Mary Beard Gets Quizzical

Going deeper into my mailbox, I’m finding all sorts of things I meant to post … Back in December, e.g., the Guardian  Review had a quiz with questions from various authors, including Mary Beard. Ecce:

1 A “new” poem of which “Greek Muse” was found in 2004, written on the scrap paper packed into an Egyptian mummy – complaining about the onset of middle age, and of knees too stiff to dance?

2 A politician who fell foul of the Emperor Augustus and killed himself – and one of the most famous poets of the 1st century BC. His only poem to survive (celebrating Julius Caesar) was discovered on an Egyptian rubbish dump in 1978. Who is he?

3 2010 saw the first publication of a lost essay by one of the most famous ancient doctors. “On the avoidance of pain” was about the loss of his books in a fire in 192AD and it turned up on a manuscript in a library in Thessaloniki. Who was the author?

via The Guardian Review literary quiz | Books | The Guardian.

If you’re stumped, the answers are somewhere on this page (I confess to having forgotten #2) …

Also Seen: Modern Men v. Their Greek Counterparts

This one’s making the rounds in various forms (just in Australian newspapers for now, I think)  … first, some context:

It’s a brave man who asks, ‘Why are men these days such losers?’ But self proclaimed ‘manthropologist’ Peter McAllister, is doing just that.The archaeologist and author is convinced he knows why men just aren’t what they used to be and he says there’s no shortage of people lining up to hear the answer.”My experience has been if you discuss the topic with women, their immediate response is, well, duh!”Mr McAllister uses archaeology, anthropology and evolutionary psychology to explain that men these days just aren’t cutting it compared to their counterparts 2,000 years ago.

Then further down we get:

Mr McAllister says the Ancient Greeks had the right formula.

“The Greek trireme rowers about 2,000 years ago set records and travelled at speeds that trained athletes and rowers can’t even get close to today. The reality is they were very small in stature compared to modern men these days,” he said.

Not sure where he gets this ‘can’t get close to today’ … when they did the reconstruction of the Olympias, the researchers matched (and corroborated) speeds mentioned in various ancient sources. A graph at the Trireme Trust from their various trials of the ship suggests it was possible for the crew to approach the 10 knot range (17-18 km/h or so). If you want to compare “trained athletes”, eights in competition generally average about 22 km/h in the 2000m event.

In other words, yet another bit of sensationalism citing the ancient world which doesn’t really pan out …