Roman exhibition in Houston Museum

From the Houston Chronicle

Feb. 27, 2007, 9:50AM
Imperial exhibit shows us how the Romans of old lived

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle


  • When: Feb. 17-Aug. 12
  • Where: Houston Museum of Natural Science, 1 Hermann Circle
  • Tickets: $15; $9 ages 3-11, 62 and older and students
  • Information: 713-639-4629;

In ancient Rome, there were laws against kitchens.

Deemed a fire hazard, kitchens also ate up valuable space in densely packed city apartments.

So city dwellers often grabbed fast food — a snack or meal doused with fish sauce — at a corner store.

Beyond all the usual, textbook-type similarities — plumbing, good roads and sports arenas — ancient Roman art, life and culture is reflected in modern city life in myriad ways.

There were no electric lights, no plasma TVs. But the ancient Romans had fast food and graffiti.

Imperial Rome, at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, displays hundreds of artifacts from the daily lives of Romans rich and poor, including ceramics, portraits, reliefs, sarcophagi, urns, coins, jewelry, and bronze and marble statues.

“The cool part is that a lot of objects reflect Roman life if you lived in the city and were a regular Joe,” said Dirk Van Tuerenhout, curator of anthropology at the museum.

Read the rest

Classical gatherings in Europe and America

This is a selection of Classical gatherings outside the UK.

1.6-31.7.2007 Roma, Italia
Aestiva Romae Latinitatis (8 septimanae): In Janiculo, Romae, prope San Pancrazio, mod. Reginaldus Foster, Piazza san Pancrazio, 5A, I-00152, Roma, Italia; tel 00390-6/58 54 02 06 Fax. 00390-6/58 54 03 00.

18-25.7.2007 Frigolet Gallia
Feriae Ferigoletenses habebuntur, ut solet, in Abbatia Ferigoletensi, Tarasconem,F-13150. Scribe ad Mariam Antoninam Avich, 21b, rue Sainte Anne de Baraban, F-969003, Lyon.

22-28.7.2007 Morschach, Helvetia
Morsacense Seminarium Societatis Latinae Helveticum: Deversorio “Bellevue”, Morsaci. Singula a Societate Latina, Universität des Saarlandes, FR6.3, PF151150, D-6604, Saarbrücken, Germania. tel: 0681/302-3192;

23-30.7.2007 Saint Fleur apud Avernos Belgica
Symposia Melissae

28.7-4.8.2007 Crakoviae Polonia
Seminarium L.V.P.A. crakoviense – vide

28.7-4.8.2007 Kirchähr, prope Montabaur in Chattia (Hessen), Germania
Septimana Latina XVIII: (<>) Thomas Gölzhäuser, Westerwaldstraße, 13a, D-35630, Ehringshausen, Germania; tel: (0049)6449-921919

5-11.8.2007 Maredsous, Belgica
Seminarium Societas Latinae in Belgica, Abbaye de Maredsous, Denée, B-5537: Dr. Sigridis Albert, Societas Latina, Univ., FR 5.2, PF 171150, D-66041, Saarbrücken, tele 0681/302-3192 e-cursus

4-12/8/2007 Boston (Massachusetts) Civitates Foederatae
Sub auspiciis Universitatis Studiorum Massachusetts Bostoniae; moderatoribus Terence Tunberg et Milena Minkova (U. Kentucky) et Jacqueline Carlon (UMass Boston), in insula Nantucket, $1100, et unus dies Saturni mensis Novembris:

12-26.8.2007 Patrai, Graecia
GRAECE LOQUENTIBUS Dialogoi E(llhnikoi — Dialogoi Hellenikoi (Colloquia attica in Patrai, Graecia): Hellenikon Idyllion, 200/150€ Helmut Quack, Eritstr. 23, D-25813, Husum, Germania tel:04841/5429 Andreas Drekis, GR-25100, Selianitika/Egion, Graecia; tel: 0030-26910/72488 Telecopium 0030-26910-72791 e-mail;
commentarioli nova editio
qui graece scribere volunt sequantur Iocratis scripta.

