Why this Roman map of Britain has changed over the years
Not everything has survived from ancient times, but the work of Pausanias did, thanks to the scribes, and many scholars have since redrafted much of it ever since the Renaissance.
Thankfully, what we have now relating to Classics is never likely to be lost and there is always the possibility of finding something new hidden away!
Trying to make the texts as authentic as possible so we read them as they did 2000 years ago is a large part of the transcribing process. Scholars compare the different versions from copyists throughout the ages, and provide more accurate manuscripts (hopefully) thereby obtaining, the finer / more important details, that are crucial to our understanding of the classical world.
It is important to modern accuracy in cartography to understand how the Romans managed to plot their maps (which of course included Britain) and this tells us how well they knew the territories that they conquered.
Tacitus was perhaps the most famous historian from the Roman Empire; he compared the shape of our island to a diamond; the later Latin manuscripts depict it differently and more like a shoulder blade.
Now a lucrative business, publishing and updating Classical texts has strengthened the subject even more, and this helps provide accurate views of these thinkers from ancient times.
Part of the fun is the debate about what was written, and what was meant, in the 2000 year manuscript tradition, which has now become an industry.
Much of poetry was very carefully preserved though, and the Greek or Latin verse is in no doubt as a result. No one would dare change it, but the interpretation is always being translated; thus, people had a different mindset in ancient times, and the scholarly interpretations are always evolving.
The levels begin at the very lowest, and expert scholars must bear this in mind, because they understand the ancient world better than many modern readers who often have no knowledge of Greek or Latin.
There is certainly a difference to Classics in the modern versions of their language, compared to the real cultural activities using the original (ancient) versions of their languages, which were of course embedded in society.
Keats was a Classical English poet without any Greek, and Shakespeare was almost the same; thus, Shakespeare used a translation of Plutarch’s biography to write his version of “Julius Caesar” perhaps with the infamous line: ‘it’s all Greek to me’……in mind!
The different issues raised in Classics have always been vast: literature, drama, philosophy are but a few! Plato is quite possibly the king of them all, and continues to reinvent the debates surrounding politics, economics and Marxist theory, which incredibly has its roots in ancient Greece and Rome and keeps reinventing itself on most postgraduate courses.
Incredibly enough, early versions of atomic theory and matter, came originally from Democritus and Epicurus who were Greek scientists, thus anthropology and other ancient ideas of theirs appeared in Pausanias guidebook as we have seen.
The poets weren’t the only ones to get their work translated, because Pausanias and his guidebook has most famously been translated by Sir James Frazer, who visited Greece many times to supplement his research in the nineteenth-century; he blended the pathways and routes with those of Pausaniaus and came up with a revised version and something which is not uncommon in many walks of life these days.
By the time Frazer got involved though, no one really believed in Zeus or Apollo any more. Back in ancient times they did, and they went to the trouble of building him a temple half way up a mountain. Frazer liked the scenery, the nature and the beautiful countryside, instead of the sun-gods which the ancients liked; this proves how some things definitely changed over 2000 years, but others didn’t and this is huge for Classics.
Thereafter a pecking order developed – as with everything in life – in who could do the best translations, blending the old with the new, and this is something that will surely remain.
Pausanias was lucky to survive because it was eclipsed by the more recognisable works in the Classical period, and of course it is in Greek and printed originally when Rome was in charge; hence, it was never on reading lists but not because it was no good, but just because it was generally ignored. It is feared many other such things never did survive!
People are now looking at the wider picture with regards to mythology. Classical texts cover a whole period: the collapse of Rome, the rise of Byzantine, the influence of Turkey (with Istanbula and Constantinople) and how religious texts too, influenced the ancient period.
Pausaniuas in his own time was just jotting down notes, and was hardly a recognised writer, but what he did write down attracted Frazer many years later: the religious sites, public rituals, worship, myths, customs, and superstitions, were but a few of the topic areas carried forward.
This all added up to more than just a bit of cartography, and is what we expect from any phrasebook or language study these days – more than just the translated words / greater than the sum of the parts and Pausaniuas was perhaps the first to do this properly.
Frazer wrote the “Golden Bough” which begins with a classical problem known as the ‘strange rule of Nemi’ because it governed the goddess Diana on the hills south of Rome.
Each priest had to murder the previous one to gain the priesthood by turning a branch into a weapon and then living a fear for the duration of this priesthood.
