ceebeegee: (Default)
 So Wednesday I was assisting a coach in a class of 2-3 year olds. This coach is older, from Italy, and we have some awesome discussions. And he knows I’m a huge history nerd. So he was teaching the kids, and as the lesson progressed we ended up with a floor of big cones with smaller cones on top of them, and he wants the kids to knock them down. So he says “thees is lahk Rome and…”—looks questioningly at me—“…the Phoenicians?” I laughed and said “the Carthaginians, actually, although they spoke Phoenician.” So then I start getting into it and I’m encouraging the kids to “sack Carthage, we have to sack Carthage! Make sure they never invade our peninsula again!” Now I’m trying to figure out how I can come up with a lesson that incorporates Roman history—I have two kids (not even related!) in my Saturday class of 4-5 years olds whose names are Cassius and Livia and I love to call her Empress. My Saturday classes are outdoors and there’s a slope nearby—I can possibly recreate Hannibal’s passage through the Alps. The sack of soccer balls could be the elephants…
 
 
 
ceebeegee: (Rome)
This past weekend was busy--I had rehearsal Saturday morning, softball, and then a baby shower in Toms River for New Jersey and then NEWS. Rehearsal went fine, although I found out that our darling Luke, our Demetrius, will not be able to do the show because he broke his arm. The replacement seems cool but I love Luke! After rehearsal I went over to Pinkberry--I was sitting there, nomming on my Original with Cap'n Crunch and blackberries, when a guy walked in with a woman and two kids. My gaze drifted over him and I thought "he kind of looks like Kelsey Grammer but I thought his hair was darker?" When he said something, I realized it WAS he! He and the other three sat at the table next to me, which had only three chairs--he asked if he could have the free chair at my table, I said "of course." I'm so shy around celebrities, for several reasons--the main one is that I don't want to bother them. The guy's out with his family, let him have a nice time, don't pester him. The only celebrity I'd ever say anything to would be someone whose work I really admire and follow--Kelsey Grammer is a fine comedian, he was perfect in Cheers, but it's not as though I watched Frasier obsessively every single week. Another reason is that I think celebrities have so much weird energy fixated on them--somebody's always coming up to them for something, an autograph, a photograph, validation, whatever. Someone's always trying to get a reaction out of them. And then they sell the story to TMZ. I can't stand this when it's just a random guy on the street, I can't imagine how annoying this would be times a million. I just leave 'em alone. Also, this is New York, and you just can't fawn over celebrities. It's not cool. (In that way it's like the Vineyard--I saw plenty of them there as well, albeit they were more erudite--Art Buchwald, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Bill Clinton (well, my aunt and uncle met--and had dessert with--the Bill, not me :) But for all my shyness, it's still exciting!

Whaaaaat a game! )

After the game, I had just enough time to run home, feed the babies, and run back down to Port Authority for the bus down to Toms River. This was fun--I got to talk to Lori's dad at the shower, who for some reason really likes me and always makes a point of talking to me about history after I burned his ears off last Thanksgiving going on about Henry VIII's wives. I was telling him about my class.

Eeeeeeeeeehhhh!!! )

And Amy is coming to see Thyme! She was a great TA, I hope she likes the show. I'm also inviting some other Columbia friends to the show who've asked about it--they know me as Hermione, just WAIT until I blow their mind as an androgynous, skinny, wood fairy who puts a girdle 'round the earth! Interesting though, I've been reading on the Times site about the horrors of student debt--I'm so behind the times, I had no idea private lenders lent out money to students and had variable rates. For some reason I thought this was a much more regulated market--some of these stories are scary, it sounds like debt bondage. Very glad I've been so cautious about my financial plan so far (1-2 classes at a time, etc.).

Finals!

May. 13th, 2010 02:21 pm
ceebeegee: (Rome)
So we had our history final Tuesday.

The exam was the same format as the midterm, only with two essays to write instead of one. We had four questions from which to choose:

The Exam Questions )

I was part of a study group and the guy who'd organized it randomly assigned us different essays--just for the purpose of studying, we certainly weren't bound to this. I was assigned questions 3 & 4. I banged out three--I actually came up with seven different factors, just to give the other students many reasons to consider--and posted it to our Google docs group. (We also had fifteen identifications--terms we were going to have to define/identify for the exam--that I uploaded.) I was rather proud of one of those reasons--I said that one factor was Christianity's sacred texts, which we hadn't actually discussed at all in class, but when I was composing the outline, it occurred to me that not every religion has sacred texts. Certainly paganism didn't. I did a little research on other Mediterranean basin religions in Antiquity and found out there were only 3-4 other religions that had sacred texts, and none of them were explicitly evangelical. I whipped off an email to my professor:

I've been working on that essay question number 3 and came up with an interesting idea that I don't think we covered in class. I think the fact that Christianity has sacred texts is another factor in its success--it's much easier to propagate and reinforce information (the Word) when you can write it down and pass it along. The other Mediterranean basin religions with sacred texts (as far as I can find out) were ones that were not explicitly evangelistic, like Judaism, Manichaeism and Zoroastrianism. I think it's the intersection of Christianity's evangelism and their sacred texts that helped them explode eventually.

