Friday, March 28, 2003

Historical Causation in Herodotus

By Carol Abernathy, Tulane University

The ancients themselves criticized Herodotus methods. Thucydides snidely dismissed his predecessor by refusing to include to mythodes, "mythical lore," in his history of the Peloponnesian War. Aristotle is well known for giving Herodotus the title "father of history," but in his Poetics it is clear Aristotle meant this honor as a dubious one. Aristotle relegates Herodotus to the company not of historians in the modern sense but rather of mere chroniclers. He intimates that the creative process, poiesis, is lacking in Herodotus and in history in general so that "poetry is something more philosophic and of graver import than history, since its statements are of the nature rather of universals, whereas those of history are singulars" (Poetics 51a36). Aristotle set the academic approach to Herodotus for centuries. Scholars, even though fascinated by the wealth of information in the Histories, largely agreed with the assessment of Herodotus as expressed by Thucydides and Aristotle.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Cleopatra: from history to myth

By Mary Beard, Newnham College

I was reading Mary Beards essay about Cleopatra and found descriptions of several Roman triumphs particuarly illluminating.

"Julius Caesar, in his triumph of 46BC, had treated the gawping crowds to a series of pictures of the last moments of his rivals in civil war: Cato disembowelling himself "like a wild beast", Scipio throwing himself into the sea, Petreius stabbing himself at dinner. (It is a striking insight into Roman notions of good taste that one ancient commentator should note that Caesar refrained from displaying the names of these casualties - apparently that would have been too much for the sensibilities of the audience.) "

"In AD118, the Emperor Trajan enjoyed a posthumous triumph for his victories over the Parthians. In its bizarre procession, the part of the triumphant Emperor in his chariot was played by a dummy."

"In 61BC, for example, in the triumph of Pompey the Great - then victorious over King Mithridates, though later defeated by his arch-rival Julius Caesar in the civil wars of the early 40sBC - the extravagance of the artwork proved counterproductive in the eyes of some. In his encyclopedic Natural History, Pliny the Elder gleefully bemoaned the effeminate luxury of one particular portrait of Pompey that was carried in the procession: it was a head made entirely of pearls and was, Pliny crowed, an uncomfortable omen of Pompey's ultimate, undignified fate - to be beheaded by a eunuch on the shores of Egypt.

"In a famous procession in the 2nd century BC, the eyes of the crowd all fell, not on the Roman victor, but on the pathetic infant sons of the defeated Eastern king, who were walking with the captives."

The article goes on to speculate about the problems a triumph including Cleopatra would pose for Octavian:

"Octavian must have known of the impact that Cleopatra's sister, Arsinoe had made when she was displayed in Julius Caesars procession in 46BC: no rejoicing at her well-deserved fate, but pity and sympathy at the sight of an exotic princess in chains, and tears shed by the onlookers as her misfortune reminded them of what they themselves had suffered in the wars."

So, the article points out, Cleopatras last public appearance in the city of Rome was in the form of a wax model, complete with model asp, carried in the victory parade of Octavian in 29BC.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Oracula Sibyllina: Aspects of Their History and Political Exploitation

By Brian Muraresku, Brown University

"In their present form, the Sibylline Oracles represent a vast accumulation of prophecies dating from both their archaic origins during Romes formative years and later in the first centuries A.D. when Jewish and Christian interpolations were made. Since the books themselves are directly quoted only once by our extant ancient sources, it is difficult to discern the exact form and content of the ancient Roman version and, moreover, the level of divergence from our existing collection. After a fire in the temple Jupiter Optimus Maximus consumed the Libri Sibyllini in 83 B.C., an interesting series of events transpired that elucidates the true Roman conception of the books author(s) and format, as opposed to the more mythical accounts that are rendered in Virgils Aeneid VI. The treatment of the oracles after 76 B.C. (when they were replaced) down through the principate of Augustus also demonstrates their susceptibility to political exploitation at the hands of a patrician senate, in an attempt to assert its waning authority amidst civil wars.

Perception and Persecution in the Roman Empire: The Edict of Decius

By Joshua Burns, New York University

"The earliest sources on the Decian persecution fall strictly into the category of Christian literature, a fact that naturally complicates any attempt to assume an objective point of view. Contemporary pagan-authored works are nearly void of any discussion of Decius reign, although it is quite plausible that the words of Ammianus Marcellinus and the Historia Augusta were in later generations subjected to revisions with intent to purge all memory of the accursed emperor and his activities."

