First page

1 July 2010

Two ‘new’ items on Lacus yesterday — a rather thin journal article from 1934 on the Basilica Argentaria, or rather, more properly despite the title, on the argentarii who hung out there; an entry in Platner & Ashby’s Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, inexplicably skipped years ago, on “Janus”: mostly about what the expression “Janus medius” might mean. The two items are related.

But as often, this new stuff has a little story behind it. I got a nice little e-mail from a young woman alerting me to the Basilica Argentaria article, letting me know it had a different interpretation from the one in Platner’s brief entry on it (that has long been onsite), and of course giving me the URL at JSTOR.

Now JSTOR is not public access, but it throws out teasers, that can be found by Google; and this was one of them: the first page of a three-page paper, to read the entirety of which you have to be a subscriber — to belong to a subscribing academic institution, or pay a hefty individual fee — or, on a one-shot basis here, you can pay $24 to read the remaining two pages. And of course, it’s only on the page turn (immediately!) that we read that the author of the paper disagrees with the “different interpretation” she threw out on page 1, agrees perfectly with Platner, and explains why!

Of course, seeing that, I put the article up, since the copyright on the paper expired in 1962, neither the journal nor the contributor having renewed it as required by the law then in force; but there’s a moral in all that. (No, not that one, Jona: I can see you coming from a parasang away.) As readers we need to be very careful; as writers with a thesis, we might as well write straightforward what we want to say from the git-go.

He shoulda watched where he stepped….

19 March 2010


What’s a poor writer to do? someone, some day, for some reason, will annotate you: and naturally, being long dead, you won’t be up to defending yourself. And so it is with the writer of a biographical sketch of the 19c American general George McClellan, famous for being so cautious not to lose battles that he would have lost the war had he not quickly been replaced by President Lincoln: our anonymous writer had the misfortune to use what was at the time a fairly conventional phrase — but one that in our own age, less attuned to the classics, got him a dose of annotation right between the eyes. I prolly wouldn’t mention any of this if (a) it weren’t a somewhat out-of-the-way place for this item; and (b) if it weren’t considerably better than the corresponding Wikipedia entry, yet very likely at the cost of half the expenditure of time. Jona, you’ve been there, and will doubtless have further, um, annotations on it all.