Qatar and Greek Nudity Redux (With a Bit of ESPN too)

Back in April we mentioned an item wherein and exhibition in Qatar was having problems with a couple of nude Greek statues on display (Pass the Fig Leaf) … Dimitris Plantzos has written an opeddish thing for the OUP blog on the subject which has an interesting take on Greek nudity … here’s the concluding bit:

Religion is only the easy answer to this question and as such it cannot help us fathom the problem. Undoubtedly, a certain amount of hypocrisy seems to be at play here, as many of the 600 artefacts included in the Doha exhibition – supposed to work as a “bridge of friendship” between the two nations – showed bare-breasted women, yet the Qataris were happy to expose their schools and families to them. Still, it’s their museum, their rules. What I do find strange, however, is that Greece and the West at large insist on treating classical statuary as a true expression of their modern self. For classical nude had very little to do with aesthetics – it’s all social politics and I’m not quite sure we would be willing to subscribe to that in our societies. Greek nudity was invented in order to enforce specific social hierarchies — who, when and how is allowed or even able to do certain things – and, more to the point, to deploy strict gender asymmetries: only men were thought by Aristotle to possess the right body heat; women were thought of as mentally and bodily imbalanced creatures, therefore inferior to men. Male nudity, as a result, is the expression of an idealized, immortal self; female nudity, on the other hand, is a sign of weakness, vulnerability, and immorality (think of all those shy Aphrodites or debauched hetaerae lurking by the thousands in our museums). A slave could never become immortalized as a kouros, and heavy peploi and chitons made sure female bodies were kept in their proper place in art as in life. In a sense, what made Greece classical is what, in fact, ought to make us think twice before accepting the nude as an ideal form of human expression. Or is it that our needs and standards remain so much attached to those of ancient Greece that we can’t quite grasp the difference?

In this context, but before I had read this piece, I am often struck by the ‘Greekness’ of ESPN’s Body Issue, which includes nude-but-strategically-posed photos of assorted famous athletes. Some are kind of silly, but several do put one in mind of Greek statuary (e.g. the cover photo of Colin Kaepernick in the latest issue). Check out some the online versions here … there’s a link to back issues too. In the context of the above oped, it’s interesting to note the reaction in Poland to tennis star Agnieszka Radwanska’s participation in the issue (see, e.g. the Telegraph’s Agnieszka Radwanska defends her naked photo shoot). I guess this is why folks still have to compare Kenneth Clark (The Naked and the Nude) and David Freedberg (“The Power of Images: Response and Repression”) in Art History courses …

Greek Graffiti from Izmir

Yet another one from Hurriyet which leaves us asking for more:

A rich Greek graffiti collection has been found in the İzmir agora during excavation work in the area. The graffiti shows daily life in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

The graffiti is estimated to date back to the 2nd and 4th centuries A.D. Experts have said the graffiti was the richest Greek graffiti collection in the world. Besides writing and paintings done with paint, there are also dozens of carvings on the wall.

The graffiti shows that İzmir was very tolerant even in ancient times. The writings on the wall mention the names of different cities, showing tolerance of other cultures.

There are many different figures in the graffiti, from trade ships to gladiators. There are also confessions; one read, “I love someone who does not love me.” One inscription read, “The gods healed my eyes, this is why I dedicate an oil lamp to the gods.” Another piece of graffiti read, “The one who ensouls,” which symbolized Jesus Christ in early Christianity. There are also riddles that have not yet been solved on the walls.

Professor Cumhur Tanrıver said İzmir had the most Greek graffiti in the world. “There are some pieces of graffiti under the plaster as well that we cannot prepare yet. We are having talks with Swiss experts to uncover them without damaging the ones on the top layer.”

The article is accompanied by a photo which is presumably an example of the graffiti, which seems to be a gladiatorial scene. Seems kind of ‘sketchy’ for graffiti … I couldn’t track down any other photos:

DHA photo via Hurriyet

‘Inventing’ Roman Britain?

… for lack of a better phrase. Charlotte Higgins has a new book on Roman Britain out (Under Another Sky) and a few days ago penned a really interesting piece for the Guardian on the dubious origins of some of the place names there … here’s the first half or so:

During the 1745 Jacobite uprising, it became clear that the Hanoverian forces under the Duke of Cumberland lacked accurate maps of Scotland; their pursuit of Charles James Stuart through the Highlands was considerably impeded by their only partial knowledge of the jagged coastline, lochs and mountains. So in 1747 William Roy, a factor’s son from Lanarkshire, was put in charge of the work of producing an accurate survey of the nation: he and a band of colleagues spent eight and a half years enduring the physically exhausting, technically demanding work. The result of their labours was the Military Survey of Scotland, a great map that laid the foundations for the Ordnance Survey.

