Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Archaeologist Tired Of Unearthing Unspeakable Ancient Evils

Archaeologist Tired Of Unearthing Unspeakable Ancient Evils

HASAKE, SYRIA—When archaeologist Edward Whitson joined a Penn State University dig in Hasake last year, he did so to participate in the excavation of a Late Bronze Age settlement rich in pottery shards and clay figurines. Whitson had hoped to determine whether the items contained within the site were primarily Persian or Assyrian in origin.
Edward Whitson waits while yet another tortured wraith rises from a dig site in Syria.
Instead, he found himself fleeing giant flying demon-cats as he ran through the temple's cavernous halls, jumping from ledge to ledge while locked in a desperate struggle for his life and soul for what seemed like the thousandth time in his 27-year career.
"All I wanted to do was study the settlement's remarkably well-preserved kiln," said the 58-year-old Whitson, carefully recoiling the rope he had just used to clamber out of a pit filled with giant rats. "I didn't want to be chased by yet another accursed manifestation of an ancient god-king's wrath."
Over the course of his career, Whitson has been frequently lauded by colleagues for his thorough, methodical examinations of ancient peoples. He has also been chased by the snake-bodied ophidian women of Al'lat in Israel, hunted down by Mayan coyote specters manifested out of lost time and shadow in the Yucatan, and hounded by the Arctic-sky-filling Walrus Bone Woman of the early Inuits.
"It's true, I've got to stop reading the inscriptions on ancient door seals out loud," Whitson said. "I also need to quit dusting off medallions set into strange sarcophagi, allowing the light to hit them for the first time in centuries. And replacing the jewels that have fallen from the foreheads of ancient frog-deity statues—that's just bad archaeological practice."
Whitson added that he hopes one day to excavate an ancient Egyptian monastery or marketplace without hearing the ear-splitting shrieks of the undead while being swarmed by green-glowing carnivorous stink beetles.
Enlarge ImageA dig in Yalvac, Turkey, is once again disrupted by the occult.
"I realize I'm entering grounds that are considered sacred to these people," Whitson said. "But that doesn't mean I deserve to be pelted with poison-tipped darts shot from cavern walls. A simple 'Do Not Enter' sign in hieroglyphics would suffice."
Turning to the subject of his latest incident at a dig site in Peru, Whitson maintains he was not at fault for summoning the forces of evil.
"I was just idly rearranging flint sickle blades that had already been catalogued. Apparently, I spelled out the true name of a long-dead god-priest," Whitson said. "Can't a man even clean up his work area without inadvertently conjuring up a pack of lightning-breathing ocelots?"
Making matters worse, such encounters have had little to no scientific value.
"It's always, 'I will drink your soul' or 'I will chew the flesh from your bones' with these hellish apparitions," Whitson said. "When I ask them if that means the ancient Etruscans did, in fact, add copper to their mixing clay to make their urns more sturdy, they don't even seem to hear me."
Worn down by nearly three decades of peril, Whitson said he plans to move off the front lines to become a museum curator or in-office researcher.
"It's unfortunate," Whitson said. "Nothing quite compares to being out in the field on an actual dig. But the reality is, I'm really starting to hate almost getting killed all the time."

This Day in Ancient History: pridie kalendas decembres

This Day in Ancient History: pridie kalendas decembres: "

Bust of Euripides. Marble, Roman copy after a ...

