Oliver Dickinson on Homer, archaeology and history

We had a second helping from Oliver Dickinson this morning, on Homer, archaeology and history.

Taking Homeric archaeology during mods at Oxford was what started him on Homer, apparently.

This April in Athens, OD heard from a lecturer about the discovery
of a Hittite epic from the 13th century BC about the siege and capture
of a town in Syria. In it the gods support both sides. An Underworld
goddess seduces the storm god to distract him from the fighting. The
epic was apparently published in 2000. The lecturer who mentioned it
said that the Myceneans could have heard it, and so influenced the
Greek epic tradition. Hde also suggested there there might have been
epics written in linear B, an idea which OD rejects.

OD told us that he knows more about the Trojan War than Michael
Wood, having studied it all his life. The 'Mycenean' interpretation of
Homer has had a long run. Till the 1960s scholars thought that Homer
was based on Mycenean history. Finlay disagreed. In the journal Greece
and Rome in ?1986 OD wrote an article on Homer, whom he called 'the
poet of the dark age'. In their references to customs and artifacts the
epics reflect Homer's own time, the 8th cent BC, not the Mycenean age.
The theme of this lecture is that Homer is about the dark age, not a
heroic age. Epic is a fantasy, in which reality keeps breaking through.

Whether there was a real Trojan War is a different question. The
vividness of the world created by poets leads people to think it's a
real world. But The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter present
realistic worlds which are not real.

On the Trojan War, the question is not whether there were wars over
Troy, which there probably were, but whether there was a 10 year siege
and the events described in the Iliad. The site now known as Hissarlik
was believed by later Greeks and Romans to be Ilion. But all earlier
writings about the site of Troy are now made obsolete by the latest
discovery of an extensive lower town 10 hectares in extent or more.
Troy really was a big city, not just the citadel that Schliemann
excavated. Material from Cyprus found in Troy (and vice versa) shows
that it was a centre of trade, with strong ties to the Mycenean world.
Mycenean-type pottery found there, however, is locally made, not
imported.

When we try to fit the Iliad story into the geography of Troy, there
are problems. The plain to the north of Hissarlik where fighting is
said to have taken place was, in the bronze age, a shallow lagoon.
Michael Wood's idea of the Greeks anchoring in a modern port is
unlikely – it is too far from the fighting.

Was Troy VIIa Homer's Troy? No. Troy VIIa lasted for many decades,
and the storage jars buried in the floors were not a panic measure in
preparation for a siege. So-called evidence of the sack of the city
consists of a single arrowhead, said to be Mycenean but really of a
common type, and one skeleton (probably an earthquake victim).

Michael Wood says Homer's Troy was Troy 6 – but that was destroyed
by an earthquake. What of the general plausibility of the tradition?
The motive given by the Greeks is not likely – war over an abducted
woman. It is not, however, impossible. Family troubles could lead to
war. In the middle east of those days it is recorded that a king of one
country sent his wife back to her parents in Amurru, because of some
major crime, perhaps adultery. Later he changed his mind and demanded
her return, so that he could punish her further; his action nearly led
to war.

Sieges of the period did not last long. It was hard to keep armies
fed for long. So a 10 year siege could hardly have happened. Modern
explanations offered to account for the war as Homer tells it are more
myth-making. One such explanation claims that there was a Mycenean
superpower in Asia Minor. While there was a Hittite city Wilusa, which
may or may not have been Ilion, the Acheava are not Achaeans. The
Greeks knew nothing of the Hittites, which they would have done if
Achaeans and Trojans had been in contact. We are talking of the 13th
cent BC. There is no evidence that the Myceneans were concerned with
some trade with the Black Sea, to which Troy was a barrier.

Does the picture of life in Homer reflect Mycenean daily life?
Archaeologists and others wanted to believe so. They leaned heavily on
views of oral tradition. Milman Parry's theory that Homer was composed
in oral style has been generally accepted. OD is worried that the fact
that material came from an oral tradition is taken to mean that it is
necessarily true. Tradition is there to validate the present situation
by reference to the past. When conditions change, the tradition
changes. Cf genealogies of Irish Kings. When Brian Boru became
(historical) king, his ancestry was rewritten to validate his position.

It is impossible to square the picture of a peaceful Mycenean state,
as shown by the Linear B tablets, with Homeric society with its
cattle-raiding etc. The walls of Mycenae and Tyrins (the latter took 5
years to build, according to the calculations of a research student)
were status symbols as much as or more than means of defence. The
Myceneans were not the Vikings of the 14th and 13th centuries BC.

The luxury and magnificence of Homeric palaces is from fairy-tale,
not history. Take for example Telemachus' visit to Pylos. Homer's
description of the nobles on their way to a wedding feast in Nestor's
palace driving sheep shows well-to-do peasants; that is realistic; the
gold and silver vessels used at the feast come from a world of fantasy.

In about 1200 BC all the Mycenean palaces were destroyed. There may
have been endemic petty warfare in Mycenean times. Soldiers were buried
with swords. Prestige attached to warfare. A crater fragment shows
warriors carrying 2 spears (as in Homer). Recent Locris finds show a
sea battle. This is all from the post-palatial period. Wealth was shown
by precious objects, eg Tiryns bronze vessels, jewellery, tripods.

