Colosseum Battle!

I thought this had been settled, but apparently they’re still arguing about the details of the Colosseum restoration … from the Gazzetta del Sud:

Italian consumer group Codacons thumped for patience in escalating furor over the restoration of the Colosseum on Wednesday, saying unnecessary alarmism over its condition threatened to bias the outcome of a pending judicial decision over its fate. “News arriving with ever-increasing urgency over new (structural) collapses and risk of breaking (stone) appear aimed at creating an unjustified and generalized alarmism, and seems to have the precise purpose of pushing the judges of the Council of State (administrative appeals court), which will decide next April 16 on the merit of the appeal presented by Codacons, to rule in favor of giving a go-ahead to restoration work by Tod’s,” wrote Codacons Chairman Carlo Rienzi. In recent weeks, Roman Mayor Gianni Alemanno has pressed hard for clearance to begin 25 million euros worth of work on the Italian landmark, to be financed by the Italian luxury shoemaker Tod’s, and called upon on judges to issue a ruling. Meanwhile the Roman Superintendency of Archeology began work in January to create a safety-zone around the ancient Roman arena to prevent injuries from possible falling materials. The press reported that pieces of facade and other bits fell with increasing frequency during 2012, also cited a fire department report from August that spoke of disintegrating stone material. Codacons has an on-going legal complaint against the Tod’s-backed renovation plan for the Colosseum, claiming the bidding process lacked transparency and yielded too many concessions to Tod’s in exchange. The regional administrative court ruled against Codacons’ complaint last summer, but Codacons filed an appeal to Italy’s highest administrative court. The Codacons president concluded his message on Wednesday calling for “a clear and transparent bidding process, which rewards the most capable operators without ‘pawning off’ assets that belong to the public”. Reinzi said he “mistrusts the Superintendency of Archeology’s issuing of declarations” about the Colosseum’s state of decay “that can, on the one side, bring unjustified alarm and on the other illegitimately influence justice decisions.”

Wow …

Head of Julia (Yep … *That* Julia) Found

The APA folks posted this one on their facebook page last night (tip o’ the pileus accruing), but I was hoping there’d be some English coverage by this a.m.. Alas, there isn’t any (yet), so here’s the story of a genuinely remarkable find of some sculputural remains which are tentatively being identified as Julia at Fiumicino, as told by La Repubblica:

Il volto è leggermente inclinato verso sinistra ad evocare una posa aristocratica, il profilo è delicato con la linea perfetta del naso. Gli occhi hanno le palpebre a rilievo e le orecchie mostrano ancora piccoli fori per gli orecchini in metallo, forse oro o argento. Ma è la raffinata acconciatura a confermare l’origine imperiale della testa (nella foto) ritratto in marmo, databile all’età augustea, rinvenuta pochi giorni fa a Fiumicino, in località Aranova, in una monumentale villa romana riaffiorata a dicembre durante i lavori di scavo preventivi per un progetto edilizio.

Potrebbe essere Giulia maggiore, figlia di Augusto, l’unica naturale avuta dalla prima moglie Scribonia. Ne è quasi sicura la Soprintendente per l’Etruria meridionale, Alfonsina Russo Tagliente, che ora sta studiando nei laboratori di restauro del Museo Etrusco di Villa Giulia il reperto scoperto dalla sua equipe di archeologi diretta da Daniela Rizzo. “Lo stile dell’acconciatura richiama modelli di personaggi illustri della famiglia GiulioClaudia – racconta la Russo Tagliente – Sulla fronte due ciocche scendono in grandi onde morbide lungo le tempie, mentre sulla nuca i capelli appaiono in bande lisce divise da una riga in mezzo e raccolte in fitte trecce racchiuse in una crocchia bassa. Inoltre, una tenia, ossia un nastro a doppio giro intrecciato ai capelli, si annoda sul capo con un effetto diadema”.

