Discussion / Events / Graduate Interdisciplinary Seminar

GIS – 9/11/2012

Terracotta boundary-marker, one of four used to mark the confines of a sacred area, with stamps showing a helmeted Athena and a boar, with an Oscan inscription perhaps denoting a gift of money by the Virrii family.

A boundary-marker from a funerary context in (North Oscan) Capua – such objects are lacking from the South Oscan area. (Now in the British Museum: RN 1873,0820.601)

Last week’s GIS started out with a paper from Katherine McDonald, on ‘The Silent Dead; or, Where Are All the South Oscan Funerary Monuments?’  Katherine introduced us to some fascinating South Oscan epigraphy from Southern Italy, before running through the (very scanty) evidence for the use of inscriptions in funerary contexts in the area.  The few which exist are both late and quite obviously Roman-influenced.  Why, Katherine asked,  is the epigraphy we see in other parts of South Oscan culture not being used to record the dead?  Is it a legitimate cultural phenomenon?  Or do we perhaps have a sampling/excavation issue?  Discussion centered on further directions she could take to answer these questions.  For example, if not by tombstones, how are graves marked in this part of Italy?  What other funerary rituals can we identify archaeologically, and do they differ in any revealing ways from the rituals further north, where inscribed funerary monuments are found?  Some (including myself) thought it unlikely that sampling was the issue – given that most inscriptions we have in most places have not been found in excavation, but rather through re-use in later buildings or from plowing fields, if nothing has been found yet it’s probably because there is little (although perhaps not nothing) to be found.  Katherine also encouraged people to take advantage of the Erasmus exchange program, through which she was able to study in this part of Italy – if you have any questions about Erasmus, do get in touch with her!

The week’s snippet came from Daniel, who was curious about a passage in Aristophanes’ Acharnians, where jibes from Dikaeopolis imply that the fact that the Thracian mercenaries are circumcised means that they must be poor soldiers.  What, Daniel wondered, was the logical connection?  By the end of discussion, the consensus seemed to be it must have something to do with removing manhood; comparisons were made to castration, and we wondered whether circumcision and castration were ever compared or equated elsewhere in classical literature.  No one in the room had the expertise to answer this, however…

As always, socializing continued at the pub, where sufficient was said by me about Stephen’s blog post last week, to make any further response here quite redundant.


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