Latin Tattoos Causing Revival in Latin?

Angelina Jolie at the New York "A Mighty ...
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Tip o’ the pileus to Dorothy King for alerting us to this somewhat strange connection being made by the Daily Mail:

Celebrity Latin tattoos may be fuelling a revival of the ancient language in schools, it emerged today.

Pupils are increasingly demanding to study the subject, according to an exam board, as tattooed celebrities such as David Beckham and Angelina Jolie enhance Latin’s profile.

The OCR exam board today launched a new Latin qualification aimed at teenagers as secondary schools increasingly offer the subject, either during the curriculum or after-hours.

But examiners urged pupils not to emulate model Danielle Lloyd, whose Latin tattoo is riddled with errors.

While Beckham and Jolie’s Latin inscriptions are grammatically correct, Lloyd’s is meaningless, they said.

Her tattoo, ‘Quis attero mihi tantum planto mihi validus’, which is etched on to her shoulder, is intended to translate as ‘To diminish me will only make me stronger’.

But experts say the words in fact translate into something more akin to ‘Who I wear away for me only for me strong’.

Beckham, on the other hand, gets full marks for his two Latin tattoos.

The footballer has ‘Ut Amem Et Foveam’ (meaning ‘So that I love and cherish’) inscribed on his left forearm and ‘Perfectio In Spiritu’ (meaning ‘Perfection in spirit’) on his right.

Meanwhile Jolie chose ‘Quod me nutrit me destruit’, which means ‘What nourishes me also destroys me’.

Other celebrities embracing the trend include actor Colin Farrell, who has ‘Carpe Diem’ or ‘Seize the day’ inscribed on his left forearm.

OCR said the continuing influence of Latin in day-to-day life could be seen in baby naming.

It said three of the four top girls’ names have Latin origins – Olivia (from Latin ‘Oliva’ meaning Olive), Emily (from the Latin ‘Aemilianus’, a Latin family name) and the Grace (from Latin ‘Gratia’, meaning goodwill or kindness).

The OCR exam board said schools and youngsters were aware of the continuing influence of Latin and had expressed an interest in a qualification to recognise basic achievement in the subject.

The new ‘Entry Level Certificate in Latin’ is a qualification in its own right or could be taken as a precursor to a GCSE or A-level in Latin. It is likely to be taken by 13 to 17-year-olds.

It follows a surge in the number of secondary schools offering Latin over the past decade.

Surveys suggest that one in five secondaries now teaches the subject, including several hundred comprehensives.

A computer-based Latin course backed by Cambridge University is said to have made it easier for schools to offer Latin.

The team behind the project say schools are held back by a lack of access to Latin, rather than a lack of interest in it.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London and a long-standing advocate of Latin, said: ‘I’m delighted that OCR are introducing the first ever Entry Level Qualification in Latin.

‘It proves how much demand there is for this great subject and will provide the perfect platform for the next generation of classicists.’

Students will be introduced to the Latin language, including a list of 100 Latin words. They will also study aspects of Roman culture.

Paul Dodd, qualifications manager for languages and literature at OCR, said: ‘Latin vocabulary has had a rich and lasting influence on English, as well as being the foundation for modern day Spanish, French and Italian.

‘Latin language and culture have played a major part in shaping our own intellectual, literary, artistic and political traditions.

‘Many schools already teach Latin alongside other subjects but have no way of formally recognising their learners’ achievements below GCSE.

‘Our new Entry Level qualification provides a good bridge to further attainment as well as providing a way of recognising the skills learned.’

via: The celebrity tattoos that have sparked a Latin craze among schoolchildren | Daily Mail

The Daily Mail also has a sidebar with translations of assorted celeb tattoos. That said, all I can say is “Wow” … classic Daily Mail. Without even reading between the lines much it is pretty clear that the folks at OCR didn’t make this connection, nor does it seem like they even mentioned ink when launching this exam. Indeed, here’s the announcement from their site:

OCR has announced the launch of the first ever Entry Level qualification in Latin. The pre-GCSE level qualification, available from September 2010 for first teaching, is funded for use by the state sector and can be used as a stand-alone qualification or as a stepping stone to further study of the subject at GCSE and A Level.