Does the Homeric tradition derive from post-palatial period? There
is a mixture of articles from different periods. Some things mentioned
are from the palatial period. What about the use of bronze? Bronze
weapons were still in use till 1000 BC, even down to 900 BC. Some of
the pieces of armour described are old, but these are presented as
unusual items.

Throwing spears come only in the post-palatial period. A 750 BC pot
show these. Shield bosses come from 1100 BC. But much older shields are
said in Homer to have them – there is a mixture of periods.

Descriptions of Homeric houses have been linked with Tiryns etc. But
the reconstructions in books have been influenced by the archaeology,
and so are not true to Homer. For example, Homer describes a back
entrance to the megaron leading to the women's quarters. Such things
are not found in archaeology.

3 things in Homer are definitely post Mycenean:

Women's dress

Burial customs

Religion

Women's dresses in Homer are held by pins. But Mycenean dresses were
shaped and sewn. Earrings, found in Homer, went out between 1400 and
9th century. The rich range of beads found in Mycenaen tombs are not
referred to by Homer. Frescoes from Mycenae show rich dresses,
necklaces, wristlets.

Burial. Cremation in Homer is the norm, followed by the burial of
the ashes in a container in a pit, over which a mound was raised with a
grave marker. This was the early Athenian practice. Known Trojan
cremations were not like this. Bodies were simply put in pits. There
are rich iron age burials in Euboea, some from the 10th century BC.
There were graves of special types and elaborate funeral rituals,
indicating the deceased's high status. For example, a man's ashes have
been found buried in an antique Cypriot bronze crater (100 years old at
the time). A woman covered in gold was buried beside him, and horses
were buried with him in the next grave. A crater was set up over the
grave. This is very near to Patroclus' burial, and it is dated to the
mid 10th century BC. Other graves with such grave goods come from 9th
century.

Religion

Religious rituals as described in Homer are most like those of later
Greeks. Odyssey 3 describes a sacrifice most fully. Myceneans did
sometimes have burned sacrifices, but offering a clay figurine was the
commonest method. Many figurines have been found with dedications.

People point out that many Linear B names of gods are known later.
OD points out that others, Apollo, Demeter, Aphrodite, Persephone and
(OD maintains) Athena are absent. 'Podnia' (the name simply means
Mistress) is found in Linear B but not later. Many deities later
disappeared. Frescoes show goddesses, and Linear B mentions male gods.

Olympia and Delphi, though mentioned in Homer, were shrines founded later than the date of the Trojan War.

The poems have iron age traces, but are not an accurate picture of
the iron age. Why didn't Ithaca's assembly meet in Odysseus' absence?
Where were Penelope's relatives, who ought to have taken care of her in
her husband's absence? It's all part of fairytale story, with a little
realism added.

The catalogue of ships in the Iliad does not give a picture of the
Mycenean world. Mycenean sites have been found all over the place, so
it's not surprising that all the places mentioned were really Mycenean
sites. But the important sites were not mentioned. Homer puts Pylos on
the coast – it's really some way inland. The mention of Athens,
standing for Attica in general, is suspicious. As for Rhodes, the three
cities mentioned are important sites in classical times. Sparta is
mentioned, but has few Mycenean remains. Argolid sites named are those
which are important in archaic to classical times. Why is Argos given
lots of territory? Because it was important later. Mycenae's territory
is put further north, to make space for Argos to have some land. Why
are Boeotians in Boeotia, when Thucydides says they came 50 years after
the Trojan War? Thebes was important in Linear B times, and has Linear
B material. Lists like the catalogue of ships could be changed – the
people of Salamis quoted a different version from the Athenians.

Epic is not bad history, but a poetic creation. Gods appear on
earth. Heroes, monsters, gold and silver vessels, people eating lots of
meat.

It's simplest to regard the Homeric epics as great stories and leave it at that.

The speaker has sent some references for further reading:

O. Dickinson, 'Homer, the poet of the Dark Age', Greece and Rome 33 (1986) 20-37; reprinted with corrections and additional comments, in P. Walcot and I. McAuslan, Homer (Greece and Rome Studies, 1998), 19-37.

I. Morris, 'The use and abuse of Homer', in Classical Antiquity 5 (1986) 81‑138.

E.S. Sherratt, ''Reading the texts': archaeology and the Homeric question', Antiquity 64 (1990) 807-24.

Likely to be worth a read if it can be tracked down is J.-P. Crielaard, 'Homer, history and archaeology: some remarks on the date of the Homeric world', in J.-P. Crielaard (ed.), Homeric Questions (Amsterdam 1995) 201‑89. There will be much more relevant stuff in the proceedings of the conference at Edinburgh in Jan. 2003, From Wanax to Basileus, at which I spoke among many others, in fact almost everyone eminent in the “Dark Age”/Homeric arena.

Best discussion of Homeric warfare H. van Wees, 'The Homeric way of war', Greece and Rome 41 (1994), 1‑18, 131‑55 (R.G. Osborne, 367-8 in Greece in the Making 367-8 is still unconvinced that militarily plausible), see also van Wees in CQ 36 (1986) 285‑303, 38 (1988) 1‑24.

