Thursday, May 25, 2006

Dr. Philip Daileader Teaching Company course on the Early Middle Ages fascinating!

I began listening to the Teaching Company course ?The Early Middle Ages? presented by Dr. Philip Daileader of the College of William and Mary and became almost immediately intrigued by a discussion of the writings of Belgian historian Henri Pirenne. Unlike Edward Gibbon who attributed the fall of the Roman Empire to a loss of moral fiber and incursion by the Germanic barbarians, Pirenne postulates that the fall didn?t really occur until the 7th and 8th centuries and attributes the eventual decay of European urban centers to the disruption of international trade networks brought about by the Muslim conquest of the Mediterranean region. Pirenne based this thesis, outlined in his book ?Mohammed and Charlemagne? published in 1937, on such observations as the disappearance of gold coin and papyrus north of the Alps that he points to as a clear indication that Europeans no longer had access to the richer areas of the Mediterranean during this time.

Lecture 2 about the Early Middle Ages focused on Diocletian?s reforms to the economic and social structures of the Roman Empire in his attempt to strengthen the empire through authoritarian means. As most of my study of the Roman Empire has been centered on the late Republican period, I know very little about the third century CE except that Diocletian formed a tetrarchy in an attempt to make management of the Roman Empire more efficient and responsive. But, today I learned about Diocletian?s more radical social and economic reforms that essentially lay the foundation for development of the feudal system. Dr. Daileader explained that Roman taxation was based on land production so it was detrimental to have citizens abandoning their farms and migrating to the cities looking for better opportunities. So Diocletian enactied laws that essentially bound people to the land and made them responsible for whatever taxes the land should be capable of producing. He then empowered large landowners to act as judicial officers to not only handle legal problems that might arise on the estate but eventually to collect taxes (ostensibly for Rome although abuse was almost immediate) as well (I couldn?t help but envision the Sheriff of Nottingham!). Diocletian implemented this system by conducting an empire-wide census that required people to register at their place of origin.

Diocletian also analyzed the economy and designated certain occupations as essential to the empire. For people engaged in these occupations, he made it mandatory that their family members would succeed them in the business if the primary provider died. For example, he determined that baking bread was essential to the empire so all sons of bakers had to become bakers to ensure that an adequate amount of the commodity would always be produced.

As for Diocletian himself, I guess he succeeded in requiring petitioners to prostrate themselves in front of his throne (apparently 3rd century CE Romans were more easy to manipulate than the Macedonians of Alexander the Great?s time!), kiss the hem of his gown, and call him ?Lord and God?. No more of this ?princeps? business!

More interesting details today in Dr. Daileader?s lecture about the Emperor Julian?s efforts to reestablish paganism as the religion of choice in the 4th century. He described how Julian issued an edict that restricted the teaching of classical Greek literature to only pagan tutors. Julian thought that the elite considered Greek literature the very foundation of a proper education so would hire pagan tutors for their children if the study of Greek literature was not available from anyone else. These pagan tutors would then influence their charges much in the same way Julian himself was influenced by a pagan tutor.

Dr. Daileader said in response to this edict, Christian tutors took passages of the gospels and transformed them into examples of Greek tragedies, comedies, and Homeric epics so their students would have an understanding of these classical literary forms. I wonder if any of those efforts are extant?

I wish modern educational institutions would place as much importance on the elements of a classical education as the Romans did!

Trajan's Squares exhibit part of Italian June in Bucharest

BUCHAREST DAILY NEWS: "The Italian Embassy will hold a series of cultural events in Bucharest throughout June, in an effort to emphasize the partnership between Romania and Italy.
Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini suggested that the series of events that encompass cultural happenings in some of the most popular locations in Bucharest are part of a greater strategy of making the Italian culture known to Romanians.

