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