Augustine, the Romans and the Jews

The Globe and Mail has a thought-provoking review of Paula Fredriksen’s latest work, Augustine and the Jews.

“Fredriksen teaches us that the real complaint of such Romans was not with regular, affable Roman Jews [... but ...] with newfangled Christian Jews creating social instability.”

Read on.

Good reason for Getty generosity

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gIpFCsuCa2Km0Os99JEELytUv64QD97DPVD80

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The J. Paul Getty Museum said Tuesday it is returning a piece of a 1st century Roman fresco to Italy.

The 35-by-31-inch fragment of a landscape fresco was donated to the museum in 1996.

It shows two painted panels, bordered in red and gold, which depict several Roman buildings in a cityscape.

Rebecca Taylor, a spokeswoman for the J. Paul Getty Trust, said the museum noticed last year that it matched another piece of a wall painting that a private collector was returning to Italy.

Taylor says experts decided the two fragments came from the same fresco and Getty officials decided to return their piece.

The fragment has been removed from display and will be sent to the Italian Ministry of Culture in May, the museum said.

Taylor says the piece wasn’t a highlight of the museum’s collection.

The Getty has returned more than three dozen ancient artifacts that Italy claimed were looted from archaeological sites. But Taylor says the wall fragment is not believed to have been looted.

‘Eagle of the Ninth’ director relaxed about historicity

In this interview with the Orlando Sentinel, director Kevin Macdonald discusses his forthcoming production of Rosemary Sutcliff’s novel ‘Eagle of the Ninth’ and its tenuous relationship to the actualité.

Go Roman in Exeter

Easter family fun in Exeter (From This is The West Country)

* Wednesday, April 8: Romans at Home. Explore Roman home life. Craft activities theme, such as mosaics and artwork.. All children under eight must be accompanied by an adult. Some activities are messy; people taking part are advised to wear old clothes. RAMM in the Library, Castle Street, 10.30am to 12.30pm and 1.30 to 3.30pm, free

* Thursday, April 9: Romans on the march. Talk to a Roman soldier about his kit and make a mini army or some Roman armour. All children under eight must be accompanied by an adult. Some activities are messy; people taking part are advised to wear old clothes. RAMM in the Library, Castle Street, 10.30am to 12.30pm and 1.30 to 3.30pm, free

The Cambridge News reports on Sancton Wood’s success

From the Cambridge News

Sancton Wood school, in St. Pauls Road in the city centre, has won first place in the city wide Latin Play Competition for the fourth year running.

In a competition which featured St. Mary’s, Perse Boys, Parkside, Coleridge, Comberton and the Perse Girls, Sancton Wood also scooped a prize in the Latin Reading Competition when Emily Atkins (Year 8) was placed second out of twelve competitors.

Judge John Stevens, Classicist, and Lecturer at the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education said,” It was richly deserved. The Sancton Wood play was performed with supreme confidence, the pronounciation was very beautiful and you felt as if you were really there in Ancient Rome.’

The year 8 Sancton Wood team was coached by teachers Michelle Holman and Russell Lord.

The play, a version of the Pyramus and Thisbe story, was performed by 13 Year 8 pupils who have been studying Latin for the last two years.

They had to perfect a first century Latin accent and then learn their roles by heart.

Slideshow of Caesar exhibition in Rome

The New York Times has a short slideshow of sculpture to be seen at the current exhibition GIULIO CESARE L’uomo, le imprese, il mito at the Chiostro Del Bramante in Rome.

Twitter curriculum

Strange bit of news here.

Ministers forced into history climbdown over plans for Twitter curriculum
Ministers have performed a climbdown over plans to overhaul the primary schools curriculum by intervening to protect the teaching of history alongside lessons on how to use the social networking website Twitter

semper ubi sub ubi

http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20090405/ARTICLES/904059934/1033?Title=Latin-lovers

“Latin never goes away. It whispers to us all day long,” he said.

The Revolt That Ravaged An Empire

Washington Post

Review by Tom Holland
Sunday, April 5, 2009; Page B06

THE SPARTACUS WAR

By Barry Strauss

Simon & Schuster. 264 pp. $26

One of the frustrations of studying the last, agonized century of the Roman Republic is that our sources invariably derive from the ruling elite. No snob like a senatorial snob: To search the writings of authors such as Cicero or Sallust for details of how the lower classes lived is like panning for gold. Most despised of all — and most ignored, of course — were the slaves. It was certainly no concern of a Roman aristocrat to examine the lives of those millions of unfortunates upon whose bent backs the entire glittering edifice of classical civilization had been raised. Yet one of those same unfortunates remains to this day a household name whose fame outshines that of many a senatorial high-flyer. After all, it was not Pompey, nor Cicero, nor even Julius Caesar who ended up being played on the big screen by Kirk Douglas, but the lowest of the Roman low: a gladiator.

What makes this all the more extraordinary is that Spartacus himself, the slave who defied an empire, left no testimony of his own. The few, fragmentary accounts of his life that do survive were composed by authors in whom the very thought of a slave rebellion inspired horror and contempt. From them we know the basic details of Spartacus’s career: how he was brought from Thrace to fight in an arena in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius; how he and about 70 other gladiators, armed only with kitchen utensils, broke out of their barracks; how for two years, from 73 to 71 B.C., his growing band of runaway slaves ravaged Italy; how at one point he led more than 100,000 men. And yet, despite the terror he inspired, there was a quality to Spartacus that even the Romans seem sneakingly to have admired. Whether it was overpowering his guards or putting consuls to flight or killing his horse to deprive himself of any means of flight when he finally faced defeat, he lived “fortissime” — as a man of exceptional courage.

