(AGI) Tripoli – In his first visit outside of Europe, the Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti brought back to Tripoli an ancient roman sculpture, the so-called “Domitilla’s head”, in a bid to show that relations with Libya have now changed.
Domitilla was Emperor Vespasian’s daughter. The sculpture dates back from the first century b.C and it was stolen in Sabrata in 1990. “Domitilla’s head” was taken away from the body of the statue and ended up in an auction at Christie’s in London. It was then bought by an art collector from Rome, to be eventually found by the Cultural Heritage Division of the Italian Carabinieri.
So … how long before some 2nd assistant grip chisels a chunk off a column so they can get their 35mm Arri rig on the dolly shot fixed right? Any takers on that?
The ministry says the move is a common-sense way of helping “facilitate” access to the country’s ancient Greek ruins, and money generated would fund the upkeep and monitoring of sites. The first site to be opened would be the Acropolis.
Archaeologists, however, have for decades slammed such an initiative as sacrilege.
(Via Brisbane Times.)
Want to buy the Theatre of Marcellus?! Wish I had the money. ;-(
The building, with a garden full of fountains and orange trees, is built on top of the stone and marble shell of the Theatre of Marcellus, which resembles a mini-Colosseum that could seat 20,000 and was begun by Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC.
(Via Sydney Morning Herald.)
I get really upset when people from overseas desecrate Australia’s natural heritage (e.g. climbing all over Uluru, why is this still allowed anyway?, or stealing rocks from it, taking items from National Parks for souvenirs, stealing birds reptiles and mammals, etc), and what little cultural heritage it possesses; and so I also feel sadness when my own fellow citizens pull a stupid stunt like this. I despair the state of this country’s attitude to the cultural heritage of the rest of the world: and it’s reflected in the shallowness of the self-centred nature of most of Australia’s body politic and the media which reports on it (which in turn is only reflecting the general population’s complete self-absorption). It’s like the rest of the world hardly exists – and if it does, it’s just some playground to be trashed in a (usually) drunken haze of pointlessly vacuous self-congratulation. Thanks for reinforcing our national stereotypes, you alcohol-sodden yobbos.
If the plaque can’t be removed safely it should suffer damnatio memoriae – that is, have the message ablated off.
The plaque reads: ‘In memory of Nick White, from your Aussie mates’, and bears the date August 2010.
This has been reported quite widely in recent days, usually concentrating on the negative comparison with the modern USA (e.g. see the HuffPo link at the bottom). I’m not really qualified to comment on the methodology to determined the income distribution of the Roman empire as outlined below. However despite being a socialist, and grievously upset about the situation of the so-called “one percent” in modern society, I can’t really believe that Rome had less economic equality than any modern OECD nation. Rome was a pretty unequal place and wedded to a pretty snobby class system (despite that, some former slaves were able to become quite rich – and some senatorial families had to be given money by Augustus to meet his newly increased property qualifications for the Senate, e.g. see Suetonius Augustus 41). And I’m not quite sure a full distinction is being made here between income and asset valuations. But, I guess this is possible; maybe the on-going ‘financialistion’ of the entire economy since the 1980s (the one that created the sub-prime crisis) has resulted in these massive concentrations of wealth in a way that just was not possible in ancient Rome.
To determine the size of the Roman economy and the distribution of income, historians Walter Schiedel and Steven Friesen pored over papyri ledgers, previous scholarly estimates, imperial edicts, and Biblical passages. Their target was the state of the economy when the empire was at its population zenith, around 150 C.E. Schiedel and Friesen estimate that the top 1 percent of Roman society controlled 16 percent of the wealth, less than half of what America’s top 1 percent control.
(Via Huffington Post.)
WARNING: POLITICS AND RELIGION
There has been a lot of virtual ink spilt over the few days about Christopher Hitchens’ death. Much mourning of this supposed great warrior for atheist reason. However, much of that overlooks his articulation of a disgusting, triumphant, political ideology – namely, his obscene cheering for the Iraq war and his absolute support for the Bush/Cheney criminal gang, and the implications that his atheism has within the particularly repulsive world view that he held.
I thought Guy Rundle in Crikey put it best when he linked the atheist book (of “sociological interest” at best) to Hitchens’ support for the ultra-right-wing project of ever-escalating genocide against the bogey man of “Islamofascism”. Any level of body count was justified in Hitchens’ reasoning. The fact that the “post political” crowd cheered on his atheist ranting while completely ignoring the human and social implications of his actual political ideology shows up the paucity of depth in the approach of that particular project. At the mourning of him from that sector has deeply alienated me from their project. My atheism is simply not the central core of my political ideology. I’m not siding with fascism and fascists, especially lapsed Trotskites, just because some of them might be atheists! Like the hard Catholic Right of the ALP or the Protestant loonies of the conservative factions, Hitch shows that to make the issue of religion (for or against) a core part of one’s political articulation leads to the worst possible political ideologies.
For years, said Walda, an antique bronze statue of the emperor had stood in Green Square, now Martyrs’ Square. “It witnessed all the major events there from the era of the kings, to the Italian period, to the Gaddafi period,” he said. In the late 1970s, as things got tougher under the dictator, the statue started to get used as a way of cloaking and depersonalising subversion. “Septimius Severus became the mouthpiece for opposition,” explained Walda. “People would ask each other, ‘What’s Septimius Severus saying today? So Gaddafi decided to topple him.” The statue was duly removed from Green Square.
(Via The Guardian.)
Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi stole ancient Roman artefacts when they fled Tripoli, bundled them into sacks and planned to sell them abroad, Libya’s new rulers said on Saturday as they displayed the haul for the first time since its recovery.
On November 13, long distance runners from all over the world converged on Athens for the 29th Athens Classic Marathon. This old arithmetically-challenged emperor assumed that it was organized to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary (25th centenary) of the Battle of Marathon, fought in 490 BC. However, the official logo of the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (pictured here) makes it clear that they considered 2010 to be the centenary. So who’s correct?
(Via The Life of Antoninus Pius.)
It’s a commonplace to connect the current troubles in Greece, Italy and Spain with some connection to ancient Greece or Rome. Mostly such connections are tenuous at best. However, here Guy Rundle makes the most lucid connection between the European crisis of now and its classical past that I’ve read on the internets.
You can do that when the contagion is contained in Europe. The continent’s fissiparous nature is, after all, the result of an earlier failure and collapse – the inability of Rome to conquer the Germans in the first century, followed by the financial crisis of the mid 200s, when the gold and silver currency was adulterated by an early version of quantitative easing. Intra-imperial trade collapsed because no-one could trust the coinage, and the economy relocalised – creating the national identities we know today. Had that not happened, for better or worse, Europe might be more like China, a single Latin empire unified over two millennia.