Monday, June 21, 2010


I'm off back to Scotland for the summer (two months-ish) where I'll be living and working in Edinburgh (teaching) before buggering off back here to CZ.

I don't know how much I will be able to post (depends on how busy I am - but it's looking hectic now), although I will try to post whenever possible. I doubt I'll be doing many classically related things, sans a visit to my old university (Glasgow) and maybe a quick peek at the numismatic collection (providing my lady isn't too against it!).

I haven't had a great deal of time to read anything new, and much of the classical news kicking around touches on things I've basically written about before - pedestrian finds "sexed up" to get funding, nobody having a genuine clue where Cleopatra's tomb is, but having a damn good time telling everyone they do anyway and other bits and pieces - and so I've found it difficult to write anything about them.

Apart from random ruminations, the only things I've done recently that can be tangibly related to the classics are: read Beard and Henderson's "Classical Art" (although I got sunburnt while doing so, and as a result my feelings for the text have slid down somewhat); I watched the entire first season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand - which I totally dug. It was very entertaining and blood thirsty to a fault.

I was surprised how good it was, to be honest. I expected it to be absolutely trash, but Spartacus was well cast and John Hannah was sensational as he practically chomped away at the scenery. Throw in the completely OTT sex scenes intertwined with unbelievable violence (taken so far that it becomes comical, pretty much) and it was a great show. I'm looking forward to the prequel and the eventual sequel very much.

I also (re)watched HBO's Rome for the umpteenth time (I really can't recall, but it's definitely 6 times, minimum) and I enjoyed it as much as I always do. I was a bit cerebral with my attack on the depiction of Agrippa last time I watched it, but he still rankles with me. It's just such a wonderful show. I always have a distinct sadness when it's over, for the protagonists (fictive as some are and a mix of fictive and real as others are) always feel like friends come the end of 22 hours viewing and not only do we depart from listening to their tale, but they are all in fact dead and died some 2000 years ago. I suppose it's a mixture of feeling quite close to them (as bizarre as it sounds) and then immediately realising the distance between us is enormous.

Anyway. I hope the very few that stumble across this post have a wonderful summer.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Old Shoes.

Not especially insightful this one, I imagine. Anyway, here I go.

A news story caught my eye this week - that of the bloody old shoe! (read it here). Essentially, some archaeologists found a 5500 year old leather shoe in a cave in Armenia preserved under heaps of sheep dung (finds don't get much more interesting than that, do they?!).

Anyway, you're perhaps wondering how I'm going to squeeze a classical angle out of this and here it is: finds like this always remind me that the ancient world wasn't that ancient. It's often a bit of a mental challenge for me to remember that very little changed in everyday life for a few millennia (until the 19th and mostly 20th century) and that the ancients lived relatively similar lives to people alive just a few hundred years ago (stress on the "relatively").

I'm always surprised when I see artefacts from ancient homes - shoes, mirrors, hair clasps, cups - the lot. Something in my mind always associates the ancients with being truly ancient. Finds like this remind me that the Romans had shoes quite similar to modern leather shoes and they're really not so distant as they seem.

Perhaps this post betrays my own stupidity, but I always find keeping a firm chronology in my head (and understanding that time matters) can be rather difficult. It's rather easy to clump the whole of antiquity to together, even though there are some 500 years or so between the beginning of the classical period and the death of Augustus, for example. A lot happened, and a lot changed.

Like I mentioned before - everyday life hadn't changed too much during that period, and so perhaps it's unfair to compare that five hundred years to the same period between the 1500s and now, where life has changed significantly, but nevertheless, it's vital to remember that antiquity is not a single period but rather many linked ones.

That's my ramble over for today. It's insanely beautiful weather here in Plzen and I plan to try to enjoy it with several beers from this wonderful place.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lepidus: Unfairly Treated? II

Finished it, then.

Not bad, not bad. I wonder now, having finished, whether the sole aim of the work (as the title utterly gives away) has in some way coloured the worth of the text? It really is a work of history that primarily aims to defend a character and then sets about it.

It's done quite well, for the most part. The Bryn Mawr review (here) has the same misgiving as I had when reading the text - there are just too much usage of "might/must have been" and "it seems quite possible that", which is most certainly a result of the evidence for removing Lepidus' tarnish being not as convincing as it's made out to be.

Like I said in my previous post, I've always thought Lepidus was hard done by, and I always feel for him, in a sense, when I watch HBO's Rome and he's usually ignored or sidelined. That, of course, perhaps puts me at a disadvantage because I want to believe Weigel's book, even if it's slightly lacking in force.

In the end, the overwhelming impression I got of Lepidus after reading the work was that he was an able man, used well by "greater" men and while he's perhaps unfairly treated, there is no hidden Lepidus that is waiting in the shadows that can be used by a modern historian to redeem the tarnished triumvir.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lepidus: Unfairly Treated?

I'm currently reading Lepidus: The Tarnished Triumvir by Richard D. Weigel, and I gotta say, I dig it.

Marcus Aemelius Lepidus has always seemed like a rather fascinating character to me, he's all over accounts of the Late Republic, but he's nearly always given short thrift. He's relegated to the sidelines of the struggle for supremacy that engulfed the Late Republic and nobody really seems to really care what he's up to.

Maybe that's why, then, I kinda looked for a book such as the one I'm reading at the moment. Weigel argues that Lepidus is unfairly treated in most accounts of his life, as well as modern commentaries, owing to two central factors: he irritated Cicero and he challenged Octavian (later Augustus).

I'll put a fuller review up here once I've finished reading the book, but it's certainly an interesting topic. Especially so as I am re-watching HBO's Rome and the somewhat cerebral and "sidelined" Lepidus makes a mandatory appearance (as he does so frequently) but he is ever so slightly mocked, derided and essentially made unimportant.