Anyone else interested in the ancient world?

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by Tiki Tom, Mar 21, 2016.

  1. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

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    By day I’m your typical golden era daydreamer: I often wear suits and a trench coat or a fedora, I listen to big bands and jazz, I like to watch old movies, and I love period architecture and art deco. But, by night, I’m very interested in the history of Ancient Greece & Rome. I have a book stand by my night table and even I am surprised by what’s on it: Thucydides, Lucretius, Homer, Herodotus. Also modern histories about the Ancient World. I just read “Sailing the Wine Dark Sea” by Thomas Cahill and, before that, “Confronting the Classics” by Mary Beard. There are a half dozen similar titles, all mass-market histories and analysis for the layman. I loved Steven Pressfield’s “Gates of Fire”, a fictionalized account of the battle of Thermopylae.

    I’m trying to figure out what it is about the western civ ancients that so interests me. My mind keeps going back to the book “Full Circle” by Ferdinand Mount. The back of the book has the following blurb: “So much about the society that is now emerging in the twenty-first century bears an astonishing resemblance to the most prominent features of what we call the classical world - its institutions, its priorities, its entertainment, its physics, its sexual morality, its food, its politics, even its religion. The ways in which we live our rich and varied lives correspond - almost eerily so - to the ways in which the Greeks and Romans lived theirs.” The book makes a pretty good argument that you and I have more in common with the ancient Romans than we do with the peoples who lived in the 1,500 years between us and them. Maybe that is what fascinates me. Reading today’s newspapers, I see a lot of things that, it seems, could have happened in the ancient world. Then of course, there is the whole collapse of the classical world and the “dark ages” that followed. Does history repeat itself? or at least, rhyme? Do we have much to learn from the ancient Greeks and Romans? Or are they the tired old white men who need to be shunned because they get in the way of our appreciating the modern, diverse world? Are Latin and Ancient Greek truly dead, or can they yet enrich our lives? (Yes, I have a copy of “Learn Ancient Greek” by Peter Jones at my bedside too. Have only got a few chapters into it, but it is great fun.)

    Anyway, just thought I’d reach out to see if there are any other way-far-retro people out there. If so, what attracts you to the ancients? Any special sub-sets that you are into? Any favorite old Latin/Greek quotes that you use to baffle your coworkers and friends? “Come home either with your shield, or on it.”
     
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  2. Lean'n'mean

    Lean'n'mean My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    The Greeks copied the Myceneaens, the Romans copied the Greeks & we copy reality TV which might account for our current cultural stagnation.:rolleyes:

    There is one ancient Greek quote I'm familiar with which roughly translated go's; " Don't bend over to pick up a bar of soap if there is a Greek standing behind you. "
    Plenty of great latin quotes " Veni, vidi, visa " ( " I came, I saw, I did some shopping") " Stercus accidit" "Adepto a vito" & of course the classic " Quid quid latinae dictum set, altrum sonar."

    Habetis bona deum.
     
  3. emigran

    emigran Practically Family

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    Gallia est omni divisum in partes tres...
    Probably all I can remember from 8 periods a week of Latin in High School and four years of translations in College...!!!. However I'm usually not stumped by vocabulary or spelling...
     
  4. Inkstainedwretch

    Inkstainedwretch Practically Family

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    My avatar is a Roman senator holding a bloody fist behind his back. I'm a lifelong student of the classical world and since the early 90s I've written a series of mysteries set in the last years of the Roman Republic.
     
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  5. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Thucydides is rather unique as to the lack of divine guidance afforded humanity. A modern study, IF Stone's The Trial of Socrates is an extraordinary look at both the philosopher and Athens.
    Cicero is another memorable, and his development of the Latin language an added plus.
     
  6. Benny Holiday

    Benny Holiday My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    I have a fascination with the Saxons and the Vikings, probably has a lot to do with that being my ancestry. As well as historical non-fiction books, I love Bernard Cornwell's novels set in England at the time of the Viking incursions. Brilliant reads, each one.
     