La testa, a grandezza naturale, era nascosta in una zolla di terra, ritrovata in un grande ambiente della villa che fungeva da magazzino di conservazione per il cibo. Della villa, infatti, databile tra I sec. a. C. e II d. C., è stata individuata tutta la “pars rustica”, ossia gli ambienti domestici e di servizio. “La villa, che si doveva articolare a terrazze sulla collina, era monumentale – racconta l’archeologa Daniela Rizzo – i muri d’età repubblica hanno, infatti, poderosi blocchi di opera quadrata. E’ la prima testimonianza di una residenza imperiale sul litorale”. La scoperta sarà presentata in anteprima domani, a Villa Giulia, nel corso della tavola rotonda “I traffici illeciti e il patrimonio ritrovato: risultati e prospettive” promossa dalla Soprintendenza a conclusione della mostra “I predatori dell’Arte”.

The source also has a nice slideshow of images … the identification is based, apparently, on the hairstyle which is definitely Julio Claudian. The article says “early” Julio-Claudian but I’m not sure how they can be so specific at this point, other than having a desire to get some press attention. If you want a quick English summary that’s better than mine and which has all the photos in one place, check out Dorothy King’s coverage (New Head of Julia Found).

CJ Online Review: Ewans, Aristophanes Acharnians, Knights and Peace

posted with permission:

Aristophanes: Acharnians, Knights, and Peace. Translated, and with theatrical commentary, by Michael Ewans. Oklahoma Series in Classical Culture. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012. Pp. xiii + 289. Paper, $34.95. ISBN 978-0-8061-4231-9.

Reviewed by Al Duncan, University of Utah

Athenian “Old Comedy,” despite its traditional title, has become accustomed to frequent renewal. Michael Ewans, an experienced scholar and director of ancient drama, offers the latest renovation with his able verse translations of Aristophanes’ Acharnians, Knights, and Peace that are complemented by a theatrical commentary. The very structure of Ewans’ book places welcome emphasis on the joint study of Attic drama as both cultural text and performance script.

Ewans helpfully supplements his translations with a chronology of Aristophanes’ life and times, lists of characters (with potential actor “doublings”) and necessary props, glossaries of both Greek terms and proper names, and an extensive cultural and thematic introduction. Despite repeated subject headings from his earlier volume of Aristophanic translations,[[1]] Ewans’ well-organized introduction has been substantially reworked and tailored to the key issues raised by these “politically engaged” plays (ix).

Ewans promises “new, accurate, and actable translations” that have been “road-tested” to give “Aristophanes a viable voice for the contemporary English-language stage” (ix, 10, 31). He delivers with verve, providing translations equally suited to the classroom, the stage, or (better still) some combination of the two. However, North American audiences may at times find the Australian English of Ewans’ prurient vocabulary unintentionally stilted. While in rehearsal it will suffice to substitute “cock” for “prick,” some puns, such as the near rhyme of “open-arsed” with “open carts of gold” at Ach. 108, pose knottier problems.

Ewans justifies yet another edition of Aristophanes by marking his work as a specifically poetic translation, inviting comparison with the abrupt parataxis of Kenneth McLeish’s verse translation for the stage which Ewans fairly considers “too free” (x).[[2]] However, Oklahoma University Press oversells this book’s contribution to the field by collapsing the distinction between verse and prose, printing on the back cover that “many English translations of the plays were written decades ago” in “outdated language.” Such complaints can hardly be lodged against Alan Sommerstein’s prose, let alone Jeffrey Henderson’s recent translations for Focus Press—thin, inexpensive paperbacks practically designed to be stuffed into an actor’s back pocket. And indeed Ewans’ poetry often passes as prose, regularly accommodating a stray beat or two with no recourse to markedly poetic diction (e.g., “o’er,” “e’er”). This metrical flexibility contributes to the actability of Ewans’ translations, but raises a fundamental question: is verse translation desirable for—or aurally detectable in—21st century comic performance at all?

