A Canadian on-line second-hand bookshop

If you are looking for specific out-of-print books you might like to browse this site.

The prices seem fairly steep to me. Kenneth Dover's edition of Frogs, for instance, is on sale at 85.50 US dollars. But then I've tried to stop buying second-hand books for the past decade and may be well out of touch with prices.

The American Empire – can it learn from Rome?

Last Sunday's Observer had Tristram Hunt musing on the TV 'Rome', and concentrating on what it has to say about the USA:

What has always attracted scholars and statesmen to Roman history is the search for the seeds of that decline. Was it military overstretch? Was it the cost of Empire? And, crucially, when did decline begin? In the early 1900s, British imperial politicians were mesmerised by the narrative of Rome in the hope of avoiding the same fate. Stationed as a cavalry officer in Bangalore, the young Winston Churchill spent lazy Raj afternoons 'devouring Gibbon' for the answers. Desperate for Britain to stave off decline, Churchill was adamant that a liberal Empire committed to peace, trade and civilisation could avoid the inevitable collapse.

And now America is having the same conversation. For the HBO series is simply television catching up with acres of commentary on whether America is indeed the new Rome. Pundits such as Charles Krauthammer and Niall Ferguson have long called upon America to accept its imperial status and the responsibilities which come with it. With its global dominions, militarist culture, and geo-political ambitions, America is an empire and should display some modest intelligence in looking to the past for answers to this complex role.

Read the whole article.

'Spartan', a "mindless" computer game

If you are really into bashing virtual warriors on the head in a vaguely Graeco-Roman context, you might conceivably be interested in this Sega game. See the review.

Halloween and the Romans – Feralia and Pomona

This is the best of the current pieces I have come across on the web about the origins of Halloween. It's from the Sierra Star.

History and Hauntings

By Cathie Campbell – Special to the Sierra Star
(Updated Friday, October 28, 2005, 9:00 AM)

Beware of “bumps” in the night as corn stalks rustle in the fall breeze and jack-o-lanterns grin with eerie faces that cast flickering shadows. The streets will soon be filled with costumed children ringing doorbells for treats. It's Halloween time, but how and where did it all start?

According to The History Channel, Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in).

About 2,000 years ago, in an area now known as Ireland, the Celts celebrated their new year on Nov. 1. It not only marked the end of summer and harvests, it signaled the beginning of the cold, dark winter, which was often associated with death.

Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of Oct. 31, when they celebrated Samhain, it was commonly believed that the ghosts of the dead came back to earth.

In addition to wreaking havoc and damaging crops, Celts thought the presence of these spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future.

For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.

During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, normally made from animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes.

When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the 400 years when they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.

The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead.

The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated Nov. 1 All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs.

It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday.

The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make Nov. 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils.

Together, the celebrations, the eve of All Saints' and All Souls', were called Hallowmas.

Mary Beard on four new books inspired by Greek myth

See yesterday's Guardian for a long review by Mary Beard of these four books:

Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore
by Bettany Hughes
496pp, Jonathan Cape, £20
Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles
by Jeanette Winterson
208pp, Canongate, £12
The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus
by Margaret Atwood
208pp, Canongate, £12
Songs on Bronze: The Greek Myths Retold
by Nigel Spivey
304pp, Faber, £16.99

Roman Day in Newcastle

Youngsters head down Roman road

Oct 27 2005

By The Evening Chronicle

Children brought history to life when they stepped back in time to spend the day as Romans.

Youngsters aged seven and eight from Kells Lane Primary in Low Fell, Gateshead, dressed as Centurians, Romans and Celts as the highlight of their history project.

They have already taken part in an archaeological dig at Arbeia Roman fort at South Shields, which was built in 160 AD to defend the Tyne.

Youngsters helped their parents make their costumes then spent the day creating mosaics, practising roman numerals, making jewellery and piecing together a jigsaw of broken pottery.

Kyle Jones said: “I couldn't go to sleep last night because I was so excited at being a Roman.”

Amber Cain said: “I have enjoyed being a Roman and liked making the jewellery.”

Kara Beattie said: “I loved dressing up and doing the Roman jigsaw.”

Ben Smith said: “I liked doing the mosaic best and helping make my Roman soldier costume.”

The children have been studying the Romans since September and will continue until Christmas.

Even the teachers joined in the dressing up. Sheila Wilson spent the day as a Celt and Catherine Wallace as a Roman soldier.

Headteacher Diana Hewitson said: “As teachers, we know that children learn best from first hand experience.

“These children have been to Arbeia and taken part in an archaeological dig.

“Dressing up takes their understanding even further. This has been a most enjoyable, educational experience.”

Hannibal and Rome reviewed

There's a review of the TV Hannibal versus Rome by Small Screen here.

It is being televised in America today, but no date for the UK showing is given.