Friday, December 27, 2002

I came across this interesting article on Anthony Barrett's biography of Livia and the benefits of biography as a classical tool as opposed to prosopography, "group portraits providing cross sections of whole tiers of the socio-economic structure during a historical period."

In my readings I also came across this marvelous post by a young student at Calhoun College. Having just studied the Oresteia in my audio course on Greek Tragedy, I understood the comparison immediately.

Apparently Spielberg plans to produce an HBO miniseries about King Arthur as a Roman blacksmith:

Each year, at a clinicopathological conference sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and VA Mayland Health Care System in conjunction with the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a panel of physicans led by Dr. Philip A. Mackowiak analyze the medical history of a famous person of the past. Using modern forensic science, they propose modern diagnoses for the individual and speculate on the effectiveness of medical procedures used by physicians of the period. I contacted Dr. Mackowiak several months ago and he graciously provided five of these case studies for study by members of my ancient Rome discussion group. I scanned these studies into Adobe Acrobat and linked them to a new web page at:

I also created the first page of my photo essay on the U.S. Cavalry Museum at Fort Riley, Kansas:
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Thursday, December 19, 2002

Last night I watched a fascinating program on the History Channel where researchers were attempting to identify the one person who actually shot down the Red Baron during WWI. Apparently, the Red Baron was chasing a Canadian plane and flew over Allied lines. Another Canadian plane gave chase and machine gun crews and Australian infantry on the ground opened fire as well. The Baron was killed by a single .303 caliber bullet that passed through his right side and exited from his left chest. All guns used to shoot at him utilized .303 caliber ammunition. Officially, the second Canadian airman who gave chase was awarded the "kill". But, there were so many bullets flying around no one could be really sure who hit him.

The researchers began by locating the exact location that the Baron's plane landed. This was difficult because, although the general area was known, the specific spot was not really marked on any map. A historian checked the archives and found a description of the plane crash landing near a small "mound". Amazingly, a study of aerial photographs revealed a mound that could then be precisely identified and the crash assumed to be within a few meters.

Then they had to establish the flight path of the Baron's plane. This was done with more archives and, surprisingly enough, obtaining an eyewitness account from a surviving British soldier. (I thought all WWI veterans were now dead). The eyewitness also testified that the Baron was still alive when the eyewitness and some companions reached the plane but died after uttering only one word, "kaput".

Then two commerical flight simulation software developers were hired to develop a simulation of the flight and a military ballistics expert helped to provide information about the spread pattern from the pursuit plane's guns and the vibration of the Sopwith Camel's engine and its effect on the bullets' trajectories. The completed program proved (as far as possible) that based on the flight reports of the Canadian pursuit plane, that source could not have hit the Baron in the cockpit area at the correct angle to produce a right-to-left fatal wound described by forensic pathologists in the Baron's autopsy report. Furthermore, the forensic pathologist stated that the shock wave created by the bullet would have damaged the lungs, liver, and heart to the extent that the Baron could have only lived a couple of minutes after being struck.

So the investigative team began assessing the ground marksmen. First, to establish the range at which the Baron was shot, the team hired a ballistics expert. He used a .303 caliber weapon and a gelatinous mass equivalent to the mass of a human body the approximate thickness of the Baron to ascertain that the Baron was struck from a range of about 800 yards. (A closer shot would produce more damage than indicated by the autopsy report and would have had such force that the bullet would not have been found in the Baron's flight jacket.

Based on this information, the ground marksmen were reduced down to two possibilities. A man in the allied machine gun nest and Snowy Evans, an Australian infrantryman that had reported firing at the plane. The researchers devised a kind of laser cannon that could "shoot" infrared beams at an aircraft flying by in the Baron's flight path and a computer could record any possible hits to the aircraft and their trajectories. Using this method the researchers established that the British machine gunner could have hit the plane. They also established that the Australian infantryman could have hit the plane but it would have been a miraculous shot. However, the research historian dove into the archives once more and found a report by the British machine gunner himself with his own map of where he had fired on the plane. Based on this drawing it was determined that the gunner would not have been firing at the point he would have needed to to strike the Baron in the right side. Therefore, it was concluded that the Australian infantryman must have managed that one miraculous shot that brought the Red Baron down.

I just thought that it was a fascinating series of investigations. I would highly recommend the program to anyone that may have an opportunity to view it.
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Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Sunday night I saw a program on the Travel Channel about New Zealand and it is truly as beautiful as my father-in-law always said it was. He spent some time there during WWII and has always said it was the most beautiful country he has ever seen. Although it is popular among extreme sports enthusiasts, even I would be willing to tackle most of the activities depicted in the program - hiking, whitewater boating, kayaking, etc. I do think I would pass on the 250-ft bungee jumping though. Even the 350 ft repelling didn't turn me off because it is done with such modern equipment - a harness and what looks like a small come-a-long to regulate your descent. I tried the real thing with only a rope at a special college program when I was young and I found the whole experience absolutely terrifying and not at all something I would want to repeat. I envied the Prime Minister's ability to play with seals on the kayaking excursion. Here, sea lions grow much larger and can be quite dangerous, especially the bulls.

The program highlighting all the beauty of New Zealand was followed by a program detailing all the disasters that have occurred on New Zealand because of its volcanic structure. I don't know why the Travel Channel aired it because it was done like a "reality" show with all the somber overtones and warnings. I doubt if the New Zealand travel industry would have been pleased about it.

I finally finished reading "The Etruscan" by Mika Waltari. Unfortunately, it had just too much mysticism in it for my taste. I also didn't like the bible quotes used as dialogue between characters either. Waltari was at one time a theology major and I guess he just never did get it out of his system. I prefer historical novels that either contain real historical personalities or persons that exhibit the traits of real historical people in the culture of the region. I learned very little about the Etruscans from Waltari's novel. He also seems to have a problem with women. The primary female protagonist was beautiful but a lying, conceited, self-serving harlot, very similar to the main female character of one of his other novels "The Egyptian". I found the main male character difficult to appreciate because he seemed rather spineless and always willing to overlook the female's flagrant transgressions simply because of her physical attractiveness. How shallow!

