Greece, Russia launch cultural cooperation with exhibition at Acropolis Museum

 Greece and Russia launched their one-year cultural cooperation with the opening on Friday of a small exhibition of three selected golden objects from the Scythian collection of St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum.

The presentation of these objects is a precursor to a larger exhibition which will take place in during the year. On its side, Greece will lend Hermitage a marble statue of a 7th century BC archaic Kore from the collections of the Acropolis Museum.

Culture Minister Aristidis Baltas and Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko inaugurated the event at the Acropolis Museum by signing an agreement certifying the program exchanges and events organized by the two countries.
The group of items consists of two vases and a piece of jewelry which were part of a unique Scythian burial set of the 4th century BC, found in 1830 in the royal tomb Kul-Oba, in the Crimea. These masterpieces of metalwork were made by Greek settlers in Crimea, with whom nomadic Scythians had established close trade relations.
“It is a great pleasure for us to inaugurate today officially the Greece-Russia year between two countries with a long history and fraternal relations,» said Baltas, noting that this cooperation involves two very well worked for both countries.
“It is a dedicatory year that wants to highlight not only the ties with the past and the friendship of the two peoples but also to respond to the crisis facing Greece, Russia and the surrounding region,” he added.
On his side, Prikhodko said that the two countries count thousands of years of political, religious, historical and cultural ties. “Since ancient times, Greece was a source of scientific knowledge for Russia,” he said.
«We believe the Greece-Russia year will contribute to the effective strengthening of relations between our countries and will boost trade and economic cooperation which is not going through its best phase,» he added.
Commenting on the exhibition, the president of the Acropolis Museum Dimitris Pandermalis welcomed the event saying it is a testament to the close relations between Greeks and Scythians.
“There could not be a better selection of items, which are the ambassadors of this year of friendship; these three articles which show in the most vivid way the close relationship between the Greeks and the Scythians,” he said.
The Director of the Hermitage Museum, Mikhail Piotrovski described the items as “the pride” of the museum. “It is a great pleasure and honor for the Hermitage Museum to present our exhibits in one of the most modern and large museums in the world. The exhibits are the pride of the Hermitage and Russian archeology. They are the best exhibits and truly reflect the very good relations between Greece and Russia,” he said, adding that Russian often say the country is part of the European culture thanks to Russia’s Greek roots.
He also said that officials at Hermitage are already preparing the area where the Kore will be exhibited, noting that this will be followed by a Byzantine exhibition, which will be a joint collaboration between the two museums.
The event was attended by State Minister for Coordinating Government Operations Alekos Flambouraris, Alternate Education Minister for Research and Innovation Kostas Fotakis, Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Amanatidis, as well as other officials, from the foreign ministry and the Russian embassy in Greece.
The three objects will be exhibited at the ground floor of the Acropolis Museum from March 11 until October 2, 2016.

— Eleni


Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World review


Disbelief has been around for 2,500 years

Doubt about religious faith is as old as religion itself – Tim Whitmarsh’s brilliant book carefully explores literary and philosophical sources to make the case for a questioning of the gods in Greek and Roman times

It seems likely that there will be a female president of the US well before there is a self-professed atheist in the Oval Office. Ted Cruz declared last year that someone who does not begin every day on “his knees” (sic) is not fit to be commander-in-chief. Atheism is controversial, in the US as in many other countries around the world. But both its detractors and its supporters tend to portray lack of faith in a divine power as a possibility or danger available only in modern times.

Those in the Cruz camp often view atheism as a marker and a cause of the degeneration of contemporary society; Cruz’s father famously declared that it is the cause of sexual abuse. The defenders of religion point to the fact that all human cultures throughout history seem to have had religious beliefs and practices, and therefore religion is sometimes said to be an essential feature of human nature.

Those on the other side may celebrate “our” freedom from the superstitions that were rampant before the Enlightenment. Christopher Hitchens argued that “religion comes from the period of human prehistory when nobody – not even the mighty Democritus who concluded that all matter was made of atoms – had the slightest idea what was going on”.

Tim Whitmarsh’s brilliant new book about ancient atheism makes a compelling case that various forms of religious disbelief have been with us for the past two and a half millennia, with greater and lesser degrees of cultural prominence. Atheism has had a distinguished and varied lineage. It seems likely that doubt about religion is just as old as religion itself, although there is no way to prove what people believed or did not believe in cultures that have left us no literary evidence.