Am I completely off-track here? I realize that many of Christianity's early adherents might not have been able to read (hence reducing the effectiveness of the gospel as a tool for evangelization), and it wasn't until it had been firmly established as the state religion that they established the biblical canon and started translating the Bible into other religions. But surely before that time, during the early church, evangelists used the sacred writings as part of their outreach--did Paul preach the written gospel or did he improvise?


He responded:

Dear Clara,

your idea is absolutely not off-track. There are several studies arguing about the decisive role played by the written word, and hence interpretation, that is theology, in the rise of Christianity. Paul: remember that Paul wrote his letters before the evangelists wrote the Gospels. The Gospels are later and take into account Paul's letters. Moreover, Paul wasn't an apostle and never met Christ in person. Thus, Paul's letters are based on an oral tradition and the Gospel on orality and Paul's letters.


Eeeh! So I worked that into my argument.

Then I studied the last question. I wrote a quick outline for it but as I was composing the outline, I realized that question would be a little difficult to answer, by memory, with sources (remember, the difficult thing--the REALLY difficult thing--about this format is that we have to not only write an essay, we have to cite original sources--from memory). With this kind of format, linear is better for me, it's much easier to remember a linear argument than a convoluted, circular one. And no matter how you choose to answer no. 4, all those factors influenced each other. Example, one economic factor was the debasement of the currency--but this wasn't an isolated phenomenon, it influenced--strongly--how the legions acted...which then influenced the imperial succession. The 3rd century was basically a precursor to the Fall of Rome in the 5th century and like any event where things are falling apart, they all feed into each other and social entropy takes over and...

Basically the 3rd century was a hot mess, yo.

So I decided I would rather concentrate on no. 2 and emailed our study group leader, who was fine with that. This was a more complicated question than no. 3 (albeit still linear) so my outline was longer. It boiled down to:

Long Boring Outline on How the Roman Empire Held Together )

I committed this to memory (as well as my other outline) and basically spent two days muttering under my breath every chance I got. Got to the final on Tuesday was pacing around, still muttering--my TA saw me and made a "you're going to be FINE" gesture and mouthed that. We had nearly three hours to do the exam but the other TA said it shouldn't take nearly that long. I clocked out at about 3:30 (2.5 hours) after 3 blue books and one aching hand. I did this exaggerated walk up to drop off my blue books and one of the TAs said "we were taking bets on how many you would fill up." I gave him a long-suffering look and gimped off to treat myself to some Pinkberry. GOD, that stuff is good!

Have to register for next semester now!
ceebeegee: (Columbia)
So something kind of cool happened yesterday. I got an email from the Columbia Office of Disability Services, they want to buy my notes for the semester.

Back in January, the professor forwarded to all of us an email from the PDS, saying anyone who wanted to supply notes to a disabled student in the class could submit them. If your notes were chosen, you got paid--$250 for new note-suppliers, $350 for returning. I typed up my notes and sent them in and a few days later got a polite "going with someone else" email.

Then yesterday, they emailed me personally, asking if I could send them my notes for the entire semester. I emailed them back and got a very warm thank you and asking if I'd ever done it before. I said no, this was my first semester at Columbia. Eeeh! Money! Someone's paying me for my notes! I wonder if this counts as some sort of professional accomplishment--"Clara Barton Green got her start when she sold her notes for her course on Roman History for $250."
ceebeegee: (Rome)
(originally dated April 27)

Yay! I finished it almost a week early--not because I'm such a goody-goody (as IF, in college I took great pride in writing papers the night before that got A's :) but because the professor suggested we do so and with a class this big, if I hand it in with everyone else, I won't know my grade until JULY. (Which might be appropriate, since Gaius WAS born in the month named after him. )

However, graceful speech was but one literary weapon Caesar deployed in his calculated campaign for domination—he was as fluent a writer as a speaker and his two Commentarii, with their combination of elegance and brevity, are still held up as models of military composition. In these Caesar eschews the more flowery language of the funeral or the Senate hall, and instead writes in a much more appropriately martial tone—businesslike, brief, unemotional. And yet for all that, the Commentarii served as effective tools of propaganda, intended to justify his expensive campaigns and subtly position himself as a leader to the people. “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres” (Book I) begins his Commentarii de Bello Gallico and with this engaging opening Caesar invites the audience—his peers in the Senate and the Roman populace—to follow him as he plunders Gaul and conquers the Celtic and Germanic barbarian tribes…all for the greater glory of Rome, of course. Throughout the Commentarii, and notwithstanding Caesar’s use of the third person narrative, he is selling himself in a very personal way to the reader, sprinkling his text with anecdotes of Caesar’s mercy, charm and most important, his military invincibility. Caesar was well-aware that the infantry was the heart and soul of Roman glory. Latin’s straightforward construction, with its structural terseness and lack of articles, lends itself very well to the purposeful efficiency of the Comentarii—-Caesar’s ending to the Commentarii de Bello Civili is a simple “Haec initia belli Alexandrini fuerunt.” (Book III) Caesar’s writing style in these two works highlights another verbal characteristic—-his instinctive grasp of the impact of conciseness. Caesar’s epigrams are famous in every language, the most well-known being, when asked about his Pontic campaign, his laconic response “Veni, vidi, vici.” (Suetonius, 37) Plutarch tells us of another example; upon being warned by one of his captains that the Senate would not extend Caesar’s term in Gaul, Caesar “clapped his hand on the hilt of his sword and said, ‘But this shall.’” (28) As any soldier knows, brevity is the soul not just of wit, but of might.

