On the Epicness of Twitter (?)

Tip o’ the pileus to Phoebe Acheson on twitter who alerted us to an article in the New York Times Magazine about rappers using twitter hashtags for inspiration and which also included this excerpt:

There has been some debate among musicians and critics about whether such hip-hop rhymes constitute cheating. But these critiques are absurd. A rhyme can be inane or inspired, whatever semantic relation it bears to the line it concludes. In fact, it’s the way the hashtag loosens those old semantic strictures that makes the form so appealing to wordsmiths. A poet friend of mine noted that, because of possibilities afforded by the hashtag, writing tweets “feels compositionally very akin to poetry. . . . You’re suspending things in relation to one another in an extremely complex form.”

The hashtag seems to her a distant cousin of the refrain: a phrase that relates in different, complex ways — direct or tangential, ironic or nonsensical — to the lines it follows. It also has something in common with parentheses, explaining or qualifying whatever phrase it interrupts. And where it captures the author’s mood or aspect, it resembles the epithet, the “white-armed Nausicaas” and “wine-dark seas” that populate the “Odyssey.” Yet the hashtag may well be a new rhetorical device in its own right. In the literary glossary that ranges from antimetabole to zeugma, there’s no term that exactly captures all that the hashtag is capable of.

… now picturing Homer on his cellphone, doing the Iliad line-by-line, and every now and then doing the #winedarksea … we clearly need a Greek word for the hashtag; octothorp is halfway there, but we can do better I suspect. Suggestions?

Cats in the Largo Argentina ~ Two Sides

You have, no doubt, already heard that Roman officials plan to get rid of those (in)famous cats wandering around the Roman Forumish area … if not, here’s typical coverage from the Telegraph:

For as long as anyone can remember, cats have roamed the marble columns of the ancient site in Rome where Julius Caesar was murdered by Marcus Brutus and his band of senators.

Now, though, the felines of the Largo Argentina archaeological site have fallen victim to a conspiracy themselves. Rome’s modern-day rulers have declared them a health hazard.

Both the cats and the staff at the informal sanctuary that looks after them have been given their marching orders, despite the animals becoming a popular tourist attraction in their own right.

City heritage officials say that the sanctuary, which lies just on a pedestal just a few yards from where Caesar was hacked down, must close because it is unhygienic, was built without proper planning permission and compromises one of Italy’s most important archaeological sites.

“How was it possible that these cat lovers were able to construct their refuge on an ancient monument?” asked Andrea Carandini, a former president of the national cultural heritage council.

But the volunteers who run the refuge, a tiny, cave-like space packed with cats of every colour and pattern, have vowed to fight the eviction order. They said they provide a vital service for the city, taking in strays, sterilising them, and giving them food and medicine.

The cats – there are currently 250 of them – have free run of the adjoining remains and can be seen lounging in the sun on broken bits of marble, padding along fallen pillars and sleeping curled up on the corrugated iron roofs which protect the monuments from rain.

“Without us here the cats would be begging for food on the pavements and getting run over by trams and buses on the streets – it would be a disaster,” said Lia Dequel, one of the founders of the refuge.

The volunteers also denied that they had built the facility illegally, saying the space they took over 19 years ago had been dirty, damp and abandoned. The site itself was discovered in the 1920s after falling into decay at the end of the Roman Empire and lying buried for centuries.

“From what the authorities are saying, you would think we were occupying the Parthenon,” said Silvia Viviani, co-founder of the refuge. “I’m a Roman and I’m very proud of our ancient heritage but we are not damaging anything here.” The refuge attracts tens of thousands of tourists a year, who descend the metal steps leading down from street level to stroke the cats and buy cat-related t-shirts, fridge magnets and other souvenirs, the money from which helps keep the place going.

“It’s a fantastic place,” said Cristina Lazzaroni, who was visiting from Milan. “I cannot see that it is damaging the ruins. Romans have always lived with cats. These people are doing good work.”

However, the issue has now even been taken up by parliament, with a senator from the centre-left Democratic Party declaring last week that it was “unthinkable” that ancient Roman ruins should be treated in such a way

Valerio Massimo Manfredi, an archaeologist, insisted the cats should be transferred elsewhere. “This is an extraordinarily important area that dates from the Roman Republican era and is where Julius Caesar was murdered,” he said.

If you’re on the cats’ side — and given that you’re reading this on the Internet and are a Classicist, there’s a high probabilit you just might be — Ian Tompkins sent in a link to the Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary website, which has ongoing updates and other facilities of interest.

New Journal: Greek and Roman Musical Studies

They don’t have an issue out yet (it’s coming soon) but they do have a page at Brill, so it must be official. Here’s the description from that page:

Greek and Roman Musical Studies is a new journal, the first specialist periodical in the fields of ancient Greek and Roman music. It will publish papers offering cultural, historical, theoretical, archaeological, iconographical and other perspectives on music in Classical antiquity, and on its reception in later times (especially the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, but also more recent periods). The Editorial Board will also consider contributions on music elsewhere in the Mediterranean region, including Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Mesopotamia. Cross-disciplinary approaches will be particularly appreciated.

JRS 102 (2012) Available

Not for free, alas, but here’s what’s in this very interesting-looking issue:

  • Simon Price, Religious Mobility in the Roman Empire
  • Mary Beard, Cicero’s ‘Response of the haruspices’ and the Voice of the Gods
  • Katherine McDonald,The Testament of Vibius Adiranus
  • Roy Gibson, On the Nature of Ancient Letter Collections
  • Michael Kulikowski,Coded Polemic in Ammianus Book 31 and the Date and Place of its Composition
  • Robert Chenault, Statues of Senators in the Forum of Trajan and the Roman Forum in Late Antiquity
  • Alan Cameron, Anician Myths
  • Alison E. Cooley, Benet Salway, Roman Inscriptions 2006–2010
  • Richard Flower, Visions of Constantine

… Previews at the Cambridge Journals site: Journal of Roman Studies