Stabiae exhibition in Michigan

Looks an interesting exhibition. Take no notice of the couple of slips in the Latin.

Exhibit shows how wealthy Romans lived

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

By Roger Green
Booth Arts Writer

TOLEDO, Ohio — People know about Pompeii, and to a lesser extent Herculaneum. Both Roman cities were destroyed when Mount Vesiuvius erupted in 79 A.D. — a calamity detailed in books, poems and lately epic films.

Less familiar is Stabiano, a nearby villa colony on the Bay of Naples, where ancient Rome's rich and powerful summered. Stabiano also was buried in pumice and ash when Vesiuvius exploded, and has since been excavated. Archaeological digs, begun in 1749 and still progressing, show that home life for Rome's super-privileged was privileged indeed.

Finds from digs demonstrate how visually splendid and technologically advanced Stabiano's seaside villas were. Relatively under-appreciated till now, the sumptuous villas are examined in a stunning traveling exhibit, “In Stabiano,” at the Toledo Museum of Art through Jan. 28.

Displayed at the museum are detailed scale models, floor plans, sculptures, artifacts and fragments of the complex frescoes that once adorned interior walls. Also featured are virtual tours of computer-re-created villas, in all their pristine, chromatic glory.

Four mega villas and one so-called villae rusticae — the luxurious dwelling place on a working farm — are explored. From text, we learn that these sumptuous residences covered enormous areas: the Villa Arianna, for example, encompassed more than 150,000 square feet, the Villa del Pastore more than 200,000. Constructed on terraced levels, the sprawling villas included tunnels, ramps and upper rooms arranged to frame views of gardens and Naples' bay.

The disposition of rooms and their uses followed strict conventions; because the villas were used both for living and conducting business — read power brokering — social status and public/private distinctions were issues. Galleries at the museum are arranged in imitation of the villas' major spaces.

These included the atrium or main hall, to which all visitors were admitted. Other spaces, progressively more private, were the tablinum (library), triclinium (dining room) and cubicula (bedrooms). Also included were the culina (kitchen) and balnae (baths).

The gallery re-creating the triclinium is the most elaborate and instructive for illustrating Roman standards of luxury. A so-called three-couch dining room, it was originally furnished with low couches on which diners reclined. Food was arrayed on a large central table (mensa) or on several smaller ones. The couches were positioned in thoughtful relation to garden views.

Decorating three walls are preserved frescoes portraying Bacchus, Neptune, Ceres and other mythological figures. The frescoes, from Stabiano's Villa Carmiano, evidenced the owner's prestige and wealth, and were intended to dazzle visiting politicos and business clients.

In all, the exhibit includes 26 fresco fragments portraying mythological figures. The remaining frescoes are smaller than those on the triclinium's walls, but no less important historically. Fortuitously preserved by ash, the Stabiano frescoes count among the very few examples of Roman painting extant today.

Most surprising is the ingeniousness of the villas' baths, with their sophisticated plumbing. The Villa Petraro, for example, included a thermal complex in the classic Roman style: Three, progressively cooler baths — calidarium, tepidarium and frigidarium — permitted users to therapeutically open and close their pores. Heat from furnaces came from hidden clay pipes.

Today's mega mansions have nothing on Stabiano's villas. Visitors to the exhibit may regret the comparative modesty of even luxury, contemporary housing. But they'll leave understanding the tradition to which such housing belongs.

YOU GO: The Toledo Museum of Art is at 2445 Monroe St. Hours are 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday (to 10 p.m. Friday) and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (419) 255-8000 or access

To contact Roger Green, call (734) 994-6955 or e-mail

Opportunity in the government's gifted and talented scheme

The number of children included in the Government's Gifted and Talented scheme is to be increased to 10% of all pupils. This version of the story, from This is London, suggests activities for the G&T: Mandarin, Summer School at a university, or a NASA course. I have nothing against Mandarin. I studied it for 2 years at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London University, and obtained a Civil Service Interpretership in it. But Latin must be there among the options offered. The Classical organisations like JACT and ARLT are good at Summer Schools. Let's start planning one NOW for the G&T students. It could be run by JACT, by ARLT, by the Cambridge Schools Classics Project, by Madingley Hall, by Friends of Classics, by Oxford Classics Outreach. Come on! Who will take up the challenge? Government money is there.

