I'd like to start off this carnival with a short comment on the blogging medievalists out there. This academic term seems to have taken its toll on most of the ones I know. I've had to extend my reach to find new and different medievalists blogging about things medieval, because lots of us seem to be blogging more about teaching the Middle Ages. And because it's the end of term for many of us, and I know that many readers are coming to take quick breaks between periods of frantic marking (I've got thirty 10-page papers to mark by Monday, and finals start Tuesday; a friend is in the middle of a pile of about 400 exams!), I've decided to focus on a particularly theme -- this is an Ancient/Medieval carnival of quirks and cheer, of short reads and, well, because I am today's mistress of misrule -- the carnival of Stuff I Like! I hope you like it, too!*
I don't have HBO. And I'm also not in the UK. This means that I have not had a chance to see the HBO series, Rome. This has made it difficult for me to answer my uncle's weekly questions about the accuracy of the series. Fortunately, I'm now off the hook. Glaukôpidos offers commentary on the whole series, as well as her own take on its accuracy. And while she's right about it not being a documentary, and a series purely for the purpose of entertainment, Tony Keen at Memorabilia Antonina has a slightly different outlook. The series really has a few folks riled. Alterior at Fascinating History, which deals with some incredibly interesting topics, is also not impressed. I'm looking forward to the series on DVD in a slightly squeamish way. Love Ciaran Hinds, the star, but just hate it when stories that are intrinsically interesting get turned into 'tales of sex and intrigue' because people think it sells better. Really. I ask you. How is it that directors think the rise and fall of C. Julius Caesar, not to mention the entire career of Octavian, need to be padded with probably false licentious detail? The political intrigue and the personalities were not enough? Sheesh!
But if you must have sex and crime in the Ancient World, then perhaps it would be good to remember the case of Phyrne. Laura at Clews reminds us of the details.
Looking for something slightly more academic, but still a bit quirky? How about the treatment of depression in Rome? Michael at Laudator Temporis Acti gives us the beginning of an explanation and Michael at Curculio clarifies it.
Not so into bad TV or ancient shock therapy? Feeling a bit guilty that you haven't been keeping up? Well, Phil Harland at Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean brings us up to date on the Megiddo Mosaics. I've linked to my favorite post -- the one with the pictures -- but all of the posts are very interesting.
If you've been keeping up with things here at Blogenspiel, you'll know that those of us who focus on Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages are constantly concerned with the use of words like "Germans" and "Barbarians" and "Migrations." Athena at Rites of Passage goes even further back in time to really confuse the issue by updating us on Ancient DNA and the First Europeans. Turns out it's not just the "German" thing that boils medievalist blood: In Bad History Childeric expounds on misapprehensions about the Celts and Pagan Festivals. Just a quick step away from misapprehension is misappropriation. Let's all say, one more time, America is not the new Rome.
I mentioned above that many of the medievalists have been posting more about teaching medieval than about things medieval in and of themselves. Since I am the mistress of this carnival, I thought I'd add my own notes to the pile.
Normally in the first part of the survey I teach the Song of Roland as a sort of capstone. I use the Glyn Burgess translation, as it's accessible and affordable. Why Roland, when there are so many other chansons de geste? My students will have already read many documents pertaining to the problematically named Germanic peoples at Paul Halsall's Internet Medieval Sourcebook. Through those documents, they will have become somewhat familiar with inheritance; social status; justice and conflict resolution in terms of compensation and wergeld, feud, and ordeal; the importance of public ritual in non-literate societies; and any number of other things they've teased from the documents. They will also have read a series of documents on Islam and on Muslim/Christian interactions from varying viewpoints over time. Because I am cruel and the 8th Amendment does not apply in my classroom, they will have read Einhard. Finally, they will have read documents pertaining to the Crusades. In this context, Roland seems the perfect reading to leave them with. It is in some ways the medieval equivalent of the modern mass appeal historical movie. The students have a familiarity with many of the details in the story, as well as a greater temporal context for those details. They can (or should be able to) note anachronisms and the misappropriation of history for a popular audience. Whether that misappropriation is intentional is a matter for discussion, one that can often lead to a fruitful idea of what history is and how it is often a combination of traditions passed on and deliberate construction. I hope it helps them to remember there are differences between 'historical' and 'history.'
Not sure? Here's an Alternate History Fridays take on the story of William Tell -- it might be
argued that this story is neither! For yet another take on the misappropriation of history, Carl Pyrdum at Got Medieval lets us in on how to act like a knight -- not!
This is a topic that's been on literary minds lately as well. Gillian Polack offers us a couple of opinions, the first brought on by yet another discussion of the ius primae noctis, and the second on trying for the authentic in the fantasy novel. Speaking of fantasy (and since I'm the hostess, we shall speak of it), Michael Drout reminds us of Tolkein's own historical and philological roots. Still unconvinced about the crossover? That's all right, because Scott Nokes has some comments on the history of Tolkein snobbery.
It's possible that some people might not like the inclusion of Tolkein-y things in the carnival on the grounds that Philology isn't History. Well, for us Ancient/Medieval types, who have to do lots of our work in languages dead, Michael Drout again provides assistance: King Alfred's Grammar Really Works!. This might come of use to Ancarett, who's been teaching things Anglo-Saxon and Latin. Think I'm kidding about the languages? Pecia provides a wonderful look at the kinds of manuscripts medievalists get to work with. It's actually just a brilliant resource all round. And if you're a medievalist, you should be able to cope with the fact that it's in French! Speaking of French-language sites, you might also want to know that Blitztoire has moved and been re-born as Médiévizmes. French not your best language? Archaeo-News-Blog might be more to your tastes -- it's in German! OK, it's also in English.
Speaking of tastes, I thought it might be nice to leave you with a couple of posts on food, one ancient, and one medieval. First, an ancient recipe for pork with truffles from Homo Edax. Then, in what is probably the only medieval history (and not historical) post in this entire carnival, owlfish tells us about how watermills affected the use of spelt in our diets.
Think it's all over? It almost is. But since it's the holidays and all, and reindeer are pretty non-denominational, I give you Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer in Latin!
Thanks for coming. Next time, it'll be longer. I promise.
*By the way, this carnival would not have been possible without the generosity of Alun at archaeoastronomy and Laura at Clews, who both sent me suggestions above and beyond the call of duty.