Sunday 17Nov2013

Thalatta, thalatta! As a sea-battle site is being unearthed (or un-watered) the end of Portus, Rome’s trading port near Tiber’s mouth, is also a bit clearer to us thanks to the work that the University of Southampton and others are doing there. Below is the round-up of last week’s news.

Sunday 17Nov2013

They have opened the coffin in Tamworth (see last week’s post for more articles), and they have found things inside.

  • “Still wearing her jet bangles, the girl buried in Roman Britain 1,700 years ago” Daily Mail
  • “REVEALED: The first finds from the Tamworth Roman coffin” Tamworth Herald

The site of a significant naval battle in antiquity has been found. The Battle of the Egadi Island (241BC), fought during the First Punic War, could be said to set Rome on course to be the dominant power in the Western Mediterranean.

  • “Treasure trove from the first ever ancient naval battle to be discovered” Daily Mail
  • “Ancient naval battle site ‘rammed’ with relics of war” HeritageDaily:

Portus, a significant trading port serving the City, yielded some secrets on its last days.

  • “Archaeologists uncover secrets of Portus, once gateway to Rome” The Guardian
  • “Romans ‘destroyed Portus palace as barbarians approached'” The Daily Telegraph:
  • “Fiumicino, colonne sul mare: svelata l’antica Portus” Il Messaggero

Podcasts of the International Conference on ‘Use and Abuse of Law in the Athenian Courts’ is now available  from iTunes:

Videos from the conference “Greek Literary Epigram: From the Hellenistic to the Early Byzantine Era” are now available.

“Bachillerato students criticise decision to make Latin compulsory” The article is in Spanish. (“Los estudiantes de Bachillerato critican la obligatoriedad del Latín”) Periódico de Aragón

“New light shed on history of ancient glass” HeritageDaily:

“Ancient Roman Villa and SPA Discovered by Archaeologists in Greece” Greek Reporter:

A new mooc will soon be available, entitled: ” Was Alexander Great? The Life, Leadership, and Legacies of History’s Greatest Warrior” Wellesley edX:

Sunday’s Supplements – blogs, comments and other occasional pieces

Review of last night’s episode: “Atlantis: The Furies” by Juliette Harrisson. Pop Classics blog:

“The Battle of Thermopylae and ‘300’” blogged by Paul Cartledge. OUPblog:

“A call to the goddess” Barry Powell on the begnning of Iliad. With recordings. OUPblog:

“Unravelling the Roman town of Ocriculum (Otricoli) and a bit more besides.” by Sophie Hay.

“Cicero, Cincinnati and the Stars” by Andrew Sillett. On US’s and Rome’s Cicinnati. whatwouldcicerodo

“Neaera and her time in Athens” by David Allsop. David Allsop Classics

“The Joy of Sex (Greek and Roman style)” by Carrie Vout. Huffington Post:

“Sexual Peculiarities of the Ancient Greeks” Greek Reporter:

“Museum watch: Ure museum brings ancient Greece into Reading” GetReading:

“Athena in China” On an image on Stein’s book, and across the Silk Road. By Llewelyn Morgan. Lugubelinus blog:

Read: “Jesus’ crucifixion was legal: Spanish study” The Local:


Sunday 10Nov2013

Tamworth and Exeter yields two exciting pieces of news in the last week. As Tamworth prepares to open a child’s coffin it has set up a poll to name the child. In Exeter, the area around the Catherdral, which is thought to contain the Roman Baths underneath, is set to be dug up. With many blog posts over the last week (especially from APA) this week sees a bumper Sunday round-up.

Sunday 10Nov2013

We would like to congratulate Charlotte Higgins for her nomination on the Samuel Johnson non-fiction shortlist.

  • “Samuel Johnson non-fiction shortlist: From the Romans to Thatcher” Guardian: 
  • “Roman history novel nomination” BBC interviews Charlotte Higgins who wrote Under Another Sky. 
  • “Charlotte Higgins on what it’s like to NOT win the Samuel Johnson prize” Guardian: 

“Plans to dig up Exeter’s Roman baths for major tourist attraction.” Although it is unlikely to be without opposition, sited as it is on the Cathedral Green. Express & Echo 

“Roman coffin believed to carry child found buried near Tamworth to be opened in two days” Tamworth Herald . But before they open it, they would like you to help give it a rather garish Roman name –  YouTube (WCCNewsDaily): ; “Name the Roman child found near Tamworth” Tamworth Herald . You can access the poll via the last link.

