Primus a Boris

A Pindaric Ode for the Olympics … from the Oxford Student:

An Oxford Classics tutor has spoken of his delight at being commissioned to write a Pindaric Ode to the London Olympics by the city’s mayor, Boris Johnson.

Dr Armand D’Angour revealed he was asked last year to write the poem “since as a Classicist [Johnson] knew and had enjoyed” the Ode he had written for the 2004 Athens Games.

Although the poem is under embargo, D’Angour confirmed it was complete and said: “It is written in an authentic metre and dialect of ancient Greek, is translated into rhyming couplets, and contains a number of puns on people’s names including that of the Mayor.”

D’Angour, described how despite wanting to write in Latin, to distinguish it from his previous Greek Ode, Johnson “wrote to me that he was still ‘a bit in love with the idea of a Greek Ode’, and added that he had in mind a pun on the Greek word for ‘(Usain) Bolt’”.

“I had previously had in mind some Latin puns such as the words ‘Britannis / primus ab oris (‘first from Britain’s shores’, but the Latin letters can be read as saying ‘primus a Boris’ – ‘ah Boris is first’).”

“I even tried to think of ways in which it could be performed to music and marching (though my wife put me off the idea, saying that it would be reminiscent of Fascist celebrations).”

“The initial composition took me around a fortnight to complete, and I then spent a few months refining and correcting it. I have a small group of fellow classicists who subjected it to informal scrutiny and made some suggestions, but in essence it has not changed since the original composition.”

“I would say it was a challenge, but I was sufficiently on a roll for it not to seem at all arduous, just good fun – which is what I hope its effect on the audience will be. All that remains to say is – Boris for Mayor in 2012!!”

Boris Johnson, elected Mayor in 2008 and up for re-election in 2012, studied Classics at Balliol and has become famous for his love of ancient references and, like Dr D’Angour, was an alumnus of Eton College. Bijan Omrani, a Classics tutor at Westminster, has already had one Ode to the London Olympics published on the Mayor’s website.

If you’d like to see Dr D’Angour’s Ode for the Athens Olympics: Pindar and the Athens Olympics 2004 (in both English and Greek). Bijan Omrani’s (Latin) ode is here: Ode for the London Olympics by Bijan Omrani.

CFP: A theatre of Justice: aspects of performance in Greco-Roman oratory and rhetoric

A theatre of Justice:
Aspects of performance in Greco-Roman oratory and rhetoric

19-20 April 2012, University College London, London

The notion of “performance” has recently attracted considerable scholarly attention both in literary criticism and in cultural history. In fundamentally “performative” societies, such as the Greek and Roman, a “performance” approach seems to be a sine qua non for the understanding of the nature of several genres. Oratory is, certainly, among them: for the Greeks and Romans, oratory was not primarily something they wrote or read, but something they performed before the audience. Despite the significant scholarly advances that have been made on the area of oratory in/as performance, there is still a lot more to be explored, further questions need to be asked and answered.

For example:

What is performance? Suggested definitions of performance based on information offered by Greek and Roman rhetorical texts.
Performance and text: can we reconstruct something as elusive and fleeting as performance from the extant written copies of oratorical speeches?
Why performance matters? What difference does it make in our understanding of the oratorical texts that they were performed?
“Imagine that you are not in a court, but in a theater” (Aeschines 3.153): what is the relation of oratorical performance with theatre?
Features of the “performative” infrastructure of certain oratorical speeches.
Ethopoiia as an aspect of performance.

Our postgraduate conference aims at bringing together not only classicists, but also students from other fields of study such as law, reception and theatrical studies, in order to present their on-going research work in this fertile area.

Keynote speaker: TBA

Interested postgraduate students are warmly invited to submit titles and abstracts of no more than 300 words for a 20-minute research paper by Sunday, 18 December 2011 at the latest. Please send your abstracts or enquiries, to both conference organisers:

Andreas Serafim (andreas.serafim.10 AT
Beatrice Da Vela (beatrice.vela.10 AT

Boozy Roman Soldier’s Find?

From the Shields Gazette:

THE “spectacular” discovery of ancient pottery has revealed how the Romans wined and dined here in South Tyneside almost 2,000 years ago.

And far from sampling the delights of our local brews, it seems they still preferred to ship wines from the Mediterranean to their northern outpost.

Several pieces of a 3ft-tall wine jug have been found during an excavation just outside Arbeia Roman Fort.

The pottery will be stuck together to recreate the metre-high jug, which would have contained numerous litres of wine when it was imported to the fort between AD 250 and AD 350.

The find has been described as “spectacular and significant” by archaeologist Nick Hodgson.

Mr Hodgson is project manager for Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, which conducted the dig at Arbeia with a team of volunteers, from June to September.

He said: “What is special about this is it can be stuck together to see what it originally looked like.

“Containers like this were used for bulk transportation. This is very significant because it is of a rather unusual late Roman type, which only started being imported from AD 250.

“It shows that the Romans still had a taste for Mediterranean wine at that period – they had not gone native and adapted to local beer or wine.

“They were still importing it to South Shields. It’s a spectacular and significant find.”

The container is made of clay, and includes volcanic rock, and is believed to have been imported on a ship from Campania in Italy.

The jug was found in a roadside gully during the excavations, on the corner of Baring Street and Fort Street, South Shields. Smaller pieces of other similar jugs were also found.

A stone building was also discovered, which suggests there was still occupation and activity in the area in about AD 260, when most civilian settlements outside forts in the north of England had been abandoned.