Whitmarsh makes the illuminating observation that modern, post-Enlightenment atheism has a particular social function: it draws authority away from the clergy, towards the secular “priests” of science. In the ancient world, the conflict between science and religion did not exist, at least not in these terms. But it does not follow that nobody in antiquity ever questioned the traditional stories about the gods, which were often patently ridiculous.

Classical scholars may turn to Whitmarsh’s book, as I did, with questions about whether the term “atheism” is really the right one for discussing pre-Judaeo-Christian religious doubts and resistance to religion. It is an academic commonplace to distinguish between the “orthopraxy” of Graeco-Roman religion – the focus on collective rituals, sacrifices and festivals – and the “orthodoxy” of modern monotheistic religions. No ancient Greek or Roman ever recited a Creed. Besides, in classical Greek, the word atheos (“not-god”) is usually used to mean “godless” or “against-the-gods”, rather than a person who does not believe that gods exist. But Whitmarsh builds a case that stories about “battling the gods” are actually ways of articulating doubts about traditional religious teaching. He argues that classicists have gone too far in presenting ancient religion as primarily concerned only with action, not faith. As he rightly notes, this historical claim relies heavily on public sources, such as inscriptions, which may teach us a lot about ritual practices but much less about what individual worshippers thought was true and false. Public documents can only give the “official, ideologically sanctioned versions of events”. For this reason, much of Whitmarsh’s work is a careful teasing out of the literary and philosophical sources, including those that exist only in fragmentary form, as he searches for hints of people in antiquity who questioned the gods’ existence.

The ancient Greeks certainly did not assume that the gods are likable or lovable, and hostility to the gods is a familiar trope in Greek literature. The Homeric poems – which were never treated with the reverence afforded to the holy books of the Islamic or Jewish traditions, but which were by far the best known texts of Graeco-Roman antiquity – depict anthropomorphic gods who are very much of this world, and who interact with humans, even fighting with them on the battlefield. Battling the gods was a common enough trope in the Greek imagination that they had a word for it: theomachia. One might think that stories about gods as threats to humans must imply a strong belief in their existence. But Whitmarsh argues that theomachy stories express “a kind of atheism, through the narrative medium of myth”. One key example is the archaic tale of Salmoneus, who claimed to be Zeus, demanded sacrifices to be offered to himself, and created thunder by dragging kettles around behind his chariot. Whitmarsh suggests that this story raises disturbing questions for believers in the gods: “If gods can be fashioned by mortal imitation, how real can they be?”

19th Century Greek Vase Illustration of Zeus Abducting Leda in the form of a Swan1813-1824 --- 19th Century Greek Vase Illustration of Zeus Abducting Leda in the form of a Swan --- Image by Stapleton Collection/Corbis
A 19th century Greek vase illustration of Zeus abducting Leda in the form of a swan. Photograph: Stapleton Collection/Corbis

One may still balk at the idea that this is really “atheism” in the modern sense. Even the pre-Socratics of the sixth and fifth centuries BC, who are usually seen as the precursors to modern scientific and philosophical inquiry, cannot all be identified as atheists in any straightforward sense. Xenophanes of Colophon declared that “Africans say that their gods are snub-nosed and black, Thracians that they are blue-eyed and red-haired”: but pointing to the limitations of Greek concepts of anthropomorphic deities is not quite the same as denying the existence of all gods.

In the fifth century BC, we reach more convincing examples of people who can be categorised as atheists in the strong modern sense of the word. Protagoras, an important and influential sophist (“wisdom-teacher”), declared at the start of his book On the Gods, “I cannot know whether they exist”. Whitmarsh shows that this claim was closer to outright atheism than agnosticism, since Protagoras went on to argue that what cannot be perceived does not exist. Another sophist, Prodicus, claimed that “the gods of popular belief do not exist”. In the later Hellenistic period, the third and second centuries BC, the nature and existence or nonexistence of the gods was reconsidered by many schools of philosophy. Stoics identified god with nature and fate. Epicureans had a slippery, perhaps confused notion of gods who were composed of a different, thinner type of matter from all other entities in the universe, and lived “between the worlds”, affecting nothing but dreams and the imagination. Sceptics argued that all beliefs rest on “shaky foundations”, including belief in the gods.

