Celebrity Gossip’s Classical Roots

Of course, rogueclassicism readers are well aware that all the sorts of thing that fills the airwaves with chatter about this or that Kardashian or Lohan or Gaga or whatever would have been perfectly familiar in ancient Rome, but Johan Kugelberg had a nice piece for the Independent blog which is worth excerpting … first, the intro:

Gossip in the time of ancient Rome has trickled down to us. There are passages in Petronius, Procopius, Seneca and Suetonius that would have regular readers of Gawker or D-listed or any other celebrity schadenfreude site spit-spray their latte.

Procopius Anecdota (literal title ‘unpublished notes’) most commonly known under the title The Secret History is the most notorious, so I’ll cut to the chase right here. Written in the 6th century by a Byzantine master historian, this was the text he wrote to contradict all the fluff he’d been forced to write about his boss the emperor Justinian in The Wars of Justinian and The Buildings of Justinian in order to keep the big man happy. It is the defamatory masterpiece handed down to us from way back: Due to its obscene and libelous nature, the text lay dormant for centuries in the Vatican library until published in the early 17th century, and has maintained its notoriety ever since.

Procopius’ hatchet job on Justinian’s wife the empress Theodora is legendary. He tells all, and all is as unbelievable as all get: Trained swans picking grain from off Theodora’s genitalia in order to titillate her jaded sexual palate is not the craziest example I could cull up, in fact, some of the other ones are of the magnitude that if they showed up on a celebrity sex tape there is no doubt that Our Sweet Lord would lose any remaining patience with us and hurl an apocalyptic gotcha our way.

… and then the deliciously-difficult-to-parse-but-wonderful-to-try-to-read-out-loud penultmate paragraph:

People who write and blog and snark on sites such as Egotastic or Celeb Jihad or Media Takeout or The Superficial are dismantling some of our waxy build-ups that the constant Kardashian vuvuzela bring about, they are fueled by schadenfreude, certainly, and its lesser-known shadow-cousin gluckshmerz. Gluckschmerz is important; It is part of the mechanism that drove Procopius to write about Justinian and Theodora, and I would hope that the pain we feel presented with other people’s happiness is the bitter tonic at the centre of the reality-show sugar cookie when we indulge in that particular kind of destructive yet delicious schadenfreude that comes from seeing someone fumble and stumble and fail and fall as they are about to conquer the summit of modern celeb-dom.

… can’t believe I never heard of the word Gluckschmerz before …

Médée Miracle

Back in April, a certain Jesse Vader dropped me a note:

Because the people at Urban Distribution have been very helpful in providing access to the movie Medee Miracle for my Latin class here in Colorado, as we analyze different versions of the Medea myth, including Euripides, Ovid, Jose Triana, and Tonino de Bernardi, I wanted to give the film a shout-out since I could not find it, while searching your site. So, if you so please, mention the movie and its connection to the ancient world.

… I confess to have never heard of this one before, so it took a bit of researching. The storyline for the English version from the IMDB will be familiar to our readers:

Irene moves to Paris to begin a new life with her husband Jason and their two daughters, but an act of betrayal and her desire for revenge soon sends her to the brink of madness

There’s a trailer for the original French version:

… looks like it has potential …


Poking At the Phlegrean Fields

Interesting item — there’s possibly hubris or a bit of Greek or Latin poetry lurking in here — from the UK version of Wired:

Pozzuoli and the Campi Flegrei with names. Pho...
Pozzuoli and the Campi Flegrei with names. Photo taken from the ISS. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, has approved the first stages of a plan to drill into the Campi Flegrei caldera, a so-called “supervolcano” in the south of Italy.

The region, which is also known as the Phlegraean Fields, is a 13-kilometre-wide caldera lying mostly underwater, which includes 24 different craters and other volcanic edifices, close to the nearby Mount Vesuvius (pictured). Among them is the Solfatara crater, which the Romans believed to be the home of Vulcan, the god of fire. The region formed over thousands of years of collapse of several volcanoes in the area, and seismologists believe that any eruption would have significant repercussions for the local area and the global climate.

In 2008, to try and find out more about the risks posed by the geology of the area, a team of experts proposed drilling a four-kilometre-deep hole into the caldera, but the plans were vetoed by the mayor at the time, Rosa Russo Iervolino, after others expressed concerns over the risks of the project.

Benedetto De Vivo, a geochemist at the University of Naples, told Science in 2010 that the project carried risks of seismic activity or even explosions. “Nobody can say how bad this explosion would be, but it could put at risk some of the surrounding population,” he said.

However, Ulrich Harms of the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam countered that “there is no risk to the public,” so long as the drilling is done in a controlled way. He pointed out that there have been no explosions at the various multikilometre-depth wells drilled around the world to generate geothermal energy. He argued that the project is necessary to find out more: “It’s not clear if there is a volcanic risk, but it cannot be excluded, and this is why it is better to get more of an idea.”

Naples’ new mayor, de Magistris, has given the green light to the drilling of a pilot hole 500 metres deep, which will be filled with sensors and used to monitor the rising and falling of the surface above the caldera due to movements of the magma within. It’s possible that the readings could be used to inform future strategies for generating geothermal energy in the region, too.

Drilling should start, according to project co-ordinator Giuseppe De Natale, “within a few months”.

I think the jury’s still out on how this one will turn out … they’ve been talking about this sort of thing for a few years now . Stay tuned …

A Couple of More Podcasts from ABC Tasmania

As long as I’m poking around their archives, here’s a couple more podcasts of interest from ABC Tasmania (I haven’t listened to these, but I’m assuming — as in previous forays — the player might not work, but the download does):