Thinking about the evil eye in Roman culture for some lesson planning last night and this am. I came across these two impressions of ancient intaglios.One is said to have been taken in the 18th century in the Florentine Museum. The other is reported as taken from the Sammlung Stosch, W Cl VII 0127 = Staatliche Museen, Antikensammlung Berlin, Berlin, Deutschland, Inv.-Nr. FG 9722. The Florentine is said to be cut from the root of emerald. The Berlin intaglio is catalogued as a glass paste. Was the Berlin glasspaste made from the Florentine gem? Is the Florentine intaglio really another glass paste (I’m not sure what root of emerald means) made from the same mold as the Berlin example?Were glass pastes ever made as ‘fakes’ in the early modern period?Could the Berlin version be such?
A round up other evil eye iconography:
Not a “brothel sign” but another example of an apotropaic carving from Leptis Magna.
Just reading Gorini’s admirable write up! V nice to have an archaeological context! I agree with his historical framing and lean strongly to his interpretation of it as possibly votive but not likely constitutionally foundational in anyway.
Note to self: Discussed in Jaia and Molinari 2020/2021 “The Carbognano Hoard” citing
Bonetto J., Falezza G. 2009, Scenari di romanizzazione a Nora: un deposito di fondazione e un deposito votivo per la costituzione della Provincia Sardinia et Corsica, «Sardinia Corsica et Baleares Antiquae», VII, 81-100.
“Bronze mirror cover (16.2 cm diameter) showing a Greek warrior and a fallen Amazon, perhaps intended as Achilles and Penthesilea: ca. 375 BC. Provenance lacking prior to 1898. Image: State Hermitage Museum (ГР-7245)” via Twitter.
Earlier precedent for iconography seen in the Claudius and Britannia relief from Aphrodisias:
Any one want to remind me of coins with hair grabbing scenes?
Potentially relevant bibliography on hair grabbing (thx to Dr. Draycott for bringing to my attn!):
Aldhouse-Green, M. J. 2004. Crowning glories: languages of hair in later prehistoric Europe. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 70 (Decemb), pp. 299-325.
Aldhouse‐Green, M. (2004), Chaining and shaming: images of defeat, from Llyn Cerrig Bach to Sarmitzegetusa. Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 23: 319-340. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0092.2004.00214.x
Who doesn’t love lining up under the elements? In all weathers?!
It’s gonna be great!
Let’s make those lines extra narrow and have very limited space inside the voting area!!!
The best thing to read on this is behind a paywall and in French by an Italian. So if you want the quick and dirty version –Really, the: “I should be grading version or developing course materials or answering emails version”–this is it.
[Update: look out for a forthcoming article on this from David Rafferty in TAPA, hopefully 151.1 (2021), but perhaps a later volume!]
Romans voted in blocks and there was no such thing as an absentee or proxy vote or multiple polling spaces. What do I mean by a block? It is kind of like the US electoral college: every one in the block who choses to vote and manages to do so (in our case States, in the Roman case “tribes” or “centuries”) votes and then bases on simple majority the block vote is given its totality toward one candidate or one decision (yes/no in the case of legislation, guilty/not guilt for trials). As I’m fond of reminding you, elitist Greeks at the end of the republic thought this was a very clever way of making sure the poor (suckers) ‘thought’ their vote counted.
So if all those blocks voted simultaneously (or near simultaneously) the Romans needed to make sure each voter gets sorted in to the right group. I’m reminded about how hard it was to find my right polling station within my polling location back in Brooklyn.
At least by the mid-2nd century BCE (but probably much earlier) the Romans has worked out a system they called the saepta (enclosure) or olivia (the sheep pens–great analogy right?!).
We know this because of the archaeological remains of Fregellae (Latin colony from 328 BCE, rebelled and destroyed 125 BCE). The form was designed to allow for long (hot, cold, wet, slow, miserable, sociable, crowded) lines.
Rome had something similar. Long before Julius Caesar co-opted the project as his own, plans to monumentalize the voting pens were underway in late republic.
For in the Campus Martius we are about to erect voting places for the saepta tributis, of marble and covered, and to surround them with a lofty colonnade a mile in circumference: at the same time the Villa Publica will also be connected with these erections. You will say: “What good will this monument do me?” But why should we trouble ourselves about that?
The voting pens are visible on the fragments of the Severan marble plan. I include a modern map for human scale, particularly for those who are used to walking this landcape.
Putting colonnades around ensured that both sight lines and access points to the voting area were highly restricted. Who got in and out was easily policed. Inside the voting area for officials might be covered but the area in which those waiting to vote after being sorted by block was not. Again environmental factors and press of people could be significant including waiting.
The area is huge you will say, massive. More than enough, surely?! So the estimated area (v rough–I just used Google earth) is about 3.51 hectares = .04 sq km = 378,205 sq feet = 8.68 acres. The perimeter is about 875 meters or 2874 feet or 958 yards, so about 2/3s of an imperial Roman mile, but not really that far off Cicero’s 1000 paces. An American football field is 57,600 square feet (5,350 m2). So the Saepta was nearly 6.5 football fields. VAST!