The qualification provides learners with an introduction to the Latin language, and also includes study of aspects of Roman culture. Learning centres can choose the topics that they feel will best support their candidates’ introduction to the Latin language. Supporting topics include literature – either in translation or in Latin – a Roman site, Roman artefacts, slavery, the gladiators, the Roman army and more. The wide range of materials available to work with means teachers have flexibility to make the course both appealing and fun.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London and longstanding advocate of the value of Latin, said: “I’m delighted that OCR are introducing the first ever Entry Level Qualification in Latin. It proves how much demand there is for this great subject and will provide the perfect platform for the next generation of Classicists.”

Paul Dodd, OCR’s Qualifications Manager for Languages & Literature said: “Many schools already teach Latin alongside other subjects but have no way of formally recognising their learners’ achievements below GCSE grade. Our new Entry Level qualification provides a good bridge to further attainment as well as providing a way of recognising the skills learned.”

… which is clearly echoed in the Daily Mail piece. Now I’m all for highlighting celebrity tattoos in Latin and regular readers of rogueclassicism will know that I’ve made comments on same in the past (e.g. here and here), but to make the leap from one of Angelina Jolie’s body parts to some sudden surge in Latin interest seems a bit of a stretch and, quite frankly, is somewhat insulting.

Cleopatra’s Pearl

The logo of montclair state university
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A very interesting item in USA Today (ultimately deriving from an article in Classical World!) is bouncing around the interwebs … we’ll preface it with this excerpt from Philemon Holland’s 1847 translation of Pliny’s Natural History (9.119-121) via The Latin is available, as always, via Lacus Curtius:

There were two Pearls, the very largest that ever were
known in any Age, and they were possessed by Cleopatra,
the last Queen of Egypt ; having descended to her by means
of the Kings of the East. When Antony had feasted her
Day by Day very sumptuously, and under the Influence,
at one Time, of Pride and petulant Disdain, as a Royal
Harlot, after undervaluing his Expense and Provision, he
demanded how it was possible to go beyond this Magni-
ficence : she replied, that she would consume, in one Supper,
100 hundred thousand Sestertii. 2 Antony desired to learn
how that could be possible, but he thought it was not.

Wagers were, therefore, laid ; and on the following Day,
when the Decision was to be made (for that a Day might
not be lost, Antony appointed the next succeeding one), she
provided a Supper, which was, on the whole, sumptuous ;
but Antony laughed at it, and required to see an Account of
the Particulars. But she said, that what had been served up
already was but the Over-measure, and affirmed still, that
she would in that Supper make up the full Sum ; and her-
self alone consume in this Supper 600 huudred thousand
Sestertii. 1 She then commanded the second Table to be
brought in. As soon as the Order was given, the Attendants
placed before her one only Vessel of Vinegar, 2 the Strength
and Sharpness of which wasted and dissolved the Pearls.
Now she wore at her Ears that most remarkable and truly
singular Work of Nature. Therefore, as Antony waited to
see what she was going to do, she took one of them from
her Ear, steeped it in the Vinegar, and when it was liquefied,
drank it. As she was about to do the like by the other,
L. Plancius, the Judge of that Wager, laid hold upon it
with his Hand, and pronounced that Antony had lost the
Wager : whereat the Man became very angry. The Fame
of this Pearl may go with its Fellow ; for after this Queen,
the Winner of so great a Wager, was taken Prisoner, the
other Pearl was cut in two, that the half of their Supper
might hang at the Ears of Venus, in the Pantheon, at

Also of interest, is note on the story:

Cleopatra must have employed a stronger vinegar than that which
we now use for our tables, as the pearls, on account of their hardness and
their natural enamel, cannot be easily dissolved by a weak acid. Nature has
secured the teeth of animals against the effect of acids, by an enamel
covering of the like kind ; but if this enamel happen to be injured only
in one small place, the teeth soon spoil and rot. Cleopatra, perhaps,
broke and pounded the pearls ; and it is probable that she afterwards
diluted the vinegar with water, that she might be able to drink it ;
though it is the nature of the basis or calx to neutralise the acid, and so
render it imperceptible to the tongue. See BECKMAN’S Hist, of Inventions,
vol. ii. p. 1.

This story always reminds me of my Grade 12 biology class, where some poor soul decided to do the ‘Coca-Cola can dissolve teeth) thing as their final project (and it didn’t work, of course) … generally when one hears about Cleo’s pearl, it’s considered one of those urban legends of the ancient world. But check out the excerpts from the piece from USA Today:


“There’s usually a kernel of truth in these stories,” says classicist Prudence Jones of Montclair (N.J.) State University. “I always prefer to give ancient sources the benefit of the doubt and not assume that something that sounds far-fetched is just fiction.”