Sometimes I think my professor is a little taken aback at my interest in military matters--the wars themselves are not that interesting, but military technique and strategy is because they never change. What worked thousands of years ago can work now, because all armies are composed of infantry (soldiers who march), cavalry (mounted soldiers), artillery (launched missiles), etc. and they still study brilliant battle tactics today, like Hannibal's double-envelopment (pincer) attack at the Battle of Cannhae. In fact I believe I remember that Stormin' Norman used the pincer plan in Desert Storm but the Wikipedia article doesn't indicate that, so I could be wrong. And Joshua Chamberlain, a Union commander at Gettysburg, used another classical battle tactic at Little Round Top (I think it was from the Spartans)--he was a classic professor at Bowdoin so of course he knew it! I just love that something someone did thousands of years ago still works, still fits, still is applicable and relevant. History never changes because people never change.
ceebeegee: (Rome)
Yay! I finished it almost a week early--not because I'm such a goody-goody (as IF, in college I took great pride in writing papers the night before that got A's :) but because the professor suggested we do so and with a class this big, if I hand it in with everyone else, I won't know my grade until JULY. (Which might be appropriate, since Gaius WAS born in the month named after him. )

However, graceful speech was but one literary weapon Caesar deployed in his calculated campaign for domination—he was as fluent a writer as a speaker and his two Commentarii, with their combination of elegance and brevity, are still held up as models of military composition. In these Caesar eschews the more flowery language of the funeral or the Senate hall, and instead writes in a much more appropriately martial tone—businesslike, brief, unemotional. And yet for all that, the Commentarii served as effective tools of propaganda, intended to justify his expensive campaigns and subtly position himself as a leader to the people. “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres” (Book I) begins his Commentarii de Bello Gallico and with this engaging opening Caesar invites the audience—his peers in the Senate and the Roman populace—to follow him as he plunders Gaul and conquers the Celtic and Germanic barbarian tribes…all for the greater glory of Rome, of course. Throughout the Commentarii, and notwithstanding Caesar’s use of the third person narrative, he is selling himself in a very personal way to the reader, sprinkling his text with anecdotes of Caesar’s mercy, charm and most important, his military invincibility. Caesar was well-aware that the infantry was the heart and soul of Roman glory. Latin’s straightforward construction, with its structural terseness and lack of articles, lends itself very well to the purposeful efficiency of the Comentarii—-Caesar’s ending to the Commentarii de Bello Civili is a simple “Haec initia belli Alexandrini fuerunt.” (Book III) Caesar’s writing style in these two works highlights another verbal characteristic—-his instinctive grasp of the impact of conciseness. Caesar’s epigrams are famous in every language, the most well-known being, when asked about his Pontic campaign, his laconic response “Veni, vidi, vici.” (Suetonius, 37) Plutarch tells us of another example; upon being warned by one of his captains that the Senate would not extend Caesar’s term in Gaul, Caesar “clapped his hand on the hilt of his sword and said, ‘But this shall.’” (28) As any soldier knows, brevity is the soul not just of wit, but of might.

Sometimes I think my professor is a little taken aback at my interest in military matters--the wars themselves are not that interesting, but military technique and strategy is because they never change. What worked thousands of years ago can work now, because all armies are composed of infantry (soldiers who march), cavalry (mounted soldiers), artillery (launched missiles), etc. and they still study brilliant battle tactics today, like Hannibal's double-envelopment (pincer) attack at the Battle of Cannhae. In fact I believe I remember that Stormin' Norman used the pincer plan in Desert Storm but the Wikipedia article doesn't indicate that, so I could be wrong. And Joshua Chamberlain, a Union commander at Gettysburg, used another classical battle tactic at Little Round Top (I think it was from the Spartans)--he was a classic professor at Bowdoin so of course he knew it! I just love that something someone did thousands of years ago still works, still fits, still is applicable and relevant. History never changes because people never change.
ceebeegee: (Rome)
Busy weekend, well tomorrow anyway. Ken Scudder has hooked me up with his Oberlin (?--I think, a college anyway) softball group and they play every week through the summer, starting tomorrow. Yay! Very, very excited about that.

I also have to catch up on my reading for class--I slacked off a bit last weekend and have some original sources through which to plow, plus I have to start work on my essay. We have a 4-5 page essay due at the end of the month--the professor offered a list of possible topics, but I chose my own: Julius Caesar, Rock Star. Okay, not exactly that but the gist is: Julius Caesar was the first public figure to succeed not just on merit but because he specifically knew how to sell himself via his coolly laconic dispatches from the Gallic Wars--this coincided with the development of "personality-driven" writing, like Cicero's letters, which later culminated in the invention of a new literary genre, the biography, by Suetonius and Plutarch. But as I told my Mom, Julius Caesar was the first rock star. Just imagine him striding into Pontus, kicking ass and taking names, and as he walks out, he's surrounded by the papparazzi who are all taking pictures and shouting questions at him. He looks coolly back at them and says with a slight shrug "Veni. Vedi. Vici." Adjusting his cloak he then makes his way toward the shuttle waiting to take him back to Rome as a swarm of groupies follow in his wake. "Gaius! Gaius! Oh, he's so dreamy!" As I said to my Mom, "Laconicism is hottt."