Image via Wikipedia

pridie kalendas decembres

  • 406 B.C. — death of Euripides (by one reckoning)

  • 147 A.D. — birth of Annia Galeria Faustina, the daughter of the emperor-to-be Marcus Aurelius

  • 1817 — birth of Theodor Mommsen, Nobel prize winning ancient historian

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Latest Pompeii collapse: Garden wall gives way

Latest Pompeii collapse: Garden wall gives way

Associated Press= ROME (AP) — A stretch of garden wall ringing an ancient house in Pompeii gave way Tuesday after days of torrential rain, the latest structure to collapse at the popular archaeological site.
Pompeii officials said an inspection found that a 40-foot (12-meter)-long section of wall forming part of the perimeter of a garden area near the House of the Moralist gave way in several points. They said the extreme sogginess of the soil brought down the wall in an area that hasn't been excavated near the house.
Italy's is struggling to preserve its immense archaeological wealth for future generations.
A few weeks ago, Italy was embarrassed when a frescoed house, the Schola Armaturarum, where gladiators prepared for combat, was reduced to a pile of stones and dust in seconds. Less than a year ago, another building, the House of the Chaste Lovers, collapsed in Pompeii.
The House of the Moralist wasn't affected by the wall's demise "and isn't at risk for collapse," Pompeii excavations director Antonio Varone said.
The Schola and the House of the Moralist are only a few steps away from each other along one of Pompeii's main streets, which are usually thronged with some of the 3 million tourists who traipse the paths each year.
The House of the Moralist includes the remains of the homes of two families in the ancient city that was buried by the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. It is one of many structures in Pompeii that are off-limits to tourists, and no one was injured in the wall's collapse, which was discovered early in the morning before opening hours.
Made of tufa rock, the garden wall was heavily damaged during the U.S. bombing of the Naples area in World War II. It was rebuilt after the war using a mix of the ancient stones and modern material, said Daniela Leone, an official of the state Naples and Pompeii Archaeological Superintendency.
Earlier this year the wall was reinforced, but the reinforcement work was "swept away by the violence" of the storms, the Pompeii archaeology office said in a statement.
Coincidentally, Carabinieri police were in the ruins when the garden wall came down. The officers were inspecting the gladiators house as part of efforts to pinpoint the cause of that collapse and decide if that structure can be reconstructed.
Culture Minister Sandro Bondi instructed ministry officials to keep monitoring Pompeii but warned against "useless alarmism."
A no-confidence motion against Bondi, proposed by opposition parties after the gladiator house collapsed, had been scheduled to be voted on in Parliament on Monday, but work on legislation caused the vote to be put off until a date to be determined.

SAMA Screens: 12/7 The Nightingale's Prayer (1959)

Tuesday, Dec 7 @ SAMA
6p - Reception
6:30p - film

The Nightingale's Prayer stars the first lady of the Arab silver screen, Faten Hamama, in a compelling tale of love and betrayal based upon the novel by Egyptian author Taha Hussein. Directed by Henri Barakar, Egypt, 126min, Arabic w/ English subtitles, not rated.

Constantine ("Come On, Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners)

Roman Poo & Pee

Roman Poo & Pee:
"[WARNING: this blog entry contains excerpts from my talk today at the British Museum about "Ancient Romans & their Poo". It will make you go "Ewww!"]

When I first started studying Classics, I thought ancient Rome must have been nice and clean because of their marvelous engineering and the aqueducts that brought tons of water from miles away. I thought ancient Rome had luxurious bath-houses and sparkling white marble columns and steps, like this scene from the 1953 film Julius Caesar. I thought everybody wore nice clean tunics and no rubbish marred the streets. And of course Romans used sponges-on-sticks as toilet paper. The next best thing to puppy-soft Andrex. (read more in my blog So What's with the Sponge-Stick?) What could be more sanitary than a soft sea-sponge on a stick?

However, as I researched my books and travelled the world, I realized that Rome was probably more like a hot, crowded third-world city: Calcutta, Marrakesh or Cairo. Roman cities would have been colourful but also dirty, crumbly, smelly and very unsanitary. There would have been human and animal dung in the road, plus pee, dead animals, flies, sick and infected people, tainted water, sour wine, mud, blood, rotting vegetables and rubble. Romans didn't know about bacteria or germs, so in many Roman homes you often find the toilet is right next to the hearth in the kitchen. Very rarely do you find a toilet like this luxurious marble one from the Baths of Caracella, (shaped like a chariot in case you need to go in a hurry!)

