owners- the Hellenic peoples. (Victor Bizannes Sydney – June 2010)

Interesting argument; I’m really not sure it applies … if one were to use DNA to prove ‘lineal descendants’, I’m sure most of Western Europe and a good chunk of North America might qualify. I also don’t think there are religious and/or anthropological reasons that can be seriously attached to the marbles at this point in their history; any repatriation would clearly be for financial reasons. We’ll see if this goes anywhere. In any event, a few weeks later we read (in the same source) of a parliamentarian getting in on the action:

The State Minister for Culture Mrs. Virginia Jung (photo) supported to the state parliament of New South Wales that “according to the Code of ethics for museums by the International Council of Museums, the possession of cultural objects because of agreements with occupational forces is illegal and immoral”.

Among others, the Ministry underlined also the following:
«I have known the case of Parthenon Marbles for a lot of years and I was obliged to meet not only my political and cultural beliefs but also the cultural worries and sensitivities of the whole Greek-Australian community. A lot of members of this community told me to mention this issue as they felt that there is little mobility in a political level for the marbles return.” she said.

Among the audience of the parliament was also Mr. David Hill, President of the International Committee for the Parthenon Marbles return who stated that was impressed by the speech of the Minister.

“The speech of the Minister was impressive and completely different from other speeches as apart from the usual arguments, she asked the British Museum to remember “what a museum is” and which the responsibilities of a museum towards the people are”.

When the Minister ended her speech, Mr. Hill congratulated her and asked her permission in order to use her speech.

The Australian Minister also added: “Parthenon, one of the most important pieces of architecture, was built in order for the Goddess Athena to be honoured by the people of a city that even 2500 years later still retains her name. This is a historical continuity that few people in the world can evoke. Lord Elgin sold the sculptures to the British museum when he lost his money. The sale was illegal and invalid as he never took permission from the Greek people to remove them. The only permission he took was from the Turkish that were the occupational power! So, if we agree with the Code of Ethics for museums by the International Council of museums, then the possession of cultural objects because of agreements with occupational forces is illegal and immoral!

So, I am asking the British Museum to act as a museum and return back to Greece half of the Parthenon to complete the other half. Otherwise, it is something like having Mona Lisa in the Louvre of Paris and her smile to the National Portrait Gallery of London”.

The Minister also recited a poem of Lord Byron which reflects the cruelty of Elgin.

Finally, we read of the same sort of thing in the Australian Daily Telegraph, which includes some name variations (and gives you an indication why I’ve never cited the Greek Reporter before):

Arts Minister Virginia Judge and Local Government Minister Barbara Perry have decided to dabble in foreign affairs by demanding the return of the Elgin Marbles.

The marbles are sculptures and panels that were removed from the ancient Parthenon, in Athens, by Thomas Bruce, the seventh earl of Elgin, in 1801.

Bruce sold them to the British government and Greece has long demanded that the “Parthenon Marbles” – as it prefers to call them – be returned from the British Museum in London, where they now reside.

Ms Judge accused the museum of acting like “some colonial power” and called on Britain to return the sculptures.

Ms Perry also waded in and said: “I hope the message from this Parliament will be heard in Britain.”

But in the two weeks since they spoke in Parliament, Britain appears not to have heard their plea.

An international campaign to have Britain return the marbles has been waged for years and both ministers said they had raised the issue on behalf of their thousands of Greek constituents.

“I do not ask the British Museum to return a vase or some statue with a missing limb. I ask it to return half the Parthenon, return it to Greece so it may be reunited with the rest of itself,” Ms Judge told parliament.

“It would be like having the Mona Lisa displayed in the Louvre, in Paris, while her smile is displayed in the National Portrait Gallery in London.”

Ms Judge’s office said support for the return of the sculptures had also been raised in Federal Parliament by a Liberal MP.

A spokeswoman said 3000 Greeks lived in Ms Judge’s electorate of Strathfield and many had asked her to raise their plight in parliament.

“The president of the International Committee for the Parthenon Marbles, David Hills, also asked the Minister to raise the issue and was in Parliament when she made her speech,” she said.

Ms Perry added: “NSW has a very large Greek-Australian population, a lot of whom live in my electorate of Auburn. Many in the local Greek population are rightly concerned about this ongoing international issue. I simply put forward their views.”

So something seems to be going on down under/up over (depending on where you live) … we’ll see if it goes beyond Australia’s shores …