Thursday, March 20, 2003

"Antiqua Medicina: Aspects in Ancient Medicine"

As a profession, medicine was more highly regarded in Greece than in Rome, however physicians were basically craftsmen, probably enjoying some esteem among their customers, but not being part of the socio-political elite. Roman doctors did not fare so well. Many doctors were freed Greek slaves, hence the social standing of doctors was quite low. Because cure rates were so low, many people were skeptical or even scornful of doctors. Their skepticism is easily understood. Roman literature contains much which tells us about the reactions of individuals to medicine and doctors. To listen to the Roman authors is to hear tales of quackery at all levels of society.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

The Military Institutions of the Romans

By Flavius Vegetius Renatus

Victory in war does not depend entirely upon numbers or mere courage; only skill and discipline will insure it. We find that the Romans owed the conquest of the world to no other cause than continual military training, exact observance of discipline in their camps and unwearied cultivation of the other arts of war. Without these, what chance would the inconsiderable numbers of the Roman armies have had against the multitudes of the Gauls? Or with what success would their small size have been opposed to the prodigious stature of the Germans? The Spaniards surpassed us not only in numbers, but in physical strength. We were always inferior to the Africans in wealth and unequal to them in deception and stratagem. And the Greeks, indisputably, were far superior to us in skill in arts and all kinds of knowledge.

The Military Affairs of Ancient Rome and Roman Art of War in Caesars Time

Author: By Lt. Col. S.G. Brady

Composed exclusively of some drafted, but more Roman citizen volunteers, recruited from Italy and mainly from the valley of the Po, members of the legions became professional soldiers who, enlisted for a definite term of years, looked forward to a share in all booty taken and retirement allowances of land and money. In 58 B. C., Caesar had six legions, eight in 58-57 B. C., and ten in 53 B. C. All legions were numbered according to date of enlistment and, in the time of the Empire, received in addition distinguishing names such as "Victrix", in much the same manner as the "Black Watch," "The Foreign Legion," "The Rough Riders," and "The Red One" etc.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Halting the Decline: The similarities between American and Roman History

Dr. J. Rufus Fears, professor of classics at the University of Oklahoma and G.T. and Libby Blankenship Professor of the History of Liberty, observes, "Both the Athenian democracy, the great nation of Sparta and the Roman republic rested upon the idea that freedom is responsibility. It is responsibility to be involved in politics; it is responsibility to defend your country. It was also seen in the willingness of a people to accept leaders who were demonstrably corrupt, who lacked moral authority, who were interested only in themselves, and who did not lead but rather followed public opinion. This too was a sign a people losing its liberty."

The Vergilian Society seeks papers on the theme of Vergil and Greco-Roman religion for 2004 Annual Meeting

For its panel session at the annual meeting in 2004, the Vergilian Society invites submission of abstracts of papers on the theme of Vergil and Greco-Roman religion. The goal of the panel is to explore Vergil as a source for Greco-Roman religion and the poet's own religious views. Religion is defined broadly. We welcome papers on philosophy as well as on cult, ritual, and individual divinities. Broader issues such as Vergils attitude towards fate, free will, and divine justice would be at home on this panel. So too would papers dealing with the archaeology of religion in Vergil. This would include historical or archaeological papers dealing with the "accuracy" of Vergils account of early Roman cult. It is a prime goal of the panel to place Vergils use and attitude towards religion within the context of the Augustan revival of traditional Roman religion. Thus we would also be interested in papers treating the relationship of Vergil to such major Augustan monuments as the Ara Pacis and such Augustan themes as Pietas. Archeologists and ancient historians as well as classicists are encouraged to submit abstracts for consideration.

Fourth Annual Symposium on Roman Imperial Ideology

Dates: May 22 - 26, 2003

The Symposium on Roman Imperial Ideology is intended to provide a forum for the presenta tion of papers on all aspects of the broad scope of the study of imperial ideology. This includes the Greek and Hellenistic background, the Roman republic, empire, and late antiquity.

