Fast cars to Latin lovers: Italy’s top 15 cultural exports

From The Independent

Whoever said Latin is a dead language is talking through his hat. Classical Latin flourished among educated folk towards the end of the Roman republic and, >>>

A Latin philosopher’s reflections on the Geneva auto show

From AutoWeek

But in a classic twist of fate, Giugiaro’s A8 suddenly went dead on the way into … As we waited our turn to get past Giugiaro’s car, the Latin philosopher … Read on >>>

Jamie’s Latin lover – in classical sense

From the Cambridge News

Cambridge University classics professor Mary Beard will appear on celebrity … read a real piece of real Latin written by a real Roman after three lessons. … Read on >>>

No comment …

UEFA apologises to Bayern fans for banning jokey Latin banner
… classic Monty Python film “Life of Brian,” which has a scene showing a zealous centurion correcting the Latin grammar of Brian’s anti-Roman graffiti. …

Heston’s Roman Feast

Someone is asking about Heston’s Roman Feast.
Try this.

Boom boom!


Taking Latin did improve my vocabulary, though. It’s the root of all languages. I even remember this phrase:

Vestis virum reddit.

Clothes make the man.

Of course, women have their own version.

Veni. Vidi. Visa.

Roman inspired ice cream? Really? No, really.

Berwick Advertiser

LUXURY ice cream makers Doddington Dairy have launched the UK’s first ever range of Roman ice cream after taking inspiration from a homesick centurion’s dinner party plans.
The ice cream comes in specially designed Roman pots and is now on sale in Hadrian’s Wall Country.
The three varieties; apple and cinnamon, cherry and honey are all flavours which were enjoyed in Britain 2000 years ago.
This range is inspired by a wooden tablet found at Vindolanda on Hadrian’s Wall where a Roman soldier urged his staff to secure “a hundred apples, if you can find nice ones”.
Touched by these sentiments, Doddington’s founders Neill and Jackie Maxwell decided to do some further research on fruits and flavours that would have been enjoyed in Roman Britain.
“The Roman tablet sparked our imagination to bring together new flavours from ancient roots,” said Jackie.
“Britain has always been well known for its apples and honey and one of the reasons we picked the cherry flavour was because the Romans introduced a better flavour of eating cherry into the country.”
Rome’s influence extended throughout its empire and was particularly strong along Hadrian’s Wall. Many soldiers bought the eating habits of their far away homeland with them.
Banquets finished with a sweet course and decorated platters piled high with pomegranates, apples, pears, peaches, dates, figs and grapes were common.
Honey-cakes were popular as was a Roman version of ice-cream, made from snow and sweet grape juice, and rumoured to be a favourite of Emperor Nero.
The origins of the new Doddington Dairy Roman range can clearly be seen in these ancient roots.
And Lindsay Allason-Jones, director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Artefact Studies at Newcastle University said: “We know that the Roman’s enjoyed their food and if they had been able to freeze their ice creams, these would certainly be some of the flavours they would have sampled.”
The ice cream is hand-made at Doddington with fresh milk from one of Northumberland’s few remaining dairy herds.
Where possible the other ingredients are sourced locally, for example the honey comes from Chain Bridge Honey Farm at Horncliffe.
Doddington Dairy readily acknowledges that one of the keystones to its success has been the support that is has gained from local tourist attractions.
Many such as the Alnwick Garden and The Sage Gateshead have chosen to stock local ice cream often with flavours unique to their locations.
Doddington Dairy hope that attractions with a strong Roman connection will stock the new range.
Neill said: “Response so far has been very enthusiastic and we are hoping to have Roman ice cream available along the length of Hadrian’s Wall this summer.”
Roman ice cream will be on sale at Vindolanda, Segedunum, Housesteads Roman Fort and other outlets throughout the north east.
The three Roman flavours of ice cream are available in bespoke 120ml cartons or 4 litre cartons for scooping.
Attractions, restaurants, hotels and cafes interested in stocking Roman Britain Ice Cream should contact Doddington Dairy on: enquiries@doddingtondairy. or telephone 01668 283010 or 07900 910657.

What are these two Latin words doing?

Cracking the Shakespeare Code – The Lede Blog –

Updated | 5:28 p.m. Anyone out there care to help solve a two-word riddle that has the planet stumped? We will explain what the riddle is in a moment, but let’s be clear about one thing from the start — the prize is nothing more nor less than this: everlasting fame.

So here’s the mystery of the two words, and what we think we know so far.

