Roman Imperial Horses?

Potentially interesting item from the Telegraph:

The Maremmano horses of Lazio, the region around Rome, are believed to be the descendants of steeds ridden by emperors such as Marcus Aurelius 2,000 years ago.

Their distinctive characteristics include a strong build, a broad chest, thick manes and tails, and robust legs.

The archetype of the breed can be seen in many of Rome’s bronze and marble equestrian statues, most notably one of Marcus Aurelius which stands in front of the city’s town hall, in a piazza designed by Michelangelo in the 1530s for Pope Paul III.

Genetic studies have shown that the breed is unique to the Maremma, a marshy region which straddles the border between Lazio and Tuscany.

They are different even to a breed of horses in the Tuscan part of the Maremma, which is famous in Italy for its home-grown cowboys, known as “butteri”, skilled horsemen who manage the region’s herds of sheep and huge white bulls.

The Lazio horses are about to be officially recognised as a separate breed by the Association of Italian Breeders.

The genetic make-up of more than 130 of the horses was studied by Donato Matassino, from the agriculture department of a university in Naples.

He is preparing to publish the results in an American science periodical.

“We’re establishing a regional register for the protection of the genome, which is unique to Lazio,” he told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Breeders hope that the historic link with Rome’s emperors will increase the value of the horses and help to preserve the breed.

via Roman emperors’ horses to be recognised as distinct breed – Telegraph.

… only ‘potentially interesting’ because most sites on the Marremmano horses will tell you that it is a mixed breed (Spanish, Barb, Arabian with some Thoroughbred added for good measure) and that the breed didn’t become ‘fixed’ until the late nineteenth century. See, e.g., the Breeds Guide and, of course, Wikipedia, among others.

Wallace-Hadrill on Pompeii’s Problems

Via Blogging Pompeii and Adrian Murdoch comes an audio interview with Andrew Wallace-Hadrill on Vatican Radio:

Inter alia, Wallace-Hadrill says “The whole site is at risk” … “What’s missing is a proper system of maintenance and monitoring …” He also notes that  Pompeii is relatively well-off financially compared to other sites in Italy, but the money could be spent better.

Searching for Agrigento’s Theatre and Hippodrome

Interesting item from the Telegraph:

Alexander Hardcastle spent a decade searching for the fabled theatre, which is said to be buried beneath the remains of Akragas, a city established by Greek colonists six centuries before Christ on the southern coast of Sicily.

The World Heritage site is best known for the Valley of the Temples, a cluster of five Doric temples which draws tens of thousands of tourists each year.

Hardcastle, a former soldier who had served with the Royal Engineers in the Boer War, believed that remains of the stone-built theatre had survived, despite Akragas being shaken by earthquakes, sacked by the Carthaginians and plundered for its stone.

The Harrow-educated gentleman scholar, who was born in Belgravia, spent a fortune on the quest between 1920 and 1930, but lost all his money when his family’s bank collapsed in the wake of the financial crash of 1929.

He died in poverty in a mental asylum in the town of Agrigento, which overlooks the ancient site, in 1933.

He had achieved a restoration of the city, partly rebuilding temples, uncovering perimeter walls and clearing ancient roads, but found no trace of the legendary theatre.

Now a team of archaeologists is to resume the hunt, embarking in the next few months on a dig that will be funded by a two million euro grant from the European Union.

The team will be led by Giuseppe Castellana, 64, the director of the Valley of the Temples Archeological Park.

“We want to resume the research started by Alexander Hardcastle in the coming months. It will be a way of honouring his memory,” Prof Castellana, who has been involved in more than 80 digs over the last 30 years, told La Stampa newspaper.

“The discovery would go down in history and it would also benefit the modern city of Agrigento, which needs to survive on archaeological tourism but hasn’t managed to make the most of its enormous potential,” he added.

Akragas was described by the ancient Greek poet Pindar as “the most beautiful city in the world inhabited by mortals” and scholars think it highly likely that it would have boasted a theatre.

The archaeologists also hope to unearth evidence of a hippodrome, a stadium for horse and chariot racing.

Excavations were carried out at the site in the 1970s and 1980s but archaeologists found no evidence of the theatre or hippodrome

via: Archaeologists to embark on quest for 2,500-year-old lost Greek theatre – Telegraph.

One of the books I’ve been keeping my eye open for (but still haven’t seen) is Alexandra Richardson, Passionate Patron: The Life of Alexander Hardcastle … Hardcastle is one of those names that you ‘hear once’ while wandering around the sites of Agrigento, making a note to ‘look him up’ when you return home, only to find very little info about him generally available. He is on Facebook (of course, along with a myriad other dead scholars like Franz Cumont and William Warde Fowler), but I’m waiting for him to accept my friend request  …

Classics and Wikileaks

Logo used by Wikileaks
Image via Wikipedia

Excerpt from the end of an opEd piece in the Guardian:

We could be entering a period of history as in the ancient world where people relied on the oral tradition and eventually wrote down some time later what they thought people might have said or thought. Did Thucydides actually hear Pericles’ funeral oration or was he repeating what others had told him about it? Through a process of Chinese whispers messages can be transmogrified beyond recognition …

via WikiLeaks could kill the goose that laid the golden egg | Guardian.

… and the incipit of an item in the Huffington Post:

Aeschylus wrote nearly 2,500 years ago that in war, “truth is the first casualty.” His words are no doubt known to another wise man, whose strategic “maneuvers within a changing information environment” would not be an utterly foreign concept to the Greeks in the Peloponnesian War. Aeschylus and Thucydides would no doubt wonder at the capacity of the Information Age to spread truth and disinformation alike. In November 2010, it’s clear that legitimate concerns about national security must be balanced with the spirit of open government expressed by the Obama administration.

via What Wikileaks and Cablegate Mean for Open Government | Huffington Post