Monday, October 11, 2021

After Action Report: September 2021 Remote Nova Britannia Chat

 September 27th, 2021, 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Participants: C. Claudius Quadratus

                     A. Tullia Scholastica

                     A. Iulius Paterculus (Host)

 Quadratus was the first to join the meeting an opened our discussion of Roman topics by mentioning that he had just started to re-read The First Man in Rome, as he tends to do once every ten years.

Quadratus also said that he was hoping to travel to Rome, but that there had been flight delays, which was not a good sign. In Rome itself, he had heard there were riots over Green Passes (the vaccine passport system in Italy).

We talked a little about the essay contest which had concluded the recent Ludi Romani. I agreed with Quadratus that the upper wordcount for these essays should probably have been higher and stated that I had hoped sharing the essays would have sparked some conversation on the Main List.

For instance, I said, I was strongly in agreement with the argument Quadratus had made in his essay that modern politicians should observe term restrictions as they had during the Roman Republic. I particularly thought that politicians should not have the ability to run for successive terms, since it resulted in time wasted in campaigning when they should be doing their jobs. Quadratus stated that the elections in Canada occurred with roughly five weeks’ notice, which reduced this problem somewhat. He also suggested a maximum age limit for politicians. I argued that if he was concerned about their mental state, it would be better to give competency exams and that the younger cohort probably would benefit by such screening just as much.

                Scholastica joined the call. She informed us that her Latin classes were very busy, as there were only two teachers in place of three. Scholastica also said that this particular group of students was more diverse than average, with students from Hong Kong, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Dar es Salaam, Wuhan, Iran, Italy, & the United States. Despite this, one student had such limited exposure to other cultures as to complain that the Spring and Winter breaks were not named after Easter and Christmas, which “everyone” celebrated, but Quinquatria and Saturnalia, which “no one” did.

                 Quadratus filled Scholastica in on his plans to re-read Colleen McCullough’s series. We all appreciated her work, Scholastica commenting that it had been comforting reading during a time of illness and was also handy for lifting as a weight! Quadratus said that the 100 page glossary in the back taught him more than a college class. I asked them what they thought of McCullough’s other work, saying I’d enjoyed The Thorn Birds but not The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet. Quadratus said that he hadn’t liked the other series of hers he had once started.

                Quadratus mentioned adopting a shy cat named “Biden” from the shelter. The shelter had named it and registered that name with the authorities when it was microchipped.  Friends and relatives of Quadratus, knowing his political bent, found it very funny.  Biden was a very nice cat and slowly getting used to his new surroundings.

                Quadratus stated that he was pausing his plans for a numismatic sodalitas, since there didn’t seem to be enough interest. Scholastica answered that there had not been much activity in the sodalitates in general, although one new member had joined Musarum the preceding day. I said that this could well be a friend to whom I had recommended the group.

                I said that building the sodalitates would take much time and effort, including a number of posts to encourage others to join in the conversation. I also said that it would be nice to have a sodalitas devoted to philosophy, and that it was rather surprising we didn’t already have one.

                Scholastica said we already had one, albeit an unofficial one, headed by Cassius.  She added that there was not much interest in the subject, quoting a similar observation by the satirist Juvenal. I disagreed, citing the ongoing Stoic renaissance, including multiple in-person groups in Connecticut in recent years and, within Nova Roma, a citizen who used to blog passages from Seneca. Scholastica recalled similar posts on the Main List once, but no longer.

                Scholastica said that that she and Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus had different approaches to contacting prospective members. Scholastica added that the probationary period and citizenship test had been reinstated effective September 1st.

                Quadratus questioned whether these restrictions would really benefit recruitment, but Scholastica countered that many people applied for citizenship for reasons other than a love of Rome, such as an ambition to immigrate to the land we once owned in Texas.

                The discussion turned to animal sacrifice: Scholastica said that the thought of killing an animal to please a deity disturbed her, even if said animal was also eaten, but also that it didn’t much affect her since she was not a cultrix. Quadratus said that this practice was a deal-breaker for him, and that he had banned it is his province of Canada. I was in favour of animal sacrifice, and stated that if an animal was to be slaughtered anyway, having an additional purpose in doing so couldn’t do any harm, even if one didn’t credit the intended benefit. However, my main emphasis was the hope that cultores who did and did not engage in this practice could tolerate one another without denigrating or trying to stop one another’s acts of worship.

                Quadratus brought up that the U.S./Canada was still sealed for quarantine. This brought up discussion of the Antonine Plague and the plague of Athens. Scholastica pointed out that the plague of Athens was aggravated by Spartans whose siege crowded Athenians into their city and who tossed bodies over the walls. Quadratus also recalled food shortages which contributed to vulnerability to disease. I expressed surprise that catapults had already been invented in Classical Greece.

                I asked whether there was much activity in Canada or Mediatlantica. Quadratus said there was none in Canada, as he had little interest from local citizens and was happier to attend than organize in any case – though in-person was better than virtual.

