In 2010 Alan Prendergast wrote a long article about the life of novelist John Williams and how he was beginning, at long last, to find a sizable audience. How true that turned out to be, as Williams' 1965 novel Stoner subsequently became a bestseller all over Europe, first in French translation, but later elsewhere in Europe, and it has begun to get glowing notices in his native US. Williams is not around to enjoy the success, as he passed away in 1994. Now another of his novels, Augustus, has also begun its rise from obscurity. The New York Review of Books republished it last year on the occasion of the 2000th anniversary of the first Roman Emperor's death. On the NYRB website you can read Daniel Mendelsohn's fine introduction to the book.
Giuseppe Gioachino Belli was a 19th Century poet who lived in Rome and wrote sonnets in the Romanesco dialect spoken by the poor of his native city. An accountant by trade, he wrote from the perspective of working class Romans living in the theocratic Papal States, and has been referred to as the voice of Rome. Translating his work has caused translators some difficulty, with many opting for equivalent dialects, such as Peter Dale who used working class speech of his native Melbourne as a model. Anthony Burgess made his Belli Mancunian, while Mike Stocks rendered Belli into something closer to standard English. Collections of translated sonnets by Belli can be read on Andrea Pollett's Virtual Roma website and on Maurizio Mosetti's site about Belli.
Stupendo! Meraviglioso! Spettacolare! Stunning synchronized motorcycling! Rome Police Hold Anniversary-1953
"Less a race than a celebration of motorsports heritage," the Mille Miglia classic car rally takes place every May. Its thousand-mile course wends from Brescia through Verona and Padua to Rome and then back north to Brescia by way of Bologna. (PDF) First staged in 1927 with 77 entrants, the now-annual event draws driving enthusiasts from around the world. [more inside]
Silvio Berlusconi ousted from Italian parliament after tax fraud conviction.
Slideshow of his ups and downs. Wiki. Previously on mefi. [more inside]
Slideshow of his ups and downs. Wiki. Previously on mefi. [more inside]
Extra Credits (Previously,  ) was recently approached by Creative Assembly, the team behind the Total War series of games. With Total War: Rome II coming out and Creative Assembly determining what to do with the remainder of their marketing budget, they decided to finance Extra Credits on doing a history of the Punic Wars. Extra Credits gladly accepted, of course, and has now completed the saga. Extra History: The Punic Wars (2, 3, 4)
This country (the Roman Empire) has more than four hundred smaller cities and towns. It extends several thousand li in all directions. The king has his capital (that is, the city of Rome) close to the mouth of a river (the Tiber). The outer walls of the city are made of stone. - A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265 CE, Quoted in zhuan 30 of the Sanguozhi. Published in 429 CE. Draft English translation
"But Freud had a second fear: a fear of Rome's layers. In formal treatises, he compared the psyche to an ancient city, with many layers of architecture built one on top of another, each replacing the last, but with the old structures still present underneath. In private writings he phrased this more personally, that he was terrified of ever visiting Rome because he was terrified of the idea of all the layers and layers and layers of destroyed structures hidden under the surface, at the same time present and absent, visible and invisible. He was, in a very deep way, absolutely right." [more inside]
Food Police: The Rick Steves Episode Dastardly doings in Rome. (Single Link Vimeo Post).
Who is Calvus? I see him as the embodiment of the average Roman. He doesn't wage war on distant peoples, he doesn't work as a gladiator...he can't even afford a slave.
Caroline Lawrence looks at ten things the Romans used instead of toilet paper, Roman pee and poo and what's the deal with the sponge stick. All part of the research done for her series of young adult historical mystery books set in the ancient Roman world.
The 115 cardinals under 80 years old, who can vote and can be voted for are now in Conclave. You can watch a Live Stream, mostly a shot of the Sistine Chapel chimney, who apparently is now on Twitter. You can get acquainted with the 2013 Papabili using Wikipedia's List of Papabili.
"That got me thinking: Could the Romans have built a digital computer using only the technology and manufacturing processes available to them?"
Amateur archaeologist and "forensic hairdresser" Janet Stephens has discovered how to recreate the Seni Crines, the elaborately braided hairstyle worn by the vestal virgins. Don't miss Stephens' other classical hairstyle videos.
Andrew Hales and his sister Jacqueline made videos of hugging strangers at Venice Beach and in Rome. It doesn't always work, but when it does, it's can be very heartwarming. [via]
What were things like in the bars and shops of the ancient Romans?
The Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary has been taking care of the multitude of felines that haunt the Largo Argentina archeological site in Rome since 1995. Their website has a page about its history, videos of their cats, and all the things you find on cat shelter websites. But they also have a blog dedicated to their fight with local authorities. Italian archeological administrators have demanded that the feline sanctuary be evicted [NYT] from the location of Julius Caesar's assassination, but the cat shelter is fighting back. In the blog of the New York Review of Books, the almost certainly pseudonymous Massimo Gatto points out that the archeological site is a hodgepodge of actual ruins and bad reconstructions dating back to the Fascist era.
