Man, *insert leader name* is fucking up

How many have I heard lobby the same complaints at Obama, that I heard them cry over with Bush? How many times have I seen the reverse happen? Who really gets to decide how great our leaders are? Why doesn’t *insert leader name here* do everything that my clearly trustworthy news sources *cough* foxnews *cough* says they should do?

While having leadership and government is a necessary evil of sorts, demystifying  leaders throughout history is a difficult task. What we know about Julius Caesar comes through the lens of Augustan Rome. Supposedly, Caesar was a military genius with a perfect golf score. What would we say about Caesar if Pompey had won the civil war? I say Caesar’s and Pompey’s roles would be reversed. Caesar would be the worthy opponent who was ultimately bested by Great Pompey’s guile. Then, history would be in the hands of Pompey and not Caesar.

Could we trust Pompey any more than Caesar? If Pompey went on the form the Roman Pompate, then the names in the history books would be swapped. If Pompey attempted to preserve the republic, only Zeus knows what would have happened. 

My point is that we can’t wholly cut through the image leaders create for themselves. We can’t actually know what occurs behind closed doors. To maintain peace and order, such appearances are necessary. But what about accountability, which arguably a great part of the point of democratic governance? If we can’t tell fact from fiction, how can we hold our leaders accountable for anything? Or do I miss the point? Are the presidents and dictators supposed to be symbols and examples for their society? Do we need their myths of heroism and brilliance, in the same fashion we any other hero? Is asking about the “real” Obama just as pointless as asking who the “real” Odysseus was?

Put a Little Ovid in Your Life

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     In preparation for writing this post, I went back and reviewed the Ars Amatoria because it made me laugh so much when we talked about it in class.  So I wanted to find some kind of modern parallel.  I wasn’t really sure where to start when Steve asked if I had looked at any dating websites; surely there would be something there.  So that’s what I did.  I googled a few things along the lines of “dating advice,” “tips for a first date,” and “how to woo a girl.”  You can only imagine what kinds of things showed up on those searches, but I did find a pretty good website with a plethora of tips and advice on all topics relating to guy-girl relationships.  Here it is if you need some advice.

     Here are a couple of parallels that I found on the website: “If she responds to your gestures similarly, it’s a sign that she’s interested in talking to you too” (Amores 1.4).  “Every guy has the potential to make a great girl fall for him.”  “Be chivalrous.”  If you’d like to do more comparing, you can find the full Ars Amatoria here.

     I just get a kick out of the fact that most of the how-to advice that Ovid gives is still the same as today.  It goes to show that there’s nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9) and that as humans we haven’t changed much.  You think maybe we’d learn something after this long.  Maybe we have learned it, it was just all learned so long ago and it’s all effective so we just keep doing it.  Anyways…

     I looked at a book review that Mary Beard wrote on the book Latin Love Lessons: Put a Little Ovid in Your Life by Charlotte Higgins (I found this by typing “Latin Love Lessons Mary Beard” into google).  Something that often comes up in our class that Beard addresses is the question of whether or not the women characters in love poetry are real or not.  It seems that many of us persist in believing that these characters were all real, while Beard insists that at best they were “sex-in-the-head.”  These characters and themes were more about writing than they were about love, and the authors are sometimes mocking/making fun of all the love stuff (as in the Ars Amatoria).  But even if the main point is to use the love and women as literary devices and joke about stuff, it had to have happened in order to be able to joke about it in such a realistic and stupidly funny way (laughing at the people who do it…but it sucks when it’s you).  The themes explored, whether to joke around or use as a metaphor for writing, are still real and present and experienced by many of us.  I think that’s why we can relate to it so well and thus why we want all the people and situations to be real—so we don’t feel alone in our struggles.  All of our classical studies can be good for us because there is so much we don’t know about the situations from so long ago. There is a lot of room for us to fill the stories with our own imaginations and interpretations.  I think that is why we can learn so much from these studies, because they make us think and come up with conclusions for ourselves.  And we have to be able to defend them based on the text.  It’s fun for us to explore these things today, just as it was fun for the authors to explore ways to write.

 

KMF

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     In preparation for writing this post, I went back and reviewed the Ars Amatoria because it made me laugh so much when we talked about it in class.  So I wanted to find some kind of modern parallel.  I wasn’t really sure where to start when Steve asked if I had looked at any dating websites; surely there would be something there.  So that’s what I did.  I googled a few things along the lines of “dating advice,” “tips for a first date,” and “how to woo a girl.”  You can only imagine what kinds of things showed up on those searches, but I did find a pretty good website with a plethora of tips and advice on all topics relating to guy-girl relationships.  Here it is if you need some advice.