Whitmarsh rightly underlines the central importance of ancient Scepticism in the history of atheism; these philosophers came up with a hugely influential set of arguments against a vast range of religious claims. Carneades, an early leader of the school, used a form of “heap” argument (a thousand grains is a heap; take one away, it’s still a heap; but one grain is not a heap; so when does it cease to be a heap?). His argument relies on the Greek assumption that the gods belong to this world, rather than being a different order of being, and he poses the question: are nymphs and satyrs gods? If not, where do we draw the line? Some have interpreted Carneades – whose work does not survive first-hand – as saying only that traditional religion is questionable, rather than that gods do not exist. But Whitmarsh makes the case that Carneades wanted to prove that belief in the gods is logically impossible; the idea that he was only attacking current (Stoic) beliefs about gods comes from the much later, and highly partial, testimony of Cicero.

Whitmarsh, who is primarily a Greek literature specialist, spends much more time with the Greeks than the Romans, and treats Greek religion more sympathetically. But he has a big and provocative story to sketch once he reaches the world of the emperors. He makes a connection between the disparate, scattered world of the Greek city states and Greek polytheism, which was more a set of local cults than a centralised religious system. With the centralising power of Rome, religion also became more centralised and politicised – as did, Whitmarsh argues, atheism.

Since the Romans tended to equate the success of their own empire with divine providence, scepticism about Rome and scepticism about the gods now went together. (Scepticism about the gods was good, it provided a sphere for political dissent for people who wanted to criticise Rome implicitly.) But the “dream” of being able to “imagine the possibility of a world that had left religions behind” lasted for only two or three hundred years. As the Roman empire became increasingly difficult to govern, there was a strong motive for those in power to find an ideological force that could hold the people under imperial control. Christianity proved particularly useful for this purpose.

The Theodosian code was instituted in the fifth century CE, and represented a vast shift away from the old model of Graeco-Roman polytheism. Now, religion was not an infinitely expandable series of cults dedicated to multiple different divinities; all doubt was heresy, and all beliefs except Nicene Christianity were punishable by death. As Whitmarsh insists, individuals probably continued to have doubts about religion throughout late antiquity and the middle ages; but “they were invisible to dominant society and so have left no trace in the historical record”.

This is an invigorating, urgent book that makes an important contribution to a central contemporary debate. One of its chief virtues is that it underlines the gulf between the Christian and pre-Christian eras, without presenting antiquity as an atheist’s utopia. There were no ancient equivalents of wars using religion as a premise (the crusades or jihad). But doubters were put on trial in antiquity, and some were executed, for instance under the Athenian law against “impiety” – including Socrates, who was accused of “not believing in the gods of the city”.

Whitmarsh also reminds us that disbelief comes in many varieties. Democritus the atomist – who lived in the fifth century BC – seems to have had some kind of belief in the gods: he thought that people see gods in their dreams, although they have no explanatory function for the workings of the material universe. Gods exist, but they are irrelevant for scientific inquiry. Democritus was not an atheist in quite the same way as Hitchens, but he was no fool, and he was certainly not brainwashed by religion.


— Eleni

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Cycladic Art Museum shares secrets of ancient craftsmen



The Museum of Cycladic Art in central Athens has temporarily transformed the three halls of its central building on Neofytou Douka Street into arts and crafts workshops, named after Athena, Daedalus and Hephaestus, for pottery, marble and metal.

The spaces feature long tables fully equipped with all the tools needed to turn humble base materials into fine works of art, where presentations take place to show the public how ancient sculptors, potters, goldsmiths and bronze workers went about their craft.

There is also an exhibition, which, museum director Nicholas Stampolidis explains, describes the construction of some of the spectacular pieces on display in the museum. It is these 40 pieces that are reproduced in the workshops, allowing museum-goers rare insight into the techniques and methods that were applied.

The initiative belongs to Nikos Papadimitriou, who also curated the exhibition, and the aim is to showcase the skill that went into the wonderful pieces by known and anonymous ancient artisans which have survived to this day.

Admission costs 3.50 euros and is valid all day long, allowing visitors to take as much time as they like wandering from one workshop to the next and viewing the exhibition.