I received a 19th century two-volume set of "Plutarch's Lives" and its in wonderful condition. I'll have to read it very carefully though since it is a bit fragile after over 100 years.
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Friday, December 13, 2002

I was excited this weekend when I found a near mint (still in the box) copy of "Empire Earth" at the local flea market for only $5. It is still selling in retail stores for over $40. My daughter asked me what I would like for Christmas and I suggested one of the following games - "Civilization III", "Medieval Total War", "Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood", or "Age of Mythology". I forgot
about "Gladiators of Rome" and "Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom" (a game set in ancient China made by the same people as "Caesar III").

"Gladiators of Rome" is currently available from for only $17.99(US) However, upon reviewing the system requirements I guess its getting time to upgrade. The game requires a 500 Mhz processor and I still have only a 300 Mhz (Well, it does everything else I need to at present!)

Another interesting game, "Praetorians", is not due to be released until February 2003. I notice that Interact PC is now offering a CD with Zeus, Poseidon, Caesar III, Pharaoh, and Cleopatra all on one disk for $24.95 (US) - a terrific deal!
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On my ancient Rome discussion group we have been talking about changes in women's roles in the Roman Empire. The role of women in Rome had evolved significantly beyond the role of women in Greek society. Women were included in banquets and social gatherings and even engaged in business. Gaius Julius Caesar's mother Aurelia was a landlord in the Suburra. Women were even allowed to attend public entertainments, although they were seated in a remote section up by the seats reserved for slaves in the amphitheater.

Women of the upper classes in ancient Greece were so sequestered that they were not even allowed to go to the market. Scholars are still unsure if women were allowed to attend theatrical performances except those staged during specific festivals held for women. In my current audio course on Greek tragedy, Professor Vandiver mentioned that one of the few clues scholars have to indicate women may have attended general performances was an ancient source remarking that the first appearance of the Furies in Aeschylus' play "The Eumenides" caused women to faint and pregnant women to miscarry. However, she pointed out that the source of this report was written decades after the first performance of "The Eumenides" and may have been written to emphasize the spectacular nature of Aeschylus' stagecraft not as a valid reference to a change in women's activities.
I found a very good site on Aeschylus and his plays:

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I bought a beautifully illustrated book published by Barnes and Noble called "A Treasury of Classical Mythology". The text is an abridgment of A. R. Hope Moncrieff's "Classic Myths and Legends". In it is a wonderful color plate of Gustave Moreau's 1865 oil on canvas "Diomedes Devoured by his Horses". I was surprised to read that Alexander The Great's horse Bucephalus was said to be a member of this carnivorous breed.
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RiverDeep and The Learning Company have come out with a very interesting sounding software title for kids based on the new PBS television program "Liberty Kids".

"LIBERTY'S KIDS (Riverdeep/The Learning Company; Windows and Macintosh; $25; ages 8 to 12.) This American history program is a refreshing addition to the software market. Based on a PBS series, it follows two young reporters as they gather facts about important events of the American Revolution. The reporters interview townspeople, loyalists, statesmen, soldiers and even spies to produce a newspaper article. Many of the people they encounter demand items from the community before answering questions, and the journalists must search for these items to complete their interviews. This is a must-have program for upper elementary and early middle school students with an interest in American history."
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Simon Scarrow, a high school history teacher from Norfolk, England and author of "Under The Eagle" has produced a second novel, "The Eagle's Conquest". Unfortunately, the critics of Publishers Weekly weren't too impressed:

From Publishers Weekly
"British writer Scarrow (Under the Eagle) offers a second action novel set in ancient Rome, focusing on a key battle in Britain during the Roman invasion led by Claudius in 43 A.D., then turning to an attempt to assassinate Claudius. The first half of the book follows the adventures of Centurion Macro and his eager young subordinate, Optio Cato (both of whom played prominent roles in the first book), as the Romans try to outmaneuver the forces of Caratacus, king of the Celtic tribes of Britain, in a series of skirmishes along the Thames. The battle scenes are lifeless and generic despite the nonstop action, mostly because Scarrow offers little in the way of character development (most of the combatants are military stereotypes) or period detail (the contemporary colloquialisms offer some unintentional levity: "Just make sure you get some proper bloody swimming lessons," Macro chides Cato). The assassination conspiracy that takes up the second half of the book is far more interesting. Macro and Cato must get to the bottom of a plot involving fellow soldier Vitellius, a Carthaginian surgeon and Flavia Lavinia, a former romantic interest of Cato's. Scarrow deftly negotiates this tricky, labyrinthian story line, but his writing style remains pedestrian. Cato and Marco are one-dimensional, albeit fitfully amusing, protagonists. Scarrow will need to elaborate their personalities considerably if they're to carry the sequel that Scarrow foreshadows in this book's rather predictable conclusion. "
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

However, a new Roman novel, Centurion: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Peter W. Mitsopoulos garnered respectable reviews. The story recalls the Varan disaster in the Teutoburg Forest. One critic remarks:

"[The author] He provides a good sense of the metropolitan nature of the roman empire. We meet italians, greeks, gauls, germans, egyptians, etc. He gives an accurate description of the weapons, equipment, politics, prevading beliefs, etc. common to the legions in the 1st century without being forced. These historical facts flow naturally in the course of his characters' actions and conversation, so the story is as much educational as it is entertaining."

You have to dig deep for this one though. Even the paperback edition is listed for nearly $30 (US) up on Amazon. have copies for about $20.
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Friday, December 06, 2002

I subscribe to Research Buzz which is a mailing list analyzing new web offerings and this week editor Tara Calishain mentioned a new image database:

"National Geographic has unveiled a collection of
thousands of digital images at .
There's a log-in box on the front page but you can search
and view images without registration of any sort. "

"The search box is on the front page allows for a simple
keyword search; an advanced search link underneath allows
you to search by image orientation (portrait, landscape,
etc.) category (including animals, adventure, concept,
natural history, and world culture), media type (color,
black and white, or duotone), and license status. You can
also specify the number of results you want per page (the
default is nine.)" - Tara Calishain, Research Buzz (

I searched for Caesar and got 0 hits. I searched for gladiator and got 0 hits. I searched for chariot and got 0 hits. I even searched for Pompeii and got 0 hits. Finally I searched for Roman and got five pages of results - mostly the typical Colosseum, aqueducts, and forum ruins type shots although there was an interesting shot of an ancient Roman wall carving, probably from Leptis Magna, in the Castello courtyard of Tripoli, Libya. I would have preferred a closeup however. Keywords seem to be mostly geographic location rather than specific subject although I saw some of the Egyptian shots referred to sarcophagus, etc.