"The Etruscan Presence in Magna Graecia"

Dates: June 19 - June 21, 2003

Etruscan presence in Southern Italy is attested in such sites as Pompeii, Capua, Sorrento (Sirens), Pontecagnano, Fratte, Nocera and Nola. In June 2003, the Vergilian Society will present a four-day symposium at the Villa Vergiliana in Cuma, Italy focusing on the Etruscan presence in Southern Italy and Sicily in the material and spiritual culture of Southern Italy and Sicily between the Eighth and Second centuries BC, and their subsequent influence. Special emphasis will be placed on mythical and symbolic themes as reflected in social relations and views of the afterlife, both directly and as a medium of transition between cultures, in their contributions to architecture, literature, religion, and material culture in the region.


Dartmouth College, July 9-17, 2003

Roman related topics:
Militarism and the Roman Republic: Incentives and Constraints
Augustus, the Ara Pacis, and the End of the Roman Republic
What Makes a Good Historical Novel? The Allure of Republican Rome
From Clodia to Julia: Women in the Roman Revolution
A Novelist Looks at Catullus and the Late Roman Republic
The Roman Republic and the Changing Nature of Roman Virtue

The number of participants in the full Institute will be limited to a maximum of 70, who will also take one of the seminars in the weekend Symposium. The number of participants in the Symposium alone will be limited to a maximum of 40.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Roman Textiles or "See Rome and Dye!"

The Roman playwright Plautus wrote a comedy (Epidicus) in which the slave of this name lists colors and textiles to his master, currently in vogue amongst Roman women. Colors referred to include caltulus (marigold yellow); crocotulus (reddish orange); carinus (walnut brown); cerinus (brownish-yellow); cumatilis (sea blue) and caesicius (sky blue). Elsewhere in the same play, Plautus mentions flamarii, violarii and molocinarii. These people belonged to dye collegia responsible for dyeing reddish orange, a violet hue of purple and mauve, respectively.

From this it can be seen that, not only were there quite a number of different materials available, which could be gauzy, loosely woven (ralla) or close-woven (spissa) but that the colors were quite sophisticated. Nor was the interest in dyed fabrics limited to women. There is a record of one P. Lentulus Spinther being one of the first to use the double-dyed purple (purpureae dibapha Tyria) for his toga when he was curile aedile in 63 BC.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Roads From Rome

Roman road-building has an excellent reputation, and on the whole it is justified. Examination of the remains of many roads over the last century or so has shown that in Britain, Roman roads were largely well-metalled, with good drainage, and aligned so that they took a fairly direct line between origin and destination. Yet there are many misconceptions about how the roads were designed. The reputation of the Romans for order has led some to believe that the road network demonstrates a grand geometric strategy, with roads imposed on the landscape in a series of regular, rectangular patterns. However, at many towns, such as Silchester, Verulamium, Leicester and Ilchester, roads which arrive at an oblique angle change direction at the town gate or boundary to match the street grid. This indicates that the grids predate the roads, and that roads were built to serve settlements, at least the larger ones, rather than being arbitrarily imposed across the landscape.

Roman roads also changed over time. The network observed today through survey and archaeology is the cumulative result of four centuries of development. At the start of the period, the conquering Roman army would not have waited for well-engineered roads to be built before moving into enemy territory--it would have used any suitable local tracks. As the front line advanced, the road builders would have followed, initially with a rapidly-built--probably lightly-metalled - road to guarantee the armys supply line. More substantial roads would only be built, over the top of the earlier road, once a region was secured.

The Role of Villa Owners in the Romanization of the Native Religion in Britain

One of the most prominent features of Romanization in the British countryside during the occupation were the Romanized villas, symbolizing the benefits of adopting classical lifestyles. Most of these structures represent the native aristocracys desire to exhibit and maintain their status and prestige through the construction of houses with Roman-style architecture and materials. The construction of Romano-Celtic temples was probably an extension of this pro-Roman attitude: structures erected by the aristocracy to emphasize their growing romanitas. One of the wealthiest villas in Gloucestershire which does show the distinction between different groups of residents can be found at Chedworth. A Romano-Celtic temple has also been discovered at Chedworth. The use of pits for votive dedications during the Iron Age in Britain is well attested, and such a dedication at this Romano-Celtic temple suggests that the sanctity of the site predates the building. Further evidence for the continuity of sanctity was a stone relief of a hunter with a dog and stag, which was one of the most notable finds from the site. There may well have been a native hunting deity connected with the shrine, for example Silvanus, but the proximity to the Coln River may also indicate a water cult. The erection of this temple structure was probably meant to allow the villa owner to appear more Romanized and to advertise his social, financial and possibly political status and success. Owing to the continuity of sanctity at the site, it is unlikely that the rituals and beliefs centered there would have changed, with the majority of the population continuing to revere the local deities.

