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Male Graduate Students: un-serious in terms of studies since 1931.

Updated: 2014-03-19T02:44:08.922-04:00


The CAMPVS has a new home


We're making the move to a new site:

the CAMPVS (rss)

I've successfully migrated all of our old posts and comments, and am in the process of cleaning up the design etc.

Please redirect your readers and bookmarks to the new site as we quickly approach our five year anniversary.

The Old Etymology Game


Charlotte Higgins mentions two etymologies that she wishes she'd known for her book It's All Greek to Me, and which she'd gotten from the recent Why Socrates Died by Robin Waterfield and A Woman Scorn'd by Michael Burden, but I have to dispel these notions:

To paraphrase Waterfield: one of the vagaries of the classical Athenian judicial system was that it gave people the opportunity to make money out of threatening to take others to court.

These blackmailers were called sycophants. The origin of the word is this. Since the beginning of the 6th century it had been illegal to export food, except olives, from Athenian territory. Sometimes, though, people would try to smuggle figs over the border. If someone denounced you as a fig-smuggler, he was a sykophantes – a "tale-teller about figs". Waterfield: "If it was part of his purpose to ingratiate himself with the authorities, he was close to being a sycophant in the modern sense of the word."

Others have tried to link this with the fig sign as though the verb in Greek could be read as "to give the fig sign to."

But it is entirely clear to me that the word is built on sukon as it referred not to a fig but to a fig-like growth on the skin (e.g., a wart, a tumor). The verbal root phant- then adds the notion of revealing someone's 'warts', a metaphor that we still use. A sycophant to an ancient Greek was probably easily understood as someone who made known another's shortcomings or sins, whether real or trumped up.

As to the other etymology, namely for sardonic, the usual ancient etymology is derived from the plant sardanios, with reference to the contorted faces of those who've ingested the poisonous herb. The notion that it is named for the feigned joy of the victims of ritual child-sacrifice in Carthage is unthinkable on so many levels.

Each of these smacks of folk-etymology, and more than that the sort of folk-etymology that lends credence to the old saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

New Housman Book


I received the Duckworth catalog for 2009 in the mail today, and I see that there is a new book on Housman as a classical scholar (as opposed to a study of Housman the poet or Housman's private life), edited by David Butterfield and Christopher Stray. It is scheduled for publication in the UK in August of this year, and in the US in November. I just did a quick search of their website and couldn't find anything about it there yet, but thought that, at the very least, Dennis and our 1-2 readers might want to know if they didn't already.

The Fox and the Hedgehog


In the last paragraph of her column yesterday, Peggy Noonan says the following:
These are the two great issues, the economic crisis and our safety. In the face of them, what strikes one is the weightlessness of the Obama administration, the jumping from issue to issue and venue to venue from day to day. Isaiah Berlin famously suggested a leader is a fox or a hedgehog. The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing. In political leadership the hedgehog has certain significant advantages, focus and clarity of vision among them. Most presidents are one or the other. So far Mr. Obama seems neither.

I haven't attempted to track down the Isaiah Berlin reference, but, of course, the idea about the fox and the hedgehog is much older. Remember Archilochus (fr. 201 West)?
πόλλ’ οἶδ’ ἀλώπηξ, ἀλλ’ ἐχῖνος ἓν μέγα.

'The fox knows many tricks, the hedgehog only one. One good one.' (Lattimore's tr.)

Latin Hexameter Pangrams


I'm sure most of us remember the sentence "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," which we saw over and over again as children learning to write or to type. But if you're like me you didn't know that it's called a pangram, a name which makes perfect sense once you know it.

I intend to focus on proper pronunciation this week in Latin II and had the novel idea of finding such a sentence in Latin, to have my students memorize it, and to have them recite it back to me individually for a grade.

My search turned up little at first, until I stumbled upon the following by Pedro Madariaga (published as an illustration for handwriting in 1565):

gaza frequens Libycum duxit Karthago triumphum

This has caused those who've discussed it online no end of difficulty, and I think I know why. Others want to take Libycum as an accusative singular with triumphum, which leads them to read gaza as an ablative, or to make other unnecessary changes that destroy the meter as well as the sense.

