Grampy and his "thinking cap", in a ...
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It seems to be a bit of a slow news day, and while I procrastinate finishing the office clean up, I’ve done some housekeeping items which I’ve had on the list for a while. Specifically, my ‘Classical Blogosphere’ (i.e. the blogroll) is now in the sidebar ‘below the fold’. At the bottom of the page are a number of items also of interest: the repaired ‘Classical Words of the Day’ feed (not sure why it stopped working), along with the news feeds from Ephemeris and Radio Finland’s Nuntii Latini (now on hiatus, so things won’t show up for a while). The middle column has feeds from BMCR as well as my twitterfeed of book reviews from the popular press. In the third column at the bottom of the page are assorted other items from my twitterfeed, including reviews of ancient dramas, sword and sandal flicks, etc.. Enjoy!

Villa Farnesina Frescoes On View Again

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From the New York Times:

“A blinding vision.” That’s how the first century B.C. Roman architect and theoretician Vitruvius described the fresco technique popular during his time, and it’s an apt description for the newly revamped rooms of an ancient villa that is showcased at the Palazzo Massimo, part of the Roman National Museum.

Actually, Vitruvius “was criticizing the exuberance of the frescoes of his time and the excessive use of rich colors to create fantastic effects,” explained the museum’s director, Rita Paris. But the staff of the museum has chosen the phrase to ballyhoo the new arrangement the frescoes of the Villa Farnesina (Largo di Villa Peretti 1;, which opened on July 1.

“We wanted to recreate an environment that would give a better sense of the original villa,” Ms. Paris said. Now, gray walls that mimic the original floor plan separate the various rooms — two bedrooms, a dining area, and various corridors — while a video depicts a 3-D reconstruction of the villa.

A sophisticated and unique lighting system that recreates daylight hours from dusk to dawn in 100-second cycles lets visitors hone in on the details of the frescoes and vault stuccoes, which depict mythological scenes as well as more mundane activities. “It’s akin to seeing through the eyes of ancient Romans,” said Stefano Cacciapaglia, one of the architects who worked on the project.

The villa was discovered in 1879, in the Roman neighborhood known as Trastevere, while Rome was building up the banks of the Tiber. Though hypotheses are still open on its original owners, Ms. Paris suggested that recent research had singled out the first century B.C. general (and close friend of Augustus) Marco Vipsanio Agrippa as a possible proprietor.

The frescoes were restored when the Palazzo Massimo was opened in 1998. It is one of four branches of the National Roman Museum and admission price (7 euros, about $8.50) is valid for three days for all four sites.

via: Frescoes Revamped at Ancient Roman Villa | New York Times (blog)

There’s an url up there which doesn’t work and I can’t seem to find what it was supposed to point to (possibly this, but I can’t find any specific info on this there)…

Marathon 2500th Anniversary

I’m semi-surprised there hasn’t been a bit more hype for this upcoming anniversary … I know they’re planning a number of ongoing events at Oxford, but really haven’t heard much else. This item comes from Reuters:

Exactly two and a half millennia after the Battle of Marathon, an event widely acknowledged to have ensured the democratic legacy of Western culture, two veteran Greek distance runners will aim to bring to life the incredible feat of legendary messenger Pheidippides.

Greek women’s marathon record-holder Maria Polyzou and the first man to repeat Pheidippides feat in 1992, Panayiotis Skoulis, have announced they intend to run the 520 km (325 miles) from Athens to Sparta and back to Marathon virtually non-stop within six days to mark the celebrations of the battle’s 2,500-year anniversary.

The pair will set off from the Acropolis in Athens on Monday, July 26, aiming to reach the southern Peloponnesian city of Sparta on July 29 before running back to the Tomb of Marathon for August 1. This will entail running a double marathon every day for a week, with minimal rest in between.

“This is a special year for the sport and I want to be a part of our history,” Polyzou told Reuters. “Put simply, the marathon is part of my soul. You can’t undertake something like this if you do not believe in the whole idea of the marathon.”

