At the Getty: Roman Runway

Man .. I swear if I lived in LA I’d be at the Getty all the time … check out what began this weekend:

Get the scoop on the fashion trends of ancient Rome—from soldiers and senators to slaves and aristocrats—during live runway shows at the Getty Villa most weekends beginning Saturday, June 9 until Sunday, July 1. Members of Legio VI Victrix, a historical reenactment group, will demonstrate how garments reflected Roman values, socioeconomic class, and historical changes during the Roman Empire. After the show, visitors will have a chance to go “behind the seams” to visit a Roman ornatrix (hair dresser) and try on related costumes and props.

And, of course, Aphrodite and the Gods of Love is still there for a month or so …

Greek in a Day!

Ambitious project reported by the Cambridge News:

Young pupils at a Cambridge school are to attempt a dramatic world first – learning to speak ancient Greek in a single day, and then performing a Greek play on stage.

The remarkable project will feature 9 and 10-year-olds at St Faith’s School, with the play being put on for parents next Monday.

Linguistic experts from Cambridge University are being drafted in to teach the youngsters the archaic language, spoken more than 2,000 years ago.

Heather Martin, head of modern languages and curriculum coordinator at St Faith’s, said the aim of the classroom project was to “aim high and challenge the children to see what they can achieve”.

She said: “The idea is that 12 children in Years 4 and 5 will learn to write, read, speak and perform a mini-play in ancient Greek in one day.

“They will be taught the language by Prof Patrick Boyde, emeritus professor of Italian at Cambridge University, who will bring a team of students with him.

“For the last seven years, he has been experimenting with the staging of classical drama, in the original Greek, by undergraduates and postgraduates – but this will be the first time he’s tested out his ideas with children of primary age.

“The official title of the event is The Conquering Hero, and the play is based on a fragment of text from a psalm written at least 2,300 years ago.

“The children won’t be in costume, but we will have some images behind them, painted Rolf Harris-style by the university team, and what’s commonly called sur-titles, so the parents can understand what the children are saying.” Recent reports have criticised the lack of language tuition children get in schools, but Dr Martin said St Faith’s was “committed to thinking creatively outside the narrow box of the standard curriculum”.

She said: “The whole thing is helped by the marvellous self-belief that the children have.

“Because they’re so young, if you say they can do something like this, learning ancient Greek, they believe you, and will do it.”

Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews

  • 2012.06.14:  Andreas Mehl, Roman Historiography: an Introduction to its Basic Aspects and Development (translated by Hans-Friedrich Mueller; first published 2001). Blackwell introductions to the classical world.
  • 2012.06.13:  Josine Schrickx, Lateinische Modalpartikeln: Nempe, Quippe, Scilicet, Videlicet und Nimirum. Amsterdam studies in classical philology, 19.
  • 2012.06.12:  André Laronde, Pierre Toubert, Jean Leclant, Histoire et archéologie méditerranéennes sous Napoléon III: actes du 21e colloque de la Villa Kérylos à Beaulieu-sur-Mer, les 8 and 9 octobre 2010. Cahiers de la Villa “Kérylos”, 22.
  • 2012.06.11:  Nathan Badoud, Philologos Dionysios: mélanges offerts au professeur Denis Knoepfler. Recueil de travaux publiés par la Faculté des Lettres et sciences humaines de l’Université de Neuchâtel, 56.
  • 2012.06.10:  Clifford Ando, Law, Language, and Empire in the Roman Tradition. Empire and After.
  • 2012.06.09:  Françoise-Hélène Massa-Pairault, Pergamo e la filosofia. Archaeologica, 159. Archaeologia perusina, 18.
  • 2012.06.08:  Minna Skafte Jensen, Writing Homer: a Study Based on Results from Modern Fieldwork. Scientia Danica. Series H, Humanistica 8, 4.
  • 2012.06.07:  Andrew Faulkner, The Homeric Hymns: Interpretative Essays.
  • 2012.06.06:  Frieda Klotz, Katerina Oikonomopoulou, The Philosopher’s Banquet: Plutarch’s Table Talk in the Intellectual Culture of the Roman Empire.
  • 2012.06.05:  Karin Johansson, The Birds in the Iliad, Identities, Interactions, and Functions. Gothenburg Studies in History 2.
  • 2012.06.04:  Panagiotis P. Iossif, Andrzej S. Chankowski, Catharine C. Lorber, More than Men, Less than Gods: Studies on Royal Cult and Imperial Worship. Proceedings of the international colloquium organized by the Belgian school at Athens (November 1-2, 2007). Studia Hellenistica, 51.
  • 2012.06.03:  Jeffrey Brodd, Jonathan L. Reed, Rome and Religion: a Cross-Disciplinary Dialogue on the Imperial Cult. Writings from the Greco-Roman world supplement series, 5.
  • 2012.06.02:  Stefan Radt, Strabons Geographika, Band 10: Register.
  • 2012.05.55:  Martin Huth, Coinage of the Caravan Kingdoms: Ancient Arabian Coins from the Collection of Martin Huth. Ancient coins in North American collections, 10.
    Martin Huth, Coinage of the Caravan Kingdoms: Studies in the Monetization of Ancient Arabia. Numismatic studies, 25.
  • 2012.05.54:  Julia Hoffmann-Salz, Die wirtschaftlichen Auswirkungen der römischen Eroberung: vergleichende Untersuchungen der Provinzen Hispania Tarraconensis, Africa Proconsularis und Syria. Historia Einzelschriften, 218.
  • 2012.05.53:  C.W. Willink, Collected Papers on Greek Tragedy (edited by W. Benjamin Henry).
  • 2012.05.52:  Franco Montanari, Lara Pagani, From Scholars to Scholia: Chapters in the History of Ancient Greek Scholarship. Trends in Classics – Supplementary Volumes 9.
  • 2012.05.51:  Roberto Mandile, Tra mirabilia e miracoli: paesaggio e natura nella poesia latina tardoantica. Il Filarete, 273.