     Here are a couple of parallels that I found on the website: “If she responds to your gestures similarly, it’s a sign that she’s interested in talking to you too” (Amores 1.4).  “Every guy has the potential to make a great girl fall for him.”  “Be chivalrous.”  If you’d like to do more comparing, you can find the full Ars Amatoria here.

     I just get a kick out of the fact that most of the how-to advice that Ovid gives is still the same as today.  It goes to show that there’s nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9) and that as humans we haven’t changed much.  You think maybe we’d learn something after this long.  Maybe we have learned it, it was just all learned so long ago and it’s all effective so we just keep doing it.  Anyways…

     I looked at a book review that Mary Beard wrote on the book Latin Love Lessons: Put a Little Ovid in Your Life by Charlotte Higgins (I found this by typing “Latin Love Lessons Mary Beard” into google).  Something that often comes up in our class that Beard addresses is the question of whether or not the women characters in love poetry are real or not.  It seems that many of us persist in believing that these characters were all real, while Beard insists that at best they were “sex-in-the-head.”  These characters and themes were more about writing than they were about love, and the authors are sometimes mocking/making fun of all the love stuff (as in the Ars Amatoria).  But even if the main point is to use the love and women as literary devices and joke about stuff, it had to have happened in order to be able to joke about it in such a realistic and stupidly funny way (laughing at the people who do it…but it sucks when it’s you).  The themes explored, whether to joke around or use as a metaphor for writing, are still real and present and experienced by many of us.  I think that’s why we can relate to it so well and thus why we want all the people and situations to be real—so we don’t feel alone in our struggles.  All of our classical studies can be good for us because there is so much we don’t know about the situations from so long ago. There is a lot of room for us to fill the stories with our own imaginations and interpretations.  I think that is why we can learn so much from these studies, because they make us think and come up with conclusions for ourselves.  And we have to be able to defend them based on the text.  It’s fun for us to explore these things today, just as it was fun for the authors to explore ways to write.

Magic 8 Ball

         Going off of my drug spiel from my last blog, I decided to look into the Oracle at Delphi.  The oracle was a priestess whose mumbled prophesies were interpreted by the high priest. One high priest, Plutarch, noticed that the oracle’s stupor seemed to be an effect of inhaling natural vapors.  These vapors could have put the oracle into the trance, but the suspected gas, ethylene, is unlikely to have been found in high enough concentrations to be the source. Despite uncertainty surrounding the cause, the prophesies of these oracles were highly valued. 

         Are the people we get advice from today any more reliable?

         Let’s start with the absurd. Did you know that if you text your name and your lover’s name to 58585 with the message ‘flirt’, a relationship guru can let you know if your love will last? Surely a text message generator is all knowing.  Or maybe you take your troubles to a psychic.  I hate to break it to you, but I’m 99.9% positive fortunetellers are not connected with the spiritual world. They pay attention to clothes, body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions that encourage further probing on certain topics. That, and they describe situations that are common for most people. Relationship issues, tension in the family, and school and job stress are relatable for most of the population, and referencing any of these things may seem like the teller understands you, but really they just know that each person’s struggles are somewhat similar. Or perhaps you visit a therapist. You talk to the shrink about your issues instead of letting them guess your struggles.  But do you ever get answers? That is the goal in all of this, I think. Sometimes it’s easier to let someone else make decisions for you. Letting someone else decide your choices seems to me that it keeps you from accepting the fault. The past two years I’ve hoped someone would tell me what to do with my life so that I won’t wake up one day when I’m 35, hate my life, and have only myself to blame.  But I feel like an autonomous life should be more valued.

         At the end of the day, the high priest was still the one making up his own truths through the oracle’s gibberish. If the 58585 number texts you that your relationship won’t make it, the choice is still yours to break up with him or her, and from the beginning you knew there was a chance it wouldn’t work. The psychic is there to tell you your future, but it’s not as if he or she has chosen that future for you and set it in stone. The psychiatrist is a little different because he or she asks you the questions and lets you come up with the answers. I guess it seems to me like we ask other people for the solution when actually we only want validation for the choices we’ve already made up in our minds. That, or we’re really just too scared of failure. 

-Jennie

I found the one article by going visiting hope.edu > library sources > databases > modern and classical languages > jstor > searched “oracle at delphi” AND “gas”. My article was on the first page I believe.