“It is enchanting to see how a pottery wheel helps transform a lump of clay into a vase,” says Stampolidis.

Regular visitors to the museum will remember the bronze shield from the Idaean Cave, found in Eleutherna, now a symbol of the new museum that will be inaugurated at the archaeological site on Crete in June. In the current exhibition, which runs through February 29, they can see how the ancient artifact was made. The replica shield will be put in the place of the original exhibit, which has now returned to Crete.

How did the ancients craft the Cycladic idols? The quality of the rock, almost exclusively marble, was key and this would be whittled by the craftsman with special tools and shaped according to the stone’s natural contours.

Stampolidis explains how the eye-catching gold ornaments we see at the museum were made by cutting a thin leaf of gold into small squares, melting them into pellets and then shaping these into forms. The goldsmith, he says, needed skill not just in producing the material but also in fusing the different elements of a piece together.

Bronzesmiths also had their hands full with “outlining the shapes, turning the sheet inside out and giving it volume and form.” It also required a lot of skill to know how to “divide the surface, particularly when crafting curves for, say, a shield.”

“Experience was not enough” for the potters of ancient times, says Stampolidis, explaining how, while it was key that they knew how to find the right clay and dilute it to its proper consistency, it also took physical labor, requiring “strong legs and hands.”

— Eleni

Museum of Cycladic Art, 4 Neofytou Douka, Kolonaki, tel 210.722.8321. Open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities salvages lost chapters of history



You want to hold your breath, as you do when you’re underwater, when gazing upon the splendid objects that archaeologists have dragged up from the deep. Ancient vases, Classical era jars, bronze figurines, Ottoman clay pipes from the 17th century, Byzantine coins and, most surprising of all, the contents of an amphora from Sinope in the Pontus region, found off the coast of the eastern Aegean island of Fournoi: 2,000-year-old shells of shrimps that were meant to feed a ship’s crew and which are now stored in a plastic food container.

Catching a glimpse of the valuable contents of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities (EEA) on Dionysiou Areopagitou Street in downtown Athens is a privilege reserved for just a few. You don’t know where to look first, while it’s hard not to touch the remains of a past that spent centuries hidden from human sight at the bottom of the sea before being brought to light.

I was greeted at the entrance by the head of the EEA, Angeliki Simosi, who took me on a tour of what she describes as “the country’s most special archaeological department, dedicated to the country’s biggest museum: the Greek seabed.” That is a “museum” that is not just huge in size (covering all of Greece’s territorial waters), but also in terms of time, as the findings to date range from the Stone Age all the way up to the 20th century.

“When a shipwreck is located, we bring up a sample of objects so that we can date them, roughly at first. Then we try to do a survey of the ship’s hull and, once its condition is ascertained, we can go ahead with the excavation if we feel that it is merited,” explained Simosi, who has served at the EEA since its founding in 1976.

There are hundreds of wrecks in the Greek seas, Simosi explained, but the service focuses its efforts on those that are considered most significant because of the cargo they were carrying when they went down.

“One of our duties is to scan the seabed to see whether there is more than one hull at the location,” Simosi said. “This year in Fournoi, our archaeologist Giorgos Koutsouflakis located 22 wrecks in a small area.”

When an object is first removed from the water, it is immediately placed in a container with seawater and once it arrives at the EEA it is transferred to a tank, where the desalination process, which can take anything from a few months to years, begins. This painstaking process is essential to protect the object, as any abrupt changes to the environment in which it has existed for perhaps hundreds of years can cause rapid deterioration.

“Every so often, we take the object out and slowly clean off the various layers that have built up on its surface,” said Simosi.

Once this process is complete, it is up to the conservation experts to reveal the wood, metal, clay or marble beneath. With patience and care, they spend hours returning every single object to its original form, put it back together and clean it.

Two of the conservationists who work at the EEA, Angelos Tsombanidis and Spyridoula Papanikou, feel privileged to be tasked with bringing such treasures back to life and they confess that it can be an emotional process at times. “One experience that we will always remember is when we had to restore a child’s skull, found in a sunken ancient settlement in Metochi in the Pagasetic Gulf. It is dated to the middle Bronze Age, around 1700 BC. A characteristic of the settlement is that they would bury their children inside the home.”

