Archive for the 'Announcements' Category
March 5th, 2014 by Roger Pearse
I’m extremely busy at the moment adding material to the Mithras site. At the moment this is driven by a list of Mithraeums discovered since 1960. I am attempting to research each of these online, grab some text, some images, and create a page for it. This is, inevitably, a very time-consuming business.
Several things have struck me while doing this.
It’s often really hard to work out what is the formal publication of an excavation. You can search the web as much as you like; you will only find the printed sources most commonly referred to. In the case of an obscure site, you may not find this, and will have to be content with webpages.
It’s very hard to get even a site plan of the excavation.
It’s very hard to get a list of “finds”, never mind a list of minor finds which may be of critical importance.
It’s also very difficult to physically obtain publications, in many cases. The Vulci Mithraeum (il Mitreo di Vulci, for the benefit of the search engines, since nearly everything is in Italian) seems to be documented in an exhibition catalogue published by a certain Dr. Anna M. Moretti Sgubini. The exhibition was ephemeral, and no copies of it are present in any Anglophone country. I am considering writing to the author, on the off-chance that she has a PDF of her own work. More and more people do, these days, but it’s not satisfactory.
I have also found that material placed online, in the “Electronic Journal of Mithraic Studies”, in zip files, has gradually become corrupt over the last 10 years and will not open any more. Being in zip format, it isn’t archived anywhere.
All of this seems remarkably unsatisfactory. Archaeology is considered a scientific discipline; yet these are fundamental problems.
Of course it may be that the problem is with me. Perhaps all the archaeologists are “in the know”. Some may read this and say, “What? You mean you didn’t know that it’s all at www.xyz.edu? Haw haw!” Well, if so, I don’t know. Nor has such a resource come my way.
So I suspect that archaeologists need to consider how they use the web. Indexes, catalogues, ways to find data — these are what the web is for.
There’s room for improvement here, chaps!
March 1st, 2014 by Roger Pearse
I found the following quotation online (on a tee-shirt!), attributed to Libanius:
Men are neither suddenly rich, nor suddenly good.
As an aphorism it is rather like Libanius himself; a bit trite. But did he say it?
I find the saying attributed already in A handbook of proverbs by a certain John Ray, published by Bohn, in 1855, p.451. But of course there is no reference. It seems an uncommon quote, judging from a Google search.
In 1831 a Moral Encyclopaedia, Or, Varlé’s Self-instructor appears, which has the same saying on p.199, attributed to “Laborius” (!).
In 1824 Thomas Fielding’s Select proverbs of all Nations p.207 has it by “Laberius”. This is, presumably, D. Laberius, the Roman knight and writer of mimes who was famously forced to appear on the stage by Julius Caesar in a contest with the actor Publilius Syrus. This seems a more probable source; but how to access his fragments? He is quoted, I believe, by Aulus Gellius; and that is probably the place to start.
February 25th, 2014 by Roger Pearse
Time for a public appeal! I’m trying to get hold of an exhibition catalogue, for an exhibition held at the town hall in Viterbo on 21 June 1997-10th January 1998, title: Il Mitreo di Vulci : Montalto di Castro, Palazzo del Comune, 21 giugno 1997-10 gennaio 1998, which is 43 p. and was written by a certain A.M. Sgubini Moretti (although the name may not be obvious, I think).
Copies exist in various Italian libraries: in Florence, in what might be Rome, and so on – a Google search on the title will bring up some OPACs.
But how on earth can I get hold of a copy? And especially the colour illustrations?
Suggestions, however off the wall, very welcome!
February 25th, 2014 by Roger Pearse
I spend a very busy morning attempting to locate the publication of the Mithraeum in Vulci, in Etruria. My search was rewarded, after around 3 hours persistence, by discovering that it was online! It was certainly impossible to buy, probably because it seems to have been an exhibition catalogue.
The site that made this possible is new to me, and seems to be an official “Italian digital internet” site:
I searched on “mitreo” and there it was.
I’m not entirely clear what the remit of the site is. But nevertheless, it seems to contain some very hard to find material!
UPDATE: Oh good grief … the PDF contains … only the cover and its reverse. No content whatever! Drat.
February 22nd, 2014 by Roger Pearse
I’m mainly busy with the Mithras site at the moment.
I’ve been working through a list of new finds since 1960 made by John W. Brandt, together with a list by Szabo Csaba. In each case I do a web search for pictures or sites. I did the Riegel Mithraeum on Friday night. It’s slow, but useful.
I wish I could find a picture of the curious sword found at Riegel. This had a semi-circle in the middle of the blade, as wide as a man’s neck. If put on, it would look as if a sword had been driven through the neck. Undoubtedly it featured in some initiation ceremony.
