A couple of diverting snippets that don't really fall into any category. First, from ABZU, Homer's catalogue of ships has been mapped onto Google Earth. Great fun. Second, via ALRT, news of Vir cum pluteo pleno, a blog in Latin. Current post is about the Nota Vincii Celata. DK has pointed me to a good piece in HBS's Working Knowledge, looking at the ancient roots of modern finance. Also came across the Movie Timeline website. The link is for the ancient period which runs from 4 to 1524. Not entirely convinced by Alien vs Predator - but it is fun.
Anselm Kiefer, the leading exponent of German neo-Expressionism, is one of few post-War German artists not to have steered clear of the Battle of Teutoburg Forest.
One of his best-known pictures is the 1978 work Ways of Worldly Wisdom – Arminius’ Battle, a print with woodcuts of generals, politicians, philosophers and writers who eulogised Arminius. These portraits surround a fire that alludes to the furnace that engulfed Germany as a result of its nationalism as well as the flames that burned so many books during the Nazi period. It gives a glimmer of hope too, representing the new Germany that rose out of the ashes past.
A letter on contraception in the classical world, in last week's Spectator, gave pause for thought. Not a subject, I admit, to having considered before. I confess too that I had never come across Soranus. The best full modern critical edition appears to be this French one, though most of the passages mentioned below can be found in Women's life in Greece and Rome: a Source Book in Translation, ed Mary Lefkovitz and Maureen Fant.
Here is the original note:
Sir: Sir Cliff Richard (‘It seemed to me that Tony was suffering’, 13 May) states that Jesus ‘obviously never got into contraception, because it did not then happen’. In fact, both contraception and abortion ‘happened’ at that time. Pliny in his Natural History (29.27.85) writes of one supposed method of contraception.
Soranus, who wrote a treatise on gynaecology in the 2nd century AD, describes both contraception and abortion (1.60.4, 1.61.1–3 and 1.64.1–2, 1.65.1–7), and Ovid in his Amores (2.14.5–10ff) speaks of his feelings about the abortion which his lover, it seems, is about to procure.
The Pliny passage is here.
A "phalangium"... is a spider with a hairy body and a head of enormous size. When opened, there are found in it two small worms, they say. These, attached in a piece of deer's skin, before sunrise, to a woman's body, will prevent conception, according to what Cæcilius says in his Commentaries. This property lasts, however, for a year only. Indeed, it is the only one of all contraceptives that I feel myself at liberty to mention, in favour of some women whose fecundity, quite teeming with children, stands in need of some such respite.
If spiders aren't your thing, Soranus suggests a whole raft of measures (1.62):
Pine bark, tanning sumach, equal quantities of each, rub with wine and apply in due measure before coitus after wool has been wrapped around; and after two or three hours she may remove it and have intercourse. Another: Of Cimolian earth, root of panax, equal quantities, rub with water separately and together, and when sticky apply in like manner. Or: Grind the inside of fresh pomegranate peel with water, and apply. Or: Grind two parts of pomegranate peel and one part of oak galls, form small suppositories and insert after the cessation of menstruation. Or: Moist alum, the inside of pomegranate rind, mix with water, and apply with wool. Or: Of unripe oak galls, of the inside of pomegranate peel, of ginger, of each two drachms, mould it with wine to the size of vetch peas and dry indoors and give before coitus, to be applied as a vaginal suppository. Or: Grind the flesh of dried figs and apply together with natron. Or: Apply pomegranate peel with an equal amount of gum and an equal amount of oil of roses. Then one should always follow with a drink of honey water. But one should beware of things which are very pungent, because of the ulcerations arising from them.
None of these should probably be tried at home.
The exhibition stretches back to 9 AD, the date widely recognised as the birth of the German "nation," when Germanic tribes wiped out three Roman legions in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, thereby stopping the advance of the Roman Empire east of the Rhine.
There is an iron mask of a Roman legionnaire's helmet dug up from the site of the Teutoburg battle in Kalkriese, northwestern Germany...
"Its focus on authentic objects makes the exhibition special. It's like a message in a bottle to future generations," said [director, Hans Ottomeyer].
The Hermannsdenkmal built by Ernst von Bandel on the Grotenburg near Detmold is the most dramatic physical representation of the Arminius-myth, a sign of the muscular Germanism that was emerging during the 19th century.
Picture from the above website, copyright Landesverband Lippe
Between 1870 and 1873, the painter Peter Janssen was commissioned to decorate the town hall of Krefeld in Nordrhein-Westfalen with a series of eight paintings on the theme of Arminius and the battle of Teutoburg Forest.
They are impressive. As well as the obvious themes such as the battle itself and Thusnelda in Germanicus’ triumph, one painting is of the goddess Germania, spear in hand, leaning on a shield telling Drusus that he may not cross the Elbe. Another is of Maroboduus captive in Ravenna being gawked at by his guards.
The paintings survived Allied bombing during World War II, nonetheless it says something about their original nationalistic intentions that they have never been returned to the walls of the town hall.
