From the Mailbag: Roman Voices Wiki

An interesting project and worth a look:

Dear Mr. Meadows,

I would like to announce the public launch of RomanVoices, a Stanford class wiki project featuring some extraordinary research and presentations by students of various obscure Roman primary source documents.

Highlights include:

Miles Untereiner’s presentation of a mining contract from Vipasca, Portugal:

Lillian McBee’s project discussing a student’s quest to find a great professor in the big city of Alexandria:

and Leander Love-Anderegg’s analysis of the motivations behind a bitter court case in which a man alleged that his ex-wife was pregnant, despite her denials:

All these students, and many others in the class, have really tried to contribute to the world’s greater understanding of Roman social and economic history. Many of the documents also use multimedia in innovative ways, combining video, images, and texts in order to communicate the fruits of their research to a non-scholarly audience.

They and I would like to see their work disseminated as widely as possible. In class, students commented that their favorite part of this project was having a chance for other students to see and comment on their page, and vice versa; it gave them a sense of ownership and pride in their work, in many cases for the first time.

In any case, if you or your readers want some brief glimpses into Roman education, military life, nasty divorces, or what an ancient care package looked like, please check out!

Anise K. Strong

d.m. John Geyssen

From the Daily Gleaner:

It is with great sadness that the family of Prof. John Geyssen announce his death at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital on Saturday, June 4th, 2011. Born on April 21st, 1962 in Oakville, ON he was the husband of Margaret Geyssen of Fredericton. John leaves behind his wife, Margaret; children, Sean Geyssen and Rebecca (Andrew McGilligan) Geyssen; mother, Diane Geyssen and sister, Cheri Gagnon (Barry Laverdure). He was predeceased by his father, John; grandparents, Johannes and Maria Geyssen and maternal grandparents Howard and Jean Copeland. A beloved University professor John earned his Bachelor (1985) and Masters Degrees (1987) at Queen`s University in Kingston, Ontario. He went on to earn his Ph.D. from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina in 1992. John began teaching at the University of New Brunswick in 1992. Popular with students both inside and outside the classroom, he received the Faculty of Arts Teaching Award in 2000, and the UNB Student Union Teaching Excellence Merit Award in 2008. Perhaps his greatest benefit to the Department was his long-standing service, sympathetic and adroit, as undergraduate advisor. His lectures were a draw both in large first-year courses and in advanced-level and graduate seminars. He was an intimate part of the Department’s pioneering overseas study programs in Italy and Greece. He was also the current co-editor of the scholarly journal Mouseion. A devoted husband and father, John`s interests outside family and the classroom included travel, sports (especially his Duke Blue Devils basketball team and the Philadelphia Eagles), spending time with friends, fine wine, food and art, and enjoying his vast music and literature collections.

Visitation will be held at McAdam’s Funeral Home, 160 York St., on Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 from 6 to 8 pm. A memorial gathering will be held at Memorial Hall on the University of New Brunswick campus, on Thursday, June 9th, 2011 from 2 to 3 pm with Gary Waite as celebrant. Reception to follow at The Alden Nowlan House (The Grad House) at 676 Windsor St. from 3 to 6 pm. For those who wish, donations to the Viator Award at UNB, which assists students in their studies abroad, would be appreciated. Online condolences can be made at

See also Alison Keith’s version in the Canadian Classical Bulletin: In memoriam John W. Geyssen

Quoting Virgil

Don’t usually get things like this from EurekAlert:

Texts comprising only quotations of somebody else’s work are often referred to as plagiarism. Many researchers have also rejected Late Antique Latin cento poetry – cento means patchwork in Latin – as being of no literary merit. However, recent years have seen an increase in interest in cento poetry, and a thesis on Latin from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, has now shown that these poems can be both innovative and thought-provoking.

Sara Ehrling has studied two centos made up solely of quotes from Virgil, one of the Romans’ leading poets whose works included the epic poem, the Aeneid. The two poems are both wedding poems, one of which was written by Ausonius in the late 4th century, and the other by Luxorius 100 years later.

“My research shows that the poems generally take a different approach to both the genre of wedding poetry and the original text, in other words Virgil’s work,” says Ehrling. “Ausonius takes his quotes from several different places in Virgil’s work, while Luxorius takes many of his from those parts of the Aeneid that describe the love story between Dido, the queen of Carthage, and Aeneas, the Trojan prince.”

The love story between Dido and Aeneas ends very badly, while Luxorius’ wedding cento has a happy ending. The study of Luxorius’ poem shows that the cento can use the original text to suit the poet’s own ends.

“In this case the original text is subordinated to the genre. If we go back to the original text it also has a thought-provoking effect in that it clearly shows that the Dido and Aeneas love story can actually be interpreted in positive and wedding-like terms. It suggests that their relationship wasn’t entirely bad. As is the case in so many other instances, our perception of a story depends on the level of focus on various details and how it is told.”

Ausonius’ cento is, in many ways, even more complex than that of Luxorius. The part of the poem that previously attracted most interest from researchers is the end, where sexual intercourse between the bride and groom is depicted in terms of rape. One possible explanation is that the poem was written in competition with other poets and that this paradoxical way of portraying the wedding couple was intended to provide amusement.

“I discovered in my analysis that the sex scene is foreshadowed far earlier in Ausonius’ cento,” says Ehrling. “From the contexts of the quotes in Virgil’s work, it is clear that both the bride and the wedding in general are being depicted in hostile terms below the surface of the text, and that the bride’s sexuality is portrayed as threatening throughout the poem.”

