A Well-Known Lawrence Alma-Tadema Coming to Auction

The incipit of an item from Art Daily:

Following the record-shattering price of $35,922,500 achieved at Sotheby’s New York in November 2010 by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s The Finding of Moses (est. $3/5 million), Sotheby’s announces that the 5 May 2011 sale of 19th Century European Art in New York will be led by another masterpiece by the artist. In The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra, 41 B.C. Alma-Tadema draws inspiration from Shakespeare’s play in depicting the memory of Antony’s first encounter with Cleopatra (est. $3/5 million). Beautifully rendered in the artist’s distinctive style, the image took on an iconic status soon after its completion in 1883, and has since served as inspiration for theatrical and filmed versions of the famed story.

In The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra, 41 B.C., Alma-Tadema depicts one of the most storied moments in Roman-Egyptian history. Rather than using translations of ancient texts as source material, the artist instead draws inspiration for his composition from William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, which was regularly staged in London’s theaters at the time. [etc.]

… and is probably the most boring Cleopatra ever painted, and likely my least favourite Alma-Tadema …

d.m. Ian Kidd

From the Scotsman:

Professor Ian Gray Kidd, academic.

Born: 6 March 1922, in Chandernagore, French India.

Died: 20 March, 2011, in Dundee, aged 89.

Ian Kidd, Emeritus Professor of Greek in the University of St Andrews and Fellow of the British Academy, died peacefully in Ninewells Hospital Dundee in the early hours of Sunday, 20 March. He will be remembered by colleagues, students and friends as an accomplished scholar, a fine teacher and a man who gave a lifetime of unstinting service to his university and the wider community.

Ian was born on 6 March, 1922 at Goretty, Chandernagore, in French India, where his father was working for the Angus Jute Company.

At the age of five he was brought to Dundee and looked after by grandparents and maiden aunts; his parents returned to their native city in 1933.

He attended Dundee High School, where his combination of academic excellence (and not only in classics) with sporting prowess (he was captain of rugby and a gifted golfer) led to his being made head boy and Dux of School.

After two years at St Andrews University, he was called up in 1942, was commissioned as lieutenant in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (and later the Seaforth Highlanders), and saw service in north Africa and Italy (he led the first British platoon to form part of the Allied crossing from Sicily to the mainland in September 1943), before being captured in January 1944 and spending the rest of the war in various prisoner of war camps.

Liberated in April 1945 and demobilised that September, he returned to his studies at St Andrews.

While he managed to maintain a social life rich in sporting activity and music (he was a very capable pianist and music remained a lifelong passion), his academic talents ensured that he graduated in 1947, in classics, with the highest Honours, winning the Arts Faculty’s Miller Prize for the top first-class degree of the year.

From 1947 to 1949 he took a further classics degree (Greats) at Queen’s College Oxford.

Meanwhile, in 1946, he had met Sheila Dow, a student contemporary of his (she was reading economics).

They married in 1949, settling in St Andrews when Ian was appointed assistant lecturer in Greek at the university, where he was to spend a distinguished career of almost four decades, culminating in a personal chair as Professor of Ancient Philosophy (1973-76) followed by his tenure of the chair of Greek (1976-87) in succession to Kenneth Dover.

Over that whole period, Ian gradually turned himself into a leading expert on Greek philosophy and science, especially the school of Stoicism.

His list of publications includes notable contributions to the study of Plato and Platonism, but his crowning achievement, which made him a world authority on the subject, was a magisterial edition, in four volumes (with commentary and translation),
of the fragments of the Stoic thinker Posidonius, one of antiquity’s most remarkable polymaths.

To produce this work, the fruit in total of some 30 years’ research, Ian needed to master a body of complex material which ranged across the domains (among others) of ethics, geography, history and physics. The edition is recognised as a major resource by all advanced students of Greek philosophy.

The reputation this edition helped win for Ian was no doubt a prime reason for his Fellowship of the British Academy, awarded in 1993.

But even before the Posidonius project was completed, Ian had achieved an international standing which was acknowledged in various ways, not least by his appointment as Visiting Professor in Classics at the University of Texas at Austin in 1965-6, and his membership of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, on two occasions (1971-2 and 1979-80).

In retirement his achievements were marked by his own university with the award of an honorary D.Litt. (2001).

Ian Kidd belonged to an always rare (but now endangered) species of academics who were committed to combining the highest standards of research with a record of great devotion to teaching and of unselfish service to the governance of their universities.

Ian’s colleagues admired his sterling qualities (Kenneth Dover described him as a person of “absolute integrity”), while his students remember with deep warmth the kindness and helpfulness he unfailingly showed them.

It was a mixture of colleagues, former pupils, and scholarly admirers who came together to produce a volume of essays in his honour in 1995 under the title The Passionate Intellect, a phrase Ian himself had used in his inaugural lecture to sum up what he thought the most important aspect of ancient Greek culture.

Last but not least, the annals of St Andrews University will testify that he found time amid all his other work to serve, inter alia, as the Provost of St Leonard’s College (1978-83), the Chancellor’s Assessor (1989-98), and Vice-President of the University Court (1997-8).