The publisher also advertises Ewans’ translations as “accessible” and indeed they are—at times to a fault. Proper nouns, in particular, are problematic. While Ewans retains historical names such as Kleon (readers, but not audience members, may pause to consult the included glossary), Aristophanes’ many “speaking names” are not translated with an equivalent calque. Instead, Ewans feels it “better to abandon the puns and go for the effective meaning” of the joke (33, his emphasis). In practice this regularly involves softening the punch of Aristophanes’ deftly wrought name with a comparatively bland periphrasis.[[3]] The problem posed by Old Comedy’s phonebook of proper nouns is an enduring one (cf. Plut. Quaest. Conv. 7.8.712a = Mor. 712a), but some may wish that Ewans had heeded Antiphanes’ observation (K–A 189, 17-8) that comedians must continually “invent new names.” Ewans, for his part, is puzzled why translators with “little confidence in the playwright” spuriously inject “touches of their own humor” (35). Faithfulness to the original is certainly a proper goal of translation, but this fidelity need not be literal or detail-oriented; it may be comedic as well. Speaking names suggest that humorous invention has an important and enjoyable role to play, even (or especially) in translation.

What manifestly sets Ewans apart from other recent Aristophanizers are his theatrical commentaries: scene-by-scene discussions of staging which are at once a user’s manual for directors, a theoretical exploration of Greek theater space in performance, and a comparative reception study of modern productions of ancient drama. Ewans’ commentaries are admirably sensitive to real issues of theater, particularly blocking for a circular orchestra, and his solutions are consistently practicable—a distinct advantage over certain philological editions of these plays. Ewans is best when he includes readers in his experiment; his treatment (209) of when and where to set Euripides’ many props mentioned at Ach. 448ff. is the best I have seen. And yet, partly on account of Ewans’ otherwise admirably confident prose (the word “must” is not infrequent), the commentaries too often give the impression that modern workshops have the power to definitively resolve enigmas of historical production. There is some danger that Ewans’ reconstructions of ancient staging, once “proven” on the modern stage, may circularly be taken as a historically informed benchmark for further contemporary (re)performance.

The paperback is well-made and Ewans’ text is well-edited with very few errors: variant spellings of Keleus/Keleos within a few lines of each other early in Acharnians are an atypical and unfortunately prominent oversight. However the cover—a striking, red-tinted photograph from Ewans’ own production of Peace—misses the mark by appearing unfittingly tragic.

In sum, Ewans’ twenty-seven years’ experience studying and staging Attic drama has been distilled into an attractive, approachable, and accurate text for both classroom and stage. This book serves the more advanced scholarly community by accessibly documenting a seasoned practitioner’s thoughts on Aristophanic stagecraft, both ancient and modern. Scholars and directors will find points to dispute in the commentaries’ prescriptions, and neophytes may come away with false confidence in modern knowledge of ancient stagecraft. Nevertheless, Ewans has not only renewed Aristophanes’ comedies themselves but also reinvigorated debate over their performance—an extensive and fruitful discussion that had fallen silent for too long.[[4]]


[[1]] Michael Ewans, Aristophanes: Lysistrata, The Women’s Festival, and Frogs (Norman, 2010).

[[2]] Kenneth McLeish, Aristophanes: Plays (London, 1993).

[[3]] In the first line of her recent monograph, Aristophanes’ Comedy of Names: A Study of Speaking Names in Aristophanes (Berlin, 2011), Nikoletta Kanavou has rightly called proper names “one of the most entertaining aspects of Aristophanes’ art.” Their suppression in any modern translation is felt.

[[4]] No monograph-length work dedicated to the staging of full Aristophanic comedies has been produced since Kenneth McLeish’s The Theatre of Aristophanes (London and New York, 1980), though Carlo Ferdinando Russo’s evergreen Aristofane: Autore di Teatro (Florence, 1962) has had subsequent editions in Italian and was translated into English by Kevin Wren (London and New York, 1994).

Classical Words of the Day