  7. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

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    I will Google IF Stone's "The Trial of Socrates". Thanks for the lead. I'm finding Thucydides to be a surprisingly good read. Gives one the feeling that "the more things change, the more they remain the same". I am talking about all the political jockeying for position, of course. Right now I am also reading "The Restoration of Rome" by Peter Heather. It is about how, during the "dark ages" there were a couple of attempts to re-establish the old Roman Empire in the West. First by Theoderic the Great (an Ostrogoth who had spent 10 years in Constantinople and knew the value of civilitas) and later by Justinian. Can't believe that I am only now learning about these guys. Very enlightening, since the dark ages is not something I know much about.

    Benny Holiday: In my younger days I went through a Viking period. Was mostly interested in their having served as (I think) the personal bodyguard of the emperor in Byzantium... and also their voyages to North America. In my ignorant youth I was unduly fascinated by the so-called Kensington Runestone. Ahem. Have never read anything by Bernard Cornwell on the subject. Where do you suggest I start?
     
  8. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Boethius was executed by Theodoric, an act inconsonant and all the more inexplicable for his character.
     
  9. hatsRme

    hatsRme I'll Lock Up

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    A whole new chapter for my life; I was overwhelmed by all the remnants of history I was shown in Israel recently. Thank you for this conversation! I have some catching up to do.
     
  10. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

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    You may have hit the nail on the head. Maybe that is why I got into the topic. When we moved to Vienna 13 years ago, I was completely unaware that I'd trip over so many layers of history. Back then I didn't know that Vienna started as a Roman fort or that, when the Romans arrived, there was a Celtic oppidum (type of proto-settlement) on a hill that now overlooks the city. There are still remnants if you know where to look; along with reminders of Barbarians, medieval fortifications, the Habsburgs, Napoleon, etc. etc. And it all seemed like a big jumble of names and dates to me. So I hit the books. Now, when we have visitors from out of town, I give a killer historical walking tour. But it is such a big topic I found myself on a slippery slope and, after visiting Rome itself, I was a goner. One of my favorite quotes is from Goethe: "he who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth."

    A trip to Israel/Jerusalem is still a dream of mine. So much history, castles, ruins, art and artifacts, so little time!
     
  11. Haversack

    Haversack Practically Family

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    If you are in Vienna you should visit Carnuntum. It is a ruined Roman city on the banks of the Danube about 40 km downstream from Vienna. In its hay-day it had a population of over 50,000. It was destroyed in the 4th C., abandoned, and largely forgotten. There's now a large archeological museum park excavating a good part of it.

    One of my first duties when I got to my battalion in Southern Germany back in the '80s was to review the topographical maps of the area we were supposed to operate in if the balloon ever went up. Well, aside from modern military concerns, I noticed that there was a single narrow black line denoting a farm or forest trail that ran dead straight for miles across multiple map sheets. Occasionally there was the inscription, 'Teufelsmauer', or 'Devil's Wall'. This is the remains of the Limes Germanica, a line of walls and fortifications stretching from the Rhein to the Danube, and marked the border between Civilization and the Lands Beyond. Along this line, north and south, I noticed symbols denoting ruins and labelled 'Römische Wachtürm', (Roman watchtower), and Keltenschanz, (Celtic fort). I noticed a couple of small villages about a mile south of the Limes that were almost square in plan with roads leading out of them north, south, east, and west…

    After some months, I had some free time and a car so I started exploring this area. Usually, these ruins were no more than a slightly raised mound of earth. There was one however that had a earthen wall enclosing a couple of acres and was surrounded by a ditch about 6' deep. It was in the middle of thick woods and had a forester's trail running through it. A year or so later during a REFORGER, (a major annual NATO exercise), my battery ended up occupying this hidden ancient fort for a couple of days. I was surprised how it affected some of my soldiers. Some were a bit afraid of 'haunts'. Others became thoughtful about being soldiers in a place where others had been soldiers thousands of years ago. Some were weirded out by this. Others thought it was pretty cool. My jeep driver was one of the latter ones. He told me 'I'm standing guard in the exact same spot as some Roman soldier did.' Of course its all one with Nineveh and Tyre now. That bit of wood were that fort stood is all under the lake that was created in the late 1980s.
     
  12. Benny Holiday

    Benny Holiday My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    That's great, Haversack. I'd have loved to have been there.
    Tom, the first book in the series is The Last Kingdom. Extremely well researched historical fiction. I believe it & the second book, The Pale Horseman, have just been released in the UK as a tv series.
     
