Arbeia Festival in August

Thanks to Brian Bishop for this:

Colleagues may be interested in the item in the latest Tyne & Wear Museums programme.

Arbeia Festival
Saturday, 18th August, 10.30 a.m. – 4.30 p.m.
Arbeia Roman Fort

Join Legio IV Hispana as they prepare and serve a traditional Roman banquet in the reconstructed Commanding Officer's house and have a go at some archery.

Charge: £1 for 3 arrows.

[Seems good value to dispose of recalcitrant students.]

Roman perfumes

The Capitoline Museum has an exhibition of Roman perfumes. The website has a few photographs.

Mary Beard on Pompeii

Mary Beard on Pompeii on her Times Blog

I’m off to Los Angeles next week for my stint at the Getty Research Institute. The plan is to work on Pompeii.

First of all, I’m going to be taking a serious, hard look at the traces of religious activities that have come up from the excavations (what exactly were those “lararia” for?). But that’s supposed to move on to writing a more general book. My sense is that most books about Pompeii for non-specialists don’t manage to exploit a lot of the new archaeological work that’s being done on the site. Except, of course, for studies of vulcanology. They’re always full of the latest boffin theory on pyroclastic flow, lava surges and the like – and they detail the death throes of the poor inhabitants minute by minute.

I’m intending to steer clear of death and destruction, “Pompeii the disaster movie”. Instead I want to think about what the buried city can tell us about ancient life.

Read the rest …

Ancient history A-level faces axe – will you write in?

After this warning from JACT the news in today's Guardian didn't come as a big surprise.

“There is a major row about to erupt over the future of A Level Anc. History. It should make the TES this Friday and there is a press release going to all papers on the same day, sent by Peter Jones. Please urge your members to write to their paper and their MP and QCA etc.”

So, read the report and write accordingly.

Ancient history A-level faces axe

Debbie Andalo
Friday March 30, 2007

Ancient history will disappear as an A-level if recommendations from an examination board are approved later this year.

The OCR board announced today it proposed to abolish the qualification as part of its plans to reorganise its four classics A-levels.

The exam board wants to replace its four existing classics subjects – ancient history, classical civilisation, Greek and Latin – with new models.

Ancient history will disappear as a subject in its own right. Instead students will choose from four new A-levels in Latin, classical Greek, classical civilisation and a new subject title, classics.

The OCR said that it was committed to offering classics at A-level but wanted to design qualifications that would “flourish” over the next decade.

The new qualifications would offer students more flexibility to specialise in the areas of classics that interest them, it said.

For the first time students studying Latin or Greek, for example, would be able to combine units of languages with units of literature in translation and historical units.

An OCR spokesman said: “Similar content to that in ancient history is covered within the classical civilisation units. In addition, across the classical Civilisation units there is a new ethos which requires candidates to study sources in their historical and cultural context.”

He added: “By enabling candidates to combine elements of language and literary study with other aspects of classics, we should ensure better that students are better able to progress from GCSE to A-level and then into higher education or work.”

According to OCR's latest figures ancient history A-level was sat by 530 students in 2006 while 2,350 sat classical civilisation. Some 183 sat classical Greek while 927 students took Latin.

But the recommendations, which follow earlier public consultation, alarmed the shadow higher education minister, Boris Johnson, who is taking over the presidency of the Joint Association of Classical Teachers in May.

He said: “The birth of Athenian democracy, the transition of Rome from republic to empire: these were critical events in the shaping of our civilisation.

“How can we understand ourselves if we cut ourselves off from our past? You can't just subsume the study of ancient history into the study of classical civilisation.

“You might as well say that you can learn English history through the study of English language and literature.”

He claimed only by studying ancient history can students become “properly familiar” with the texts of Greek and Roman historians, and with the use of historical sources.

Mr Johnson said if ancient history disappeared as an A-level it would be “another battle in the general dumbing-down of Britain.”

He said: “Once again, a tough, rewarding, crunchy subject is poised to give way to the softer option.”

The decision, he said, was perverse because the number of students taking the subject had risen by 300% since 2000.

He said: “Look at the immense interest in the Persian wars, and the success of the new film about Leonidas and the Spartans.

“It is demented that the authorities should now be cutting off the supply, just when the demand is rising. The Spartans were fighting to save their civilisation – and so are we.”

The new classics A-levels would need approval from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority before they can be introduced.

If approval is given later this year students could start to study for the new exams in 2008.

Another 'first' Latin mass.

Another 'first' Latin mass.
State Journal

Tech help to save tongue derived from ancient Latin

Tech help to save tongue derived from ancient Latin

Geneva, March 28: Switzerland's 35,000 native speakers of Romansch, a language threatened by migration and local rivalries, hope 21st century technology will help save a tongue derived from ancient Latin.

Spurred by activists for one of the country's four official languages, Microsoft Corp has released a Romansch edition of its office software, and Google has introduced a version of its search engine in the language.

The software is helping create a standardised, written form of Romansch from its five dialects so that it can be taught in schools.

The number of native Romansch speakers dropped by a third from 1980 to 2000 as young people left the Canton of Graubuenden, where it's mostly spoken, for more prosperous, German-speaking Zurich to the north. While the government spends about USD 25 million a year to promote Romansch, more than twice as many people in Switzerland now speak Albanian.

Bureau Report

Report on the Praxiteles exhibition at the Louvre


Undressing Aphrodite: Louvre Tries to Find the Real Praxiteles

By Jorg von Uthmann

March 29 (Bloomberg) — Mighty Aphrodite, or Venus to the Romans, wasn't always nude. It was the Greek sculptor Praxiteles who first portrayed her without drapery — much to the dismay of his customer, the city of Kos.

Several versions of the lady can be admired at the Louvre, which has organized a rare Praxiteles exhibition. Most of his works survived only in the form of Roman copies. The originals were destroyed by the ravages of time, natural disasters or Christian zealots who, like the Taliban, wouldn't tolerate images of pagan sensuality.

One of the rare exceptions, a bronze Apollo Sauroctonus (“the lizard slayer''), which may have actually been produced in the Praxiteles workshop in Athens, is conspicuous by its absence. Greek authorities said they wouldn't loan works for the show if the statue was exhibited, claiming the Cleveland Museum of Art bought the bronze on the black market.

The Cleveland museum denies any wrongdoing, yet the Louvre preferred to play safe and crossed the exhibit off its list. Instead, the lizard slayer is represented by two copies in marble.

Praxiteles, active from about 370 to 330 B.C., had an ideal of male beauty that was different from that of his predecessors. His gods and satyrs were no longer majestic, stiff bodybuilders. They were svelte boys of gentle grace and sensuous charm.

More …