The events will start on May 30, when the National History Museum will inaugurate an exhibition entitled "Traian's Squares," which will depict one of the most flourishing epochs of ancient Rome. The History Museum will also host a show performed by Faber Theatre at 3 p.m. The Italian performing also announced their participation for the Theater Festival in Sibiu. Also on June 1, the Italian Cultural Institute will host a photography exhibition by Italian artist Maurizio Biancarelli under the auspices of Perugia Province. On June 2, on the occasion of the Italian National Day, the ambassador will host a reception that will include a demonstration of flag throwers from Gubbio, in the region of Umbria. The flag throwers will also demonstrate their talent on June 4 with a show beginning at 12 p.m. at Charles de Gaulle Square. On June 8, the Italian Embassy will host the illumination of the Romanian Athenaeum. Green Hours, which is well known for its jazz concerts and experimental theater evenings, will also host the tango concert of the Italian "Nuovo Tango Ensamble" on June 9. The "Summer Celebration" will be opened by I Solisti Veneti, supported by the George Enescu Philarmonic.
Professor Valerio Massimo Manfredi will hold a press conference at the Italian Cultural Institute. According to Ambassador Daniele Mancini, Massimo Manfredi is a well-known historian and archaeologist and is one of the most translated writers in his field. The writer is to present his second most recent novel, "Il Tirano," which is a study of the island of Sicily before the Roman conquest."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Matthew B. Roller - Horizontal Women: Posture and Sex in the Roman Convivium - American Journal of Philology 124:3

American Journal of Philology 124:3: "Contrary to the view that "respectable" women dined seated until the Augustan era, I argue that a women (of any status) could always dine reclining alongside a man, and that this signifies a licit sexual connection. The sitting posture, seen mostly in sub-elite visual representations, introduces further complexities of practice and ideology. In general, postures attributed to women function more as indicators of sexual mores than as direct representations of social practice?."

"...To begin with the earliest Roman literature, several Plautine dramas (late third to early second century B.C.E.) contain convivial scenes in which high-status males dine and drink while reclining in one another's company and alongside courtesans. The convivium is thus a place where such males enjoy a nexus of pleasures: wine, food, companionship, and the prospect (at least) of sex. 8 These convivial pleasures persist in the late republic as well.

Cicero, early in his treatise on the ideal orator (De Or. 1.27), contrasts such pleasures with more serious activities and concerns (i.e., negotia). He relates that, when he was a young man, the senior senator and orator Cotta regaled him with a story from Cotta's own youth. Cotta said that he himself had participated one day in a gloomy and difficult discussion with certain eminences grises regarding the condition of the state. Following this discussion, however, when the party repaired to the dining couches, the host Crassus dispelled the prevailing gloom with his humanity, urbanity, and pleasantness. Cotta contrasts these moods as follows: "in the company of these men the day seemed to have been spent in the senate-house, while the dinner party seemed to have been spent at [a suburban villa in] Tusculum." 9 That is, the grave affairs of state (negotia), which filled the day's conversation, stereotypically occupied the curia at the political heart of the Roman republican forum, while the pleasurable, cheerful fellowship of the evening convivium (otium) better suited a country villa. Cicero himself, says Plutarch (Cic. 8.4), almost never reclined for dinner before sundown, pleading a bad stomach and also his ascholia (i.e., negotia) as keeping him away. Julius Caesar, a busy man, rather eccentrically combined business with pleasure: Plutarch remarks upon the fact that he regularly dealt with his correspondence while reclining at dinner. 10

Moving onward, Horace contrasts otium and negotium, though not necessarily in these terms, in some of his dinner-invitation poems (e.g., Carm. 2.11, 3.8, 3.29), for he dangles before his addressee?in each case, a magistrate busy with public affairs?the enticements of companionship, sex, and especially wine, requesting that he seize these pleasures and yield for the evening his anxious cares on behalf of the state. 11 Likewise, one declamation in the elder Seneca's collection (Cont. 9.2) posits that a provincial governor executed a criminal in the midst of a convivium at a prostitute's request. Many of the declaimers who handle this theme explore the shocking collapse of the otium/negotium distinction that this situation envisions. For judicial matters, such as punishing criminals, belong in the forum, not the dining room; they should be done by daylight, not at night, and so on. 12 The younger Seneca, in Ep. 71.21, contrasts "lying in a convivium" with "lying on the rack" (i.e., for torture). The former, he acknowledges, is pleasant while the latter is unpleasant, yet the two kinds of reclining are indifferent in regard to Stoic moral value. Finally, Martial (Epig. 14.135) gives voice to an outfit of dining-clothes (cenatoria), which primly defines its proper realm by contrast with "serious" business: "neither the forum nor going to bail are familiar to us: our job is to recline on embroidered couches." 13 These passages are purely illustrative, and by no means exhaustive; they merely show how elite Romans consistently slotted conviviality into the category of otium and regarded it as encompassing a variety of specific pleasures: wine, food, conversation, companionship, sex. They also show how such Romans distinguished conviviality broadly, and the reclining posture that symbolizes it, from activities they perceived as serious or mundane (i.e. negotia), or unpleasant."

