Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lecture in Austin - “Greek Law in the 21st Century”

This was posted on rogueclassicism

What Michael Gagarin is Up To

They’re having a conference to mark his retirement at UT Austin:

The Department of Classics at The University of Texas at Austin will host a conference on “Greek Law in the 21st Century” to celebrate the career and retirement of Professor EmeritusMichael Gagarin, March 31-April 2. The event is free and open to the public with a reception on Thursday, March 31.

The conference, held in Room 116 of Waggoner Hall, will explore the current state and future directions of research on ancient Greek law. The goal of the conference is not consensus, but a constructive discussion of central issues and controversies in the field.

The study of ancient Greek law has tended to divide along national lines, with scholars from common-law countries studying Athenian law as social history and those from the civil-law countries of continental Europe more engaged in systematic analysis of Greek law along the lines of Roman law.

This conference will bring together the leading scholars in the field from the United States and Europe for an in-depth investigation of many of the fundamental issues raised by these different approaches and will explore directions for future research.

Among the issues to be raised include: What are the boundaries of the field? Does it include oral law, soft law or sacred law? How should we study law in the post-classical period? How did the Athenians define and organize their laws? How does Athenian law shed light on contemporary issues in commercial law or penal law? What direction should future work in the field take: systematic analysis, sociological investigation, or rhetorical study?

Information about the conference, including the schedule and speakers, can be viewed on the conference Web site.

An internationally recognized scholar in ancient Greek law, Gagarin taught at the university for 37 years, from 1973 to 2010. During his tenure, Gagarin was twice the chair of the Classics Department. In addition to teaching courses in the College of Liberal Arts, he taught an ancient Greek law seminar in the School of Law. He is the James R. Dougherty Jr. Centennial Professor of Classics Emeritus.

Gagarin has been president of the American Philological Association and the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, and has been awarded fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities (three times) and the Guggenheim Foundation.

He has written or edited 13 books and dozens of articles, primarily in the area of ancient Greek law and oratory. Gagarin’s most recent book, published just two weeks ago by the University of Texas Press, is “Speeches from Athenian Law,” a collection of source materials. Gagarin was also the editor-in-chief of the seven-volume ”Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome,” and is the series editor of “The Oratory of Classical Greece,” in which 12 volumes have appeared to date.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Brief History of New Year’s (ca. 2000 BC – onward)

A Brief History of New Year’s (ca. 2000 BC – onward)

By: The Scribe on January, 2008

Contrary to popular opinion, the ball dropping in Times Square hasn’t *always* marked the entrance into the New Year…

While most of the modern world could likely not conceive of the possibility of not celebrating New Year’s Day on January 1st, the reality is that celebrating the New Year in January is a relatively recent idea.

The first New Year’s celebrations were held about 4000 years ago, when the Babylonians celebrated the first new moon that appeared after the Vernal Equinox. This fell around what is now known as late March, which made logical sense to theBabylonians – it was a time when spring was just beginning and the crops could be planted, giving it an agricultural significance. The Babylonians also had a longer holiday than the modern celebrant – the New Year’s festival lasted for 11 days.

In ancient Rome, New Year’s was celebrated on March 25 – the only problem was, each emperor kept tampering with the Roman calendar and causing the sun’s synchronization with the date to shift. To get everything back in order, in 153 BC the Roman Senatedeclared that January 1st be known as the start of the New Year… but it didn’t last for long. More emperors meant more tampering, until Julius Caesar set the record straight at January 1st again, but in order to get the dates back in sync with the sun, Caesar allowed the year 46 BC to drag on for 445 days.

This was all well and good, until the Catholic Church decided that New Year’s festivities were pagan and evil. In order to provide an acceptable alternative – instead of trying to shut down the popular celebrations – the Church started to have its own celebrations on January 1st. This was often referred to as the celebration of the ‘Feast of the Circumcision of Christ’, which corresponded to December 25th as the Christ child’s birth date. Jewish tradition dictates that newborn males are circumcised on the 8th day after their birth, which in this case falls on January 1st.

Many people ring in the New Year with fireworks… and most governments give people a break about it, even if bylaws prohibit their use at any other time.

Similarly to today’s festivities, in 600 BC the ancient Greeks began using a baby to symbolize the New Year. The Greeks used the start of the new agricultural year to honorDionysus, the god of wine and fertility, and parading a baby around was intended to symbolize the god’s rebirth. Although the early Church would see this practice as pagan, the popularity of the symbol resulted in the church conceding to using a baby in their own festivities – and explaining it as symbolic of the birth of baby Jesus.

With the arrival of the Middle Ages, the Church still abhorred New Year’s celebrations, and in some areas, the festivities were banned outright. It wasn’t until around 400 years ago that Western countries actually started celebrating January 1st as a holiday again.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March 23

 On 23 March the trumpets of Mars were purified every year.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March 19

March 19 was Quinquatra. A five day festival in honor of Mars and Minerva

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 17

 March 17 was Liberalia, a festival to Liber Pater, a god sometimes identified with the Greek Bacchus.

