Monday, February 27, 2006

Hannibal produced by the BBC

I saw an article today about Alexander Siddig (Star Trek's Dr. Bashir) playing Hannibal in a new program by the BBC that supposedly was to air in January. I went up to the BBC site but could not find any articles about it. I did find some screenshots up at

Perhaps it will make its way to the Discovery Channel or History International. I'm presently reading "Pride of Carthage" by David Anthony Durham so the BBC program would make a nice supplement to my reading.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Honours and Worship: Emperors, Imperial Cults and Associations at Ephesus (1st to 3rd centuries C.E.)

Philip A. Harland: "Historians of Greco-Roman religion such as Arthur D. Nock, Martin P. Nilsson, G.W. Bowersock, Kurt Latte, Ronald Mellor, Dieter Ladage and Eleanor G. Huzar emphasize aspects of political expediency and loyalty and underplay or discard the importance of 'genuine' religiosity with regard to cults of the emperors.(4) These imperial cults are frequently portrayed as [321] empty shells void of any real religious meaning for the participants. Nilsson, for example, states that imperial cult 'lacked all genuine religious content,' and, with very few exceptions, the imperial cult's 'meaning lay far more in state and social realms, where it served both to testify to loyalty to the rule of Rome and to the emperor and to satisfy the ambition of the leading families.'(5) Though Nilsson and others may be partially correct in acknowledging this social and political role, exclusion of religious significance on a local level for various strata of society is not justified.

Similar assumptions are evident among scholars who discuss religious associations and guilds specifically.(6) For example, in his monumental study of associations, Franz Poland states that 'the cult of the emperors appears relatively seldom [within associations] and, where it does occur, has little independent meaning'; moreover, it had little significance for an association's 'self-understanding.'(7)

But the above outlined view or paradigm is not without some opponents. E. Will, H.W. Pleket, Fergus Millar and, more recently, Robin Lane Fox, for example, criticize the general tendency within scholarship to overemphasize the political and neglect the religious aspects of imperial cults.(8) More recent research focussing on the cult of the emperors in Asia Minor by scholars such as S.R.F. Price, Steven J. Friesen and Stephen Mitchell(9) also [322] demonstrates both the inadequacy of some previous assumptions and the need to re-view cults of the emperors on a regional basis.

Underestimating the religious significance of cults of the emperors is partially the result of the imposition of modern viewpoints onto ancient evidence. First, for example, the traditional interpretation of imperial cults reflects the modern distinction between politics and religion. In antiquity, however, the social, religious, economic and political aspects of life were intricately intertwined. Thus to say that worship of the emperors was simply an expression of political expediency or to say that it was utterly an expression of religious piety are both misleading. As we shall see, what we can say is that worship of the emperors in western Asia Minor certainly encompassed religious and other aspects to a degree underestimated in the past.

Second, the issue of whether the ancients who engaged in worshipping the emperors believed the emperor to be human or divine, which reflects modern ontological concerns, has also contributed to scholars' undermining the religious character of imperial cults.(10) From a modern perspective it is difficult to comprehend that what we as moderns know to be human could be worshipped as a god by ancients, and, as a result, a modern scholar is more inclined to suggest that apparent worship of a human as divine must be superficial (or simply political in the case of emperors). But an approach which focusses primarily on the ontological status of the emperors is inappropriate since we cannot get into the minds of ancients to see what they actually believed, and, more importantly as the present essay begins to show, the vast majority of the evidence that we do have for local imperial cult activities and rituals shows that the characteristics of and practices connected with worship of the emperors virtually coincide with those connected with worship of more traditional deities.(11) Moreover, the evidence [323] suggests that in practice, within the context of imperial cults, the emperors functioned as gods.(12)

Third, it is quite common in modern contexts to measure true religiosity and piety in terms of emotion or feelings and this tendency sometimes extends to scholars' assessments of ancient religion.(13) Though there are certainly some cases where religious feelings are very strongly expressed by individuals in antiquity,(14) piety (eusebeia) and religiosity were more frequently concerned with the proper performance of cultic acts to maintain fitting relations between communities and the gods rather than with the inner feelings of individuals.(15) This does not make such activity any less genuinely religious within that context.(16)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Justinian?s Foreign Policy and the Plague: Did Justinian Create the First Pandemic?

by Marjolein Schat

"Emperor Justinian I took power of a depleted Roman Empire in 527 C.E. Justinian?s goal was to restore the Roman Empire to her early glory, and rebuild the trade routes. The process of rebuilding the empire meant the formation and movement of vast armies, establishment of supply trains for the armies, and lots of funding. Justinian imposed heavy taxes on his citizens and re-conquered lands to help pay for his wars. Accounts of the wars given by Procopius (1914) suggest Justinian was making good progress in his attempts to restore the empire until 541 C.E. when plague broke out in the empire.

Descriptions of what appears to have been bubonic plague have survived from throughout ancient Roman history. Those reports were centered in the Levant (north of the Red Sea) and northern Africa, and described very high rates of mortality (Orent 2004). At this time, plague occurrences remained isolated epidemics never spreading across vast areas to become pandemics until the plague of 541-2 C.E.