For more information and more events, visit:

Trajan's Column – did the viewing galleries exist?

I was easily convinced that originally one could see the Trajan's Column sculpture from flat roofs or something all around. After all, there was a lovely drawing in the book. But Mary Beard isn't such a pushover. Read her blog here.

Republican denarius found in Cornwall

It doesn't show ancient Britons in a new light, of course. We knew that trade preceded the flag. But it's interesting all the same. From the Telegraph.

Find of Roman coin shows ancient Britons in a new light

By Daily Telegraph Reporter
Last Updated: 1:34am GMT 26/02/2007

Experts are excited about a rare coin unearthed by an amateur treasure hunter which could change the accepted ancient history of Britain.

The silver denarius which dates back to the Roman Republic — before Julius Caesar made Rome an empire — was unearthed near Fowey in Cornwall.

Dating from 146 BC, it shows how ancient Britons were trading with the Romans well before the country was conquered in AD 43.

“It proves that there was a lot more going on between the continent and ourselves,” said Anna Tyacke, Finds Liaison Officer at the Royal Cornwall Museum.

Cornwall had trade significance because of the tin and copper it produced, but that economic activity is not well documented before the third century AD.

Coins were relatively rare, of high value and often stayed in circulation for more than 100 years — which makes dating the find harder.

Sam Moorhead, Finds Adviser of Iron Age and Roman coins at the British Museum, said: “It may have been the wages of a Roman legionnaire, who earned about 300 denarii a year in the Roman imperial period — after the conquest.

“You could probably have got about eight loaves of bread for a coin like this, or eight litres of wine.

“Vineyard labourers would have earned between a half and one denarius a day. Whereas to be a senator you had to have at least 250,000 denarii in the bank.”

The silver coin was minted in Rome and carries the likeness of Roma wearing a winged helmet, plus the name of a Caius Antestius, its maker.

“Roma is a personification of Rome, rather like Britannia is a personification of Britain,” Mr Moorhead explained.

The reverse of the coin carries a picture on horseback of the mythological twins Castor and Pollux, who were believed to have helped the Romans in battle.

Summer School application form now on line

Finally the on line version of the ARLT Summer School application form is posted. My apologies for those who followed the links only to find last year's form still there.

The application form, as a web page to copy and paste into a word processor, and as a pdf to print out, can be found on the ARLT site, following the Summer School link on the left menu.

Learning Classical Civilisation on line for GCSE and A level

This is not going to put any regular Classics teachers out of work, but I've just come across where students who can't take Class Civ at their schools can get the qualification by distance learning. Reading the conversations on the site's noticeboards I get the impression that the students are happy in their work.

I asked Lynn Bright, who is behind this, if there was anything she'd like to add to what's on the website, and she came up with this interesting background:

I must admit my AS/A-Level Archaeology students far outnumber my Classical Civ ones. In some areas there are very few opportunities to study archaeology and I'm fortunate that the Council for British Archaeology, Time Team and the like, recommend me to people who enquire. There are lots of people out there who dream of being involved in archaeology but think they'd never be able to and to them an online course is a godsend. Some of my students have gained their A-Level, given up their jobs and gone on to study it at Uni at Bachelor and Masters degree levels, which is very satisfying for me.

I haven't been offering Classical Civ quite so long but the student numbers are increasing. When I first started it the Daily Mail ran an article by Susan Elkins in the Education section which was a boost. As you know there are lots of choices on the two OCR GCSE papers so the lessons I've written are ones I tend to be most interested in myself and ones I taught at evening class. However, I'm slowly increasing the choices with Roman Britain being the latest and Sparta to be worked on very shortly.

Writing lessons and supporting courses and students is very time consuming and so I've recently given up my regular teaching to devote all my time to it.

The great thing about online courses is that they can be studied independently from virtually anywhere and unlike their paper counterparts are interactive. The only drawback is that the exams are only available in the UK. I enjoy what I do and love the challenges it has presented to me although the technical side for me has been a very steep learning curve!