The very features that so appealed to Hollywood, however, make Spartacus a potentially treacherous subject for any classicist. Historians, no matter how seduced by the drama of his revolt, are more circumscribed than their script-writing counterparts by the moth-eaten character of our sources. The balance between accessibility and scholarship, imagination and responsibility, is not always an easy one to strike. In his previous book on the Trojan war, Barry Strauss, a professor of classics at Cornell, seemed so desperate not to bore readers that he occasionally floated free of scholarly moorings. “The Spartacus War,” however, has all the excitement of a thriller but none of the poetic license. Whether it is the remains of a trench system in the toe of Italy or an abandoned silver ladle or the mention of one of Spartacus’s guides in “one line in a lost history book,” Strauss makes every last scrap of information count. This is particularly the case when it comes to descriptions of fighting. The account of what it meant to be a gladiator, of the tactics required to be victorious and of the agony of defeat is particularly adrenaline-fueled. Spartacus’s death — not on a cross, as in Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 movie, but charging the Roman general who led the campaign against him — comes as a worthy climax to an epic that never once relaxes its tension.
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As to the broader question of what Spartacus was fighting for, whether a principled love of freedom or a bandit’s love of plunder, Strauss hedges his bets. The goals of the rebellion, he concludes, were both noble and coarsely pragmatic: “honor, prowess, vengeance, loot, and even the favor of the gods.” If so, then one of the reasons why Spartacus endured so long in the memories of the Romans must surely have been that he reminded them of themselves.

Certainly, as Strauss points out, it was never a part of the rebels’ manifesto to abolish slavery itself. What they objected to was not the institution, but their own entrapment within it. Marauding up and down Italy, they lived precisely as their former masters did: off the labor and produce of others. That notwithstanding, Spartacus does appear to have held some authentically exceptional principles. Uniquely among the leaders of slave revolts in the ancient world, he seems — if we can trust our sources — to have put his faith in something like an ideal of equality. For that reason alone, it might be argued, he more than merits this fine biography. As another, if less well historically attested, gladiator put it: “Brothers, what we do in life, echoes in eternity.”

Tom Holland is the author of “Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic.” His new book, “The Forge of Christendom,” will be published in May

SPQR re-enactment

Global Post

ROME — Recently, residents and tourists around the Coliseum watched in awe as a legion of Roman soldiers marched in unison down Rome’s Imperial Avenue.

“Caesar!” called out the commander in Latin as the legion came to a stop. “I, Centurion Lucius Valerius Seianus, have brought your favorite legion here to return the scepter of command to your hands!”

A horn blared as the Centurion placed a large laurel crown on the pedestal of the statue of Julius Caesar, the great Roman general who was stabbed to death in the Forum 2,053 years that day — March 15, or the “Ides of March.”

As an excited crowd of tourists snapped their cameras, the legion made its way to the Roman Forum.

“It’s our way of exporting Rome’s history without being boring,” said the Centurion, whose real name is Giorgio Franchetti. He is president of the historical reenactment group, called “SPQR.”

The name is an acronym in Latin from ancient Rome, Senatus Populus Que Romanus — meaning the Senate and the People of Rome. With 35 active members of all ages, “SPQR” is one of several non-profit associations in Rome devoted to experimental archeology.

“Experimental archeology means putting yourself in the shoes of ancient characters who can no longer tell you how they lived,” Franchetti said, “to experience their struggles in first person.”

Members of the group are not actors. They are passionate Romans who believe their approach to archeology helps keep ancient Rome alive, much as Civil War reenactors in the U.S. discover history by portraying period characters and recreating scenes from another era.

In addition to studying archeological findings, such as jewels, weapons and military equipment, these enthusiasts re-create an entire living environment by organizing Roman encampments, gladiator trainings and religious rituals.

Their devotion to the study and practice of the Roman Empire has turned them into a subculture of purists.

Last summer, when rumors circulated about an idea to build a theme park inspired by the Roman Empire, SPQR President Giorgio Franchetti went on alert. He feared the plan would provide a superficial rendition of Roman life with one goal in mind: making a profit.

ROME — Recently, residents and tourists around the Coliseum watched in awe as a legion of Roman soldiers marched in unison down Rome’s Imperial Avenue.

“Caesar!” called out the commander in Latin as the legion came to a stop. “I, Centurion Lucius Valerius Seianus, have brought your favorite legion here to return the scepter of command to your hands!”

A horn blared as the Centurion placed a large laurel crown on the pedestal of the statue of Julius Caesar, the great Roman general who was stabbed to death in the Forum 2,053 years that day — March 15, or the “Ides of March.”

As an excited crowd of tourists snapped their cameras, the legion made its way to the Roman Forum.

“It’s our way of exporting Rome’s history without being boring,” said the Centurion, whose real name is Giorgio Franchetti. He is president of the historical reenactment group, called “SPQR.”

The name is an acronym in Latin from ancient Rome, Senatus Populus Que Romanus — meaning the Senate and the People of Rome. With 35 active members of all ages, “SPQR” is one of several non-profit associations in Rome devoted to experimental archeology.

“Experimental archeology means putting yourself in the shoes of ancient characters who can no longer tell you how they lived,” Franchetti said, “to experience their struggles in first person.”

Members of the group are not actors. They are passionate Romans who believe their approach to archeology helps keep ancient Rome alive, much as Civil War reenactors in the U.S. discover history by portraying period characters and recreating scenes from another era.

In addition to studying archeological findings, such as jewels, weapons and military equipment, these enthusiasts re-create an entire living environment by organizing Roman encampments, gladiator trainings and religious rituals.

Their devotion to the study and practice of the Roman Empire has turned them into a subculture of purists.

Last summer, when rumors circulated about an idea to build a theme park inspired by the Roman Empire, SPQR President Giorgio Franchetti went on alert. He feared the plan would provide a superficial rendition of Roman life with one goal in mind: making a profit.

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