Make Latin the Language of Europe

Lately I have become a huge fan of the Wall Street Journal.  They ran a recent article titled Cavest Emptor: Lover of Latin Try to Sell a Dead Languge.

The gist of the article was that Latin should become Europe’s Continental Language.  That it should be the basis of what ‘English’ does for the ‘United States’ today.   The article talks about “…a hard core of Latin enthusiasts say the language would foster a sense of European unity that’s have been lacking since the decline of the Holy Roman Empire…”

It is interesting idea.  An example of this I saw in a public television show called the ‘Pallisers”  This was an Anthony Trollope story about a family in England.  There was  a court case where a witness did not speak English, however, he studied to be a priest.  The Judge attended a British ‘public school’-‘public’ is the designator for an upper crust ‘private’ school where Latin would most certainly had been taught.  The Judge conducted the ‘cross-examination’ with the witness in Latin.  Cool.

Stephane Feye is a proponent for a European Union Language, a founder of a schoolhouse near Brussels, that requires 10 hours of Latin per week and updates the dead language for its students by teaching them modern terminology in the ‘old’ tongue:  students talk on their telephonis gestabilibus (cell phones) and do their lessons on their computatoria (computer).   

Let’s face it, there is a certain ‘cool factor’ in having your own language.    Tell me that speakers of Española have not dropped into their own language when they want a certain amount of privacy from the English speakers.

I even saw a ‘spy TV movie’ where the hero spoke in Gaelic to his ‘spy master.’  What are the odds that anyone understanding Gaelic is even listening in… (the odds are low even though Gaelic and Welsh are experiencing a resurgence). 

 Think about it, if the European Union made the declaration that Latin was the language of ‘union’…purely used for governmental concerns of course…what a statement they would be making that their UNION has a history going back to early empire.    The European Union is here to stay.  Of course it won’t happen, but every country has instructors ready to implement the new law.  The are bastions of Latin speaker ready to take high positions in government.

DEUS SERVO EUROPEAN LUGUM [God save the European Union]

Did I get the translation correct?

A Night in the Museum

Imagine that you have been to a party.  You have drank most of the night or have taken some drugs.  A friend let’s you into a museum at night and this is what you see. Is this drug induced or have you been visited by PAN himself?


An August Tale

Going back and forth on the internet I accidently came across a Granada TV production on Augustus.   It was produced in 1968 just before the international attention of ‘I, Claudius.’   If you ever been a fan of public television you will recognize quite a few actors on this show.  It is black and white (which somehow adds to the story), looks like a stage production, but the writing is thoughtful and insightful.  Good writing is good writing whether in Homer’s time, your parent’ time, or NOW.  There is no ‘chewing the scenery’ here.  The dialogue is delivered calmly, no ‘addressing the Senate’, it is an imperial family discussion of issues and gripes they have discussed many times before.

If your are put off by the fact it was filmed in 1968 I find that a little ridiculous considering we are talking about an event in 19 August AD 14 b.c.    Watch it…it is outstanding television.  Now, I admit I was carried away by the death scene of Augustus.  I was not able to be present when my father passed away.  The scene of the death bed made me slightly emotional.  Isn’t all death bed scenes of Fathers as if an Emperor is passing?  The wife says her goodbyes, she strokes his arm, and whispers in his ear.  The son or stepson settles regrets or questions the father’s motives or actions in life before the final goodbye.  How I wish it was that way for me.

Augustus on his deathbed with Tiberius ready to accept the mantle of 'kingship.' Did I say King?

Augustus on his deathbed with Tiberius ready to accept the mantle of ‘kingship.’ Did I say King?

“Have I not played my part well?” Says Augustus before he dies and then asking for applause. I have a hard time with what happened next, the room of mourners actually applauds.  I somehow think it was a rhetorical question, but who knows when you deal with a man that possessed ‘absolute’ power.

Augustus is played by Roland Culver (a man with a very impressive movie career).  If you see him you will recognize him, and he has a most distinctive voice.  He makes a fascinating Augustus.  Was it from the fact he was playing Augustus?  There should be more parts for old men that denote who they are and what they were in their  youth.  This part did just that.  There should be more parts for old men that denote ‘gravitas.’

His son is Michael Culver. by the way. (Captain Needa. Star Wars?). Let’s see how good a Star Wars Fan you are.

Roland Culver, actor.

Roland Culver, actor.