Blacks in Antiquity – Frank Snowden dies ages 95

Frank Snowden; Major Scholar of Blacks in Antiquity

By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 22, 2007; Page B07

Frank M. Snowden Jr., 95, a Howard University classicist for almost 50 years whose research into blacks in ancient Greece and Rome opened a new field of study, died Feb. 18 at the Grand Oaks assisted living home in Washington. He had congestive heart failure.

As a black man, Dr. Snowden was a rarity in classics, but ancient history consumed him since his youth as a prize-winning student at the Boston Latin School and later at Harvard University. His body of work led to a National Humanities Medal in 2003, a top government honor for scholars, writers, actors and artists.

Much of his scholarship centered on one point: that blacks in the ancient world seemed to have been spared the virulent racism common to later Western civilization. “The onus of intense color prejudice cannot be placed upon the shoulders of the ancients,” he wrote.

Dr. Snowden's most notable books are “Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience” (1970), which took him 15 years to research, and “Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks” (1983). Both were published by Harvard University Press.

Using evidence he found in literature and art, he showed that blacks were able not only to coexist with Greeks and Romans but also were often revered as charioteers, fighters and actors.

Because Romans and Greeks first encountered blacks as soldiers and mercenaries and not slaves or “savages,” they did not classify them as inferior and seek ways to rationalize their enslavement, he said.

William Harris, a Columbia University professor who specializes in Greek and Roman history, said Dr. Snowden was the first person to write in a serious way about blacks in antiquity, and his books influenced other scholars, including George M. Fredrickson (“Racism: A Short History”) and Martin Bernal (“Black Athena”).

However, Harris said: “Snowden really wanted to find a world in antiquity which was without the plague that inflicted America throughout its history, and he pushed the evidence too far to find an ideal pre-modern, pre-medieval world. There was undoubtedly some racism in antiquity, but he talked it down to being minimal. . . . He was right, to a point.”

M.I. Finley, an eminent Cambridge University classicist, once wrote in The Washington Post that “Blacks in Antiquity” tended toward overstatement but that it was “at least something” in a much-neglected field.

Frank Martin Snowden Jr. was born July 17, 1911, in York County, Va. He was raised in Boston, where his father, a former Army Department civilian who specialized in race relations, became a businessman.

He graduated in 1932 from Harvard University, where he won a classics prize for an essay he signed “Plato” because anonymous submission was required.

“If you look in the Harvard Library index under Plato, you find one card that says, 'See Snowden,' ” he liked to joke in later years.

At Harvard, Dr. Snowden also received a master's degree in classics in 1933 and a doctorate in 1944. His doctoral dissertation on slavery and freedom in Pompeii formed the basis of his later scholarship.

After early teaching jobs at what was then Virginia State College in Petersburg and Atlanta's Spelman College, he joined the Howard faculty in 1942 and spent many years as classics department chairman. From 1956 to 1968, Dr. Snowden was dean of Howard's College of Liberal Arts, overseeing all undergraduate programs. He helped start the school's honors program.

Starting in the late 1960s, Dr. Snowden was criticized by more militant students and teachers for his disapproval of Afrocentrism, a movement to highlight the roots of black culture often at the expense of white European civilization. Some historians likened Afrocentric teaching to “ethnic cheerleading,” a position Dr. Snowden also held.

“If you're white and you criticize Afrocentrism, you're a Eurocentrist racist,” he said. “If you're black and criticize it, you're a black duped by white scholarship.” Above all, he thought that Afrocentrism read “20th-century biases back into antiquity and by seeing color prejudice where none existed.”

During the Vietnam War era, Howard, like other universities, attracted student protests over the war and academic concerns. As a faculty leader, Dr. Snowden was a frequent target of student anger, and at one point he was hanged in effigy with university President James M. Nabrit Jr. and Selective Service director Lewis B. Hershey. He resigned his deanship soon after.

