Very listenable talk on Herodotus – Radio 3

I've just listened to an excellent talk in the Radio 3 Essay series. Prof Christopher Pelling has an engaging manner of speaking, and filled in the background to Herodotus expertly and ended with something a bit controversial. I do recommend that you use the Listen Again facility if you missed the live broadcast. Tomorrow it's Tom Holland, next day Prof Emily Greenwood, and Thursday it's Prof Paul Cartledge. All on Herodotus. All at 11 p.m. for 15 minutes.

Should the Classics community set its own exams?

An interesting suggestion from Brian Bishop:

You may have seen the Advanced Placement correspondence on Latinteach.

Someone has suggested that the American Classical League should take over the examinations that the United States College Board are halting. I think there is room for discussion as to whether there is space for a profession-based examination independent of the state examinations, which are subject to political vagaries.

This exercise could be international and include the Coordination Nationale des Associations Régionales
d'Enseignants de Langues Anciennes
in France and the Sociedad Española de Estudios Clásicos in Spain, the Scottish Classics Group, and equivalents in other countries. (I forget the name of the Australian association.)

This might involve such as Euroclassica or the organization that is taking Bob Lister to Italy on a seminar. You are aware of my regret that the J.A.C.T. or A.R.L.T. do not entertain international curiosity.

This idea is very much by way of an idea-stimulator, as I am sure that details of which I am unaware could alter and even scupper the concept. Do you think there could be mileage in running with it in this country?

I have not taken it into the area of the International Baccalaureat, which a number of schools, mainly independent, are using, and where the standard is maintained at a higher level.

See the EuroClassica site for the approved European Curriculum for Latin , the future European Certificate for Latin and the Academies.

Exhibitions this Summer in the North of England

Thanks to Brian Bishop for noticing these events

Colleagues may be interested to know of a couple of exhibitions this Summer
in the North of England:-

'The face of an emperor — Hadrian inspects the wall'
Segedunum Roman Fort, 16.4 – 8.6.2008
The bronze head of Hadrian, discovered in the Thames in 1834, is touring his

'Bede & Beijing'
Various locations in Sunderland 24.5 – ?.9.2008
Links between Anglo Saxon Northumberland and Chinese culture, including
manuscripts that I would expect to include Bede's Latin writings.

Anyone going to Arbeia Roman Fort could visit

Otherwise go to to be put on their e-mail or snail-mail

Berlusconi boasts of 'good' Latin

This, from the BBC, just goes to show that learning Latin is not enough by itself to make you an honest person …

Italian opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi claims he speaks Latin well enough to engage Roman emperor Julius Caesar in lunchtime conversation.

The 71-year-old former prime minister was responding to a question from Italian radio about which historical figure he would most like to meet.

“My Latin is good enough that I believe I could even have a lunch with Julius Caesar,” he said in an interview.

He is running for a third term as prime minister in 13-14 April polls.

In a lengthy radio interview, he said he had been a very good student of Latin at school and had been often chosen to speak with “illustrious guests, including cardinals”.

Apart from Julius Caesar, one of the most powerful leaders of ancient Rome, Mr Berlusconi also said he admired Winston Churchill, Britain's World War II leader.

Mr Berlusconi, Italy's richest man, runs a business empire that spans media, advertising, food and construction.

He also owns Italy's most successful football club, admits he has had cosmetic surgery, and has fought off repeated corruption allegations.

A trial for alleged fraud is set to resume after the legislative elections.

More on the temple of Apollo at Bassae

The exhibition in Cuba has reminded me of the existence of this little-visited temple, and my first experience of Greece.

What follows is a bit of nostalgia.

I first visited the temple in September 1958, after my first year as a Classics student. My friend Mark and I travelled by train to Athens (with an adventure on the way that must be for another time), a journey that cost £18 return.

There we joined by arrangement two other young men who had driven across Europe in a green van, and the four of us toured Greece in the van.

Those were the good years for exploring Greece. Tourism was being encouraged, and concrete tourist buildings (can't think of the name they gave them) were new and, to us, expensive, but tourists were few. Little boys ran after us in Athens shouting 'Germani?' and I think were pleased when we replied 'Ochi. Inglesi'.

New roads were being built, but once off these new roads we found we were regarded by the locals as interesting specimens. In one village the only eating place was the village butcher's shop. As we sat at one of the two or three tables enjoying our goat's meat (or was that somewhere else?) it seemed that the entire population of the village just happened to need to visit the butcher. They came in at one door, took a good look at us, and went out of the other door. A couple of girls came over, very daring, and tried out their phrase or two or English. When we answered they ran away giggling.