CSI: Parthenon: A questioner asks historians how a murder case would be solved and prosecuted in the era of their expertise. Answers for : Colonial Boston, Norman Ireland, 19th Century Imperial China, Ancient Athens, 14th-Century England, 13th century England, Victorian England, Rome. (Via Reddit's AskHistorians; whole thread.)
Sunt tibi necessaria consilio pro electione? Q. Ciceronem, frater M., habet quaedam verba pro vobis in Commentariolum Petitionis [more inside]
During the reign of Constantine the Great, the Roman senator and poet Publilius Optatianus Porphyrius was sent into exile for crimes unknown. He succeeded in regaining favor and his good name by composing a series of poems in praise of the emperor which looked like nothing else. His poetry was an evolution of the Greek tradition of pattern poetry, but he took it a much more complex level, as Arrigo Lora Totino explains. In an illustrated article, John Stephan Edwards goes through the poetry of Porphyrius, showing the evolution of his craft.
Talking Heads, Live in Rome, 1980 The Talking Heads concert film you haven't seen: the show that would eventually be recorded in the (awesome) concert film Stop Making Sense 3 years later, recorded while it was still a bit weird and uncertain. And therefore, wonderful. [more inside]
The Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum is a massive, 17-volume catalog of 180,000 inscriptions and graffiti found across the Roman Empire in classical times. It's available for free online now, starting with the parts published before 1940. I'm fond of volume 4, which covers Pompeii and Herculaneum. (Pompeii graffiti prev) [more inside]
The Calendario Romano, aka "the most typical souvenir from Rome," is looking for a few good men: "single clergymen and seminaristi" who wish to be featured are welcome to contact the being followed author of the Calendar to deliveries. Inevitable video tribute! [more inside]
The History of Byzantium is a podcast that picks up where The History of Rome left off, detailing happened to the eastern half of the Roman Empire after the last Western Emperor was dethroned. The podcaster, Robin Pierson, does a good job explaining the often, ahem, byzantine politics and thorny theology of Byzantium. So far there are five episodes, taking us from the chaotic years following the decline and fall of the West into the reign of Anastasius (491-518). [iTunes link]
Kerouac as an 11 year old? Many of us have ran away from home. Most make it to the first street corner before coming back home. Liam Corcoran of Manchester made it all the way to Rome. He managed to board a plane without a passport or boarding pass.
The Last Days of Pompeii, written by the infamous Edward Bulwer-Lytton, was a Titanic size blockbuster novel back in the 1830s--- but it has not aged well. It is most well known for its many film versions-- there was the silent landmark film from 1913, an adaptation in 1935 and a spaghetti peplum with Steve Reeves from 1959-- but perhaps the most memorable (and exhaustive) version was the colossal star-studded miniseries made in 1984. [more inside]
Spanning one-ninth of the earth's circumference across three continents, the Roman Empire ruled a quarter of humanity through complex networks of political power, military domination and economic exchange. These extensive connections were sustained by premodern transportation and communication technologies that relied on energy generated by human and animal bodies, winds, and currents. Conventional maps that represent this world as it appears from space signally fail to capture the severe environmental constraints that governed the flows of people, goods and information. Cost, rather than distance, is the principal determinant of connectivity. For the first time, ORBIS allows us to express Roman communication costs in terms of both time and expense. By simulating movement along the principal routes of the Roman road network, the main navigable rivers, and hundreds of sea routes in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and coastal Atlantic, this interactive model reconstructs the duration and financial cost of travel in antiquity.
City of the Wildcats 1 2: A documentary about the urban kitties of Rome narrated by Sir David Attenborough.
Salve! Do you have trouble finding your way from Brindisium to Antium or planning a vacation at your villa in the Appenines because no one produces an online map with directions in good Latin these days? Well, be of good cheer, friend, OmnesViae has what you need. [more inside]
Q: Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU? A: It might be harder than you expect.
The Lost City of Pompeii : A snapshot of ancient Roman life via the ruins of Pompeii. Some decor NSFW.
Evan Osnos joins a tour group from China as they traverse Europe. In the front row of the bus, Li stood facing the group with a microphone in hand, a posture he would retain for most of our waking hours in the days ahead. In the life of a Chinese tourist, guides play an especially prominent role—translator, raconteur, and field marshal—and Li projected a calm, seasoned air. He often referred to himself in the third person—Guide Li—and he prided himself on efficiency. “Everyone, our watches should be synchronized,” he said. “It is now 7:16 P.M.” He implored us to be five minutes early for every departure. “We flew all the way here,” he said. “Let’s make the most of it.” [more inside]
Over 143 episodes of audio, Mike Duncan has covered the founding of Rome through the Crisis of the Third Century in his History of Rome podcast [previously], having now reached the last pagan Emperor, Julian The Apostate. Enlivened by drawing on comparisons to popular culture, from The Empire Strikes Back (when Hannibal makes his appearance) to The Godfather (as a metaphor for Rome's social client system), Mr Duncan's work makes for fun, informative 25-minute sessions with the greatest empire of the ancient western world. If you're interested in more, the podcasts could be handily supplemented with... [more inside]
Villanova University, who first made the VR Tour of the Sistine Chapel, have made more of the Vatican’s most sacred sites virtually available online: the basilicas of St. Peter, St. Paul, St. John Lateran, and St. Mary Major, as well as the Pauline Chapel. Bonus: smaller panoramas from other historic Roman sites, but you'll have to deal with tourists.