Osborne cites most of above and others; I read Geddes in CQ 34 (1984) 17‑36, wasn't entirely convinced.

Why study Greek vase-painting?

Today's report from the ARLT Summer School, where the weather is wonderful, the surroundings are inspiring, and the lectures are intriguing. This one was called: Why study Greek vase-painting?

Thursday 29 July 2004

Oliver Dickinson of Durham set himself a serious question and stuck at it until he arrived at a satisfactory answer. In the process he helped us to look at many Greek vases, the majority of them already familiar to those who teach Greek art, in a new context and a new light.

As a preliminary to answering the question Why study Greek vase-painting, OD asked if we are now rating vase painting too highly. Beezley, who first wrote seriously about the subject, treated vase painters as if they were renaissance Old Masters. In recent years two pots have fetched over a million dollars at auction. Lindsey Davis makes her hero Falco's father an auctioneer who has some antique vases in his warehouse worth a great deal of money. Did the Romans ever set such store by vases? There is no evidence for it.

Some Athenian vases actually have a price on their base. The biggest pots cost up to 3 drachmas, and normal ones went for fractions of an obol. For comparison, a large fish cost one or two drachmas, and best wine 2 drachmas for 6 pints. A drachma was the daily allowance for a soldier, and a juryman got half that amount. So the finest vases cost not more than a few days' wages. This was not like dealing in fine art. Vases were nowhere near as expensive as statues, or even the relief carving on the Erechtheum. Vase painters were craftsmen simply working for their living.

After these warnings against over-valuing pottery, OD warned against undervaluing it. What of the argument by Michael Vickers and others that clay pots were cheap imitations of the valuable ware, which was metal? The suggestion has been made that metal vessel makers even controlled vase painting. OD was not convinced. Few metal pots have been found, most of them cups. Certainly some clay pots imitated the shape of metal vases. The Francois vase is shaped just like an extant bronze vessel. But metal pots were decorated only on their handles, until the late fourth century; pot painters could not have been imitators of metal only. Michael Vickers suggests that the lack of metal vases in tombs was caused by a reluctance to indulge in showy display; but Etruscan tombs (in which the great majority of our Athenian painted ware was found) yielded pots of the highest quality, showing that these were valued in their own right. Did the Etruscans appreciate them so much that they treated them as works of art?

The scenes chosen by painters reflected the life and tastes of the elite, suggesting that it was the wealthy who bought them. Early Athenian vases showed mythological scenes, but scenes of daily life were added to the repertoire, and these were such activities as athletics and the symposium, recreations of the elite.

It is often said that the real Greek art was large panel painting, of which very few examples survive – hardly any from before the fourth century. OD questioned that. He showed an example of panel painting, arguing that it was nothing special enough to relegate vase paintings to second place. After all, vase painters must have had a lot of practice, and made significant advances in drawing technique, particularly of the human form.

Were vase painters appreciated as individuals? The best ones signed their work. They were thinking of themselves as artists. Perhaps rich shoppers looked for a pot by Exekias rather than by a lesser craftsman. For sure, the material they used, clay, was cheap, so the finished article was not very expensive.

The shapes of vase that were painted reinforce the connection with the elite. A few were for religious use or for funerals, but most were made to be used – and used by the elite. The aryballos was the athlete's oil-jar; many types of pot were designed for the symposium – for storing wine, cooling it, pouring it, drinking it; the pyxis was for jewellery, which the poor would not possess.

OD took us briskly through the developments in style of pot decoration, from geometric (including the huge National Museum grave marker where the painter has taken care to design the pot as a whole, and has wedded human figures with geometric style by making the figures geometric, and repeating them like a pattern) through Ionian and Corinthian styles which aimed merely to fill the surface with colourful decoration, to Athenian pottery in its varied styles, black figure, red figure and white ground.

When making grave markers the Athenians chose amphorae for females and craters for males. The horses that were often depicted were associated with the rich.

Earlier vases were normally divided horizontally into zones, each zone with its frieze of figures or other decoration. The Francois vase dated about 570 BC has zones filled with human figures that tell stories, not just decorative animals and flowers. The myths on this vase are united by the theme of tragic love. In the tale of Achilles and Polyxena, Achilles is shown in the act of jumping from ambush, his feet off the ground.

As the trend from decoration to 'art' continued, painters chose only one zone, and painted a strong scene on it. Early examples are the olive harvest and the Homeric heroes playing 'chess.' In black figure vases the incising tool was used to make a texture that was almost like a third colour. Exekias was a talented potter and painter. His scene of Ajax preparing to commit suicide shows an unusual moment in the story, before the deed. He adds just one extra line above Ajax's eyes to indicate his state of mind. Panel painting at this period was no more advanced.

The invention of the white ground technique allowed vase painters to approach nearest to the colour technique of panel painters, but white ground was only an interesting sideline. Red figure was the dominant style, though at first it was used only for amphorae and cups.

Drawing techniques advanced greatly, particularly in representing the human body in twisted poses – just like relief sculpture of the same years. One example is the vase by Euphronius of Kyknos (one of the million dollar vases); another shows Heracles wrestling with Antaeus. Bodies writhe, and thin paint is used for varied colour.

