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Nov. 9th, 2011

inspired woman, Maenad

Ancient History in the News November 9, 2011

I'm going to try and do better with this journal and since I can only type for about 5 minutes at a time with this arm injury, maybe this will work.

This article is way out of my time period, thousands of years before the period I studied, did research in, and taught about, but the use of DNA has the potential to answer many questions about the past which biased evidence and biased interpretation can hide.

The important point of the article for me is that we shouldn't blindly say "symbolic" or "religious" when we don't understand something from the past.   We know today that species die off so why it is so difficult to believe that cavemen or even ancient Greeks knew about animals or variations of animals that no longer exist?

What do you all think?

Nov. 4th, 2011

inspired woman, Maenad

Long Time No See

I haven't written on this LJ for some time.

Let me explain why.

After three years on the job market, I gave up and turned to being a
full-time author.  Each year I was away from teaching it made me less
likely to be chosen. Each year the number of jobs in my field decreased
until finally there were none, zero, zip, that last job season.

I've been a published author for years but I had to make a choice.  Focus on
something I loved (teaching ancient history) but clearly was not valued
enough to be viable or focus on my writing and get a literary agent so I
could try and break into bigger publishers.

I chose writing and since then I've had two book contracts and two of the four books I've
been contracted for are in print/ebook now.

You can find me here on Amazon if you want to check out what I write outside of ancient history.

If any of you would want me to start commenting more on ancient history,
let me know and I'll try to write once every other week or so.

Jun. 27th, 2009

inspired woman, Maenad

Acropolis Museum

As you may have heard, the Acropolis in Athens has a museum now with a collection of materials to give the tourist and scholar a greater understanding of what this sacred area used to look like.  There is an article about the museum itself here.

I visited the Acropolis during my fall tour of mainland Greece in 1990 -- yes, many years ago.  After years of studying the ancient world since then my feelings of that time are confirmed.  Being able to see the artifacts from the Acropolis as close to their original context would have made my visit much better.  There has been controversy for decades about other nations having the artifacts, the greatest attention going to the "Elgin Marbles" which were in Great Britain for the longest time.

I just want to briefly comment on this.  In general I am not a fan of taking artifacts from their site unless it is to study or preserve.  When Lord Elgin took these from the Partheneon he had good reason to believe they were in danger.  Yes, when Greece was stable enough and willing to put the money and effort into displaying and protecting these they should have been returned but Lord Elgin is often made into more a monster than he was. 

It is not uncommon for explorers and visitors let alone researches to remove artifacts but we need to consider their motivates as well.  If you take something merely to make a profit and remove all sense of context, you are, in my strong opinion, a criminal of the highest level.  Not only do you take a people's hertitage from them but you also strip the viewer of any ability to fully understand what they are looking at.  Most museums and academic programs at least want the objects so they can understand the past and thus attempt to provide some context for them. 

I hope at some point in the future to be able to go back to the Acropolis in Athens myself and see the new museum and it's displays.

May. 28th, 2009

inspired woman, Maenad

Chocolate Contest -- Please Check it Out


Something you can have that the Ancient Greeks and Romans, Egyptians and Mesopotamians never could!

May. 27th, 2009

inspired woman, Maenad

Survival of Alexander's World Today

Here is an article I stumbled upon this evening that I thought some of you might enjoy.

I liked this article for a few reasons.  First, there appears to be no political or religious agenda something sorely missing in a few of the past articles I've shared with you.  Second, it's a logical argument, tracing certain Hellenic elements to a localized region and group today backed up by linguistic study.  Finally, I thought the images were attractive which should help catch some attention.

On the other hand I felt the article was too brief and it generated several questions for me. 

If this is a hold over from the time of Alexander, who created this community?  Retired Greek and Macedonian soldiers?  Or was this a matter of imported culture being adopted by locals who found it appealed to them? 

What aspects of this society have been influenced by non-Greek cultures?  If the language is only 50% Greek then what other things have changed?

How are these people treated by others in their region or their nation?  Are they considered politically independent?

I'd love to see these questions answered.

May. 25th, 2009

inspired woman, Maenad

Cheney as Cicero?

This article argues that Cheney is Cicero for a few reasons not the least of which is some idea of patriotism.  Patriotism, as I hope you all know, is a great to toss about when a person wants a pass on anything they feel like doing, they want to flaunt their power and authority without consequences.

The huge difference between Cicero and Cheney is that in the ancient cases the form of government that had directed Rome for hundreds of years was in decay as political parties and individuals competed for more wealth, more power, and more authority.  That isn't happening in the USA today, Obama and the so-called "Left" are not attempting to change the form of government but to use the existing form to promote their own agenda exactly what the so-called "Right" did and would do again.