In my first book, The Thieves of Ostia, Vespasian is Emperor.

One ancient Roman described Vespasian's expression as that of a man sitting on the toilet trying to do a poo. Here he is (right) with his son Titus. Both these portraits are upstairs in the British Museum. What do you think? Does Vespasian have a strained expression on his face?

When Vespasian was emperor he did several eccentric things, including putting a tax on pee. The ancient version of dry-cleaners were called fullers and they used urine (or pee) for part of their cleaning process. In fact the Latin word for pee is lotium and is linked to the word for wash. This is because Roman fullers used urine so much. Men would pass by the fullers and relieve themselves in jars set outside. Sometimes they had to pay a coin for the privilege. Could this be the origin of the phrase, 'to spend a penny'? Oh all right: probably not.

But it is true that within Vespasian's lifetime Roman wits were calling these piss-pots "vespasians". Embarrassed, Vespasian's son Titus asked his father why he insisted on making money by taxing smelly urine. Vespasian pulled out a sestertius and asked Titus to sniff it. "So?" shrugged Titus. "You see," said Vespasian. "Money doesn’t stink." Some Germans liked this story so much that they made a family board game based on going to the toilet in Roman times! It’s called PECUNIA NON OLET which means 'money doesn’t stink.'

In my second book, about the eruption of Vesuvius, I learned that Romans wrote graffiti on their walls. As well as the Christian graffiti that appears in this book they wrote things like DON'T POO HERE! We also know from inscriptions and graffiti that there were often queues outside the public loos! That meant the public latrines - the foricae - were heavily used and therefore probably quite filthy.

Romans didn't have soap. Instead, they had olive oil. They would go into the baths, strip off and rub scented olive oil all over their bodies. After some exercise and maybe a session in the steam room, they would then scrape it off with a bronze knife thingy called a strigil. Then they flicked this oily mixture of dead skin, oil, sweat and dirt (called gloios) onto the floor by the drains. They did this in the public baths. Imagine if you used your public swimming pool to get clean… along with all the neighbours on your block, young and old, healthy and sick. I used to belong to a health club until I found out people kept getting sick from going in the jacuzzi, the warm tub. If that can happen in today’s world, think how icky it must have been in Roman times!

In The Charioteer of Delphi, my characters Jonathan and Lupus go to the new Baths of Titus near the Circus Maximus in Rome. Jonathan finds something floating in the hot plunge. This probably happened a lot, unless pools were cleaned regularly. In addition to floaters, imagine a thin scum of dead skin, hair and scabs floating on top of the pool. As well as a scum on the water, think of what would cover the floor. Slippery gloios, spilled oil, and also crumbs from snacks, which we know people ate in the baths. It’s no wonder Pliny the Elder tells us that cockroaches loved the warm and steamy Roman Baths.

Because the Romans didn’t really understand about hygiene, there were probably flies everywhere. Vespasian’s younger brother Domitian used to amuse himself by trying to spear lazy summer flies with his stylus (the sharp implement used to write on wax tablets). One day a man went to see Domitian and asked his Greek scribe if there was anyone else in the room with the Emperor's younger brother. “Nobody,” replied the secretary dryly. “Not even a fly.”

My seventh Roman Mystery, The Enemies of Jupiter, has lots of gruesome facts about medicine and doctors. Doctors were called 'dung-eaters' because some of them sipped your pee and tasted your poo to diagnose what was wrong with you. In that book I also tell how one doctor bleached his teeth by drinking his own urine! When I was on Blue Peter a few years ago I convinced presenter Zoe to try some urine teeth-bleaching mouthwash. She didn't like the taste! (Of course she was just pretending.) You can watch the clip on YouTube; the Roman beauty bit starts 4 minutes in.