And, to rival a week doing maths at a NASA-run course, what about having an Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome week with travel and lectures/classes?

Mentioned on BBC Radio 4 news was on-line courses as well. Leap in, CSCP! The Centre for British Teachers who are running the show need to hear from us very, very soon.

Vouchers to be given to 'gifted and talented' students for extra classes


Bright pupils are to be given vouchers to buy extra classes as part of a national talent-spotting drive that begins next month.

All schools will be ordered in January to provide the names of the top 10 per cent of their pupils in an expansion of the Government's “gifted and talented” programme.

This elite will be given “credits” – the vouchers – which they will be able to exchange for extra courses, which could be a Saturday class in Mandarin, a summer school at a university or even a maths and science programme run by American space agency Nasa.

Ministers want schools to give special consideration to bright children from poor families whose “potential” has not been fulfilled, in a bid to stop middle-class parents monopolising the scheme.

The Government already requires secondary schools to identify children in the top five per cent of their intake, as measured by results achieved in national English and maths tests at the end of primary education, and put them forward for programmes run by the National Academy of Gifted and Talented Youth based at Warwick University.

But Lord Adonis, the architect of this scheme, has moved to double its size after becoming frustrated with the slow progress many comprehensives have made in identifying bright pupils.

He said: “The national register set up earlier this year will enable thousands more gifted and talented children to be identified, especially late developers and those underachieving because of social disadvantage.

“This register will ensure they are identified early and get the appropriate learning opportunities.”

Teachers who are ideologically opposed to spotlighting the brightest have succeeded in stifling the scheme to such an extent that about 30 per cent of secondary schools have failed to put forward any pupils.

The Government's scheme will be administered by the not-for-profit Centre for British Teachers. Start-up funding of £65 million will pay for the courses.

Children will initially get 151 credits. A place at a university summer school might cost 100 credits, an evening online course 50 or a Saturday morning class 80.

Tim Emmett, the teacher centre's development director, said middle class pupils would not be excluded.

But he added: “The Government is seeing this as part of school improvement rather than a lifeboat for a few bright children.

“If you can raise the meter for 10 per cent of children in a school you can do it for the other 90 per cent as well.”

Philippines=Horatius; USA=the Etruscans

The parallel drawn with Horatius keeping the bridge is the Classical reference in this piece. You may be interested also in the feeling expressed by the Philippines writer, that the USA is trying to use its economic and military might to force the Philippines into releasing an American rapist.


The Philippine Star

There is a story told about a legendary Roman captain of the bridge which spanned the Tiber River to Rome. At end of the sixth century B.C., when Rome was not yet the great empire it became later, it was engaged in a war with the Etruscans who inhabited the other side of the Tiber.

During the war, the Etruscans marched toward Rome with thousands of horsemen and foot soldiers. The Romans then did not have too many fighting men. They knew that if the Etruscan army captured that bridge, the way to Rome would be clear.

But Horatius, the captain of the bridge, decided to fight at the other side of the bridge and prevent the enemy from crossing. He ordered some of his men to tear the bridge down. While they did that, Horatius, with only two men at his side, would block the advancing foe, or die trying.

When the bridge began to sway, Horatius told his comrades to run to the other side. Alone, the legend goes, he continued to hold off the enemy. As the bridge began to fall, he ran toward the other side. Before it collapsed on him, he jumped, clad in heavy armor, into the river. The Etruscans were unable to cross. Rome was saved!

I am reminded of this legend by the reported cancellation of the US government of Balikatan 2007, the joint military training exercise of US and Filipino troops. The reason cited by the US Embassy was the “current custody issue that’s still working its way through the Philippine judicial system.”

That “custody issue” involves US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith who was recently convicted by the Makati regional trial court of the crime of rape. The US, citing the Visiting Forces Agreement, demanded custody of Smith at the US Embassy while his appeals wound their way through Philippine courts.

Judge Benjamin Pozon of the Makati RTC, reading the same VFA, had ordered the temporary custody of Smith at the Makati city jail, until the appropriate authorities of the Philippine and US governments reached an agreement on the facilities where detention or confinement by Philippine authorities would be carried out.

