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Marcus Caelius

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Posts posted by Marcus Caelius

  1. I'm not sure about the exact dilution but the Romans drank a sour vinegar wine called posca. Andrew Dalby discusses it briefly in Food in the Ancient World from A to Z


    FWIW, all four gospels speak of the Roman guards giving Jesus "vinegar" during the crucifixion, apparetly as a form of mockery. According to bible.com, vinegar (in the sense of sour/cheap wine) shows up in several places in both the old and new testaments, so it seems to have been pretty common throughout the ancient world.

  2. Thanks to their centuries old project of rescuing and preserving

    Latin literature and language we are able to read and discuss many of the important writings of the Roman civilization. Let's give credit where credit is due!


    I don't think there's any credit to give, certainly not as much as is popularly believed. Ancient Greek seems to have remained quite translatable, and didn't need a political/religious sponsor to do it. Likewise, Roman literature and language was just too widespread to disappear without the Church, and probabably would have survived well into the Middle Ages via the eastern Empire. By that time, the emergence of the universities and printing would have revitalized it.

  3. It does not stop me listening to Django Reinhardt, or enjoying fine wines, and giving credit to the French for both those pleasures. Despite the many negative aspects of the Roman Church, I applaud this website and the people who put it together - it is harmless and, for me, fun.


    Hmm. You're going to have to explain the "fun" part. On second thought, I take that back.


    As I said, I don't deny the good that the Church has done, and we donate regularly to the local Catholic church (they've got the only distribution network worthy of the name in our town), and I'm more than happy to go to their parish chicken dinners. However, the question was raised why anyone would want to deny their roots in the Church, and I answered it. Latin was famously used by the Church as a barrier between the faithful and their faith, ensuring the power (and income) of the priesthood. To celebrate such a use strikes me as something more than a little obscene. It is the language of the Caesars, not of the Church, to which we owe the most.

  4. ...it is a reminder that Christianity was forged under the auspices of a particular time and place. It's a link to two millenias that affirms the cultural and linguistic heritage of Christianity as a product of the Greco-Roman experience. Why would anyone not want to proudly affirm their identity with such a long past? I'm not Christian and I strongly disagree with the Church on many issues, but I respect the weight of history it embodies.

    I agree totally with this - hats off to the Church for building this great website. I have not studied Latin in any detail, but I was fascinated as I explored this site. Amazingly, I also felt as if I understood quite a lot of it, which just goes to show how heavily modern languages have borrowed from (and in some cases derived from ) latin.


    Well, I took four years of Latin, and I don't understand a single word (or, more properly, a single sentence - I can pick out the occasional word) of the web site. Which is to the point of both these quotes. If communication involves the transmission, reception and understanding of information, just exactly how much information is being communicated by that site's transmission to the average viewer? Virtually none, I'll warrant, and on those grounds it is an abuse of bandwidth.


    And let us not forget what is embodied by the weight of the history of the Latin-speaking Church: intolerance; bigotry; torture; murder; slavery; conquest; ignorance; fear... And all because Deus volit. I think it fair to say that most if not all human progress made while the power of the Church was at its greatest, was despite that power and not because of it. Ursus, as a descendant of western Europeans the history of the Roman Catholic Church is part of my identity, and I definitely do not want to affirm any of it; moreover, I completely disavow it. I do not deny the good that the Church did or inspired, but neither do I deny that useful knowledge can be dredged out of the Nazi medical experiments. I do not deny that the average Catholic is a good and decent human being, but I assert, and I believe I can corroborate, that goodness and decency are human, not religious, attributes. To my mind, the persistence of the Roman Church for the better part of two thousand years is the greatest of human tragedies.

  5. 1. The development of agriculture - without it, no settled life, which is necessary for the ability to sustain large populations and the establishment of industry and government, and virtually all that has occurred in recorded human history.


    2. The development of writing - necessary for the widespread dissemination of ideas. Without it, the Internet is irrelevant.


    3. The development of democracy - or, the basic idea that there is no inherent ascendency of one human over another.


    4. The harnessing of fire - without it, arguably, none of the preceeding three would have occurred.


    5. The divergence of astronomy from astrology - which enabled the discovery and codification of the laws of nature, and offered an alternative to the supernatural as a cause of events.