Pricing seems pretty steep from my inexperienced perspective. I priced out a 1/2 page size high resolution image for a textbook cover with expected sales of 10,000 and it cost over $800 (US).

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A student called me all the way from Missouri yesterday to see if I could help him with a Filemaker Pro issue. He is working on a project for a medical center and is attempting to insert .jpg images into a container field and have the image, rather than an icon for an embedded file, display in browse mode. The Insert Picture process displays an image but he wants users to be able to double click the image to be able to edit the image in its associated application. I experienced the same problem he reports and after testing multiple machines with different hardware and different OSs, I obtained the same result repeatedly. So, I called Filemaker technical support and tried everything they suggested without any improvement.

So far I have tried:
Gateway computer with Windows 98 & Filemaker Pro 5.5v2 with default install - icon only
2 different Dell computers with Windows 2000 & Filemaker Pro 5.5v2 with default install - icon only
Gateway computer with Windows XP & Filemaker Pro 5.5v2 with default install - icon only
Sony computer with Windows 98 & Filemaker Pro 5.5v2 customized install (multiple Oazium plugins - icon only.

I tried both .jpg and .gif images. I tried different application associations (Paint, Microsoft PhotoDraw, and Adobe Photoshop) without any improvement.

I have deselected my file association DDE setting, rebooted and attempted the insert again with the same result. I have booted into safe mode (to eliminate possible conflict with network drivers), launched Filemaker and attempted an insert with the same results.

I have had the Filemaker technician use the very same image file and he has successfully inserted it. I have reset my application and document preferences to be identical to his without improvement. I have tested my DDE functionality and it works perfectly for inserting spreadsheets and .bmp files but stubbornly displays only an icon for .jpg and .gif files even though the proper application is launched when the embedded icon is double clicked.

The student in Missouri reports the same behavior that I observe on a Windows 98 machine running a new installation of Filemaker Pro 6. I am also still mystified why the Filemaker technician's workstation does not appear to be using the Microsoft Object Packager in the insert process. This appears to be a standard Windows behavior for all machines I have tested. If anyone has any other ideas I would appreciate hearing from them at:

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Tuesday, December 03, 2002

A member of my ancient Rome discussion group posted a rather unflattering assessment of Alexander the Great today, citing his megalomaniac behavior evidenced by his trying to imitate eastern despots. After reading Mary Renault's trilogy of novels about Alexander (Fire From Heaven, The Persian Boy, Funeral Games) as well as her biography, The Nature of Alexander, research articles, and even Judith Tarr's novel "Lord of the Two Lands", I found myself admiring this Macedonian warrior king more an more. Therefore, I could not help but defend him with the following observations:

Prostration was a recognized social practice in Persia to demonstrate deference to a member of a higher social class. It was not viewed as "groveling" any more than a priest would view prostrating himself before the Pope, groveling, or a samurai bowing before his master, groveling. Alexander had to demonstrate his newly assumed position to his new Persian subjects in a social manner they would understand. The problem arose when his Persian subjects were offended by what they viewed was a lack of respect by his countrymen for the man that was now their Great King. He attempted to resolve the problem by offering to kiss his Persian subjects, a custom used by Macedonians, in response to their prostration and asked his Macedonians to respond both ways as well. However, the Macedonians, with their conceptions of superiority, would not agree to this either.

The Macedonians were further outraged that Alexander had actually recruited young Persians to form a new group of Companions trained in Macedonian tactics. They simply could not give up their centuries-old concept of the behavior of conquerors and conquered. This is further demonstrated by the behavior of Alexander's successor generals in ruling their respective satrapies after his death.

As for the Kleitos the Black affair, Alexander realized he had made a terrible moral mistake by killing Kleitos but Kleitos did provide serious provocation. Using a quote from Euripedes, Kleitos essentially accused Alexander of having no regard for his men at all but being consumed with his own ambition. Alexander was ambitious. He could not have achieved all that he did without it. But he always led from the front and expected no more of his men than he did of himself - something modern generals can never claim. This was a slander of Alexander's honor and leadership. Both men had been drinking heavily (another Macedonian custom) and inhibitions were severely impaired by that time. Kleitos would have survived if he had left after the two men were initially separated but he wouldn't let it rest. He returned to the banquet with more epithets and Alexander, by then in a rage, snatched up the spear before anyone could stop him. We are talking about two very physical and aggressive warriors here still stained with the blood and sweat of a fresh battle. We're not talking about two accountants arguing over a tax return.

As for the "commonsensical" court from which he came, the Macedonian court was hardly a model of liberal political values unless you call the liberty to assassinate your fathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, etc. something to be emulated. In fact, your venerable Philip eliminated his rivals with brutal efficiency, those he couldn't bribe with the gold of Mt. Pangaeus. Philip was a very talented war leader and astute diplomat but I would avoid viewing his career with rose-colored glasses. In addition, even though Olympias claimed Alexander was the son of Apollo and he was proclaimed son of Amun in Egypt, efforts to formalize his deification were not unheard of in Greek society and was probably only intended to be a political maneuver at the time. Alexander admired Philip and actively sought Philip's approval as most young men would. But Philip's refusal to rebut his new wife's father's drunken slur inferring Alexander was not a legitimate heir at one of Philip's innumerable wedding feasts was a far more direct disgrace to Alexander than any assumed disrespect from acceptance of claims of immortal origins.

I would also be hesitant to grant the term "venerable" to the old captains that served at Philip's side. If you are referring to Parmenion, I think you should at least consider the consequences of Parmenion's son's involvement in a plot to assassinate Alexander (or his willingness to allow it to occur without warning Alexander of the threat). Even if Parmenion had not indicated his complicity by smiling slightly upon receiving the forged letter notifying him of the assassination, Alexander would not have had much choice but to have the "old captain" executed because of the Macedonian cultural policy of blood vengence.

Alexander was very respectful to his culture's gods, insisting upon personally offering the morning libation just a few days before his death. He sponsored games and classical Greek theatrical performances and shared his wealth generously. He valued loyalty and friendship and actively sought the love of his men.

PBS recommends the following texts:

"Alexander the Great"
Fox, Robin Lane. Reissue edition.
Penguin Putnam, Inc., 1994.
ISBN: 0140088784
Cost: $12.75
Additional texts:

Arrian. "The Campaigns of Alexander" (England: Penguin Classics, 1958).

