A personal note

I now have a personal blog on http://streetinsomerset.blogspot.com/

Friends are welcome to visit it if they would like to share my thoughts on mortality.

Oxford professor discusses Roman economy

Tufts Daily

Andrew Wilson, a professor of the archaeology of the Roman Empire at Oxford, is visting campus this week as the speaker for a four-part lecture series sponsored by the Department of Classics. The last two installments of the Balmuth Lecture Series will take place tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Cabot 206 and tomorrow at the same time in Braker 001. While on the Hill, Wilson took a moment to sit down with the Daily’s Carter Rogers.

Carter Rogers: First off, how did you become interested in archaeology, Roman archaeology and Roman economic archaeology?

Andrew Wilson: I’ve always been interested in the past. When I was a kid, my parents would take me around ancient monuments in Britain: churches, castles, roman sites, prehistoric sites, and family holidays tended often to be going to look at ancient things in France and Spain … I read classics at Oxford and had wanted to be a classical archaeologist, but somewhere along the line I lost sight of that. It was a very text-based course in Greek and Latin literature, and I flirted with the idea of doing Medieval Latin as a doctorate, but I thought that would end up being too lonely — a library-based existence. Somehow I lost sight of the archaeological aim, and I became a computer consultant for a couple of years. I worked for IBM between school and university. About a year into that I felt that that wasn’t really satisfying me. I didn’t want to spend the next 40 years doing that. I was spending all my free time reading up about the Roman world and all my holidays going out to Tunisia to look at Roman ruins, so I thought, “Let’s try to make a career out of this.” I gave up my job and applied back to Oxford to do a doctorate in archaeology. I was always interested in how things worked, so I did a doctorate on ancient water systems and aqueducts and so on in Roman North Africa and from there got generally interested in ancient technology and mills and in particular, the use of mechanical power and then got interested in what the effects of that technology were [such as the] economic impact. I’d also been interested in settlement patterns and in trade. All of this came together in some interest in the ancient economy.

CR: Yesterday [Monday], you were talking about the amount of state involvement in economics at the time … How great was the state involvement in economics then compared with now in your mind?

AW: I think less than a current nation-state would do, but for the ancient world, a remarkably high degree of involvement. It wasn’t a command economy like ancient Mesopotamia, for example; it wasn’t a completely dirigiste economy. But the state does intervene in a number of ways. It intervenes in markets as a large customer or by incentivizing certain activity. It provides, and quite intentionally so, a lot of capital infrastructure in the form of roads, harbor facilities, canals, which facilitate trade. Even if some of these also have a military use, and by implication the road system had primarily been constructed for troop movement, but long distance trade quickly follows in that wake. I think what we do see in the late Roman world, the late third century onwards, is a more dirigiste involvement by the state as economic conditions become harsher. And, trying to recover from the crisis of the late third century onwards, the state does take a much more dirigiste line, for example, compelling people whose fathers were in certain professions to follow in those professions. That suggests a labor shortage or skill shortage.

CR: Do you think this could parallel the current increase in state involvement in banking with the current economic crisis?

AW: That’s an interesting question. There’s not much evidence of direct state involvement in banking. There clearly are banks in the Roman world. I suppose the nearest thing is a crisis where the people bid to collect the taxes overbid and can’t collect, and they need to be bailed out by the state.

iPhone Latin


Michael Dinan TMCnet Editor

Speaking in Martin Scorcese’s 2005 documentary “No Direction Home” about his break-up with then-fellow folk singer Joan Baez in the 1960s, Bob Dylan says: “You can’t be wise and in love at the same time.”

The quote came as Dylan discussed his failure to ask Baez to sing on stage with him during a tour in England that formed the basis of Scorcese’s film – as the songwriter broke away from the folk scene and “went electric,” to the horror of many, with a backup group that would become The Band.

On blogs and Web sites dedicated to the singer, the line has turned up – fans, as they have since he started writing songs, parsing the words to say how much it reveals Dylan’s vulnerability, regret, passion, humor, elusiveness . . .

In fact, it may reveal his knowledge of the mother language, Latin:
     Amare et sapere vix deo conceditur
     – Publilius Syrus, Sententia 22
Or, as translated on “Best Latin Quotes,” a new app for the iPhone (NewsAlert) and iPod Touch from MacPhun: “Even a god finds it hard to love and be wise at the same time.”