It was a little confusing for the show opening up with Culver (i.e. Augustus) sitting on the steps of a temple with his handout like a beggar.  I was trying to figure out who he was and started to pick it out when a slightly humped over guy with a stutter asked: “Unc…Unc…Uncle, why are you asking for money?”   OH, Claudius!  That’s who the beggar is…AUGUSTUS!  It was a nice opening and the reason was a dream.  Don’t we all do what we see in our dreams?  Well, especially in ancient Rome.  At a dinner party later Claudius pulls out a coin and tries to give it to Augustus.  The first citizen waves it away, “…I turn back into an emperor, after five,” he says.

And Tiberius is played by Andre Morell.   I have to tell you this was the far greater part, and I don’t think I ever seen where so much effort had been put into writing diagolue for this particular Roman Emperor.  The language was witty, urbane, intellectual and thought provoking.  Morell is not new when it came to wearing armor, he played Sextus in Ben Hur and Elrond in the 1978 animated feature lord of the rings.  He has a series of movies roles playing inspectors, military men, and judges.    The part of Tiberius to me is his greatest role.  The man is calculating, and walks through life with a philosophy of “I don’t control events” which makes me wonder if the scriptwriter was trying to make Tiberius a proponent of the Stoic philosophy.

Meaning I found on Internet:

The Stoic ethic espouses a deterministic perspective,

: a person who accepts what happens without complaining or showing emotion

End of quote.

Before Augustus dies he cries (at least were told later) ”Forty young men are carrying me away…”

Tiberius responds, “For the sake of legend we must make it come true….no dying words?”

“No,” the servant says.

“Good,” says Tiberius.  “Dying words make inconvenient quotations.”

Name that Classical Connection (8)

In the last Name that Classical Connection I asked readers to identify the classical connection of the Tribune Tower in Chicago, Illinois.  Steven Lee was kind enough to point out the meaning of  the name ‘Tribune’ itself.  He is right – I give him that.  Yet, there is more.  Much more.

95866948_ncnGZkc7Imagine a place in Chicago that you can travel about the world, time and space all within fifteen minutes.  Yes, you can visit antiquity and place your hand upon it.  The secret is in the foundation and the stones of the Tribune Tower located at 435 North Michigan Avenue. It looks like a cathedral done in Neo-Gothic style.  If your a visitor to the city, its just over the river heading north on Michigan (There is a great Starbucks just a block away if you need to fortify yourself and an Argo Tea is at street level in the same building). I strongly suggest you get your favorite brew and take some time to walk around the building.  Don’t hang back, get in close and bring your camera.

Reporters at the height of the power of the Tribune Newspaper traveled the world.  The record of their travels is in the walls not ON the walls.  TheyTribune-Tower-rock-Sibyls-Cave-Naples-Italy-1024x768 Tribune-Tower-rock-Roof-tile-Roman-Ruins-Birecik-Turkey-1024x768brought back a record of man’s achievements. In one section is a stone from the Parthenon.  A wall tile from Pompeii can be seen embedded in another part of the wall.  Look for it and you will find a slab from the Colosseum, and a building tile from the Stabian Baths in Pompeii.  Reporter after reporter brought the world back to Chicago.  Each of these stones were embedded into the wall of the Tribune Tower to add to the luster of this news organization.    No one will bother you if you stop and stare. tribune-tower-great-pyramid

Low angle view of a tower, Tribune Tower, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Low angle view of a tower, Tribune Tower, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Aesop's Fables carved above the door.  These are tales that gave moral lessons, and what better inspiration for reporters that are on their way to work?

Aesop’s Fables carved above the door. These are tales that gave moral lessons, and what better inspiration for reporters that are on their way to work?

Take the time to walk around the building and you transverse other times and places other than the classical world.  A stone from the Great Wall of China.  A building stone from Remagen Bridge, and ornate piece of tile from the Forbidden City, even a piece of steel from the World Trade Center can be seen.

This is a history buff’s dream, travel without travel, stones from history itself — touchable and available to the public.

Guest Lecturer: Hattem Massouba

Part of the fun of having a blog is that you can get many different people sharing their ideas on how they see the world.  I was fortunate to have Hattem Hassouba  share his article that he posted on  The article is conversational in style, and brings up Egyptians of political, philosophical, and literary note, and makes an interesting premise that the Romans were waiting for a goddess such as Isis to fill something lacking in their own society. 