More than 70 volunteers worked on the 2011 excavation from the UK and abroad, thanks to the Earthwatch Institute, a national environmental charity which supports conservation projects.

It is hoped a community archeology project next year will encourage more local people to get involved with excavations at Roman forts, including Arbeia.

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums is hoping to secure £410,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the initiative, which would include excavations, events and research into the eastern section of the wall from its starting point at Wallsend in North Tyneside, to Hexham in Northumberland.

As regular readers of rogueclassicism are no doubt recognizing, this is yet another example of the assumption — which was challenged in a major way a week or so ago (see: Some Potential Amphora Use Revisionism) — that amphorae always carried wine. Then again, it probably wouldn’t be headline-worthy to suggest the soldiers were sitting around spitting the pits out of olives vel simm..

On Shakespeare’s ‘Small Latin …’

Interesting bit (in the context of a film review) in the Telegraph … here’s the incipit:

What do Shakespeare, Keats and Dickens have in common, apart from being great writers, and masters of the English language? The answer is pretty obvious. None of them went to university: to some extent, all three were self-educated. Ben Jonson said that Shakespeare had “small Latin and less Greek”, and likewise I don’t think Dickens and Keats, despite the latter’s Ode to a Grecian Urn, had much of either.

Who is the odd one out, then? Just as easy? Nobody, I think, has ever suggested Keats didn’t write that ode and others, or that Dickens wasn’t the author of Bleak House and Great Expectations. But Shakespeare – ah, Shakespeare – . So here we go again, with a movie from Roland Emmerich, director of Godzilla, called , opening on Friday. The “Shakespearean thriller” hands the authorship to Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, whom the movie, incredibly, has as the love-child and incestuous lover of Queen Elizabeth.

Never mind that Oxford died in 1604, some years before Shakespeare’s last plays were written and produced. Such considerations are a mere bagatelle when conspiracies are being revealed. Never mind that nobody at the time attributed the authorship to anyone but the man from Stratford. Evidently, they were all fooled, even Ben Jonson, a fellow playwright who knew William Shakespeare and was not devoid of jealousy.

It is not hard to guess at the director’s interest in the authorial conspiracy. But what of those not thinking of box office returns? Snobbery is the reason for their nonsense. The “uneducated” Shakespeare, an actor and theatre manager, who attended neither Oxford nor Cambridge, could not – could he? – have had all the knowledge of Greece and Rome and Italy etc displayed in the plays.

This argument falls flat for three reasons. First, the knowledge isn’t that great. Almost all the stuff in the Roman plays is taken – cribbed, if you like – from North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives. Indeed, some of the great speeches in Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra are no more than versifications of North’s prose. There are many lines in the plays which suggest that the author had read Ovid’s works, but this required no knowledge of Latin. Arthur Golding’s marvellous translation of the Metamorphoses was available to him. However, Shakespeare did make mistakes which a better-educated and well-travelled man such as Oxford might not have made. His knowledge of Italian geography is patchy, and he thought Bohemia had a sea-coast. […]

via: Only foolish snobs don’t believe in William Shakespeare (Telegraph)

… it goes on, but not much more is Classics-oriented. One might cynically observe that there seem to be an awful lot of folks who do seem to thing Julius Caesar, e.g., is ‘historically accurate’ in regards to dialog between ancient dead guys.

Ancient Studies Week at UMaryland

Nice bit of outreach reported on in the Retriever:

Last week the Ancient Studies Department hosted its annual “Ancient Studies Week.” This event held a number of events designed not only to display the wide range of fascinating topics that the department of Ancient Studies explores, but also to give students and faculty who may have not otherwise had the opportunity to become involved in the study of ancient artifacts, literature and art.

There were many interesting events offered to students between October 17 and October 21. Among these was an illustrated lecture by Esther Reed on “Excavating Baltimore Synagogues”; a lecture by Professor Helene Foley from Barnard College on “Medea as American Other”; a presentation by UMBC students on their excavations titled, “Ancient Studies Students Excavate”; and a free trip to the Walters museum.

Professor Foley’s lecture on “Medea as American Other,” like many of the other events, offered students insight into one of the most prominent aspects of ancient culture, and in this case, of Greek Tragedy.

“I discovered the Medea is the most popular Greek tragedy in the United States,” said Professor Foley.

In her lecture, she went on to describe why it has become so popular, in terms of the many relatable contexts that different modernized productions of the play have offered. She showed clips, photos and dialogues from productions where the character Medea represented different cultures, including African American versions and Japanese kabuki.

“I thought it was very interesting how they look at this ancient Greek play and used different American contexts,” said freshman Dominick DiMercurio II, a Biology major.

It is clear based on this lecture and the other events offered to students this week that the field of Ancient studies, which is sometimes overlooked for more current topics, has a lot to offer students and faculty, even if they are studying in another discipline.

The many applications and contexts that can be derived from these ancient texts and artifacts are notably valuable.

“I think that our society today is intensely preoccupied with the present and that it is very important for us to learn about the past and about our history…there is enormous wisdom in the tradition of Ancient Studies,” said Dr. Ellen Spitz, Honors College Professor.

The overwhelming response and attendance at all of these events highlighted the week’s enormous success. To everyone who participated in running or attending the events throughout Ancient Studies week, there seemed to be a universal feeling of connection to and reverence for the ancient traditions that helped to shape many of our own cultural constructs.