Caligula’s Bridge

The Express has a piece (for reasons unknown … but  it’s written by Matthew Dennison, whose 12 Caesars is getting reviewed all over the place) about the excesses of assorted emperors. Here’s the incipit:

IN AD 37 the new Roman Emperor Gaius, better known by the nickname Caligula, built a bridge across the sea.

It stretched three miles across the deep blue waters of the Bay of Naples at ancient Rome’s most fashionable seaside resort of Baiae.

But Caligula’s was no ordinary bridge. It was a temporary, floating structure built on wooden pontoons, a costly and impressive feat of engineering. It served a single purpose before being dismantled.

On a day of boiling heat watched by crowds of spectators, Caligula rode across the bridge. His armour glinted in the sunlight, for the 24-year-old emperor had dressed himself in the golden breastplate of the legendary Greek hero Alexander The Great.

On the following day Caligula made the journey in reverse, this time riding in a chariot, followed by soldiers of his personal guard.

It was a pointless piece of showmanship, lost on the majority of the crowd, several of whom fell drunkenly to their deaths in the sea after two days’ partying.

One historian claimed Caligula pulled the stunt to disprove a prophecy that he had no more chance of becoming emperor than of riding a horse across the Bay of Baiae.

Whatever his motives, this eccentric and expensive prank was typical of his short reign. […]

This is one of those incidents from Caligula’s life which I have long believed has been misunderstood greatly by historians — both ancient and modern — because it is usually put in the context of Caligula’s ‘madness’ and/or ‘massive ego’. Cassius Dio puts this incident in the events of the year 39 (as Barrett notes, p. 211) — connected somehow to the impending German campaign — and describes it thusly (59.17 via Lacus Curtius):

1 Gaius, however, did not care at all for that kind of triumph, as he did not consider it any great achievement to drive a chariot on dry land; on the other hand, he was eager to drive his chariot through the sea, as it were, by bridging the waters between Puteoli and Bauli. (The latter place lies directly across the bay from the city of Puteoli, at a distance of twenty-six stades.) 2 Of the ships for a bridge some were brought together there from other stations, but others were built on the spot, since the number that could be assembled there in a brief space of time was insufficient, even though all the vessels possible were got together — with the result that a very severe famine occurred in Italy, and particularly in Rome. 3 In building the bridge not merely a passageway was constructed, but also resting-places and lodging-room were built along its course, and these had running water suitable for drinking. When all was ready, he put on the breastplate of Alexander (or so he claimed), and over it a purple silk chlamys, adorned with much gold and many precious stones from India; moreover he girt on a sword, too a shield, and donned a garland of oak leaves. 4 Then he offered sacrifice to Neptune and some other gods and to envy (in order, as he put it, that no jealousy should attend him), and entered the bridge from the end at Bauli, taking with him a multitude of armed horsemen and foot-soldiers; and he dashed fiercely into Puteoli as if he were in pursuit of an enemy. 5 There he remained during the following day, as if resting from battle; then, wearing a gold-embroidered tunic, he returned in a chariot over the same bridge, being drawn by race-horses accustomed to win the most victories. A long train of what purported to be spoils followed him, including Darius, a member of the Arsacid family, who was one of the Parthians then living in Rome as hostages. 6 His friends and associates in flowered robes followed in vehicles, and then came the army and the rest of the throng, each man dressed according to his individual taste. Of course, while on such a campaign and after so magnificent a victory he had to deliver a harangue; so he ascended a platform which had likewise been erected on the ships near the centre of the bridge. 7 First he extolled himself as an undertaker of great enterprises, and then he praised the soldiers as men who had undergone great hardships and perils, mentioning in particular this achievement of theirs in crossing through the sea on foot. 8 For this he gave them money, and after that they feasted for the rest of the day and all through the night, he on the bridge, as though on an island, and they on other boats anchored round about.