While surveying, Roy also indulged a passion: his deep interest in Scotland’s Roman past. He took detailed plans of numerous forts, camps and the Antonine Wall, the barrier built between the firths of Forth and Clyde in the 140s by the emperor Antoninus Pius. Forty years later, his work on the subject – Military Antiquities of the Romans in North Britain – was published posthumously by the Society of Antiquaries. “Military men,” he wrote in his preface, “are naturally led to compare present things with the past; and being thus insensibly carried back to former ages, they place themselves among the ancients, and do, as it were, converse with the people of those remote times.”

The Military Antiquities is a joyous book. Aside from a beautiful map of the Antonine Wall, there is page after page of meticulous bird’s-eye view plans of Scotland’s Roman forts and camps, with the slope of hills shaded in tones of graphite and woodland indicated by delicately drawn individual trees, each with its own shadow. The combination of the Roman geometries and the swollen contours of the landscape often makes these images resemble abstract works of art rather than functional maps. Roy’s copious text, though, is much less impressive, for the writings of this scrupulously empirical, careful mapper of the land were fatally infected. In common with his great-and-good antiquarian peers, he had fallen for one of British historiography’s most successful and most damaging forgeries.

It began with William Stukeley – himself an intriguing figure in the history of antiquarianism. Born in Holbeach in Lincolnshire in 1697, he was a polymath of his age, studying classics, theology and science at Cambridge and setting up a room there for experiments where he “sometimes surprised the whole College with a sudden explosion”. He became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, was Isaac Newton’s first biographer, and his interests ranged across geology, astronomy and the history of religion (he became rector of Stamford, despite some bracingly heterodox notions which included setting up a druidic grove in his garden). He was, above all, a leading light of the Society of Antiquaries, maintaining a copious correspondence with similarly inclined gentlemen, and though many of his ideas may now seem fanciful, he was a pioneer in the measuring and recording of ancient monuments, laying early foundations for the discipline of archaeology.

Stukeley received a letter, on 11 June 1747, from one Charles Julius Bertram, a teacher of English language in the Royal Marine Academy of Copenhagen. The letter was, Stukeley later wrote, “full of compliments, as usual with foreigners” (Bertram was in fact an emigre to Denmark from Britain). It also mentioned a medieval manuscript that Bertram said he had seen, composed by one Richard of Westminster. The text was a history of Roman Britain along with an “antient map”. Stukeley recalled: “I press’d Mr Bertram to get the manuscript into his hands, if possible. Which at length, with some difficulty, he accomplished: and on solicitation, sent to me in letters a transcript of the whole; and at last a copy of the map.”

On studying the transcript, Stukeley identified Richard of Westminster with Richard of Cirencester, a known 14th-century chronicler. Richard’s work, titled De Situ Britanniae (On the Situation of Britain), drew on known texts about Roman Britain, such as those by Caesar, Tacitus, Solinus and the Antonine Itineraries (the Roman navigational aids, of uncertain date, that charted town-to-town routes through the empire). But the revelation was that Richard of Cirencester appeared to have had access to a host of lost, original sources, as well as an entirely fresh crop of itineraries – indeed a great deal of significant geographical knowledge that had allowed him to come up with a comprehensive map of the British Isles under the Roman empire. Among this wealth of fresh material was evidence of a previously unknown province of Britain. Scholars already knew of the division, in the last years of the third century or early years of the fourth, of Britain into four provinces – Prima, Secunda, Flavia and Maxima – which between them made up the “diocese” of Britain. They also knew of the disputed, possibly nonexistent or only briefly existent Valentia, somewhere in the north of Britain. Richard of Cirencester’s map fixed the location of Valentia between Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall and, most excitingly of all, introduced the notion of a further province of Vespasiana, in the Highlands of Scotland.