Curtius, Rufus. "The History of Alexander" (London: Penguin Classics, 1984).

Diodorus. "Library of History" (Cambridge: Harvard University Press,1963).

Justin. "Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, Vol. 1: Alexander the Great" (Clarendon Press, 1996).

Plutarch. "The Age of Alexander" (New York: Penguin Classics, 1995).

To this list I would add "The Nature of Alexander" by Mary Renault (Random House, 1979)

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Monday, December 02, 2002

I saw an interesting program on The Learning Channel last night called Chariot Race 2002. It included some interesting historical tidbits as well as a documentary about the preparation for an actual chariot race at the conclusion of the program.

It mentioned that Roman boys as young as 9 began racing two-horse chariots in preparation to become professional charioteers. As their skills developed they eventually advanced to four-horse chariots.

The program also mentioned that the Emperor Nero so admired charioteers that he even drank a mixture of wine and boar's dung(!) that charioteers considered a healing concoction. Nero was also responsible for the tradition of beginning a race by dropping a napkin. "Once, when Nero had taken too long at lunch and the crowd grew restive, he threw out his napkin from the royal box to signify that he had finished and the games could begin. The tossing of the napkin thereafter signaled the official start of the races. "

I also wasn't aware that most racing horses came from Iberia. The program's race actually took place in the ancient capital of Antequera in Spain which contains one of the best preserved hippodrome ruins.

I found myself, like my ancient Roman counterparts, cheering wildly for the blue team. My husband only rolled his eyes and shook his head! My blue team won but I was also impressed by the older lady driving the white team. She seemed so small and fragile that I thought she was a bit mismatched to be a charioteer but she put up an admirable challenge. Her team actually cornered better than the blue team and she fought off a challenge by the red team twice before she was finally passed. The racing chariots seems awfully small but I guess they were designed based on a bronze figurine of a two-horse chariot excavated from the Tiber River.

The program,, repeats on Thursday, December 5 and again on Sunday, December 8.

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One of the members of my ancient Rome discussion group nominated Vergil as the greatest Roman that ever lived even if his Aeneid was basically a restatement of exisiting myth. About his "restatement of existing myth" though, I would like to share some distinct differences between The Aeneid and the Homeric epics explained by Professor Vandiver in my audio course on the Aeneid.

Professor Vandiver pointed out that The Aeneid was obviously modeled after the Homeric epics with the first six books modeled after The Odyssey and the last six books modeled after The Illiad. However, The Aeneid's goal was to stress the importance of service to the society (a very Roman concept) as opposed to the actions of an individual. In fact, the role of fate is stressed as a key theme in The Aeneid in contrast to the Homeric epics. This concept seems to have been common in Roman society as many leaders (including Julius Caesar) considered their successes a result of favor by the goddess Fortuna.

Another key difference was the character of Aeneas himself. Aeneas is characterized as a "man noted for pietas", a laudable Roman ideal, unlike the Greeks of Homer's Illiad who were guilty of the most despicable violations of social morality (rape of Cassandra in the temple of Athena, the murder of Priam at the household altar, the human sacrifice of the 12 Trojan youths at the funeral of Patroklos, the sacrifice of one of Priam's daughters at their departure).

In Books II and III, Professor Vandiver points out that Odysseus' narrative in the Odyssey focuses on his own cleverness and skill in avoiding death while Aeneas' focuses on the sorrows he has endured and the responsiblity imposed on him by fate. Although, in some ways, Aeneas retraces Odysseus' steps, "this [The Aeneid] is not simply a Roman Odyssey; the focus in on Aeneas' destiny as the ancestor of the Roman people, not on his adventures as an individual hero."

In Book IV, Vergil relates the events surrounding the Trojans in Carthage. Vandiver explains that the relationship with the Carthaginian queen Dido is the first example of the cost of Rome for those Aeneas meets and provides a background to explain the historical enmity between Rome and Carthage.

In Book V, the funeral games held to celebrate the anniversary of Aeneas' father's death are modeled on the funeral games of Patroklos but they are also meant to provide a background to the Roman tradition of the lusus Troiae (Trojan games) that were reinstituted by Augustus, Vergil's patron.

Aeneas' "nequia" or journey to the underworld in Book VI is far more descriptive than Odysseus' visit. Furthermore, Odysseus does not actually descend into the Underworld. The ghosts he encounters come out to speak to him. Aeneas actually enters the underworld guided by the Cumaean Sibyl, who actively assists him. Here the Roman audience are given very detailed descriptions of the Fields of Mourning, the region for spirits renowned in war, examples of the punishments in Tartaros and beautiful descriptions of the "Blessed Groves" or Elysium. The "Pageant of Heros" gives the Roman audience a recounting of the great Romans and their deeds and includes a statement about Roman skills and virtues - stressed as social values of the Roman people rather than emphasized as individual achievements.

Books VII and VIII bring Aeneas to the future site of Rome and introduces him to Pallas, a friend that will become as dear as Patroklos was to Achilles. Here Aeneas receives his shield from Vulcan but the scenes depicted on it are not generic like Achilles but specific, including a depiction of the Battle of Actium.

Books IX and X are considered the most "Illiadic" section of the Aeneid but here the Trojans are inverted to parallel Greek characters and the Latin Turnus takes on the role of Hector.

Books XI and XII conclude the Aeneid with the famous battle scene between Aeneas and Turnus. However, it is Turnus who has violated the truce. Aeneas actively attempts to prevent further hostilities unlike Achilles who will not be satisfied until he has slain Hector.

Vergil truly gave us a treasure in the Aeneid and to think that on his death bed he asked that it be burned because it wasn't finished!
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Saturday, November 30, 2002

I saw a program on PBS Nova's Secrets of The Dead about the Great Fire of Rome. I was quite intrigued by the scholars who think Nero may have been given a bad rap by Tacitus. An ancient Egyptian prophesy embraced by Christians at the time foretold the destruction of the "whore of cities" on the day that the dog star, Sirius, rises. In 64 A.D. it rose on July 19, the day of the great fire. German scholar, Professor Gerhard Baudy of the University of Konstanz in Germany, thinks militant Christians ", maltreated and embittered, may have started the fire -- or perhaps lit additional fires, adding fuel to the larger conflagration -- in hopes of realizing their prophesies." Nero's response, burning Christians alive, was the prescribed penalty in Rome for arson.