The Brygos painter shows scenes of vigorous action, like the sack of Troy, with a woman about to join the fight holding a pestle. His party scenes are equally lively, with, for instance, a fight over a woman. These scenes give the impression of photographs rather than carefully composed paintings.

The high point in vase painting was reached in 470 BC with the Berlin painter, who painted single figures on a panel with most of the vase black.

Classical red figure painting is disappointing. The painters are just as skilled, but lack the vigour of earlier painters. the commonest emotion shown is pathos. The influence of large panel painting is shown in scenes of figures at different levels. By now panel painters were outstripping vase painters. Tastes were evidently changing. Perhaps the rich could now afford metal ware. The preoccupation with elite pursuits gave way to more everyday scenes. Respectable women appear. Increasingly, pot painters rely for inspiration on other art forms, like the great shield of Athene in the Parthenon.

The last great painter, the Meidias painter, can still move us. A fragment showing Helen with a sister of hers (a little known one) strongly conveys a mood. It is real art. From then on, it is downhill. The late 4th century and the third century change from human figures to patterns, and sometimes to no painting at all, but simply shape, like a well-known black ribbed vase.

Oliver Dickinson illustrated his talk with slides, without which it is impossible to do the talk justice. I have tried to convey as much as possible by words alone.

Augustus, benefactor of mankind

I didn't know what to expect, to be honest, when Professor Jeremy
Paterson stood up to speak, with a straight face, about Augustus,
benefactor of mankind.

I confess that I was still doubtful when he began by telling us that
he was writing a book on the economies of the ancient world – after
all, they do call economics 'the dismal science.'

But then he told us a story from Suetonius' life of Augustus, and
everything looked up, and didn't look back. The story was about the
last days of Augustus' life, when he lived largely in the Bay of
Naples, oftern on Capri. They took him on boat trips round the bay, and
one day they sailed near a ship coming from Alexandria. When the
Alexandrians realised who was in the boat, passengers and crew put
on a show for him. They donned togas, they offered incense, and finally
came on board and loaded the emperor with compliments. Among other
things they ascribed the good weather to him, seeing him as the author
of their prosperity. He was touched, and gave them 40 aurei each – a
huge sum.

Prof Paterson admitted that many historians would be cynical about
the story. They wouldn't even be concerned if it was true or not.
Everyone ascribes good weather to the powerful ruler. Look at the
praise of Augustus in Georgic 1, the best Latin poem. Even if the story
were true, well, the sailors would have said such things, wouldn't
they? It was expected.

But  what if they were sincere? Augustus brought peace, and so
brought prosperity. JP had written on the jokes that circulated about
Augustus (found in Macrobius' Saturnalia); one joke was this: As
Augustus returned victorious from Actium to Brundisium, a man met him
with a talking crow, who said, as he had been trained, 'Hail Augustus
victor!' Augustus was impressed, until a bystander said: 'You should
hear the other crow, that he trained to say “Hail Antonius victor!”'

Other jokes were about how Augustus sugared the pill when he had to
refuse requests. Whether apocryphal or not, such jokes represent a
reality about the relationship between ruler and ruled. Is this true of
the Suetonius tale, too?

There are two theories about how the emperor was an agent of
prosperity. The 'soft' one says that he only caused prosperity as a
by-product of peace. The 'hard' one says that he really did have an
economic policy. Historians have not followed this second line, partly
because it is easier to show the bad effects of a bed ruler than the
good effects of a good one.

Without going through all JP's arguments, and his disagreements with
other historians, let us speed to some positive indications that
Augustus had what we can justifiably call an economic policy.

Dio in book 52 records at length the debate between Maecenas and
Agrippa about how Augustus should act. Although the details no doubt
reflect the concerns of Dio as a senator in the 2nd and 3rd centuries,
this is an important passage.

Maecenas says that the emperor must look after his soldiers. Where
is the money to come from? He should sell off all state possessions
that he does not actually need. He should let out land to small farmers
at moderate rates; then they will become prosperous, and the successful
agricultural sector that is formed will yield good taxes.

Now the Romans never went in for public borrowing. Instead, they
confiscated the property of senators and debased the coinage. Moses
Finlay claims that emperors simply robbed their subjects like Marcos in
the Philippines and some African rulers today. But Dio is advocating
the raising of money to maintain a strong army to protect the whole
empire.

Trajan instituted the system of alimenta, to provide for orphans. He
lent money to local communities which they were to invest to provide
for the orphans. There is evidence from 50 cities in Italy of this
system at work, so it was probably applied to ever city. Was the aim
just crisis management? No; it was to benefit both the poor and the
farmers. To the question whether this is social policy or economic
policy, the answer is that the two are inseparable.

So emperors had long-term schemes to combat poverty. Then there was
the road-building, which was not merely to get the army quickly from A
to B, but also encouraged trade.

Recent study in the USA by Jean Kirkpatrick asks whether we can show
that democracies beget better economies than tyrants. In the ancient
world, embarrassingly, tyrants did best. But autocrats can be anywhere
on the line between totalitarian and tinpot. There is another spectrum:
kleptocrat to benevolent despot. The Emperors and Ptolemies called
themselves benevolent, but were actually further along the spectrum.

