‘New’ Fragment of the Res Gestae Divi Augusti Found

Right now my Twitterfeed is overflowing with excitement over the apparent discovery of a fragment of the Res Gestae in Sardis. Mary Beard actually broke the story at her blog an hour or so ago … here’s an excerpt:

Well a new article by Peter Thonemann in Historia 2012 puts the kibosh on that. Because he has realised that a tiny and otherwise insignificant fragment of Greek text published in 1932 in a volume of the inscriptions of the town of Sardis (Buckler and Robinson, 1932) was actually (as Buckler in an unpublished letter had already suspected) a small fragment of the Res Gestae. And Sardis is not in the province of Galatia, but in the province of Asia.

… you’ll want  to read her whole article for what is being kiboshed and the Galatian reference:

That said, the Historia article is — as always — inaccessible to us poor peons whose coporeal forms do not penetrate the ivory walls of academe, but the standard collection of inscriptions from Sardis is available at the Web Archive … I’ve paged through it and can’t really find anything that looks res-gestae-ish, so perhaps it is in a supplement. Whatever the case, it would be interesting if some computer program could be written which compared the various collections of inscriptions found everywhere in the Greco-Roman world. I bet more fragments of the RG would show up (as well as multiple copies of other documents, I suspect).

In Explorator 15.17

Excerpt from my weekly newsletter, as always including items which have already appeared at rogueclassicism (in case you want to catch up), items I hope to get to eventually (plenty in that category … I’ve been trying to track down things between Olympics events), and other things:

Plenty of coverage of a Roman shipwreck near Genoa with some intact amphorae:







… and another Roman shipwreck from Antibes:


A 4th century B.C. tomb from Paestum:


They’ve located some of Vindolanda’s piping system:


Finds from various periods at Yersonisos:


Plans to excavate another Thracian tumulus in Bulgaria:


Latest on the search for Cleopatra’s tomb:


Josiah Ober on the Ancient Greek economy:


The Acropolis Museum is looking at colorization of ancient statuary:


Hopes/plans to keep the Evesham Hoard in the county it was found:


There has been a wave of “ancient Olympics” posts this week; I’ve gathered them together here:


… to which may be added:


There’s a major fire burning near Mt Athos:


Latest on plans to repair the Colosseum:



Reviews of Anthony Everitt, *Rise of Rome*:


Also Seen: Homeric Variations ~ Interview with Graeme Bird

The Center for Hellenic Studies has an interview with Classicist (and jazz musician) Graeme Bird on his work with Homeric papyri and the connections it has with jazz (amongst other things). Here’s a (very brief) excerpt:


CHS: In addition to being an active member of the faculty at multiple schools, you are an accomplished and active jazz musician. How does this inform your work on the Homeric corpus and on the concept of composition in performance?

G.D.B.: For some time I have been exploring possible connections between techniques of jazz improvisation (for the piano in particular) and oral formulaic poetic techniques. Years ago I met a graduate student writing his PhD music thesis on this very topic, looking at the improvisational style of the jazz pianist Bill Evans (sadly deceased at a young age), and comparing it with the Parry-Lord theory of oral formulaic poetry. I decided that since I can both read Homeric Greek and play improvised jazz piano (but by no means in the league of Bill Evans!), I would explore this idea further, and also try to demonstrate it in actual performance. I would say that I am at the beginning of what I hope will become something more valuable and more profound. I have given a couple of live “performances” in which I consider some lines of Homeric text – both in Greek and in English, as my audience generally are not all familiar with Greek – and then play some jazz piano, including improvised material. I seek to show by analyzing the improvised piano lines that these lines tend to follow patterns not unlike those illustrated by Lord in his book Singer of Tales. In fact I set out both sets of material (Homeric and jazz) in very similar ways to enhance the similarities. But of course I remind my audience that there are significant differences between Homer and jazz, and that these should not be overlooked in a simplistic hunt for superficial parallels.