Tacitus had maintained that it was unnatural that the fire spread from the cheaply built insulae to the stone houses of the Senators around the Forum but the program included a recreation of the fire with the assistance of Peter Townsend, a London fire investigator, that clearly demonstrated the vulnerability of the upscale Roman villas. Further evidence of a firestorm has been unearthed by archeologist Clementina Panella who discovered the remains of nails that had fallen off roofs and melted. She also found a charred gate and part of its surrounding masonry that had collapsed from the force of the fire.

To read more about this program:
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Wednesday, November 27, 2002

One of the members of my ancient discussion group mentioned that William Shatner starred as Alexander the Great in a failed TV pilot in the 60s. I found this very intriguing so I asked him for more information and he suggested I search for Shatner Alexander Great in Google. I did and found a wealth of links about this film. I even found a source for the video although I'm a little dubious about its origin and quality. William Shatner had a lot of intensity as an actor in the 60s and probably would have made a pretty decent Alexander. I would love to see his version of the "Fire From Heaven". In a recent interview Shatner was asked about the pilot and he remembers that it required the cast to ride fast horses without saddles, challenging to even an accomplished horseman like him.
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Tuesday, November 26, 2002

I saw a note today about Edgar Allen Poe's poem about the Colosseum published in the Baltimore Sun in 1833. Some of my favorite snippets:

"Here, where a hero fell, a column falls:
Here, where the mimic eagle glared in gold,
A midnight vigil holds the swarthy bat:
Here, where the dames of Rome their yellow hair
Wav'd to the wind, now wave the reed and thistle:
Here, where on ivory couch the Caesar sat,
On bed of moss lies gloating the foul adder:"

"...These stones, alas! - these grey stones — are they all;
All of the great and the colossal left
By the corrosive hours to Fate and me?"

"Not all," — the echoes answer me; "not all:
Prophetic sounds, and loud, arise forever
From us, and from all ruin, unto the wise,
As in old days from Memnon to the sun.
We rule the hearts of mightiest men: — we rule
With a despotic sway all giant minds.
We are not desolate — we pallid stones;
Not all our power is gone; not all our Fame;
Not all the magic of our high renown;
Not all the wonder that encircles us;
Not all the mysteries that in us lie;
Not all the memories that hang upon,
And cling around about us now and ever,
And clothe us in a robe of more than glory."

For the complete poem:
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A great website providing strategies for designing web pages for accessiblity:
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Monday, November 25, 2002

So ended my latest Las Vegas excursion. Once again I was able to find some cultural activities I could enjoy which often surprises people. I did notice that the struggling economy appears to have had an impact on Las Vegas. The reduction in visitors since 9/11 seems to have stimulated a return to more traditional Las Vegas entertainment. Even the Excalibur Hotel which is one of the most G-rated facilities on the strip was offering the "Thunder From Down Under" show - a sort of Chippendale male strip act. The Paris Hotel was promoting its "La Femme" nude show as a celebration of the beauty of the female form. Most of the other resorts had their versions of risque entertainment as well.

As it turns out I didn't make it all the way home on Thursday after all. Eugene was fogged in so my plane was rerouted back to Seattle and I had to spend the night there. I finally got home Friday about noon. I have spent the last couple of days recuperating although it looks like its going to take a while before my sinuses clear up.

I found an interesting web page about the archaeological findings so far at the assumed location of Troy. ( ) It mentions that one of the most significant finds by Korfmann in the 1990s was a " lentoid bronze seal inscribed on both sides in the Hieroglyphic Hittite script with the name of a male scribe on one side and with the name of a female, presumably his wife, on the other. The first securely identifiable example of writing yet to have been unearthed in a prehistoric level at Troy." This finding is thought to tie the Hittites more closely to the population of Troy than previously thought. Also, it has been argued by Deger-Jalkotzy that pottery termed "Coarse Ware" found in layers considered to be from a period immediately following the Trojan War, was derived ultimately from ceramic traditions at home in the Middle Danube area of central Europe. Therefore, he speculates that the sackers of Troy could have been a population group who crossed the Hellespont at the end of their journey from the Middle Danube through Rumania to Turkish Thrace, not Mycenean Greeks after all.
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Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Since I have no other Comdex vendors to meet, I have rearranged my flight schedule so I can fly home tomorrow instead of Friday. The smoke from all the smokers here has irritated my allergies and my eyes are so watery it makes it hard to read. My sinuses are inflamed as well. Of course, I could have also picked up a bug in my wanderings too. There is a major construction project in progress between the Bellagio and Caesar's Palace that has probably stirred up the air as well.

Although I always request nonsmoking seating, all hotels manage to route everyone through their casinos to get anywhere so those of us that are sensitive to air impurities usually suffer the consequences. However, I must point out that the Aladdin's accomodations have been quite comfortable and the service staff have been very friendly and helpful. Their buffet is quite delicious too - I had a wonderful Shrimp Scampi there as well as a nice variety of salads. It appears to include dishes from most of the major cuisines of the world.

I walked down to Caesar's Palace this morning to photograph the gardens. I also wanted to check out the lobby and see if they had beautiful Roman murals like the beautiful Egyptian murals behind the registration desk of the Luxor but they didn't. So I walked through the Forum Shops stopping for a bite of roast chicken at Planet Hollywood then walked across the skybridge over to the Venetian. I wanted to explore their new Guggenheim Heritage Museum. I wasn't allowed to photograph any of the works so I had to be content with just examining them closely.

