I was chatting with Sarah E. Bond online the other day and casually mentioned that I wished were could ostracize someone from Twitter who was playing the part of a braying ass (she suggested a time-out). Sarah suggested this was eminently tweetable material. And I tweet I did. But, I went a bit further. This is not quite as severe as my phallometric rating suggestion, but it started a conversation of sorts….(and continues a bit of musing about ancient governing institutions which might be useful today).
So, twitter is always looking for ways to attract more users, to increase activity among all other users, and to achieve that raison d’être of all social media, making #noise (cue airhorn). pic.twitter.com/6wHgztf2VC
“The procedure of Ostracism. In his third book, Philokhoros explains the ostracism process when he writes this: “ Ostracism is like this: the people vote in advance of the eighth Prytany whether it seems best to make an ostrakon vote or not. When it seemed right, then the Agora was defended with planks and ten entrances were left through which the people would come and cast their ostraka [votes] entering in their tribal groups and keeping the inscriptions facing the ground. The nine archons were in charge with the boulê. Once the ostraca were counted, whoever had the most—provided the total was not under six thousand—had to handle his business and make arrangements over private affairs before in ten days and then to leave the city for ten years (later it was five). The exile had use of his own property, but was not permitted to cross the boundary within Geraistos, the promontory of Euboea.
The only person who was ostracized of regular people for his wickedness and not for pursuing a tyranny, was Hyperbolos. After him, the custom was ended, and it began when Kleisthenes established it as a practice when he expelled the tyrants so that he could exile their friends too.”
#twitostracism (5/13) In Athens, #ostracism was used to prevent too much power from falling into the hands of a single tyrant. It was allegedly introduced in 508 during the democratic reforms of Cleisthenes. The ostracized had to leave for 10 years, but got to keep his property
#twitostracism (7/13) Twitter does not have assemblies. It is an endless, mindnumbing, stomach churning digital assembly. Twitter does have buttons. Twitter also claims some kind of a democratizing ethic. We should add an ostraca button to all profiles
#twitostracism (9/13) Let’s say if 60,000 strangers (who do not follow you) vote to ostracize you, you take a ten-day break from twitter. If 2/3 of your followers vote to ostracize you, then you take a ten-day break. If 1/3 of the people you follow vote, you take a ten-day break
But to play along, what makes one a citizen of twitter? Could we define 'citizenship' (eligibility to vote in an ostracism) in a meaningful way that might reduce bot/troll abuse of this new proposed function?
Unfortunately, groups of users are already doing something like this. They use other sites to coordinate mass reporting of opponents. If enough bad actors report TOS violations in a short period, that account gets suspended and has to appeal.
Twitter gave me a 12-hour time-out a year or so ago because of a tweet that I addressed to our President that had profanity in it. I don't know precisely what their algorithm is, but whatever I wrote in that tweet triggered it.
My postings on Roman law have received a gratifying welcome. Several have asked how to learn more. Although this is a tad off-topic of this site, the spirit of Sententiae Antiquae hangs over it; I have asked The Power That Be for, and received, a special category for such posts. Yes, this implies there will be more.
By way of background, since the 1980s I’ve taught Roman law in alternating years as an advanced undergraduate course. It remains one of my three favorite courses.
Finally, I’m not just saying “take that”, thow it on the cyber-floor and move on. Questions are welcome; I can also offer more readings, hypothetical cases, quizzes, more reading suggestions…all accompanied by typically witty salon conversation. Do feel free. You can find me here, or on Twitter @chopin_slut.
Barry Nicholas, An Introduction to Roman Law (OUP)
John A. Crook, Law and Life of Rome, 90 BC -AD 212 (Cornell)
Bruce Frier, A Casebook on the Roman Law of Delict (Scholars Press via OUP)
All paperback, all in print as of this writing
What to do
Nicholas is the primary textbook. There are several others, but this gives the clearest explanations and most coverage.
Do a once-over of Part One, with particular attention to the history (I.2) and sources (II, III). Roman law is profoundly connected with Roman history, so you need an overview. Don’t try to master the sources section, but keep referring to it as needed, especially when we get to delicts.
For the balance of the book, read in order, starting with the Law of Persons. I strongly suggest omitting the Law of Inheritance the first time through. It is not as fundamental to understanding Roman law as the other parts, and really requires knowing those other parts very well indeed.
You should realize that Nicholas was writing in the UK for UK students. You may find some of the examples from UK law a little strange, but neither I nor my students have ever found them opaque.
The only other point on Nicholas is to read his Delict and Quasi-Delict sections, but use Frier to learn delicts. See further infra.
Crook places Roman law in a historical context. It reinforces the readings in Nicholas, introduces real cases and other evidence. The two books complement each other.
Frier has written a wonderful book. Working through the cases and section introductions will give you a wonderful introduction not only to delicts, but to the actualy workings of Roman law. If you try to answer all of his questions on all of the cases, you’ll be at it for a very long time. I suggest a selection of cases. If and when you get to this point, please query me and I’ll provide a list.
There are various supplemental books which can prove very helpful. Depending on how this post works, or doesn’t work, I may, or may not do a followup on them.
And, to send you on your way as well as to make up for the lack of a video in the last Roman law post, I leave you with this quasi-law video. You will enjoy Roman law; about the video…I cannot say.
Oscar Wilde could have gotten worse to translate. Consider this from Hesiod on how to make a plough:
“Also cut many bent timbers, and bring home a plough-tree when you have found it, and look out on the mountain or in the field for one of holm-oak; this is far the strongest for oxen to plough with when one of Athena’s handmen has fixed in the share-beam and fastened it to the pole with dowels. Prepare two ploughs, and remember to do it at home; make one all of a piece, construct the other with joints. This is the way to do it, for if you break one of them, the other will be ready to go for your oxen. Poles of laurel or elm are most worm-free, and a share-beam of oak and a plough-tree of holm-oak.”