Since Monday, when the Shakespeare scholar Stanley Wells unveiled a 17th-century painting and asserted that he is “99 percent” certain that it is a portrait of William Shakespeare, the Web has filled with hundreds of articles, video reports, blog posts and, of course, blog comments wondering whether this painting really is a portrait of the artist.

While Mr. Wells is convinced, one doubting blogger noted that he is an expert on literature, not painting, and that he is also the chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, which is already selling tickets to see the portrait in Stratford.

The evidence Mr. Wells cited this week, based on a three-year investigation, proves more that the painting could be a portrait of Shakespeare than that it is one:

· The painting’s provenance suggests that the current owners first got it from “the great granddaughter of Shakespeare’s only literary patron, Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton.”

· A battery of scientific tests — x-rays, tree-ring dating and infra-red reflectography — dates the painting to about 1610, when Shakespeare was still living.

· There is a good argument to be made that a number of copies of this painting exist, and two of those copies were at various times marketed as portraits of Shakespeare.

· Then there is also the fact that when the engraving that most people accept to be a genuine likeness of Shakespeare is superimposed on the painting — as it is in this excellent video report by Nicholas Glass of Britian’s Channel 4 News — the general shapes of the two faces do seem to match.

Even Mr. Wells admits that all of this evidence “is circumstantial” at best, which is why it is strange that relatively few people have paid much attention to a rather obvious clue inscribed on the painting: the two Latin words painted across the top in golden letters, followed by an exclamation point: “Principum amicitias!”
Latin InscriptionThe two-word Latin riddle on the painting, yet to be solved.

If this kind of clue were dropped in a mystery novel or a Tom Hanks movie, you’d have to think it would be getting more attention. But then we know that even Shakespeare had “small Latin and less Greek,” and the study of those languages, and of the classics written in them, has fallen off sharply in the 400 years since.

That didn’t stop several readers of The Lede from trying to wring an answer out of the Web. As Emily Sanford noted in a comment she posted near the end of the long comments thread below our first post on this painting, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust does offer a possible explanation of the inscription on its Web site. According to the trust:

The conclusion that the sitter is Shakespeare is strengthened by the fact that the original picture, the Cobbe portrait, was inscribed with a quotation from the Classical writer, Horace, taken from an ode addressed to a playwright.

As Ms. Sanford noted, the trust also suggested that the words should be translated as a somewhat inscrutable warning to “Beware the alliances of princes!”

But a blogger writing under the name rogueclassicist pointed out on his blog that this is really “more a translation of the whole passage” from the Horatian ode than of just “those two words.”

Another reader of The Lede, writing under the name Karin, scoured the Web and came across some notes on the ode in the book “Horace: Behind the Public Poetry,” by R.O.A.M. Lyne. Mr. Lyne’s notes suggest that the phrase in the ode, “grauisque principum amicitias,” which the words of the inscription may be referring to, “brings back to mind the bad old days of the alliances (amicitiae) of the unscrupulous, revolutionary principes, in particular the deal to which we refer as the ‘first triumvirate’ (60 B.C.).”

Got that? I certainly did not. So, feeling well out of my depth three decades after I studied rudimentary Latin, and not having the slightest idea of what the “first triumvirate” was, or what that might have to do with the fellow gazing out at us from this 17th-century painting, I looked around for a Latin scholar to provide some clues.

I was lucky enough to find, at a reputable university, an expert willing to help us on one condition — that he remain nameless. Understanding his fear of being drawn away from his research if he were to be identified as an expert willing to help solve centuries-old mysteries, The Lede agreed.

The full text of his e-mail message on the subject follows. Anyone who wants to get to work on solving the riddle should read it and let us know when you’ve figured the whole thing out. Here’s what our Latin scholar says:

The phrase “principum amicitias” does look like a quotation of the Horatian ode. The idea of translating it “beware the friendships of of princes” is certainly not explicit in Horace, who addressed this poem to Asinius Pollio, a writer but himself an important political man who had written or was writing a history of Rome from the time of the so-called first triumvirate to the death of Cicero, 60-43 BC. That was a very dangerous time, and the end of it was not more than 20 years in the past when Horace wrote the ode, so he characterizes writing about it as dangerous as well. There were plenty of people around who did things during that period that they would just as soon forget, including Augustus, who was complicit in the murder of Cicero.