So anyway, gotta get started on that. Read and write, read and write. While still finding time to think about the 10-minute play I'm directing for Duncan.

Midterms!

Apr. 1st, 2010 11:18 am
ceebeegee: (Rome)
So, as I posted yesterday, we FINALLY got our midterms back and I pulled an A, yippee! Very, very happy about that. We took this exam a while ago, on March 9, and I've been sitting on my hands waiting for it ever since. It was an interesting format: the first part, worth one-third, were identifications--a phrase or term was listed and you had to write up to three sentences identifying it. The professor gave us thirty of these and said that ten would be on the exam, so you just had to study for that and remember your definitions. The second part, worth the other two-thirds, was more complicated. He gave us three essay questions, and said that one of them would be on the exam. Here's the kicker--you had to answer the question citing original sources. Without books. So you not only had to compose an argument to answer the question, you had to remember all the citations and who wrote them. NOT easy. The questions were:

Exam Head Games )

The visceral poetry of Caesar's assassination... )

Cawfee Tawk and Talksalot )

Anyway. Danced up Broadway yesterday afternoon. It is spring, the weather is getting better and I got an A on my midterm in my wonderful, awesome history class that affirms that history is endlessly fascinating and something I want to pursue.
ceebeegee: (Rome)
I've been doing a lot of reading ahead in class, as well as outside reading, and downloading family trees and whatnot, all in an effort to keep all the material straight. The textbook, while interesting and readable, isn't much more than a flying runthrough--understandably, since it's covering over 1000 years. But, as an example, its coverage of Julius Caesar doesn't even mention Cleopatra and all salaciousness aside, his relationship with her was very indicative of how thoroughly effed up the Ptolemaic administration of Egypt was. We had a real rousing discussion section today and this came up--one of the guys in my discussion section, a guy named Scott who's something of an expert in Egypt, was talking about why Rome didn't annex Egypt until much later and he said "because the political situation was such a mess there, it wasn't worth it." I interjected "as Julius Caesar found out!" He was almost killed there. Ptolemaic politics were so sterotypically female and feminine--someone was always getting poisoned or plotted against behind their back. Shakespeare's characterization of Egypt as female was obviously because of Cleopatra but even without that, the characterization is apt.

Columbia has a cool interface with students called Courseworks--you log on and go to your classes, and you can access slide shows and also post online discussions. This is something I posted in response to the book, Harris's War and Imperialism, that we discussed today:

On p. 41, Harris asks: "...whether or not the social ethos I have been describing was created by circumstances external to the Roman state, or whether Rome's distinctive behavior towards foreign states resulted from the social ethos." And that's the big question, isn't it? He starts from 327 BC (in the middle of the Samnite Wars) and ends in 70 BC, after Rome has convincingly conquered all of the Mediterranean. And he makes a strong case for Rome's inherent bellicosity, the militarism that saturated Roman mores and culture. But it's worth looking at how this may have developed, and I can't help but see a watershed moment in the 1st and 2nd Punic Wars, especially the latter. As much war as Rome may have pursued during the 5th and 4th centuries [i.e., with the Samnites, Etruscans, Sabines, and other peoples of the Italian peninsula], these were essentially defensive, a kind of macro-Darwinism, "dominate or be dominated" that perhaps was driven by the Celts' and Samnites' aggressive policies toward them (the latter finally reaching its natural conclusion when Sulla [general-turned-dictator during the chaos of the 1st century BC who basically upended the Roman constitution by marching on Rome--sound familiar?--wiping out most of the Senate and putting in his lackies instead] eradicated them in 83 BC, with Strabo [contemporary writer] remarking "he knew from experience that no Roman would be able to live as long as the Samnites existed").

We first have a change in perspective, a war that is essentially expansionist, with the first Carthaginian War. Though this war was in its execution more or less unremarkable (with the exception of Rome's development of its first navy), the 2nd Punic War must have tested the Romans severely. Not only was the casualty rate extremely high, but the war was fought right there on the peninsula, and some of their allies were even turning against them. There seems to be such an incredibly personal feel to the Hannibalic War, exemplified by the Romans' awareness of the all-conquering opposing general, Hannibal himself, whom even the Alps couldn't keep out. And yet for all that, the Romans came out of that war with their appetite for war seemingly enhanced, rather than subdued. It is after 201 that Rome engages in what are essentially a series of police actions, wars to maintain the balance of power in the eastern Mediterranean, conflicts that are the antithesis of defensive, necessary wars. Does this indicate that the pursuit of war was an integral, ingrained feature of Roman culture? Or was the 2nd Punic War the crucible that forged these characteristics permanently in the Roman ethos?


This is something I find I'm pondering more and more--how Rome's initial capacity for war developed into an essential part of its identity, by which its citizens derived their sense of self. I want to examine the development from citizen/soldiers fighting defensive wars of necessity ---> citizen/soldiers fighting wars of conquest for the greater glory of Rome and their own gain ---> de facto professional soldiers whose main loyalty is to their commander (and then only because that commander will get them the goods). My instinct, as I say above, is that something changed in the Roman psyche during the crucible of the 2nd Punic War. I think there was a unique quality to that war that could've either broken them completely or further refined them--as it happens, it was the latter. Something I brought up in class today was the poverty of Rome's culture until Hellenization in the 2nd century--until then, Rome had no theater, no epic poetry, little literature of any kind in fact and no music that survived. This was a culture that had refined itself to one main purpose--war. And yet there was something more to their culture--the Romans were constitutional geniuses, they did improve on the concept of the polis, they topped the Greek world in that respect. And they were not Sparta--Sparta was an extreme example of a society devoted to war. Rome wasn't that extreme, and interestingly, in the mid-2nd century, the national appetite for war apparently started to wane.