The problems are not just with vocabulary, although that is difficult enough, but using the vocabulary. The Greek medical writers have an even more contorted lexicon, but the human body is not a total mystery, unlike the parts of a plough. Getting up close and personal…well, consider this one page from a wonderful modern commentary:
From the recently untimely deceased Martin West’s commentary (Oxford, 1978) on the work. He was without a doubt the greatest Hellenist of several generations, and it was my great good fortune to have him as tutor for Greek Literature when doing Oxford “Greats”.
How about Odysseus and his raft (Odyssey 5.243-57)?:
“He cut twenty trees, and trimmed them with the axe; then he expertly planed them all and made them straight. Meanwhile Calypso, the beautiful goddess, brought him augers; and he bored all the pieces and fitted them together, and with mortises and tenons he fit them together. Wide as a man well-skilled in carpentry marks out the curve of the hull of a freight-ship, wide in the beam, even so wide did Odysseus make his raft. And he set up the deck-beams, bolting them to the close-set ribs, and toiled on; he finished the raft with long gunwales. Then he set a mast and a yard-arm; next came a steering oar made him a steering-oar. Then he fenced in the whole from stem to stern with willow withes to keep out stray waves, strewing brush.”
Not exactly easy, but less hard; most will find it easier to visualize the fine points of a raft than a plough. When a Yale undergrad I had to deal with both passages, and more, in one semester. This was the notorious Greek 70, History of Greek Literature, where a week’s assignment could be three books of Homer, or two plays. Hesiod took me two very unpleasant evenings, and this was before the aforementioned commentary appeared. And speaking of sight translation, which started this all….
In the spring version of Greek, which covered the Fifth Century, I made the mistake of cutting the first Thucydides class. Geoffrey Kirk, who taught at Yale in the spring, asked me to sight translate…gasp…the first paragraph of Pericles’ Funeral Oration in Thucydides. Let’s just say my conclusion was rather different from that of The Talented Mr. Wilde.
And how could he? Simple, one classics degree from Trinity-Dublin and a second from Oxford (ex Magdalen College) in Literae Humaniores, aka “Greats”. [aside: a degree I also hold, but with no other connexion].
First the story, from the wonderful Oxford Book of Oxford:
What a champ! Right up there with his famous line on the death of Little Nell in Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop.
As for the circumstances. A viva voce examination only occurs after one has done the written Greats examinations and only if it is unclear into which class the candidate should be placed: third, second or first. Since we know Wilde got a double first in Greats, this would have been a one-two viva as they’re called. Do well, and you glitter when you walk. Do badly and you’re stuck with The Hated Second. Who’s going know? Everybody. Oxbridge complete exam results were, even in my time, still published in the Times. With all the attendant snobbery. My girlfriend at the time got a third in her finals in a different subject area, and felt that having a third was worse than no degree at all. And remember that the great Cambridge classicist A.E. Housman failed his Greats exam (“ploughed” as they say in the trade).
The “examiner” was in all probability Warden Spooner of New College (yes, that Spooner; a forthcoming post will have more]. The passage would be Acts 27.9ff:
9 Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, 10 And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives.11 Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul. 12 And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west. 13 And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete. 14 But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. 15 And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive. 16 And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat: 17 Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven. 18 And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship; 19 And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship. 20 And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away. 21 But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. 22 And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, 24 Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. 25 Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. 26 Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island. 27 But when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country; 28 And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms. 29 Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day. 30 And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship, 31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. 32 Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off. 33 And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing. 34 Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you. 35 And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat. 36 Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat. 37 And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls. 38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea. 39 And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship. 40 And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoised up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore. 41 And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves. 42 And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. 43 But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: 44 And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.
The passage bristles with difficulties, including, but not limited to, vocabulary. Here is an example of the problems from Rendall’s commentary:
There will be more coming on nasty material object vocabulary in Greek and Latin authors; you have been warned.
[Translation is the King James, a literary masterpiece in its own right. It use does not imply any sub rosa doctrine; those who are offended are invited either to use their own preferred translations or go elsewhere.]
In a recent post, Palaiophron talks about seeing me lecture and kindly does not make it clear that when a student first asked me for the etymology of Nausikaa, I was flabbergasted and admitted it. The context was a discussion of the names Nausithoos (“swift-in-ships”) and Nausinoos (“ship-minded”) in the Homeric and Hesiodic traditions. Why wouldn’t I think that the offering of two etymologies might prompt an audience member to wonder about a third, when I mentioned the name as a parallel?
The embarrassing truth is that for some unknown reason I had never really thought about the meaning of the name Nausikaa. So, on the spot, I suggested Ναυσι+ καίω for something like “ship-burner”. Palaiophron rightly reacted that this would be preposterous for the narrative of the Odyssey and eventually dug up the records of the ancients who tied the name to either a form of καίνυμι (to excel, or surpass) or from κοσμέω (to arrange, adorn).
So, he cites Pseudo-Zonaras, in his Lexicon, writes: “Nausikaa. Excelling in ships.” (Ναυσικάα. ταῖς ναυσὶ κεκασμένη) confirmed by Etymologicum Magnum which adds Nausikaa: “Excelling (that is, honored [or, an ornament to?]). Ναυσικάα: Κεκασμένη (ὅ ἐστι κεκοσμημένη). Kallierges repeats this (598.28): Ναυσικάα: Κεκασμένη (ὅ ἐστι κεκοσμημένη) ταῖς ναυσί.