Constantius I [Flavius Valerius Constantius; called Constantius Chlorus] (250?–306), Roman emperor, was born in the Balkan province of Illyricum on 31 March, probably in 250. It is alleged that he was related to the emperor Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II) (r. 268–70), though this may be a later invention to enhance the imperial family's antecedents. His parentage is unknown but the subsequent use of names in the family suggest that his father may have been a Flavius Delmatius and his mother possibly Julia Constantia. His nickname Chlorus (‘the Pale’) is not recorded before the sixth century but is likely to be a contemporary reference to his personal appearance. He embarked on a military career the nature of which suggests that he had powerful patronage, serving successively as a protector (that is, a member of the immediate military entourage of the emperor, probably Aurelian), unit commander, and a governor of the Adriatic province of Dalmatia, probably in 284 or 285. Less reliable sources suggest that he served as a general under the emperor Probus (r. 276–82). His military ability drew him to the attention of the joint emperors Diocletian and Maximian and he served as praetorian prefect to Maximian from 288 to 293, presumably campaigning in northern Gaul where a peasants' revolt had erupted.
In 293 new constitutional arrangements were implemented by which the emperors made preparation for their planned eventual retirement by creating two designated successors; Constantius was promoted to imperial rank as Caesar and heir apparent to the western ruler, Maximian. His immediate task was to recover parts of Gaul and Britain which had been wrested from imperial control by the usurper Carausius (r. c.286–293). An attempt to recover Britain by Maximian had failed and, as a consequence, hostile forces were well established on the continental mainland. Gesoriacum (Boulogne), the principal stronghold of Carausius in Gaul, was besieged. Denied relief by a fleet from Britain by a mole which blocked access to the River Liane, the city fell. Carausius was assassinated by Allectus, his principal minister, who succeeded him and maintained hostilities. Following further campaigning, Gaul was cleared of hostile garrisons. In 296 an invasion force comprising two separate armies descended on southern Britain. One army, led by the praetorian prefect Asclepiodotus, landed in the area of modern Hampshire and defeated the army led by Allectus in person. The usurper fell in the conflict. The other force, led by Constantius, failed to make a landfall owing to adverse weather conditions, being delayed by contrary winds and fog and only arriving, via the Thames, in time to prevent the looting of London by fleeing remnants of the usurper's forces. None the less, a triumphant entry into London, the provincial capital, is recorded both by contemporary historians and by commemorative medals struck for issue to participants in the campaign. A copy now in the British Museum of a medal found at Arras in northern France bears depictions of Constantius and of his rescue of London. After the recovery of the island, widespread administrative changes were introduced which were probably overseen by the Caesar. Later events suggest that, possibly after an initially poor reception, Constantius's conduct immediately after the suppression of the revolt gave him a degree of popular support from the people of Britain which was reflected in the reign of Constantine.
Marriage, or a less formal liaison, with Flavia Julia Helena produced one son, later to be the emperor Constantine I (the Great). On elevation to imperial rank, Constantius divorced Helena and entered a dynastic marriage with Theodora, the stepdaughter of the emperor Maximian, with whom he had six children. Helena, later converted to Christianity by her son, embarked on a life of pilgrimage and church building; she was later canonized. Enmity between the two branches of Constantius's family culminated in the massacre of Theodora's kin following the death of Constantine the Great in 337.
After the campaign in Britain, Constantius was occupied for four years in warfare on the Rhine frontier. In the persecution of Christianity which was inaugurated by Diocletian and Maximian in 303, Constantius is credited with not having implemented the full rigour of the law in territory under his control. The story may owe more to the subsequent career of Constantine than to a coherent administrative decision by Constantius prompted by religious sympathy.
In May 305 the emperors Diocletian and Maximian retired from office, handing the succession to Constantius in the west and Galerius in the east. Shortly after his accession events in Britain needed imperial intervention. A campaign in northern Britain was called for against the Picts, a generic name for the tribes of the highlands of Scotland. According to contemporary sources, possibly echoing accounts of campaigns in the region conducted in the first century AD by the governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola and by the emperor Septimius Severus in the first decade of the third century, Constantius is credited with having penetrated to the extreme north of Scotland. Victory was achieved in 305 since in that year Constantius took the additional names Britannicus Maximus for the second time, the first having been after the defeat of Allectus.
Constantius died at Eburacum (York) on 25 July 306, sufficiently long after the assumption of Britannicus Maximus to suggest that his last illness was prolonged and prevented him from returning to London, much less to the imperial capital at Trier. Constitutional arrangements, made at the resignation of Diocletian and Maximian, designated Severus II as successor to Constantius, but the presence of Constantine with his father in Britain ensured, probably with paternal connivance, that Constantine should be proclaimed emperor on the death of his father. Based on the power of the army of Britain, Constantine forced his constitutional recognition on the legitimate emperors, eventually achieving sole imperial power in 324.