From the contemporary descriptions of the Plague that have survived, it clear that the first pandemic primarily consisted of the bubonic and septicemic forms of the disease (Orent 2004, Procopius 1914). The accounts describe the plague as starting in port towns and moving inland from there, and they remark that being around the sick and touching the dead did not make a healthy person sick. Although it is difficult to estimate the percentage of the population that died as a result of the Plague, Procopius (1935) reports that in Constantinople 5000 ? 10,000 people died each day at the height of the disease.

Procopius, who did not like Justinian, suggested in his Secret History that Justinian created the plague and brought ?about calamities affecting the whole world? not by human strength, but by another kind? (Procopius 1935). Procopius? point of view made sense in the context of the times. By the 500?s, emperors were no longer considered divine figures themselves; they were believed to be governing under the direct authority of God, and were considered temporal partners to God (Evan 1996). Therefore, it would not be unreasonable for Procopius to believe Justinian was acting as a temporal partner of a darker power than God.

Orent (2004) presents the thesis that although Justinian did not create the disease, he may have created the pandemic. She writes:

'Justinian had not created the disease, but he created the pandemic, which followed the movements of men and goods in Justinian?s resurrected empire. Without the empire, the bread dole, the huge shipments of grain and cloth from Africa, it is difficult to imagine how the First Pandemic could ever have erupted.'"

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Theodosius I - Emperor of Rome

Theodosius I - Emperor of Rome: "After the Visigoths trounced the Eastern Empire and killed its emperor (Valens) at the Battle of Adrianople, the emperor of the west, Valens' nephew Gratian, sent his best general, Theodosius, east to restore the situation. Theodosius' own father had been a senior military officer in the Western Empire whom Valentinian made magister equitum praesentalis in 368 and then executed in early 375. At about the time Valentinian executed his father, Theodosius went into retirement in Spain, where he had been born in 346. It was only after Valentinian's death (November 17, 375) that Theodosius regained his commission. He fought the Sarmatians and obtained the rank of the magister militum per Illyricum in 376, which he kept until January 379 when Gratian appointed him co-Augustus to replace Valens who had lost the Battle at Adrianople the preceding August.

The Goths and their allies were ravaging not only Thrace, but also Macedonia and Dacia. It was Theodosius' job to suppress them while Gratian attended to matters in Gaul. Although Gratian provided some troops, Theodosius was in need of more - especially after the Adrianople devastation - so he recruited troops from among the barbarians. In an only partially successful attempt to stave off defections, Theodosius sent some of these new recruits to Egypt and had Roman soldiers sent to him as replacements. In 382 Theodosius and the Goths reached an agreement. Theodosius permitted the Visigoths to retain some autonomy while living in Thrace.

Many of the Goths enlisted in the imperial army, which was rebuilt with emphasis on its cavalry - the need for which had been learned at the disastrous Battle of Adrianople. In January of 383, Theodosius named his young son Arcadius successor. Maximus, a general who had served with Theodosius' father and may have been a blood relative, may have hoped to be named instead. That year Maximus' soldiers proclaimed him emperor and with them he entered Gaul to face Gratian who was betrayed by his own troops and killed in Lyons by Maximus' Gothic magister equitum. Maximus was preparing to advance on Rome when Gratian's brother, Valentinian II, sent a force to meet him. Maximus agreed to accept Valentinian II in 384, but in 387 he advanced again. This time Valentinian II fled to Theodosius who took his army west to fight Maximus in Illyricum at Emona, Siscia and Poetovio. Despite many of his Gothic troops defecting to Maximus' side, Maximus was captured and executed at Aquileia on August 28, 388. One of the defecting Gothic leaders was Alaric who fought for Theodosius in 394 against Eugenius, another pretender to the throne, and then against Theodosius' son."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

When Two Men Fight: Legal Implications of Brawling in the Ancient Near East

By by Jonathan R. ZISKIND
(University of Louisville, Ky)

"Two people have an argument. The conflict grows increasingly heated, and the two come to blows. The laws of Eshnunna (LE), Hammurabi (LH), Middle Assyria (MAL), the
Hittites (LHitt.), and the Covenant, Deuteronomic, and Priestly compilations in the Hebrew Bible all contain rules which deal with what could happen during the course of the fighting and the
losses incurred as a result of the fighting. Even though none of these ancient jurists sought to outrightly ban this violent activity, they recognized that the injuries and possible loss of
life resulting from this all too frequent occurrence was a concern that had be to addressed. The intention of those responsible for these adverse consequences had to be assessed and appropriate penalties and reparations had to be fixed.