My favorite painting, of course, was Titian's "Lucretia and Her Husband" or should I say a man that is assumed to be her husband. It could actually be the Tarquin prince that raped her but the look on her face does not appear to be fear so scholars assume the man is her husband. Supposely Lucretia asked her husband to revenge her before she took her own life and a dagger is poised in her hand. The exhibition featured Sir Joshua Reynolds' "Cupid Untying the Zone of Venus (1788) and noted that his Venus resembles the artist's favorite portrait subject Emma, Lady Hamilton. The only Peter Paul Rubens in the exhibit was his self portrait. I would have preferred one of his historical pieces. Paulus Potter's "The Wolf Hound" was interesting and provided variety to the exhibit. Nicholas Poussin's "The Victory of Joshua Over the Armalekites" depicts a writhing mass of humanity engaged in mortal combat. But, like many Renaissance painters, his costuming was anachronistic. One of the warriors on horseback was wearing a Greek-style tunic and helmet with white crest - a trademark of Alexander the Great. Other combatants did not appear to be nomadic tribesmen either. The audio narrator said Poussin was said to have included images he observed in Rome for this early work. Apparently, historical accuracy was not considered important. Why he didn't just paint a scene like the Battle of Issus or something is a mystery. The exhibit also included more recent works by such artists as Chagall, Picasso, and even Jackson Pollack. I much prefer the more traditional styles and historical subjects of the Renaissance masters, however. I didn't bother to go to the Guggenheim Las Vegas display since it featured only a display of motorcycles and the Venetian charges separately for each exhibit so I didn't see any point in spending another $15.

Walking back to the front entrance, I spotted a little bakery offering creme brulee - my favorite dessert - so I rested a little and enjoyed this unexpected treat. It was not in a ceramic ramiken, only a foil pie tin, so I was a little dubious. But, it was quite tasty. As I was walking back to my hotel along Las Vegas Boulevard, a college student struck up a conversation with me. I must have looked like a fellow academic walking along with my museum brochure. It's funny that he asked if I had seen any bookstores. I had just been thinking about it while I was at Caesar's Forum Shops that I thought it was odd not to see any Barnes and Noble or B. Dalton's in any of the shopping complexes I had explored. He said I must have missed the one at Virgin's. I told him I thought Virgin's was only a CD and movie shop but he said they had books upstairs. I wish I would have known that since most of the stores only feature expensive apparel and jewelry that are of no interest to me. In fact, whenever I visit Caesar's Palace and walk past Cartier's or Tiffany's I instictively avert my eyes as if a mere glance at these baubels intended for the rich and famous would earn me an escort to the nearest exit.
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Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Today Comdex was a bust as well. I walked down to the MGM Grand to the second venue hoping to see some software application vendors and the only vendors were Biosecurity-related developers. Not just fingerprint recognition types but developers of heavy duty, terrorist prevention systems. The technical bookstore was filled with mostly terrorism histories and there was a definite prevalence of military types walking around - a real GW crowd. Needless to say, I quietly extricated myself from what looked to be a convention of the far right. I am disturbed that a conference that should focus on the creative and innovative aspects of our industry should place so much emphasis on the dark side of humanity. I was not encouraged when I read Bill Gates' keynote address either. He seemed to be content hyping gadgets that he dramatically claims are the realm of the future. I think we need to focus more on application solutions that help us manage multi-point information more intelligently. I felt like screaming at these gadget hawkers - "You don't get it do you? It's the content, STUPID! I feel our industry is suffering from the same disorder that currently plagues Hollywood. Too many people are interested in the special effects and not spending enough time on providing truly innovative developments that the vast majority of individuals would find actually useful.

Based on my experience this year and the knowledge that Comdex organizers face a bankruptcy petition in a few weeks, I doubt that I will ask to return next year even if Comdex somehow survives. So, I decided to make my last visit to the Luxor and walk through the Tut Museum one last time. As I was walking over to the Luxor I passed through the Excalibur and enjoyed a free musical presentation by a young man on a bass and a woman on what I was told was an electronic violin. The violin had such an exotic shape I thought at first it was some kind of electrified medieval instrument. But I asked about it and was told it was an electronic violin. It had the capability to sound like more than one violin being played simultaneously. The music was very beautiful and I lingered a while just to listen. I finally turned toward the Luxor and headed off again. When I got over there I discovered that Star Wars II: The Attack Of The Clones was playing on the IMAX screen. So, even though I had heard the acting was poor, I thought it worthwhile to see the visuals on an 8-story screen. It was quite an interesting visual experience. I know my grandson, a new generation Star Wars fan, would have been totally enthralled. I have seen IMAX presentations before but never a feature film in this format. I wonder how they transferred the film to the large format. It was decidely less clear than a typical conventional presentation although I had heard the digital process used in the film did not produce a particularly vivid result for the traditional theater screen either. However, the aerial panoramas were quite impressive and it felt like you were truly looking hundreds of feet down into the cities and landscapes below. Ian McGregor did a much better job as Obi-Wan this time and Jar-Jar Binks screen time was mercifully short. Of course the thin dialogue between Anakin and "Senator" Amidala was as pitiful as I had heard but Yoda's light saber duel was also as good as I had heard. And best of all, there was no interminably long (and boring) pod race sequences either.

I enjoyed my visit to the Tut Museum again. Even though I had been there twice before I did notice some small details I had missed on previous visits. I had not recognized the god of childbirth, Bes, carved on the headboard of the queen's bed or the carved antelope on the sides of the chair Tut used as a child. I also smiled to myself when I read the history timeline starting with Narmer uniting upper and lower Egypt. The Luxor needs to correct this timeline to take into account the recent findings of an earlier "Scorpion" king and his apparent conquests of neighboring tribes. I walked out through the front entrance so I could gaze up at the Sphinx's formidable edifice one more time then caught the tram back to the Excalibur and hiked across the walkway to the MGM again. Before catching the monorail back to the Bally (as close as I could get to the Aladdin where I am staying), I decided to have a sandwich and cup of chowder at the Rainforest Restaurant. The chowder was delicious and I enjoy watching the animatronic animals hanging in the trees around the restaurant's interior. I ate near a cheetah who twitched his tail and roared periodically. When the storm sequence was initiated all of the animals became suitably agitated. The elephants would flap their ears, the cheetah would roar, and monkeys screech. The Rainforest makes a fantastic key lime pie but I haven't been very hungry on this trip so I did not order it this time.

The monorail deposited me at the Bally Resort, just two blocks from the Aladdin. I walked through the Bally and the Paris Hotel and emerged onto Las Vegas Boulevard just in time to see the fountain display in front of the Bellagio right across the street. With Frank Sinatra's smooth voice amplified to the point of almost obscuring the din of traffic, it is a moment that I would say typifies the Las Vegas experience.
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Well, my first day at Comdex was rather anticlimactic. The exhibit was dominated by components manufacturers and items that sell on the floor of a trade show. Since I don't build systems I was not interested in any of the components exhibits and I wasn't seriously interested in leopard patterned tower cases, glowing neon tubes to adorn our systems, glowing cell phones, mice, or see-through keyboards. I also didn't need a back, neck, or foot massage or any other body part attended to either.