    I would argue that #5 is the single most important. Without it, we would never know our true place in the universe; if you don't know where you are to begin with, you can never make meaningful progress away from that point.

  6. The research may force yet another revision of the image of the Vikings, from longship ram-raiders, to mainly traders and colonising farmers, to the fishmongers of Europe.


    Why would this be a revision? I thought it was pretty-well known that the Norse had well-established trade routes, overland no less, throughout northern Europe, Scandinavia and Russia.


    ETA: "Vikings," by contrast, were raiders by definition.

  7. We recently got a Blue-Ray DVD player to go with our home theater and 42" widescreen TV. Last night, we watched the Blue Ray edition of Kingdom of Heaven and were totally blown away, especially during the siege of Jerusalem. Just about anything, even pre-Hi-Def DVDs, look *so* much better with Blue Ray. Can't wait for Master and Commander, and I hope, probably in vain, that The Wind and the Lion gets the treatment, as well.

  8. Whatever, it's in the same vein as, and a good companion for, "King Arthur," with Clive Owen. I have both movies standing together in my DVD collection. Call them both "historical fairy tales" and watch them as such.

  9. I always wondered if that legend was true about Pilate's christianity, but we will never know.


    We might never know for sure, but I think we can say with a great deal of certitude that it never happened. In the popular Roman mind, Christians were a sect of what we, today, would call demon worshippers that practised all sorts of vile rituals. It would be as if the judge who sentenced Charles Manson later on became a member of Manson's "family" and participated in the assassination attempt on Gerald Ford (this assumes I'm not the only one here old enough to remember).

  10. But the extreme sensitivity to all things racial, in America, is quite puzzling to me.


    I think we've done it to ourselves. In trying to respect everyone's differences, we've turned our society into a group of fortified ethnic and religious archipelagoes with virtually no bridges between them. I'm beginning to prefer the French system.

  11. I'm glad that you seem to have finally understood the point that I have been making. It is impossible to make a 'one size fits all' bland statement about 'Western Perceptions of Islam' - or any other racial/religious/cultural, etc. group.


    Please quote the passage where I disagreed with that.


    *My* point is that feelings of being perceived as an outsider are often internally generated.


    BTW strange as it may seem to you some people go to America out of curiosity and with no desire to emigrate there. :)


    Are you *trying* to be offensive?


    1st, don't tell *me* about the comparative rates of immigrant v nonimmigrant. I help decide those numbers.


    2nd, America did not go "totally paranoid about any potential visitors." There's a damn big hole in lower Manhatten that's still bleeding. That's not an imaginary fear.


    ETA: FYI, in 2006, 175.1 million nonimmigrants of all types entered the United States; this does not take into account those who might later adjust to immigrant status. There's a hell of a lot of people crossing our (mostly undefended) borders, and we somehow have to find the 100 or so who are trying their level best to blend in, who want to do us harm. If we do seem to be a little fanatical about it, is it any wonder?


    Also, in 2006, 702.5 thousand people became citizens of the United States, while another 1.266 million became permanent residents (and thus eligible for naturalization). And those are just the ones who's applications were approved. For all that's wrong with this country, there's a lot of people who seem to like it better than where they came from.

  12. Why we were there was irrelevant to the point of the story...


    No one asked you that, or even mentioned it.


    You wish to guess where we were outside New York go ahead but personally I think they deserve as much privacy as any other community from outside interference and finger pointing so no I am not going to name them in an open forum.


    No, I don't wish to guess where you were. That's the point. It's impossible to make any judgement at all about your story without some context (and I refuse to accept it without question), and you've supplied exactly nothing. You say you were driving towards New York; that places you anywhere between Boston, Los Angeles and Fairbanks. Considering the number and diversity of groups and inherent possibilities, from Inuit to Hopi to Amish, your story has no point at all. All we have is that some kids without much money were treated rudely somewhere in North America. Big deal. It happens to everybody, at some point or other.


    Oh, and if there's anything that you could say about them here and now that would harm them, they're already dead.


    As to entry rights at the time, despite your assertion to the contrary, we all had indefinite right of entry to the US...


    No, you did not. You probably had a multiple-entry tourist visa (B2) which gives you no "rights" at all, merely permission to apply for entry an unlimited number of times during the visa's validity period. The inspecting officer could have turned you away at the port of entry each and every time, had he chosen. And the basic immigration law under which we operate goes back to 1952; there are really very few changes to that law that have anything to do with 9/11.