As we remember the fallen this week Andy Keen shows us, through Homer, that war has never been an easy subject. “Homer’s Iliad, glory and pity” Keener Classics blog: .

“Pompeii workers say wall of ancient house crumbling” ANSA English: 

The Iris Project has announced the schedule for EOCCC from January to March. 

“Atlantis: The Rules of Engagement” Review of yesterday’s episode. Includes extreme face palming, by Juliette Harrisson. Pop Classics blog: 

Sunday’s Supplements – blogs, comments and other occasional pieces

Our Sol Day opinion piece this week is “Fiddle of the Sphinx”. The piece discusses preserving heritage in places where tourism and heritage are not very high on the priority list:

“Rule Britannia!” On recent Roman discoveries in Britain. Andante Travels: 

“The Ten Best Practical Places to Explore Ancient Rome” Huffington Post Historvius blog:

“Colosseum in moonlight” Excellent photos in this unforgettable tour through one of the most iconic site of Rome under the moonlight. La Repubblica 

“Photo: Villa of papyri revived in 3D in a DVD of Mav” Some stills of great reconstruction of the Villa here. La Repubblica 

“Medea, Jason and their Marriage” by David Allsop. No, nothing to do with Atlantis. David Allsop Classics: 

“Athena in China” Llewelyn Morgan on a letter closed with a seal, the figure within which resembles Athena. The letter was found along the silk road. Lugubelinus blog:

Barry Powell has recently tranlated Homer’s Iliad in free verse. The OUP blog offers the following articles related to the book:

“The meanings of ‘logos’” as discovered by Andy Keen in an Liddell and Scott.

“23 Fun Facts About Ancient Rome” We do not accept responsibility for any Trepanning… Venere Travel Blog: 

“Only seen dead” Alan Sommerstein on death in Greek tragedy. University of Nottingham Ancient Drama blog: 

The Americal Philological Association blog has been working on overdrive…:

“Linguistics Baking Part IV: Linear A” res gerendae blog: 

“The Encounter with Antiquity, with Constanze Güthenke” An interview by the Classics Confidential blog: 

“Brush Up on the Greek Myth That Arcade Fire Is Singing About” <TIME> 

“Why H is the most contentious letter in the alphabet” Includes Catullus’ (H)arrius. The Guardian: 

“Slavery in the Roman World (Article)” New article in the Ancient History Encyclopedia: 

“Artefact – Royal Throne From Salamis” by David Allsop. David Allsop Classics blog: 

“Imperialism, Linguistic Diversity, and Common Language” by Peter Kruschwitz. Reading Latin – Latin Reading blog: 

“The Plague of Athens: Dying Like Sheep” Just how, exactly, do sheep die? Helen King explores. Wonders and Marvels blog:

European Etymology maps, showing which words within languages can trace a common ancestry:

Sol Day

Sol Day 10Nov2013 – Fiddle of the Sphix

In last Friday’s episode, Channel 4’s “Unreported World investigates the shocking effects Egypt’s political unrest is having on the country’s tourism industry and the unique archaeological heritage.”

The 25-minute documentary at times portray Emad and Hima, tour guides on camel-back who had not seen business for weeks and whose camels are getting quite lean; at times the programme follows Monica Hanna, an archaeologist tracking looters, vandals and others who are irreversibly damaging Egypt’s, and perhaps the world’s, heritage.

Perhaps the last point is significant: whose heritage is it anyway? In the words of some government officials or locals, it may be: whose burden is it anyway? Egypt seems to lack the political stability, or perhaps money, to do anything. Italy and Greece certainly do not prioritise protecting heritage at a time when it is pressured by debtors and European “partners” to stabilise its economy. Nor is it merely tourism, with Italy and Spain frequently complaining the lack of help it receives towards preventing illegal immigrants from reaching their shore, European Union’s shore.

