29 October 2008

Florus’ Epitome is now online at LacusCurtius: original Latin, and the English translation by E. S. Forster, Loeb edition, 1929. Those not familiar with the work will find a sort of timeline of Roman military history, the wars of 700 years, as the manuscript headings put it, easily read in two hours: a good orientation to Roman history.

Several Latin texts of the Epitome preceded me online — although the one most people refer to was very poorly proofread, with at least three skips of entire lines, and many, many grammatical errors or problems with verbs that change the meaning of sentences, often nonsensically (hey, at least there was a human being rather than a scanner behind all those mistakes) — and one English translation; but not a Latin translation with a facing English, one-stop shopping as it were.

Florus traditionally gets bad press for being inaccurate, rhetorical, and dull. I’d never read him, and had never read the critics either: to my fresh eye he comes out as having done a very good job of presenting 700 years of history in a nicely readable summary, I’d be very hard put to do as well; plus the man has a quirky, dry sense of humor which I think a lot of those critics missed altogether. In sum, not dull at all.


27 October 2008
Inscription mentioning Apollodorus from Damascus; originally in the Umayyad Mosque, now in the Archaeological Museum

Inscription mentioning Apollodorus from Damascus; originally in the Umayyad Mosque, now in the Archaeological Museum

It’s a problem any blogger encounters: sometimes, you have no time to write, and will disappoint those who make a habit of checking your blog. I do not believe there are many who visit this website on a daily base (only my mum and dad, probably), but for those who are interested in the reason of my recent silence: I am now in Damascus, Syria, and even if I had the time to improve my website and write about that, I could not possibly post it. I am pretty busy and can not often visit an internet cafe.

Over the past two weeks, I have been travelling about 4,000 km and I have made photos of nearly forty sites. In due time, they will be put online (although the Arab calligraphy part is a bit off-topic). I expect to remain here for another two weeks, finishing a book on the Near Eastern (Babylonian, Arabic) legacy to Ancient Medieval Europe. It’s called Vergeten erfenis (‘forgotten legacy‘) and that’s indeed a cliche – anyone who knows a better title is invited to write me. In spite of the title, I like to write the book, although I fear that in the present climate in Dutch politics, where Islam-bashing is common, nobody is waiting for it.

And for those who are worried that I am working too hard: I take sufficient time to relax. I just finished drinking a good coffee and will now be going for a stroll through the Damascene markets, enjoying the noise and the smell of oriental herbs.


18 October 2008

Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, while old (late 19c), and while nowhere near as good as Pauly-Wissowa or Daremberg & Saglio, is still a useful point of departure, with basic information and citations of classical literature, on a myriad of subjects; and although I’m nearing the end of it — or at least of the 80% of it that I want to put onsite, because the intricacies of ancient Greek polity and law just don’t appeal to me — there are still a few important articles not onsite. Soooo… today, Tela (the loom) is one more down the hatch, a few thousand words and some woodcuts; it’s of course about weaving in general, looms, shuttles, to some extent thread and cloth and carding.

A cat opens a door (Side).

A cat opens a door (Side).

The others, you ask? Castra (the Roman camp), Exercitus (the Roman army) — I’ve never been much on military stuff although I enjoyed my stint in the US Army — Janua (doors), Vitrum (glass); a few other smaller items I think; and then the largest article in the Dictionary, the mammoth 40,000-word Astronomia.

Plutarch: de exilio

9 October 2008

Plutarch, bust from the museum of Delphi.

Looks like yesterday Jona and I crossed posts; this time I’ve avoided it by not posting to my own site until I did it here: Plutarch’s little tract On Exile is now onsite at Lacus, in English and Greek cross-linked. Exile, a common legal penalty in Roman times, not as bad as all that — philosophical and practical reasons.

More Aetna

7 October 2008
The Etna, erupting.

The Etna, erupting.

Not to be left out of things, and inspired by you and by Jolanda’s striking photos, I too have put online an Aetna; the transcription of the Latin poem so long attributed to Vergil: in the original Latin, plus an English translation, plus the Loeb editor’s Introduction. It’s not much about Mt. Etna, and rather more about explaining volcanoes; and it’s interesting because it’s not altogether wrong, and emphasizes seeking knowledge by looking at things, instead of starting from a priori ideas. Anyhoo, Aetna is here.


7 October 2008
The Etna, erupting.

The Etna, erupting.

Mount Etna is the subject of a Latin poem that was probably written in the first half of the first century. The anonymous author does not belong to the greatest ancient poets, but his enthusiasm is sincere and he convincingly advises his readers to observe closely if they want to be good scientists. He tells several ancient myths about the mountain, but also argues that they are no sound sources of knowledge (“let none be deceived by the fictions poets tell”).

The full Latin text, with apparatus criticus and English translation, is now online at LacusCurtius: go here.

Castellum Nigrum Pullum (Zwammerdam)

6 October 2008
The Hooge Burgh excavation

The Hooge Burgh excavation

The small fort at Nigrum Pullum (‘black chicken’ or ‘black soil’) controlled the confluence of the little river Meije and the Rhine, the frontier river of the Roman province of Germania Inferior. The military settlement was founded after 47, when the Roman general Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo reorganized the frontier zone. It was rebuilt several times and the foundations of the HQs are still visible. The greatest discovery, however, had little to do with the army: six ships. I used to have two pages on Zwammerdam, which I have now joined and to which I have added photos of models of the ships. You can find it here and your satellite photo is here.


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