If you allow 2ftx2ft per person (tight!) 14,400 people fit on an American football field or 94,551 in our (over) estimated Saepta, but with all the equipment and crowd control that seems far far too high.
How many Romans were eligible to vote? Were told that in 70 BCE maybe 910,000 individuals? In 28 BCE 4,063,000?! (See Wiseman 1969).
So we could generalize that the built structure in Rome was intended to accommodate less than 10% of the eligible voters, probably much less than 5%.
What about the logistics of time in this space?
Cicero calls it the tribal Saepta so let’s guess that individuals lined up by tribe or that the basic built structure of the barriers allowed for this. That would mean at least 35 rows. These rows must have been less than 10 feet wide, probably a lot less.
Perhaps these rows were divided again by senior and junior members? So less than 5 feet wide?
So you get in line. The number of people in line ahead of you effects waiting time as do the time it takes for them to vote.
Every voter has to mount the voting bridge, get a ballot, mark their ballot, cross bridge, deposit the ballot in the urn and walk off the bridge. 30 seconds? Just a guess. That would be 120 voters per tribe per hours. Maybe if two lines per tribe 240 votes per hour.
There are about 15 hours of daylight in Rome in summer. So maybe enough time for 126,000 citizen to vote, but that seems far too high.
And that is A LOT of waiting in line.
But somebody must have been policing the order in which everyone got in line for elections because the centuries within each tribe needed to vote in order. So that had to increase waiting time for those lower in the centuries.
Of course tribal distribution was not even. Urban tribes would have longer lines than rural tribes.
Time is a luxury. Standing around all day to vote costs for those living at the subsistence level.
Oh and you might end up in the middle of riot at Rome as you’re standing in line to vote. That was pretty typical in the last decade or so.
For a more serious view of all this, see the work of Lily Ross Taylor (a personal hero of mine)
It is the subsellium NOT a sella curulis (curule chair). This means the individual does not hold imperium, so not (pro) consul or (pro) praetor BUT quaestor or tribune (republican period) or possibly Praefect. (The MFA catalogue at time of writing calls it a curule chair hence my assertion.)
My three questions for you! What is in the basket? What is in the man with the axe’s right hand? What is that pile of blocks behind the tribunal and the man with the hood?
Updated shortly after original post as my brain started to work in earnest on the problem:
The sight lines suggest the damage to the cup might be an intentional erasure OR reconstruction that obscures and critical narrative element. I’ve used orange irregular mark to indicate approximate size and dimensions that would capture every one’s attention appropriately for the scene.
Dude with an axe is holding it in his left hand. He’s not about to execute anyone, but if we compare to other sacrifice scenes he’s not unlike the figure leading the bull to sacrifice it’s just that the collar is empty. Has the silver been over cleaned? Repaired?
The other figures don’t look like they are all dressed up for a sacrifice or festival (no crowns etc…) but maybe. Notice the ‘purse’ like object around the other dude’s wrist. Has he set down the object on top of an “altar”? Some sort of mallet maybe?
Another one of my working theories is that besides sacrifice this may be scene of liberalitas, as humble individuals are also in such scenes:
So the top rectangle in the rectangular snow man could be a one of these money scoops on top of a money box on top of a table.
This might make the basket one full of bread being distributed as part of largesse. I can find images of bread baskets, but none just this shape and no images of bread as part of ritual handouts for all we know it happened. The closest I can get is this synagogue mosaic:
” I’m not too bothered, Caesar, to inspire your delight, Nor to determine whether, as a man, you’re black or white. Nil nimium studeo, Caesar, tibi velle placere, nec scire, utrum sis albus an ater homo.“
While all agree that the b/w allusion here likely does not refer to skin but politics or sexuality, this led Rebecca Futo Kennedy to recommend the following readings:
Haley, Shelley. “Be Not Afraid of the Dark: Critical Race Theory and Classical Studies,” in Laura Nasrallah and Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza (eds.), Prejudice and Christian Beginnings: Investigating Race, Gender and Ethnicity in Early Christian Studies, 4 Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 2009: 27-50 No paywall PDF from Press.
Kennedy, Rebecca Futo. “Colorlines in Classical North Africa” Classics at the Intersections: Random thoughts of a Classicist on ancient Greek and Roman culture and contemporary America by Rebecca Futo Kennedy. 8 October 2017.
Snowden, Frank M. “Misconceptions about African Blacks in the Ancient Mediterranean World: Specialists and Afrocentrists.” Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics 4, no. 3 (1997): 28-50. Stable JStor Link.