Stukeley revealed the manuscript’s contents in a series of papers to the Society of Antiquaries, published in 1757 as An Account of Richard of Cirencester, Monk of Westminster, and of his Works. “He gives us more than a hundred names of cities, roads, people and the like: which till now were absolutely unknown to us. The whole is wrote with great judgment, perspicuity and conciseness, as by one that was altogether master of his subject,” he enthused. The “highland part of Britain”, he added, was described “very particularly”. The map and new itineraries – one describing the mighty journey between Inverness and Exeter – gave Roman names to places that no one had imagined had had the slightest Roman contact. By applying the information contained in Richard’s map to known locations, Stukeley was able to identify numerous Latin place names: Falkirk was Ad Vallum Antonini, Inverness was Alata Castra, Aberdeen was Devana, and the Grampians were Montes Grampium. That was a dead giveaway if anyone had chosen to see it, for the mountains had been named for the presumed site of the Battle of Mons Graupius, where the Roman governor Agricola defeated the Caledonians. “Graupius” was rendered “Grampius” only in the 1476 printed edition of Tacitus’s biography of Agricola, such that the range owes its name to this day to a typesetter’s mistake. Some of the place names even had a Hellenic flavour: Dumbarton was identified as Theodosia – Greek for “god’s gift”, though perhaps it was primarily intended to recall the emperor Theodosius.

In 1759, Charles Bertram published the Richard of Cirencester manuscript as part of his Britannicarum Gentium Historiae Antiquae Scriptores Tres (Three Ancient Writers on the History of the British People). Thanks to Stukeley’s passionate advocacy, its authenticity as a genuine medieval document was not questioned – despite the fact that, as Stukeley himself recorded, his requests to be shown the original manuscript were, mysteriously, fruitless. The best he got was a copy of the handwriting of the first few lines, “which I shewed to my late friend Mr Casley, keeper in the Cotton library, who immediately pronounced it to be 400 years old”. If there were any immediate doubts about the discovery, they were confined to the truthfulness of Richard as a historian rather than extending to the intentions of Charles Bertram, and Roy was only one of many antiquaries who wasted oceans of ink trying to square his own accurate on-the-ground observations with the document’s fantasy geography. De Situ Britanniae had a fresh burst of life when, in 1809, it was brought out in a new edition, with an English translation by Henry Hatcher, whose preface defended Richard as “scrupulously exact”. […]

… definitely worth the read. Ipse dixit (scripsit? pinxit?) strikes again …

Temple of Roma at Alabanda

… at least that’s what I think they’re referring to; not sure if there’s an ‘Augustus’ or something in there too because it seems to be earlier than the empire. From Hurriyet:

Excavation works of a 2,200-year-old “Goddess Rome Temple” have started in the Alabanda Ancient City near Turkey’s southwestern province of Aydin.

The ancient city sheds light on the history of the region, Archeology lecturer at the Adnan Menderes University, Dr. Suat Ateslier, told Anadolu Agency. Ateslier emphasized that Roman historian Titus Livius Patavinus (Livy) mentioned the Alabanda and temples in ancient articles and added that by following their works in that way, they finally identified the location of the temple.

Built for strengthen relations with Ancient Rome.

Ateslier drew attention to the greatness of the Goddess Rome Temple as it was bigger and much more magnificent than the previously unearthed Apollo and Zeus temples in Alabanda.

“As the Goddess Rome Temple is bigger than the mother goddesses’ temples, we have to think about receiving the political and military support of Ancient Rome. Alabanda had an intense war period during the second century BC with Rhodes and asked support from the Ancient Rome.

Poking around Perseus, we get the Livy story (43.6) in the context of the Third Macedonian War:

There was a gathering of numerous deputations from Greece and Asia in Rome. [2] The Athenians were the first to obtain an audience. They explained that they had sent to the consul and the praetor what ships and soldiers they had. [3] They had, however, made no use of them, but demanded 100,000 modii of corn. Though the soil which they tilled was unproductive and even the cultivators themselves had to be fed on corn from abroad, they had nevertheless made up the amount that they should not fail in their duty, and they were prepared to supply other things which might be required. [4] The people of Miletus mentioned that they had not furnished anything, but expressed their readiness to carry out any orders the senate might wish to give with regard to the war. [5] The people of Alabanda stated that they had built a temple to “The City of Rome” and had instituted annual Games in honour of that deity. [6] They had also brought a golden crown weighing fifty pounds to be placed in the Capitol as an offering to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, and 300 cavalry shields which they would hand over to whomsoever the senate might name. [7] They requested to be allowed to place the gift in the Capitol and to offer sacrifices. [8]

Back in January, excavators found a possible head of Artemis (Artemis (maybe) from Alabanda) …

Guide de l’épigraphiste Supplement Available

Tip o’ the pileus to Current Epigraphy‘s Gil Renberg for obsessively clicking ‘refresh’ for the past month or so to alert us to the latest supplement to the always useful Guide de l’épigraphiste … you can download it (and assorted other things) at the Guide’s page (scroll down a bit):