Rosia Montana Gold Mine Goes Ahead … Roman Site Threatened?

Graffiti "Salvaţi Roşia Montană" (cf...
Image via Wikipedia

From AFP:

Bucharest issued an archaeological discharge certificate for an area in northwestern Romania where a Canadian firm wants to establish a gold mine, the culture ministry said Friday.

The decision was criticized by groups defending the patrimony of the region’s ancient Roman site.

“The department for culture and national patrimony in the Alba region issued an archaeological discharge certificate for a part of the Carnic mountain” after the National Commission for Archaeology approved an archeology research report, the ministry said in a statement.

Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC), which is 80 percent held by Canadian firm Gabriel Resources, needed this permit for its project to establish an open-cast gold mine in the area.

The company is to grant 70 million dollars for preserving and developping the local patrimony, the ministry explained.

The Cultural Foundation Rosia Montana, a defender of this ancient Roman site, said it would go to court to contest the decision.

A previous certificate, given in 2004, was cancelled by an appeal court which ruled that “starting mine activity in the area would affect protected archeological remains”.

Rosia Montana’s green hills are said to hold more than 300 tonnes of gold, one of the biggest deposits in Europe.

For years, archaeologists and historians from around the world have said that the mine would damage one of the most extensive remaining networks of Roman mining tunnels — an opinion rejected by RMGC.

The International Council for Monuments and Sites, one of the three formal advisory bodies to the World Heritage Committee, recently supported moves to put Rosia Montana on Romania’s tentative list for UNESCO, a first step in the long process towards a World Heritage listing.

Gabriel Resources obtained a concession license to exploit the local gold in 1999. More than a decade later, the firm has still not been granted all the required environmental and archaeological permits.

Our previous coverage of this:

… and I just came across a website put together by a group trying to save the site (that’s their logo in the image which accompanies this) … it is in Romanian, but  includes some photos of what are apparently archaeological remains …

Syncretism in the Third Century

Hmmm … L’Osservatore seems suddenly interested in syncretism in the wake of that Hypogeum of the Aurelii find a few weeks ago:

There is an interesting document of Roman history that goes from Hadrian (117-138 of the Christian era) to Carino (283-285): it is the Historia Augusta, named by the erudite Swiss historian of the 500s, Isaac Casaubon, who collected a series of biographies of Roman emperors of that period. Even if the source is later and not without blunders and anachronisms, it is interesting for its reconstruction of the backdrop of the first half of the third century, an era which was marked on the one hand by a complex and significant historical, social and religious evolution and on the other, by a strongly contentious political transition which ushered in the Severi dynasty (193-235) and led to the military anarchy of the so-called barbarian emperors, Massimino il Trace (235-238) and Gallieno (253-268).

The Severi era was marked by a climate of religious tolerance, very different from the atmosphere which surrounded Decio and Valerian and their heavy anti-Christian repression from 250 and 258. The Historia Augusta reminds us that the Emperor Alessandro Severo (222-235) venerated at dawn in his “lararium” portraits of his ancestors, images of several emperors, the figure of Apollonio of Tiana, but also the icons of Christ, Abraham and Orpheus (according to Elio Lampridio in his Life of Alessandro Severo, 29,2, mentioned in the Historia Augusta). This syncretism was widespread in the empire at the time and the roman pantheon unhesitatingly gathered together the figures, ideas, symbols and cults of the Orient, creating an intercultural and multi-religious climate which corresponded to the multi-ethnic make-up of the populations of the metropoli and of the empire.

Christianity radiated from within this political, cultural and religious climate. It did not bring with it a particular artistic identity, but not because it wanted to deliberately hide itself for fear of possible persecution or eventual hostilities but out of a natural process of integration in the civilization of that era.

Pondering the ‘Latin Renaissance’

Last week we mentioned an item from the UK’s Hansard in which Michael Gove suggested the UK was going through a ‘renaissance’ of Latin learning … here’s a response of sorts from the Times Higher Education which might be of interest:

A leading educational researcher has called for a revival of “classical education” that goes beyond television documentaries, popular books about Socrates, GCSEs in ancient civilisation and the promotion of Latin as part of an International Baccalaureate.

Speaking at the Institute of Ideas Education Forum this week, Dennis Hayes, professor of education at the University of Derby, argued that we are not “on the verge of a second Renaissance”.

The enthusiasm for Classics among politicians such as Boris Johnson or Michael Gove was largely a result of misty-eyed nostalgia for their own “public or grammar school education”, he said.

What this tended to miss out were the things that made the classical tradition genuinely important. Prominent among these was ancient philosophers’ commitment to “objectivism” – “seeing things as they really are” – and an attendant “recognition of the need for a constant struggle against subjectivism, superstition and backwardness”.

The core values of today’s universities, continued Professor Hayes, are “counter to the classical spirit”.

We find “a woolly-minded relativism that allows management to have their values, marketing (to have) another (set of values), teacher training departments another, academic faculties another”, with “lecturers left to try to ignore or subvert these while pursuing their own values. This subjective muddle keeps going because there is no challenge to it.”

It is here that some of the great classical authors can play a vital role, Professor Hayes said, arguing that students should be “trained in the tradition of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

“Plato destroys relativism in two pages,” he continued. “Classics teaching often focuses on accuracy of translation, which means that even those who know Greek can miss the point.

“What really matters is the rigour of thinking, which is a central feature of Greek philosophy. That is the aspect largely missing from current education and that most needs emphasising at the present time.”

Professor Hayes is due to develop his analysis in greater depth on 23 July as part of the Institute of Ideas Academy, a three-day residential event that aims “to take a stand for the value of the content of education instead of fixating on object and process”.

“A better understanding of a classical education,” he suggested this week, “would require us to demand it for all pupils and students” – provided it is based on “the defence of objectivity, criticism and intellectual detachment against subjectivity, compliance and the promotion of popular fads and fashions”.

In a warning against tokenism, he concluded: “What is on offer in schools today and any development of it, without the classical outlook of struggling to ‘see things as they really are’, will be mere dressing up. We might as well have potential students turning up for interview in togas.

… perhaps the pendulum is swinging back …

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem xii kalendas sextilias

ante diem xii kalendas sextilias

  • Lucaria (day 2) — the followup to a similar festival on the 19th commemorating the Sack of Rome by the Gauls; this day marked Rome’s subsquent victory
  • ludi Victoriae Caesaris (day 2) — games instituted by/adjusted by Octavian to honour his adoptive father shortly after the latter’s death (possibly moving Caesar’s own ludi Veneris Genetricis)
  • 64 A.D. — the Great Fire of Rome (day 4)