The deaths or injuries stemming from an affray may not be cold-blooded acts, but, resulting from the passion of the fighters, they are not accidental or unintentional either. But even the nature of the passion might be subject to some evaluation. Brawls being what they are,
regardless of who if anybody emerges victorious, either party, once the fight started, intended to inflict bodily harm. Furthermore, at any time in the fracas the culpable fighter could have restrained himself before seriously harming his opponent. The possibility that the affray could have been avoided altogether if one of the two adversaries chose not to fight back after being
struck first (thus the issue would be an assault rather than affray) must also be considered. In addition, the injuries sustained by innocent bystanders has to be considered.
The legal material from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor treats brawling in the manner just described, that is, as a matter of reparations for injury intentionally inflicted but lacking

The laws of the city-kingdom of Eshnunna (c. 1770 B.C.), provide the earliest mention of the legal consequences of a brawl. LE 47 specifies that the person who inflicted any serious injury on a person in the course of a brawl (Akk. ina s?igis?tim) must pay the injured party ten shekels of silver. The five sections of the Eshnunna Laws that preceed #47 specify the penalties for assaults resulting in serious injuries without mentioning accident, negligence, or brawling and hence were probably intentional. These penalties were higher: biting off a nose or destroying an eye, a mina (60 shekels); a tooth or an ear, a half mina (30 shekels); a severed finger, one-third of a mina (20 shekels); a broken hand or foot, a half mina, and a broken collarbone, one-third of a mina. The only penalty that was the same as the one in LE 47 dealing with brawling (10 shekels) is in LE 42 for a slap on the cheek, a compensation more for damaged honor than one?s injured body.

In later Roman law, losses stemming from a turba, a tumult, were actionable for damages. Labeo said that two men or even three or four men having a rixa, a brawl, would not qualify as tumult, because it wouldn?t cause that much of disturbance whereas ten or fifteen men going at it would be a tumult and therefore actionable.

LE 47A stipulates that if the brawl (Akk. risbatum) resulted in the victim?s death, the brawler who caused the death shall pay two-thirds of a mina (40 shekels) of silver (to whom not specified). This is the same penalty that the owner of a habitually goring ox or vicious dog
paid when such animals caused a free person?s death. We can conclude from the Eshnunna material that a death caused in the heat of passion of a brawl was on the same level of culpability
as a death due to negligence, and the case was settled by composition.

Hammurabi?s laws (c. 1750 B.C.) indicate that deaths and injuries that stemmed from brawling homicides were regarded as unintentional but not accidental. This does not seem to be the case in Roman law. A death as a result of a rixa was regarded as accidental. LH 206 stipulates that if a man wounded another man in a brawl, the assailant?s obligation was limited to swearing that he acted unintentionally and paying the other man?s physician. We may assume that if his injuries did not require the services of a physician, the assailant was free of any penalty or obligation towards the man he hurt. Damage to one?s pride or honor was not an issue, probably because the victim had just as much intention to humiliate his opponent as vice versa. LH 207 states that if the victim died and was a member of the awilum or noble class, the assailant, in addition to swearing that he acted unintentionally had to pay a half mina of silver. The next section (LH 208) states that if the victim was a mus?kenum, a commoner, the payment was one-third of a mina.

We may assume that if the assailant could not swear that his act was unintentional, malice was presumed and heavier penalties could be inflicted including talion. So then, if one aristocrat
should blind an eye, break a bone, or knock out a tooth of another aristocrat, talion was applicable. If a pregnant noblewoman died as a result of an assault, vicarious punishment was visited upon the noble assailant?s daughter, that is to say, his daughter was put to death.

Like the Babylonian collection that came after it, the Hammurabi collection, Eshnunna has nothing directly to say about cold blooded murder. We may assume that in both laws it was a capital offence.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

"Romans In Britain" to be staged in Sheffield

"When a cast headed by Tom Mannion takes to the stage of the Crucible theatre in Sheffield this evening, they will be embarking on the first major revival of a play that retains a notorious place in theatrical history.

It is just over a quarter of a century since Howard Brenton's The Romans in Britain opened in London in what proved to be one of the most controversial productions the National Theatre has staged. For the generation - including Sheffield's new artistic director, Samuel West - too young to have caught the play which provoked the decency campaigner Mary Whitehouse to apoplexy, it will be the first opportunity since 1980 for a proper reassessment of the work.

All those involved hope that The Romans in Britain will be finally seen as what West describes as 'an epic, funny and beautiful play'. Back then, all attention focused on a single scene in which a Roman soldier rapes a druid, a simulation which outraged Mrs Whitehouse and her supporters, although Brenton intended it to be seen as a war crime.

Although police decided the play broke no public decency laws, she pursued its director, Michael Bogdanov, under an imaginative interpretation of the Sexual Offences Act in which it was claimed he was acting as a pimp in having procured the actors. A judge supported the interpretation, which has deterred many revivals since, even though Mrs Whitehouse herself eventually withdrew the prosecution.

The play is a critique of the Roman invasion of Britain and repression of Celtic culture with explicit parallels to modern British involvement in Northern Ireland. "It's to do with imperialism," Bogdanov said. "The play continues to be significant in the light of Afghanistan and Iraq. The Romans overran Britain, ignoring the Celtic culture. It's exactly what we do around the world and Americans do it in the name of democracy everywhere.""