For Egypt, sites with tourism potential has remained for a long time just that – sites with tourism potential. It is, perhaps, like a low-ranking football team carrying a world-class striker: the striker rarely manages to get the ball anyway, and without the ability to contribute it may as well just leave. Sadly dispensing with the tourist potential do not yield a transfer fee, but loses more of the past that some of us long to preserve.

How can this be balanced though? The Egyptians in Egypt needs to survive, said a looter. Confessing that what he was doing, looting, was bad for future tourism he shuffled his feet and said: “I do this because I have no other option. There’s no work. I need to support my family.” His eyes look out to a distance – no glamour of a tomb raider, just lost on the horizon so easily marked out by the sand in the desert. Can we be accused of caring too much about the past, but not about those who live now?

Well we could do something about it? In Italy’s case, the European Union is directly spending money on The Grand Project in Pompeii. But I do not know of any other examples, save for corporations sponsoring various sites in Rome, with Fendi leading the way at the Trevi Fountains. Nor are such intervention always appreciated by the locals – the money does not remove the fact that there are still those who are not fed. For an editorial commenting on a proposal to dig in the City Centre and display the Roman remains in Exeter, the local Express and Echo gave the piece the title: “Spend money on food for hungry not Exeter Roman remains.”

Of course, we must never overlook the potential for jobs and benefits to the local economy for projects which aim to protect and preserve sites. The Grand Project will need workers; looters can become security guards (as long as the wages at least sustain them, though not perhaps if their buyers offer to pay more). But money seems to be in short supply, be it Egypt, Greece and Italy, be it the UK, Germany. Nor is heritage always a priority “in times like these”.

So what can we do? I remember the footages of the Talibans destroying the huge carvings of Buddhas in Afghanistan and reports of the libraries at Timbuktu being burnt. Thankfully, it seems, in the latter case most writing have survived. In both case there were also intervention. Watching the vandals destroying Coptic caves and digging into tombs in the Channel 4 programme saddened me, as did seeing the families of the tour guides: children running around the house oblivious to the adults’ concerns of how to pay for their schooling, amongst other things to pay for. And then there were the carcasses, not few, of the horses and camels.

The preservation of heritage through the ages depends on a lot of luck. Part of that luck is the interaction the objects had had with many things: the weather, the geography and other things, but fundamentally the people. Yet we the people who values these objects are of the same humankind as the people who are either ignoring or damaging the heritage. The long-term solution for helping the preservation of these artefacts are to help the people who are closest to it, and this requires a lot of time and effort. If the local government is, not so much unable, but unwilling to do it, who is there to step into the breach? And what can we as outsiders do?

Sol Day

Sol Day 03Nov2013 – Outreach can be EOCCC

The last two weeks saw several Classics events across UK’s Golden Triangle in academia. The opening of a Classics centre, a celebration of Classics in general and a celebration of Sappho are all vehicles that maintain the level of interest in Classics when our academics are not presenting series on BBC Four or taking part in Radio 4’s In Our Time.

“It’s Classics for all as free public centre is launched,” reads the headline in an article of Oxford Mail. Below the headline the newspaper relates the proceedings of the launch day of East Oxford Community Classics Centre (or EOCCC?). Dr Lorna Robinson, the director of The Iris Project, justifiably exuded delight that the hall was full and attendees were enthusiatic about the events on offer. Dr Mary Beard (sic), who gave a speech at the opening event, commented “It is an absolutely great place which will put classics and the ancient world on the map for the city in all kinds of ways. It is a place where kids can learn Latin and Greek but there are also activities that give people the chance to discover more about the ancient world.”

(We did make a visit to the space at Oxford’s Open Doors day and spoke to Lorna Robnson and Sophie, and we promised to write a blog post of our visit. Sorry that never materialised due to other commitments, but we can confirm that the space is decorated with inspiring and inspired image and stocked with some great resources and books. We wish them well in their work.)

Oxford Mail also reported that “Dr Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge University, said the centre will help dispel the myth that classics are for “rich boys.” In the articles we present all three comments on the outreach element of the centre. The press release from the University of Oxford begins with “A community centre to bring classics to a wider audience has been launched in Oxford”; while Cherwell, the student’s newspaper, begins their article with “The East Oxford Classics Centre aims to open Classics up to a wider audience.”