Mr. Hassouba studied Economics and Political Sciences at Cairo University.  He lives in Cairo, Egypt.

The following article was posted by permission of the author.

The Essence of Egypt

by Hattem Hassouba

Hattem Hassouba

Hattem Hassouba

After a brief review of Egyptian history in particular, and world history in general, I will try to reach to a proper and an appropriate definition to the word “ Egypt”.

Before I start, I am obliged to admit that I won’t add much, to the contributions of the great men of science and thought, like the late Gamal Hemddan; the geographer, Selim Hassan; the archaeologist, Hussein Moeness; the historian, Salama Mussa; the philosopher-historian, Tawfik Al Hakim; the philosopher-novelist, Taha Hussein; the philosopher-novelist, Muhammad Hussein Heikal; the philosopher diplomat, Ahmad Lotfy Al Sayed; the father of Egyptian Liberalism, and many others of worth. And if you find me claiming that I added to them, please don’t continue reading the following lines.   My thoughts took me back to a debate which took place in 1994 between myself and the late Dr. Milad Hanna, the philosopher architect, about a historical fact of ancient history, this debate took place during a lecture he delivered at the Institute of Diplomatic Studies to junior cadets of the foreign service.

This historical fact is : Rome worshipped Isis, but the debate didn’t develop into discussing the root causes behind Rome’s adherence to the cult of Isis. The Queen of the Egyptian ancient pantheon. Allow me to share with you my personal interpretation of this historical fact :Who is Isis ? The ideal mother, the faithful-loving wife, the reincarnation of Mother Nature, the power of magic, the symbol of fecundity and fertility, the savior of the oppressed, the beacon that guides the astray, the muse of poets and artists, the forgiver of sinners, not only that; but also the goddess of wealth and the aggrandizer of the rich class’ wealth and assets, as long as they stick to the righteous path and benevolence to the poor. In other words Isis is the personification of tenderness, cuddling, security, safety, wealthand fecundity. A personification of the narrow, yet fertile valley, which hugs and sculpts, the features, the genes, the sinues and the traditions of the Egyptian nation.

Why did Rome establish a temple for Isis in Campus Martius? And why particularly Campus Martius; the military training camp and barracks, named after Mars, the Roman god of war? What has Isis got to do with war? Campus Martius is located on the low-lying plain between the river Tiber and the Quirinal Hill in the city of Rome. The temple for Isis is from around the time of Emperor Caligula (12AD-41AD), who was considered as one of Rome’s most successful generals and one of  her most beloved public figures, in spite of his late insanity and tyrannical way of rule. Caligula was the third Roman emperor after Augustus and Tiberius.

I found out that the answer to the above mentioned questions is a lot easier than I thought. Simply put, it is nostalgia for, and yearning to, tenderness and passion. The Roman society was basically a militaristic-expansionist society, who survived by means of perpetual war, thus perpetually living under stress as well as brutal and harsh conditions, it even resorted to violence and blood-shed in leisure and sports. Not denying of course that they were great engineers and legislators. So it could be logically deduced, from a psychological perspective, that, as human beings, the Romans must have yearned to experience a bit of tenderness and passion.

On the other hand, when the Roman invading legions collided with other cultures and civilizations, they discovered that most of the deities and holy figures of these cultures and civilizations were mostly gods of war and brutality who had to be placated by means of blood-shed and human sacrifice until they become fully satiated, from the perspective of those who believed in them, the only exception to these cultures and civilizations was to be found in Egypt. Only in Egypt, did the Romans find the meaning tenderness and passion, personficated in Isis the Goddess of all sublime human emotions. Not just that, even Sekhmet the goddess of war, was also a goddess of motherhood and child-birth. Nowhere else in the vast Romans empire could such deities be found. For the first time in its history the Roman mind finally came to taste the flavor of tenderness , love and passion, and this happened on Egyptian sacred soil. Even further, in spite of the fertility of the soil of the soil of the Italian peninsula, and many other regions and provinces of the Roman empire, Rome didn’t feel entirely secure, from the perspective of alimentary security, until it annexed Egypt, the granary of the world, which was self-sufficient in grain production from the dawn of its history until 1965.In spite of being occupied militarily, Egypt occupied the thought , the beliefs, and the creed of its occupying powers, she also endowed them with her style of attire, her unique architectural designs, her system of administration, and most important of all she gave them the answer to a long perplexing question : Is there an after Life ? Moreover, Egypt was the cradle of Greek civilization, philosophy and thought. Thus, the cradle of the whole western civilization, but that’s another story, sufficient it is to say that she was the principal chapter of the first recorded history scroll in the world, Histories,written by the father of recorded history; Herodotus.

