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I enjoyed Boris Johnson

I found The Dream of Rome part 1 entertaining, and am looking forward to part 2 next Sunday.

Boris Johnson visited many of my favourite Roman sites, including the Forum Romanum and Palatine, Vaison, Arles, the Pont du Gard, Trier and the Saalburg, and chatted enthusiastically to a variety of people, fropm academics like Professor Wallace Hadrill by way of an Italian politician, to French peasant farmers, giving us a selective but illuminating overview of the Roman achievement. The famous Virgilian 'parcere subiectis et debellare superbos' phrase was given a fresh look by being described as a Mission Statement that lasted four centuries. He threw in 'mare nostrum' without translation.

An extract from the Times review of his book gives the flavour of the TV programme too:

And now, nearly 40 years on, here comes another politician not only writing a book on ancient Rome, but having the chutzpah to try and show us what we could learn from the Romans about making one Europe from a plethora of discordant parts.

What’s more, he makes a pretty good fist of it. Had he not already shown his paces in a clutch of métiers — MP, columnist, editor, television pundit and wit — he would have made an admirable Latin beak. He knows just how to keep his class on the edge of their seats with a hail of modern allusions. His metaphors glitter; his similes soar. He can grow quite lyrical when roused on his passion for Rome and the Romans. “It is the memory of a peaceful and united continent that is so appealing,” he enthuses. “It tolls to us across the ages, like the church bell of a sea-drowned village. It is like a memory of childhood bliss.” It was the Latin language that acted as cement to this arcadia, “with its quality of clicking together sweetly and unforgettably like perfectly dressed blocks of stone”.

So, the kind of pleasure one might get from the best dinner party conversation. You don't have to agree with Mr Johnson's political viewpoint to find him an amusing and informed talker. And he isn't afraid of trying to speak Italian, French and German, which should be an encouragement to us Brits to have a go at speaking to people in their own languages.

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Boris Johnson's Dream of Rome

I am about to watch the first of Boris Johnson's two BBC2 programmes on the Dream of Rome, and I find from Explorator (thanks once again, David Meadows) that Boris' book The Dream of Rome is reviewed in The Times here.

Interviewed in Radio Times, Boris said:

The fascinating thing was how they magically encouraged people to want to be Roman. They did this by promulgating this fantastic brand across western Europe. They did it with minimal bureaucracy – the Roman Empire at its peak was run by maybe 150 senior officials. That's probably fewer officials than there are in the parking enforcement department of Islington Council.

I wonder how Pliny would react to being compared with minor London borough admin staff!
If I'm impressed by the TV programme, I'll write again later.

Distance learning – one American experience

Two classes are being taught simultaneously by a teacher in a third school, in this Alabama project. I copy a few paragraphs below. The complete article can be found here. Head teachers may be impressed with the saving of money.

Bob Jones Principal Robby Parker said Wednesday that Riley should be impressed with the entire school, not just the long-distance Latin class. He said 14 students are taking the Latin class, which began with the second semester two weeks ago.

Parker said the class is about “98 percent as good” as having a teacher in the classroom teaching the students.

The students are able to ask questions of Adina Stone, the Latin teacher at Sheffield High School, Parker said. The students and teacher can see each other via cameras.

“I think it's a whole lot better than not have the class,” Parker said.

Parker said it would not be feasible for the Madison school system to spend $50,000 to hire a teacher to teach Latin to a few students. A Bob Jones teacher uses her planning period to sit in the room to chaperone the students.

Get invloved with your local CA Branch

In attempting to reduce the piles of paper that threaten to suffocate visitors to my house I contemplated the Classical Association mailing, and wondered if I should start on the mammoth task of putting local CA branch meetings on the Classical Diary.

I decided that since my opposite number at CA has listed all the meetings here: I need not do the job again.

If any local organiser would like to put events on the Classical Calendar, that is quite easily done. Email me (david(AT) and I'll supply the information you need to post events on the calendar.

Getty Museum Classics section reopens

The two high points of my one visit to the USA (apart from seeing my daughter and granddaughter) were Universal Studios and the Getty Museum. Disneyland didn't come anywhere near these two.

In those days the whole Getty museum was housed in the replica Villa dei Papyri. Then they built a big new museum for most of the treasures, and left the Greek and Roman antiquities in the Villa. This must mean that there's loads more space for Classical exhibits now, so this news item is quite exciting.

Getty Museum Reopens Villa Amid Controversy
By Mike O'Sullivan
Los Angeles
26 January 2006

VOA News

After eight years of renovation, the Getty Museum will reopen its antiquities museum Saturday in a replica Roman villa on the California coastline. The opening comes at the end of a difficult year for the West Coast U.S. art center.

After receiving a $275 million upgrade, the Getty Villa will again welcome visitors to its spectacular site in Malibu, above the Pacific Ocean. The building was conceived by the late oil billionaire J. Paul Getty and first opened its doors in 1974. Karol Wight, the Getty's acting curator of antiquities, says it was modeled on the first-century Roman Villa Dei Papiri, which was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79.

“What was known of the structure at the time this museum was built was only the ground plan. So all of the architectural details that you see, including mosaic floors, column capitals, things like that, those were all borrowed from other buildings in Pompeii and Herculaneum to finish out the details,” she said.

The villa is a square building surrounding an open garden, with another large garden on its south side.

The museum has one of the finest collections of Greek, Roman and Etruscan art in the United States, from bronze implements and finely crafted gold and silver tableware to heroic marble statues. Wight says all are important art works.

“There's a wonderful Roman statue, the Lansdowne Herakles. That's a Roman depiction of the greatest of the Greek heroes, Hercules, as he was known to the Romans. And it is an extremely important piece for art historians because it was discovered in the 1790s, and had an immediate effect on the understanding of what Greek and Roman art was at the time,” she said.

The Getty continues its research into the classical world in its on-site laboratory.

More here.