The press release quotes Mai Musié, outreach officer in the Faculty of Classics, who said the Faculty “is delighted to support a local initiative such as this in bringing classics to the masses,” adding “Not enough people are aware that you can pursue a classics degree at Oxford without prior knowledge of ancient Greek or Latin. The Centre will provide a link between the local community and the University of Oxford.” The focus of the press release is on outreach.

The Cherwell article quotes in full Mary Beard’s comment that ““It isn’t the case that the classics are just for rich boys” and quotes Mai Musié that “Classics still has a problem of being seen as elite.” It included words of a former president of the Classics Society who said “Classics is no longer limited those who have the privilege to learn the languages in school but it still has the highest private intake amongst all courses. Of the more than one hundred and twenty classicists in a year fewer than twenty of them come in without Latin and Greek. To allow Classics to be more accessible it is not Oxford, but society’s perception of it that must change.” Uniquely, Cherwell also mentions, according to Musié, Classics can be fun.

It is interesting that Cherwell has taken such a line on the story. We are no experts in journalism but one wonders if the viewpoints of the organisations reflect the body that it serves. Oxford Mail‘s article is more or less a factual recording of the day’s events and the centre’s upcoming classes and events. The press release of the University gives the impression that the centre is a success story in the University’s outreach effort and an example of its town-and-gown link. The student paper decide to focus on the elitist nature of Classics. William Carter, the writer of the article, may have chosen this angle as his previous work is also about social background. I for one am inclined to agree with the view portrayed by Carter, that Classics still suffer from a perception of being elite, but as a promoter of Classics I rather wished that Cherwell might devote more ink to the events that goes on and how students can get involved in his well-written article.

The reason for that wish is that, however much the above passage has been devoted to the different approaches to the news, it remains a constant that Lorna Robinson and her team aims to bring the language and culture of the ancient world to more youngsters and use it as a tool for developing their skills. The promotion of Classics, be it an outreach project, be it part of a process of making Classics for all and has an image of being for all, is intrinsically a laudable aim for a Classicists, at least one who believes passionately that Classics should not be an inclusive field. Having spoken to Lorna and knowing the work that she and the Iris Project does, they do an invaluable job. The only shame is that we cannot clone Lorna.

There was another form of outreach in the an event organised by Poet in the City. “Sappho… Fragments” featured Peggy Reynolds, Tony Harrison, Joseph Balmer and Edith Hall talking passionately about Sappho, accompanied by some wonderful reading by actress Sian Thomas; you can read our report of the event here. Poet in the City is an organisation “committed to attracting new audiences to poetry” and it is great that they have chosen a classical author. It is difficult to see how many in the hall were Classicists already, how many already poetry enthusiasts and how many are only recently literature, but I would like to think that, through the passion of the speakers and Edith Hall in particular, through Sappho’s beutiful poetry speaking for itself and through Sian Thomas, some of the audience will begin to look at Greek poetry and even the antiquity in general.

Events such as this by Poet in the City are important because not everyone is exposed to Classics. Events such as this provide a way in to Classics that is not age restricted and these events shows that Classics appeal to all ages. Fundamentally, there it provides a way to re-evaluate Classics if your impression of Classics is that it is elitist, or it involves chanting amo, amas, amat… all day (has it occurred to anyone else that “I love” as the default verb can seem ironic to some? Or perhaps it is meant to be instrumental…). Events such as these provide a spark for someone to pick up Classics as a hobby, and it will be the next challenge to keep them interested.

Then we have events such as Heffers’ Classics Festival, which took place on Saturday 2nd November and was a great success. Not only was it so great to have so many Classicists under one roof, it was also great that it is possible to discuss over the nitty-gritty of some Classical literature without feeling awkward. The festival is a less formal, non-academic affair that gels a group of Classicists together: a group that is distinct from the crowd of a Classical Association conference, for example.