Egypt was the main target of every empire builder , the core of his imperial glory, the means of his survival, and part and parcel of his development. In this context, I urge you to read about the impact of Egyptian cotton on British Textile Industry, The bedrock of the Industrial Revolution, during the Victorian era, the zenith of British imperial might and glory. Read about the cause behind the architectural boom in Constantinople in the 16th century, it was the work of Egyptian masons and builders who were forcedly relocated there to add to the glory of the fledgling Ottoman Empire. Take a look at contemporary Paris, almost a third of its landmarks, sites, monuments and museum exhibitions is Egyptian, and ask yourself this question: Why did one of France’s greatest leaders was nicknamed “THE SPHINX”; the late president Francois Mitterand. One more thing before I conclude, take a look at the impact of the simple, yet majestic, architectural designs of the late innovated architect Dr. Hassan Fathy, in the United States, Greece, and the Gulf countries. A unique style inspired by the Nubian one, which could have saved us ages of accumulated ugliness and pollution had it been adopted since its inception.

This is the meaning of the word “Egypt”, and I again I frankly confirm that I haven’t added anything new to what have been written before by the above mentioned geniuses.

Name that Classical Connection (8)

tribune_tower_top2_lgeThis is the Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.  What is the Classical Connection?  There are many correct answers.   This is a unique form of real estate.  It’s not in the style, or in the location.  I think you’ll enjoy the answer.  I strongly recommend that if you are in Chicago that you visit this site.  What I am talking about is visible from the street.  No more clues!

The winner will be posted on the blog and will join the roll call of a web-monument to be built on this site.

Roman19/21/2013 – Today I had the good fortune to interview Gunny Sgt. ”Red” Millis USMC (ret).  He will be featured in the next episode of Ancient Rome Refocused.  What is a Marine doing on a podcast about Ancient Rome?  Well, he was the SME (subject matter expert) interviewed by James Erwin who wrote a popular story on the social media site REDIT that got a lot of media attention.  Red will provide us with insight on the Erwin’s premise (which got bought by a movie company) of whether or not a modern U.S. Marine battalion could wipe out the entire Roman Empire.  The title of Erwin’s story is called “Rome, Sweet Rome.”  Google it.  Red stands in two worlds.  He is steeped in the Marine Corps Culture and has expanded his knowledge and vocabulary into the Roman world.  He is a self taught professor (if he isn’t a professor he should be) of Roman ‘veteres militia.’  

Red making a presentation.  Living History means stepping into the shoes of the past...literally.  You can write about what it means to carry a gladius, but you know what it means to carry a gladius when you march with it for 20 miles.  This is hardcore history at its finest.

Red making a presentation. Living History means stepping into the shoes of the past…literally. You can write about what it means to carry a gladius, but you know what it means to carry a gladius when you march with it for 20 miles. This is hardcore history at its finest.

Red is just the person to talk about this subject, and provided a detailed study of the assets and capabilities of the Marines while comparing it to the Romans.  He is a Marine historian, ran a USMC museum, and is an amateur Roman historian that cofounded a ‘living history’ museum that operates a Roman Castra (fort) and Celt village.  This event (titled CLASH OF IRON) is a hardcore event not for tourists, but only for those that want to experience immersion into the time period and life style – “prepare to march and eat a lot of bread.”  In other words to join in you are putting on a uniform, becoming a Celt, or taking on the attire of a civilian of the time (If I attended…storyteller…definitely storyteller.  Large hat, scroll, cape, long beard…I can see it now).   Don’t miss Red’s interview on the podcast.  He has a way of using the right words, the right descriptions, to make understanding the time and context easier.

In cooperation with the State of Arkansas, Red will soon be podcasting on the history of the Marine Corps.  You have to check him out.  I will place a link on this blog site when its up and running. Here is a link to the Marine Corps Museum:

Prepare for the next episode of Ancient Rome Refocused, Season Three, Episode 13.

Working title?

“My Marines can beat your legio any day of the week.”

Why pursue a Classics Degree?

Classics396137_3249-2Surfing the net I found posts and articles on why one should obtain a classics degree.  Most are small arguments on how a classics degree prepares you for other careers.  I have yet to see a reason, a REAL reason, why it is a good idea.