Anyway, the “first triumvirate” was just an agreement among Caesar, Pompeius, and Crassus to cooperate with one another for mutual advantage (rather than, say, for the good of the state). Cicero was invited to work with them, but refused to do so. When the agreement became public, people were rightly alarmed. But the agreement — the “friendships of princes” in Horace’s phrase — kept the three men from one another’s throats, until Crassus was destroyed when he decided to make war on the Parthian Empire (roughly, Persia). After he was out of the way, Caesar and Pompeius found it impossible to cooperate, and between 49 and 45 B.C. they fought a civil war that left Caesar as dictator for life. When he was assassinated in 44, an actual triumvirate consisting of Octavian (the future Augustus), Marcus Antonius, and C. Lepidus was appointed by the senate. These triumviri had many of their enemies murdered, including Cicero, and this is where Pollio’s history stopped.

Whether in Horace the plural “friendships” refers to the various one-to-one relationships among Caesar, Pompeius, and Crassus, or to that three-way friendship and other friendships as well, is hard to say. The “second triumvirate” could be considered a form of amicitia, since that was the word that the Romans used to denote political alliance; and Pollio may have structured his history by beginning and ending it with these two instances of friendship among princes. Note that for Horace the apparent meaning is just that — “friendships among princes,” not “friendships of princes with other, lesser people.” So if the meaning is in any sense “beware the friendships of princes,” it should mean (in Horatian terms) not beware of friendships with princes, but beware for the state when princes form friendships with one another. It’s certainly a cynical comment on Machiavellian political friendships, though.

How does all of this relate to Shakespeare?

It could just be that the phrase is not meant to interact in any direct way with the Horatian context. “The friendships of princes” might then refer to Shakespeare’s friendships with noble patrons, as a kind of compliment and an acknowledgment that their patronage was a factor in his success. In this case, the classical reference would also be a compliment to his culture, but not a specific reference to whatever Horace was talking about.

There could on the other hand be a more pointed reference to the history plays that deal with how the current dynasty came to power, although I’m not sure that I can think of any close parallel in that process to the “first triumvirate.” But maybe the phrase “friendships of princes” had some currency as a way of acknowledging the cynical behavior of the powerful towards one another and towards everybody else.

Update | Reader Response 1: A second Latin professor, one of our readers, John L, writes in the comments thread below that he sees the inscription differently:

I’d just add this: while the Horace lines have negative implications (poetry/art/wisdom always being ambiguous towards power politics, even when tied to them), still, the two words in the painting seem positive to me: (i) the Horatian context and the adj. “gravis” are omitted, (ii) there is a cheery exclamation-point; (iii) it was noted that the portrait is of a wealthy man; (iv) there is talk of Shakespeare’s patron in connection w/ this very painting. (Yes, a lot of people say that the 2 quoted words imply the whole context, and by implication carry with them the rest of what Horace says there, but I disagree. It’s equally significant that it leaves them out and puts them in a _new_ context, as I argued. But this is always a dilemma with selective quotations.)

This view is supported by the blogger at Rogue Classicism, who said in his blog post on the inscription: “It probably has a positive spin in the painting.”

Update | Reader Response 2: Another reader, Ken C, draws our attention to an interesting part of the Channel 4 News report on the painting that we were not aware of: a gallery showing the various paintings that look like copies of this one, and an image of this painting before it was restored in 2002.

Ken has also been good enough to watch the complete Channel 4 News interview with the painting’s owner, an art restorer named Alec Cobbe, and notes that in that interview Mr. Cobbe discusses an aspect of the restoration that has gotten little or no attention. Mr. Cobbe told Channel 4 News that this recent restoration removed what he took to be “extra” hair that had been added to this painting at some stage after it was first painted. Since a 17th-century engraving that was said by Shakespeare’s contemporaries to be a good likeness of him showed that he was going bald in his later years, this recent alteration to the Cobbe portrait did make it look more plausibly like that accepted image of Shakespeare than it did before the restoration. Here is the Cobbe painting before and after the restoration hair removal, and here is the engraving by Martin Droeshout, published in 1623 in the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays next to a poem by his friend Ben Jonson declaring it a good likeness.

New computer game on Hannibal in pipeline


Talking with Destructoid the other day, Vin Diesel made the first strong confirmation of a new game in the works, Barca B.C.

For those of you that weren’t aware, Vin Diesel founded the game company Tigon Studios, which, amongst other games, have made games featuring Vin Diesel such as the recent two Chronicles of Riddick games, and The Wheelman.

This new game — that has been in development for 2 or 3 years already, apparently — is going to be a MMO with RPG qualities, set around 200 B.C, in the Punic Wars. (Shotgun blast history lesson: the Punic Wars were a series a battles in the Mediterranean against the dominating empire of day, the Carthaginian State, against the upstart Roman Republic. Hannibal Barca was a fearsome, legendary talented Carthaginian general, raised from birth to kill Romans.)