So we should salute anyone who organises things that gets people interested in Classics, and sustain people’s interest in Classics. This is important because, while the debate rages on in terms of whether Latin is a dead language, Classics will surely be a very unhealthy subject if we cannot foster an interest outside academia. This may require Classicists to wow people with how intrinsically awesome Classics is and to persuade them that, regardless of the elitist label, were they to enjoy Classics for what it is and take advantage of the knowledge and skills it brings it is a worthy subject or interest. Let Classics be ready for all.


Sunday 03Nov2013

Eagle dominates Classical news networks in the week where a sizeable ornament was revealed. It was discovered mid-October at the Minories building site just outside Aldgate of the City of London and by the very last days of the month, it is being displayed in the Museum of London.

Sunday 03Nov2013

“Bird is the word” Museum of London Archaeology’s Walbrook Discovery Programme proclaimed: . There was also a snake, which is being eaten by the eagle. We summarised the story and put a (very long) list of articles from which you can revisit the story: “The Eagle of the City”: . Or if you need the information in Spanish, try  Clásicos UR: “Escultura de águila romana hallada en el centro de Londres”: . A comment piece can be found in the “Nonne delectamini?” blog: 

Such a news might have driven film makers to start shooting films called “The Eagle” But since the title has already been taken we have “Mark Wahlberg Producing The Roman” New film, and “It’s Julius Caesar: The Early Years”: Empire 

“Turkey: Italians discover Gate to Hell, with Cerberus guarding” but it didn’t generate as much excitement. ANSAMed: 

An event was organised by Poet in the City with the title: “Sappho…fragments” (Classics Collective) . The content inspired Claire Millington to ponder about: “‘Made in translation’ (or gloomily lamenting lost languages)”(The word muses): 

A big grant has been given to study the Roman’s martime network: “Southampton University Roman port study gets £2.1m” (BBC News): ; “Archeologists get multi-million pound grant for Roman excavations” Southern Daily Echo: 

CA Conference bursary now open to applicants wishing to attend in April at Nottingham. 

“Do we still eat like the Romans?” BBC Food: 

“1,500-year-old Roman gold coin found at ancient Chinese tomb” DongA: 

“Lasers and robots explore ancient Rome’s hidden aqueducts” Daily Telegraph 

“Debate still rages over date of Thera eruption” HeritageDaily: 

The Classics Library, now a Flipboard magazine! 

More articles from the week before’s event. “East Oxford Community Classics Centre launched” UoOxford news: …; “New centre in Headington brings Classics to the community” Cherwell 

“New App: Logeion” American Philological Association blog: 

It Stoic Week at the end of this month. There is a workshop: “Stoicism for Everyday Life” 30Nov at Birkbeck College, University of London. Stoicism for Everyday Life blog: . Mary Beard heard about Stoic Week at Heffers’ Classics Festival and, while commenting on the festival, pondered about Stoic Week. “Try being a Stoic for a week?” (A Don’s Life): 

Review of this week’s episode by Juliette Harrisson. “Atlantis: The Song of the Sirens”. Pop Classics blog: 

Blogs and other occasional pieces

Our accompanying Sol Day piece is on outreach of different kinds. “Outreach is EOCCC”. Do find it alongside this article within this blog.

We blog on Classics and school open evening.”Grammar School of thought” Sol Day blog: 

Mary Beard writes about “Popular Latin?” How much do we know of Latin and Roman life amongst the masses? A Don’s Life blog: 

Caroline Lawrence participated in the balloon debate at Heffers Classics Festival and gave her case for Andromache to stay on the balloon. “Andromache’s Plea” (Roman Mysteries & Western Mysteries blog): 

Carole Reddato take us on a well guided and beautiful tour of this town in Istria. “Exploring Classical Pula – images from the other Adriatic Pearl” (Following Hadrian blog): 

We receive a tour around “Roman Britain: the best sights” (Daily Telegraph): 

Liz Gloyn looks at that front-cover. “Rihanna, Medusa, GQ and Photoshop” (Classically Inclined blog): 

“Roman Empire to the NSA: A world history of government spying” (BBC News): 

Peter Kruschwitz’s son got him to talk “Latin Greeting Rituals: ‘How are you’ vs. ‘Hope you’re well’” (Reading Latin – Latin Reading blog): 

A boy in Brisbane tells us “Why Latin is worth studying” (Brisbane Times):