The Sirens of Surrentum is full of passion and poison. For this book I researched half a dozen deadly plants and their antidotes and learned some more fascinating facts. For example, everybody knows an antidote is something you take to stop poison taking effect. But what most books and TV shows don’t tell you is that an antidote counteracts poison by getting your body to expel it, either by vomiting or pooing! Or both.

In The Fugitive from Corinth, a Roman Mystery set on the Greek mainland, somebody accidentally empties a chamberpot out of a tavern window onto somebody down below! What is a chamberpot? It’s a pot you keep underneath your bed or in a corner of your room as a portable toilet. The Latin word for chamberpot is matella. A Roman poet called Martial wrote an epigram about a chamberpot 'peeing from a chip in the side'. (Epigram XII.32) Some scholars think chamberpots might have been more hygienic than toilets over pits or sewers. This is because animals might crawl out of the pit or sewer and track bacteria from poo onto food and bedding.

There have always been urban myths about creatures climbing up out of the sewers or toilet. You can read more about this on my blog called Demon in the Toilet. You might think the Romans were silly and superstitious to believe there were demons in the loos. But in her forthcoming book, Roman Toilets: their Archaeology and Cultural History, Dr Gemma Jansen, a Dutch archaeologist, suggests that demons were the ancient Roman equivalent of bacteria. I think that is a brilliant idea. Like demons, bacteria are virtually invisible, but frightening because of what they can do to you… If a demon possessed you, he could make you sick or even kill you. Just like bad bacteria, germs or viruses.

There may not be pigs, alligators or demons in the loo, but there are germs. We know what the poor Romans didn't know: to wash our hands after doing a poo or a pee!

P.S. Thanks to everyone at the British Museum, and to all the kids who brought their parents to my talk, and to all of you brave enough to touch my fake dog poo. It was "sticky and stretchy"... Ewww!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Contest: Win a copy of Centurion

Win a copy of Centurion (DVD)

How many minutes are the difference between the UK and the USA version?
a) 1 minute b) 5 minutes or c) 10 minutes.
Hint; At Amazon USA and Amazon UK you can check the run times.

Please email your answers to newsletter@unrv.com by Wednesday, December 1, 2010 to qualify and don’t forget to include your shipping address!!

Metal Music and Latin

Metal Music and Latin: "

Who would have thought that Latin and rock/metal music would go together? Apparently the two go hand in hand, because there are some bands that record some of their songs in Latin.

In Extremo, which in Latin means “At the Edge” is a German band known to record some of their songs in Latin. One of their songs that were recorded in Latin was “Omnia Sol Temperat”.

They are not the first band to do this and by that I mean give their own rendition of “Ave Maria”. This “Ave Maria” is quite unique in that it uses a bag pipe as one of the instruments to play the song :

Now this song would sound like a typical metal song (it’s called “In Taberna Gloria”), if it wasn’t for the fact that it was in Latin!

November 29th

November 29th marked the festival of Saturnia

"Juppiter [Zeus] [seduced the Nymphe Io, and] fore-sensing his spouse’s [Hera's] arrival, transformed poor Inachis [Io] into a sleek white heifer (lovely still although a cow). Saturnia [Hera], against her will, admired the creature and asked whose she was, and whence she came and to what herd belonged, pretending not to know the truth. He lied - ‘The earth had brought her forth’ - so to deflect questions about her birth. Then Saturnia [Hera] begged the heifer as a gift. What should he do? Too cruel to give his darling! Not to give - suspicious; shame persuades but love dissuades. Love would have won; but then - if he refused his wife (his sister too) so slight a gift, a cow, it well might seem no cow at all! The goddess won her rival, but distrust lingered and still she feared her husband’s tricks, till, for safe-keeping, she had given the cow to Arestorides [Argos] - Argus of the hundred eyes, all watching and on duty round his head, save two which took in turn their sleep and rest ... Heaven’s master [Zeus] could not endure Phoronis’ [Io’s] distress, and summoned his son [Hermes] ... and charged him to accomplish Argus’ death ... [So Hermes] visited him [Argos], and with many a tale he stayed the passing hours and on his reeds played soft refrains to lull the watching eyes ... [and Hermes] saw all Argus’ eyelids closed and every eye vanquished in sleep. He stopped and with his wand, his magic wand, soothed the tired resting eyes and sealed their slumber; quick then with his sword he struck off the nodding head and from the rock threw it all bloody, spattering the cliff with gore. Argus lay dead; so many eyes, so bright quenched, and all hundred shrouded in one night. Saturnia [Hera] retrieved those eyes to set in place among the feathers of her bird [the peacock] and filled his tail with starry jewels." Source: Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.624