Plautus

Feb. 16th, 2010 03:59 pm
ceebeegee: (Rome)
I was on fiyuh today in class. My method of note-taking is paying off--constant synthesis of all this stuff. (And plus the fact that the Punic Wars are infinitely more interesting than the Italic Wars--elephants crossing the Alps, cool! Endless wars with the Samnites, booooo-ring.) The professor was talking about the cultural shifts that started in the 2nd century BC and referred to "political precedents that had already been compromised. He asked if we knew who he meant--I thought it was Scipio Africanus but I didn't say anything and he said (yup) "Scipio Africanus. Can anyone tell me why?" My hand shot up, he called on me, and I Hermione'd "Because of his success in Spain during the 2nd Punic Wars, he was appointed to Consul before having been elected praetor or questor, plus his term was extended indefinitely." Aw yeah! Then later he was talking about the cultural Hellenization that happened in Rome following Rome's imperialism in the eastern Mediterranean--this included things like coinage, the beginning of Roman history (i.e., Romans writing their own narrative) and the introduction and adaptation of Greek theater. He said something like "Plow-oooh-tus, does anyone know who that is?" No one said anything and as he started to write it on the board I realized who it was and I blurted out "I know who he is!" He pointed to me and I said "Plautus was a Roman playwright who wrote comedies which were known for their use of stock characters like the scheming slave, the lovers, the doddering old fool..." I thought, but didn't say, "he may be more familiar to modern-day musical comedies through A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum which is based on his plays." Although it occurred to me later--the script of Forum says that it takes place "200 years before the birth of Christ, a day in Spring." (I've done that show twice, and that setting always amused me.) But slavery wasn't really introduced in Rome until a little later (sometime after the Macedonian Wars when the Roman economy asploded). However Plautus didn't really compose original works--he adapted Greek plays to Roman tastes. Hence the anachronism.
ceebeegee: (Rome)
Busy week. Lots of running around. I'm preparing for the Mardi Gras party Tuesday and Lori did the sweetest thing, she paid for the order I'd placed for the hurricane mix, the Zatarain's and Tony Chachere gumbos and red beans and rice, and the geaux cups. She paid for the whole order, and originally we were just going to split it--so sweet! She saved me much $$$ which is great because I really can't afford the party this year (starving student and all) but it's a tradition that I have to keep up!

So this weekend I will be shopping (mostly for King Cake supplies and sausage to put in the red beans and rice, and yeah and lots of rum for the hurricanes), cleaning the apartment, and STUDYING. Those Romans did QUITE a bit--it is not that easy keeping track of all their exploits. THREE Punic Wars and FOUR Macedonian Wars--and the Macedonian Wars started during the Punic Wars! Guys, can't you just get along? If the Cullens and the Quileute wolves can make a treaty, so can you.

Since we're getting narratives from several different sources (the three textbooks--one didactic textbook, and two with all original sources), plus our heavily-accented professor, plus our TA discussions, plus the powerpoint slides that I print out, I have a lot of notes and paperwork to put together. I've found it's immensely helpful to synthesize all of this into one master timeline. Not only is it easier to read, just the fact of creating it forces me to think clearly and linearly about the subject. I also do outside research--the professor and the textbook are not always terribly clear so it helps to get the information from another angle. For instance, a lot of these place names have several different names in different languages. When Hamilcar Barcid (father of Hannibal) went to Spain in the financially disastrous wake of the 1st Punic War, there were three main cities that he either founded or dealt with, and one is called Gades/Gadeira, etc. I came across several different variations on this name--on a hunch, and knowing that Cadiz is one of the oldest cities on the subcontinent (I know Cadiz well since our ship went there), I looked up Cadiz and found that its Phoenician name was Gadir, and that its Attic Greek name was Gádeira. Bingo! I just like to know the context, it helps me understand everything else that much better.

Hannibal is pretty cool. Elephants marching across the Alps! But I then I think about the elephants dying in battle and I get sad. Did you know that after the Battle of Lake Tresimeno, a notoriously bloody battle, "in the surroundings...there are further areas which retain a particular meaning, including Ossaia ('Charnel House, Place of Bones'), Sepoltaglia ('Place of Burial'), Caporosso ('Cape red'), Piegaro ('Subdued Place'), Pugnano ('Place of battles'), and Pian di Marte ('Field of Mars')"?

Homework

Jan. 22nd, 2010 07:51 pm
ceebeegee: (Rome)
So...

if Etruscan is not an Indo-European language...where did the Etruscans come from? They couldn't have been indigenous if they're surrounded by Italic peoples.

Oooh--according to Wikipedia,

Outside of Italy inscriptions have been found in Africa, Corsica, Elba, Gallia Narbonensis, Greece, the Balkans and the Black Sea.