In all respects, Ian Kidd led a life of exemplary dedication to the humane values of scholarship and to the educational ideals of the institution in which he spent his long career.

Sheila Kidd, whom Ian devotedly nursed through illness for several years, predeceased him in 2007. He is survived by his three sons, Anthony, Robin and Simon.

Also Seen: How the Romans Made MSG

From io9 with a tip o’ the pileus to Dorothy King … this is the bit from towards the end:

The process sounds very modern, but MSG has been around for a very long time. It was a common food additive during the time of ancient Rome, added to almost all Roman dishes. The Romans had a lot of technology for their time, but they couldn’t genetically engineer bacteria. So how did they come up with MSG? Believe it or not, they used an even more disgusting process than bacteria excretions. The Romans had a fish paste called garum that they exported everywhere. They made it by filling pots with alternating layers of fish – or just fish guts – and salt and letting those pots lie out in the sun for a while.

As the mixture lay out in the sun, the stomach acids for the fish ate through their bodies. They eventually broke down the entire fish, turning the whole thing into a dark brown oily goo. When protein is broken down, the amino acid chains in the protein are freed up. One of these acid chains contains glutamic acid, which meets up with sodium from the salt and forms MSG. The Romans were such fans of the flavor enhancer that they even put it in sweets like custard. They also died off in droves, so anyone who wishes to recreate garum Roman-style — don’t do it. Try organizing gladiator-style games in the back yard as a safer alternative.

Personally, I’d like to see some definite evidence that the garum process would create the ‘free glutamates’ which are apparently necessary for the MSG ‘effect’ … all I have is the Wikipedia article to go on …

Pondering the Cause(s) of the Fall of Rome

Given the ‘heat’ folks have been putting on news outlets for their apparent lack of critical thinking abilities in regards to such things as those lead codices (and plenty of other things which aren’t in our purview), it’s somewhat refreshing to see the Telegraph apparently trying to ‘look good’. First we read of  a rather startling claim made by the head of Italy’s National Research Council … here’s the incipit:

Roberto De Mattei, 63, the deputy head of the country’s National Research Council, claimed that the empire was fatally weakened after conquering Carthage, which he described as “a paradise for homosexuals”.

The remarks prompted angry calls for his resignation, with critics saying his comments were homophobic, offensive and unbecoming of his position.

The fall of the Roman Empire was a result of “the effeminacy of a few in Carthage, a paradise for homosexuals, who infected the many.

“The abhorrent presence of a few gays infected a good part of the (Roman) people,” Prof Mattei told Radio Maria, a Catholic radio station.

The Roman Republic achieved domination over Carthage, in present-day Tunisia, during the Punic Wars of the third and second centuries BC, during which Hannibal made his ultimately abortive crossing of the Alps with war elephants. [etc.]

A week or so ago, that would be the end of the story and the ‘fall’ reason would be just another ‘fact’.  Now the various newspapers seem to want to made amends and appear legit. The Daily Mail, e.g., has the story and then consults some historians … but then, being the Daily Mail, they disagree … here’s the relevant part:

Historian Emilio Gabba, a leading light in Roman history, said: ‘It is highly improbable homosexuality led to the fall of the Roman Empire.’

Professor Lellia Cracco Ruggini, an expert on Roman history from Turin University, said: ‘There is no proof Rome had a high number of homosexuals. I can safely say Rome did not fall because it was gay.’ However research would seem to suggest homosexuality was rife in ancient Rome.

The 18th century expert Edward Gibbon wrote that ‘of the first 15 emperors, Claudius was the only one whose taste in love was entirely correct’.

Homosexuality is widely portrayed in ancient Roman art and was seen as acceptable 2,000 years ago.

For its part, the Telegraph has a complete column unto itself (by the same journalist) presenting the standard ‘list’ of possible reasons for the ‘fall’ … it begins thusly:

Scholars point out that it was not a single, dramatic event – the decline of the Empire took place over around 300 years.

Historians have variously dated the final collapse to the sack of Rome in AD410 by the Visigoth king Alaric, the deposing of the last Roman emperor by the German chieftain Odoacer in AD476 and the death of Justinian I, the last Roman emperor to try to reconquer the western half of the empire, in AD565.

The reasons for the fall of the empire include military overreach, invasion by emboldened tribes of Huns and Visigoths from northern and central Europe, inflation, corruption and political incompetence.

While historians have examined dozens of reasons for the decline of the greatest empire the world had ever seen, homosexuality is not one of them. [etc.]

… and there’s also this:

… much better job, on the Telegraph side of things. Daily Mail … well, it’s still the Daily Mail.

ASCSA Videocast: Telltale Depictions: A Contextual View of Mycenaean Wall-Paintings

On February 11, 2011, John Bennett (University of Sheffield) delivered the lecture, “Telltale Depictions: A Contextual View of Mycenaean Wall-Paintings” to lead off the 2-day weekend workshop on the subject.