But gaza must be nominative singular, and the progression of thought leads one to read Libycum as a poetic genitive plural (for Libyc(or)um). Read it like this:

gaza frequens Libycum: duxit Karthago triumphum!

At once the ellipsis of est is clear, as is the sense: "The treasury of the Libyans is full: Carthage has led a triumphal procession."

(Incidentally, variants appear with the forms "libycos ... triumphos", a sort of hyper-correction following the common misreading.)

Following upon this I devised my own, though I've omitted K and Y:

heu Zama, quam Scipio celeber dux frangit inique!

"Alas (poor) Zama, whom the famed general Scipio is shattering unequally!"

Here our make-believe poet apostrophizes Zama in his sympathy at the heavy losses on the Carthaginian side. With inique I was aiming at the imbalance in losses between the two sides.

I think I'll offer both lines to the students, teach them in meter and with proper pronunciation, and give them a choice as to which they recite for credit.



My AP students are about to read the Jupiter's prophecy (and yes, we are behind, but blame block scheduling, standardized tests, and now snow days).

And I can't help but wish that someone would recreate the image that inspired the scene. Vergil's description is a apparently an ecphrasis of a painting by a certain Apelles, a painting that showed Alexander essentially gloating over the bound figure of raging Furor.

Now there's a theme for a neoclassical painter. Or some talented kid with lots of time on his hands. Any takers?

Eh. It was worth a shot.



Chapter 16 of the popular textbook Lingua Latina finds the author very explicitly advocating for his own faith in the events that beset his characters. I'll admit that the manner in which Medus' prayer to Neptune is silenced is funny, but I'm not comfortable with a narrative in a Latin textbook offering proof of Christ's divinity, and so I've adapted the text to include a bit about other religions without giving primacy to any, and rather than allowing the textbook to feel preachy to my students, it'll provide a nice branching-off point to talk about religions under the Roman empire.

Just after Lydia prays to her 'dominus', prompting a dismissive response from her boyfriend, the runaway slave, I have the following:
Lydia: “sed dominus meus est deus!”
Mēdus: “iam satis deōs habeō, et Neptūnus me servāre potest!”
Lydia, tollēns manūs ad caelum, Chrīstum invocat, et Mēdus iterum magnā vōce Neptūnum invocat. Omnēs nautae, quī ex multīs terrīs sunt, deōs suōs invocāre incipiunt. Aliī Magnam Mātrem invocant, aliī Sōlem Invictum. Sed vocēs omnium vix audiuntur propter tonitrum.
Don't get me wrong: I would never censor an authentic text. But when a textbook author tries to slip in an inauthentic proof of his own religious beliefs (in this case making it clear that Christ is real and Neptune a figment) I have to draw the line. Nothing in my version prevents a Christian from assuming that Christ stopped the storm, nor does it instruct any of the other students that their faith (or lack thereof) is inferior.

Pindaric Metre


I've finally received my copy of Kiichiro Itsumi's hot-off-the-presses Pindaric Metre: The Other Half. I managed to get an amazing deal at the APA meeting in Philly, but after more than a month we decided that the first shipment was lost in the mail. This time they used UPS and it arrived within four days.

I see that the book is on offer from the BMCR, but maybe I'll manage to post a review of my own here at the Campus.

I have a great love of metrics and am really looking forward to this book.

Ancient markup language?


I've begun Rick LaFleur's methodologies class, and I'm sure this blog will see a resurgence as a result of my new focus on matters pedagogical. For anyone who's still following, Eric has been very busy being a professor and obtaining a proper degree (applause all around), while I actually silently left the blog some months back. I'm no longer affiliated with Bryn Mawr College, but the Campus Mawrtius is too much a part of me, so I've come back.

And the first thing I want to tell you about is something I found in reviewing a few sites for my first assignment: a ten year old program for creating your own Latin and Greek pages marked-up for Perseus-style glosses.

I can't believe I didn't know about this already, but now I've got ideas for how this might applied both to homework assignments and in mobile labs (i.e., laptops in the classroom). It's something I've always wanted to be able to do, especially with odd little texts that would never make their way to Perseus. There are contexts in which this is not a crutch, but a tool for confirmation or correction, and I'm looking forward to using it.