God, it's so frustrating trying to figure this out when the only other languages in the Tyrrhenian family are ALSO dead! *Grumble, grumble* Sassa-frassin' Etruscans, if you were going to be so darn influential, you should have tried to keep your language alive a little longer! Did you know there's only one Etruscan piece of literature still extant?

Italy is geographically (and now, as a result, politically--there is a lot of cultural conflict between the North and the South) fragmented land. The Appennine range runs down the spine of the peninsula and throughout most of Italy--only seven percent of the land mass is plain. There are three major lowland regions--

*the Po Valley (the "top" of Italy) which opens up to the relatively restricted Adriatic;

*Apulia in the southeast (the "heel") which also opens up the the Adriatic;

and most significantly,

*the region comprising modern-day Tuscany (Etruria), Lazio (Latium) and Campania. This region opens up to the Mediterranean, a much broader social, technological and economic vista. This region offered a huge advantage to its peoples--one explanation for Rome's later success.
ceebeegee: (rome)
I gotta say now, as in 21st century (at least the first ten years), is a GOOD time in which to become interested in classical history. Thanks to Gladiator, the sword-and-sandal genre has been revived, and I've been able to add tons of such movies and TV shows to my Netflix queue. In addition to

*Gladiator (which has the added bonus of being actually good with Russell Crowe having won Best Actor and crazy-ass Joaquin Phoenix being nominated for Supporting Actor), there's also

*the HBO series Rome of which I've only seen a few eps but which looks extremely promising;

*Troy which wasn't well-reviewed and doesn't actually have much to do with Rome except that one Roman tradition was that Aeneas, a Trojan prince who escaped from the city, later founded Rome. But notwithstanding I really liked Troy--I liked everyone in it, even Orlando Bloom who actually made Paris likeable. I also respected how they made Helen thoughtful and intelligent. And the eye-candy was off the hook! Eric Bana as Hector and Brad Pitt and His Abs as Achilles--rowr!

*Helen of Troy, a mini-series that aired in 2003. I watched it then on TV, and then watched the DVD about 6-7 months ago. This teleplay covers a lot more ground than Troy did because it's not based on The Iliad (heck, even Troy covered more ground than The Iliad, which only covers the last few weeks of the Trojan War)--Helen of Troy is, naturally, about Helen and it starts with her abduction by Theseus, and ends with the aftermath of the War. An odd cast--an English model as Helen who gives a game, energetic performance but her inexperience shows. And she's a little too toothily British to really pass for the face that launched a thousand ships. The guy who plays Menelaus is quite good and makes him very sympathetic, and the woman who plays Cassandra is AWESOME. When she sees Paris again for the first time in years, she has this LOOK on her face and she whispers to him in amazement you should be dead. Good stuff. The guy who plays Odysseus is good, too (they always seem to get good Odyssei, Sean Bean was also great in Troy). The weirdest bit of casting is Stellan Skarsgård as....Theseus? Stellan Skarsgård is a fine character actor but well past his prime physically and really completely miscast as Theseus the Strapping Hero of Greek myth.

But then the big guns come in--John Rhys-Davies as Priam. He's terrific. And the best is Rufus Sewell as Agamemnon--God, he is fantastic, absolutely riveting through the whole piece. His best scene is when he sacrifices Iphigeneia--this complete psychopath actually loves his daughter but the course is SET, the Achaean army is determined to sail, and if he has to make sacrifices to ensure positive winds, then that's what he's going to do. It's a fantastic scene, you see this adorable giggling girl being walked up to the altar by two soldiers, then you see the knife come down as her scarf is dangling over the edge of the altar and Agamemnon's sick, determined expression--then the winds start blowing. Just great. Another really good scene is when the Horse is revealed for the first time--you see it from this little boy's point of view, the camera sweeps and this enormous horse is looming over him, with this weird exotic music playing. And when they're dragging in the horse, the sun is setting in the background as the music is ratcheting up the tension and it's just a perfectly constructed scene. Trojans, this is Atë writ large--it arrived on your doorstep and you broke your own city gates to force it in. No wonder this story has lasted the ages.

*A side note--I've talked about this before but the city of Troy actually existed, roughly where Homer says it did (remember, The Iliad was first written down about 700 BC). They've done archaeological research on it, and there have been many different...uh, iterations, I guess you could say, of the city on that site. So they number them, and Troy VII is the one that was there in about the 12th or 11th century BC, when the Trojan War is said to have happened. There is no historical evidence that the characters, Helen, Paris, Hector, etc., actually existed, but they do know that the city was leveled by a war. And they know that Troy VI was leveled by an earthquake. Often, as stories are handed down, the narratives get conflated, and one explanation for the Trojan Horse is that the storytellers conflated the destructions of the two versions of the city. This is the theory--there was a myth of an enormous horse that was delivered to the city in the context of the war and caused its destruction. How did the mythmakers decide upon a horse? Because horses are a symbol of Poseidon (the whitecaps are the manes)--and in the eastern Mediterranean, earthquakes come from the sea. Isn't that fascinating?

Ahen. Back to sword-and-sandal movies. Another one is this new TV series, Spartacus which got an hilariously snarky review in the Washington Post. Ain't nothing not to like in sweaty Roman men beating the crap out of each other.