"...The next body of evidence dates from the late republic. In this period, too, we find women of diverse social and sexual statuses reclining alongside elite males at convivia. Certainly women of low status figure among these. In his second Catilinarian oration (Cat. 2.10), delivered in 63 B.C.E., Cicero invokes the specter of a debauched convivium in which wine-soaked, gluttonous, perfume-drenched followers of Catiline, exhausted by their illicit sexual exertions, embrace "shameless women" as they recline, plotting murder and fiery destruction for the city. Similarly, in a letter of 46 B.C.E., Cicero describes a convivium at the house of Volumnius Eutrapelus in Rome, attended by a number of male aristocrats, in which the actress and courtesan Cytheris was also present and reclining to dine: infra Eutrapelum Cytheris accubuit. . . non me hercule suspicatus sum illam adfore (Fam. 9.26.2). Bradley (1998, 47) explains that Cytheris reclined because "[s]he was an actress, and for a woman of her profession, or that of a meretrix, the conventions of respectable society did not apply," where by "conventions of respectable society," he presumably means the "strict protocol" (mentioned in the same paragraph), whereby the dutiful, subordinate wife sat while her husband reclined. Cytheris was assuredly not married to Eutrapelus but was his freedwoman and was almost certainly his sexual partner at one time or another. 46<>Att. 5.1), Cicero describes the rudeness of Atticus' sister Pomponia to her husband Quintus Cicero, Marcus' brother, during a day the three spent together while traveling. First, Marcus reports, she harshly rejected Quintus' suggestion that the three collectively host a dinner. Then she refused to join the Cicero brothers and their guests as they reclined for a meal and rejected food that Quintus sent her from the table. Finally, to cap it all, she refused to sleep with Quintus. 47 Marcus makes clear that at every stage Pomponia behaved unreasonably, unsociably, and undutifully. He faults her, then, not merely for refusing to recline with Quintus among the dinner company and then refusing to retire to bed with him. By commenting also on the harshness of her words and on her rejection of food sent her from the table, Marcus seems to invoke a larger social expectation or norm that wives (at least elite ones) were equal partners with their husbands in the pleasure and leisure of the convivium. They should enjoy the same nourishment (hence the gesture of sending food), the same company and conversation, and presumably the same sexual titillation (hence the expectation of retiring to bed together) that normatively characterize the convivial experience for reclining men. These are precisely the expectations that Plautus' Alcmena invoked in conversation with her own spouse. 48 This Plautine and Ciceronian evidence begins to suggest a pattern. Since, in all these passages, the woman who reclines (or is expected to recline) alongside a man on a dining couch is known or likely to be sexually attached to him, it is tempting to propose that the converse is true: namely, a man and woman who recline together on the same couch in a convivial setting thereby signal their sexual connection, regardless of the woman's status. Such a partnership presents itself as "licit"?i.e., involving a man and women who can have sex without stuprum. "Licit" relationships range from marriage proper to quasi-marital relationships (concubinatus or contubernium), to the sexual use of one's own or others' slaves, to prostitution. 49 Conversely, it is a grave transgression if a couple who cannot have licit sex reclines together to dine, for their posture and juxtaposition would be taken to imply that they do, nevertheless, have sex and so are guilty of stuprum. 50< This interpretation is incompatible with the scholarly communis opinio (itself an interpretation of Varro and Valerius) that "respectable" women dined seated in the republican period. I suggest, rather, that any women not precluded under the rubric of stuprum, including both "respectable" ones (i.e., wives) and "non-respectable" ones (e.g., prostitutes), could and did dine reclining alongside their male sexual partners, thereby visibly affirming the existence and social legitimacy of that partnership. Nevertheless, crucial differences remain between women at the high and low ends of this social spectrum. Slave prostitutes, for instance, being inherently instrumental to the pleasure of the privileged, reclining males, can only have reclined on the males' sufferance and only if they thereby made an especially significant contribution to the males' convivial pleasure (e.g., by charging up the erotic atmosphere or providing entertainment). Presumably they could be reduced to standing in service, or be required to do something entirely else, at any time. At the other social extreme, elite wives, in reclining alongside their husbands in convivia, thereby participated substantially or fully in the leisure and various pleasures of the event. They benefited from the slaves' attention no less than their husbands; they shared the same food, drink, entertainment, and erotic subjectivity as their husbands; and?on the evidence of Pomponia?they substantially controlled their own level of engagement, far from being automatically subject to their husbands' commands or wishes. What modes of participation might have been available to a socially intermediate figure like Cytheris?neither a slave nor a wife, but a freedwoman who socialized at the highest levels of elite male society?is less clear, though we catch sight of her reclining alongside her patron and (probable) sexual partner, apparently participating fully.