“The reason why it’s my dream game is because it is an MMO … where you create an avatar that lives in the reality of Hannibal Barca, the Punic Wars and life 200 B.C,” Vin Diesel said to Destructoid. “You would have avatars that you would invest [in] — it would be an RPG game — and creating that ancient world as your backdrop. Creating an ancient world that is your ‘Azeroth.’ That is probably my dream scenario,” Diesel went on to say.

From the interview, it seems that Diesel has a sincere interest and affinity for the world of the ancient West. In that period before the Roman Empire began, when the whole ‘civilization’ ball really started to roll, warfare was entering a new conceptual stage of tactics, and massive, well-equipped armies where deciding the entire course of history in the West.

It appears that Barca B.C has at least a few years of development before it will see the light of day. But it is a project the Diesel is personally motivated to see through to the end: “We all know those games take a lot of work to create, a lot of funds. We are just in the first two or three years of putting it together. It could probably take another four years before we see that game…When we talk about dream case scenarios, man, I would love to play as a Carthaginian soldier 200 years before Christ. Sailing around the Mediterranean, that’d be pretty damn cool. If you could add some historical elements to it, the better.”

With the hordes of YAMFRIES ( Yet Another MMORPG Featuring Rangers, Imps, Elves or Sorcerers) games on the market, the popularity of God of War, and Perpetual Entertainment’s cancellation of Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising, a change of setting to a non-fantasy world in Earth’s interesting past just might be a breath of fresh air in an otherwise crowded market.

Dies rubrorum nasorum


We may admire the satires of Horace and Lucilius, but the ancient Romans haven’t hitherto been thought of as masters of the one-liner. This could be about to change, however, after the discovery of a classical joke book.

Celebrated classics professor Mary Beard has brought to light a volume more than 1,600 years old, which she says shows the Romans not to be the “pompous, bridge-building toga wearers” they’re often seen as, but rather a race ready to laugh at themselves.

Written in Greek, Philogelos, or The Laughter Lover, dates to the third or fourth century AD, and contains some 260 jokes which Beard said are “very similar” to the jokes we have today, although peopled with different stereotypes – the “egghead”, or absent-minded professor, is a particular figure of fun, along with the eunuch, and people with hernias or bad breath.

“They’re also poking fun at certain types of foreigners – people from Abdera, a city in Thrace, were very, very stupid, almost as stupid as [they thought] eggheads [were],” said Beard.

An ancient version of Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch sees a man buy a slave, who dies shortly afterwards. When he complains to the seller, he is told: “He didn’t die when I owned him.”

Beard’s favourite joke is a version of the Englishman, Irishman, Scotsman variety, with a barber, a bald man and an absent-minded professor taking a journey together. They have to camp overnight, so decide to take turns watching the luggage. When it’s the barber’s turn, he gets bored, so amuses himself by shaving the head of the professor. When the professor is woken up for his shift, he feels his head, and says “How stupid is that barber? He’s woken up the bald man instead of me.”

“It’s one of the better ones,” said Beard. “It has a nice identity resonance … A lot of the jokes play on the obviously quite problematic idea in Roman times of knowing who you are.” Another “identity” joke sees a man meet an acquaintance and say “it’s funny, I was told you were dead”. He says “well, you can see I’m still alive.” But the first man disputes this on the grounds that “the man who told me you were dead is much more reliable than you”.

“Interestingly they are quite understandable to us, whereas reading Punch from the 19th century is completely baffling to me,” said Beard.

But she queried whether we are finding the same things funny as the Romans would have done. Telling a joke to one of her graduate classes, in which an absent-minded professor is asked by a friend to bring back two 15-year-old slave boys from his trip abroad, and replies “fine, and if I can’t find two 15-year-olds I will bring you one 30-year-old,” she found they “chortled no end”.

“They thought it was a sex joke, equivalent to someone being asked for two 30-year-old women, and being told okay, I’ll bring you one 60-year-old. But I suspect it’s a joke about numbers – are numbers real? If so two 15-year-olds should be like one 30-year-old – it’s about the strange unnaturalness of the number system.”

Beard, who discovered the title while carrying out research for a new book she’s working on about humour in the ancient world, pointed out that when we’re told a joke, we make a huge effort to make it funny for ourselves, or it’s an admission of failure. “Are we doing that to these Roman jokes? Were they actually laughing at something quite different?” .

See also Daily Telegraph