Sarcophagus Fragment, Roman, ca. 240-250 CE, The Art Institute of Chicago

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rare statue of Roman Emperor found

It's always cool when new discoveries come to light, even if the circumstances are less than ideal. Illegal smuggling of antiquities is an ongoing problem which I have touched based on before. Luckily, these artifacts where saved before being sold on the black market. We can only hope the increased pressure on the smugglers will eventually put an end to this destructive criminal activity.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Last Parthenon marbles threatened by pollution: archaeologist;_ylt=Aovi0cDV8FHIvvvMTuHYQWpFeQoB

I lieu of my last post, this comes as no surprise. Greece has long history of letting it's monuments be eaten away by pollution. The new Acropolis Museum just opened, though Athens has been under a cloud of smog for decades. Acid rain destroys marble, as we have seen in Athens, Rome and abroad. I am glad that Greece is finally attempting to take care of its monuments, but it is a shame that so much is left out in the open, slowly disintegrating.

Archaeologists warn ancient Greek theatres crumbling

This just makes me so mad! Though I understand the complexities of running a country, it's sad that so much history is eroding away. How can Greece afford to maintain over 100 theaters? I don't have the answer to that question. All I know is that an answers must be found before it's too late. None of us "own" these historical sites. We merely are caretakers with the responsibility to maintain these sites for future generations. Hey Greece, find the money and make it happen!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ancient statue discovered in Rome

News like this always makes me happy. I only wish that articles like this would print a freaking picture! I know it's not as simple as that, but come on guys. People want to see what you've found. Sculpture is best appreciated if you can see it! Anyway, that gives me a good lead in to a topic I've been wanting to mention. I love books, and I'm sure most people who love Classics love books as well. I have a large and ever growing collection of books on all things Greek and Roman. I have my share of Tacitus, Cicero, Plato, Pliny and so on. But I have another category of books witch sometimes brings me to blush. I love what I call, Sunday morning coffee books. These are large format coffee table books, full of glossy pictures. Books like this are the porn of the Classics world. They have limited if sometimes dubious historical information, but the pictures are outstanding. I call them Sunday morning coffee books for reasons you can guess. I look forward all week to the time spent with my Sunday morning coffee books. It's a time where I can look as some glossy pictures of Pompeii fresco or the Colosseum and just day dream. Some people may laugh at me for spending money on these "bargain rack" books when there are plenty of "legitimate" books out there to be had, but I don't care. My Sunday morning coffee books are like a little escape for me. When I look out my window I see Milwaukee, not Rome or Athens, so it's nice to change the view sometimes, if just for a morning.

Artifacts desappear from Rome sites

It's fitting that this article came to my attention, seeing as how my last blog talked about protecting sites in Rome. This article absolutely blows my mind. How can people be so short sited to rob the world of it's history one pottery shard at a time? I'm sure people think that by taking a little pebble from the Forum or what have you makes no difference, but when you multiply that by millions of tourists with the same attitude, you've got big problems. Rome recently announced that it will start charging admission to the Forum Romanum, and I say more power to them. Sites like that need some sort of control, or greedy "turisti" will pick the place clean. I'm not saying that we should turn every historical site into a Carabinieri fortress, but some measures, though inconvenient to tourists, are need to preserved history for everyone. I think a lot of the worlds problems would be solved if people stopped thinking so much about themselves and considered how their actions effect the big picture.

Circus Maximus redux

I applaud the Italian's effort to bring the Circus Maximus back to life, but I question their motives. Rome is over run with ancient ruins that no one can afford to maintain. I would love to see new digs and restoration at the Circus Maximus, but before that happends, Italy needs to put in place some new policy regarding the treatment of it's history. Italy has done a good job in the past when trying to preserve it's ancient cites, but money is always a problem. You can't really blame the Italian government though, because Italy is plastered with ancient sites that need protection, at a very hight cost. I hope the new efforts at the Circus go well, and hopefully they uncover new and exciting archaeological finds, and who knows, maybe the PR surrounding the Circus restorations will generate new public interest in maintaining Italy's history.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Greece to Britain: Hand over artwork

Not bloody likely! This is an issue that has been around for quiet a while and is not going away any time soon. The issue of provenance is a touchy subject in the antiquities world at best. The dealings in allegedly stolen artifacts has plagued many museums and collectors is this county and abroad, and the problem, though diminishing, seems to be here to stay. That said, the Elgin Marbles present a different case. We know where they came from, when they where taken and who took them. The Elgin Marbles are not a few red figure vases dug up in some field and smuggle out of the county, they are part of the most famous and visible symbol of Greece, the Parthenon. Greece wants them back, and who can blame them. But, Britain says it acquired them fair and square, which it did. Here is where is starts to get complicated. To make a long story short, I don't believe that we will see the Elgin Marbles returned to Greece in the foreseeable future. And maybe they shouldn't. Just because a modern state happens to occupy an ancient land, does that give the right of ownership to that ancient culture's legacy? It's a very touchy subject and I'm not exactly sure where I stand. The modern state of Greece is not ancient Greece. "Ancient Greece" didn't even exist. It was a collection of city states that had numerous and ever changing alliances with each other. Does the modern Greece get to lay claim to all artifacts found withing it's present borders? Do Athenian and Spartan and Cypriot artifacts all get to be claimed by "Greece?" If so, Britain has the right to keep the Elgin Marbles, for once upon a time England was part of the Roman Empire, as was Greece. They were all part of the same "country" back then, so why shouldn't Greek artifacts reside in Britain? I know that's flawed logic, but you see my point. When we try to "own" history, someone is always left out. Greece wants the Elgin Marbles back as a matter of pride, Britain wants to keep them as a matter of stubbornness. In the end, we are arguing over the very thing we should be sharing with each other, our vast and wonderful history.