Today I collected a curious volume from the library – Al. N. Oikonomides, Mithraic art: a search for unpublished and unidentified monuments. It’s only a little book, with monochrome photos of a few such. But it’s still very interesting, if not very scholarly. It’s basically a set of random notes typed up.
I’ve also been working on the site infrastructure. This relies on a borrowed perl script, buried deep within, to handle references; and I have never liked it, or indeed fully understood it. On Friday I started to rewrite the thing in Java, rather cautiously – for website providers rarely support Java, or don’t support it very well. Indeed mine has the “Diablo Java 1.6″ runtime, of which I had never heard, but which turns out to be the BSD port of Oracle’s JRE, licensed in some strange way. After several hours labour, the results were in, and it worked and was satisfactory; much more so than the original perl script. I shall now move a lot of the code to Java, and take the opportunity to rethink some design decisions.
The Origen volume has come back from the typesetter with the latest set of corrections, and I have now produced a proof copy for the translator, and another for me. I think that I will allow one set of corrections from this, and then go to print. Somewhere there has to be an end to this task. The typesetter, Simon Hartshorne, has been very good about this indeed, but I am embarassed to trespass on his generosity much more.
I’m probably doing some other things as well: just can’t think of them tonight!
February 19th, 2014 by Roger Pearse
I’ve been back working on the Mithras site in the evenings, and in particular looking at Mithraea found in recent years. I’ve created a page for these, and I’m going through them.
Last night I was searching for material about the Hawarte Mithraeum in Syria. The site was a 5th century church, excavated in the 1970′s. The floor of the church was bowed near the altar, where a mosaic was removed. Some time in the mid-90′s, the floor collapsed revealing a painted chamber underneath. Robbers were quickly on the scene, and their attempts to sell fragments of painting came to the attention of the authorities. Michal Gowlokowski happened to see photos of some of the paintings and realised that the chamber must be a Mithraeum. He the Polish Archaeological Mission reached an agreement with the Syrian authorities, and excavated the site. Pleasingly, all their annual reports are online in English here!
The paintings are 4th century, which makes them some of the latest Mithraic monuments. They are also rather spectacular, as this blog (in Polish – but try using Google Translate on it) indicates! A sample image:
Mithras, his horse, and a chained demon.
Here’s another image, of a fresco restored by the Polish conservation team. The image seems to have been digitally enhanced for sale, but in the process has revealed additional data, especially the face of Luna at top left:
Here’s a picture of the inside of the Mithraeum from the conservators blog here:
I’m collecting images and data, and I need to write all this up. But notice on the left of this image a city wall, surmounted by the heads of demons, each being struck by rays (of light?). The detail at Hawarte is better than this photo may indicate. It adds something to our knowledge of the myth of Mithras. At Hawarte, it begins with the war of Zeus against the Giants, followed by the birth of Mithras and the usual story, and ending with a depiction of the city of demons and the demons being killed by the light of the (unconquered) sun.
More interestingly still, Dr Gowlikowski has managed to demonstrate a connection between Mithras and the winter solstice, the 25 December. For it seems that the chamber was so arranged that a ray of light would shine on Mithras’ face a couple of hours before sunset on that day. However I need to read into this with some care, and make sure that I understand the argument!
One can only praise the Polish team for their exemplary work in preserving and restoring the site. The paintings are today at the museum in Hama. Let us hope that they are safe!
February 15th, 2014 by Roger Pearse
A tweet drew my attention to a monument by a certain Tiberius Claudius Babillus which mentions the library of Alexandria. There is a Wikipedia article about him here, asserting that he died in 59 AD (we will all be wary of anything in this source I am sure). An image is online at Wikimedia Commons here:
The page gives the following source information:
Source: “Forschungen in Ephesos”, Vol. III, Vienna 1923, p.128.
References: IK-17-01, 03042 = AE 1924, 00078 = AE 1927, +00156 = AE 1933, +00251b = AE 1934, +00001
From which I infer that the inscription is from Ephesus. The extremely formulaic nature of Roman inscriptions means that the image fills in some of the missing chunks, where these are routine. There is a clear mention of “(Alexandri)na Bybliothece”
It would be nice to know more about this monument.
February 14th, 2014 by Roger Pearse
A correspondant tells me of a website which lists the volumes of the ACW series, and, better, has links to some which are online at Archive.org! The link is here.
Ah, those were the days, before century-long copyrights!!
February 13th, 2014 by Roger Pearse
I wonder how many of us have ever heard of the “Bankes papyrus”? Certainly not I, before today. Yet it is a fascinating item.
A tweet from Sarah Biggs alerted me that:
The Bankes Homer is now online & blog post to come! (Papyrus 114, Greek, 2nd century).
P.Lond.lit.28, British Library papyrus 114, is a 2nd century Greek roll, containing the last 16 columns of Iliad 24.