JP discussed the theory of the 'stationary bandit.' Whereas small
groups can bring about peacful order among themselves by agreement,
this is not true of large groups. An example is China in the 1920s.
Warlords fought each other and despoiled the people; but when a warlord
settled down in one place, the people accepted him as being better than
anarchy, and he treated the people well in order that they should
continue to provide him with wealth.

So in the Roman Emprie, many inscriptions praising the Emperor were true!

We should read Augustus' will, to be found in Suetonius chapter 101.
Augustus admits the vast sums that he received from other people's
wills, but claimed to have spent more himself on his people, 'in rem
publicam.' Wealth, as a matter of historical fact, is redistributed
more efficiently under dictators than in democracies.

The entertaining Dr Jones

It's stating the obvious I know, but Peter Jones is a constant joy – except of course to those who are enemies of the Classics. He gave the opening lecture at the ARLT Summer School in Sedburgh this evening, full of enthusiasm for Libya's Roman sites, principally Lepcis Magna. He visited it a couple of years ago, and if he had his way, 9 a.m. tomorrow would see us all forming an orderly queue in the local travel agents to book our holidays there. Bringing our students too, perhaps.

He cleared up something that has bothered me from my schooldays – and those, my dears, were many years ago – and that is, why the place is sometimes called Lepcis Magna, sometimes Leptis Magna. Apparently the real name has always been Lepcis, as witness loads of inscriptions all over the town; but there was a nearby settlement called Leptis, and Roman historians assumed that both towns were called Leptis (which sounds more like Latin anyway) and that one was Magna and the other Parva. The 't' wrongly put instead of 'c' was all the fault of those historians. So that's clear at last. Thanks, Peter.

We were treated to a clear and entertaining history of Libya during the 20th century, culminating in the fact that the Roman sites have been brilliantly excavated and restored by Italian, then British and Italian, and then Libyan, archaeologists. We learned why Colonel Gaddafi never let himself be promoted to a higher rank (a diplomatic secret, that), and more importantly that the Colonel is keen to encourage tourists.

Such is Peter's skill as a speaker that we hung spellbound on his words as he recited a long list of statistics and calculations about how many hours a lamp with a single wick would burn on a litre of olive oil (136 is the answer), how many lamps were likely to have been burning away in the city of Rome, how many litres of olive oil the average Roman would have needed for cooking, washing etc, and finally how many litres the whole city of Rome would have needed in one year. To meet this need, what area of olive plantations would have been required (a third the size of Kent is the answer to that one). And how many litres would have gone through the gigantic presses at Lepcis in a good year? I think the answer was (though by that time my head was reeling) that Lepcis could have supplied half Rome's needs. Oh, and I forgot to report that olive oil came in three pressings, the early (July to August), used in medicines and cosmetics, the September when the olives were ripe (good for eating), and the December when they were black (only good for cooking and washing). Or have I got that the wrong way round?

So much detail that could have been tedious, delivered in an intriguing and entertaining way. I'm reminded of W.S. Gilbert's modern Major-General with his

“many cheerful facts about the square on the hypotenuse.”

And apparently – I keep remembering other gems – the Spartans couldn't, physically could not, have destroyed the Athenians' olive trees during their invasions of Attica. And if they had, new trees would fruit in five years, not the 20 years we were told at school.

Did I mention that Peter Jones has recently revised Rieu's translation of the Iliad, and that this new Penguin book helpfully tells you what is happening with little indented summaries that distinguish Greeks (Roman type) from Trojans (Italic type), and mortals from GODS (capitals)? What will the man get up to next? Well actually he's producing a new post-GCSE Latin reader, with helpful and (would you know it?) witty notes. He considers two ways Deucalion and Pyrrha after the flood might repopulate the world, 'the usual method' or the way Prometheus used, moulding humans from clay, which Peter calls 'a rather less exhausting and more immediate solution.'

 

 

It's stating the obvious I know, but Peter Jones is a constant joy – except of course to those who are enemies of the Classics. He gave the opening lecture at the ARLT Summer School in Sedburgh this evening, full of enthusiasm for Libya's Roman sites, principally Lepcis Magna. He visited it a couple of years ago, and if he had his way, 9 a.m. tomorrow would see us all forming an orderly queue in the local travel agents to book our holidays there. Bringing our students too, perhaps.

He cleared up something that has bothered me from my schooldays – and those, my dears, were many years ago – and that is, why the place is sometimes called Lepcis Magna, sometimes Leptis Magna. Apparently the real name has always been Lepcis, as witness loads of inscriptions all over the town; but there was a nearby settlement called Leptis, and Roman historians assumed that both towns were called Leptis (which sounds more like Latin anyway) and that one was Magna and the other Parva. The 't' wrongly put instead of 'c' was all the fault of those historians. So that's clear at last. Thanks, Peter.

We were treated to a clear and entertaining history of Libya during the 20th century, culminating in the fact that the Roman sites have been brilliantly excavated and restored by Italian, then British and Italian, and then Libyan, archaeologists. We learned why Colonel Gaddafi never let himself be promoted to a higher rank (a diplomatic secret, that), and more importantly that the Colonel is keen to encourage tourists.