The most impressive find made so far is locked in a glass cabinet on the ground floor of the EEA. It is parts of a large statue from the late Hellenic period with a fascinating history.

In 2006, a fisherman brought up the leg of a bronze statue in his nets, in the area between the islands of Kalymnos and Kos. Shortly afterward, another fisherman, who happened to be related to the first one, found the other leg in the same area. He found part of the torso in 2009, while the head and other parts of what is believed to be a military leader on horseback turned up here and there later. What is odd about the story is that while the fishermen pointed out the spot to the EEA, archaeologists have been unable to find any other trace of the statue. Over the years, research has suggested the parts belong to a figure of an imposing man on horseback, holding the reins in one hand and saluting with the other. No trace of the horse has been found.

“The torso spent a long time in the desalination tank and is a perfect fit to the legs,” said Simosi. “We can’t be sure about the head because it’s not in Greece right now. It is on loan and being exhibited abroad. First it went to Florence, then to America and next it will be shown at a major exhibition of ancient Greek art in Japan. From our experience, though, we believe it to be a part of this very big and very beautiful statue.”

The conservationists gave me a special treat. They opened the cabinet and carefully removed the legs. Tsombanidis held them upright to give me an idea of what they would look like in their proper position.

“As you can see, every day is special for us, full of surprises,” the EEA staff said as they saw me out.

— Ελένη


Alexander the Great Holiday History Camp at Easter (Cambridge University)

Holiday History Camp, April 2015

Applications Open for Our Next Camp, 5-7 April 2016

We will run another Holiday History Camp from the 5th to the 7th of April 2016. Please see Our New Announcement, and contact Dr Sally K Church (skc1000 at cam.ac.uk, or skchurch at gmail.com) if you are interested in participating. Places are limited!

Comments from parents, teachers and participants on our past camps:

“I just wanted to say thank you for making the course so enjoyable for [my son], and for all your help organizing the transport to and from the college. He really had a great time and made new friends…. Please let us know if there any other courses like this coming up. I’m sure he would love to come back!”  – A parent

“I would like send you a very warm thank you on behalf of [my student] who was positively enchanted by the two days he spent on the course. I also would like to share with you the delightful account of his stay that he took time to write for our school bulletin. Thank you again for helping [him] attend this event.”  – Classics Enrichment & Latin Tutor

From our questionnaires, in response to the question «Which roles did you like best?»:

“Cartographer as it allowed me to see the route develop as we progressed through the course”

“Historian, using sources to find the places and coordinates”

“The Data manager because you got to research all the cities he went to and record it on a map”

“The cartographer, as you got to see maps and plot the routes”

“Researcher because it was interesting to see the modern names for ancient settlements and the challenge of trying to find the relevant information”

“Cartographer, as I had to work out the best way to convert the positions”

“I liked being the researcher the best because you were able to learn more about the individual locations whilst you found their coordinates. You could also learn their names today, and how they changed over the years”

“Cartographer , because I enjoyed seeing where Alexander went and figuring out his route (e.g. he can’t go through mountains but he can cross rivers)”

“I liked finding the coordinates of places and watching them appear on the map.”

“I enjoyed the role of the Historian the most because it required gaining a good understanding of the context and situations surrounding the journey of Alexander, looking at why, not only where, Alexander went to certain places”

“Cartographer was fun because you got to draw the routes, but I also liked blogging”

“Blogging because it was creative and fun. Cartographer because I liked connecting the places in order and looking in the text to find his route”

“Researcher – I discovered and learnt about new parts of Persia and its history”

“Blogger! I’m a writer.”

Thanks so much  to all the others who helped, including Peter Cornwell, Marianna Fletcher-Williams, Dr Robert Harding, Jeanette Langford, Iyad Nasrallah, Dr Shadia Taha and Simin Zeng.

— Eleni


Klassisk filologi i Sverige

Ny bok från söta bror!


Den klassiska filologin är en gammal vetenskap. Den står i ett motsägelsefullt förhållande till det antika arvets betydelse. Nyorienteringarna i filologin har vanligen inträffat i samband med att filologin emanciperats från sina olika användningar i politik, kultur och skola; förenklat uttryckt: när antikens inflytande minskat har filologin ryckt framåt.