Representations of women's conviviality become more plentiful in Augustan and imperial texts. These representations confirm that a woman's dining posture?at least in elite male company?expresses her sexuality, but they show considerable ambivalence about the consequences of such expression. Especially striking are several tableaux in Ovid's elegiac poetry where the male lover, reclining in a convivium, observes his beloved reclining on another couch with another man and plots to seduce her. In Amores 1.4, the woman in question is explicitly described as reclining alongside a man, the image of her "warm[ing] the breast of another, placed close below him" (alteriusque sinus apte subiecta fovebis? v. 5), and the other gestures of intimacy that the poet-lover observes or fears that the two may exchange (vv. 4-6, 15-16, 29-30, 33-44) suggest that readers would understand this couple as reclining in close physical contact, with the man at the head of the couch and the woman slightly toward the foot, her back against his chest. That is, he reclines above her (in the high position on the couch) and she below him (in the low position). Clearly, this positioning facilitates physical contact, among other things. 51The lover, for his part, proposes a set of signals that he and his beloved might exchange, across the distance that separates them, to signify their attraction and perhaps set up a tryst. A similar tableau in the Heroides (16.217-58) depicts a banquet in Sparta in which the hosts, Helen and Menelaus, recline together on a couch exchanging various physical intimacies, while Paris, their guest, watches enviously from another couch. Here, too, the sexually charged atmosphere made possible by mixed-sex reclining on a dining couch is vividly portrayed. 52In a third passage, Ars Amatoria 1.565-608, Ovid presents these same convivial practices and social dynamics in a didactic mode: he advises his reader how to proceed if, at a convivium, he should notice an attractive woman reclining on another couch alongside another man."

Friday, May 12, 2006

Lucius Artorius Castus by Linda A. Malcor

Having just returned from England, I have renewed my interest in the complex history of Roman Britain and find myself resesarching more an more about the various cultures that inhabited that land. I think, despite the criticism levied about the film, the movie "King Arthur" starring Clive Owen is probably closer to the truth surrounding the possible existence of a real King Arthur than any medieval legends.

I know the programs I watched about the foundations of the King Arthur legend did mention the existence of a Roman officer named "Lucius Artorius Castus" who led a documented campaign against the Armoricans in the second century C.E. and some scholars speculate a descendant of his could have been the Arthur of the early Dark Ages.

"Castus has gained in popularity over the years as more has been deduced about him and the period in which he lived. The primary evidence that Castus even existed is slim: one, extremely extensive, autobiographical resume on three fragments from a sarcophagus, which were found in a fence/wall near Epetium (modern Strobrez in Podstrana) and one corroborating memorial plaque found near the chapel of St. Martin (Sveti Martin) of Podstrana on the Adriatic Highway.3 The reconstruction of the main inscription can be translated as:

To the spirits of the departed: Lucius Artorius Castus, centurion of the III legion Gallica, also centurion of the VI legion Ferrata, also centurion of the II legion Adiutrix, also centurion of the V legion Macedonica, also primus pilus of the same [the V legion Macedonica], praepositus of the classis Misenatium (the fleet on the Bay of Naples), praefectus of the VI legion Victrix, dux of the legions of cohorts of cavalry from Britain against the Armoricans, procurator centenarius of the province of Liburnia, with the power to issue death sentences. In his lifetime he himself [possibly: "fecit," "had this made"] for himself and his family . . . ["possibly H. s. est," "lies buried here".4

In addition to the Castus inscriptions, there are what I believe to be other references to him in some of the "nameless" figures that appear in the histories of Cassius Dio and Herodian.

