I'm gonna call a halt to the blog for the time being. I do love posting on it, but it's just such a pressure for time. I have about 50 things above it in order of priority and I simply can't cram enough classics into my life to keep having stuff to post about.
I'll still be reading, researching and keeping up with things. I just want blabber on about then so much :-)
It's still juicy. Episode 5 was great, although the name was a tad misleading overall and the opening dream sequence made me feel cheated because it would have been very fitting. Nevermind.
What I do worry about though is the next series and how they'll manage to portray the landscapes required for the Servile War instigated by Spartacus. The set at the moment is incredibly small and there is a large amount of CGI involved. Move into the fields of Italy and following a roving army means it becomes significantly more difficult.
How shall the Roman armies be depicted? How will the battles and landscapes be done? How will the show handle being without a certain bloody fantastic John Hannah? What form will the character of Crassus take? (decadent miscreant, no doubt).
Another point it that the Ludus presents such an interesting setting for the series, and I can't help but wonder once it's been removed if the show will lack a certain anchor point which has served it well.
All that said, they have created a rather captivating show and I have no doubt they'll manage to script a second series filled with as much sex and violence as series one and the current mini series. I'm already excited about it and Gods of War hasn't even finished!
So, Spartacus returned to our screens a couple weeks back (I've seen the two thirds of the mini series that have been broadcast already) in the form of a 6 episode mini series that serves as a prequel (prelude?) to the first series, Blood and Sand.
The mini series was initially meant to plug the gap opened up by Spartacus getting cancer (not the real Spartacus) and needing time to recover before season two (scheduled to get going in Autumn this year). As it turns out, his cancer has returned and Spartacus has been recast. That's all by-the-by, though, but I sincerely hope he gets better for good.
Anyway. Gods of War has been epic thus far. Most folks felt Blood and Sand took a while to find its feet, but I think GoW (from now on, to save my weary fingers) hit its stride right from the off. It's a frothing affair sticky from blood and sweaty from the sordid sex. John Hannah (SPOILER: brutally killed at the end of the first series) is a raving lunatic once again, and his role basically makes the show. He roves around the place ruthlessly scheming and plotting, and the show takes the interesting angle of having his father come back to take control of the Ludus, which has - so far- transpired to be an excellent story line.
As a kind of origin story for the Ludus seen in the first series, it's worked really well. As always with prequels, the force of what's going on comes from the fact that we know what comes next. The various characters are seen before their *current* form and it's interesting to see why they are the way they are (which in most cases is totally understandable given what's gone on so far).
Bugbears: every important Roman is depicted as the worst kind of pervert, and they cast the creepiest looking actors to portray important politicians, so much so that it's hard to watch them. One particular actor in episode three had such a vulgar way about him that I practically knew he'd be examining slave girl hymens before the episode was over. This is, of course, the nature of the show, and so it's hardly surprising.
Can't wait for the rest of the mini series and season two later this year.
I apologise for the lack of updates. I've simply been too busy. I have a professional life not quite related to the classics and it can get a bit heavy sometimes. Nevertheless, my classical reading has kept pace.
I recently finished the first book of Conn Iggulden's "Emperor" series (The Gates of Rome), which I enjoyed for the most part. It's worth saying it's a work of fiction and it's really only for geeks and historians to believe fictional works must adhere to the facts, but I have to say that the end really quite irritated me.
The setting is primarily Rome and the surrounding countryside. The story follows the young Julius Caesar and his friend Marcus as they begin to enter adulthood - through training with a veteran soldier, to eventually joining his Uncle Marius' staff in Caesar's case and subsequently witnessing his fabled Uncle being crushed by his enemy, Sulla. Marcus decides to bugger off with the navy to the East.
Now, the book reads very easily. The page and font size are very much conducive to speedy reading, and the various set pieces of action throughout are well written and convey something of the bloody mayhem of ancient warfare. The characters never quite come off the page (for my money, Sulla is most well written, but he's not around too much, although perhaps this comes down to the negative way he's presented, as opposed to the essentially good, if stern, main characters).
Anyway. To the frustrating part. Iggulden plays with the names of his characters, with Julius Caesar being called Gaius as a child and Marcus' full name not being revealed until the final page. The former seems rather pointless, as it's clear whose life the book is supposed to "chronicle" but the latter twist is awful. It's a lame literary trick and I felt cheated by it, although I must concede I didn't see it coming (incredibly). *SPOILERS AHEAD*
It turns out of course that Marcus is of course Marcus Junius Brutus - assassin of Caesar! It turns out they're best friends! How lame! I couldn't quite believe it. Established history puts them about 15 years apart in age (the boys are only that age for the duration of the book) and the famous rumour is that Brutus is in fact the son of the early-to-be-sexually-active Caesar. Naturally, that's not enough for historical fiction so they have to be friends, fighting off Sulla together, even before Brutus was actually born.