Update: On 7 October I received a letter from Prof. Hubbard asking me to take down this blog post by Oct 15 at which point he would contact his lawyer “A Harvard JD and successful specialist in this type of litigation”. Among other points below he argues that my use of the term pedophilia was potentially misleading and did not match the DSM-5. Words as we know have both connotations and denotations, in no case did I mean to imply I could diagnose colleagues living or dead. I’ve struck out the word pedophilia throughout to acknowledge the potential misunderstanding of this charged vocabulary.
He also suggests that I lack scholarly expertise to write on these matters.To be clear, this is not scholarship. This is a blog in which I summarize and collect links to material readily available elsewhere and reflect on my own experiences and ideas.
“Indeed, it might be a good exercise to show your seminar your blog and this letter responding to it, so that your students can assist you in developing proper standards of respectful scholarly conduct.”
I whole-heartily agree and accept the pedagogic value of this exercise. The class has already seen the blog and I will certainly share this update including the letter in full. Although the power dynamics of a classroom make it inappropriate to expect my students to ‘school’ me as instructor. Thus I invite any peers to offer feedback.
Content includes references and testimony regarding modern sexual abuse of children including discussion of grooming and pornography, no explicit a few details are given, but links may contain such more graphic details.
The conditions of writing (thanks Joshel!) are that I’ve just spent far too long in a pandemic trying to remove translations and materials written by controversial figures from my sexuality and gender UG class. I’ve done this so my students need not read about child sex in the ancient world from those either convicted of child sex crimes or who are alleged to dispute the need for laws that seek to protect children from such crimes. I write this as I prepare for a Graduate seminar on professional ethics in Classics. I write this as someone who experienced grooming by a male sexual predator at the age of four and reported and was believed and then had my whole world turned upside down for months as adults tried to protect me as best they knew. That’s another story. Sexual violence occurs every 73 seconds in the US–its just not that unusual. It is unusual to talk about. We need to talk about it.
Update:Hubbard says that my use of the term grooming “suggests that it never progressed to actual molestation”. What this means is unclear to me: my most vivid memories are of an engorged penis in a tent and a jar of urine and a feeling of being deeply disturbed as I watched my underwear from that night dry on a clothes line. He is correct that the reactions of adults around me namely the disruption of my lived environment and separation from primary carer upended my life but his implication that their efforts to ensure my safety were somehow worse than “whatever this alleged predator actually did to [me]” is wrong. Do I feel scarred or traumatized? Do I consider myself a ‘survivor’ or ‘victim’? No. Does it shape my world view? Absolutely. Hubbard contrasts his life experience and desires with mine saying that “for that reason, I am able to be completely objective and dispassionate in my scholarly work on the subject”. I reject the idea that those with lived experience are some how less capable scholars on the matters regarding which they have personal experience. However, scholars are allowed to disagree on such things.
Moreover, after he implies that my lived experience clouds my judgement, he says that my lived experience is far off that of gay teenagers exploring their sexuality. This needs correction. I am queer and explored my sexuality as a teenager. My queer identity (even though I did not label myself as such at the time) directly informed how my parents sought to safe-guard my well-being while simultaneously allowing me to develop in my sexuality; this was entirely appropriate. Do I know what it is like to be a male teenage? Nope. I’m a cis-woman.However, here in lies a quandary, perhaps he is a better scholar of sexuality because of his completely legal lived experiences as well?
Hubbard also worries that I am denying my students his scholarship. No, I mention it, including my admiration for his skills as a translator; I have made past course materials that utilized it availablethrough the regular teaching platform. I simply don’t require they read it.The controversy around him changes the conditions of reading such that I no longer find them useful primary teaching materials.
In what follows underlining with italics indicates something newly added. A strike through indicates wording changed because I concede Hubbard’s objections.Note that Hubbard’s letter gives his views on all four men I mention before I mention him in this original post.
So I am putting this information here so that it is easily available. This is intended to be a record of what has been said, done, and documented. It is not an op-ed. I don’t have the emotional energy to write that, just finding this has been exhausting.
Feedback and links to further sources are welcome.
Classics has a number ofthree published scholars that are documented pedophiles have been found guilty of crimes of a sexual nature involving minors (if extended to biblical scholars this list would be longer)
Holt Parker, formerly Cincinnati, now in federal prison for child pornography
Eidolon article by Sarah Scullin putting this in context for the discipline at large
Andrew Dyck, formerly of UCLA, primarily Cicero and other Latin authors, sentenced to 6 months for one felony count of sending harmful matter over the Internet with the intent to seduce a minor and one count of attempting to do so
Another older matter has recently received much attention. Hindley was never changed with any crime. Refer to Hubbard’s letter for another perspective on this:
We also have an on-going controversy regarding Tom Hubbard, UT Austin, he has been convicted of no crimesandbelieves my original blog post might imply he committed one. This was not my intent and I have updated to clarify.
He is on record as believing child-sex (or at least boy-sex) should be decriminalized. Hubbard asserts that his words in the news story quoted below have been taken out of context. You may read the full context of his rebuttal in the letter linked above but I put screenshots below for ease of consultation.