ante diem iii kalendas decembres

This Day in Ancient History:
Saturninus of Toulouse

Refutation: No Romans needed to explain Chinese Blondes

No Romans needed to explain Chinese blondes

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Uyghur boy from Kashgar
Every few years a story crops up about “European-looking” people in northwest China who claim to be of Roman origin. A “lost legion” so to speak. I’ll admit that I found the stories interesting, amusing, if  implausible, years ago. But now it’s just getting ridiculous. This is almost like the “vanishing blonde” meme which always pops right back up. First, let’s quote from The Daily Mail,* DNA tests show Chinese villagers with green eyes could be descendants of lost Roman legion:
For years the residents of the remote north western Chinese village of Liqian have believed they were special.
Many of the villagers have Western characteristics including green eyes and blonde hair leading some experts to suggest that they may be the descendants of a lost Roman legion that settled in the area.
Now DNA testing of the villagers has shown that almost two thirds of them are of Caucasian origin.
The results lend weigh to the theory that the founding of Liqian may be linked to the legend of the missing army of Roman general Marcus Crassus.
In 53BC, after Crassus was defeated by the Parthians and beheaded near what is now Iran, stories persisted that 145 Romans were captured and wandered the region for years.
As part of their strategy Romans also hired troops wherever they had conquered and so many Roman legions were made up not of native Romans, but of conquered men from the local area who were then given training.
250px-Statue-AugustusLet’s start from the end. The last paragraph indicates a total ignorance of the nature of military recruitment during the late Republic. In the year 110 BC the Roman army was composed of propertied peasants. These were men of moderate means, but means nonetheless. They fought for the Republic because it was their duty as citizens. They were the Republic. Due to a series of catastrophes the Roman army had to institute theMarian reforms in 107 BC. Men with no means, and who had to be supplied with arms by the Republic, joined the military. This was the first step toward the professionalization of the Roman legions, which naturally resulted in a greater loyalty of these men to their leaders and their unit than the Republic. Without the Marian reforms Sulla may never have marched on Rome. By 400 AD the legions were predominantly German in origin, and supplemented with “federates,” who were barbarian allies (though alliances were always subject to change). But in 53 BC this had not happened yet. The legions who marched with Crassus would have been Roman, with newly citizen Italian allies in the wake of the Social War. The legions of the Julio-Claudians were probably still mostly Italian, a century after Crassus (service in the legions, as opposed to the auxiliaries, was limited to citizens, who were concentrated among Italians). So that objection does not hold.