How to be a Classical Philologist, pt. 2


Thomas Corsten's BMCR review of the Choix d'écrits of Louis Robert (2007) spoke to me:
In sum, this book--like each individual publication by Robert--shows clearly the method every epigraphist or, rather, every historian should follow, i.e., to start from the evidence (not from theories), that is from all available sorts of evidence, in this case inscriptions, coins and literature, and from there to move to drawing conclusions. ... Robert's Choix d'écrits as well as everything he has written should be compulsory reading for every student and scholar of antiquity--and especially for the many in our times who are busy destroying the foundation on which all serious research is based: the study of ancient documents.

How to be a Classical Philologist


This is adapted from a passage in Laurand's Manuel des études grecques et latines (v. 3, VII 353-6). It's simple, commonsensical, and generally good advice. And classicists need to be reminded now and again to do the actual work of philology lest they be, as one old professor used to say, all hat and no cow.The Reading of ancient texts.This is too often neglected. People read about but never read Plato, for example.How to read (different but indispensable approaches):In-depth, slow reading (lente, pace Nietzsche)understanding all of the questionsproduces much fruitone can never read all of Plato in this way, or can read Herodotus but misses the big pictureVery rapid readingunderstanding the big picture, outside connectionsensures that you never become too narrow-minded You need calm, privacy, tranquility if you are to be moved by reading the great works.The Reading of Modern Works.These should be read in so far as they aid comprehension.Commentators, critics, historians, philologists, linguists, grammarians, etc. can offer many insights in your goal of understanding ancient texts.Should you take notes?Often people take too many, then seeing the futility, never take enough.How you should take notes:Briefly give your general impression.Note the general value of a modern work and how it might be useful. Consider how useful your note will be.  Be economical and practical.If the index or some other reference will make it easy to find a reference, you're wasting time and effort in writing too much. Use notebooks.  Note cards are generally inefficient, inconvenient, and easily lost.  They have only limited use in organizing certain kinds of research.The importance laid upon reading here is at the heart of Housman's famous remarks in the classic essay on The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism. This long quotation is well worth reading through (and gives context to the harshest of his words often viewed as pure invective):[It] is only a minority of those who engage in this study who are sincerely bent upon the discovery of truth. We all know that the discovery of truth is seldom the sole object of political writers; and the world believes, justly or unjustly, that it is not always the sole object of theologians: but the amount of sub-conscious dishonesty which pervades the textual criticism of the Greek and Latin classics is little suspected except by those who have had occasion to analyse it. People come upon this field bringing with them prepossessions and preferences; they are not willing to look all facts in the face, nor to draw the most probable conclusion unless it is also the most agreeable conclusion. Most men are rather stupid, and most of those who are not stupid are, consequently, rather vain; and it is hardly possible to step aside from the pursuit of truth without falling a victim either to your stupidity or else to your vanity. Stupidity will then attach you to received opinions, and you will stick in the mud; or vanity will set you hunting for novelty, and you will find mare's-nests. Added to these snares and hindrances there are the various forms of partisanship: sectarianism, which handcuffs you to your own school and teachers and associates, and patriotism, which handcuffs you to your own country. Patriotism has a great name as a virtue, and in civic matters, at the present stage of the world's history, it possibly still does more good than harm; but in the sphere of intellect it is an unmitigated nuisance. I do not know which cuts the worse figure: a German scholar encouraging his countrymen to believe that "wir Deutsche" have nothing to learn from foreigners, or an Englishman demonstrating the unity of Homer by sneers at "Teutonic professors," who are supposed by his audience to have goggle eyes behind la[...]

Bulgarian archaeologists discover ancient chariot


By VESELIN TOSHKOV, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 13 minutes ago

SOFIA, Bulgaria - Archaeologists have unearthed a 1,900-year-old well-preserved chariot at an ancient Thracian tomb in southeastern Bulgaria, the head of the excavation said Thursday.

Daniela Agre said her team found the four-wheel chariot during excavations near the village of Borisovo, around 180 miles east of the capital, Sofia.