The website browser is a bit “wobbly”, but displays a single image of the whole unrolled item (which is probably the right thing to do). I’m not sure whether a PDF of such an image is even technically possible, which is what one would otherwise want to have.
There are two images; one in a frame and one without. The framed image is clearly just for reference, as it isn’t very zoomable. It isn’t clear whether the verso is blank.
At the end is the colophon which consists only of “Ἰλίαδος Ω”, as is common in the papyri. If you zoom and pan, you eventually see something like this:
But of course you must look for yourself. The digitisation is really remarkable, and the quality of the result is extraordinary. You can probably see more, than you could if you were holding the item itself.
I learn from the page on the BL website – which is really very good, with very nice references for us to look up on Google books! - that William Bankes purchased the roll at Elephantine in 1821. The discovery was made by a certain Giovanni Finati, acting for him, and is told as follows:
… we all took our departure together for Assouan. And it was during our stay there of a few days that, on the opposite island of Elephantine, (which I have always remarked to be, after Thebes, the place where the greatest harvest of curious antiquities is brought for sale by the natives,) a roll of papyrus in the Greek character + was put into my hands, for which I bargained and fixed the price in the first place, and then took it to Monsieur Linant for the money, stipulating at the time that it was to be bought on Mr. Bankes’s account.
This roll proved to be that manuscript of Homer * which is considered so precious, but which it grieved me afterwards, and ever will, to have seen sold for more than its weight in gold + to that gentleman whom I considered the owner of it, and who would certainly have had it at my hands, without any further demand.
+ In my own journey, I bought a scrap of Greek upon papyrus in a very fine clear character, which seems to be the fragment of a letter or edict. I have a great number of tiles also written in a cursive Greek character, and highly curious upon that account, which purport to be receipts of pay by the Roman soldiery at Assouan during several reigns, from Tiberius to Commodius—one of these I found myself at Elephantine; and I have an amphora, also, that has served the same purposes as a modern slate to some tradesman’s family in Roman times, with his house or shop accounts registered upon it in ink from day to day.
* It contains the last book of the Iliad, most beautifully written, in uncial letters, and the lines numbered in the margin: what is very surprising, it has had accents added to it afterwards.
+ The author, though the first who had the handling of this papyrus, seems here to have formed a very undue estimate of its weight, for the sum which I paid for it amounted to no less than 25,000 piastres (about 500l.), that being stated as the offer that had been made for it from another quarter.
It is wonderful to have this item online! How many of us would ever have been able to see it otherwise? I doubt many of us could have managed to induce the keeper to let us see it, as recently as 10 years ago.
For this is what an ancient book looked like. This is a real roll, complete with the end of the book. Not a fragment of one; but 16 columns of it.
Look, and admire, and wonder!
February 12th, 2014 by Roger Pearse
The Getty Museum laudably makes some images available online. Some of these (but not all) may be freely used for personal purposes online. Most of the images on their site are NOT usable by anyone else, and they want money if we want to use any of them for scholarly purposes.
This simple statement is the outcome of some correspondence, which is worth detailing since I found the statements on their website confusing.
The Getty holds a statuette of Mithras riding a horse. I’d give you a photo of this – they have one here – except that I can’t. They want $15 if I let you see it. Don’t worry, it’s not very special. It’s probably not even Mithras. But rather annoying that I can’t just post a picture here. The object is not on display either, or I’d ask someone to go and take a photo.
But it gets more interesting. Originally I gave the wrong link, to another item. I got back:
We could agree to your request, but there would be a scholar rate fee of $15.00 to provide an image file and permission to publish the image on your site. …
If you do decide to order the image and obtain permission to publish it, here is a link to the Museum’s rights & reproductions information page:
Their “information page” was rather uninformative about permissions, which is why I had to write and ask. But of course if they have to do some work to make an image, then the $15 fee is reasonable. I fear, however, that making the image for them is something they would charge for again.
Once I gave them the right link, the answer was the same – $15 please.
I am a poor scholar. They are a very rich institution. It’s a bit rubbish for them to try to charge scholars for this.
What I’m doing is making a catalogue of all Mithraic monuments and items. Why is it in the interest of the Getty to obstruct scholars doing this?
Basically you can’t use their images in any way. Which is rather silly.
Still at least they have put an image of the item online. And they are starting to make some of their images available for use by the great unwashed. I would guess that some people at the Getty understand that open access is the way. But others haven’t got the message.
No doubt they will see that it makes no sense – and just irritates – to demand fees that nobody will pay to use images that nearly nobody cares about.
I would suggest that they do what the Walters have done, and allow ordinary people to use the images (suitably attributed) so long as money isn’t involved. Nobody won from trying to stiff me for money.