I would say that I have two goals in this (at least two): to show that Homeric formulaic composition is compatible with true creativity (i.e. not just sticking formulas together in some artless fashion) – that the system does not exclude the creativity; that jazz improvisation is similarly compatible – in this case that the creativity does not rule out the system; and finally that the two share elements of both system and of creativity – that two seemingly unrelated art forms have more in common than might be apparent at first glance (or hearing). Along these lines, I seek to clarify what true “improvisation” is: the OED definition (“improvise”: To compose (verse, music, etc.) on the spur of the moment; to utter or perform extempore.) is woefully inadequate, and many, if not most people seem to have misconceptions of what its true nature is. As a practicing musician who tries to practice at least an hour a day (which is barely sufficient to keep one’s “chops” in shape), I am acutely aware of how much work it takes to become an even average improviser. True improvisation has nothing really to do with “making stuff up on the spot”; rather it is the creative and inspired weaving together of previously rehearsed material (“formulas,” if you like, which include fragments of scales and arpeggios, things which musicians are constantly practicing) in a way that allows the performer to perform a given song (one of my favorites is Cole Porter’s “Night and Day”) before an audience in such a way that they both recognize the song being played, and are inspired by the way it is being performed. To me this applies in a very real way to how I imagine a passage of Homer would have been performed. And the concepts of “multitextuality” and “intertextuality” seem to apply in jazz just as they do in Homer. […]

Check out the whole thing at:

Boris Johnson’s Original Oration of Armand D’Angour’s Ode at the Royal Opera House

Armand D’Angour has written to inform us that a somewhat shaky video of Boris Johnson’s original oration of Dr. D’Angour’s ode is available at his site. It’s rather dramatic (and funny) and is rather more formal than the plaque-ceremony repeat which we mentioned last week (Boris Johnson Orates Armand D’Angour’s Olympian Ode!!).  Here’s a direct link to the video (it takes a while to download). Dr. D’Angour’s page on the Ode and the events surrounding it is also definitely worth a visit: Ode for London Olympics 2012

Herod as Patron of the Olympics

Interesting Star Tribune column by Paul Flesher:

The London Olympics have provided a wonderful opportunity to enjoy outstanding competition by the world’s best athletes.

And in between the contests, we hear about how much more expensive these games are than any before them and learn about different sponsors — companies, taxpayers and governments — that have contributed money to pay the cost. Indeed, sometimes it seems that the Olympics limps from games to games trying to determine how to pay the bills.

Well, this is nothing new. More than 2,000 years ago, the Olympics were having the same problem. It was getting harder and harder to pay the bills, and the games were in decline. But then a financial savior appeared, in the unlikely form of Herod the Great, King of Judea.

The year was 14 B.C., and the citizens of Olympia, the city and religious shrine in Greece where the Olympic games were held, were worrying about paying for the next games. Hosting the gathering every four years was taking a toll on the city’s finances, for not only did they have to cover the housing and feeding of many athletes and spectators, they also had to pay for the sacrifices offered at that time. Olympia served as the central Greek shrine to the god Zeus, the king of the Greek gods. The Olympic games were held as a celebration in his honor. The first and last of the five days set aside for the games were devoted to offering animal sacrifices to Zeus and his consort, the goddess Hera. In recent years, the Olympic’s leaders noted, the money had been getting tighter and the lavish character of the games had become noticeably more shoddy.

King Herod of Judea heard about these troubles and decided to do something about it. Herod, at that time, was looking for a project in which to get involved. The previous year, he had finished rebuilding the central area of the Temple in Jerusalem, which had taken him 15 years. It was so magnificent that, six centuries later, the rabbis still said that anyone who had not seen Herod’s Temple had never seen true beauty. Herod also was finishing up his other building project, Caesarea Maritima, a new city built from the ground up. With the largest harbor on the eastern Mediterranean Sea, it was designed to encourage trade and travel.

So, needing a new project on which to lavish his money, Herod decided to pay for the Olympic games of 12 B.C. He journeyed to Olympia for the games that summer and presided over them. Of course, Herod’s gift ensured that the games would go on in style. But by granting Herod the role of president, the Olympians placed Herod in a position where everyone, especially the wealthy and the rulers, would meet Herod and thank him for his benefaction. Even Caesar Augustus probably thanked Herod for honoring Zeus, Caesar’s patron God, when Herod visited Rome later that summer. Since the ancient Olympic Games were not a secular event, as they are today, but a religious celebration devoted to Zeus, a good part of the money Herod the Jew donated must have gone to pay for the sacrifices to Zeus. Herod must have thus practiced the saying of the later Christian apostle Paul: When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Apparently Herod enjoyed his Olympics so much that he gave additional funds afterwards to endow the festival in future years. For this further gift, the ancient historian Josephus records Herod had his name recorded as perpetual president of the Olympic Games.

We should note that Josephus also tells us of quinquennial games established by Herod in Jerusalem (AJ 15.270 ff) and Caesarea (16.135 ff) … I haven’t been able to find out how long these games continued to be celebrated.