The US argues that the VFA grants custody of Smith to the US until all appeals are completed. Judge Pozon ruled that the particular provision on which the US relies applies only until completion of trial and rendition of judgment.

Our law also provides that a judge may order a person convicted of a capital crime held at the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa until his appeals are resolved. But in light of the VFA, Judge Pozon issued the order for temporary custody described above.

Certain “agreements” executed after promulgation of the Pozon decision, which purported to grant custody to the US Embassy, were unavailing, the Judge said. Those agreements were not signed on behalf of the Philippines by legally authorized officials. Further, the US Embassy was not the “facility” referred to in the VFA for “confinement or detention by the Philippines.”

The US insists that the Philippines should respect its treaty obligations. The assumption is that the VFA is absolutely clear on the obligations of the Philippines on the custody issue. However, the language of the VFA on the matter is ambiguous.

Both parties recognize that since the crime of rape is within Philippine jurisdiction under the VFA, the matter will be decided ultimately by the Supreme Court. Smith’s appeal of his conviction and place of custody is still before the Court of Appeals.

In the meantime, the US has begun to turn the screws and has cancelled Balikatan 2007. Some senators charge that the cancellation smacks of blackmail. Malacañang, on the other hand, considers it a “setback.”

The US has reportedly pulled back some soldiers engaged in relief work in typhoon-ravaged Bicol, a real class act. Its military explains it’s worried about the “legal rights” of American soldiers while in this country.

One Palace legal adviser has publicly declared that the Executive has the final say on custody. Anyway, he says, all our courts can do is to cite the Executive for contempt. Not a big deal, he seems to think. Nonetheless, he acknowledges that the government will let the appellate courts handle the matter.

Our government is evidently worried that a rift with the US will prejudice our military modernization program, which presumably is tied to the VFA. One question this raises, though, is the wisdom of showing weakness in the very first case on criminal jurisdiction coming under the VFA, particularly when the text of that agreement is ambiguous on the issue of custody after conviction by a trial court.

Another question is what is meant by “modernization,” in relation to military assistance we’re getting from the US. This “assistance” usually consists of discarded, reconditioned equipment which, to be sure, are quite serviceable, but whose reliability is largely dependent on US willingness to provide spare parts and maintenance training.

But it appears the country is now more financially capable to acquire military equipment, pursuant to approved national security plans. These plans reflect a realistic appraisal of our current security needs. We have eschewed “beauty contests” with neighboring countries which flaunt advanced fighter jets and high-tech armament.

This implies we can look to other suppliers and not depend on the US for equipment supplies and maintenance. The US will have to compete with other arms suppliers and would not be the only game in town.

The matter is clearly in our country’s court. Diplomatic pressure is a fact of international relations. It’s up to us to determine whether or not the pressure is irresistible. It won’t be the first time the President runs the risk of displeasing Washington. Remember her withdrawal of the AFP contingent from Iraq?

Oh yeah, about Horatius, Romans who saw him jump into the Tiber as the bridge collapsed feared he would drown in the raging current, under the weight of his own armor. But he surprised everyone by safely reaching the city side of the river. Although an Etruscan arrow put out one eye, Horatius lived out his days as a farmer on land awarded him for his heroism. Grateful Romans erected a fine brass statue in his honor.

I guess the simple lesson the legend of Horatius teaches us is that sometimes, despite seemingly insurmountable odds, political courage pays off.

Merry Christmas

ARLT Blog wishes a Merry Christmas to all readers.

Sallust and moralising historians

I particularly appreciate the phrase 'clueless in Gaza'. Milton fans will get the echo.

T.R. Fehrenbach: Society can learn much from ancient examples

Web Posted: 12/23/2006 01:00 PM CST

San Antonio Express-News

The Roman historian Sallust described the erosion of the old Roman values during the crisis of the Republic. These were the values and virtues that had carried Rome through the Punic wars — 70,000 legionaries slain at Cannae, 400 settlements destroyed, hundreds of thousands of Italians dead — and later sustained her conquest of the world.

“The very people,” Sallust wrote, “who easily endured hardship, dangers, and uncertain and difficult situations now found that leisure and wealth — desirable at any other time — became burdensome and destructive. The love of money grew first; the love of power followed. This was, so to speak, the root of all evil. Greed undermined loyalty, honesty, and the other virtues. In their place it taught arrogance, cruelty, disregard for the gods and the view that everything was for sale.”