From the University of Cincinnati web site:

Classics majors go on to graduate school to earn advanced degrees in classics or related fields such as archaeology, history or philosophy. Classics students receive a strong liberal arts education that enables them to pursue a graduate degree in many other fields of study including law, medicine and the ministry, and allows them to move into a great variety of careers in industry, business and public services, as shown under Success Factors. Classics students develop high-level critical thinking, communication, reading and writing skills. Such competence and precision are highly valued in both the private and public spheres.

This argument winds on website after website.  It always seems to be an attempt to convince the individual that a classics degree will lead to something else.  The schools themselves seem hard pressed to make a coherent argument why its a good idea.  They usually run along the lines of: study it so that you can be a lawyer, doctor, or enter the clergy.  I would like to hear an argument more on target, more to the point, more realistic in its delivery.  The current arguments sounds like a stretch, for the argument stands now as “study the classics for it will lead to something else that will pay more…”  That’s it?  That’s all they got?

Rush Limbaugh cut through the standard academic argument with his response to a woman who was disappointed on what a classics degree meant for her future:

“…somebody at the university ought to say, “Babe, you are wasting your time in a nothing major.  We are stealing your money.  You’re gonna be qualified for jack excrement when you get outta here.”  But they don’t [the universities].  Now, this is part of the trick, this is the ruse, and it’s actually clever.” 

I have to be an idiot not to recognize Limbaugh’s ability to ‘cut through’ and present the ’cogent’ argument to the academia’s inability to present a plausible reason other than: ”…a liberal arts education…” or it will help you “…pursue a graduate degree…in law, medicine and the ministry…” however, I disagree that a classics degree has no merit.

So what do we say?  What would be more honest and to the point?   It is my opinion that schools must appeal to a student’s imagination, to his or her sense of wonder.  This consistent argument to ‘justify’ a classics degree in an ever growing world where the ‘all-mighty dollar’ is the only bottom line for any pursuit of man is a game that academia will consistently lose.  So, as in the great tradition of the movie ‘War Games’ where we learn the “only way to win a nuclear war is not to play” let us attack this from a different angle. Let’s not argue and try to convince students that a classics degree has anything to do with money at all.  Let’s just tell it honestly and let the student make up his or her own mind – for one of the greatest philosophical principles of all time is, “Do what you love to do, and the money will follow.”

So I have made an attempt.

The following is what the course description should read:

“Do not study this major to make money.  Do not study the classics to lead to other degrees, though it would help and provide a great foundation for many careers and pursuits.   Study the classics for knowledge, to transport yourself to another world.  Study the classics to see how western civilization rose up, and how modern day institutions base their concepts and principles.  There was a time when the world was new.  Other people will walk through the world and think the world is set in stone, but you will see it for what it really is…a flowing river that goes back into the past.  Other people will quote TV shows and laugh and claim it original, and you will see the present day of entertainment as sitting on the backs of Pindar and Menander.  Other people will see the world like children, and argue as children without thought or consequence, and ‘pundit’ themselves in their own ego, but your teacher will be Cicero – the great debater.  You will expand your mind under the tutelage of Plato, Zeno and Socrates, and see the world from many directions and from many sides.  As a classics major you are a time traveler, unfettered by space and time, and you will see civilizations rise and fall.  You will weigh their actions and the consequences of human folly.  Others will moan and cry and think their actions in the present day all original, but you shall know that nothing is new under the sun.  When your parents ask, “Why are you doing this?” When they ask, “Shouldn’t you study something more practical?” Think about replying in the following manner: “What is more practical than learning how to think?”     A classics education will walk with you for the rest of your life.  It will not age.  It will not sour.  It will remain fresh and relevant for you as it has remained for scholars over the generations.  This path will not be easy.  Turn back before its too late, but if you decide to take the first step and have the spine to complete the instruction, the 4 years devoted will stay with you for a lifetime…NO MATTER WHAT YOU WIND UP DOING.”

How did I do?  Do you have a better one?  Either post it into ‘comments’ or send your argument to:

Bringing a Courtesan into Court

51c9Xnub3ELWhat makes us human pays no heed to the date on the calendar and whether we wear a chiton or an Armani suit.  Man gets jealous, man lusts, man rages, and man still plays the game of sexual politics.  Reading this book I could not help but think of the cases that have been played out all over the world in different countries, in different times, in different languages, in different dress, with the accusations slightly varying in assorted languages and dialects.  This book allowed me to look into the Ancient Greek world, but reading this book makes me wonder what is coming into the next court docket of my own time.  Trying Neaira?  What about Trying AnnTrying Elizabeth?  Enter the world of the ‘True Story of a Courtesan’s Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece.’  

