ricardienne: (christine)
I'm reading Vicky Alvear Shechter's CLeopatra's Moon, yet another YA novel about Cleopatra Selene (daughter of THE Cleopatra), because we aren't ever going to get *good* Roman-world YA novels unless people demonstrate that they read even the terrible ones. (No, I am not really deluded into thinking that my library account does anything in this regard.)

It's really bad, though. There was a really awful scene where the main character goes to a synagogue in Alexandria and debates a Rabbi (nb it's clear Shecter has forgotten that Judaism was a sacrifice-religion at this point.) about free will and the role of women in the Edenic fall, and ZOMG totally stumps him wow!1!. And just. You know, if this guy supposedly hangs out with the scholars in the Library of Alexandria, I'm thinking he would be able to explain the philosophical principles of his religion to an 8-year-old.

Of course, Cleopatra's Greek tutor appears not to have read Homer, let alone be aware of, oh I don't know, the philosophical and scholarly work that was the WHOLE POINT OF THE LIBRARY, so maybe it isn't strange that Mr Rabbi has gotten complacent.
"And what does our Greek heritage say?" Euphronius asked us.
"That we cannot outrun our fates," I answered. "Hubris, the great crime against the gods, was thinking that we could. And hubris took down even the best of men, like Achilles and Oedipus." (p. 30)

"Now, Euphronius continued, "how can Achilles' great rage be the fulfillment of the will of Zeus?"
"Because everything that happens, even bad things, must be the will of the gods, otherwise they would not happen," Alexandros said after our tutor called on him.
"Yes."
...
"Euphronius turned to me. "And what happens when humans try to escape their fates?"
"They either end up dead like Achilles or blind like Oedipus," said Euginia.
"Yes. Now let us look a little closer at what we really mean by hubris...," Euphorion continued. (p. 36-7)


I mean, I know that it's probably not fair to expect a YA novel to represent the past at this level of detail, but I will point out that we do actually know a lot about the standard schoolroom exegesis of Homer in antiquity! A correct answer to the first question, as it happens, would be "Because, as the Cypria tells us, the Trojan War was Zeus's plan for ridding the world of surplus population, and the death among the Greeks caused by Achilles' quarrel with Agamemnon served that plan." (I'm not saying that it's a particularly brilliant interpretation, but that's ancient primary school for you!)

But I really object this claim that's she's had them make twice, Achilles' death is somehow caused by his attempt to circumvent fate and that this demonstrates that mortals have no free will (apart from the fact that being punished for attempting to oppose the will of the gods kind of *does* imply free will. But let's ignore that for now). Um, have you read the Iliad, Vicky Shecter? You know that part where Thetis tells Achilles that he has two possible fates: to go home and live a long life in Phthia without glory, or to die young in battle and win kleos aphthiton? I suppose you could make the argument that Patroclus dies as punishment for Achilles' contemplation of the former choice. But ultimately, Achilles very definitely chooses the latter. And he dies in battle, through some fairly dodgy divine machinations, but in no way as the result of having "tried to escape his fate".

And I'm not even going to rant about this bizarre, reductive, and completely wrong definition of hubris. ARGH ARGH ARGH PEOPLE ARE BEING WRONG ABOUT THINGS I KNOW THINGS ABOUT.
ricardienne: (york)
During the long domination of the patron–client model and the associated “prosopographical school” of Republican history, analysis in terms of “ops-and-pops” was highly unfashionable, and apt to be dismissed as the residue of a nineteenth-century supposition that the ancient Republic functioned rather like a modern parliamentary system. (R. Morstein-Marx, Mass Oratory and Political Power in the Late Roman Republic, (Cambridge, 2004) p. 205)

Ahhhhhhh NOPE. Extensive googling/jstoring, etc. shows that the only people to use this particular short-hand are Morstein-Marx here, and some random crank commentator on an article about the Euro-zone from a couple years ago (and who is definitely *not* M-M because his grasp of Roman political history was pretty terrible.) Of course, it could be an oral tradition.