"This is the first time that we have found a completely preserved chariot in Bulgaria," said Agre, a senior archaeologist at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

She said previous excavations had only unearthed single parts of chariots — often because ancients sites had been looted.

At the funerary mound, the team also discovered table pottery, glass vessels and other gifts for the funeral of a wealthy Thracian aristocrat.

In a separate pit, they unearthed skeletons of two riding horses apparently sacrificed during the funeral of the nobleman, along with well preserved bronze and leather objects, some believed to horse harnesses.

The Culture Ministry confirmed the find and announced $3,900 in financial assistance for Agre's excavation.

Agre said an additional amount of $7,800 will be allocated by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences for an initial restoration and conservation of the chariot and the other Thracian finds.

The Thracians were an ancient people that inhabited the lands of present day Bulgaria and parts of modern Greece, Turkey, Macedonia and Romania between 4,000 B.C. and the 6th century, when they were assimilated by the invading Slavs.

Some 10,000 Thracian mounds — some of them covering monumental stone tombs — are scattered across Bulgaria.

Bad comic Latin


This came through on one of the listservs:
This is some of the worst bad Latin we've seen.

"My infancy ... because ... my traveling money ... I seek ... O Romus! ... ???"

Try something like this:


UPDATE: I've touched a nerve. Something calling itself "Psy" had this to say:
um...who the hell's a know...HUMOR? Latin is called a dead language for a reason. Cause no one gives a ****.
You can guess what I've censored, and why I rejected the comment.

Psy, I like my humor to be humorous and literate when appropriate. Take a look at Monty Python's Life of Brian for a good example of Latin humor.

But this careless mess could just as well have been done with a conquistador on horseback with this nonsense slogan stitched to his pack: "mi infancia porque gastos de viajes pedo Spain universidaded." Oh, ho, ho! What merry fun we have!



Here's a stunning example of praeteritio from what passes for an orator in the cable news age: it's Bill O'Reilly on playing the tape of Jesse Jackson's whispered comments re: Barack Obama's testiculi:
We held back some of this conversation ... we didn't feel it had any relevance to the conversation this evening. We are not out to get Jesse Jackson. We are not out to embarrass him and we are not out to make him look bad. If we were, we would have used what we had, which is more damaging than what you have heard...

BMCRn't you glad you're not Stuart?


My all-time favorite BMCR contributor, Steven J. Willett, has a new review of Stuart Lyons's Horace's Odes and the Mystery of Do-Re-Mi.

He touches on some of my favorite topics:

1) The fallacy of biographical reading.
The Roman Odes have long been a quarry from which critics try to extract hard traces of sincerity or insincerity, as if these were binary opposites, but the job of a court-poet is to reflect court agendas and not his own private opinions. ... Sincerity is a poetic illusion created by the poet's verbal and structural dexterity. We have no instrument to probe behind the illusion to mental states, even in the case of modern poets where we possess letters and contemporary documents.

2) The performance of Latin verse.
Whatever Horace's own theatrical performance might have involved, there is nothing to suggest his contemporary readers sang such complex, intricate, allusive, ambiguous and rhetorically informed odes. The only way to comprehend their riches is by reading. Lyons shows himself far too confident in drawing "inescapable" conclusions from literary conventions that lack the slightest external corroboration.

3) Versification.
[Lyons's] decision to use traditional English versification has dressed Horace in such traditional garb that he vanishes into the mob of pallid imitations that stretch back to the sixteenth century. No matter how hard Lyons tries to make the odes sing, they sound like Thomas Gray on a bad day when he had nothing better to do than write his "Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat."




You just may be the 50,000th visitor to the site!

The prize committee is still working out the details so an announcement is still forthcoming, but it will most likely involve bragging rights and a free lifetime pass to view the site free of charge.

Yes, Campus Mawrtius, after four years filled with tears and laughter, wisdom and tomfoolery, has finally reached 50,000 hits and 75,000 page views.

So thanks to all of those who made this possible: Eric and me. Sometimes Coke.

But mostly to all of you. What? You thought I'd forgotten you?