The Liberalia (17 March) is the festival of Liber Pater and his consort Libera. The Romans celebrated Liberalia with sacrifices, processions, ribald and gauche songs, and masks which were hung on trees.
This feast celebrates the maturation of young boys to manhood. Roman boys, usually at age 14, would remove the bulla praetexta, a hollow charm of gold or leather, which parents placed about the necks of children to ward off evil spirits. At the Liberalia ceremony the young men might place the bulla on an altar (with a lock of hair or the stubble of his first shave placed inside) and dedicate it to the Lares, who were gods of the household and family. Mothers often retrieved the discarded bulla praetexta and kept it out of superstition. If the son ever achieved a public triumph, the mother could display the bulla to ward off any evil that might be wished upon the son by envious people. The young men discarded the toga praetexta, which was probably derived from Etruscan dress and was decorated with a broad purple border and worn with the bulla, by boys and girls. The boys donned the clothing of adulthood, the pure white toga virilis, or "man's gown". The garment identified him as a citizen of Rome, making him an eligible voter.
The celebration on March 17 was meant to honor Liber Pater, an ancient god of fertility and wine (like Bacchus, the Roman version of the Greek god, Dionysus). Liber Pater is also a vegetation god, responsible for protecting seed. Liber, again like Dionysius, had female priests although Liber's priests were older women. Wearing wreaths of ivy, the priestesses made special cakes, or Libya, of oil and honey which passing devotees would have them sacrifice on their behalf. Over time this feast evolved and included the goddess Libera, Liber Pater's consort, and the feast divided so that Liber governed the male seed and Libera the female. This ancient Italian ceremony was a "country" or rustic ceremony. The processional featured a large phallus which the devotees carried throughout the countryside to bring the blessing of fertility to the land and the people. The procession and the phallus were meant also to protect the crops from evil. At the end of the procession, a virtuous and respected matron placed a wreath upon the phallus.
This ancient feast is also sacred to the Nazorean Essenes. According to the Essenes, the Liberalia is held on March 27 and honors the vegetation god, Liber. Liber watches over the maturation of boys to adulthood, usually at age 17 (according to the Essenes), symbolically at the feast, the boys discard the purple-bordered togas for plain adult togas.
Related to the celebration of the Liberalia is the Procession of the Argei, celebrated on March 16 and 17. The argei were 27 sacred shrines created by the Numina (very powerful ancient gods who are divine beings without form or face) and found throughout the regions of Rome. However, modern scholars have not discovered their meaning or use. In the argei celebration, 30 "argei" dolls were fashioned from rushes into shapes resembling men; later in the year they were tossed into the river(s). The origin of this celebration is not certain, but many scholars feel that it may have been a ritualistic offering meant to appease and praise the Numa and that the 30 argei probably represented the thirty elder Roman curiae, or possibly represented the 30 Latin townships. Other ancient scholars wrote that the use of the bull-rush icons was meant to deter celebrants from human sacrifice, which was done to honor Saturn. Some historical documents indicate that the argei (the sacred places) took their names from the chieftains who came with Hercules, the Argive, to Rome and then occupied the Capitoline (Saturnian) Hill. There is no way at present to verify this information, but it does coincide with the belief that Rome was founded by the Pelasgians and the name Argos is linked to that group.
While Liberalia is a relatively unknown event in the modern time, references to Liberalia and the Roman goddess Libera are still found today online and in astrology.

Historical Thursday: Claw of Archimedes

from There, I Fixed It.

Historical Thursday: Claw of Archimedes: "

Let’s take a trip to Sicily, where the cannoli flow like water and every family is actually a ‘family.’ Before the island decided to settle for a life of organized crime it was home to the ancient Greek city of Syracuse, a port on the southeastern corner of the island. During the city’s siege in 214 BC, mathematician and engineer Archimedes devised a wily plan to fend off Roman ships; tossing them around with a giant claw.

white trash repairs - Historical Thursday: Claw of Archimedes

A brief history lesson: Although Syracuse was a province of the Roman Republic, newly crowned King Hieronymus fell in with a bad crowd. His anti-Roman rhetoric upset the guys in charge and they consequently decided to reclaim the city for their own.

The city was well prepared for this attack. Knowing that their greatest weakness was the ramparts along the coast and hearing whispers newly invented Roman siege ships, Archimedes came up with a plan. He invented an anti-siege device to lay waste to any ship that attempted to get within proximity of the city walls. Despite the Roman’s constant attempts to scale the walls with ship-mounted ladders and grappling hooks, the Claw of Archimedes prevailed.

white trash repairs - Historical Thursday: Claw of Archimedes

The exact workings of the claw is unknown, but historians and scholars have maintained that it’s a crane-like device strong enough to lift ships out of the water. Mounted on the top of the battlements, the claw consists of a long rod with a grappling hook on one end and a counterweight on the other. When a ship comes within reach, the arm swings into place and attaches itself to the hull. What happens next is up for debate, but most believe the claw either flipped the enemy ship while it was still in the water, or was actually powerful enough to lift the entire ship out of the water and drop down to its doom.

white trash repairs - Historical Thursday: Claw of Archimedes

A student project from the University of Reggio Calabria

A crushing success, Archimedes’ Claw kept the Roman invaders at bay for a full two years. When it looked like a stalemate was in order, the Romans caught a break. During a festival, a few sneaksy soldiers were able to scale the walls on the land side of the city and open the gates from within. Although there were express instructions not to harm the inventor of the device, a Roman guard unwittingly killed Archimedes, not knowing who he was.

While there has never been any conclusive proof of the device’s existence, schools and television programs around the world have made recreations of the device in recent years. All of the neo-claws have worked, reinforcing the possibility of its existence and use.

white trash repairs - Historical Thursday: Claw of Archimedes

The claw in (tiny) action

Pictures and Information courtesy of: NYU and Wikipedia.

As always, if YOU have an idea for a Historical Thursday, let me know at thereifixedit@gmail.com