My old neighbour has recently given me her Latin textbook, a 1950s reprint of a beautiful 1930s classic, which may actually have been the forerunner of a revolution in Latin textbooks. First published in 1936, it is titled Septimus, not because it is the seventh book in a series, but for its main character, a young British schoolboy named Septimus. When I first received the book, it was wrapped in the kind of thin brown paper that old parcels used to be covered in. I suspected that the greasy, battered brown paper was hiding something beautiful underneath, and on removing the paper I was not disappointed. As you can see above, the original cover design is perfectly preserved in yellow, green and red.
Have you ever wondered how to write in one of earliest Ancient Greek calligraphic scripts? Wonder no more! I’m happy to present the first video I’ve made for Found in Antiquity, so that you can see first hand how to write the alphabet in Greek Uncial.
What exactly is Greek Uncial?
Greek Uncial hails from the first few centuries of the Common Era. Unlike Ancient Greek cursive, Uncial is surprisingly readable even if you’re mostly used to reading modern Greek letter forms. While most of the surviving examples were written on parchment, Greek Uncial started life on papyrus and was generally used for literary texts like Homer’s Iliad (below).
Today is Saint Patrick’s day. And yet for a long time, all I had associated with this saint was his holiday, drunken green-clad revellers, the Irish, leprechauns, and a story about snakes. He was more of a cartoon figure than a man, a cheesy one-dimensional character not really much more credible than Santa Claus.
But then some months ago I stumbled across his Confession, a fifth century work in Latin. (Here’s a free English translation, and here’s a Latin version.) I didn’t know any of his writings had actually survived. The Patrick of the Confession was a refreshing change from the Patrick of legend. It was a window into a world I had barely glimpsed before – the life of an early British missionary in Ireland.
Collections of inscriptions are very useful but a little intimidating for budding Classicists to get their teeth into. These collections are almost always referred to by their acronym, which appear as a meaningless series of letters to the uninitiated. And since epigraphy is a somewhat arcane topic, it is surprisingly difficult to find the full titles of epigraphical resources online.
It’s not every day that you hear of a legal dispute about whether a certain divinity is or isn’t a god. This may be because our states – at least, Australia, the UK and the US – have no formal obligations towards gods, and will generally refuse to comment on the true divinity of a god in the interests of protecting religious freedom.
The Roman republic had it the other way around. There was no official obligation for the state to tolerate religions, but the state was formally obliged to serve gods. John North, in his article, “Religious Toleration in Republican Rome,” has argued that while the Romans were generally tolerant in practice, the concept of “religious toleration” as a moral obligation was absent from Roman thought:
We certainly do not know at any period of any theoretical principle of allowing plurality of worship or belief. The toleration, if that is what it was, was a function of situation not theory.
Happy news! I’ve just started learning German! I signed up for a super-intensive course (with the Goethe Institute, Melbourne) that runs all day each day from Monday to Friday this week.
There are so many good reasons to learn German if you like Classics. Perhaps you’ve realised everyone is citing German academics. Name any topic on Greece and Rome, and some German mastermind somewhere has written an immensely important monograph work on that very area. Mention this to anyone who isn’t a Classicist and they’ll reply with a slightly confused “huh?” and ask what Germany has to do with the Romans and Greeks anyway. Good question.
How did a Saint from Western Turkey become an elf-Lord driving reindeer around the North Pole? The journey of St. Nicholas through time, space and cultures has transformed this pious bishop of Myra into Santa: a secular, round-bellied, cheerful caricature of modern consumerism. How, exactly, did he get from there to here? And does anything of the original Nick remain in our Mr. Claus?