Constantine's Silver Medallion: Ticinum, 315


I was doing a search for a specific silver medallion of Constantine struck in 315 and, surprisingly to me, the third google result was apost from here from a few years ago, in which I quoted Averil Cameron as follows:
Like other Christian signs, the chi-rho emblem is in fact rare on Constantine's coins, and the early silver medallions of 315 from Ticinum (Pavia) showing the Emperor wearing a high-crested helmet with the Christogram are exceptional.

As it turns out, the medallion referred to there was the one I was looking for today, from here:
What is interesting about this one especially is the chi-rho on the helmet, and the traditional she-wolf suckling the twins in the bottom right on the shield.

Bad tattoo Latin!


Okay, this one actually makes me feel bad. I hate the thought that some well-meaning Marines have (semi-)permanently scarred themselves with something nonsensical:

(image) It's supposed to say, "Father and Son: Brothers Forever." Of course it really says "Father and Growth: Brother! Endlessness!"

(Punctuation added, of course, for emphasis.)

NOTE: I know that natus (2nd declension) can mean son (or at least man-child), but why not use filius? I think it's funnier this way (4th declension).

Studia Callimachea


There was a footnote in something I was reading today referring to Koenraad Kuiper's discussion of oppositio in imitando, so I decided to check Google Books to see if they have it, and they do:
Studia Callimachea (1896)

Actually, use this one instead. I went to p. 114, which is the page to which the footnote pointed (or toed) me, and a little bit of the right side of the page is cut off. This is not a problem in the second link.

The discussion starts thus:
Studia Callimachea By Koenraad Kuiper

Luttwak on Millar


Just when I was considering dropping my BMCR subscription (how many times can I delete a dry paean to pedantic postmodernist drivel?), along comes the HESPEROS review and now something perhaps more intriguing: the controversial American military historian Edward Luttwak reviews Fergus Millar, the great British historian of the Late Roman Near East, on the transition of Rome from a Latin- to a Greek-speaking empire. Has someone been reading my thoughts?

HESPEROS: Studies in Ancient Greek Poetry Presented to M. L. West on his Seventieth Birthday


The cleverly-titled Hesperos, a Festschrift for M.L. West (get it?), has just been reviewed in the BMCR and has opened a hole in my library that I hadn't noticed. As the reviewer notes in his curt close, "The price of the book is hideous." It's listed at $199, a small sum for Croesus, but Amazon has knocked off 32% for the moderately wealthy among us.

I'm most intrigued by Kenneth Dover's contribution, a 'lyric Encomium' that
sets itself the familiar task of encoding the honorand's achievement in a few well-chosen phrases. In West's case, this would be hard enough to do in English, but Dover pulls it off in clever and elegant Greek. His epode praises West's pioneering efforts to make students of Greek poetry more aware of its interactions with Near Eastern culture.
So without further ado:

μελετᾶν ἄνδρ' ἔμπειρον ἀκριβέων      (στρ.)
ἔδοξε βουλᾷ συνετῶν ἐπαινέσαι
ἀφνειόν τ' οὐ κατὰ δαμόταν θέμεν,
ἄξιον ὄντα χρέος πράσσειν μέγ' ὀφειλόμενον·
τοσαῦτα κείνου μεμαθήκαμεν ἄμμες.      (5)

γενεὰς τὰς καθ' Ἡσίοδον θεῶν      (ἀντ.)
σαφανίσας κ' Ἀρχίλοχον καὶ Θεόγνιδας,
τέτραπται πρὸς Διόνυσον ἠδ' Ἄρη
ἁρμονίας τε λυρᾶν καὶ τέθμα Τερψιχόρας
ὥστ' ἐξικέσθαι σοφίας ἐπ' ἄωτον.      (10)

τολμᾷ δ' ὑπερβαίνειν ὅρους ἐθνέων παλαιῶν·      (ἐπ.)
ἀλλ' οὐ γὰρ ἑλλανίδα μῆτιν ἐλέγξας
ἀπώσατ', ἰχνεύει δ' ἰδέας ἀοιδᾶν
φαίνων ἄρα μοῦνον ἐὸν Μοισᾶν γένος.
I should point out the synizesis in Θεόγνιδας at the end of line 7.