Bull-Killer, Sun Lord. "Foreign religions grew rapidly in the 1st-century A.D. Roman Empire, including worship of Jesus Christ, the Egyptian goddess Isis, and an eastern sun god, Mithras."
Nova Roma is an international organization dedicated to the study and restoration of ancient Roman culture. From its founding until it ceased to be the center of Imperial authority Rome laid the foundation for our modern Western civilization. Founded 2,750 years after the Eternal City itself, Nova Roma seeks to bring back those golden times, not through the sword and the legions, however, but through the spread of knowledge and through their own virtuous example.
"They are the earliest painted portraits that have survived; they were painted whilst the Gospels of the New Testament were being written. Why then do they strike us today as being so immediate? Why does their individuality feel like our own? Why is their look more contemporary than any look to be found in the rest of the two millennia of traditional European art which followed them? The Fayum portraits touch us as if they had been painted last month." The Fayum mummy portraits were painted between the first and third centuries AD, in Roman Egypt, and preserved by the dry Egyptian climate. Wikimedia Commons. According to Wikipedia, 900 portraits are known to have survived. John Bavaro has been creating modern versions using the Brushes app on the iPhone. Via the Brushes Gallery on Flickr.
Roman ingots to shield particle detector. "Around four tonnes of ancient Roman lead was yesterday transferred from a museum on the Italian island of Sardinia to the country's national particle physics laboratory at Gran Sasso on the mainland. Once destined to become water pipes, coins or ammunition for Roman soldiers' slingshots, the metal will instead form part of a cutting-edge experiment to nail down the mass of neutrinos." [Via]
The Ancient Theatre Archive: A Virtual Reality Tour of Greek and Roman Theatre Architecture offers photos, panoramas, detailed descriptions, and, in several instances, virtual tours of classical theatre sites across Europe. (Tours require Quicktime to view.) The Met offers a basic overview of the differences between Greek and Roman theatrical architecture. For more theatres and related theatrical imagery, visit John Porter's one-stop catalog of online visual resources, Skenotheke.
Rome's Ancient Aqueduct Found. "The long-sought aqueduct that delivered fresh, clean water to Rome nearly 2,000 years ago, is found beneath a pig pasture northwest of the Italian city."
Economic crisis, mounting national debt, excessive foreign commitments -- this is no way to run an empire. America needs serious strategic counseling. And fast. It has never been Rome, and to adopt its strategies no -- its ruthless expansion of empire, domination of foreign peoples, and bone-crushing brand of total war -- would only hasten America's decline. Better instead to look to the empire's eastern incarnation: Byzantium, which outlasted its Roman predecessor by eight centuries. It is the lessons of Byzantine grand strategy that America must rediscover today.
Archaeologists find graveyard of sunken Roman ships. Information on how such a shipwreck is discovered available from the Aurora Trust site.
The Roman Empire's Lost Highway: French amateur archaeologist Bruno Tassan fights to preserve a neglected 2,000-year-old ancient interstate in southern Provence.
"Soon were the lofty peaks of Corcyra lost to view;Founded by Trojans, populated by Chaonians, a sanctuary dedicated to Asclepius, colonized by the Greeks and Romans, sacked by the Goths, ruled by the Slavs, the Byzantine Empire and the Turks, taken by Manfred of Hohenstaufen, purchased by the Most Serene Republic of Venice, invaded by Ali Pasha and Suleiman the Magnificent, eventually becoming a place of refuge for the likes of Casanova and for hunters and painters, the ancient city of Butrint, a microcosm of Mediterranean history, is a World Heritage Site within a National Park which includes a Wetland of International Importance all of which is being kept alive by a partnership of local, national and international organizations . Come and explore Butrint. [more inside]
We coasted along Epirus, and coming to the Chaonian
Harbour, we drew near Buthrotum, that hill city."
- The Aenid - Book III, Virgil (trans. Cecil Day Lewis)
The Ancient World's Longest Underground Aqueduct. "Roman engineers chipped an aqueduct through more than 100 kilometers of stone to connect water to cities in the ancient province of Syria. The monumental effort took more than a century, says the German researcher who discovered it." How Did the Romans Accomplish Such a Feat? [Via]
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