Sallust, like other Roman writers of his era, believed that power, wealth and luxury destroyed virtuous Roman society. The result was the downfall of the Republic. These views strongly influenced the modern idea that Romans were ruined by luxury and corruption.

Modern historians dislike Sallust because of his moralizing. A moral view of history has long been unfashionable. Sallust makes us uncomfortable, because he could be describing an America reaching unprecedented wealth and power overnight, or, not to put too fine a point on it, moralizing Republicans loving both money and office.

However, Sallust may have known what he wrote about. He was a failed, and by all accounts, corrupt politician. He began his career as a partisan of the rabble-rouser Clodius and as tribune, attacked men such as Cicero. Expelled from the Roman Senate, he backed Julius Caesar and became praetor. But then he was prosecuted for extortion during a North African command. Caesar quashed the case, but Sallust was forced to retire from public life. He then took up writing history, inventing the monograph, with much greater success.

Actually the Romans believed all history was moral history. The Roman mind was not so subtle as the Greek. It judged historical personages as good or bad, true or false; character was everything; one did it or failed. There was little of the shoulda, coulda, woulda attitudes our legal minds have made infamous. And for what it's worth, some of our more eminent historians such as Niall Ferguson are reviving moral analysis of the past today.

I tend toward this myself. Writing in an age of philistine education and determined historical ignorance, it is often hard not to moralize or preach. For example, there are still people who lived in the 20th century who profess not to believe in human evil. If such willful ignorance remains invincible, history will repeat, and repeat again, while clueless in Gaza, our species tries to survive.

Just as alcoholics can't cure themselves until they admit their failing, I think we shall never subdue the dark forces that lie latent within us all until we recognize our nature. What can we learn from Roman history? Pretty much the same that we might have learned from 1901-2000, had anyone been looking.

First, that there have been and will be ethnic tensions so long as there are ethnicities. Romans had unpleasant experiences with Carthaginians, Greeks and Jews, plus a host of minor types. Second, that these wars increase when and if empires decay. The end of the British, French, Ottoman and Russian empires assured the bloody, messy world that we now view with alarm. Third, that profound economic change or deprivation unsettles governments and peoples and tends them toward belligerency. (We have no ethnic or imperialistic quarrel with China, but perceive the paranoia.)

As for moral questions, Romans revealed that seemingly intelligent actions lead peoples to the abyss, and that the more power women possess, the greater their licentiousness. But who among us would touch those themes?

Amo, amas, – ah! I've found it!

The post on Mount's book Amo amas amat has had two comments – which is a deluge for this blog!

Tom Cotton writes:

The final straw for me was the ad hominem attack on Will Griffiths (p. 260; I know almost nothing of Griffiths or his work). Whatever be the reason for this, Mount produces it more-or-less out of the blue. Perhaps we should be charitable and believe that he was carried away when re-reading the less polite verses of Catullus and Martial.

I believe I have found the reason. This final chapter is the re-jigging of a Spectator article that Mount refers to on the last page of acknowledgments. I noted it last year, when it was already a year old. If you are interested, the link is in the blog entry here.

I didn't take it seriously at the time – how many people read the Spectator? But now that it has been used as a filler in the book the misinformation in it needs to be stoutly contradicted.

Cambridge Latin Course users please write

Another email that I pass on to you:

Dear colleague,

As you may know, the Cambridge Latin Course Book I E-Learning Resource has been shortlisted for an award at next month's BETT Educational Technology Show – the world's largest and most successful technology in education show.

We are very proud even to have been shortlisted for such a prestigious award. Winning would help to generate positive publicity for Latin, as well as strengthening the argument for further DfES support for digital resources
in the subject.

The organisers of the event have established a blog where they would like those who have used the software to leave their comments. If you and your students have enjoyed using the DVD this year, we would be very grateful if you would spend a few minutes to add your comments to the blog:

All those who have enjoyed the Book I DVD will be pleased to know that we are almost there with the Book II DVD, and our team will be working throughout the Christmas period to bring it to you as soon as possible.

Merry Christmas,

Will Griffiths