Caligula was the Roman Emperor who emulated this and it has been used as a model system of power and civilised reason ever since. It was Frazer using Pausanius who brought all this to light.
Using part of Virgil’s “Aeneid” where the challenger descends from a branch then founds Rome, Frazer went on to use a wide range of resources, but the one central theme grew mainly from Classical editions of Pausaiuas’s guidebook.
Academics and artists generally rely on Frazer now, thus, his version of Classical civilisation did of course rely upon Pausaiuas.
Hollywood continues to enjoy the tragedy, epic poetry of Homer (the Illiad and Odysseus) from Greece and the Romans too: Ovid, Virgil, and Horace, are never far from our screens!
There is Roman politics in America, the cosmos is ancient and so is Daphne becoming a laurel tree due to Apollo’s advances. Classics is classical in every sense.
There is the Midas touch which wasn’t just from King Midas but none other than Julius Caesar, who is perhaps the only human that reached God status from ancient times.
Fasti and festivals keep reappearing and probably always will.
So many modern theorists used mythology to inspire them: Freud with Oedipus incest mother came up with the idea of the Oedipus complex; Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection and gave us narcissism; hence, we may have to accept the ancient scholars were pre-empting the psychoanalytic theories of today, and had some knowledge of them first!
Now a very popular university discipline, Classics actually began at Sunday school as a church taught subject.
Although many were at odds with the glory of Greece and grandeur of Rome – the reformation is one example – the world outside the church, plus understanding Classics, was a way through this; a lot could be learned from Classics and this was hugely recognised even if it wasn’t fully accepted, ’till quite recently.
The cross over between religion and mythology is perhaps the most interesting bit: the gods and goddesses, sacrifice and rituals, and folklore.
Plato’s ideas about education, politics and law are still practised today. Even Friedrich Nietzsche emulates tension in his studies between Apollonian control and dioacisayc release from Classical texts.
Platonic love has distanced itself now from the start of Western philosophy, but for Frazer the story of Classical education has a conclusion and this is the triumph of modern Christian reason.
Foraging back has become a huge attraction to Classics which of course dates back BC.
JD Salinger is best known for his reclusive nature and The Catcher in the Rye, his only novel.
He thought he had trouble fitting in at school being Jewish and changed his name. There in New York, he managed the fencing team, wrote for the magazine and acted in drama productions.
Salinger lost his girlfriend to Charlie Chaplin and then did the cruise ships as an entertainer, though he did eventually marry in 1955 having two children.
He saw combat in the D-Day landings, the Battle of the Bulge and interrogated prisoners of war because he spoke French and German.
Salinger was one of the first into a concentration camp in the big clean up after the war was over, an experience he never really recovered from.
The Catcher in the Rye is about Holden who was expelled from every school he went to and the book was the most censored in the US for its use of bad language, giving it a cult following and making it hugely successful.
When Holden Caulfield is expelled, it is Christmas, he walks the streets of New York City and encounters a prostitute called Sunny. He pays her even though they just talk and she becomes greedy, asking for more money than agreed. Her pimp beats Holden up when he refuses to pay.
He is actually in a mental hospital, as he is on the verge of a breakdown, frightened of telling his family about being excluded from school and the entire novel is written in flashback from this institution.
Holden has become an icon of teenage rebellion. His behaviour is due to him feeling alienated by society and is searching for an identity like many adolescent males.
He is devastated by the death of his younger brother and fails in relationships. The Catcher in the Rye is a song sung by a little boy.
Holden then decides he wants to be someone who helps children and stops them falling off “that cliff” which metaphorically speaking is the transition from childhood to adulthood.
Holden sees a boy walking in the street instead of the sidewalk saying the poem from Robert Burns “Comin through the Rye”. Holden envisages a field of rye high on a cliff with children playing and he can catch them if they fall off. He has misheard the lyric.
Robert Burns song asks if it is acceptable for two people to have a romantic encounter in the fields “meeting” away from the public eye.
Holden wants to “catch” children before they fall from childhood into adulthood and embark upon sex and other things, catching them has therefore the opposite meaning to meet, which implies two people avoiding being caught with their secret encounter out in the rye fields.
Most of Salinger’s work was rejected by publishers and Hollywood, though MGM did buy the rights to one of his short stories and made the movie. Salinger was so shocked at how distant this film was from his tale that he refused to sell anymore movie rights.
He lived to age 91 and died peacefully in 2010 of natural causes. Now, of course, the race is on to make the movie and find someone suitable to cast as Holden.