The vast majority of recent ‘Classical’ movies are, almost universally, completely mangled versions of the Classical history/mythology/literature on which they were supposedly based, without even the potentially redeeming feature of decent acting (I’m thinking of ‘Troy‘, ‘300‘, ‘Centurion‘…I’m sure you can fill in others). Classical movies from several decades ago, on the other hand, are, almost universally, completely mangled versions of the Classical history/mythology/literature on which they were supposedly based, without even the potentially redeeming feature of decent acting…and yet possessed of a certain vintage charm that somehow makes them utterly hilarious and hugely entertaining to watch.
In our never-ending quest to bring our readers the best in home entertainment, therefore, Res Gerendae‘s dedicated team of film critics selflessly set out to investigate and judge a series of cult Classics films – broadly defined as films relating (or claiming to relate) in some way to Greek or Roman history or mythology, dating from the 1950s-1980s. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I give you – the Cult Classics Oscars!
We’ve been having a ‘Phoenician for Classicists’ seminar in the Faculty this term, for anyone mad *ahem* keen enough to spend their Friday lunchtimes attempting to read inscriptions in a language they don’t know, written in a script that doesn’t represent vowels and in which about half of the consonants look essentially identical to each other. Put like that, who wouldn’t come along and join us?
Anyway, it’s been great fun, if mind-blowing (I blame the very little work I’ve got done any Friday afternoon this term on having expended all my brain cells trying to understand Phoenician), and it seemed appropriate to celebrate the last of these seminars with cake. And so, I hereby present the Phoenician Epigraphy Cake:
The British Museum’s latest blockbuster exhibition has proved incredibly popular – tickets are already sold out until late June, and it’s been getting rave reviews. Going to visit seemed like a good way for a group of classicists to spend the Bank Holiday, so as promised, here are some thoughts arising from the exhibition itself and the lengthy discussions we had afterwards. I know other people who’ve already visited may have very different opinions – I look forward to continuing the discussion in the comments!
Apologies for getting slightly carried away with the alliteration in the title; it’s to make up for the fact that I wanted to call this ‘Classics and Explosions’ but couldn’t, because frankly there just weren’t much in the way of explosives in the ancient Mediterranean. As already discussed, the closest we really get is ‘Greek Fire’, the mysterious substance invented by the Byzantines: since it couldn’t be extinguished by water, it came in pretty handy in sea-battles. That definitely comes under the W&W heading, but sadly it’s a little bit late for ‘Classics’, and it didn’t really explode as such. However, it turns out on further investigation that there are easily enough other weird and wonderful weapons to make up for this lack.
I’m afraid this post is not going to be an in-depth analysis of the current use of the internet to facilitate Classical learning, or anything actually useful or relevant like that. In fact it’s really just two links to things I came across in the course of today that seem like a nice illustration of the principle that you can literally find anything on the internet (without, in this case, even trying particularly hard). First of all (courtesy of rogueclassicism) we have what must be the best piece of bureaucratic correspondence ever, in the form of two poems in medieval Latin style, dating from the good old days of the 1930s.
Dublin might not seem the obvious city for a Classical tour, since the Greeks and Romans never really made it as far as Ireland, and don’t seem to have known all that much about what they called Ἱέρνη/Hibernia. All Pliny the Elder (4.102-3) has to report about the island is its size (300 miles wide and 600 long, apparently; he’s only out by a couple hundred miles), though Strabo (4.201) has a bit more information: apparently the inhabitants of Ἱέρνη were savage incestuous cannibals. (Keen to avoid a libel suit, though, he’s quick to add that he doesn’t have any reliable sources for this, and anyway plenty of other peoples are said to practice cannibalism, at least during sieges). And, apart from a list of towns in Ptolemy’s Geography, that’s about it on Classical interaction with Ireland; Dublin itself was probably founded about 800 A.D. So why, I hear my readers ask, does a trip to Dublin merit inclusion on Res Gerendae?
Last week a group of intrepid graduate students gathered their courage and dared to step outside the Cambridge Bubble. Our mission: to attend the Classical Association conference, hosted this year by the University of Reading, and involving around 400 Classics students, lecturers, and teachers from all over the UK and abroad.