Class

Jan. 21st, 2010 06:29 pm
ceebeegee: (rome)
So, class. Class started last Tuesday and it has been a bu-sssssy week for me. Normally I work Mondays, Thursdays and Friday--this week Monday was a holiday, so I worked Tuesday instead--which meant my first two days of class were a little hectic, running from and to work. I have to get to work early to make up the hours. Luckily the woman for whom I work is amazing and is cool with this, very supportive.

I get to class early on Tuesday and we're in a little lecture hall. I take a seat in the third row and the room really starts filling up. The class is limited to 100 but there looked like more than that--and quite a few of them, at least 20, didn't get seats and had to sit against the wall or on the window sill. Our professor really seems to know his stuff but he has a strong Italian accent and tends to speak softly, so you have to listen intently to make sure you understand what he's saying. This wouldn't be so bad, except that of course you're also taking notes, and when you're writing, you might misunderstand a word in his accent. It can be a little grueling, you really cannot phase out during the lecture. I mean, I find the course material fascinating, I'm certainly not bored, but every now and then your mind might want to wander and you just can't.

The class was so stuffed that they ended up moving it to another building, and today's class was in a good old-fashioned huge-ass lecture hall with a balcony and an aisle down the middle, just like in Mona Lisa Smile. Although it was nice to be able to spread out--again I took a seat closeup in the fourth row--the volume was even worse, because of the slight echo and again, the accent. At one point he started a new topic and said a word like mayedeeTERRuneyan. We all sat there frozen, as he said several things about this mayedeeTERRuneyan, desperately listening to the rest of it to try to decipher the context and finally it all hit us at the same time: Mediterranean. As one, 90+ students bent over and frantically scribbled the salient points of the last five sentences he's just uttered. He was able to pump up the volume a bit for the lecture but I may try to sit in the first row, and the TA has promised to get a mike. For the most part the professor lectures but he does throw out questions to us, and of course I'm all raising my hand. Professor: "What distinctive features does the mayedeeTERRuneyan have that helped shape the cultures around it?" My hand shoots up immediately: "It's small and easily navigible, which encourages the growth of trading and the spread of technology." I might've also added: "Plus when you're doing a cruise ship contract on it, Spain has topless beaches where you can buy beers, which encourages social contact and better tans, which I think we can all agree is good for everyone!"

During the first class, they sent around a questionnaire for us to fill out, asking what our classics background was, what we wanted to get out of the class, which particular areas we wanted most to study. I put down as particular areas of interest: Roman lit, especially the plays and epic poems, and the late Empire. What I really want to explore are all the insane-ass emperors. Nero and Caligula? Yes, please. The drama, like Antony and Octavius, sparring across the seas, Titus Andronicus and Tamora, baking people into pies. Shakespeare didn't write about nice tame safe Romans--he wrote about the exciting ones who did cool shit.

Columbia has an online feature called Courseworks--it's accessible through their website, and this is where you can download all the delicious graphics in the PowerPoint lecture you just attended (during his lecture today he kept scrolling through the slides to get to the one he wanted, and they all looked SO tempting). This is awesome enough but it gets better--it also features links to online libraries, including Oxford and Cambridge, and access to approximately a bajillian scholarly journals, stuff you just can't get on your own unless you go in person to a library. Oh man, am I drooling. PLUS you can borrow books from all the other Ivy League school (except for Harvard, *sniff*). There's just SO MUCH KNOWLEDGE out there, and now *I* get to roll around in it!
ceebeegee: (rome)
...It is estimated that only about five percent of all the compositions of ancient writers actually survives.

Oh, MAN. Five percent. Unbelievable. We are missing out on so much. Why did that stupid fire have to burn down the Alexandrian library, why? Just imagine what else is out there, that we know about because other writers have referred to it, but don't actually have? I feel sick. I feel like Thomasina, the loss of such knowledge literally sickens me.

Can you just imagine how amazing it would be to discover the literary, Greek or Roman equivalent of the Dead Sea Scrolls?
ceebeegee: (columbia)
I've been a little late on my thank you notes this year and am just now finishing them up. (Ideally they should be written on Christmas Day, of course, but as you get older, you have to take more responsibility for the evening entertainment and so don't have that hour or two in the afternoon of Christmas Day to whip them off.) Because I love the idea that someone got me a present and wrapped it, sometimes I don't open them right away. And in fact I did not open my last two presents from my Dad and stepmother until last night. What fun! They got me (among other stuff that I'd opened before) a beautiful little blank book that my stepmother found in Florence! I love it! It is really pretty, it looks like this old medieval tome but it's small, like not much bigger than my hand. But thick.

They also gave me a hardback edition of The Lost Symbol which literally made me scream out loud. I have been waiting for that book to come out in paperback--I know the reserve line at the library is very long. Yay! Can't wait to dive into it! I wrote them a thank you note today. I've been a little out of touch with my parents this year because of The Situation. The story is so long and depressing, I just didn't want to launch into the whole thing on the phone and have to relive it AGAIN, at least not until it's resolved. And yet it's been so much on my mind, I felt I would have to mention it, if that makes sense. So, sadly, I haven't really talked to them much except for emails here and there, and I don't think I'll be able to visit them until at least June or July--my spring is pretty full at this point. But after tonight perhaps I can at least talk to them. They did call me on my birthday and luckily I was able to talk of other things--mainly, the Columbia news. They are thrilled and told my youngest brother immediately. I thought Mom might've told Bart, my oldest brother, but when he called us on Xmas Day, it turned out she hadn't so I told him and he was thrilled. He kept saying "you deserve this, you've earned this." Then he said something funny--"don't go turning into a super-liberal now!" This is especially hilarious because my youngest brother in an email this weekend said exactly the same thing. Stuart knows me better than that, he knows there is no way I'm going to start to trend left on Israel. I'm to the right of Sharon on Israeli issues. (Stuart is an expert on Arab-Israeli affairs and we are probably the two most knowledgeable in our family about the Arab-Israeli situation--me through history and Stuart through current events. Although the Middle East is like the South--as Faulkner said "in the South, the past isn't dead. It isn't even past." My point being that current affairs in the Middle East IS history!)

So my registration finally went through and I start classes (well, my one class so far) on the 19th. Yay! Can't wait to immerse myself in empires past! I also got invoiced--OY. FAFSA, here I come!
ceebeegee: (Default)


Me walking over the Tiber River--I'd just visited the Isola Taberna, the tiny island in the middle of the river. I'm enjoying some gelato--I had gelato almost every day. OH MY GOD SO GOOD. Between the amazing coffee--it is FANTASTIC here--and the gelato, I honestly don't know what I'm going to do. I've never had such good stuff.



The Pantheon, looking up into the oculum. This is the best-preserved Roman structure and has been used continuously since its erection.



THIS--was my entrance into Venice. From the vaporetto on the Grand Canal.



This is the entrance into Venice from the Lagoon. This was shot from the top of the campanile--the bell tower in the middle of the Piazza San Marco.



This was shot from the top of the Basilica San Marco--that pillar is matched by one to the right (behind my head). From those two pillars were hanged criminals, and to this day superstitious Venetians will not walk between them. (I didn't either, of course!)



The Piazza San Marco at night, in the rain.
ceebeegee: (Default)
The Fountain of the Four Rivers at night

This is the Fountain of the Four Rivers. After reading Angels and Demons, I had to see this fountain--I love its Baroque gorgeousness! It celebrates water in every way, it is truly joyous to see. Rome is full of beautiful fountains. This fountain is a tribute to the major rivers on four continents--the Danube in Europe, the Nile in Africa, the Ganges in Asia and the Plata in the Americas.

The Tiber River at night

This is the Tiber River at night. Absolutely luminous.

The Trevi Fountain at night

Three coins...like every other visitor to the Trevi (designed by Nicola de Salva), I fell in love with it. Night is the best time to see the fountains--they are lit up beautiful and there are fewer visitors. It's also terribly romantic!
ceebeegee: (Default)
I'm on the third leg of my journey and am now in Naples, staying with my brother and his family for 5 days. I arrived last night and had a lovely dinner with Stuart and Karine, although William and Annika (niece and nephew) were asleep so I didn't get to see them. Just chillaxin' con la gatta today until la famiglia get home--it's been a whirlwind past 5 days.



Rome was incredible. It is truly the Eternal City--sexy, beautiful, fashionable coffee-drinking people against the backdrop of old, old history. Oh, I gorged myself with history, I walked all over the city looking at old, old things. So wonderful, so many things to see. I've decided that Italy, like Japan, must rewrite their constitution so they can never again engage in war, because we can't risk these treasures again, we literally dodged a bullet during World War II. The Forum is--well, again, incredible. I was actually LOOKING at ground where Julius Caesar walked, and spoke. JULIUS CAESAR. He was there, he stood there. And Marc Anthony--they were there, they stood there. The Temple of Saturn, an old Roman apartment, the Teatro di Marcellus--people from long ago, millennia ago, lived in these spaces, they worked and argued and kissed their children there. They were just like us. Their voices can still be heard--they were just like us.

Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold...




I visited John Keats's grave again, in the Old Protestant Cemetery. (The last time I was in Rome, I also went there.) I discovered that there's a Keats-Shelley museum in Rome, right by the Spanish steps--it's the house where Keats died, so I squeezed in what I thought would be a quick visit before I caught the train to Venice. It's a 4-story building and the museum is on the third story--it consists of a main room with an overview of the younger British Romantic poets (Byron, Keats, Shelley and several others), another room that focuses on Keats's life, and the room where he lived, and died. This last room is an overwhelming experience--I walked in and looked around, and started crying. It's pretty powerful. I did my senior honors project in college on Keats--the very name of this journal is the last line of my favorite poem of his, "Ode to a Nightingale." Fled is that music--Do I wake or sleep? His poetry is just sublime, and I consider him a personal secular saint of mine. To stand where he stood, to see what he saw out of those windows, to breathe the air he breathed and to sense his presence in that little room...it's overwhelming.

His epitaph, which he wrote, is "Here Lies One Whose Name Was Writ in Water." Both times I've been there, I thought "No. Never." His writings will last the ages. Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird...
ceebeegee: (Default)
A quick update because I am about to hit the musea and shops. First off, jet lag is KICKING MY ASS. I have been passing out in the middle of the day for random stretches. On the other hand, I was awake at 5 am yesterday and decided to use that time to see the Spanish steps--when it *wasn't* awash in humanity. Score! It was gorgeous.

Been getting some beautiful pictures of the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and the Fountain of the Four Rivers at night. My camera is really coming through, I can't wait to post these (which will probably have to wait until I'm at my brother's).

Yesterday I touched the Tiber River.

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