The marathon celebrates the run of a soldier, Pheidippides, from the battlefield near Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. Pheidippides was carrying the news a Greek victory over the Persians and is said to have collapsed and died at the end of his effort. Out of that legend, the marathon race was born.

But the original legend, whose first report was 600 years after the battle was that the messenger first went to Sparta to ask for help, was rebuffed, and ran back to Marathon, before going to Athens to announce victory.

Polyzou is well placed to spread the marathon spirit. At 42, she has been running marathons for 23 years. She is also the director of the Museum of Marathon and vice-president of her country’s athletic federation SEGAS.

“It’s difficult to say what is more important because each and every part of my career has been equally significant,” added Polyzou, when asked if this would be the pinnacle of her achievements. “It’s a cliché but life is like a road and every part of that road takes you further forward. Perhaps after finishing this challenge though I will answer differently though.”

Greek celebrations of the Battle of Marathon’s 2,500-year anniversary will culminate with the 28th Athens Classic Marathon on October 31, where a record turnout of over 20,000 participants will take part.

via: Greeks to recreate the marathon run of Pheidippides | Reuters

Ages ago I compiled a ‘golden thread’ from the Classics list which had some info on Pheidippides …

Douglas MacDowell’s Classical Legacy

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Tip o’ the pileus to Tim Parkin for this one from the Glasgow Herald, but which appears to be only available from for some reason; I don’t think we had an obituary for Dr MacDowell:

AN esteemed professor has stunned the Scottish academic world by leaving a pound(s)2 million fortune to the institution where he worked for 30 years.

Professor Douglas MacDowell left the money in his will to Glasgow University on the basis that it is used to reintroduce his old position of Professorship of Greek

The job was mothballed when he stepped down nine years ago after serving the longest period in office of any Glasgow Professor of Greek since 1877.

Professor MacDowell died in hospital of renal failure aged 78 in January this year but the details of his will totalling pound(s)2,157,176.28 have just been revealed.

As well as expressing shock at the reportedly modest-living professor’s wealth, classics experts say the return of the post will be a welcome boost.

MacDowell is credited with establishing the Greek department’s reputation as one of the most revered seats of learning anywhere in the world.

Alan Milligan, 53, classics teacher at the High School of Glasgow, and his wife Dr Susan Milligan, 51, from the Classical Association of Scotland, both studied under the professor.

Mr Milligan said: “It’s one of the oldest chairs at Glasgow University. It will be great to have that tradition kept up.”

Dr Milligan said: “It will give the subject a great boost. It never stopped being taught but there wasn’t a specific chair of it.

“He was absolutely dedicated and was a superb teacher and a scholar who published prolifically. He was a quiet person, very thoughtful.

“He was very precise and had a terrific sense of humour. Nobody would have guessed he had a huge amount of wealth. It’s typical of him it has only come out after his death.”

An only child who never married, London-born MacDowell lived a modest lifestyle in a pound(s)100,000 flat in Glasgow’s Byres Road. He drove a pound(s)1228 Daihatsu hatchback car and his furniture and personal belongings were valued at pound(s)2767 after his death.

He also had a stamp collection worth pound(s)900 but the bulk of his riches were made up of stocks and shares including pound(s)115,000 of BP shares and pound(s)82,000 of shares in mining giants Rio Tinto.

However, in his obituary published in The Herald in February it was noted: “More than one impoverished postgraduate student benefited financially from his generosity.”

He left pound(s)90,000 to friends and pound(s)10,000 to the National Trust for Scotland.

Though the university refused to comment officially, one university source said: “This is a wonderful gesture from Professor MacDowell and has taken everyone by surprise.

“After he stood down as the Professor of Greek the position was frozen and not readvertised.

“I think he felt very passionately that it should be reinstated.

“Discussions are currently ongoing between solicitors handling his estate and the university to decide if and how the wishes in his will can be implemented.”