                I asked whether they might come down to Connecticut. Quadratus confirmed that he would, possibly as soon a November. Scholastica said that she could not engage in such long-term driving at present, due to recent injuries.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

After Action Report: August 2021 Remote Nova Britannia Chat

August 23, 2021, 5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Participants: Gaius Claudius Quadratus
                       Aula Tullia Scholastica
                       Aulus Iulius Paterculus (Host)
   Once everyone had convened, there was some small talk, particularly about Hurricane Henri, which we suspected of having prevented at least,one additional person from joining us.
   Quadratus started off the Roman discussion with a review of the Arx Mercatura online store. He warned that the goods which they sold took an unreasonably long time to arrive, and in some cases were not even fabricated until they had been sold. He did say that the finished items were of fine quality, however, and showed us an acerra and lararium he had purchased from them in the past.
   Scholastica reported on the status of the election for Nova Roma's Board of Directors. She also reported having received an update on the castrum project undertaken by D. Marcius Vulpes in Maine.
   I asked whether anyone had recently done any interesting research. Quadratus answered that, while he had not recently done much research on Rome, he had done some on World War II. Quadratus summarized an insight or two from this reading, including the conclusion that most Germans were aware of the extent of Nazi atrocities before the end of the war.
   Scholastica stated that two sodalitates were up and running, while another two waited only for new pictures to be added to their front pages. Quadratus asked what would be necessary to form a Sodalitas Numismaticae - Scholastica referred him to the Lex Cassia de creatione sodalitatumbut summarized that a set of internal rules and a method of selecting leaders was needed.
   Scholastica commented on the fact that Quadratus had been instructed to learn a set of Latin texts as part of his augural duties, and offered help in studying if needed. Quadratus stated that his Latin skills should be up to the task, as he had translated the Res Gestae alone, but that he was still waiting to receive the texts in question.

Monday, June 21, 2021

A Hymn to Sol

Sol, Sol, Sol Indiges,
though nightly you concede
the world to holy darkness
Each morning you advance
once more past the horizon:
renewed and never conquered.

From your vantage point far at the apex
shadows shrink from sight
as your gaze illuminates
all that the skies cover.

You take the middle path,
though steering unruly horses,
not veering to cold distance
nor fiery closeness,
and daily you retreat
at just the proper time:
(clocks are set by you).

But each morning you advance
once more past the horizon:
renewed and never conquered.
Sol Indiges, Sol, Sol.

Monday, May 31, 2021

After Action Report: Remote Nova Britannia Chat

May 24, 2021, 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Participants: Marcus Quintius Clavus (Host)

                     Aula Tullia Scholastica

                     Aulus Iulius Paterculus

   Once all of us had succeeded in joining the call, the conversation started, mainly on personal topics.at first. Scholastica told us about some of the things which were keeping her busy, including the ongoing Senate session and the conclusion of her current Latin class.

   Scholastica pointed out that her students were getting a college-level education for free, and that the curriculum had been designed by the renowned Latinist Avitus, who was now adding to his impressive collection of languages by taking Sumerian, Akkadian, & Hittite as part of a Master's degree in ancient Middle Eastern studies.

   Quinius commented that Akkadian was the diplomatic language of the Bronze Age.

   I asked whether Sumerian was language of the Epic of Gilgamesh; Quintius confirmed that the earliest of several versions was in Sumerian. Quintius recalled having heard a man reading his own translation of the Babylonian version one day at the Worchester Art Museum.

   Scholastica asked whether Quintius was doing any re-enacting. Yes, even in 2020, he replied. Quintius also mentioned seeing some Medieval re-enactors at Fort 4.

   Scholastica said it seemed re-enactment was in decline, with the discontinuation of Roman Days being a prime example. Quintius pointed out that this was partly due to venue issues and that Legio XX had been focusing more on activities with the Virginia Junior Classical League. Quintius & Andy of Legio III had each submitted videos for the Virginia Junior Classical League's last meeting, which took place remotely.

   Scholastica remembered the Conventus in Rome, with Lentulus acting as a tour guide. Scholastica herself had provided translations of the inscriptions beneath some statues of Vestals for the benefit of some other attendees.

   Quintius then shared with us a book that he'd been reading, The Last Assassin by Peter Stothard. It was a nonfiction account of the hunt for the last of the

conspirators who had joined in the murder of Julius Caesar. Quintius was enjoying it up to that point, and said that it had a more journalistic than scholarly approach to the topic.

   Scholastica asked whether it was true that Julius Caesar's assassins had stabbed him with their styli because weapons were forbidden in the Senate House. Quintius answered that he was certain Julius Caesar had defended himself with his stylus, as he had no other weapon.

   Scholastica asked whether we knew the origins of the word "assassin" - "hashish". I pointed out that the Spanish version of the word was "sicario", which as Quintius recalled was from the Roman dagger sometimes used by gladiators.

   I asked what kind of gladiator used the sicarius, and Quintius replied that it was often the Thracian. Quintius shared that he had recently purchased a Hellenistic gladiator's helmet, as well as a Roman cup from The Ancient Home. He was going use these as part of a display when he showed a Hellenistic civilian re-enactment on which he was working.