Ssh, the case is about to begin. 

–Rob Cain

Excerpt from the book, ix, PREFACE.

Apollodorus was just getting started on his denunciation of the defendant, Neaira (pronounced “neh-EYE-ruh”).  A bunch of them [the jurors] had sex with her while she was drunk,” he tells the jurors, describing the aftermath of a dinner party given some thirty years before.  “Even the slaves.”

end –

Interview with Debra Hamel, author of ‘Trying Neaira.’

1. Who was Neaira?

Neaira was a woman who lived in Athens and was brought to trial there during the mid-fourth century B.C. She was not an Athenian, and we don’t even know if she was of Greek extraction. She was enslaved as a child to a Corinthian brothel-keeper, a woman named Nikarete who ran a string of higher end prostitutes (hetairai). When Neaira was in her twenties she was purchased by two of her regular customers–they enjoyed her on a sort of timeshare basis. And not very long after that she was able to purchase her freedom from them. A few years later she became involved with an Athenian named Stephanos. She moved to Athens with him and lived with him for some thirty years. At that point she was prosecuted by a man named Apollodorus–more on this below–and this is why we know as much about her as we do: Apollodorus’ prosecution speech from the trial (or perhaps an edited version of it) survives. Unfortunately, we don’t have any defense speeches from the trial. Nor do we know what the outcome of the trial was: Neaira’s subsequent fate is a mystery.

2. Why did you choose to write about a courtesan? What attracted you about the subject?

It wasn’t so much that I was attracted to writing about a courtesan, though the details of her life as they’re discussed in court by Apollodorus make for titillating reading. The idea came to me one day when I happened to read a blurb on the back of a book. It said something about how historical trials have provided the fodder for some excellent micro-histories. I was familiar already with Neaira’s trial, but hadn’t thought to write about it. Now the pieces came together: not only was the case against Neaira inherently interesting because of the subject matter, but the prosecution speech that survived was lengthy, and there was enough meat in the case, I suspected, to warrant a book-length treatment. The case provides a vehicle for discussing not only the ancient sex trade and the complex goings-on in Neaira’s life, but also Athenian legal practices, which are fascinating in themselves.

3. Was there a certain measure of freedom in being a hetaira?

Well, certainly hetairai were free to do things that respectable Athenian women could not. Women in Athens were segregated to an extent, confined to the women’s quarters of the house when male company was present, for example. One sign that a woman was not respectable was that she hobnobbed with unrelated men. When we’re told by the prosecution that Neaira “ate and drank in the company of many men,” we know exactly what sort of a girl she was.

4. What was the public reason given for the trial?

The central question in Neaira’s trial was the nature of her relationship with Stephanos. The prosecutor charged that she had been living with Stephanos as his wife (rather than as a mistress). At the time, marriages between Athenian citizens and non-citizens were illegal.

5. What was the real reason? Was it brought to court more out of vindictiveness and hatred? Surely whether Neaira was a citizen or not, married or not could not have been the real reason for bringing her to court?

Apollodorus, the prosecutor, and Stephanos had a long history. Athens was a litigious society in general, and feuds very often played themselves out in the legal arena. Stephanos and Apollodorus had faced one another in court on a couple of occasions already by the time Neaira was dragged into the mess. Earlier in the 340s, Stephanos had prosecuted Apollodorus in connection with a decree he’d proposed in the assembly. Apollodorus lost the case and was penalized with a fine. A couple years later Stephanos accused Apollodorus of killing a woman. The details of the case are not clear: it’s possible, in fact, that there was no murder. Stephanos, at any rate, failed to convict Apollodorus on the charge. Perhaps he’d never expected to, and the case was just a means of harassing Apollodorus. We don’t know exactly what Stephanos was up to on these occasions, but his attacks appear to have been politically motivated, and it seems likely that he was attacking Apollodorus at the behest of the man’s political opponents. Apollodorus’ prosecution of Neaira, then, was motivated by revenge. He was–and the prosecution comes right out and tells the jury this–retaliating against Stephanos for the previous attacks. Neaira, who would suffer most if she lost the trial, was not the principal target of his ire. She was simply collateral damage in the ongoing feud.