There are several ways that Cheney and his "side" are like Cicero and his Optimates.  Both are parties of the elite who have token members from non-elite families who they use to "speak to the people" while have very little intention of sharing any power or authority beyond those tokens and the existing power brokers.  They reward submission to their power over practical considerations especially in the areas of rights for other citizens and interactions with other governments.  They walk lockstep with an idealized past (which never existed) and ignore the currents of the now which in the case of Rome only quicken the decay of the Republic and allowed a monarchy to develop -- call it imperial (or executive power) if you wish but it was still a monarchy.  Both groups ignore the law when it is convenient so they can maintain their power and harm others then turn around and cry when the other side does the same thing.

I'm not sure if Professor Carlin realizes this but by comparing Cheney to Cicero he is condemning the man and his side of the political spectrum because in the end their tactics only inflamed the people and sped the fall of the Republic and the raise of centuries of kings.  Is that really what most Americans want?

May. 9th, 2009

inspired woman, Maenad

Questions of Authenticity

Whether or not something is really ancient or really from the culture you are trying to understand is very important.  But authenticity is also very complicated to determine.  I raise this point after looking at an article about a very famous bust said to be the image of Queen Nefertiti from the 18th dynasty of Egypt. 

I am not enough of an expert in ancient Egypt or art to comment on whether or not the two authors whose books are cited are correct.  I can say that if their theories get press play it will be a hard fight within the academic and museum communities.  

Why?  Reputations, decades of reputations of scholars, books, and exhibits are on the line.  Those reputations made money, oh not the money that a blockbuster movie makes but still for their area a lot of money.

Beyond that errors of any type of identification can lead to scholars' work being questioned.  That harms not just those scholars but the generations who trained with them.

Sadly errors are certain to be made in ancient history because of our limited pool of evidence.  Sadly some of the best evidence we have lacks the necessary contextual framework from which we can understand it.  Documents are really copies and copies and copies found in different locations, objects are dug up and not fully detailed or worse stolen and sold and exchange hands many times.  Often we are left with making a good guess drawn from multiple sources than number in the handful if we are lucky.

That is not to say that there are now solid facts in ancient history.  There are.  But we should never close our eyes and minds to the possibility that later methods or scholars may discover new evidence. 

I'll be keeping my eyes out for more on this case.

May. 4th, 2009

inspired woman, Maenad

Article of Misinformation about Gays in Ancient World

While I could poke at almost every so-called "fact" in this article, I want to focus on their fourth one: "FACT: There are cultures that we hail from in which homosexual behavior is a lifestyle, namely Ancient Greece and Rome. Is being gay always biology?"

First this isn't really written as a fact so much as a pseudo fact plus a question that is unanswered.

Here's the real fact.  Homosexuality was not a lifestyle in ancient Greece or Rome.  In fact, several philosophical and dramatic texts demonstrate that any adult not married was considered abnormal.  The only ones who could get away with such a life would be certain artist who could rely upon their art and the attention it brought them to help them survive otherwise you needed an extended family to thrive. 

Sexuality wasn't really judged by the such narrow categories as articles like this would have us believe.  Instead there was a very complex scale against which one's actions and desires were weight.  These scales included information about your sex, gender, age, ethnic group, citizenship or status, occupation, position during sexual activities, whether or not there was a political or monetary benefit, etc.  Then all of these criteria for your partner as well.  Only after such information was known could your appropriate or inappropriate behavior or desires be assessed.

The ending question also ignores some other basic facts.  Every human culture I have every studied has always had homosexuality in some fashion.  Sometimes accepted under certain conditions, sometimes hidden and punished by society.  Within the rest of the animal world we also find same sex interactions of a sexual nature.  But this pseudo fact in this article is trying to lead you the reader into thinking it's all cultural or all a choice when the historical evidence suggests this cannot be true.

As always read things in the mass media with a very wary eye.

Apr. 29th, 2009

inspired woman, Maenad

Interesting article for you to read

Interested in questions of why empires, nations, governments or people fail?  This article does a decent job of discussing how Roman Christians of the 5th century thought about it themselves.  It's a solid combination of basic information, pop culture today, and some analytical thinking.  This is so rare in mass media that I had to bring it to your attention.

Oh, and by the way, the coin in the article is untitled so I'm not certain but perhaps it is supported to represent the god Janus who represented good and bad time, war and peace periods.

Apr. 24th, 2009

inspired woman, Maenad

Newspaper Error Corrected

This Indian article makes an unforgivable error about ancient Greece in it's second and third sentences.  I'm going to correct these errors right now for my readers.

First, there is no such things a "the city-state of Greece".  Greece is a modern political state and in the ancient it was the region where most Greeks lived.  Each city-state or polis had its own political system which changed over the centuries.  Therefore any pop claim that "The Greeks did X" or "believed Y" is simplified at best and outright lies at worse.

Second, elections did happen in some city-states during some period for some offices.  Let's look at Athens our best documented example.  During the strongest period of it's radical democracy in the mid-fifth century BCE, some offices were elected, some were chosen by lot, some where volunteered for a matter of family obligation, and some were appointed.  Elected offices were indeed elected through votes written on pot shards and then counted.  Archaeologists have found collections of such ballots and historians have studied them for decades. 

I could talk more about how elections worked in Classical Athens but for now let these corrections to this article stand.

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