Den här boken är resultatet av ett symposium i Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademiens regi våren 2013. Den är ett uttryck för ett reflektivt medvetande bland svenska klassiska filologer om den egna disciplinens historiska förvandlingar. Den avspeglar nyfikenhet på den svenska traditionen, på överspelade inriktningar som tas upp igen och på bortglömda filologiska insatser men pekar också på nya forskningsfält. Bidragen är ordnade i fyra grupper:

–  reflexioner över de klassiska studiernas ställning,

–  kommentarer till moderna inriktningar inom filologin,

–  översättningar som en fundamental men bortglömd dimension av det filologiska arbetet, samt

–  några signifikanta öden och episoder i disciplinens historia.

Redaktörer: Eric Cullhed, Uppsala & Bo Lindberg, Göteborg

Författare: Johanna Akujärvi, Anna Blennow, Erik Bohlin, Eric Cullhed, Sigrid Schottenius Cullhed, Hans Helander, Paula Henrikson, Dimitrios Iordanoglou, Tore Janson, Erika Kihlman, Bo Lindberg, Lars Nordgren, Johannes Siapkas, Lars-Göran Sundell & David Westberg.


4,000 year-old shipwreck belonging to Minoans found in Turkey



Turkish researchers have discovered a 4,000 year-old shipwreck in Marmaris Hisarönü Gulf in the Mediterranean, as part of an ongoing project carried out by Dokuz Eylül University’s Marine Sciences Institute since 2007.

Professor Abdurrahman Harun Özdaş, from Dokuz Eylül University said that the 4,000 year-old shipwreck is the oldest of its kind to be found in Turkey.

He said that the shipwreck was found as part of the ‘Research on Turkey’s Underwater Heritage’ project, which has been launched in 2007.
Last year the project has received 70,000 Turkish liras in funds and aims to make an  inventory for shipwrecks in Turkey’s territorial waters.

4,000 year-old shipwreck belonging to Minoans found in Turkey

«We come up with maps based on such shipwrecks, where they dropped their anchors, as well as objects which fell off from ships» Özdaş said, and noted that they refer to this as the ‘underwater geographic information system of Turkey.’

The shipwreck is thought to be used for trading purposes and is from the Minoan Civilization, which existed around 3650 to 1400 BCE.
It is reported that the ship is thought to have capsized during a trip to Hisarönü Gulf from Cyrete through the Rhodes Island and Bozburun.

It was also reported that the project found over 20 submerged harbors and architectural remains, 25 berthages and over 400 anchors dating from the Bronze Age to the Ottoman period. There is a separate project for the Ottoman period, which was launched in 2012.

4,000 year-old shipwreck belonging to Minoans found in Turkey
— Eleni

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Ancient Greek manuscripts reveal life lessons from the Roman empire


Newly translated textbooks from the second and sixth centuries aimed at language learners also provide pointers on shopping, bathing, dining and how to deal with drunk relatives

The twelfth-century manuscript Zwettl 1, folio 11r.
How to live, the Latin way. A 12th-century manuscript with material copied from the earlier texts – an important source for Professor Dickey in her research. Photograph: Zisterzienserstift Zwettl

Ever been unsure about how to deal with a drunken family member returning from an orgy? A collection of newly translated textbooks aimed at Greek speakers learning Latin in the ancient world might hold the solution.

Professor Eleanor Dickey travelled around Europe to view the scraps of material that remain from ancient Latin school textbooks, or colloquia, which would have been used by young Greek speakers in the Roman empire learning Latin between the second and sixth centuries AD. The manuscripts, which Dickey has brought together and translated into English for the first time in her forthcoming book Learning Latin the Ancient Way: Latin Textbooks in the Ancient World, lay out everyday scenarios to help their readers get to grips with life in Latin. Subjects range from visiting the public baths to arriving at school late – and dealing with asozzled close relative.

“Quis sic facit, domine, quomodo tu, ut tantum bibis? Quid dicent, qui te viderunt talem?” runs the scene from the latter, which Dickey translates as: “Who acts like this, sir, as you do, that you drink so much? What would they say, the people who saw you in such a condition?

“Is this a fitting way for a master of a household who gives advice to others to conduct himself? It is not possible (for things) more shamefully nor more ignominiously to happen than you acted yesterday,” the scolder continues, adding: “infamiam maximam tibi cumulasti”, or “Great infamy have you accumulated for yourself … But now you don’t want to vomit, do you?”