   We talked a little about the evolution of pottery during the Hellenistic Period. Quintius said that it became popular for the wealthy to dine off precious metal and that clay was sculpted rather than painted (as in Classical Greece) partly in imitation of sculpted metalware.

   The meeting had to come to an end, but we all agreed we should try to arrange another soon.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Book Review: Saturnalia: A Tale of Wickedness and Redemption in Ancient Rome by Adam Alexander Haviaras

    Saturnalia: A Tale of Wickedness and Redemption in Ancient Rome is a fairly straightforward adaption of Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol from Victorian London to Imperial Rome. There will be few surprises here for those who have read the original story or witnessed any of the myriad stage or film versions, but that isn't necessarily a flaw: knowing the eventual outcome of the story can sometimes enhance drama rather than undercut it.

   As historical fiction, this novel is a mixed success. The author succeeds in portraying the spirit of the time in question (during the Severan Dynasty), and gets a variety of details right (portraying the diversity of Rome at the time, for instance). There may also be a few minor mistakes. The single most noticeable example is a detail concerning the ritus Graecus given correctly in an earlier chapter and then incorrectly in a later one. There is a glossary of Latin terms in the back which may be helpful to some, particularly as there are a few Latin words used which would normally have been translated (i.e. "cerei" instead of "candles").

  As a morality tale, the story is markedly more successful. The author very effectively sets up the greed and callousness of the main character early on (going significantly further than did Dickens: Scrooge was only a serious source of distress to his employees, so far as I can recall, while Catus Pompilius seems at times to be a menace to the entire Eternal City), and his change of heart comes gradually enough to be at least partly believable. One interesting thing about this book is how pious it is: reverence for the gods is repeatedly put hand with generosity, familial affection, enjoyment of life, and the other virtues promoted by the text, and it is the gods themselves who intervene to show the main character the error of his ways.

   Overall, this book is worth reading. It may even leave you feeling the urge to practice a bit more kindness and generosity in your own life.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

After Action Report: Remote Saturnalia

 Sunday, December 20th, 2020

Participants: Marcus Quintius Clavus (Host)
                     Gaius Claudius Quadratus
                     Aulus Iulius Paterculus
    The meeting started with a few technical difficulties, as I was unable to join the meeting by phone and had to communicate with the other participants by text chat.
    Once it had been established that was how the conversation would proceed, the conversation began with a discussion of the activities of Legio III Cyrenaica, which were at that time being shown on Facebook. Quadratus lamented that no such re-enactment groups were active near Montreal, and he an Quintius discussed whether Quadratus might join some of Legio III's activities in his augural garb. Quintius stated that, unlike some other re-enactment groups, Legio III was very open to those who wanted to portray civilian roles, and both confirmed that it would make sense for an augur dressed in his civilian religious garb to accompany a legion, either to take auspices
before battle or to participate in a parade. Quintius mentioned one past event held by Legio III at which a sacrifice to the gods had opened the day's presentations.
    Speaking of augury, Quadratus brought up the ongoing conjunction of Saturn with Jupiter, which he held to be a very favourable omen, particularly since its most dramatic manifestation would take place during Saturnalia and the Solstice. He stated that this should be visible on the night of the 21st by looking West just after sunset, and that the two planets should appear to be a single object in the sky, except perhaps to someone using binoculars or who already knew them to be two planets and looked very carefully. Quintius commented that light pollution would likely make this impossible for him to spot, and I concurred, saying that we had been told that the Northern Lights would be visible in the state of Connecticut earlier in the year, but had been foiled in spotting them by all the terrestrial lights. Both Quintius and Quadratus recalled past sightings of the aurora borealis, which for Quadratus had been quite frequent and spectacular, as he had lived even farther North at a time when sunspot activity was at a peak.
    Quadratus then redirected the topic to dates, pointing out that many people who should know better - including authors of history books and museum curators - failed to measure the time between B.C. and A.D. dates correctly. Instead of simply adding the dates together, it was necessary to subtract one year to account for the fact that
there was no year zero.
   There was a brief discussion of the suggestion to form a study group in the new year. I asked what topic we should study, and it was agreed that a list of proposals should be sent to the forum to see what garnered the most interest.
   Quadratus and Quintius then moved on to a discussion of Numismatics. Both were collectors of ancient coins. Quadratus showed off two art pieces he had created with ancient coins in poor condition, while Quintius described a coin in his possession which showed an unidentified emperor, including his upper torso (whereas most coins showed the emperor only from the neck up). Quintius agreed to send a picture of this coin to Quadratus by email for a second opinion. We all speculated on the reasons fewer bronze coins had survived to the modern day from Roman times than silver ones.
   This lead to mention by Quintius of the fact that coins containing copper had been located at the site of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, and a discussion of the early shifting of blame by several senators near the time of that event from Varus to the common soldiers, something which Quintius blamed partly on the close relationship Varus had with the imperial family.
  Shortly thereafter, we all signed off, with a "Io Saturnalia!" from each of us and a resolution to hold another such meeting before too long.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Nova Britannia Facebook Page

Cassius has created a Facebook page for Nova Britannia, accessible at https://www.facebook.com/novabritannia.org/. Those who are active on that site may want to take a look.