The idea that the cento should be perceived as a cohesive work comes from Ausonius himself. He describes very carefully the cento as a poetic form, and Ehrling stresses that the most important thing about his description is that the cento should be perceived as a cohesive unit even though it is made up of disconnected elements.

“It’s also worth noting that people are still producing cento-like works today,” says Ehrling. “In my thesis I discuss the cento’s potential for reinterpretation and comedy. By way of example, I use a video clip where Colonel Gaddafi’s speech has been edited together with trance music in a cento-like fashion. Just as in Late Antiquity, it seems that this cento-like work could have potential for both reinterpretation and comedy, depending on the reader’s interpretation.”

The thesis has been successfully defended on May 28, 2011.

Digging the Seat of the Odrysian Kingdom

Interesting item from Novinite (which is having connection hiccups this a.m.):

Bulgaria’s National History Museum are starting the largest alpine expedition in the history of Bulgarian archaeology in order to excavate the residence of the rulers of the Odrysian Kingdom, the state of the most powerful tribe of Ancient Thrace.

Bulgarian archaeologists uncovered the unique residence of the rulers of the Odrysian Kingdom in July 2010, after its location was initially detected in 2005.

The residence is located on the Kozi Gramadi mount in the Sredna Gora mountain, in the village of Starosel, close to the resort town of Hissar in central Bulgaria, at about 1 200 m above sea level.

Starting in early June 2011, the expedition led by Dr. Ivan Hristov will excavate the fortified residence of the Thracian kings southeast of the Kozi Gramadi mount, Bozhidar Dimitrov, head of Bulgaria’s National History Museum, announced Monday.

Dr. Hristo Popov from the National Archaeology Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Dr. Daniela Stoyanova from Sofia University “St. Klimen Ohridski”, and Prof. Valetin Todorov from the National Academy of Arts will also take part in the expedition as consultants.

The alpine excavations are funded with donations by Bulgarian manager Lachezar Tsotsorkov, the Hisarya Municipality, and the National History Museum.

The archaeological team will have the rare chance of studying the interior of the Thracian kings’ residence, which is the only one ever discovered, and was erected during the rules of Odrysian king Teres II (351 BC-341 BC).

The archaeologists will set up a tent camp 15 km north of the village of Starosel, which will serve as the base for their explorations.

In addition to making groundbreaking discoveries, the mission of Dr. Ivan Hristov is also to work on the conservation of the unique archaeological site.

The National History Museum points out that the discoveries at the Thracian kings’ residence reveal a symbiosis between the local Thracian traditions and the influence of Ancient Greece in the fortifications, architecture, and household tools at the beginning of the Hellinistic Age (323 BC – 30 BC).

“The archaeological summer of the elite crew of the National History Museum is expected to be interesting,” Dimitrov said in a statement promising timely information about the progress of the expedition.

Last summer Dr. Ivan Hristov explained that the residence of the Odrysian kings is a monument unrivaled in scope in Southeastern Europe, and that there is no other fortress-sanctuary dating back to the 4th-5th century BC which is so well-preserved.

The Bulgarian archaeologists call the Thracian fortress “the Bulgarian Machu Picchu” because of the similarities in the organization of the two ancient cities.

The construction of the residence near Hissar is believed to have been started by the Thracian ruler Cotys I (384 BC – 359 BC).

The team led by Dr. Hristov has uncovered the remains of the palace of the Odrysian kings Amatokos II (359 BC – 351 BC) and Teres II (351 BC – 342 BC).

The latter is the last Thracian king who fought Philip II of Macedon (359 BC – 336 BC).

“Philip II of Macedon most likely also visited this fortress. It is about him that Demosthenes says that he spent 11 nightmarish months in the winter of 342 BC fighting the Thracians who inhabited the mountains,” explained Dr. Hristov.

The fortress-residence of the Thracian kings is located on a plot of 4 decares, not far from the village of Starosel, which is the site of the largest tombs of Ancient Thracian rulers.

The researchers believe that the connection between the newly-uncovered fortress and the Starosel tombs is clear.

“This is the holy mountain in the mind of the Thracians. We have various archaeological objects located on different levels – a fortress, a sanctuary, an altar of sacrifice. Therefore, the comparison with the ancient city of the Incas Machu Picchu is a good one,” said Dr. Hristov.

Last summer his team excavated two of the towers of the citadel, whose remains are about 2 m high.

The archaeologists’ guess is that the treasure of the Odrysian kingdom was also located in the newly uncovered residence but Philip II of Macedon most likely stole the gold kept there.

The Odrysian Kingdom was a union of Thracian tribes that existed between 5th and the 3rd century BC. The last Thracian states were conquered by Romans in 46 AD. The most famous Thracian in human history is Spartacus, the man who led a rebellion of gladiators against Rome in 73-71 BC.

… very interesting that this coverage is virtually a rewrite of the coverage (including the jab at Philip) from last summer: Odrysian Site from Bulgaria

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem vii idus junias

The remains of the temple reconstructed
Image via Wikipedia

ante diem vii idus junias

  • the ‘inner sanctum’ of the Temple of Vesta was opened to the (female) public
  • ludi piscatorii (?) — a private festival celebrated by fishermen
  • 17 B.C.. — ludi Latini et Graeci honorarii (day 3)
  • 20 A.D. — Nero Julius Caesar, son of the emperor-in-waiting Germanicus, dons his toga virilis; a congiarium is given to the people as well
  • 86 A.D. — ludi Capitolini — a festival involving poetic contests, inaugurated by Domitian based on something done by Nero (day 2)
  • 204 A.D. — ludi Latini et Graeci honorarii (day 4)