More Folk Etymologies

    I’ve always really dug etymology, but I can remember the moment when my love for Latin (and consequently) etymology was sparked. I was a junior in high school, just starting Latin I, after becoming disenchanted with Spanish III the previous year. On one of the first days, my Latin teacher explained that the root of the word “sincere” comes from the Latin words sin cerae, meaning “without wax.” The supposed story is that sculptures were very popular in Greek and Roman times and consequently, low-quality knock-off sculptures were pretty rampant. Cheaper materials were often covered up by wax to hide their imperfections, but high quality sculptures were “without wax,” so to speak (withoutwax.org). This astounded me! Never did I realize that there is such a fancy hidden layer to the English language that ONLY classicists/linguistically inclined people know about! That moment, I realized I had switched into the right language and I was filled with joy. Sadly, I later found out that “sincere” does not derive from “without wax,” but rather the Latin word sincerus, which means “sound, pure, or whole”. Still pretty cool, but I thought my magistra could tell me no wrong. According to Etymonline, “There is no etymological justification for the common story that the word means ‘without wax’…and the stories invented to explain that folk etymology are even less plausible.”

    As I stated in last week’s blog entry, folk etymology has transformed our language, but more “fun facts” often mislead people and lead people to spread untrue rumors about where words come from. However, some of these fake etymologies might just come from words that sound very similar to the actual root words, hence the confusion. For example, the word “scissors” comes from the word caedere, which means “ to cut.” Caesarean section baby deliveries are not called so because Julius Caesar was delivered in that way, but from the same word, caedere (makes sense, since they are essentially cutting the woman’s abdomen open). Julius Caesar’s name actually comes from the word caesaries, which means “head of hair” because he was born with a full head of hair. So as you can see, people seek out etymological explanations for the words around them, but sometimes get confused and connect to a word that’s not entirely relevant, but merely just a similar-sounding cognate.

~Carotrix

Sources:

http://www.withoutwax.org/Without_Wax/Welcome.html

www.etymonline.com

Mapping: NEW and IMPROVED

We know that the Romans made maps.  We know what a few of them physically look like, and we know, indirectly, the general scheme of many others, through textual descriptions.  These are remarkable on their own, sharing with us the ancients’ visualization and understanding of their globe.  We also have a pretty good sense from engravings, ruins, and archaeology of what some parts of the empire looked like.  But we seem to be preoccupied with developing modern maps of the historical Roman Empire further, and having these available on the web.  There are tons of articles, sites, and blogs devoted to the exploration of how we piece together artifacts and archaeology, and how we visualize this information.  We can talk about Classics, we can blog about it, we can immerse ourselves in its words, and now we can take virtual tours of it!  Of course these are not exactly like wandering the streets of ancient Rome, but they are pretty close.  They allow us to be stunned by the size of the Pantheon, the height of Trajan’s column, and the sheer vastness of the empire and its connections. 

There are some cool projects that explore the connectivity of societies and geographical areas. (For a modern one, check this out.  I saw it on Lydia’s Facebook, but it came from NPR’s “Krulwich Wonders” series.)  It is really intriguing to think about geography in terms of the actual relationships between people and places, not the arbitrary borders drawn by the ruling global powers.  If you’ve ever taken a history or political science class, you should be familiar with the dilemmas presented when trying to match up the nation and the state (for example, Japan is easy, but Iraq is hard.).  For this reason, maps that are more than just visualizations of arbitrary and familiar borders are much more interesting.  

Considering this new form of mapping, I began to wonder about the purpose of maps. Begun as a way to travel (accurately and efficiently) and visualize vast areas of land and sea, maps were essentially a way to convey knowledge of places and their peculiarities.  Maps probably, then, began as an ancient form of the World Wide Web.  By that I mean that they were once the portable, accessible, understandable, and sometimes intuitive resource for passing along information and keeping track of it.  There were different ways to visualize this information (Peutinger table vs. google earth), find the information itself, and organize it all.  Some maps were specific; others were general.  Anyone could make and use a map (depending on the scale and desired level of accuracy, of course).  With arbitrary borders, maps were a way the empire, or whatever global power existed at the time, expressed this power.  Intentionally inaccurate maps were ways to manipulate the populace.  Just like the internet has grown in scope, complexity, and pertinence, so have maps.  Modern maps now present the ancient world AND every imaginable facet of the modern world (cell phone calls, flow of currency, etc.), in all kinds of ways-3-D, super detailed, you name it.  Each has evolved into a somewhat nebulous and entirely diverse collection, for which the world’s civilization is indebted.  And now, all these maps are accessible through the internet!