We were able to walk freely in all the temples, including the Parthenon and the Temple of Athene Nike, and most sites were freely open to all, that now are fenced and charge admission. Near the end of our time Mark and I took a boat to Crete and a bus to Phaestos, where we slept in the open in the palace – my only overnight stay in a royal palace.

But to get on to Bassae.

We were among the lucky few with our own transport, so we were able to go where most people couldn't. Part of the way up towards Bassae was by a newly constructed road that would not be finished by the winter. One of the lads had served in Cyprus in his National Service and had learned Greek from a monk. He was able to talk to the road workers in the taverna that evening, and asked what would happen to the unfinished road in winter. They cheerfully told him that most of it would probably be washed away, but that they would rebuild it in the spring. More employment.

We saw the temple at Bassae when it was dusk, and the columns stood out black against the sky, with nothing else to be seen but barren mountainside.

Only years later did I study the temple, learn about the first Corinthian column ever to be made (now lost) which stood in the temple, inspired by the acanthus that grew on the grave of the sculptor's daughter or so the story goes), understand about engaged columns, and discover the place where the rising sun could strike the cult statue. My more recent visit saw me much better informed, but was not such an impressive experience. The horrid tent covered the building by then.

No, that first visit was the memorable one, when we all had the feeling of discovering something wild and powerful.

My only other visit was by taxi, when I saw, on the way up from the village, a round threshing floor, such as they say was the place where the first tragic and comic choruses were performed in the time of Thespis.

There is a stunning aerial photo of the temple in the Nelson Atlas of the Classical World, edited by van der Heyden and Scullard. My edition is 1959. The temple stands in the middle, dwarfed by the expanse of rock and bare soil all around. I hope it will not be not infringing copyright to take a photo of the page and post it here, to give an idea. You need to see the actual book to get the full effect.

There's a rather hilarious drawing from an 1860 book, reproduced in Roger Ling's Classical Greece, of Bassae being uncovered. Hilarious, because of the size of the human figures, designed to make the temple look huge.

Automatic collector of blog stuff.

I see that a site called Cultura Classica provides links to blogs, including this one. It is part of something called 'kinja' which seems to allow users to collect all the items from a chosen selection of blogs, automatically. I suppose that this post will appear on that site tomorrow.

Not sure about that one.

Does this confuse the issue? An Italian Certamen Ciceronianum in Arpino

While googling 'Cicero competition' I found that there is an annual Ciceronian competition held in his home town of Arpinum (Arpino) It's for students in the last year of Italian Licei classici and equivalents in other countries.

The more Classical events the better, but I hope people don't get confused between the international CICERO competition that I've been reporting here, and this one in Arpino (founded, they say, in 1980).

By the way, the video of the Paris section of CICERO now on line is my second version. Apologies to people who tried to follow links to the first version, only to find it withdrawn.

Guy de la Bedoyere writes to The Times on the new coins

Some solid facts about the image of Britannia on British coins, from the Roman Britain expert Guy de la Bedoyere:

Sir, Britannia on coins was a Roman invention. Anna Dixon (letter, April 5) has confused the use of a female personification with the specific identity of Britannia.

The Romans first utilised the Greek idea of the seated female figure to represent Roma on the coins of Nero, though Roma’s helmeted bust had appeared centuries earlier on the silver coins of the Republic. The coin of Elagabalus in fact shows Roma, not Athena. It was struck at Rome in AD218.

Seated female forms were used by the Romans to represent a number of goddesses and to personify places. They always have distinctive characteristics.

Under Hadrian, the female form represented a number of Roman provinces, all of whom have very specific attributes. Britannia was represented by an unhelmeted female, head in hand, holding a spear and seated on a pile of rocks to depict a remote and warlike province. Incidentally, Hadrian’s coins were struck at Rome.

Under Antoninus Pius in 143, a new form of Britannia was introduced where, still bare-headed, she holds a military standard and spear, and again under Commodus in 184. Britannia did not appear in that form again under the Romans and had to wait until Charles II’s Breda medal of 1667 (Pepys, 25 Feb, 1667) and the new halfpennies and farthings of 1672 when she took on most of her modern form. However, the helmet was not added until the reign of George IV.

Guy de la Bedoyere
Grantham, Lincolnshire

This and other letters on the subject here.