  13. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

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    Thanks, Benny. Will look for it.

    Haversack: That is truly a great story. Very evocative.
    Back in the 80s, I too was stationed with the Army in Southern Germany. I was at Field Station Augsburg, serving as a Russian Linguist (98G-RU) monitoring Warsaw Pact Exercises in East Germany. (The story was that we would survive for 7 minutes if "the balloon went up". Haven't heard that phrase in a long time!) I was fascinated that Augsburg was also originally founded by the Romans. One of the things that my buddies and me used to discuss was that it was interesting how the iron curtain that divided East and West Europe "more-or-less" followed the border of the old Roman Empire (plenty of room to quibble, I know). That then led to a discussion of how everything Napoleon conquered and held for any time was more likely to now be a liberal democracy thanks to the Code Napoleon. One friend went so far as to say that "Napoleon invented Western Europe." Bit of a stretch, but I get his point.

    Re: Carnuntum. Love that place. Not many tourists go there. It has a main road of giant blocks of stone that is still rutted with the marks of chariot wheels. There's also a triumphal arch that is standing at a cross roads amid empty beet fields. It was lovely to sit near it, smoking a cigar, and contemplate a vanished city.
     
  14. W-D Forties

    W-D Forties Practically Family

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    I used to do Roman re-enacting with my family, now the hubby still does it occasionally (we are all committed to WW2 homefront now!). It helps that we live in Chester, which was Roman 'Deva', a major British Roman town that still has the Roman walls surrounding it and a hypocaust under the local branch of 'Spud-u'-like'. We also still have half an amphitheatre (the other half is under a Victorian building that is falling down but can't be demolished as it is listed.. Alas, the local council saw fit to bulldoze over a lot of the Roman remains in the 60's to build a shopping centre and I am reliably informed that they found a massive stone Imperial Eagle, amongst other things, that the workers were told to break up and put on the skip. The wheels of progress....
     
  15. I studied Viking history a bit in college. Not really what you'd call a "classical period", though certainly interesting history.
     
  16. Benzadmiral

    Benzadmiral Call Me a Cab

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    I've been a Roman buff for many years. What astonishes me is how the features of famous classical Romans, visible in their busts, keep recurring in more modern times.

    Julian the Apostate looked like Richard Dreyfuss:
    Julian.jpg RichardD.jpg


    Julius Caesar looked like Patrick Stewart ("Capt. Picard" from Star Trek: the Next Generation)
    JCaesar.jpg PatrickS.jpg

    And in the weirdest of all, dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla looked just like LBJ:
    Sulla.jpg LBJ.jpg

    And Russell Crowe has a little of that Emperor Caracalla going on:
    Caracalla.jpg RussellC.jpg

    There are probably more I can't think of right now.
     
  17. Bushman

    Bushman My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    I have an interest in the Age of Antiquity. For me, it was the classic Roman, Grecian, and Egyptian architecture. Part of my interest in the early days of the Golden Era is because of the resurgence of that archetecture through Neoclassicism that surged through the 1800s, and ended in the 1920s.
     
  18. MisterCairo

    MisterCairo I'll Lock Up

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    During my last naval deployment we visited Marmaris, Turkey, and our biggest tour opportunity was a guided visit to Ephesus, which was beyond mind blowing. The excavations and work going on there is incredible.

    Certainly whetted my appetite to see other great remnants of civilizations.

    Provided they've not be destroyed in the meantime...
     
  19. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

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    Indeed. I do not put the destruction of ruins above the destruction of people. However, barbarism topped itself when ISIL intentionally blew up those temples in Palmyra.

    Benzadmiral, those portrait comparisons are great. Dead ringers! Especially LBJ!

    I was just reading the other day that, here in Vienna, the original Roman Fort (circa 100 AD) had toilets that were continually flushed by water from an aqueduct. And that after the fall of the Roman Empire, this part of Europe did not again see such sanitation until the later part of the 19th century.
     
  20. Lean'n'mean

    Lean'n'mean My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    If Indy passes by there, their destruction is almost guaranteed..:D
     
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