Catapults in Greek and Roman Antiquity

Catapults were invented about 400 BC in the powerful Greek town Syracus under Dionysios I (ca. 430-367 BC). The Greek engineers first constructed a comparatively small machine, the gastraphetes, sort of a crossbow. The gastraphetes was powered by a specially large composite bow. The military effect of the new weapon during the siege of Motya (Sicily) 397 BC encouraged the Greek engineers to enlarge the machine further. They put a larger gastraphetes on a carriage and added a windlass to cock the heavier machine. Certain physical barriers prevented further enlargement of the composite bow. Therefore in mid-fourth century BC torsion springs were introduced instead of the composite bow. The torsion spring consisted of a bundle of rope made from horse-hair or sinew. Such a spring could be enlarged indefinitely. The new catapults were equiped now with two torsion springs powering the two arms of the catapult. Very soon the new design superseded the old gastraphetes machines. Alexander the Great already employed torsion spring catapults on his campaigns. All Hellenistic armies and all powerful Greek cities soon owned a park of torsion artillery. Inscriptions from the Chalkothek on the Acropolis of Athens first mention torsion spring catapults there about 330 BC. In the 3rd century BC the two main types of catapults were standardized: the euthytonon for shooting arrows and the palintonon for throwing stone balls. They now could be built after the standard calibration formulae layed down in contemporary technical treatises. In this form Carthage and Rome also adopted the heavy weapons. This type of Hellenistic torsion artillery still was employed under Augustus, when Vitruvius wrote his work. About 100 AD the Romans redesigned the torsion artillery, developing quite different new arrow-shooting machines.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Athens and Pompey: A Political Relationship by Michael Hoff

In the spring of 62, following the Mithradatic War and the re-establishment of the pax Romana in the eastern provinces, Pompey returned triumphantly to Italy, allowing for several stopovers en route. Plutarch catalogues the stops from east to west and the benefactions Pompey made (Pomp. 42, 7-11): in Mytilene, he restored freedom to the city and the citizens honored him with an inscription for "having put an end by land and sea to the wars besetting the world." On Rhodes he attended the philosophical schools and bestowed a talent on each philosopher, according to Plutarch. Pompey then arrived in Athens where he reportedly provided a similar benefaction to the philosophers in residence there. Plutarch (42,11) reports that Pompey donated 50 talents to the city to help in its restoration. Pompeys purpose in these private and civic endowments, according to Plutarch, was to enhance his reputation. Undoubtedly Plutarch is correct in his simple assessment, but in light of other references to his benefactions in Athens, Pompey was sowing the seeds of allegiance owed to him by the cities of the Greek East in his upcoming war against Caesar in 48.

Impersonating the Dead: Mimes at Roman Funerals by Geoffrey S. Sumi

"ROMAN ARISTOCRATIC AND IMPERIAL FUNERALS often had a theatrical quality to them. We are told of the presence of musicians and dancing satyrs as part of the procession (pompa) and the excessive, even feigned grief, on the part of mourners, some of whom were professionals. Most striking of all was the performance of an actor, a funerary mime, who donned a mask that portrayed the likeness of the deceased and wore clothing that represented the highest offices and honors that the deceased had achieved. While dressed in this manner, the actor impersonated the deceased, imitating, and sometimes mocking, his well-known physical characteristics and movements and his words. To our modern sensibilities such a custom might seem odd, but a recent commentator on Roman aristocratic funerals has pointed out how the tone of a single funeral celebration ranged from the patriotic and somber, to sad, to joyous and festive. The performance of this funerary mime, in which the dead momentarily came back to life in vivid form, apparently could resurrect the full range of emotions on display at a Roman funeral."

