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So my friend, a poet (who’s not a classicist but who nearly was once upon a time in college), picked up a translation of Juvenal and had a few questions for me. We naturally made a few jokes about his name, and even the content of his satires, and this one (perhaps the most obvious) made its way into my sketchbook.
I titled it ‘Bad Roman Humor’ so you wouldn’t have to.
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I’ve argued before that Michael Choniates (archbishop of Athens at the time of the 4th Crusade) was a true scholar, and I’d like to point out something I’ve just spotted in his famous poem lamenting the state of the city he had inherited against the one he’d loved in his study of the past.
He cries out for the missing face of his lost love, calls himself another Ixion (who embraced an image, a cloud, rather than Hera herself), and wishes even for the courts and assemblies of the ancient city. Near the end he says this:
Ὄλωλε σύμπαν τῶν Ἀθηνῶν τὸ κλέος·
γνώρισμα δ’ αὐτῶν οὐδ’ ἀμυδρόν τις ἴδοι.
The glory of Athens has entirely passed away;
nor can one see a faint trace of it.
What interests me most here is the meter. The poem is written in the iambic trimeter, and τις must be long. Do you know why?
Choniates seems to know about the digamma before ἴδοι. I don’t know much about Byzantine knowledge of the digamma, and this could be a sign that he recognized not the presence of a missing consonant but a metrical ‘irregularity’ in poets before this particular word. Still, that makes him a sensitive and careful reader of ancient verse.
I have seen gamma used in place of digamma in Hesychius, for example, so that’s something. Still, it was exciting to me as I read the poem today.
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Italian archaeologists have found the ruins of a 6th-century BC Greek temple-like structure in southern Italy that came with detailed assembly instructions and is being called an “ancient IKEA building”.
Massimo Osanna, head of archaeology at Basilica University, said that the team working at Torre Satriano near Potenza in what was once Magna Graecia had unearthed a sloping roof with red and black decorations, with “masculine” and “feminine” components inscribed with detailed directions on how they slotted together.
Professor Christopher Smith, director of the British School at Rome, said that the discovery was “the clearest example yet found of mason’s marks of the time. It looks as if someone was instructing others how to mass-produce components and put them together in this way”” he told The Times.