If I had a tumblr, this is where I would post a Mean Girls "Stop trying to make Ops and Pops happen" macro.
ricardienne: (york)
It's just the Greek word for 'fanfiction', right? Here are some excerpts from Robin Lane Fox's 2010 article, "Thucydides and Documentary History" (Classical Quarterly 60.1 11–29), which is mostly speculation about the sources of the treaties in Thucydides, and, sadly for me, very little about what Thucydides is *doing* with them when he sticks them verbatim into his history. But it's very entertaining:Thucydides fanfiction, basically )
ricardienne: (tacitus)
I stayed late ostensibly to finish rewriting a section, but while I was doing word searches, I got distracted by Pliny (the Younger).

This one is kind of bizarre (and totally irrelevant to what I'm working on, but whatever):


(Ep. 1.21) Dear Plinius Paternus
Just as I honor your mental discernment, so do I your visual -- not because you have so much good taste (don't get conceited!) but because you have exactly as much as I do (although this is no small amount!). Joking aside, I think the slaves I bought on your recommendation are quite suitable. It remains to be seen that they are reliable, which in chattel one judges more with the ears than with the eyes.
Best,
Gaius Plinius


What's interesting to me is the eyes/ears joke (?) at the end, because it's so reverse historiographical. *Everyone* knows that the eyes are more reliable than the ears, usually. I mean, I guess it's just "character > appearance" with excessive learned wit, but I want it to be something more... (Pliny is obsessed with historiography). Also, I think that Pliny would have been all over emoticons, if they had been available to him.
ricardienne: (tacitus)
One of the problems with fantasy novels is that when you use magic for things like, say, encoding secret messages so that they look innocuous to anyone but their intended recipient, you take a lot of the potential fun out of it. Here are just three of the many examples of ways to send secret messages provided by Aeneas Tacticus (c. 4th/3rd century BCE?):

Send a man bearing a message or a letter about something unconcealed. When he is getting ready to set out, secretly put a message inside the soles of his sandals and sew them back up. (In case of mud or water, you should engrave it lightly on tin to provide against the letters vanishing because of the wet). When he arrives at the appropriate person and has gone to sleep, the recipient undoes the seams of his sandals, takes out the letter and reads it, writes another secretly while he is still sleeping, and, sewing it back up, sends the man back either to report or with another unconcealed letter. This way, no one else, and not even the bearer himself, will know. But you must make the stitching on the sandels as invisible as possible.

A letter was brought to Ephesus in the following manner. A man was sent with a letter written on leaves, and the leaves were bound into a poultice upon a wound on his leg.

A letter could also be sent via a woman's ears, if, instead of earings, she wore thin lead plates rolled up.
Aeneas Tacticus, "How to Survive A Siege", 31.4-7.
ricardienne: (york)
I'm working with a book by a 20th century Norwegian scholar named "Eiliv Skard." Awesome name or awesomest name? I feel like he should be a guest character on Deep Space Nine or something. (In fact, he was he was also a resistance fighter during WW2 and survived three concentration camps; he wrote on Latin literature, Roman history, Greek history, European philosophy, and a bunch of other stuff (as far as I can decipher the Norwegian titles) and was writing against Fascism in the 20's. Those scholars back in the good old days, right?) And then I got distracted and started to read all about the Norwegian Language Struggle.
In 1911, the writer Gabriel Scott's comedic play Tower of Babel had its premiere in Oslo. It is about a small town in eastern Norway that is overtaken by proponents of landsmål who take to executing all those who resist their language. The play culminates in the landsmål proponents killing each other over what to call their country: Noregr, Thule, Ultima, Ny-Norig, or Nyrig. The last line is spoken by a country peasant who, seeing the carnage, says: "Good thing I didn't take part in this!"

There was at least one brawl in the audience during the play's run, and the stage was set for a linguistic schism that would characterize Norwegian politics to this day.


YESSssss.
ricardienne: (christine)
You guys. I am the worst. I was so disdainful of Troubled Waters when we read it for the Sheroes Bookclub. AND I have tons of work to do. So why am I reading the sequel? Here is a choice excerpt from the first few pages (I don't think there is anything remotely spoilerish in it):
"Trouble came with some regularity to this little bar, which was situated solidly inside the crowded, noisome slum district of the city of Chialto. But it was actually one of the more respectable establishments, given its location just south of the Cinque, the five-sided boulevard that made an inner loop around the city. Traders' sons and merchants' wives felt safe enough to come here for a night of excitement that might include high-stakes gambling, high-proof liquor, illegal drugs, and companionship that could be purchased." (p. 2)


This just strikes me as poorly expressed: first, we find out that this is dangerous bar in the middle of the slum district (OMTS: noisome and crowded); but then it turns out that it's actually pretty tame and attracts a bougie clientele! (Regular trouble is just all part of the thrills of high-proof liquor and ~companionship that can be purchased~, amirite? The closing euphemism is just perfect and really gives the line that pseudo-gritty Tamora Pierceian ring...) It took me a good couple minutes before I realized that the Cinque must be a boulevard that makes a five-sided loop and not a five-sided boulevard. I'm still trying to picture a street with five sides instead of two, though! (Similarly, "felt safe enough here to come" would get at the sense with less ambiguity than "felt safe enough to come here.")

ALso: "Zoe...could hardly bring herself to spend a quint-gold, remembering the long poverty-stricken days in exile." (p. 57) Hahaha -- did we read the same version of Troubled Waters?
ricardienne: (york)
Things I read over the last couple of days:

"Bitterly opposed as I am to anthologizing in general -- it is not only the history of the declining Roman Empire that teaches us how the epitomizers and anthologists move in not more than a century before the barbarian hordes -- I would make an exception of Seneca's prose works."-- C.J. Herington, "Senecan Tragedy"Arion 5.4 (1966), p. 433

"In AD 41, the year of his father's death and the first of Claudius' reign, he was exiled to Corsica for committing adultery with the Emperor's niece Julia. He spent his time there in philosophical reflection and writing, which is about all you can do on the island." Henry and Walker, G&R, 1963, p. 99.

"This is contemptuous in tone...but it is a reference of a kind so common in Tacitus that we may attribute it here largely to absent-minded malice" -- iidem, p. 101

"few would react with ready speech when woken in the middle of the night and told by an ex-pupil that he has failed to murder his mother and wants to have another try." --iidem (103)

"This reads as though Tacitus, feeling compelled to allow Seneca a proper appearance, had in the event been defeated by boredom. Stale similes, stale and conventional phrasing make Seneca's last attempt to escape the mesh a matter of indifference to writer and reader alike." --iidem (105 n. 1)

(on Tacitus on Seneca) "His sympathetic understanding reveals something of his own personality and ideals -- in short, the man of letters who serves the 'res public' to the best of his ability, without illusions and with little hope." (Syme, Tacitus, p. 582)

This is a nifty quote about the effect of reading history on the reader, and I can't believe I never came across it before!
Anger must be escaped with learned instructions; that is, the conscious fault of the mind, not the sort that occurs by some condition of human existence and therefore happens even to the wisest; chief among this sort of thing is that blow to the mind which moves us after becoming conscious of an injury. [3] This happens even at staged plays and while reading history. Often, we seem to get angry at Clodius when he is exiling Cicero and at Antony when he is killing him. Who is not stirred up against Marius's arms, against Sulla's Proscriptions? Who is not enraged at Theodotus and Achillas and 'that boy who dared no boyish crime'? [4] Sometimes even song incites us, and a stirring tune or the martial sound of the trumpet; the mind is disturbed by horrifying paintings and grim sight of even the most just executions. [5] This is why we smile at those who laugh and a crowd of mourners make us sad and we blow our tops at others' contests. This is not anger, no more than it is sorrow that makes us frown at the sight of an imitation shipwreck, no more than it is fear which runs through the minds of readers when Hannibal is besieging the walls after Cannae: rather, all of these are movements of minds that move not of their own volition: not emotions, but the first preludes of emotions. [6] So a veteran's ears, even when he is a civilian during peacetime, are sometimes aroused by the trumpet, and the clank of weapons stirs up army horses. They say that Alexander put his hand to his weapon while Xenophantes was reciting. (Seneca, De Ira, 2.2.2-6)

(NOTES: Theodotus and Achillas and that boy...: Ptolemy XII and his two advisers, who murdered Pompeius Magnus when he sought refuge in Egypt in 48 BC.

imitation shipwreck: slightly disturbing example of "fake emotion" in that a "mimicum naufragium" might well be a staged arena spectacle in which people were actually dying.

Xenophantes: A musician at the court of Alexander? Anyway, this passage is sort of interesting as an ancient reference to PTSD.)

I wonder if I could pitch an article to the Toast on the theme of "a partial list of people and things described as "sinister" in the works of Sir Ronald Syme." If there were a classics-themed The Toast, perhaps.
ricardienne: (library)
I was browsing the YA section at my public library branch yesterday, and pulled out something called Night School, by C.J. Daugherty. It's your standard rebellious teen + mysterious gothic boarding school + supernatural + love-triangle + ancient evil drivel, but as I was flipping through, a sheet of paper fell out; clearly an elementary/middle schooler's start to a fantasy novel. It made my really happy, you guys -- this is exactly what I was doing in 6th-7th grade. Also, I kind of feel that there is a lot more that is potentially interesting in this novel than in a lot of recently published YA fantasy! So I've transcribed it (supplements the editor has deemed absolutely necessary to the sense are in square brackets; italics represent ornamented capitals in the ms; and obelisks mark uncertain readings).

The Chronciles of Se

"Chastity, the high commander want to see you in his office. ...Now!" and with that the loud speaker clicked off. It seem that I was in trouble again. Making my way the nearly empty corridor to were the High Commander of the Realm reside. But before I open the, it flung open and handed me letters with the seal of the Western Royals and the North. I opened the first one on the way back to my room. It was from my niece empress Mollyania Malkovich †Jamesandsun. Such a long name for a small five year old. All it said was "I miss u, see you on your birthday. The next was from Cecile, my sister in-law, "Dearest †Adilssandra [Allessandra?], I want to be the first to congratulate you turning 15. It's a time of Freedom, but do remember your duties. I know you know that aleast 1,000 gentlemen have asked for hand. But Daneil sent them all packing. Duth has required you to be we[d] before you turn seventeen, since His Majesties health is decliny. Remember your a Malkovich Princess before general in the war. Kayta say her regards so does Mayla. The last letter had been from Her Excellency Ariel. "Excited about turning fifteen, I pondered last two months what to got you, but Maria had the best idea I hope you enjoy, From your spilt personality clone Ariel." At the bottom were a set of keys to a limo maybe. But when I reached my room I saw my gift awaiting. A motorcycle. Tomorrow I would go back to Ruby palace in Flaya. I did not understand why all except the Southern would have three whole day off.

Come on: wouldn't you read this? Apart from the fact that our main character seems to have two names, we've got court and family politics, what with a child empress and also (?) a dying emperor? (Is this Daneil or Duth? I think it's Daneil. Duth is perhaps the chancellor -- either a helpful and loyal adviser or an evil power-behind-the-throne holding the imperial family of Flaya basically hostage). And so Chastity/Adilssandra has to marry to shore up the succession? But she is also a a general on the staff of the High Commander (or maybe she is at the military academy?) and there's a war on! AND SHE HAS A SPLIT PERSONALITY CLONE. (Maybe everyone has one in this universe.) I think I sound like I am making fun. And, obviously, I am, a little bit. But it did honestly give me lot of pleasure to see this anonymous girl working through fantasy tropes and making up a story the way I did. Also, I would genuinely read this novel, split-personality clones and all.

Dear Writer of Chastity's story, I'm sorry that you lost your manuscript, and I hope you keep reading and keep writing. And keep packing your stories with girls! Because that's awesome.
ricardienne: (library)
10:30 "In fact, his [sc. Tacitus's] interpretations consistently express a bitter disappointment with the Roman oligarchy, the only human group for which he really cared." Joan-Pau Rubiés, "Nero in Tacitus and Nero in Tacitism", p. 37.

I cannot quite say what about this sentence is so adorable. Poor Tacitus, continually disappointed by the only thing for which he can feel affection!

11:45: "Octavia, too, though still raw in years, had learned to hide grief, love -- all emotion." (Ann. 13.16.4) OH GOD OCTAVIA . Tacitus you are destroying my heart. Destroying it, I say. (The Neronian books are so depressing)

11:55 P. Celer -- equestrian agent of Agrippina in for the offing of Junius Silanus ("The new reign's first death": Ann. 13.1.1). He is probably not the same person as P. Egnatius Celer, but he could be, and it is a nice touch to the epic Clemenza AU -- as Agrippina's man, Celer saw his career crash and burn when she went out of power. Not sure how he managed to insinuate himself into Soranus's friendship though. Maybe he was really shaken by what he had done to Silanus, and 'got philosophy'. But then the temptation was too much for him--
--I just realized that I am basically thinking of him as Richard Rich from Man for All Seasons, who is torn between More and Cromwell at first, but who is eventually tempted over to the Side of Evil, in spite of the fact that thanks to Hilary Mantel I am fully behind Cromwell and fully against More by now. Although, really, even though Thomas More is a Christian martyr and all that, and that he has Thomas à Becket a his primary model, the whole More mythos also has a lot in common with Seneca/Thrasea/Soranus (principled martyrs brought down by unscrupulous court politicking/impressionable tyrants). And Cromwell has a lot in common with the sort of person that Tacitus hates -- low-born, relatively few scruples, making it by being the monarch's creature, etc. -- but to whom he also often gives really good lines. Pretty sure Cromwell would be wholeheartedly on board with such comments as "I pray for good princes, but I put up with whatever I get." (Hist. 4.8.2). I'm sure Cromwell read Tacitus. I would love to read Mantel on Cromwell on Tacitus. Maybe that will happen in the third book. How great would that be? It would be AMAZING and I would squee forever.
ricardienne: (christine)
"Ozorne's uncle now has a name, and I can get on with the arena games. (The last time Arram went, he threw up.)" (of course he did.)

HAHAHAHAHAHA yesssssssssss, TP does evil fake!Romans! You guys, I cannot wait for this. It is going to be epically bad and I will laugh so hard (and also get a little angry, because her stupid 'my fantasy novels are so historically accurate' pose means that she will be indoctrinating young people with the stupid under the guise of the realistic.)
ricardienne: (tacitus)
Pursuant to this post, here's a random 18th century French historical painting of Servilia and her father before Nero's tribunal. Picture! )
ricardienne: (christine)
...I still don't know how I didn't read Rosemary Sutcliff's Eagle of the Ninth before. It is my favorite kind of old-fashioned (or new-fashioned) children's story: all about epic friendship and undying loyalty across a slightly uncomfortable status divide.* Marcus, young, painfully upright Roman centurion badly wounded in his second year of service; Esca, the young British slave he saves from the gladiatorial arena. Becoming fast friends; embarking on an adventure to recover the lost standard of the IX Hispania. Sutcliff is a brilliant writer, and she does quite a good job both capturing the Roman mindset and portraying the complexities of Roman-British interactions, hybridity, tension -- much better than one might expect for a book published in 1954.

And now I am feeling a strong urge to write fic -- possibly about the legal shenanigans that Marcus's friend the Legate has to go through to see that Esca's manumission is legitimate. Possibly in Latin...
ricardienne: (tacitus)
Last night Almost two months ago I saw a college friend of mine singing Vitellia, the lead soprano role, in La Clemenza di Tito. The production was a lovely, small, bare-bones presentation that was unfortunately in a black-box theatre that was both dead and small. So you couldn't get a great tone, and it was really loud (and: of the five major roles, 4 were soprano or mezzo). But the singing was excellent, I had a good time (although my ears were ringing afterwards), and I awoke the next day with a desperate need to figure out who all the characters (who have wonderfully specific names like "Sesto" and "Publio") could plausibly be. Interestingly, there are just enough threads to pull on to construct a pretty compelling subtext out of the prosopography.
The opera, its angsty political backdrop, and a lot of Tacitus )
Three thousand and some words later -- if anyone is still reading -- what are the conclusions, apart from the fact that [livejournal.com profile] ricardienne secretly wants to write fic about this opera? I suppose, that even an extremely superficially "plotted" opera actually has a lot of historical stuff going on behind it, although I would not venture a guess as to the extent to which we should imagine that audiences could or even were intended to recognize it. And, lest you be surprised that obscure characters from Tacitus are operatically viable, a future post will deal with Rimsky-Korsakov's practically unknown historical opera Servilia, which dramatizes the events of Tacitus with the added twist that everyone becomes a Christian before dying at the end.
ricardienne: (york)
No good reason for dropping off the radar for so long -- just the usual anxiety-filled life of a dissertator. Well, and that a month ago I started a long post about Mozart's Clemenza di Tito, but it ballooned into a monstrosity, started to fall into the uncanny valley between scholarship and fanfic, and ultimately started to mutate into at least two posts. And I've been feeling guilty about posting anything until I finish it/them. I still haven't, but I will! (Maybe.)

In the meantime, here are 3 typos/slips of the tongue that I know I am going to make someday:

1. "Anals" or "analistic" or "analist" for annals, annalistic, annalist. (This one is pretty inevitable, I think; I still worry about it a lot)

2. "Carthak" instead of "Carthage." Thank you, Tamora Pierce! (I would add "Mithros" for "Mithras" because even just typing that I had to stop and think about it, but I'm not likely to have to say or write anything about that for a little while -- until I teach Roman History again, I'd guess.)

3. "Attolia" or "Attolians" for "Aetolia" and "Aetolian." (Of course, many people pronounce "Aetolia" with a schwah on the first syllable anyway. I say EE-tolian, because it's too confusing otherwise.)

[4. *imperio, *imperire for impero, imperare. I've sorted this one out, but I've had Latin students go all Harry Potter with this verb. For some reason, Harry Potter is more mentally subordinated than Tamora Pierce of Megan Whalen Turner: I may be slowly turning into the kind of person who is slightly bothered by "SEV--uh-rus" Snape... (but not really. Because that would be silly.)

Dilemma

Aug. 14th, 2013 03:07 pm
ricardienne: (york)
So, I returned home from vacation (woe) to find an e-mail from the chair: when can I come in to let her know how my work went this summer? So naturally I am doing something quite different.
I've started knitting again, and I really want to make this sweater giant image behind cut )

I've gone through the pattern (from the Antique Pattern Library), which is quite straightforward for a 1917 pattern and the measurements are almost exactly those of a sweater coat that I own (if the pattern's gauge is correct (121 sts = 20"), the given size (36) measures about 38.5" around the bust, whereas the larger size (38-40) measures 45" -- while 38" is a little bit narrow for a sweater that I'm planning to wear over something, I'm closer to the 36 than I am to the 38-40, interestingly enough, since one tends to think that vintage patterns are a lot smaller than modern sizing (where I'm usually a 42-4, as it happens)). I think I'm going to start from the larger size to get a fuller hem at the bottom, then add a few more decreases before the waistline, follow the smaller pattern for a bit, and add increases after the belt if necessary (they happen on the sides, so as long as they happen two at a time, it shouldn't be hard).