I have the second book (I purchased them from the Book Depository - as essential source for English books for those of us who live abroad and enjoy free delivery), but at the minute I loathe to read it as the dramatic set-up that ended the first book disappointed me so much. They're certainly easy to read, but I haven't had the empty period of time required to devour such a novel recently.
I recommend the novels to anyone who doesn't get annoyed as I do about such stuff.
I'm currently reading "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Murial Barbery, which was originally written in French but I'm reading the English translation. Prior to buying the book I read a review that said it doesn't particularly suit British tastes because it has no obvious plot. That's pretty true, and it's rather just a series of musings from two somewhat related but independent commentators.
They comment on a great deal of things and are keen to philosophise. Sometimes I find how it's presented rather distasteful, but it's occasionally beautiful and provoking (although I'm constantly wondering if the turn of phrase really conveys the meaning intended by the original French or if it's a best fit scenario).
One of the "profound thoughts" (the chapter really has this name) is that the world is run by "weak" men. They are the masters of language but they couldn't protect their own garden, kill an animal for food or any other more "primal" activities. This immediately led me to think about Cicero - does he qualify as a "weak" man, insomuch as he was a true master of language but not famed for his warrior spirit (in the primal sense of the word, anyway)? I suppose the answer is - yes.
The book considers this somewhat perverse or contra to something vital. I partially agree, but in the context of Cicero it's worth remembering that he's somewhat of an exception. Most of the figures of the later Republic that Cicero rubbed shoulders with were also experts in the realms of language yet were also great warriors (or Generals, at least). Caesar, for example (as he always is!), displays an amazing ability for clearness in his use of Latin and his warrior attributes are well documented.
Many ancient Romans, then, seem to combine both a mastery of language and primal abilities that is lacking in the brokers of power in modern times. Times have changed. Skill in speaking and sneakiness has outstripped more "honest" and primal ability (this may be the natural order of things, I don't know) but I do hark for what was before. I don't like quite so much talk. In this respect, I think the book has tapped into something interesting.
What is (intrinsically better) power through strength or power through eloquence? The question is then begged, though, can't you have both? I think many ancient Romans did, and accepting one as better than the other (but considering them independent) as Barbery does is missing the point a little.
I recently picked up an HTC smart-phone (life changing, as much as I hate to admit it) and have just found out something pretty cool that it can do.
I have a fair collection of books on classical history in digital format and I've managed to get them onto my phone for portable reading. That in itself is probably not especially interesting to most people, but it's been amazing for me.
I am now reading "Always I am Caesar" by Jeffery Tatum, whenever I have a spare moment and nothing else to do. Flicking through the book using the capacitive touch screen is a really satisfying experience. (The books is pretty good, so far, by the way).
Modern technology has the capacity to really inform and change how ancient history is presented to this and future generations. Stage one was obviously the internet and easy access to information on history, ancient languages and scholarly work. Modern smart-phones now have a wealth of apps (applications) available that facilitate enquiry into the ancient world in a way never before imagined.
It's now possible for the phone to use your location to recommend sites of interest to visit and then to link directly to articles about said sites with info and other recommended reading. Another feature, although still in it's infancy, allows you to take a snapshot of anything unknown (a building, statue, painting etc) and then submit that picture to a database and then get information on what it is etc. This service will get better and better as more people use it and as the database grows.
Eventually you'll be able to visit a remote part of Greece and take a snapshot of a random ruin and have an answer as to what it was and what it's all about. That's a pretty interesting thought. The implications of such technology can be occasionally frightening, but in the realms of ancient history at least, they present a new age of connectivity and the sharing of information that in many cases is quite obscure.
Next step - try to update the blog from Android itself!
Rogue Classicism has posted a fair bit recently about Latin tattoos (following a news report that tattoos were spurring some kind of renaissance of the Latin language) and as a person who loves tattoos (I have several) I felt like saying something about it!
First off, I'm not necessarily a fan of boneheads emblazoning Latin across their bodies in the hope of seeming erudite, when indeed the classical spirit has seemingly avoided them (although who am I to be the keeper and arbiter of who may have and what indeed really is "classical spirit"), but in some ways it's good to see people respect Latin in some way enough to tattoo themselves with it.
Rogue Classicism has recently posted a bit about classicists with classical tattoos, and I sort of fit into that category. I'm a classics graduate and I'm a bit of an amateur classicist (I don't get paid to "classicise" but I just adore it and it's one of my major hobbies). I've had a classical tattoo in the works for ages, and should be getting it inked later this year.
I've attached an image for the interested:
Essentially it's inspired by Lucan's Bellum Civile, insomuch as he characterises Pompey as an old oak tree and Caesar as a kind of storm, and in my planned tattoo the storm is striking the oak tree with lightning with the Rubicon dividing the two. The plan is for the tattoo to take up the whole of my upper right arm.
I think using an image such as this which is deeply classical in some respects to me but not instantly recognisable is the most classical I would go with a tattoo. I'd hate to get some Latin text just in case someone mistook me for being genuinely erudite or indeed faking it!