6. How old was she when she was brought to trial?

Neaira was probably born in the early years of the fourth century. She was brought to trial in the late 340s, so she was probably between about 52 and 60 at the time.

7. Did she have to sit in court while the proceedings took place?

She would have been in court but as a woman she could not speak in her own defense. Female litigants had to be represented in court by a male. In this case, Stephanos spoke for Neaira.

8. How would such a trial be conducted?

Some trials in Athens might take a few hours. A trial like Neaira’s, however, would take an entire day, so maybe nine and a half hours in all. The day was divided into three equal parts–one for the prosecution, one for the defense, and one for the jury selection and casting of ballots. The jurors–there were 501 of them at her trial–were selected randomly by a complicated procedure that I describe in the book. There were court officers, men who would watch the water clocks that measured the length of the litigants’ speeches, others who would count the ballots when they were cast–but there was no presiding judge in the sense that we’re familiar with. No one was ruling out evidence, for example, on the grounds that it was not pertinent to the case. There was no summing up at the end or deliberation by the jury. The jurors heard the case and they voted as they pleased: they didn’t have to defend their decisions and could decide their vote according to whatever criteria they liked.

9. At that time it was common to torture slaves for evidence. Was there any time during the trial that she could have been tortured? Was that stopped due to the fact that she purchased herself?

Athenian slaves usually could not give evidence in court unless it was extracted under torture. However, they could be subjected to judicial torture only if both parties in the trial agreed to it. The litigant who wanted the slaves to testify would issue a challenge, either demanding that his opponent submit his slaves for torture or offering his own. The other party then had to agree to the process for it to take place, the two sides coming to an agreement about the conditions of the interrogation, for example, and what the result of the procedure would be. If they didn’t agree, the interrogation wouldn’t take place. Neaira was a freedwoman at this point in her life and so was not subject to torture. During the trial, however, Apollodorus challenged Stephanos to surrender four of her slaves for torture. Stephanos declined the challenge. Perhaps he didn’t want Neaira’s future to depend on the slaves’ testimony, or perhaps his refusal was prompted by feelings of affection: the slave women in question had been in Neaira’s service for at least thirty years by this time.

10. Tell us about Phano?

Phano was…well, that’s the question. She was the daughter of either Neaira or Stephanos or perhaps both. The prosecution in the case would like us to believe that she was Neaira’s daughter, and thus not an Athenian citizen. Stephanos had married her off–twice–to Athenian citizens, which would have been illegal if she weren’t a citizen. Apollodorus offers this as proof that Neaira and Stephanos were living as husband and wife. His argument is slippery, and he slings a lot of mud, and it’s impossible, 2500 years hence, to know what the truth was. It may have been equally hard for the jurors hearing Neaira’s case to figure out the truth of the matter.

11. How would a guilty verdict in this case have affected Nearia?

A document preserved in the prosecution speech, which may or may not be authentic, says that Neaira would be enslaved if she were found guilty. This is credible, whether the document is authentic or not.

12. How did you research this book?

There was nothing exotic about it, no travels to foreign locales for example, just a lot of forays into the stacks at Yale. Apart from a careful reading of the prosecution speech, it was a question of digging into current scholarly opinion on various issues. What’s interesting is that the process of writing Trying Neaira–which was published in 2003–was quite different from what I went through writing my next book, which was published in 2012. In the interim a lot of material had gone on the internet. It was much easier to find a lot of stuff, and to find information I probably wouldn’t have come across absent the internet.

13.Tell us something about your other books?

My first book was a scholarly monograph, a somewhat cleaned up version of my doctoral dissertation, entitled Athenian Generals: Military Authority in the Classical Period. In it I discuss the degree to which Athens’ generals exercised authority in the military sphere, and the means by which the Athenian demos–the sovereign people–maintained control over the generals. You can grab a copy on Amazon for a mere $142.00, it looks like. That was published in 1998. Neaira came out in 2003. And last year, 2012, Johns Hopkins University Press published my Reading Herodotus: A Guided Tour through the Wild Boars, Dancing Suitors, and Crazy Tyrants of The History. This is what I call in the introduction to the book a “good parts version” of Herodotus (the reference is to William Goldman’s The Princess Bride), a version of the History for the general reader who’s interested in the History but doesn’t want to slog through the boring bits to find out what it’s all about. It’s not a collection of translated passages: I retell the stories while providing the background information necessary for readers unfamiliar with Greek history. And I bring in a lot of relevant (or, at least, interesting) modern information–references to The Simpsons and Mark Twain and Tennessee Williams, for example. There’s a lot of great stuff in Herodotus: voyeurism and historically significant flatulence, medicinal urination, flying snakes, prophetic dreams, gold-digging ants–to say nothing of the Persian Wars themselves. It was a fun book to research and write.

