Like a Premiership manager overly blessed with attacking talent, or Roman consuls on the march together, we at GIS headquarters have resorted to a rotation policy to keep the co-chairs happy and the presentation of the blog fresh. This edition sees Harrison return to the hot-seat after a week warming the bench. A disciple of Xenophon, he writes in the third person in the hope that the critical distance created will lend his prose an authenticity and justify his claim that the home fans are delighted with the inclusion of an egotistical flair-player at the expense of the effective but more workman-like Cousins. Having recently discovered how to tag posts in the blog, he begins with a typically tortuous analogy in the hope of fooling innocent Google users into visiting this website. He suspects that this will not work.
Anna Judson got the ball rolling with a discussion of ‘The Linear B Inscribed Stirrup Jars’. A large number of stirrup jars from the late Bronze Age have been found, and more are known to have existed, but only a small proportion of these are inscribed with Linear B writing. Anna explained that scholars have different interpretations of what constitutes legible Linear B, meaning that the precise size of the corpus is dependent upon definition. She then turned to the broader problems of interpreting the inscribed stirrup jars. How do they fit within the contexts of literacy on Crete? What function do they serve? Why have inscribed jars only been found in Crete and Greece, but non-inscribed jars been found all over the Mediterranean? Using the Linear B tablets, Anna suggested a possible administrative function. That, however, still doesn’t explain the pattern of distribution. Perhaps what happened was that once these inscribed jars had served their administrative function, they were simply re-used in trade; because of their markings they were picked out for trade with areas familiar with the script.
In the animated discussion that followed, much was made of the problem of understanding literacy during this period. Is it possible that potters were simply marking their work using a few symbols they recognised? This was not seen by all present as entirely plausible.
James McNamara then took the hot-seat to present this week’s snippet, rather ominously entitled ‘Cicero will punish you.’ The issue in question was a disputed sentence in the elder Seneca’s Suasoriae. James was unimpressed with the translation offered by the Loeb, and perturbed by the textual emendation in a second version, so called on the linguistic abilities of the group. Sadly this was beyond Harrison’s grasp of Latin which consists entirely of his old school motto, but interesting suggestions were certainly proffered. One prominent line of thought was that the line was meant in an ironic way. James left with plenty to think about, though, sadly, no answers.
Discussion then adjourned to the Granta. After last week’s outdoor shivering, a table was reserved inside: bread was desired, banter was had, and so the whole rotten circus roles on.