As someone who took 11 years of Latin and returns to those ancient texts from time to time, I have a bias toward the language

Yet anyone who has tried to get through Umberto Eco’s “In the Name of the Rose,” Iain Pears’ “An Instance of the Fingerpost,” or any of Colin Dexter’s wonderful Inspector Morse mysteries will attest – the language comes in handy.
But, as with any language, I imagine, it’s difficult for we erstwhile Latin scholars to stay on top of our conjugations, declensions, VINGOFICTOS and deponent forms without regular practice.
This is another place where MacPhun’s $2 app comes in.
As shown at left, for every Latin quote the application displays, it also shows a translation and a citation of the quote’s author, if known. That helps jog the glossary memories of people like me, who could remember every rule for the predicate nominative, but would need to look up three out of every four words on a page each time I translated.
In all, there are more than 400 original quotes on the application, and they’re broken into 15 different categories, including love, art, philosophy, famous quotes and funny.
That last category includes this gem:
     Stultior stulto fuisti, qui tabellis crederes!
Or, translated: “Idiot of idiots, to trust what is written!”
(Sounds a little like what you’d hear around this office about six months ago, as the presidential election approached its stirring finale).
One of my favorite Latin writers is Ovid, the author of “The Metamorphoses” who, when he was at the height of his powers, was banished – no one knows exactly why – from Rome, and lived out his days in exile on the Black Sea.
Ovid once wrote: “Gutta cavat lapidem,” or: “Dripping hollows out rock.”
Like studying Shakespeare – and you can find a review of an excellent Shakespeare app here – the “Best Latin Quotes” app also leads language-lovers back to the origins of phrases we take for granted, such as “a tempest in a teapot” (excitabat fluctus in simpulo) and “from soup to nuts” (ab ovo usque ad mala).
Some users appear to have found good use for the application.
As one reviewer writes on the Apple (NewsAlert) App Store site: “This really helped me a lot coming up with very fast comebacks, and snippy moments for the book I’m writing.”
Good luck with that.
The “insults” category yields a few of the app’s best quotes:
     Dare pondus idonea fumo. – Persius
     “Fit only to give weight to smoke.”
     Delphinium nature doces.
     “You are teaching a dolphin to swim.”
The application is not limited to “high” or classical Latin, but delves into Church Latin as well as “Modern Latin Quotes” (also a category).
Among those modern quotes: “tibi gratias agimus quod nihil fumas,” or “thank you for not smoking,” “caveat depascor,” or “browser beware!” And my personal favorite: “Sona si Latine loqueris,” or “Honk if you speak Latin.”
Beep beep.

Just a reminder about the OCR Classics Community

There’s been a flurry of activity on the OCR Classics Community recently, about teaching Sparta, visiting Oplontis and much more, so I thought I’d give it another mention today. There are also stores of older teaching materials on their records. I’m not sure that they have them organised into topics as we have on the ArLT Teachers’ Section, but they are there to trawl through.

Go to the OCR site and sign up if you haven’t yet – and anyone who would like to let their contributions be on the ArLT site as well will be warmly welcomed.

Lorna Robinson interview

In case it’s of any interest to readers of the blog, this is the link
of an interview I did for national radio in Australia on promoting


Dr Lorna Robinson
Director, The Iris Project

Definitely a Coffee Break item

Caesars AC settles discrimination lawsuit

February 24, 2009

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Caesars Atlantic City avoids the wrath of the gods.

The casino hotel has settled a discrimination lawsuit over its hiring practices at the Toga Bar.

The lawsuit was filed by mostly male bartenders who claimed they were passed over in favor of young women who were to wear provocative togas at the Roman-themed bar.

A trial was scheduled for Monday to decide whether 19 men and one woman are entitled to punitive and compensatory damages.

Caesars admitted no wrongdoing as part of a confidential settlement.

The Toga Bar opened in 2004. Executives had hoped the “goddesses” would attract a younger clientele. The concept was soon abandoned and Caesars’ new owner, Harrah’s Entertainment, hires bartenders based on seniority.


Information from: The Press of Atlantic City, http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com

Neo-Latin iu Cambridge

Dear David,

This looks very interesting to me, if only I could get to it. Do you think
it is worth while putting out on your blog?

Best wishes.

—–Original Message—–
From: A.W. Taylor [mailto:awt24@hermes.cam.ac.uk] On Behalf
Of A.W. Taylor
Sent: 23 February 2009 18:26
To: Dr Andrew Taylor
Subject: CSNLS Seminar at 5.30pm on Thursday 26 Feb

Godwin Room, D staircase, Old Court, Clare College at 5.30pm.
Thursday 26 February: Catarina Fouto (St Peter’s College,
Oxford), ‘Iacobus Tevius (c.1514 -1569): “imitatio” and “mimesis” in the *Epodon sive Iambicorum libri tres* (Lisbon, 1565). Neo-latin Humanism and Counter-Reformation in Portugal’

Diogo de Teive was a typical scholar of his day: a traveller, who spent most of his formative years abroad, in Europe. He would return to Portugal with George Buchanan, Nicholas de Grouchy, Guillaume de Guérente and João da Costa, thanks to the initiative of King John III, but cultural freedom in Teive’s homeland would not last. Buchanan, João da Costa and Diogo de Teive were accused of Protestantism by the Inquisition, and sentenced to imprisonment. Nonetheless, Teive did not leave the country, and he remained close to the Portuguese royal family and to the court until his death, possibly in 1569.