I also experimented with self-publishing last year, using Amazon’s digital services. I published a booklet called The Mutilation of the Herms: Unpacking an Ancient Mystery. (It’s available for the Kindle and in paperback.) It’s about an event that occurred in Athens in 415 B.C., shortly before the Athenians launched their great (and ill-fated) expedition to Sicily: a bunch of statues throughout Athens were vandalized during the night. These were herms, statues of the Greek god Hermes with his head sitting atop a plinth and an erect phallus poking out the front. The damage was widespread and thus clearly an organized effort, and the business was taken very seriously by the Athenians. It led to an inquiry and the exile or execution of a number of men, and it arguably had a devastating effect on Athens’ prosecution of their war with Sparta. As with my Neaira and Herodotus books, The Mutilation of the Herms is written for a general audience. You don’t have to know anything about ancient history going in.

14. What is next for Debra Hamel?

I’m currently working on a book on the Battle of Arginusae, a naval battle that took place off the coast of modern Turkey in 406 B.C. It was Athens’ last victory of the Peloponnesian War. It was, in fact, a stunning victory: the Athenians had had to put a new fleet together in the face of an emergency. They managed to do so and manned the fleet with pretty much anyone they could find, going so far as to offer freedom to any slaves who enrolled for service as oarsmen. They sailed out, met the Spartan fleet, and managed to win–despite that at this point the Spartans were technically superior at sea. Losing the battle would almost certainly have meant total defeat for the Athenians, so this was a huge win. But–for reasons I’ll explain in the book–it turned into one of the worst disasters in Athens’ history….


debrahamelDebra Hamel is an American historian specializing in Ancient Greece.

Hamel was born in 1964 in New Haven, Connecticut.  She graduated from John Hopkins University in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in classics with departmental and general honors. Hamel studied at Yale University and graduated with an M.A. and M.Phil. in classical languages and literatures in 1993. She received her Ph.D. in 1996, with the dissertation Athenian Strategoi: The Extent and Exercise of Authority in the Military Sphere, 501/0-322/1 three years later. From 1998 to 2001 Hamel was Visiting Assistant Professor at Wesleyan University.

Debra Hamel’s main topics are Ancient Greek law and Greek military history.

Ruth Downie Blog Post

semperfidelisWas lucky enough to interview Ruth Downie of the Medicus Series.  Found a posting on her blog.  — Rob Cain


This weekend I’ve been chatting with the lovely Rob Cain from “Ancient Rome Refocused” via the miracle of Skype. Rob will be podcasting my ramblings at some point – if he can edit them into something sensible – but in the meantime something he said set me thinking. It was the very simple question:
Where do you write?

The answer to that was once, “The bedroom. When the children have gone to bed and Husband is downstairs watching TV, I turn on the computer, get the corkboard of out from under the bed so I’m sitting beside pictures of Roman sites, and get on with it.”
These days the ‘hobby’ has been promoted to ‘work’ and it gets a whole spare bedroom to itself. For some reason I assumed that as well as providing space for more bookshelves, this would also make me a more productive writer.

We’ve moved house a couple of times recently, and in the previous (temporary) house I wrote in a little room with a big view. A glance out of the window would allow me to keep an eye on the traffic and the occasional horse on the main road, and beyond that I could have written daily reports on the roaming of the local cattle, the extensive prowlings of a black cat, and the odd bit of excitement – a fox, deer, a runaway ball pursued down the hill by the clattering steps of a lad in football studs, or the arrival of another huge caravan to be eased round the tight corner down in the village. People used to ask, “How do you ever get anything written?” and I began to wonder myself. Were these happy distractions holding me back? Was my subconscious pining to offer me 3000 words a day while my outer self gazed out of the window?

Perhaps not. The new study/office/room is much more professional. Admittedly there’s a wardrobe, because it’s also the spare room, but it also has space for far more books. The perfectly pleasant view – a wall, a hedge, a flowerbed, the car – holds few distractions.


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: