Monday, August 22, 2005
The Mirror of Diana by A. R. Homer: "To all the treasures lost in war' reads the dedication of The Mirror of Diana, a novel that has as its centerpiece a major, yet little-remembered, archaeological disaster of World War II: the mysterious burning of the monumental ships of the Roman Emperor Caligula as the German army retreated from Rome.
Klaus Schmidt, a crack artillery officer but also a lover of antiquities, is the protagonist. In 1943 in Nemi, Italy, a small town south of Rome, Klaus visits the ancient ships of Caligula, housed in a museum by the side of Lake Nemi, whence they were recovered a decade earlier in an engineering feat almost as remarkable as the ships themselves.
At the museum, Paolo, the ship museum?s curator, overcomes his dread of his German visitor (by September 1943, the Germans were no longer allies of Italy but occupiers) and discovers a kindred spirit in Klaus, who is also bewitched by the ships.
This fascinating and well-researched book will appeal to a wide audience. In addition to those interested in World War II and ancient history and legends, The Mirror of Diana is a novel for all who love pulsating historical fiction. The breathtaking plot twists and the relentless suspense will hold the reader in thrall, and the poignant story of the star-crossed lovers will touch the heart of everyone. I give The Mirror of Diana my highest recommendation.
- excerpt, Midwest Book Review"
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
canada.com network: "Romanitas is the first in a planned series of three novels set in an imagined present where the Roman Empire spans the world from the eastern border of India across the Atlantic.
Sophia McDougall describes a world where crucifixions have become mechanized and rows of crucifixes can be found on the outskirts of every major city; slavery is still the norm and the jockeying for the emperor's seat every bit as vicious and homicidal as it ever was.
In Romanitas, the emperor's brother Leo and sister-in-law have been killed in a car accident. Leo was assumed by all to be the heir to the throne, and his secretary believes that the crash was anything but accidental -- that it was carried out by people who feared the economic repercussions of Leo's stated intention, when he became emperor, to abolish slavery."
This alternative history title seems to be offering a combination of "I, Claudius" and "Spartacus" plopped into a modern setting with a little fantasy thrown in for good measure. The first-time 23-year-old author may be able to pull this off, although it sounds a bit like a piece written in response to an agent with a shotgun marketing approach to me. She certainly has a healthy outlook for her prospects, having already hired an agent for handling dramatic performance rights. I have my doubts, however, especially with the Canadian reviewer providing this disagreeable summary:
"McDougall presents an interesting, if unrelentingly bleak, view of what the world might have been like if the Roman Empire had never fallen. Rome's lack of original defining principles -- relative, say, to ancient Greece -- echo into the future, creating a spiritually and politically empty space."
The Canadian reviewer seems to have bought into the tripe many of us were taught in school back in the 50s - the Greeks provided the glorious foundation of Western Civilization while the Romans were merely imitators. From what I have learned since then from more knowledgable scholars, Romans politics were anything but empty and spiritually the Romans were far more concerned with offending their gods, extensively integrating religious rituals into their daily activities, than later cultures.
Friday, August 12, 2005
by Amy Richlin
Amazon.com: Books: The Garden of Priapus: Sexuality and Aggression in Roman Humor: "Statues of the god Priapus stood in Roman gardens to warn potential thieves that the god would rape them if they attempted to steal from him. In this book, Richlin argues that the attitude of sexual aggressiveness in defense of a bounded area serves as a model for Roman satire from Lucilius to Juvenal. Using literary, anthropological, psychological, and feminist methodologies, she suggests that aggressive sexual humor reinforces aggressive behavior on both the individual and societal levels, and that Roman satire provides an insight into Roman culture. Including a substantial and provocative new introduction, this revised edition is important not only as an in-depth study of Roman sexual satire, but also as a commentary on the effects of all humor on society and its victims."
by Antony Corbeill
Although numerous scholars have studied Late Republican humor, this is the first book to examine its social and political context. Anthony Corbeill maintains that political abuse exercised real powers of persuasion over Roman audiences and he demonstrates how public humor both creates and enforces a society's norms. Previous scholarship has offered two explanations for why abusive language proliferated in Roman oratory. The first asserts that public rhetoric, filled with extravagant lies, was unconstrained by strictures of propriety. The second contends that invective represents an artifice borrowed from the Greeks. After a fresh reading of all extant literary works from the period, Corbeill concludes that the topics exploited in political invective arise from biases already present in Roman society. The author assesses evidence outside political discourse--from prayer ritual to philosophical speculation to physiognomic texts--in order to locate independently the biases in Roman society that enabled an orator's jokes to persuade. Within each instance of abusive humor--a name pun, for example, or the mockery of a physical deformity--resided values and preconceptions that were essential to the way a Roman citizen of the Late Republic defined himself in relation to his community.
"Bodily gesture. A Roman worshipper spins in a circle in front of a temple. Faced with death, a Roman woman tears her hair and beats her breasts. Enthusiastic spectators at a gladiatorial event gesticulate with thumbs. Examining the tantalizing glimpses of ancient bodies offered by surviving Roman sculptures, paintings, and literary texts, Anthony Corbeill analyzes the role of gesture in medical and religious ritual, in the gladiatorial arena, in mourning practice, in aristocratic competition of the late Republic, and in the court of the emperor Tiberius. Adopting approaches from anthropology, gender studies, and ecological theory, Nature Embodied offers both a series of case studies and an overarching narrative of the role and meanings of gesture in ancient Rome.
Arguing that bodily movement grew out of the relationship between Romans and their natural, social, and spiritual environment, the book explores the ways in which an originally harmonious relationship between nature and the body was manipulated as Rome became socially and politically complex. By the time that Tacitus was writing about the reign of Tiberius, the emergence of a new political order had prompted an increasingly inscrutable equation between truth and the body--and something vital in the once harmonizing relationship between bodies and the world beyond them had been lost."
Friday, August 05, 2005
Amazon.com(Libertus Mysteries Series):By Rosemary Rowe
"Libertus is in Londinium, at the invitation of the Roman Governor, when news arrives of the brutal murder of Caius Monnius, the city's chief corn-officer. Still reeling from the shock of catching sight of the wife he lost to slavery 20 years earlier, only to lose her again, the ever-inquisitive Libertus is, for once, uninterested in unmasking the murderer. But when the Roman Governor asks you to investigate... The dead man's mother is convinced that the truth behind the killing lies with Fortunatus, a celebrated charioteer with whom Monnius' wife was having an affair. But with the discovery of a second corpse, it soon becomes clear that this case is more complex?and more sinister?than anyone ever expected."
Amazon.co.uk: "With safe seas, good roads, and provinces rich in heritage sites, Marcus Didius Falco's fellow countrymen have become voracious tourists. Greece, home of the ancient Olympic Games, is a favourite destination for Seven Sights Travel, a seedy company which provides escorted tours for wealthy travellers. Falco and Helena hear that a young girl and a newly-wed woman, both Roman visitors, have been murdered at Olympia; the authorities will not investigate properly, so Falco steps in. After making himself unwelcome at the hidebound sanctuary, he soon finds himself up against Seven Sights, its absentee tour-guide and its mixed bunch of customers, some of whom have tings to hide. The search for culture is far from genteel - and it can be very dangerous. Both the bridegroom and Helena's brother go missing in the birthplace of myth, as Falco and Helena struggle with a case that may contain worse features than any they have dealt with yet."
Thursday, August 04, 2005
By David C. Noe: "Tres Mures Caeci, a Moral Tail in Latin, is a retelling of the classic nursery rhyme in Latin for beginners. Featuring full color illustrations and simple vocabulary, Tres Mures Caeci introduces toddlers and beginning readers to the sounds and rhythm of Latin with an engaging and compelling story. Tres Mures Caeci is loaded with friendly features that make it ideal for the beginning reader and experienced instructor alike: Accurate Latin, Moral Lesson, Vivid Illustrations, Translation and Glossary, Free Audio at Patrick Henry College Press, Simple Vocabulary, Multiple Tenses, Mixed Declension, and more."
Monday, August 01, 2005
Ash's hollywood debut in Last Legion: I see that the new Dino DeLaurentis film "The Last Legion", based on Valerio Manfredi's best selling novel, is set to begin filming in Tunisia August 5.
"The Last Legion is an epic adventure based on acclaimed author Valerio Massimo Manfredi?s international best-selling 2003 novel by the same name. The film is set against the fall of the Roman Empire in 470AD and its last emperor, 12-year-old Romulus Augustus (Thomas Sangster).
Over-run with rebellion, Rome is a city on the brink of chaos and destruction. Imprisoned by rebels on the island of Capri, Romulus, aided by the clever strategies of his teacher Ambrosinus (Sir Ben Kingsley) and the heroic skills of his legionnaire Aurelius (Colin Firth), escapes the island.
This small band of Roman soldiers, accompanied by Byzantine warrior Mira (Aishwarya), are determined to continue their mission to restore the Empire."
As my poor eyes need as much relief as possible I was also thrilled to see that The Last Legion is available in audio from Amazon for less than $12. Amazon also offers other Manfredi titles in audio as well including the Alexander trilogy, The Talisman of Troy, and The Tyrant.