I hoped to see some new Palm or Pocket PC applications but relatively few were displayed. I stopped by the booth of a vendor of Pocket PC application development software called App Forge. I was surprised, however, that you have to pay licensing fees to each type of device your software is compatible with after you develop your product. Filemaker Pro developer includes the ability to sell your runtime solutions without further cost.

The wireless displays were also disappointing - mostly hubs which I am not in charge of selecting and ethernet cards (yawn).

The Biometric area was sparse as well - mostly fingerprint detection devices. Nothing particularly earth-shattering. A company called Biometric Security Card, Inc. has developed a new compression algorithm that produces a biometric data footprint of only 64 bytes instead of the usual 350 bytes. This should dramatically reduce the storage requirements of biometric data and improve the efficiency of its transmission.

I also stopped by a display by e-Synergy - a knowledge management application that runs on BackOffice and appears to be similar in function to Lotus Notes, centralizing the management of financials, logistics, project, CRM, HRM, forms routing, and document sharing. However, not only would the University not want to replace its extensive Oracle systems but at $1,000 per seat, the cost of the product is prohibitive for a public-funded institution.

I didn't even see many LCD screen vendors this year. I did notice a LCD television system but didn't think the resolution was a sharp as my traditional 60-inch Mitsubishi that I have at home. Of course my traditional big screen isn't 4 inches thick either!

Microsoft displayed its tablet PC but I doubt that our group would have much use for it. Our field researchers are used to a keyboard and I'm still rather skeptical about the accuracy of hand writing recognition systems despite Microsoft's claims.

The shuttles were also messed up this year. I spent an hour hunting around looking for the shuttle to take me over to the other venue at the MGM and asking officials that appeared to be clueless. Finally I got fed up with it and hailed a cab.

After I got back to my hotel, I decided to take a walk and enjoy the beautiful 72 degree weather here. I wandered over to the Bellagio to visit the "Faberge: Treasures From The Kremlin" exhibit at the Fine Arts Museum. It was not nearly as extensive as the "Treasures From Russia" exhibit I visited at the Rio three years ago but included some very interesting pieces. I especially liked a filigreed silver Kovsh, a ladle for beverages and communal drinking. It was adorned with a delicate portrait of Peter the Great leading his troops astride a magnificent white stallion. I also admired a covered punch bowl adorned with the silver bust of an early warrior with flowing hair and beard. He wore a simple rounded helmet topped with a spike. He looked almost Viking-like. There was also a small silver lighter in the shape of an intricately detailed monkey. The audio narrator mentioned that many Faberge silver pieces were melted down for currency after the revolution. What a loss!

As an admirer of historical costume, I carefully studied the coronation jacket of Nicholas II and a beautiful lace wedding gown of silk, velvet, and muslin. The display also included a lovely silk ball cape adorned with swan feathers and a stunning black lace gown made from silk braid.

Of course the highlight of any Faberge exhibit are the imperial Easter eggs. This exhibit boasted three of them. The Trans-Siberian Railway egg was decorated with a finely detailed map etched in silver and contained a gold and platinum replica of the train. The Kremlin egg depicted Moscow's Uspensky Cathedral surrounded with the towers of the Kremlin. The interior of the cathedral was reproduced down to the carpets and miniature paintings that were visible through one of the windows. The clocks in the towers chimed and the egg contained a music box that played one of the tsar's favorite Easter hymns. Of course the most touching egg was the Alexandrovsky Palace egg. This egg was a beautiful emerald color decorated with gold laurels and delicate portraits of the tsar's children. It contained a tiny miniature of the tsar and tsarina's favorite palace home just outside of St. Petersburg.

Well, I'm off to breakfast then a hike over to part two of the convention over at the MGM Grand. Hopefully there will be more software applications there.
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Monday, November 18, 2002

Well, I arrived safely in Las Vegas yesterday to attend Comdex. Yesterday was my first flight since 9/11 and everything went reasonably well. I was advised to arrive at least 2 hours before the flight but passed through security without any problems so had to nap for a couple of hours before the flight finally showed up. The connecting plane in Portland was also late so had to nap some more. Alaska Airlines did serve a sandwich and cookie for lunch so the rumors about no more food service are apparently false. Of course you don't have to use any utensils with a sandwich. Maybe that is the consession to security.

The Aladdin Hotel is nicely appointed and I was able to get a ticket to the final performance of the Broadway musical "Beauty and the Beast" last night. It was held right here in the Aladdin's own Theater for the Performing Arts. The play was good but I thought all of the musical numbers by the enchanted household utensils sort of overwhelmed the production. I would have preferred more scenes between Beauty and the Beast. Gaston, of course, was wonderfully outrageous. I wish the play didn't include so much "punching" between Gaston and his comic relief sidekick though. The Beast was very good too but didn't seem to be able to project his singing as well as long as he was in the Beast makeup. Once he transformed into the prince I could hear him better. Of course Belle was not only pretty to look at but had a beautiful voice as well.

I was also pleased to note that a branch of the Guggenheim Museum has opened in The Venetian so I hope to take it in while I am here. There is also an exhibit of Faberge items from Russia across the street at the Bellagio's Museum of Art that I hope to see as well. People usually look at me skeptically when I tell them I have attended Comdex in Las Vegas four times and have always found interesting things to do without gambling.

I was disappointed that Sony will not have an exhibit this year as their booth always included some cutting edge technology works in progress. They say Comdex is about half its usual size and they are making an effort to make it less chaotic. We shall see!
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Saturday, November 16, 2002

I just finished an audio course on The Aeneid and Professor VanDiver said that the ending of the Aeneid with Aeneas apparently giving in to revenge and killing a supplicating Turnus has caused a lot of controversy among scholars. Apparently some scholars think Vergil intended the scene to demonstrate that Aeneas had rejected "pietas" (please forgive my spelling if it is not correct - a small disadvantage when you listen to a lecture instead of read it). Other scholars think it was meant as a morality example for Augustus, Vergil's patron. I was thinking a little more simply. Vergil emulated much of the Illiad and Odyssey in The Aeneid. Would it be logical to consider the cultural admiration for Achilles as a reason to make sure Aeneas did not surpass Achilles in personal values? Achilles could not overcome his "furor" after the death of Patroklos. If Aeneas had demonstrated restraint after the death of Palace, would this not have elevated Aeneas above the legendary Achilles?
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Friday, November 15, 2002