But really, do we need the Roman hypothesis? Those big blonde Romans? Here’s one section of the piece: “Archaeologists discovered that one of the tombs was for someone who was around six foot tall.” Because of issues of nutrition the Roman soldiers were notoriously short relative to the Celts and Germans (who had more meat and milk in their diet). Perhaps they had the potential for greater height, which they realized in the nutritional surfeit of…China?
Anyway, there’s a straightforward explanation for the “Chinese Romans”: they’re out of the same population mix, roughly, as the Uyghurs. Before the year 1000 AD much of what is today Xinjiang was dominated by peoples with a European physical appearance. Today we call them Tocharians, and they spoke a range of extinct Indo-European dialects. It seems likely that there was also an Iranian element. The archaeology is rather patchy. Though there were city-based Indo-Europeans, it is clear that some of them were nomadic, and were among the amorphous tribes that the ancient Chinese referred to as the “Rong and Di.” The Yuezhi and Wusun were two mobile groups who left China in the historical period and are recorded in the traditional annals.
Meanwhile, between 500 AD and 1000 AD the Indo-European substrate of the Tarim basin was absorbed by Turkic groups coming from Mongolia. They imposed their language on the older residents, but genetically assimilated them. The modern Uyghurs are a clear hybrid population. In the papers published on the Uyghurs they shake out as about a 50/50 West/East Eurasian mix. But the DODECAD ANCESTRY PROJECT has them in the sample, and here’s how they break down by a finer grain:
Uyghurs are the third population from the bottom. Below them are the Yakut and Chinese. The Yakut are the northernmost Turkic people, and the Turkic element which settled in Xinjiang and assimilated the Tocharians was from the north. The Chinese-like element may simply be that the proto-Uyghurs were already admixed with the Han populations, or, that that element has a geography-conditional cline where the Yakuts are at an extreme. In any case, the other components of Uyghur ancestry are not East Asian. Like many European popualtions the Uyghurs have a West Asian and Northern European aspect, but they lack the South European ancestry. This is important, because it is dominant in both the Tuscans and North Italians.  If the “Roman Chinese” are genuinely Roman, they will have this specific southwest European ancestry, which will put them at a distinction from the Uyghurs.
As it is, I don’t think that’s what’s going on.  On the order of 4,000 years ago the domestication of the horse allowed for the expansion of Indo-European populations from east-central Eurasia across the steppe. Eventually they they also percolated into the underpopulated zones between the taiga and the highlands around the Himalayan massif. I believe that these were the groups which introduced nomadism and agriculture to the Tarim basin, and their genetic and cultural impact was a function of the fact that they simply demographically swamped the few hunter-gatherers who were indigenous to the region.
In the period between 1000 BC and 1000 AD the flow of people reversed. The expansion of the Han north and west, and the rise of a powerful integrated state which could bully, and could also be extorted, changed the dynamics on the steppe and in the oasis cities beyond. The vast swaths of Central Asia which were Indo-European in speech became Altaic in speech. But many of these populations absorbed the Indo-European groups, and came out genetically admixed. A clear residual of West Eurasian admixture can also be found among peoples who presumably never interacted much with Indo-Europeans, such as the Mongols, though at lower levels.
The villagers of Liqian are a different part of the story. Clearly substantial numbers of “barbarians” were assimilated into a Han identity on the northern frontier. In the case of tribes such as theXianbei and Khitan they even did the assimilating themselves, through top-down sinicizing edits. In areas like Gansu these elements contribute a greater proportion of the ancestry, and just as the Uyghur are Turkic speaking, and yet have equal portions of West and East Eurasian ancestry, so the people of Liqian are Chinese speaking, and have equal portions of West and East Eurasian ancestry.
I find it curious that the piece above didn’t mention Uyghurs at all. No idea if politics was involved, but I won’t be surprised if I get some angry Han and Uyghur comments because of what I’m saying here (I’m not totally clear what these sorts of commenters are angry about really, they’re usually pretty inchoate).
Addendum: East and West Eurasian ancestry seems pretty equitably distributed among the Uyghurs. But the number of genes which code for racially salient traits are far smaller than the total set which can be used to estimate ancestry. So within a large enough population allelic combinations across loci will segregate so that some individuals exhibit a “pure” ancestral phenotype. What colloquially might be termed a “throwback.” This little boy comes strikingly close.
* I am aware of the reputation of this newspaper. Nevertheless, it’s being picked up by the international press and some blogs, so I’m going to address it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Common phrases in Latin

Museum Day: To Live Forever @ SAMA 12/5

Family Day @ SAMA

Free w/ UTSA ID, & children <12 y.o.