In the current Classical World journal, Jones details the history of the story. In it, Cleopatra won a wager with her befuddled Roman consort, Marc Antony, by consuming her pearl cocktail to create the costliest catering bill ever. Her 10 million sesterces (sesterces were the nickels of the ancient world) banquet bill, thanks to the destruction of the pearl, set a pretty early mark on extravagant consumption.


“I think there was a fairly good understanding of practical chemistry in the ancient world,” Jones says, by email. Fertilizer recipes and preparations to kill parasites on sheep appear, for example, in ancient Roman texts.

Pearls were a popular adornment for the wealthy in the Roman era. Because in antiquity the only pearls in existence were natural ones, they were considerably rarer than they are today, making dissolving one a truly wasteful act. “I think modern scholars dismiss the story more out of disbelief,” Jones says, noting a long line of references, such as a 1940 translation of the story, for instance, that says, “no such vinegar exists.”

The classicist B.L. Ullman of the University of North Carolina noted in 1957 that some experiments suggested that vinegar could indeed dissolve pearls, made of acid-unfriendly calcium carbonate by oysters. But the news never made it to most classicists, says Jones, author of Cleopatra: Life & Times. So, “I began to wonder if there was any truth behind it and started trying some experiments, at first with calcium supplement tablets and pieces of oyster shell and then with pearls,” she says.

To experiment with large pearls, Jones found a jeweler who had a couple of 5 carat ones that had been removed from pieces of jewelry. “They were not perfectly round and so were not suitable for other settings and were going to be disposed of,” Jones says. “He was willing to donate these to my experiment.”

So what did she find? “Experiments reveal that a reaction between pearls and vinegar is quite possible,” concludes the study. Calcium carbonate plus the vinegar’s acetic acid in water produces calcium acetate water and carbon dioxide, for chemistry fans. Jones finds a 5% solution of acetic acid, sold in supermarkets today and well within concentrations produced naturally by fermentation, takes 24 to 36 hours to dissolve a 5-carat pearl.


Biochemist Takeshi Furuhashi of Austria’s University of Vienna tried his own experiments with nacre shells from Red Sea oysters to see if he could reproduce Jones’s results for USA TODAY. He finds that without boiling or crushing the pearl, many hours would be needed for the acid to dissolve a large pearl. But at low concentrations of acetic acid, he reports, only an hour was required to dissolve a crushed pearl shell. So, if Cleopatra crushed the pearl, the story may be true, Furuhashi says. “However, if she put her earring directly into solution, it is impossible to obtain the same results.”

She may also have soaked the pearl in vinegar for a day or two to soften it up, he adds. Indeed, Jones says other stories about ancient wastrels knocking back pearl boilermakers involve prepared vinegar and pearl solutions being brought to the banquet table.

“I think the most likely explanations for the discrepancy between the experiment and the (legend) Pliny describes, during a banquet, are that the story compresses events for dramatic effect,” Jones says, “or that Cleopatra drank the cocktail with the pearl only partially disintegrated, having satisfied her guests that it was destroyed.”


via: Cleopatra’s pearl cocktail recipe revealed | USA Today

It’s a good article to print out for your ClassCiv classes; I’m sure you’ll all find one or more students willing to try to recreate the experiment. The abstract for the Classical World article is also online, as is Dr Jones’ abstract from a talk on the subject at the APA meeting quite a while ago should you desire to pursue this a bit further.  B.L. Ullman’s article in the 1957 Classical Journal is a good read as well …  Also of use is the Cleopatra and the Pearl page at Lacus Curtius.

More coverage:

UPDATE: USA Today now also has a brief interview with Dr. Jones:

Metis: a Wesleyan Undergraduate Journal

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One from deep, deep inside my mail folder (from over a month ago):

The Greek Titan Metis was considered the goddess of wisdom and deep thought. Her name in Greek also means “wisdom combined with cunning,” a highly desirable personality trait to the ancient Athenians.

This year, a group of Wesleyan students with a knowledge and interest in Classical studies, released their own collection of “cunning wisdom” in a publication titled Wesleyan Metis. The Metis editorial board draws on the abilities and creativity of Wesleyan students to showcase their best examples of undergraduate Classics writing.