When Malone wrote his article, the stones bearing the Castus inscriptions had not, to his knowledge, been dated. Scholars now believe that the pieces of Castus's sarcophagus date to no later than 200 (Kirigin and Marin 1989:143),5 which means that Lucius Artorius Castus most likely died prior to that date. There is precisely one military action known to have been lead by a dux in the late second century, and that is a military expedition to Armorica in 185, which is documented by Herodian (10.1-7; Whittaker 1969:61-67).6 The dux for this expedition is not named in the text, but, given the inscriptions from Liburnia, the officer had to be Lucius Artorius Castus.7 Given the known date for the Armorica campaign and the fact that the Artorii were of the equestrian class, it becomes possible to reconstruct the life of this obscure individual in rather surprising detail." - Linda A. Malcor, "The Heroic Age: Lucius Artorius Castus, An Officer and An Equestrian

Ms. Malcor goes on to describe the various tours of duty this outstanding cavalry officer had, correlating them to other historical events occurring during his service and reflects her extensive research. If he wasn't the ancestor of "King Arthur" he definitely should have been. His relationships with conquered Sarmatians is paralelled in the Hollywood film. If you saw the film in the theater, try renting or buying the DVD. It contains more background material and is far superior to the theatrical release.

I just finished listening to Valerio Manfredi's "The Last Legion". It is a work of fiction but takes place during the takeover of Italy by Odacer. In it, Manfredi postulates that the last boy emperor Romulus is wrested from confinement on Capri and is spirited away to Britannia where he fulfills an ancient legend of a boy from the east who will lead the Britons in a victorious battle for freedom at a place called Mount Baden under the banner of a dragon. Romulus does so and his followers dub him "Pendragon". He marries the daughter of a local chieftain and they have a son they name "Arthur" - an entertaining piece of alternative history!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Romans in Malta Subject of New Heritage Trail

I see that Heritage Malta is conducting another thematic heritage trail on Sunday 7th May with the focus on the Roman Domus in Rabat and the archaeological site of Tas-Silg. "Tas-Silg has been identified by Ancient Greek and Roman geographers and writers -- most importantly in the works of Cicero -- as having served as an active cultural, political and commercial centre of the ancient world. Excavation works, carried out by the Missione Archeologica Italiana of the University of Rome and the University of Malta in collaboration with Heritage Malta and which are still taking place, uncovered structures and artefacts dating back to the Prehistoric, Phoenician, Punic, Roman, Byzantine and the Middle Age periods."

The Roman Villa and Museum sounds very interesting: "The villa probably belonged to a wealthy Roman merchant or a senior official. The siting has an Italian flair, looking west over the valley towards what is now Mtarfa.

The villa and its grounds were first excavated in 1881. The clean Neo-Classical temple museum building now camouflaged by a forecourt of citrus trees was built in 1921-24 during the second round of excavations.

Not all the museum's exhibits were unearthed within the villa's grounds. Among the artifacts and architectural fragments is an olive-pipper found in Marsaxlokk, parts of flourmills made from Italian lava, and tombstones. The cabinets display terra-cotta ornaments, theatrical masks, glassware, amphorae, lamps from Imperial Rome and a section of fine mosaic from the villa.

The corner stairs lead down to what remains of the villa itself. The main attraction is the now-roofed square mosaic-covered atrium, or central court, enclosed by 16 columns, only one of which is original. The whole of this area would have been roofed except for the impluvium of two birds sitting on a water bowl, from which rainwater would drain to the cistern in the corner. The two rooms off the atrium were, on the left, the triclinium or dining room, which housed the mosaic in the museum, and the reception room. Some heavy-handed restoration has left the remaining mosaics in poor order. In the small annex are relics from later Arabic graves found within the grounds.