Which means that the real dilemma now is color. The pattern instructs me to use "old rose" with white contrast, which I am definitely not going to do. First I thought maybe a richer color like this, with maybe a pale gray contrast. But maybe I should stay with more muted, '20's-esque colors? Like this dusty green? (The latter yarn is slightly heavier modern "worsted weight", which might be the right yarn. "Knitting worsted" used to mean lighter, sportweight yarn, but maybe "Scotch" is an indication that its more heavy duty? ARGH. Someone has put this pattern up on Ravelry, where they recommend modern worsted weight. But they also say that you have to take into account the fact that people were still wearing corsets in the 1910's -- true enough, except that this pattern does not do any waist shaping: the circumference at the bust and the circumference at the waist are exactly the same. So I'm not exactly inclined to trust that they really looked into how this pattern is supposed to work.) What should I do?
ricardienne: (tacitus)
Am I overreading, or is David Brooks saying in pretty clear terms: "Poor George Zimmerman! Back in the good old days, there was a place for manly white men and their vigilante justice protected white women from scary brown men. But now the world is feminized and all about *feelings* and there's no place for them anymore. Don't you feel the moment of manly tragedy?"
But there's no need to even call Brooks a racist sexist chauvinist pig. He basically does it himself.
rage-making racism, gender essentialism, misogyny, violence )
ricardienne: (christine)
At a library book sale, I came across Sarah Emily Holt's Lady Sybil's Choice, and the frontispiece plus first paragraph caught my attention:
Alix says I am a simpleton. I don't think it is very pleasant. Sometimes she says I am a perfect simpleton: and I cannot say that I like that any better. Nor do I think that it is very civil in one's sister to put her opinion on record in this certainly perspicuous, but not at all complimentary manner.
Excellent! I thought. It sounds like a 19th century version of Catherine Called Birdy! The narrator, Elaine, is the youngest daughter (age 14 at the beginning) of the Count of Poitou during the Second Crusade; the novel takes her from her home in France to the Holy Land as she goes to accompany her elder brother, the knight Guy, to the court of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
Here There Be Lots and Lots of Christianity, but also some other interesting things )
ricardienne: (tacitus)
(To be filed under: Things that would doubtless be less amazing to me if I were less ignorant about medieval literature.)
For after deth clerkis lityl drede
After desert for to bere witnesse     185
Nor of a tyraunt the trouthe to expresse,
As men disserve withoute excepcioun;
With lak or prys thei graunt hem her guerdoun.
Wherfore me semeth every maner man
Schulde be his live in al that ever he can     190
For vertu only eschewe to don amys,
For after dethe, pleynly as it is,
Clerkis wil write, and excepte noon,
The pleyne trouthe whan a man is goon.

The part just before this is pretty good, too, although it doesn't push my sine ira et studio buttons in quite the same way: The trouthe only, whyche thei han compyled/ Unto this fyn - that we wer nat begyled... )

Also this:
Ovide also poetycally hath closyd
Falshede with trouthe, that maketh men ennosed    300
To whiche parte that thei schal hem holde;
His mysty speche so hard is to unfolde
That it entriketh rederis that it se.
Virgile also for love of Enee
In Eneydos rehersyth moche thyng
And was in party trewe of his writyng,
Exsepte only that hym lyst som whyle
The tracys folwe of Omeris stile.


"misty speech" that tricks readers through the very labor they have to expend in unfolding it sums up what Tacitus does very nicely, I think. Just in case you were wondering.

ricardienne: (tacitus)
Book Review: Song of the Nile by Stephanie Dray. This is the sequel to Lily of the Nile, and takes Cleopatra's daughter, Cleopatra Selene, from young adulthood through her marriage to Juba, the client king of Numidia and the early years of her reign, as she negotiates with Augustus and tries to regain her ancestral throne in Egypt.

I am arguably one of the worst people for this book, because I care very deeply about a completely different, slightly overlapping set of trivia about this period and place. It is very hard for me not to judge this book on its depiction of Vergil, for example, (that sound you hear? The gnashing of my teeth). But I shall try to put that out of my mind, discussing instead things that are of general interest. (But before I do that, one more tiny nitpick: Dray has her characters call Parthians "the Parths" as, apparently, an ethnic slur. And this just doesn't work for me at all, because the Parthians are properly Parthi, that is, you can't shorten the name any further because it's already a monosyllabic stem! Even if Romans formed diminutives (whether affectionate or contemptuous) by shortening, which they didn't. Seriously, what's wrong with parthiculi or parthelli? OK, consider that nit picked. Back to our regular programming.)

The audience for this must be YA. But there's some pretty heavy stuff -- (semi-graphic) rape (of a minor), internalized victim-blaming, extremely messed up sexual politicking, the virgin/whore dichotomy, not to mention incest, but that's the healthiest relationship in the book, honestly-- and the complexities aren't morally signposted the way they usually are in YA. Either it's careless and irresponsible, or it demands a high level of critical thought from the reader.

I don't really know what spoilers one should give with historical fiction. On the one hand, yes, the broad outline is fixed. On the other hand, if you don't happen to be up on your history of the last couple decades of the first century BCE, the plot isn't really any more fixed for you than the plot of Hamlet or Oedipus the King is fixed for someone who isn't familiar with those stories. And it's no easier to find out whether Selene ever returned to Egypt than it is to find out whether Hamlet ever killed Claudius (and the former is a much more obscure piece of trivia than the latter!).

Here there be spoilers, if you think such things can exist here )

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