The recipient of the attack is suitably chastened in the scenario: “I certainly am very much ashamed,” he replies. “I don’t know what to say, for so upset have I been that no explanation to anyone can I give.”

“Roman dinner parties were not always decorous affairs; participants might drink more than was sensible and while under the influence might do things that they would later regret,” writes Dickey in her book, which is published tomorrow by Cambridge University Press. “The colloquia do not describe any of these scenes, but they do include a scene in which a character is rebuked for his (unspecified) behaviour while drunk. It is unclear what the relationship between the scolder and the miscreant is, though some type of family connection seems likely.”

The colloquia show the language learners how to deal with getting to school late – a boy told that “yesterday you slacked off and at midday you were not at home”. He successfully escapes from censure by putting the blame on his very important father, whom he had accompanied “to the praetorium” where he was “greeted by the magistrates, and he received letters from my masters the emperors”.

The Latin learners are provided with examples of how to deal with visits to sick friends and preparations for dinner parties. They are also briefed on trips to the market to wrangle over prices (“How much is the cape?” “Two hundred denarii.” “You’re asking a lot; accept a hundred denarii”) and an excursion to the bank.

“We don’t know if they would have roleplayed the scenes with other students,” said Dickey, a professor of classics at the University of Reading. “But my hunch is that they did.”

Dickey said the texts were very commonly used. “We know this because they survive in lots of different medieval manuscript versions. At least six different versions were floating around Europe by 600 AD,” she said. “This is actually more common than many better-known ancient texts: there was only one copy of Catullus, and fewer than six of Caesar. Also, we have several papyrus fragments – since only a tiny fraction survive, when you have more than one papyrus fragment, for sure a text was popular in antiquity.”

‘Maledicis me, malum caput? crucifigaris!’ translates to: ‘Do you revile me, villain? May you be crucified!’

The oldest versions of the texts exist as fragments on papyri in Egypt, where the climate meant they survived. Due to the size of these fragments, Dickey had to refer to medieval manuscripts from across Europe. “They have been copied and copied over many centuries, with everyone introducing more mistakes, so they’re not that readable. As an editor, I had to find all the different manuscripts and try to work out what the mistakes were, so I could get to the original text.”

Dickey shows how the students had glossaries to help them get to grips with the new language, collecting together lists of words on useful subjects such as sacrifices (“exta” means entrails, “victimator” is a calf-slaughterer and “hariolus” is a soothsayer) and entertainment. “They’re definitely not the same sorts of words as we’d need,” said Dickey.

There’s a phrasebook section on excuses (“You did what I told you?” “Not yet “Why?” “I (shall) do it soon, for I’m in a hurry to go out”), and a varied one on insults. “Maledicis me, malum caput? crucifigaris!” or “Do you revile me, villain? May you be crucified!” is one particularly vicious one, along with: “And does he revile (me), that animal-fighter? Let me go, and I shall shake out his teeth.”

“When we think of the Romans, it’s mainly of the rich and famous generals, emperors and statesmen,” Dickey told the Guardian. “But those people are clearly atypical: they’re famous precisely because they were remarkable. Historians try to correct this bias by telling us about the masses of ordinary Romans, but rarely do we have works written by or about these people. These colloquia give us real, contemporary stories about their lives and I hope my work gives a fairer and truer vision of ancient society.”

Insights into the intended readers’ times are provided by a scene played out during a visit to the public baths. Here, wrestling is followed by anointing with oil, before time in the sweatrooms and the hot pools. “Let’s use the dry heat room and go down that way to the hot pool,” one character suggests. “Go down, pour hot water over me. Now get out. Throw yourself into the pool in the open air. Swim!” “I have swum.”

“We learn all kinds of things we didn’t know here. When they come from the baths, they take a shower and scrape themselves off with a ‘strigil’,” said Dickey. A strigil was a metal scraper used to remove dirt after an activity such as wrestling, and the characters have washed and swum since they wrestled. Dickey believes the only plausible reason for then showering and scraping is that their bath has made the characters dirtier than they were previously. “We knew the baths were dirty, but not that they were this dirty.”