Such is Peter's skill as a speaker that we hung spellbound on his words as he recited a long list of statistics and calculations about how many hours a lamp with a single wick would burn on a litre of olive oil (136 is the answer), how many lamps were likely to have been burning away in the city of Rome, how many litres of olive oil the average Roman would have needed for cooking, washing etc, and finally how many litres the whole city of Rome would have needed in one year. To meet this need, what area of olive plantations would have been required (a third the size of Kent is the answer to that one). And how many litres would have gone through the gigantic presses at Lepcis in a good year? I think the answer was (though by that time my head was reeling) that Lepcis could have supplied half Rome's needs. Oh, and I forgot to report that olive oil came in three pressings, the early (July to August), used in medicines and cosmetics, the September when the olives were ripe (good for eating), and the December when they were black (only good for cooking and washing). Or have I got that the wrong way round?

So much detail that could have been tedious, delivered in an intriguing and entertaining way. I'm reminded of W.S. Gilbert's modern Major-General with his

“many cheerful facts about the square on the hypotenuse.”

And apparently – I keep remembering other gems – the Spartans couldn't, physically could not, have destroyed the Athenians' olive trees during their invasions of Attica. And if they had, new trees would fruit in five years, not the 20 years we were told at school.

Did I mention that Peter Jones has recently revised Rieu's translation of the Iliad, and that this new Penguin book helpfully tells you what is happening with little indented summaries that distinguish Greeks (Roman type) from Trojans (Italic type), and mortals from GODS (capitals)? What will the man get up to next? Well actually he's producing a new post-GCSE Latin reader, with helpful and (would you know it?) witty notes. He considers two ways Deucalion and Pyrrha after the flood might repopulate the world, 'the usual method' or the way Prometheus used, moulding humans from clay, which Peter calls 'a rather less exhausting and more immediate solution.'

 

 

It's stating the obvious I know, but Peter Jones is a constant joy – except of course to those who are enemies of the Classics. He gave the opening lecture at the ARLT Summer School in Sedburgh this evening, full of enthusiasm for Libya's Roman sites, principally Lepcis Magna. He visited it a couple of years ago, and if he had his way, 9 a.m. tomorrow would see us all forming an orderly queue in the local travel agents to book our holidays there. Bringing our students too, perhaps.

He cleared up something that has bothered me from my schooldays – and those, my dears, were many years ago – and that is, why the place is sometimes called Lepcis Magna, sometimes Leptis Magna. Apparently the real name has always been Lepcis, as witness loads of inscriptions all over the town; but there was a nearby settlement called Leptis, and Roman historians assumed that both towns were called Leptis (which sounds more like Latin anyway) and that one was Magna and the other Parva. The 't' wrongly put instead of 'c' was all the fault of those historians. So that's clear at last. Thanks, Peter.

We were treated to a clear and entertaining history of Libya during the 20th century, culminating in the fact that the Roman sites have been brilliantly excavated and restored by Italian, then British and Italian, and then Libyan, archaeologists. We learned why Colonel Gaddafi never let himself be promoted to a higher rank (a diplomatic secret, that), and more importantly that the Colonel is keen to encourage tourists.

Such is Peter's skill as a speaker that we hung spellbound on his words as he recited a long list of statistics and calculations about how many hours a lamp with a single wick would burn on a litre of olive oil (136 is the answer), how many lamps were likely to have been burning away in the city of Rome, how many litres of olive oil the average Roman would have needed for cooking, washing etc, and finally how many litres the whole city of Rome would have needed in one year. To meet this need, what area of olive plantations would have been required (a third the size of Kent is the answer to that one). And how many litres would have gone through the gigantic presses at Lepcis in a good year? I think the answer was (though by that time my head was reeling) that Lepcis could have supplied half Rome's needs. Oh, and I forgot to report that olive oil came in three pressings, the early (July to August), used in medicines and cosmetics, the September when the olives were ripe (good for eating), and the December when they were black (only good for cooking and washing). Or have I got that the wrong way round?

So much detail that could have been tedious, delivered in an intriguing and entertaining way. I'm reminded of W.S. Gilbert's modern Major-General with his

“many cheerful facts about the square on the hypotenuse.”

And apparently – I keep remembering other gems – the Spartans couldn't, physically could not, have destroyed the Athenians' olive trees during their invasions of Attica. And if they had, new trees would fruit in five years, not the 20 years we were told at school.

Did I mention that Peter Jones has recently revised Rieu's translation of the Iliad, and that this new Penguin book helpfully tells you what is happening with little indented summaries that distinguish Greeks (Roman type) from Trojans (Italic type), and mortals from GODS (capitals)? What will the man get up to next? Well actually he's producing a new post-GCSE Latin reader, with helpful and (would you know it?) witty notes. He considers two ways Deucalion and Pyrrha after the flood might repopulate the world, 'the usual method' or the way Prometheus used, moulding humans from clay, which Peter calls 'a rather less exhausting and more immediate solution.'

 

 

It's stating the obvious I know, but Peter Jones is a constant joy – except of course to those who are enemies of the Classics. He gave the opening lecture at the ARLT Summer School in Sedburgh this evening, full of enthusiasm for Libya's Roman sites, principally Lepcis Magna. He visited it a couple of years ago, and if he had his way, 9 a.m. tomorrow would see us all forming an orderly queue in the local travel agents to book our holidays there. Bringing our students too, perhaps.