Discover the ancient Egyptian underworld and create art inspired by the To Live Forever exhibition. Families are welcome to explore the collections and participate in related interactive activities on the First Sunday of every month.

Greek Threatened At Wilfrid Laurier U!!! Strange Goings-on?

Salve- Spartacurtus sum. I read this, and thought this was a travesty. I encourage all of you to voice your opinion on this, and write emails letting these University punks know how you feel. What if this happened at UTSA?
The Dean of Arts is Michael Carroll, and his email is mcarroll@wlu.ca
The Vice President Academic is Deb MacLatchy and her mail is dmaclatchy@wlu.ca
John Triggs: jtriggs AT wlu.ca

Greek Threatened At Wilfrid Laurier U!!! Strange Goings-on?:

Seal of Wilfrid Laurier University

Image via Wikipedia

I first saw this on the Classicists list … I hope it’s making the rounds of other lists; a letter from Dr. Judith Fletcher:

Dear Friends,

I am writing to you because our new Dean is thinking of eliminating senior Greek courses based on low enrollments. We have a reciprocal agreement with Waterloo that allows our students to take a semester of Greek with them, and then students come down to me. Since I am no longer in the department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, I no longer have any way of intervening in this decision other than pleading with the Dean. It seems that he has been persuaded by arguments that Greek should not continue at the third or fourth year.

I am not sure what constitutes a low enrollment, since last year I taught Homer to 10 students at both the graduate and undergraduate level. This year it looks like I will have 8 students in my Aeschylus course. Next year, given the numbers in second year Greek this year, it looks like a pretty healthy sized course as well.

I am wondering if you would be willing to write to Michael Carroll and advocate for maintaining senior Greek (third and fourth year at Wilfrid Laurier). It would help if you could also copy your letter to the Vice President Academic, Deb MacLatchy.

It doesn’t help that the present chair of Archaeology and Classical Studies is a North American archaeologist and has absolutely no desire to keep senior Greek alive. I don’t know if there is any point in copying him to the letter. I leave that to your discretion.

If I can provide you with any further information, please don’t hesitate to ask. And if you know anyone who could also write on behalf of this issue, please forward this email to them.

The Dean of Arts is Michael Carroll, and his email is mcarroll AT wlu.ca

The Vice President Academic is Deb MacLatchy and her mail is dmaclatchy AT wlu.ca

Professor Alan Sommerstein wrote to the Dean of Arts on the matter and received this reply:

Dear Professor Sommerstein,

I have passed on your comments to John Triggs, Chair of the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, to share with his colleagues.

It would appear, however, that you have been misinformed. I have checked with Professor Triggs and he tells me that no one – and certainly not the Departmental Council in ACS – has suggested that third and fourth year Greek courses be discontinued. And of course, both he and I are mystified over the suggestion that the Dean’s Office has made such a recommendation.

The Department Assembly (note: not the Dean’s Office) has recently recommended that a few courses be taken off the books (mainly because of retirements or because they no longer fit the program), but most of these are archaeology courses. It has also recommended that some low enrollment courses not be offered every year. This is a departmental decision but one that reflects a departmental concern with planning that I would be loath to overrule (and indeed will not be overruling).

… and Dr Fletcher’s gloss on the above:

Thanks Alan. You will get a message from the Dean saying that Greek is not being cut, but that it is just not on offer next year. This is technically speaking not the Dean’s decision, but the decision of the chair of archaeology, John Triggs. The Dean refuses to intervene, and insists that Greek is not being eliminated. My response is “then why is it not being offered?” We have the highest number of junior level students in Greek that we have ever had. We share courses with the university of Waterloo so that if we offer one semester of Greek they offer a corresponding semester.

There is something going on here that has absolutely nothing to do with enrollment, and more to do with politics. This is the first year in my 15 years at Laurier that a senior Greek course has not been offered.

