Classical Ukraine?

As events evolved over the past week in Ukraine and environs, there was an interesting item in BBC’s Magazine Monitor section, which included comments from Dame Averil Cameron and Charlotte Roueche:

In an extraordinary ceremony in Ukraine, potential cabinet members are to be paraded in front of crowds of protesters to seek their approval, it’s been reported. It has strange echoes of Ancient Roman practices, writes Finlo Rohrer.

Apart from the X Factor, it’s hard to think of a modern parallel for the event planned in Independence Square, at the heart of anti-government protests in Ukraine. Candidates for the new cabinet of ministers are to be paraded and – only if approved by the crowds – formally confirmed later.

It has, one assumes, unintentional echoes of the tradition of acclamation in later Roman times and particularly in the Eastern Roman or Byzantine empire. A candidate for the imperial throne would present themselves in front of a crowd of soldiers, or even ordinary people, lap up the adulation, and then go on to overcome their rivals aided by a handy sheen of legitimacy.

“The emperor Constantine was acclaimed by his father’s soldiers in Britain – that didn’t guarantee the role. He then had to battle with several rivals,” says Prof Dame Averil Cameron, of Oxford University.

Then there was regular contact with large crowds who had a chance to voice disapproval. “Among the early Julio-Claudian emperors of Rome, they appeared in the Circus. That is where you met the people. There might be shouts or demonstrations,” says Cameron.

What happened was not necessarily always a reflection of the real will of the people. Even Rome in the republic was not any kind of modern-style democracy. “The Romans got really good at orchestrating it [acceptance by the crowd],” says Byzantinist Prof Charlotte Roueche, of King’s College London. “In Kiev, the main cathedral actually has wall paintings showing activities in the Hippodrome in Constantinople, where the emperors were acclaimed.”

In many societies throughout history it was seen as a mark almost of divine inspiration to have a unanimous shout from a crowd. But even with bribery and cajoling, unanimity isn’t always easy to come by. “If the [Roman or Byzantine] people were feeling grumpy they would shout out that they wanted more bread,” says Roueche.

… and I also remembered an item I had been sitting on for a while. Longtime readers of rogueclassicism might remember one of my posts in which I drew a comparison between a bust in Anthony Quinn’s collection (which had come to auction at Bonham’s: Classic Vlad) and Putin’s visage. A short while ago, Putin was interviewed by assorted journalists and the Telegraph coverage of the event had an interesting intro:

If Julius Caesar had ever granted an interview, the spectacle might have been similar to Vladimir Putin’s audience with Andrew Marr and sundry other journalists in Sochi. Regal, relaxed and chuckling, Mr Putin clearly regarded the whole session as a bit of a joke. He treated his interlocutors with genial contempt – and they were so grateful to be in his presence that they appeared not to notice.

Mr Marr’s “interview” with Mr Putin turned out to be four questions posed alongside various other journalists and then a few minutes one-on-one. Poor Mr Marr behaved like an overawed prefect interviewing his headmaster for the school magazine – and failing to spot how he was being mocked and played with. […]

(Telegraph)

… I wonder if we’ll see Putin saying Veni, Vidi, Vici soon …

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“Murder” in the Tauric Chersonese?

This is presumably a followup to the reports from last week adding the Tauric Chersonese to the list of UNESCO Heritage sites. I’m hoping some newspaper will pick this up and have a reporter ask more questions, but nothing doing … from EurekAlert:

Chersonesos is an ancient city on the Crimean peninsula, which was founded by Greek colonists at the end of the 6th century BC in order to supply their homeland with grain and other strategic resources. The farmland in the Greek colonies was vital to the survival of the Greek city-states. The excavations by the Aarhus archaeologists are exploring the development of the rural area from its peak until its decline. One of the conclusions so far is that during a period of crisis in the early 3rd century BC a large proportion of the rural population was killed following a military invasion. The skeletons of these people can be found just 40 cm beneath the surface of the soil in a number of housing structures which the Aarhus archaeologists have excavated.

“We’ve learned things that have changed our view of what life was like in the Chersonesean countryside, which the Greeks called chora. The city’s rural territory, particularly on the Herakleian and Tarkhankut peninsulas, is incredibly well preserved. The houses of the rural population dating back to about 300 BC lie dotted around the untouched landscape in the form of ruins that are still visible. For instance, in one of the excavated ruins we have found the remains of a whole family. So we’re working on a murder scene dating back 2,300 years,” reports project director Vladimir Stolba, an archaeologist from Aarhus University.

Chersonesos and its rural area have just been added to UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites – the area is a unique example of the way the ancient Greek cities and surrounding landscape were organised.

“We’ve had several teams of students from Denmark and the host country Ukraine on our expeditions. It’s been a great experience and very fruitful collaboration. We are in a lucky and, in a sense, unique situation to work on short-lived rural sites which have never been re-inhabited since their destruction in the early 3rd century BC. The picture that emerges from the excavations is a snapshot of daily activities of the ancient peasantry, of its life and dramatic death. We’ve found answers to many of our research questions: for instance, who cultivated the Greek grain fields, how densely the area was settled and how it was organised, and how the ancient population adapted to changes in cultural and natural environment. The answers have given rise to new questions that we want to explore next. The world heritage status will hopefully help to preserve this unique area despite the increase in tourism and tourism infrastructure development, enabling us to continue our work,” concludes Vladimir Stolba.

All very interesting, but we really need to know more about these burials. The project website (Economic Models and Adaptation Strategies: The Northern Black Sea in the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age) has quite a bit of information, but nothing, really, on these in-house burials. What is the evidence for “murder” as opposed to epidemic? Are these people buried actually inside the structures? etc. … more details please!!!!