He cleared up something that has bothered me from my schooldays – and those, my dears, were many years ago – and that is, why the place is sometimes called Lepcis Magna, sometimes Leptis Magna. Apparently the real name has always been Lepcis, as witness loads of inscriptions all over the town; but there was a nearby settlement called Leptis, and Roman historians assumed that both towns were called Leptis (which sounds more like Latin anyway) and that one was Magna and the other Parva. The 't' wrongly put instead of 'c' was all the fault of those historians. So that's clear at last. Thanks, Peter.

We were treated to a clear and entertaining history of Libya during the 20th century, culminating in the fact that the Roman sites have been brilliantly excavated and restored by Italian, then British and Italian, and then Libyan, archaeologists. We learned why Colonel Gaddafi never let himself be promoted to a higher rank (a diplomatic secret, that), and more importantly that the Colonel is keen to encourage tourists.

Such is Peter's skill as a speaker that we hung spellbound on his words as he recited a long list of statistics and calculations about how many hours a lamp with a single wick would burn on a litre of olive oil (136 is the answer), how many lamps were likely to have been burning away in the city of Rome, how many litres of olive oil the average Roman would have needed for cooking, washing etc, and finally how many litres the whole city of Rome would have needed in one year. To meet this need, what area of olive plantations would have been required (a third the size of Kent is the answer to that one). And how many litres would have gone through the gigantic presses at Lepcis in a good year? I think the answer was (though by that time my head was reeling) that Lepcis could have supplied half Rome's needs. Oh, and I forgot to report that olive oil came in three pressings, the early (July to August), used in medicines and cosmetics, the September when the olives were ripe (good for eating), and the December when they were black (only good for cooking and washing). Or have I got that the wrong way round?

So much detail that could have been tedious, delivered in an intriguing and entertaining way. I'm reminded of W.S. Gilbert's modern Major-General with his

“many cheerful facts about the square on the hypotenuse.”

And apparently – I keep remembering other gems – the Spartans couldn't, physically could not, have destroyed the Athenians' olive trees during their invasions of Attica. And if they had, new trees would fruit in five years, not the 20 years we were told at school.

Did I mention that Peter Jones has recently revised Rieu's translation of the Iliad, and that this new Penguin book helpfully tells you what is happening with little indented summaries that distinguish Greeks (Roman type) from Trojans (Italic type), and mortals from GODS (capitals)? What will the man get up to next? Well actually he's producing a new post-GCSE Latin reader, with helpful and (would you know it?) witty notes. He considers two ways Deucalion and Pyrrha after the flood might repopulate the world, 'the usual method' or the way Prometheus used, moulding humans from clay, which Peter calls 'a rather less exhausting and more immediate solution.'

 

 

It's stating the obvious I know, but Peter Jones is a constant joy – except of course to those who are enemies of the Classics. He gave the opening lecture at the ARLT Summer School in Sedburgh this evening, full of enthusiasm for Libya's Roman sites, principally Lepcis Magna. He visited it a couple of years ago, and if he had his way, 9 a.m. tomorrow would see us all forming an orderly queue in the local travel agents to book our holidays there. Bringing our students too, perhaps.

He cleared up something that has bothered me from my schooldays – and those, my dears, were many years ago – and that is, why the place is sometimes called Lepcis Magna, sometimes Leptis Magna. Apparently the real name has always been Lepcis, as witness loads of inscriptions all over the town; but there was a nearby settlement called Leptis, and Roman historians assumed that both towns were called Leptis (which sounds more like Latin anyway) and that one was Magna and the other Parva. The 't' wrongly put instead of 'c' was all the fault of those historians. So that's clear at last. Thanks, Peter.

We were treated to a clear and entertaining history of Libya during the 20th century, culminating in the fact that the Roman sites have been brilliantly excavated and restored by Italian, then British and Italian, and then Libyan, archaeologists. We learned why Colonel Gaddafi never let himself be promoted to a higher rank (a diplomatic secret, that), and more importantly that the Colonel is keen to encourage tourists.

Such is Peter's skill as a speaker that we hung spellbound on his words as he recited a long list of statistics and calculations about how many hours a lamp with a single wick would burn on a litre of olive oil (136 is the answer), how many lamps were likely to have been burning away in the city of Rome, how many litres of olive oil the average Roman would have needed for cooking, washing etc, and finally how many litres the whole city of Rome would have needed in one year. To meet this need, what area of olive plantations would have been required (a third the size of Kent is the answer to that one). And how many litres would have gone through the gigantic presses at Lepcis in a good year? I think the answer was (though by that time my head was reeling) that Lepcis could have supplied half Rome's needs. Oh, and I forgot to report that olive oil came in three pressings, the early (July to August), used in medicines and cosmetics, the September when the olives were ripe (good for eating), and the December when they were black (only good for cooking and washing). Or have I got that the wrong way round?

So much detail that could have been tedious, delivered in an intriguing and entertaining way. I'm reminded of W.S. Gilbert's modern Major-General with his

“many cheerful facts about the square on the hypotenuse.”