It really is a travesty.

… and, of course, there are all those students who suddenly find themselves without options for senior Greek. What happens to their prospects, especially if they had plans on going to grad school? This goes beyond travesty — it is an incredibly evil strategy because I’m sure as everyone can see, you don’t offer Greek at ‘one end’, so students don’t see it as an option to begin with, don’t take it at all, and essentially the program dies within three years.

The email address which seems to be missing in all this is that of John Triggs: jtriggs AT wlu.ca

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Seating Arrangements: Ancient and Modern

Seating Arrangements: Ancient and Modern: "

One of the things that was being passed around the past week (during which occurred American Thanksgiving, of course) was this humourous item on Thanksgiving seating arrangements, as interpreted by College Humor:

via College Humor

… which was very interesting from a Classics point of view when one thinks about Roman triclinium seating arrangements. Here’s Pedar Foss’ diagram of same (via uSydney) … AGE, GENDER, AND STATUS DIVISIONS AT MEALTIME IN THE ROMAN HOUSE: a synopsis of the literary evidence is definitely worth a look if you’ve never visited:

Now, given that lectus imus #1 is the place of the host, that would correspond, presumably, with ‘dad’ above, putting grandpa in the locus consularis, which makes sense. Beside grandpa comes grandma, then the tipsy mom, who is pretty much the furthest away from the host (no comment). Beside dad is the creepy uncle, who is presumably only there because he is dad’s brother. The locus summus is presumably reserved for the various kids, legitimate and otherwise … not much has changed!


Where Gladiators Went to … Retire?

Where Gladiators Went to … Retire?: "

Gladiators shown on the late Roman Gladiator M...

Image via Wikipedia

I don’t think there is any new discovery lurking behind this one, but it’s interesting to bring it up as a reminder that not all gladiators died in the arena:

An ancient site in the southwestern province of Muğla is believed to be the land where gladiators lived after they retired.

Excavations carried out in Muğla’s Yatağan district uncovered the city of Stratoniceia, where the largest gymnasium in Anatolia and a graveyard for gladiators are located. The excavation is expected to shed light on gladiator fights from about 1,800 years ago.

“We believe that gladiators retired and lived in Stratoniceia. As much as it is a city of marble, Stratoniceia is also a city of gladiators,” excavation head Bilal Söğüt, a professor at the department of archeology at Denizli’s Pamukkale University, told the Anatolia news agency.

Söğüt said it has many aspects that distinguish it from other ancient sites, including the gymnasium and the fact that the city was one of gladiators.

A necropolis including tombs of gladiators was uncovered in the northern part of the city. “The gravestones found there are on display at the Muğla Museum. Among them are very famous gladiators, including Droseros, who was killed by Akhilleus, as well as Vitalius, Eumelus, Amaraios, Khrysopteros and Khrysos. Droseros had 17 victories, losing to Akhilleus in the end,” Söğüt explained.

Nowhere else in Anatolia is home to this many gladiator gravestones, he said. More gladiator gravestones are expected to be uncovered during the ongoing excavation. “We hope to discover more gladiator names in the coming years. We will have a clearer picture of the area in the future. We will discover more items here,” Söğüt said.

Muğla Provincial Culture and Tourism Director Kamil Özer said they will carry out a campaign in 2011 to promote the seven gravestones on display at the Muğla Museum. “We first plan to restore the museum building. We aim to promote the building’s gladiator hall, especially at international fairs. [Muğla’s] culture tourism is lucky to have the gravestones of these seven gladiators exhibited at the Muğla Museum,” he said. The gravestones are accompanied by images from the hit movie “Gladiator” on display at the museum.

Ancient site of retired gladiators discovered in Muğla’s Yatağan | Today’s Zaman

If you want to get an idea of what’s at the Mugla Museum, damiandude has a nice flickrset