On an entertainment note, last night I purchased a double expansion pack for Zoo Tycoon that includes both the Marine Animals add-in as well as the Dinosaur Digs add-in. I haven't even had a chance to play Zoo Tycoon yet but look forward to having time to evaluate it over the Christmas break. I became a fan of strategy/simulation games a number of years ago when I purchased a game called "Eco-East Africa" published in 1995. This game let you manage all aspects of an African game preserve including writing letters to obtain additional government funding, trying to attract tourists, trying to encourage research, hunting down poachers, assisting local villagers with their economy and food supply so they didn't turn to poaching, etc. The AI was logical and very life-like which is the reason I was attracted to the game. I hate pointless "puzzles" that do nothing but delay game progress. The game used only 2-D graphics overlaid with animal animations produced from video clips of real animals in the wild (similar to Deer Hunter) but the graphics were quite effective in combination with appropriate background sounds and the "sunlight" manipulation to change the scene from daylight to evening to dark and back.
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My colleague, Terry Kneen, downloaded the beta of a new product from Macromedia called "Contribute". We experimented with it and became quite excited about its potential. The product allows you to log in to an ftp server (which you save in your settings) and browse html documents. If you need to make a correction to text or graphics you simply select "Edit document", the document is displayed in an edit window, and you can change or add text, or change a graphic or edit an alt-tag, like you would in a simple word processor. You can then click "Publish" and you're done. I see great potential for this tool to use in combination with Dreamweaver templates to enable "non-html" staff to make quick text edits to a website without knowing a bit of HTML. Here, the communications director opted to hire a Cold Fusion programmer to develop a complex template driven site that involves a vast amount of proprietary code. "Contribute" allows you to manage user access to specific documents and even portions of documents in a very simple, easy to maintain system and would be ideal for informational websites that do not require database aspects such as management of inventory and sales. Now, Macromedia, if you would make the product available through a user account on the web like Blogger, edits could be made anywhere, anytime without having a machine with the client software installed!
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Thursday, November 14, 2002

A colleague, Terry Kneen, found this great quote from Harry Truman "The responsibility of great states is to serve and not to dominate the world." I wish GW would remember his history!
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Tuesday, November 12, 2002

One of my friends on the Imperial Rome Discussion List was surprised when I mentioned the height of Roman insulaes (apartment buildings) were at least 8 stories. The program mentioned the height of 8 stories because it quoted an ancient source (I can't remember who they said) that gave directions to their apartment on the 8th floor of a building. They might have been even higher. I find this truly amazing. The highest building we have here on campus is Prince Lucien Campbell Hall at ten stories. I can hardly imagine a building that size of plain brick.

Another interesting point in the program was the description of how the Romans helped Pergamum obtain a plentiful water supply by building an inverted siphon from a mountain 16 miles away to the city. Surprisingly, this plumbing website describes it quite nicely:
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Recently, I ordered a CD-Rom entitled "The Archaeological Detective" for evaluation for possible inclusion in our methods classes. I haven't had time to look at it yet but it supposedly "lets you try your hand at archaeological detective work, uncovering information about a skeleton found under the old stones of Montreal." The student is challenged to determine the sex, age, size, religion and even the name of the person by examing historical documents, plans and maps, and consulting with experts.

A while back I experimented with building a web page for students to explore that would provide the capability to virtually dig up images of artifacts and learn about a particular period in history. I developed a technique with animated gifs and Photoshop's erase to background tool that enabled a student to gradually uncover images of artifact reproductions I had photographed at the King Tut Museum down at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas. My main problem was the multilayerd gifs were rather hefty for efficient download. I was advised to do the animation with Flash but I haven't had time to experiment with it yet.
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Monday, November 11, 2002

I am presently studying the Aeneid by Vergil. I am listening to a Teaching Company audio course by Professor Elizabeth VanDiver who is an outstanding lecturer. I found the story of Aeneas' love affair with the Carthaginian queen Dido very moving. An excellent website about this portion of the Aeneid is: I also found a picture of a beautiful tapestry depicting Aeneas and a meeting with his mother Venus. I added this to my searchable database of images of the ancient world at:

I developed my database of images of the ancient world because most image databases ignore the fact that images from a history perspective have the attributes of time and space. I have yet to find another database that will let you search for images by time period or geographic location of subject. Most databases are only searchable by keyword, artist, and artist dates. I hope my database will be a valuable resource for students and educators of history.
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Friday, November 08, 2002

I saw a program last night about ancient inventions of the city. It mentioned that some Roman insulae (apartment buildings) were at least 8 stories high. I thought they were only about 4 stories high so I find that very amazing. I also was surprised to learn that Minoans, not the Romans, invented aqueducts. I find it strange that aqueducts are not mentioned in discussions of ancient Greece since the Myceneans eventually absorbed the Minoan culture. I will need to research this further. The narrator also mentioned that Augustus formed the first state-operated fire departments. However, some of the fire departments apparently got into the "protection" racket and started fires then extorted money from the property owner to extinguish the blaze.
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I'm planning to make web pages about collecting historical dolls and have individual pages about particular historical characters. So far, my Elizabethan page will feature a hand-made knitted Henry VIII doll made for me by an artist in Alaska along with portrait dolls of Henry and his wives, Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots, etc. from Peggy Nisbet, Rexard, Regal Elegance, Clothtique and a couple of unknown manufacturers. I'll have a Spanish discovery page featuring different dolls of Columbus, King Ferdinand, Queen Isabella, and a conquistador (I wish I could find a Montezuma doll). I'll have a Napoleonic page with dolls of Napoleon, Josephine, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Madame Pompadour, King Phillipe, Musketeers and Lord Nelson. My Egyptian page will include different Cleopatra dolls, Nefertiti, the Prince of Egypt doll series, a Gene daughter of the Nile, a Barbie Princess of the Nile, different Marc Antonys, and a knitted Egyptian priest doll. My medieval page will have King Arthur, Knights, Guinevere (eventually), Robin Hood, Maid Marian, and other ladies in period dress. My Greco-Roman page is a bit sparse so far - mostly Greek goddesses and Roman Xena. I hope to get a 12" Legionary or Greek Hoplite figure for Christmas.
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