  13. Four youngish UK tourists, on a tight budget, travelling across America in a hire car with no maps, only a rough itinerary and a general idea of where they wished to go.


    Stop right there. From a completely professional point of view, given this description, I'm mildly surprised you were allowed into the country. Certainly, again working from this description, you almost certainly would not have been granted an extension to your entry permit (I-94).


    Driving in towards New York...


    This tells me nothing. What state were you in? How far from New York were you? There's a *big* difference between Westchester and Newark. From your description, you could've been in Burlington, Vermont.


    Anyway, let's assume everything you say is absolutely and objectively true (almost certainly a false assumption, but let's run with it). It says absolutely nothing about "America," and there's absolutely no reason you should think a fuller account would offend Americans (actually, you've said nothing that couldn't be used to describe a waiter in a French restaurant). Your story does, however, remind me of a brief exchange from early in the movie, "Casablanca."


    "Can you imagine the German army in your New York?"

    "There are parts of New York I'd advise the German army to stay out of."



    As to your comments on US perception of Muslim violence in all honesty this has only really been a major issue since Russia started to fall apart and needing something else to do with its time started actively interferring with the internal politics of Neutral Muslim countries.


    C'mon, give us a break. You Brits have far more experience at interferring with politics in the Middle and Near East. We're really pretty new at it and could use a few pointers.


    BTW, watch your quote attributions.

  14. Possibly most societies do perceive visitors as generally non-threatening but I can assure you that on our trip to North America, until we spoke, we were perceived as something totally different to what we were. How else do you explain hotel staff ignoring polite requests for accommodation in a language they spoke and in other cases hotel guests either trying to hide in the corners of lifts or else leave them as soon as we got in after they had? :P


    In the two posts you've mentioned this, you've given absolutely no specifics, nor even the general context, just the assertion. Assuming your claim is accurate, one possible cause that you've said nothing to rule out, but that could explain everything, could be your personal hygiene. Unless you're more forthcoming, I see no reason to inquire further.


    Until the relatively recent US and media led attacks on all things Islamic I have never had a similar experience with immigrant &/or Muslim communities in Britain. Even now I find that if you treat them fairly and respect their rights to freedom of speech and religion they will respond in kind.


    And I would agree. OTOH, the Muslim threshold for disagreement seems rather low, and this religion of peace does seem to have a higher-than-normal percentage of adherents who want to meet every perceived insult or slight, no matter how innocuous or innocent, with violence. IOW, Islam seems to have a pretty big chip on its shoulder.

  15. QED - that our sense of what is right and wrong is develops at an early age and sits lurking in the hind brain irrespective of what cultural group we belong to.


    I would disagree with this. Our sense of right and wrong, or "conscience," doesn't develop on its own, it is instilled by others. We have to be taught right from wrong. A fairly universal example would be slavery: to paraphrase Carl Sagan talking about the Great Library, so far as is known no author of the ancient world protested the institution. That slavery is on its face wrong is a fairly modern idea, and there are still plenty of people in the world who think it is (or should be) part of the natural human order.


    Yes, we recognize outsiders fairly easily, but merely because something about them is unfamiliar.


    As to the setting you have some of the truth about it but the point is still valid as above that you don't have to go to recent immigrant communities to feel out of place we didn't. The sense of non-welcome can prevade pretty much all stratas of every society...


    Again, I disagree. Virtually all societies welcome (friendly) visitors, and virtually all have mechanisms for acquiring members from outside. There are individual exceptions, of course, but I believe that any perception of hostility, unwelcome or strangeness is mostly false and more akin to paranoia and bias (however innocent) on the part of the visitor.

  16. On the subject of feeling out of place I am told by someone who studied psychology that under test conditions children as young as two have been known to identify people who are not members of their own community and/or do not operate under the 'normal' rules for their community.




    On a personal note myself and a group of friends on a visit to America some years back found ourselves in an area where there was definite resentment to our presence, which was only mitigated when the locals found out we really were foreign tourists so not a threat to them.


    So, what was the setting? I'm guessing there was something physical that made you stand out, which seems to indicate you had wandered into an ethnic neighborhood.