So, here is, in essence, a collection of the sites that lead me to these thoughts.  Pretty much my Top-Ten list for digital maps related to the Classical world, in no particular order, and likely with glaring omissions:    

Here is the Digital Roman Forum, the Rome Reborn project (of the university of Virginia), Aquae Urbis Romae (also from Virginia)and a site devoted to Trajan’s Column (part of the STOA project for digital humanities resources, started at the University of Kentucky, but now covering and encompassing a whole lot more! If this had been my starting point for this blog, I probably would have been so fascinated by everything they compile that I never would have completed a post. The Pleiades project is also through STOA.).  They are all incredible sites, and I really hope you check them out.  I had to share these three because of their sheer impressive collections of knowledge.  They also present some different ways of organizing and making this information searchable.  The Digital Roman Forum  (a project of UCLA) is searchable by geographical location, year, or keyword.  Other sites use only keywords, or only years.  This whole blogging project has made me think a lot about how we find, use, store, and share information with the internet as a primary tool.  If you had an unlimited supply of neurons and synapses, I would wager you’d spend many of them absorbing some of this information.  

This site has a very high quality set of images of the Peutinger table.  I think it’s fascinating!  I can’t get over it.  You should look at this site, and maybe you’ll get as excited as I am.  It is FANTASTIC.  Maybe it’s just a novel idea to me, maybe it’s just really cool and old, maybe this is just a cool site with great resources.  Check it out.  I’m obviously biased towards this site and the Peutinger Table, but that doesn’t make this resource any less valid.  

For similar reasons, this site with the Forma Urbis Romae fragments is interminable.  I didn’t mention in the last post, but it also talks about how researchers are using computer science algorithms to determine convergence between roads and fill in the missing areas of the map.  If you’ve been to Rome, I’m not sure you can fit algorithms to its roads, but they have apparently found it useful and are continuing to explore it.  

The Digital Atlas of Roman and Medieval Civilizations has some cool layering features.  I haven’t quite figured out how to utilize it fully, but it looks like a really vast valuable resource.  It is put out by Harvard, and maintained by various people there, so any extreme viewpoints are likely to be quashed.  

Stanford University’s ORBIS site allows you to fiddle around with itineraries and travel plans throughout the empire.  You can do it based on speed, mode of travel, and cost (which was the most important).  This site is super fun to mess around on and explore- and makes you feel even more like a Roman!

The Pleiades site is full of information, and presents some interesting ways of citing, categorizing, and approaching the gazetteer or atlas.  It is also community built, which makes for astounding diversity in the links it presents. You can also search the site in numerous ways: by place, category, name, etc. Super neat.

I ran across this Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative, which combines numerous sources and mapping tools into one.  It seems to be some kind of “deep web” search tool, where one can discover other resources.  Think back to our first two Library sessions.  

And, finally, there is Lacus Curtius.  This post, and this blog, for that matter, would probably not be complete without what L.J. Swain, formerly of WMU’s Medieval Institute, calls “simply the dream of the web fulfilled.”  I think he sums it up pretty well.  I’ve gone down the deep dark hole of following the links every time I’ve looked at this site.  There is just so much information here.  I hope you enjoy it.  Heck, you might even be able to use it in your own blog!  

-Isabel

Source Notes:

Pleiades and ORBIS were mentioned on Sarah Bond’s post on PhDiva, but I found them when I was researching the last post.  I also found many of these sites by searching the Rogue Classicist Blog for “mapping,” “virtual ancient Rome,” and “ancient cartography.”  I came across Lacus Curtius and this site through a dogpile search for “ancient cartography” or “virtual ancient map.”  This also lead me to the “Rome Reborn” site, which presents a nice list of other resources, including the Digital Roman Forum, Aquae Urbis Romae, and Lacus Curtius. The site just linked had most of the other resources I found, including Orbis, the Electronic Cultural Atlas, and the Forma Urbis Romae site.   Because so many of these sites were from educational institutions and linked to each other they appear fairly reliable.  More searching for the names and reputations of these people and sites did not turn up anything alarming.  

The Aqua Alexandrina

As I continue looking into the transfer of water and the Roman’s invention of the aqueduct I have come across one specific aqueduct that really sparked my interest. The Aqua Alexandrina was one of the last aqueducts built during ancient Roman times and was built between 208 and 235 AD by Alexander Severus. 

One of the main reasons this aqueduct strikes me the most is not because it was the longest total length, but that 10 of its total 14 miles were built on arches. As you can see from this picture, even finding enough stone to build an aqueduct that is that high for 10 miles is quite an accomplishment itself. On top of this though they carved into it beautifully refined arches that show the true beauty of Roman architecture. 

Another interesting fact about this aqueduct was that it was not only used for collecting water for the people living in the city. Flavius Belisarius used this aqueduct as a tactic in war. Because the aqueduct ran straight into Naples, Belisarius used this to his advantage by sneaking troops into the aqueduct for a surprise attack that ended up in him taking over the city. This happened in the late 500s when which the aqueduct was not currently flowing with water so that the troops could easily walk down the empty aqueduct. 

I.A.

http://www.romanaqueducts.info/aquasite/romalex/