This paper will focus on the hitherto unedited epithalamium written by Diogo de Teive, in 1565, on the occasion of the important marriage of D. Maria (daughter of D. Duarte, granddaughter of King D. Manuel) and Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma (nephew of Philip II of Spain). The poem was dedicated to Cardinal Henry, at the time Regent in Portugal. The study of this particular poem (a post-Tridentine Christian epithalamium that includes a vivid mythological narrative in its mid-section) is challenging.

A preliminary analysis of the text indicates that the author used Paulinus Nolanus’ epithalamium (carmen XX) as a model of structural imitatio, by presenting the aetiology of the Christian sacrament of marriage in the opening lines of the poem. The nature of the concept of imitatio adopted by Diogo de Teive will be discussed. The causes and implications of assuming that concept of imitatio will be brought to debate, while trying to evaluate in what way it reflects a particular historical and cultural ambiance in Portugal at the time. The concept of mimesis and the impact of the Council of Trent on the work of the Portuguese humanist will be analysed, bearing in mind the political and social changes in Portugal in the second half of the sixteenth century.

It should not be forgotten that Diogo de Teive was a humanist who lived side by side with the main agents of Counter-Reformation in Portugal. In that sense, Teive’s epithalamium witnesses that writers were not always prepared to abandon their humanistic background to adjust to the emergent cultural scene.

* * *

All are welcome, and wine will be served during the discussion.
For further details about CSNLS, please see
Sponsored by the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages

Origins of Pompeii-style artefacts examined

This seems a welcome bit of research.

From Space Fellowship

Roman artefacts which are nearly two thousand years old with similarities to ancient remains found at Pompeii in Italy will be examined at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s ISIS neutron source in Oxfordshire this weekend. (21-22 February 2009). Researchers hope to learn more about our heritage by discovering whether the items were imported from southern Italy, or manufactured using similar techniques in Britain.

The bronze artefacts, which include a wine-mixing vessel, jugs and ceremonial pan-shaped objects, were discovered in Kent in two high status Roman pit-burials that are among the best examples ever seen in Britain. Previous excavation in an area close to the A2 where the items were found – by construction group Skanska Civil Engineering during a Highways Agency road improvement scheme – had predicted archaeological discoveries, but they were bigger than expected, with settlements ranging from the Bronze Age to the late medieval period.

Archaeological scientists will compare the 1st Century AD artefacts from Kent with those from Pompeii in Italy. The neutron beams at the world-leading ISIS facility allow for detailed crystal structure analysis of intact delicate objects without cutting out a sample of the material.

Dana Goodburn-Brown, a conservator and ancient metals specialist commissioned by Oxford Archaeology, is analysing the artefacts along with archaeological scientist Dr. Evelyne Godfrey at ISIS to see how they were made. It is hoped the experiments will answer many questions about how the items were made to give more insight into their origin: for example, the metals used in manufacturing, how they were cast and finished, and how metal pieces were joined together.

‘‘Our experiments will hopefully aid us in characterising different Roman metalworking practices and perhaps recognising the distinction between imported south Italian goods and high standard copies produced by skilled local craftsman. These artefacts represent a time of great change in Britain – they appear shortly after the Romans arrived in this country, and may represent locals taking on cultural practices of these ‘newcomers,” Dana Goodburn-Brown said.

Dr Andrew Taylor, ISIS Director said: “For these rare and highly-valued objects, analysis with neutrons can give fantastic insight. Neutrons are a very powerful way to look at matter at the molecular level and they give unique results that you can’t easily get with any other technique. The measurements are extremely delicate and non-destructive, so the objects are unharmed by the analysis and can be returned to the museums unscathed.

The neutron beams we have at ISIS are a very versatile research tool and we’re always keen to help researchers answer a broad range of questions. Here we realised that we could take the same analysis methods we developed to look at parts of aircraft and power plants and use them to help archaeologists understand how ancient objects were traded and manufactured.”

Becoming a Friend of Iris

Many of us have been following the good things Lorna Robinson has been doing in bringing Latin to London schools and beyond through the Iris Project.

Now you can become a Friend of the project for £50 a year.

See the page.

Dorothy Sayers again

I am glad to see that LatinTeach has given a link to the Dorothy Sayers lecture accessible from the tab above. LatinTeach also gives a link to Sayers’ ‘Lost Tools of Learning’.

One of the reasons for the study of the Classics is to gain an alternative world-view, from which we can look at our own century and type of civilisation.

Most of us, most of the time, walk around with 21st century western blinkers. Probably we need more prophets, such as the Old Testament prophets who saw society from a different perspective and said so, loud and clear.

But another way is to look with empathy on the way other centuries saw things. Technology has changed vast swathes of life; but it may have overlaid and hidden many valuable truths of human nature and relationships. A study today says that social network sites are changing young people’s brains. Put at its simplest, compare what happens when children relate on the net with how they are when they are out in a field playing with a ball. Doesn’t the first way lack something?

Anyway, these random thoughts come from the Sayers link, which I recommend for a fresh view.