And apparently – I keep remembering other gems – the Spartans couldn't, physically could not, have destroyed the Athenians' olive trees during their invasions of Attica. And if they had, new trees would fruit in five years, not the 20 years we were told at school.

Did I mention that Peter Jones has recently revised Rieu's translation of the Iliad, and that this new Penguin book helpfully tells you what is happening with little indented summaries that distinguish Greeks (Roman type) from Trojans (Italic type), and mortals from GODS (capitals)? What will the man get up to next? Well actually he's producing a new post-GCSE Latin reader, with helpful and (would you know it?) witty notes. He considers two ways Deucalion and Pyrrha after the flood might repopulate the world, 'the usual method' or the way Prometheus used, moulding humans from clay, which Peter calls 'a rather less exhausting and more immediate solution.'

 

 

It's stating the obvious I know, but Peter Jones is a constant joy – except of course to those who are enemies of the Classics. He gave the opening lecture at the ARLT Summer School in Sedburgh this evening, full of enthusiasm for Libya's Roman sites, principally Lepcis Magna. He visited it a couple of years ago, and if he had his way, 9 a.m. tomorrow would see us all forming an orderly queue in the local travel agents to book our holidays there. Bringing our students too, perhaps.

He cleared up something that has bothered me from my schooldays – and those, my dears, were many years ago – and that is, why the place is sometimes called Lepcis Magna, sometimes Leptis Magna. Apparently the real name has always been Lepcis, as witness loads of inscriptions all over the town; but there was a nearby settlement called Leptis, and Roman historians assumed that both towns were called Leptis (which sounds more like Latin anyway) and that one was Magna and the other Parva. The 't' wrongly put instead of 'c' was all the fault of those historians. So that's clear at last. Thanks, Peter.

We were treated to a clear and entertaining history of Libya during the 20th century, culminating in the fact that the Roman sites have been brilliantly excavated and restored by Italian, then British and Italian, and then Libyan, archaeologists. We learned why Colonel Gaddafi never let himself be promoted to a higher rank (a diplomatic secret, that), and more importantly that the Colonel is keen to encourage tourists.

Such is Peter's skill as a speaker that we hung spellbound on his words as he recited a long list of statistics and calculations about how many hours a lamp with a single wick would burn on a litre of olive oil (136 is the answer), how many lamps were likely to have been burning away in the city of Rome, how many litres of olive oil the average Roman would have needed for cooking, washing etc, and finally how many litres the whole city of Rome would have needed in one year. To meet this need, what area of olive plantations would have been required (a third the size of Kent is the answer to that one). And how many litres would have gone through the gigantic presses at Lepcis in a good year? I think the answer was (though by that time my head was reeling) that Lepcis could have supplied half Rome's needs. Oh, and I forgot to report that olive oil came in three pressings, the early (July to August), used in medicines and cosmetics, the September when the olives were ripe (good for eating), and the December when they were black (only good for cooking and washing). Or have I got that the wrong way round?

So much detail that could have been tedious, delivered in an intriguing and entertaining way. I'm reminded of W.S. Gilbert's modern Major-General with his

“many cheerful facts about the square on the hypotenuse.”

And apparently – I keep remembering other gems – the Spartans couldn't, physically could not, have destroyed the Athenians' olive trees during their invasions of Attica. And if they had, new trees would fruit in five years, not the 20 years we were told at school.

Did I mention that Peter Jones has recently revised Rieu's translation of the Iliad, and that this new Penguin book helpfully tells you what is happening with little indented summaries that distinguish Greeks (Roman type) from Trojans (Italic type), and mortals from GODS (capitals)? What will the man get up to next? Well actually he's producing a new post-GCSE Latin reader, with helpful and (would you know it?) witty notes. He considers two ways Deucalion and Pyrrha after the flood might repopulate the world, 'the usual method' or the way Prometheus used, moulding humans from clay, which Peter calls 'a rather less exhausting and more immediate solution.'

 

 

 

ARLT settles in Sedbergh

Wowee!! What a wonderful place for a Summer School!

Just wait till I can upload a few pictures to show the stunning Cumbrian views from our Summer School location in 16th century Sedbergh School. It continues to take our breath away every time we make the journey from our living quarters across the road, along the side of the beautifully mown cricket field, to the lecture theatre or the classroom block.

And coffee and tea in the cricket pavilion, my dears. Bliss!

The first serious report on the Summer School will follow tomorrow. Meanwhile, think of the 50 of us working hard at option groups and in lectures, but also having a wonderful time getting to know each other and sharing teaching experiences and tips.

See you again very soon.

The Ermine Street Guard 20 years ago

The Ermine Street Guard is
going strong, but it is some time since I have seen them out in force.
The last time I met them was at a villa in Gloucestershire, when I was
privileged to be allowed to blow a 'bugle' call on a magnificent
trumpet. The man who made it explained the difficulty of shaping the
great circle of tubing and making it conical at the same time.

The pictures that I have uploaded today are the slides that I took
about 20 years ago. I did not make a note of which Roman site it was,
but those with sharp eyes and more expertise than I have may recognise
the bits of ruin in the background of some pictures. Anyhow, I thought
that these photos might be more use on the web than in my slide case.

There are, of course, many excellent photos on the Guard web site.

charge.jpg

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