Other items in the courtyard include the famous motif of an astonished open-mouthed woman from a mosaic's border, a blurred scene of either a satyr being teased by maenads (orgiastic nymphs) or Delilah and Samson, and marble statues and busts including Octavia, the mother of Emperor Claudius."

The 5th Century Anglo-Saxon Invasion of England

When I was in England recently, I was surprised by a change in thought about the Saxon invasion (or should I now say immigration?) of Britain during the fall of the Roman Empire. A tour guide made it sound as if the Saxons were well settled in Britain by then and indicated they just "rose to prominence" after the Romans left. This is in stark contrast to tales of Saxon "Sea Wolves" fascinatingly rendered by such authors as Rosemary Sutcliff. So I became curious about what the archaeological record had to say about it. I found this interesting article by William Bakken about the subject.

The 5th Century Anglo-Saxon Invasion of England: "An increasing amount of new information about the transition period is being supplied by archaeology. The evidence from first-hand archaeology is free of errors induced by copyists and editor, but is susceptible to improper interpretation and must be used carefully. The chronology of English artifacts requires correlation of evidence in England and on the continent with coins or other materials that can be accurately dated. From this a rough chronological sequence has been developed primarily based on changes in the styles of pottery and jewelry.20 In general, the recovered artifacts are grave goods many of which tend to be durable. It is necessary to look at all of the grave goods for chronological indications as heirlooms and plunder may be included in graves. Sequences of pottery, brooches, buckles and spear heads are now reasonably well established for dating.21 In addition to chronology, pottery and brooches particularly can be used as evidence of continental homelands of immigrant groups.

There was a gradual transition from cremation early in the settlement period to inhumation as the English were influenced by British customs and particularly as they were introduced to Christianity. This happened both in England and on the continent. Therefore, cremation indicates an early grave. Pagan inhumation burials were generally supplied with grave goods which makes them excellent sources of information.

Archaeological artifacts of the sub-Roman Britons are difficult to find. They appear to have continued to use the durable goods produced in the Roman period as long as possible and then replaced them with goods of less durable leather and wood construction. In addition, on sites that were abandoned, the latest levels are the least well preserved. It requires specialized techniques to recover the upper remains of wood construction. However, when allowances are made, the archaeological record still shows a drastic reduction in population and standard of living of the British remaining in southeastern and central England.22

Archaeological evidence indicates there were Germanic troops in what became England well before the fifth century.23 The Romans used auxiliary troops from all over the world to provide garrisons for their military installations. Thus from Roman records, we know that German troops were stationed on Hadrians wall. These troops did not leave identifiable artifacts because they were issued Roman equipment. By the fourth century, the Romans were enlisting Germanic troops under their own leaders with their own equipment. Artifacts show that Germanic troops were guarding towns and roads in England from the fourth century on. Much of the pottery that identifies Germanic people has been found along the Saxon Shore where it appears auxiliary troops were stationed. Cremation cemeteries have been found that date from before the end of Roman rule in Britain. These early cemeteries are generally concentrated near Roman towns, forts or transportation routes. Their location pattern is similar to that of a wheel made pottery decorated in Saxon styles called Romano-Saxon ware. This pottery was apparently made by British potterers for the Germanic trade.24

Brooches, commonly used as clothing fasteners provide a valuable indication of date and origin. The shape and type of decoration varied between tribal groups. Round and equal arm brooches were common among Saxons, while the Angles and Jutes preferred cruciform brooches. In addition, wrist clasps were common among the Angles.25

Pottery fashions have about the same division as brooches. The Angles and Jutes favored rectangular decoration while the Saxons used more curvilinear styles. In addition, stamped decoration was common on Saxon pottery and was not used by the Angles and Jutes.26

Weapon ownership was almost essential in the settlement period and, therefore, weapons were commonly placed in graves. Spears were the most common, typically an iron tip riveted to an ash shaft. Shields of lime wood with a leather cover and an iron boss at the center have also been found. Knives and swords were too valuable to be placed in the graves of ordinary soldiers and farmers and are thus an indication of aristocracy. The swords used by many of the German nobility were heirlooms passed down from generation to generation.27 Helmets and arrows were also rarly found."