Archive for the 'Classics' Category

The Antiquary’s shoebox

Bill Thayer has transcribed a bunch of out-of-copyright scholarly articles and created a subsite called the Antiquary’s Shoebox to hold them.  This sort of stuff is normally only on JSTOR, so very valuable to we helots whose duty in life is to pay for the latter, without getting access to it.

Excellent stuff.  Bill summarises the content of each article in a line or two, indicating why we care.  This aspect of the site is very well done indeed, and very useful; indeed here it is superior to JSTOR.

Why all journal articles should be composed in Latin

In the 19th century it was unremarkable for a scholar to publish his thesis or book in Latin.  Many did so.  After all, to obtain admittance to a university every student had to demonstrate competence in Latin.  So every scholar should be able to read and write in Latin as easily as his native language. 

Let us compare this with the situation today.  On the one hand, most students couldn’t compose a verse in Latin to save their lives.  On the other hand, academics are forced to learn several other languages in order to study the academic literature.  Every respectable modern academic must have a good reading knowledge of English, French, German and Italian. 

The standard of too many anglophone PhD theses suggests to me that most of the students writing know only one language, and that English.  No doubt when they collect their PhD certificate and obtain a teaching post their command of languages improves instantly.

Wouldn’t it be easier just to learn Latin really well? 

Cicero at Oxyrhynchus

I wonder how many people know that 10 papyrus fragments of Cicero exist from Oxyrhynchus, etc, the earliest dating from the start of the 1st century AD and the latest from the 6th? I certainly didn’t!

I owe this knowledge to CEDOPAL, the online database of 7,000 papyri.  A look at the drop-down list of authors is interesting by itself.  Julius Africanus is represented.  Three fragments of the lost works of the 2nd century jurist  Ulpian are there.  A few bits of Galen; surprisingly few, really, considering that his works amount of 10% of the now-surviving Greek literature before AD 300.  A fragment of Juvenal Satire 7 from ca. 500 AD from Arsinoe is a poignant relic, considering that he ended his days in exile in Egypt.

Only two snippets of Libanius were found, one from his Monody for Julian the Apostate.  A fragment of an epitome by Manetho exists from the 5th century.  Another 2nd century fragment is from the Chronicle of Phlegon of Tralles; and Hippolytus gives us a fragment of his own Chronicle, 6-7th century.  Polybius is present in a 1st century AD fragment.  And so the list goes on.

I was glad to see that links are starting in CEDOPAL to appear to online images of some of the papyri.  This must come, I think, and will put an end to the absurd concealment of these things behind barriers of money and privilege.  But much remains to be done.

The Suetonius we do not know

I doubt that many people reading this blog are unfamiliar with the master work of Q. Suetonius Tranquillus, Lives of the 12 Caesars (and if you are, go and buy the Penguin translation by Robert Graves NOW).  But how many of us have read the other surviving works: the Lives of the Grammarians, Poets, Rhetoricians?  I certainly never have.

This afternoon, sitting at the keyboard, for some reason I found myself reading the Wikipedia article, which linked to the Gutenberg translation which included these texts.  They deserve to be better known.

XIII. LABERIUS HIERA was bought by his master out of a slave-dealer’s cage, and obtained his freedom on account of his devotion to learning. It is reported that his disinterestedness was such, that he gave gratuitous instruction to the children of those who were proscribed in the time of Sulla.