— Eleni


Summer courses in Classics


University College Cork

Intensive Greek and Latin Summer School

June 20th – August 11th 2016

For the 17th year running, the Department of Classics at UCC offers an intensive 8-week summer school for beginners with parallel courses in Latin and Ancient Greek. The courses are primarily aimed at postgraduate students in diverse disciplines who need to acquire a knowledge of either of the languages for further study and research, and at teachers whose schools would like to reintroduce Latin and Greek into their curriculum. Undergraduate students are more than welcome to apply as well. The basic grammar will be covered in the first 6 weeks and a further 2 weeks will be spent reading original texts.

The tuition fee (including text books) for the 8-week course is €1900.

For further information and an application form see our website:
or contact the Director of the Summer School:
Ms.Vicky Janssens
Department of Classics, University College Cork, Ireland
+353 21 4903618/2359
fax: +353 21 4903277

University of California, Los Angeles

Intensive Elementary Latin
Intensive Elementary Greek
Discovering the Greeks Discovering the Romans
Classical Mythology
Invention of Democracy


(310) 206-1590

UCLA Department of Classics
100 Dodd Hall
405 Hilgard Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90095

University of California, Berkeley

Summer Intensive Latin Workshop
Summer Intensive Greek Workshop

A ten-week intensive program for students with no previous knowledge of Latin or Greek. In the first six weeks, students learn grammar and vocabulary; in the last four weeks, they read prose and verse works in the original. Six hours of instruction a day.


Tom Recht


Montclair State University

Beginning Latin I
Beginning Latin II
Greek Civilization
Roman Civilization
English Vocabulary: Greek and Latin Roots
Troy and the Trojan War
Intro to Greek and Roman Religion
Women, Gender, and Sex in the Ancient World
Selected Topics in Mediterranean Archaeology: Study Abroad

Most courses are offered online, take place over 3-8 weeks, and are 3 credits. Non-Montclair students are encouraged to register. Selected Topics in Mediterranean Archaeology is part of the archaeological field school at Genzano, Italy.


Prudence Jones

Jean Alvares




Dept. of Classics and Humanities
Montclair State University
Montclair, NJ 07043

University of Arizona

LAT 112 – Intensive Beginning Latin
LAT 212 – Accelerated Latin II

For more information on enrolling in Summer courses at the University of Arizona, see http://summer-winter.arizona.edu.

LAT 112 – Intensive Beginning Latin
MTWRF, 9:00AM – 12:45PM
June 6 – July 7, 2016
Intensive study of basic morphology, syntax, and vocabulary of beginning Latin. Latin 112 is the equivalent of Latin 101 and 102 OR Latin 112A and Latin 112B; the pace is fast and the workload necessarily demanding. Students who successfully complete the course may advance to Latin 212 in Summer Session II, or Latin 201 in the fall term.

LAT 212 – Accelerated Latin II
MTWRF, 9:00AM – 12:45PM
July 11 – August 10, 2016
Equivalent of LAT 201 and 202. Reading and composition, prose and poetry.



Philip Waddell
(520) 621-1689

Dr. Philip Waddell
Department of Religious Studies & Classics
The University of Arizona
PO Box 210105
1512 E. First Street
Tucson, AZ 85721


— Eleni

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Archaeologists make exciting discovery at Aptera in Crete


Archaeologists excavating the site of Ancient Aptera in Iraklio, Crete, on Tuesday announced the discovery of two small yet spectacular statues depicting the gods Artemis and Apollo.

The two statues, which are believed to be a pair, have a height of about half a meter, including their pedestals, and are believed to date to the second half of the 1st century or early 2nd century AD.

That of Artemis, the hunting goddess worshiped in Aptera, is cast in bronze, while her brother Apollo is carved from marble.

The goddess, standing on an ornate base also of bronze, is in an excellent state of preservation, the head of the excavation, Vanna Niniou-Kindeli, said, with all of her limbs intact and posed as though ready to shoot an arrow.

The statue of Apollo, said the archaeologist, is much simpler in style – possibly denoting the god’s junior position to his sister – but well executed and with traces of rare red paint at its base.

The two sculptures may have been imported to the island in order to adorn the Roman-era villa in which they were found, archaeologists believe.

Aptera’s survived from Minoan through Hellenistic times, after which it fell into decline.


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