Suetonius describes it very similarly, and also seems to put it in the context of 39 A.D. (19, again via Lacus Curtius):

1 Besides this, he devised a novel and unheard of kind of pageant; for he bridged the gap between Baiae and the mole at Puteoli, a distance of about thirty-six hundred paces, by bringing together merchant ships from all sides and anchoring them in a double line, afterwards a mound of earth was heaped upon them and fashioned in the manner of the Appian Way. 2 Over this bridge he rode back and forth for two successive days, the first day on a caparisoned horse, himself resplendent in a crown of oak leaves, a buckler, a sword, and a cloak of cloth of gold; on the second, in the dress of a charioteer in a car drawn by a pair of famous horses, carrying before him a boy named Dareus, one of the hostages from Parthia, and attended by the entire praetorian guard and a company of his friends in Gallic chariots. 3 I know that many have supposed that Gaius devised this kind of bridge in rivalry of Xerxes, who excited no little admiration by bridging the much narrower Hellespont; others, that it was to inspire fear in Germany and Britain, on which he had designs, by the fame of some stupendous work. But when I was a boy, I used to hear my grandfather say that the reason for the work, as revealed by the emperor’s confidential courtiers, was that Thrasyllus the astrologer had declared to Tiberius, when he was worried about his successor and inclined towards his natural grandson, that Gaius had no more chance of becoming emperor than of riding about over the gulf of Baiae with horses.

Of course, all this will likely be familiar to the sorts of folks who would visit rogueclassicism, but way back when I was doing my first Classics-related degree, lo those decades ago, and was writing my paper about Caligula’s assassination, it struck me that this might very well have been an incident that has ‘shifted’ in our sources in order to augment the ‘madness’ of Caligula. What if, instead of being something which happened prior to the departure for Germany — and the aborted invasion of Britain — it actually was a response to that famous incident. Consider how it is fragmentarily described in Dio (59.25 via Lacus Curtius):

And when he reached the ocean, as if he were going to conduct a campaign in Britain, and had drawn up all the soldiers on the beach, 2 he embarked on a trireme, and then, after putting out a little from the land, sailed back again. Next he took his seat on a lofty platform and gave the soldiers the signal as if for battle, bidding the trumpeters urge them on; then of a sudden he ordered them to gather up the shells. 3 Having secured these spoils (for he needed booty, of course, for his triumphal procession), he became greatly elated, as if he had enslaved the very ocean; and he gave his soldiers many presents. The shells he took back to Rome for the purpose of exhibiting the booty to the people there as well.

… and Suetonius (46 … Lacus Curtius again):

Finally, as if he intended to bring the war to an end, he drew up a line of battle on the shore of the Ocean, arranging his ballistas80 and other artillery; and when no one knew or could imagine what he was going to do, he suddenly bade them gather shells and fill their helmets and the folds of their gowns, calling them “spoils from the Ocean, due to the Capitol and Palatine.” As a monument of his victory he erected a lofty tower, from which lights were to shine at night to guide the course of ships, as from the Pharos.81 Then promising the soldiers a gratuity of a hundred denarii each, as if he had shown unprecedented liberality, he said, “Go your way happy; go your way rich.”

Back when I was writing my paper, the ‘party line’ on this incident was essentially that of JPVD Balsdon, whose 1934 book on Caligula suggested that the soldiers had actually refused to make the crossing (pp 90 ff) and I suspect that is the view that many still hold today. If so, it is not difficult to imagine Caligula going back to Rome and deciding that invading Britain by trireme wasn’t going to happen.  Even if they didn’t actually refuse — there seems to be only one trireme involved here; clearly not enough for an army — Caligula’s little boat ride may have been a literal pre-invasion ‘testing of the waters’ to see how rough the seas were. What if he did take inspiration from Xerxes and actually planned to build a boat bridge across the Channel to march his soldiers across? The bridge at Baiae then becomes a possible military feasibility exercise which may have had merit, especially when we hear of him tarrying for a day ‘on the other side’, given that it would probably take about a day to march across the channel on such a bridge. Of course, bridging the 20+ miles of the Channel would be a bit more involved than the two or three of the the Bay of Naples, but it seems to me it just might be the sort of thing a Caligula might think of doing after all his ‘preparations’ in Germany and environs. Something to consider, anyway …