Saturday, 17 December 2011

[Net : članak] Io Saturnalia !

Today marks the start of Saturnalia, an ancient Roman festival in honor of the god Saturnus. One of the most popular Roman festivals, it was marked by tomfoolery, mayhem, merriment and the reversal of social roles, in which slaves and masters switched places (much like the Lord of Misrule in medieval celebrations).

Saturnalia was introduced around 217 BCE to raise morale after a crushing military defeat at the hands of the Carthaginians. Originally celebrated for a day on December 17th, its popularity saw it grow until it became a week-long extravaganza, ending on the 23rd. Efforts to shorten the celebration were unsuccessful – Augustus tried to reduce it to three days and Caligula to five (Party poopers! How did they get the reputation of being hell-raisers?), but these attempts caused uproar and revolt among the Roman citizens.

Saturnalia involved the conventional sacrifices, a couch (lectisternium) set out in front of the temple of Saturnus and the untying of the ropes that bound the statue of Saturnus during the rest of the year. A Saturnalicius princeps was elected master of ceremonies for the proceedings and, besides the public rites, there were a series of holidays and customs celebrated privately – including a school holiday, the making and giving of small presents (saturnalia et sigillaricia) and a special market (sigillaria). And gambling was allowed for all, even slaves.

Saturnalia was a time to eat, drink and be merry. The toga was not worn, but rather colorful and informal ‘dinner clothes’ and the pileus (a freedman’s hat, close-fitting and brimless like a fez) was worn by everyone. Slaves were exempt from punishment and treated their masters with (a pretense of) disrespect, celebrating a banquet before, with, or served by the masters. Yet the reversal of the social order was mostly superficial – the banquet would often be prepared by the slaves and they would prepare their masters’ dinner as well. It was license within careful boundaries, reversing the social order without subverting it.

The customary greeting for the occasion is a “Io, Saturnalia!” — Io (pronounced “e-o”) being a Latin interjection related to “ho” (as in “Ho, praise to Saturn”).

Saturnus was the Roman god of agriculture and harvest whose reign was described as a Golden Age of abundance and peace by many authors. In medieval times, he was known as the Roman god of dance, agriculture, justice and strength, often portayed holding a sickle or scythe in one hand and a bundle of wheat in the other. Saturnus is sometimes identified with the Greek Cronus, the god of Time (hence chronological, chronic, &c.) who famously ate his children. Fear not, the children were later regurgitated intact through the intervention of their mother and went on to become the gods of Olympus! A gruesome tale, yet viewed metaphorically it can be seen as a simple moral – that Time eats everything in the end.

Saturday is sacred to Saturnus.

Io Saturnalia!


Friday, 9 December 2011

[Net : članak] A Curse on You Plotius

The Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum curates fragments related to five lead curse tablets from ancient Rome. One of these tablets (JHUAM 2011.01) was recently conserved and placed on view, along with the original iron nail (JHUAM 2011.06) associated with it.

Objects such as this one are evidence of a common practice in Greek and Roman antiquity to scratch curses onto tablets which were then deposited in wells or graves. While the earliest tablets only contained the name of the person to be cursed, later examples grew more elaborate, such as this example. Curses could be
inscribed on basically anything, ranging from pottery sherds to gemstones, though lead is the most common material used for this purpose.

A recently conserved 2,000-year-old Roman curse tablet, spells out an anonymous plea for the grizzly demise of a slave named Plotius. It is one of five tablets that have been part of the university’s collection since 1908, when graduate student William Sherwood Fox began the painstaking process of studying and deciphering the lead tablets.

The transcript of the curse leaves nothing to chance in attempting to ensure that the slave Plotius will not enjoy his last few days!

“Good and beautiful Proserpina, wife of Pluto, or Salvia, if you prefer that I call you so, snatch away the health, the body, the complexion, the strength, and the faculties of Plotius.
Hand him over to Pluto, your husband. May he not be able to escape this (curse) by his wits. Hand him over to fevers—quartan, tertian, and daily—so that they wrestle and struggle with him.
Let them overcome him to the point where they snatch away his soul.
Thus I give over to you this victim, O Proserpina or Acherusia if you prefer that I call you so.
Summon for me the triple headed hound to snatch away the heart of Plotius. Promise that you will give him three victims (gifts)—dates, figs, and a black pig—if he completes this before the month of March. These I will offer you, Proserpina Salvia, when you complete this in an orderly fashion.
I give over to you the head of Plotius, the slave/son of Avonia. Proserpina Salvia, I give over to you the head of Plotius. Proserpina Salvia, I give over to you the forehead of Plotius. Proserpina Salvia, I give over to you the eyebrows of Plotius.
Proserpina Salvia, I give over to you the eyelids of Plotius. Proserpina Salvia, I give over to you the pupils of Plotius.
Proserpina Salvia, I give over to you the nostrils, lips, ears, nose, tongue, and teeth of Plotius, so that he may not be able to say what is causing him pain; the neck, shoulders, arms, and fingers, so that he may not be able to aid himself in any way; his breast, liver, heart,and lungs, so that he may not be able to discover the source of his pain; his intestines, stomach, navel, and sides, so that he may not be able to sleep; his shoulder blades, so that he may not be able to sleep soundly; his “sacred organ” so that he may not be able to urinate; his rump, anus, thighs, knees, shanks, shins, feet, ankles, heels, toes, and toenails, so that he may not be able to stand by his own strength.
No matter what he may have written, great or small, just as he has written a proper spell and commissioned it (against me), so I hand over and consign Plotius to you, so that you may take care of him by the month of February. Let him perish miserably. Let him leave life miserably. Let him be destroyed miserably.

Take care of him so that he may not see another month.”

Plotius’s curse “was found rolled together with four others and pierced through by an iron nail,” according to Elisabeth Schwinge, a graduate student in the interdepartmental program in Classical Art and Archaeology, which is based in the Krieger School’s Classics Department. “The Latin name for a curse is defixio which means ‘to pin down.’” The individual tablets are stand-ins for the cursed people, with the nail symbolizing their pinning-down, Schwinge said.

No one knows what Plotius did to invite someone to implore the gods to summon “the triple headed hound to snatch away [his] heart,” or to plague him with fevers so intense that they “overcome him to the point where they snatch away his soul.” And no one knows who placed the curse on poor Plotius – while the cursed person had to be identified very carefully, the identity of the person placing the curse was just as carefully concealed out of fear of retribution.  But Plotius’ curse is now visible, in part due to the recent conservation work of the tablet by Sanchita Balachandran, the museum’s curator.

Source: press release from Johns Hopkins University
from :

Thursday, 8 December 2011

[Net : stari snimci] The Pyramids at Giza circa 1920's

A silent black & white film sequence of the pyramids and Sphinx at Giza, Egypt from award-winning amateur filmmaker John V. Hansen's travel footage, c. 1926-1930. The Pyramids at Giza are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are the only site from the "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World" list that are still in existence, and are an Honorary Candidate of the "New Seven Wonders of the World." The film clip is from the Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution collection of historical moving images.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...