Saturday, April 26, 2008

Greece and Rome: An Integrated History new course at the Teaching Company

I'm currently enjoying the Teaching Company Course "The Emperors of Rome" taught by Professor Garrett Fagan and I see they have announced another course taught by Professor Robert Garland that sounds equally fascinating.

Greece and Rome: An Integrated History of the Ancient Mediterranean
explores the many ways in which two very different cultures intersected, coincided, and at times collided. The relationship between Greeks and Romans has virtually no parallel in world history. Their contact created the extraordinary fusion that we call Greco-Roman—a unique marriage of civilizations that encompasses statecraft, mythology, language, philosophy, literature, fine arts, architecture, science, and much else.

Yet there is truth to the traditional view that parts of our cultural heritage derive specifically from Greece or from Rome. For example, the West owes its law codes to the legally oriented outlook of the Romans. By contrast, drama, which never caught on in Roman circles, is a wholly Greek invention. This is an example of how the relationship between these two cultures was like a marriage: two distinct personalities, competing in some areas, sharing in others, and creating a completely new synthesis in a third realm.

This cultural partnership began almost with the first recorded contact of Greeks and Romans in the 4th century B.C. and continued for almost 1,000 years. Consider these revealing clues:

  • Much of what we think of today as Classical Greek art is, in fact, copies commissioned by wealthy Roman connoisseurs. The common museum label "Roman copy of a lost Greek original" attests to this fusion of Roman taste and Greek artistry.
  • Romans displayed a love–hate relationship with Greece, epitomized by the Roman politician Cato the Elder, who was deeply immersed in Greek culture but who publicly denounced its corrupting influence.
  • Educated Romans were predominately bilingual in Greek. Caesar's dying words were not the Latin "Et tu, Brute?" as Shakespeare has it in Julius Caesar, but reportedly the Greek "Kai su, teknon?" meaning "You too, child?"
  • Christianity flourished and spread in the unsurpassed infrastructure of the Roman Empire. But the language of the New Testament is Greek, as is the philosophical outlook of Christianity's earliest theologians.
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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Statue of Lucius Verus recovered in Rome

"A statue of Lucius Verus, who ruled ancient Rome alongside his more famous adopted brother Marcus Aurelius, was recently recovered among a cache of looted artifacts, Italian officials say.

Investigators found the intricately carved marble head in a boathouse near Rome, saying the find was particularly significant because Lucius was reluctant to pose for official portraits. Only four other depictions of Lucius are known to exist, experts said.

The likeness will prove useful to scholars studying the mysterious ruler, whose family saga was complex enough to rival most prime-time soaps.

Lucius was the son of a Roman senator who was in line to succeed the emperor Hadrian. When the emperor died, Hadrian selected another successor and ordered him to adopt both Lucius and Hadrian's own nephew, Marcus Aurelius, as his sons.

The brothers rose to power as co-emperors in A.D. 161. But Marcus reportedly arranged to be sole bearer of the title pontifex maximus, or high priest, giving him more authority.

Whether the "other" emperor was shy or merely overshadowed, Lucius will take on a very public profile later this month, when the newfound statue goes on display in a Roman museum."

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Equestrian Statue Fragment Found Near Colosseum

"A fragment of an ancient Roman equestrian statue that once adorned the Colosseum has been found during excavations near the world famous Italian landmark.

According to the Italian daily, Il Messaggero, the fragment was discovered among the remains of an ancient pavement that once surrounded the amphitheatre.

"A marble fragment measuring one metre by a metre and a half, is from an equestrian statue, probably a statue that embellished the arches of the Colosseum," said archaeologist Silvana Rizzo, advisor to the minister of culture and tourism, Francesco Rutelli.

"The left flank of a rider with the detail of a leg, bridle and harness of a horse, as well as a part of a dagger scabbard are perfectly visible from the fragment," said Rizzo, who has spent his life doing Roman excavations.

"They are details that suggest the statue of an emperor and left us with the hope that we could find the entire statue."

Update: "Two days later the head of a male statue was discovered, both of which had been only 50cm below the surface. According to archaeologists the piece of the equestrian statue suggests one of an emperor due to its size and most likely adorned the arch over the imperial entrance. The head is too small to be that of the rider of the horse in the equestrian statue."
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Monday, April 7, 2008

Historical artists capture Roman Mosaics in vivid color drawing

As I have mentioned before, ancient mosaics are among my favorite art forms. To bring out the vibrant original color I always turn up the contrast in Photoshop whenever I process an images of a mosaic I have photographed. David Neal has a different approach:

"Roman mosaics are perhaps the most spectacular Roman remains in Britain. Many of the finest come from Roman villas, where they reflect the high artistic tastes of the wealthy villa owners in the fourth century. Most are in colour, and many are figured, almost always with classical scenes.

David Neal has been painting mosaics for many years in his capacity of chief illustrator of English Heritage, but following his retirement, he joined with Steve Cosh to produce a corpus in four volumes of all the known mosaics in the country. Between them they set out to paint them all by hand: many of them are only known from oblique black-and-white photos, but by drawing them, and restoring the original colours where these are known, it is possible to show just what they originally looked like.

They hope to publish them in four volumes - providing they can find a suitable publisher."

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Household items most common Anglo-Saxon gravegoods in 5th century CE

"MUNDANE household objects were used by our distant ancestors to honour their dead according to an expert from Chester University.

Combs, tweezers and razors were among the distinctive artefacts used by the Anglo-Saxons.

According to new research conducted by an international expert at the University of Chester, the popular perception that the early Anglo-Saxons would mark death with grandiose gestures is untrue.

Senior Lecturer in Archaeology Dr Howard Williams has conducted research suggesting that it was more modest items which were particularly important to those in the fifth and sixth centuries. Dr Williams, who has an international reputation as an expert in mortuary archaeology, presented his findings at the British Museum to representatives of the museum, University College London, and other professional archaeologists.

He said: “The latest discoveries from cemeteries show that portable and quite modest artefacts, such as carefully wrought combs made of deer antler, and small tweezers, shears and razors made of iron or bronze, were of clear importance in the commemoration of the dead.

“Some of the objects were miniatures especially made for the funeral, and many were deliberately broken, with only a portion interred in the cinerary urns, with the rest perhaps kept as mementoes for the living.

“Combs, tweezers, shears and razors were objects intimately connected with the presentation of the body in life, and so placing them with the dead was a way for pagan Anglo-Saxons to create continued bonds with their ancestors following the spectacle of open-air cremation.”

“It reveals a belief that the dead in pagan Anglo-Saxon society retained a physical presence even after being reduced to ashes.”

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