'Silver Age' Again


Chris comments in the post below:
If I recall, some "silver age" authors actually first designated Cicero, Vergil, and company as authors of the "Golden Age". So naturally taken up from that Silver Age would be a complement. My OED is packed before the move, so I cannot check it at the moment.

I would be interested in any references in which 'silver' writers refer to the Augustan writers (or even to late Republican literature if we want to extend back to Cicero, as we probably should) as having written in a 'Golden Age'. To be sure, 'silver' writers sometimes made a trope of their secondariness; for example, Statius Thebaid 10.445-6 (Hinds discusses this and other passages relating to 'secondariness'):
vos quoque sacrati, quamvis mea carmina surgant
inferiore lyra, memores superabitis annos.

Also of interest is the pseudo-Ovidian Argumenta Aeneidis, praefatio 1-4 (text from Ziolkowski and Putnam's The Virgilian Tradition):
Vergilius magno quantum concessit Homero,
tantum ego Vergilio, Naso poeta, meo.
Nec me praelatum cupio tibi ferre, poeta;
ingenio si te subsequor, hoc satis est.

Vergil refers to the return of a golden age in general terms in Eclogue 4, which he specifically relates to Saturnian myth (e.g., redeunt Saturnia regna, 6): ac toto surget gens aurea mundo (9); but a quick glance through Ziolkowski and Putnam's index s.v. 'golden age' didn't yield anything relating to literary designations (but I was skimming pretty quickly and don't have time at the moment for a really thorough search).

In English, the term 'golden age' to refer to Augustan literature seems to have come into play earlier than 'silver age'. The OED's earliest reference is from Dryden in 1700: 'With Ovid ended the golden age of the Roman tongue.' Interestingly, Dryden uses the term mythically 15 years previous to this: 'Those first times, which Poets call the Golden Age.'

'Silver Age' Literature


I was intrigued by a footnote in Stephen Hinds' Allusion and Intertext regarding the post-antique designation of early imperial literature as 'silver'--namely, how long this designation has been around, which according to the OED goes back at least to 1736 (p. 83 n. 66).

So I went to the OED entry for 'silver age'. The first meaning is the mythical one: 'The second age of the world, according to the Greek and Roman poets, inferior in simplicity and happiness to the first or golden age.'

Definition 1.b is the literary meaning: 'The period of Latin literature from the death of Augustus to that of Hadrian.' And indeed, the first use is from 1736, where Ainsworth writes: 'Tacitus, Pliny the historian, Suetonius, and some other prose writers, flourished in the silver age.' The next use comes in Charles Butler's Life of Hugo Grotius:'The language of the Pandects is of the silver age.'

What I find most interesting is the way in which a term used to describe a mythical period in ancient literature (cf. subiit argentea proles, Ovid Met.1.114) has made its way into English as a literary-historical term to describe the actual poetry (and prose) of certain ancient writers. Huh.

Seven Hills Mnemonic


I picked up Robert Harris's Imperium as a little bedtime reading and as I opened to the map of Republican Rome just before the start of the book my eyes passed over the first letters of Quirinal, Viminal, and Esquiline. In a flash I'd read them as QVE, and it wasn't a second before I read the top half of the map as CapitolinvsQVE.

The bottom half gave me AC Palatinvs, but putting these two together in that order didn't quite work, so I decided to take another tack:

What are the three most important hills in the city's history?

AC Palatinvs

This has the advantages of (1) requiring students to memorize only three names (while they can more easily recall the others from the abbreviations), (2) using Latin conjunctions for the abbreviations, reinforcing a bit of the language, and (3) being somewhat visual. It gives the Seven Hills and the Janiculan, an important defense across the Tiber, read in a kind of S shape from bottom to top. I can't help but visualize a map of Rome when I recite this and follow a steady S-shaped trail (Janiculan, then Aventine, Caelian, Palatine, Capitoline, Quirinal, Viminal, and Esquiline).


You can also think of the first line as giving what's west of the Tiber, the second line naming the hills of the southern half of the city, and the third line those of the northern half of the city.

However you break it down, I think it may turn out to be effective and I plan to use it next semester.