“Classical studies go far beyond ancient languages and, as evidenced by the essays in the journal, include studies of archaeology and drama or even ancient medicine, sociology, mythology, poetry and more,” says Metis creator Christi Richardson ’10. “There are so many fields of interest in the classics that Metis can illuminate for Wesleyan students. We hope that Metis can get the word out to the Wesleyan community and showcase the wide range of areas of study available to students.”

The editors received 16 submissions for the first issue and selected six pieces to include.

The first issue of Wesleyan Metis features five articles and one photography section, including a short fictional story about the Athenian plague, an essay related to how ancients perceived statues of nude women that were modeled after Aphrodite statues, a look at Sir Arthur Evan’s Interpretation of the Palace of Knossos, and images of Pompeii and Rome.

In “The Plague,” author Kaitlin DeWilde ’13 writes about a young woman named Ariadne who played the nascent role of a doctor during the Athenian plague in 430-429: “As soon as I saw my sister, I knew there was nothing I could do. The worst red boils I had ever seen covered her skin; she thrashed around the bed in the throes of madness, indicative of close proximity to death.”

In “Balnea Mixta et Separata,” author Susie Howe ’11 describes how men and women used community baths as gathering places and centers of social activity. The oldest baths in Pompeii occupied a full city block and included many amenities like a swimming pool, courtyard exercise space, dry hot room and dressing room. “The baths have a separate entrance for men and women, labeled as such and leading to the separate non-communicable bathing suites.”

Richardson and her peers started Metis last fall, basing the publication on the Psychology Department’s journal, Mind Matters. The spring 2010 editors of Metis include Richardson, Howe, Ellie Damaskos ’12, Nathaniel Durant ‘12, Susan Howe ’11, Chris Kaltsas ‘11 Adam Peck ‘12. Dylan Griffin ’12 assisted with layout and printing of the 56-page journal.

Wesleyan’s Department of Classical Studies funds publication costs.

“In a discipline like Classics, as in almost any of the Humanities, collaborative work is much rarer than it is in science. This project made it possible for our students to work together. They had full responsibility for every aspect of the publication, most importantly for editorial choices, and they took that responsibility seriously,” says Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, professor of classical studies and the Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek.

The Classical Studies Department distributed copies to alumni during Reunion & Commencement Weekend. Other copies are available in Downey House.

“The response from our alumni was uniform enthusiasm, tinged with a trace of wry envy. ‘Wow – why didn’t we do something like this?’ It’s another way of keeping our grads in touch with us and with each other,” Szegedy-Maszak says. “I’m really proud of Metis, as are my colleagues, and we look forward to Volume 2.”

via: Metis Showcases Classical Studies Writing | The Wesleyan Connection

Statue of Artemis from Zajecar?

Tip o’ the pileus to Adrian Murdoch for this one:

At the site of the ‘Felix Romuliana’, an imperial palace near the Town of Zajecar, German experts of the Archeology Institute in Frankfurt, together with the colleagues of the Archeology Institute in Belgrade have discovered a sensational sculpture, unique in this area of the Balkans. This marble statue originates from the first half of the third century.

As ‘Blic’ learns unofficially, it is most likely a sculpture of Diana, the Goddess of the hunt. At the National Museum in Zajecar we were told that this discovery has been the most significant one since finding of archvault in 1984 with the inscription ‘Felix Romuliana’ and a head of Galerius in 1993.

It is supposed that the sculpture symbolizes victory by Rome over barberians. Unfortunately a fragment of the sculpture (a horse and a rider) is missing. The rider is believed to be Diana.

Experts claim that this discovery is absolutely precious for studying of the ‘Romuliana’, but for the world culture as well.

Huge interest of experts from all over the world is expected.

The German archeologists using geomagnetic and geophysics method of search outside the imperial palace have discovered about fifty objects. Recently a new three-year agreement on cooperation has been signed with the Institute in Frankfurt.

The ‘Felix Romuliana’ contains numerous floor mosaics and remains of monumental temples and buildings. The Portrait of Emperor Galerius, heads of Hercules and Jupiter, mosaic presentations of Dionis, Labyrinth and Venator are the very best of the Roman art of that time.

The article is accompanied by a photo:

from Blic

Now I’m not sure if this is just a portion of the sculpture (likely) or the whole thing (if it’s the sculpture in question at all), but it seems to me that they’re reading quite a bit into it; the boar might suggest some link to the Artemis – Adonis tiff, but in that one the boar wasn’t a victim …