Falling Masts, Rising Masters: The Ethnography of Virtue in Caesars Account of the Veneti by Brice Erickson

This paper examines the respective roles of technology and virtus in Caesars presentation of the Venetic defeat. The first section establishes that Caesar conceived of the sea battle fought against the Veneti as a contest about virtus. The next section argues that the technology of enemy boat design detailed in an ethnographic passage is represented by Caesar as a source of Venetic strength in place of true fighting spirit. This naval ethnography, dismissed by several commentators as an afterthought awkwardly inserted into the text, is, on the contrary, the cornerstone of a sophisticated exposition on the theme of native technological strength failing to compensate for a lack of virtus. Caesars presentation of the final defeat of the Veneti at sea, the subject of the third section, exposes native weakness in a remarkable scene wherein falling masts and sudden calm metaphorically cast enemy failure within a gendered opposition of hard and soft.

The Politics of Latin Literature: Writing, Identity, and Empire in Ancient Rome (review)

In reviewing this book by Thomas Habinek, Barbara Gold of Hamilton College writes: "Habinek enters into a fray that has long simmered in the discipline of Classics but that boiled up into a full-scale battle with the publication of Martin Bernals Black Athena. Habinek contends that Classical scholars idealizing view of the ancient world (more Greece than Rome) and their isolation of Latin literature from Roman culture has allowed them to ignore "the social implications of their own practice" , a comfortable, ahistoricized position that militates against reading Latin literature in a sociopolitical framework."

Women, Ethnicity and Power in the Roman Empire by David Konstan

Plutarch in his Virtues of Women is among those who flatly reject the Aristotelian view, affirming instead that "the virtue of a man and a woman is one and the same." Nevertheless, Plutarchs examples are chiefly instances of courage, almost invariably characterize women as passively enduring oppression and torture, for example by taking their husbands'place in prison (247 A-C, of Etruscan women; cf. Valerius Maximus 4.6.ext.3), or else by such stratagems as concealing weapons under their garments so as to enable men to mount a resistance. If women are as brave as men, and brave in the same sense of the term, they still manifest their valor in actions conformable to a weaker and less aggressive nature. The one case in which women actually take up arms, under the leadership of the Argive poetess Telesilla, proves the rule. Just as certain festivals permit reversals of socially sanctioned roles for limited periods of time and in ritually controlled circumstances, so too, it is implied, the spectacle of women actively engaged in battle and defeating male enemies is a temporary inversion of the natural order.

Being Greek under Rome: Cultural Identity, the Second Sophistic, and the Development of Empire (review)

Judith Perkins writes of this collection of essays, "While Goldhill employs a tripartite schema for the book's organization, the essays fall into two subsets. One set provides macroanalyses that work to expose the cultural processes and strategies that worked to produce and maintain the historical moment, the glue of empire, so to speak. In this group are Goldhil's own chapter on the erotic gaze, Froma Zeitlins on visions of Homer, Tim Whitmarshs on the trope of exile, and Onno van Nijfs on athletics and festivals. The other set offers microanalyses of the ways individuals negotiated the thicket of overlapping allegiances and cultural positions confronting them during this period filled with the tensions of social and political transformation. To this group belong John Hendersons chapter on Polybius (a strength of the collection is its citation of Hellenistic antecedents throughout), Maud Gleasons on Josephus, Rebecca Prestons on Plutarch, Jas; Elsners on the DeDeaSyria, and Seth Schwartzs on rabbis in Greco-Roman cities."

The Roman Era in Britain by John Ward

Politically, the Roman era in Britain began with the Claudian Conquest in A.D. 43, and ended with the isolation of the country from the rest of the decaying empire consequent upon the passing of northern Gaul into the hands of the Trans-Rhenish barbarians in A.D. 406-410. But Roman influence through intercourse with the Continent preceded the former event, and Britain continued to be Roman after the latter event, remaining so, harassed by foes from without and probably by dissensions within, until the English conquest.

Anecdotes about King Romulus by J. Linderski

In the first book of his Annals, L. Piso Frugi wrote, "They say that the same Romulus, when he was invited to dinner, did not drink much because he had business on the following day. They [i.e., his dinner companions] tell him: if all men did this, Romulus, wine would be cheaper. He replied: No indeed! It would be dear if everyone drank as much as he wished; for I drank as much as I wished."