Dr. Snowden was fluent in Latin, Greek, German, French and Italian. He first visited Italy in 1938, when he won a Rosenwald fellowship, and went back a decade later as a Fulbright scholar. A frequent lecturer abroad on State Department-sponsored tours, he was named cultural attache at the U.S. Embassy to Rome in 1953 at the urging of Ambassador Clare Boothe Luce.

Time magazine reported that his appointment combated “two of the standard Communist-propaganda charges against” the United States, “that 1) Americans are materialistic and cultureless, 2) the Negroes are downtrodden.”

His appointment did not prevent condescending attitudes from occasionally emerging. According to a news attache at the embassy, one visiting congressman appeared to criticize Dr. Snowden for writing his doctoral thesis on slavery in the Roman Empire.

“Well, since you are a Negro, I suppose that was of special interest to you,” the congressman said.

“Actually, my special interest was in the fact that nearly all of the slaves in ancient Rome were white,” Dr. Snowden said.

The congressman stomped off.

Dr. Snowden was married to the former Elaine Hill, a high school art teacher, from 1935 until her death in 2005.

Survivors include two children, Jane Lepscky of Washington and Frank M. Snowden III of New Haven, Conn.; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Good Queen Bess and the Classics

It is well known that Queen Elizabeth I was an excellent linguist. Jane Dunn's best-selling double biography of her and of Mary Queen of Scots, which I am reading having been given it for Christmas, reminds us of the effect of a Classical education on Oriana.

Isocrates and Demosthenes, the great Attic orators, were favourite sources of inspiration and instruction. Elizabeth was expected to translate them out of Greek into English and then back into Greek again. By the time she had completed these tasks she was becoming deeply imbued with the arguments, cadences and modes of expression of the masters. … His [Demosthenes'] language and style was at its most simple when he expressed something of the greatest moment: this was certainly true of the most compelling sections of Elizabeth's speeches. Addressing the heads of Oxford university, for instance, just after her fifty-ninth birthday, with an oration in Latin which appeared to be quite spontaneous, she thanked them for their unwavering love to her: 'It is such that neither persuasions nor threats nor curses can destroy. On the contrary, time has no power over it – time that eats away iron, that wears away rocks, cannot disjoin it'

And later:

If Cicero was Elizabeth's brilliant companion then it was Plutarch who helped teach her how to govern. In his masterpiece, Parallel Lives, read by Elizabeth and quoted often, she read of the lives of great men ….


Livy … was also extensively studied by the young princess …. Elizabeth read most of his output in her two years with Ascham. ….Elizabeth's own rallying cry to her troops at Tilbury on 9 August 1588, readying themselves to meet the regrouped Armada, owed much, perhaps, to the heroic style of speech she read in Livy, for instance: 'Let tyrants fear … being resolved in the idst and heat of the battle to live and die amongst you all, to lay down for my God and for my kingdom and for my people mine honour and my blood even in the dust. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king and a king of England too.' …. As her life as an insecure princess meant increasingly there were fewer living people she could trust, the company of those sublime dead became for Elizabeth a refuge and a consolation. They were the family circle of friends who expected nothing of her, could not betray her and yet taught her some of the most valuable lessons of her life.

Ermine Street Guard pictures gathered in one place

Having transferred my Ermine Street Guard slides, first posted in July 2004 and visited many, many times, to Photobucket, I offer them here as a set. I intend to enhance them digitally, since the slides had already faded before I scanned them. (See further down the page)

Enhanced images below. It was chiefly a matter of reducing the blue – slides tend to become blue with age. I have not arranged the pics on the page yet.

Want a change from Latin teaching? Stand for President!

A former Latin teacher might just become President of France, according to the Guardian:

Two shock polls have given Mr Bayrou, 55, his highest ratings yet. In one survey, the former Latin teacher and education minister, leader of his party since 1998, polled 16% in the first round, overtaking the far right's Jean-Marie Le Pen. Another survey suggested that if he made it into the second round in May, Mr Bayrou would be elected president, beating Mr Sarkozy or Ms Royal. He is already doing much better than he did in 2002, when he took 7% of the first-round vote. In recent weeks, 74% of French voters have deemed him the most credible candidate.