Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Chelmsford 123: The Girl of my Dreams

Hello again everyone! Back from holiday, which was brilliant and involved hardly any work. (I quite often go to parts of the Roman Empire on holiday and tour archaeological sites, which I love doing and which is partly why I choose those places, but does mean there is an element of work in the holiday. This time, I went to New York City, so I was able to fully enter the 21st century - or at least the 20th - for most of the holiday, except for an hour or so photographing pots and statues in the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Unfortunately, however, the airline have lost my suitcase (after waiting a full day for them to do a two and a half hour journey, they turned up with the wrong one - never check baggage in to KLM). This means I have to wait in for it, which means I can't go and see Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief in Birmingham this evening, which means I probably won't get around to seeing it until it appears in Blockbuster or on Sky Movies. Sorry about that - my wonderful words of wisdom on it will have to wait.

This episode sees Badvok, Aulus, Grasientus and Functio beseiged in Aulus' villa by an army of furious women who demand a male sacrifice, or they will sit outside until the men starve. The episode tries to get around the fact that this plot is based on the idea that their leader wants to avenge the attempted rape of her daughters by making the daughters very, very ugly, implying no one would want to rape them anyway. (sarcastic voice on) Well, that makes it OK then (sarcastic voice off). This motivation is sometimes attributed to Boudicca, though according to Tacitus' Agricola, rape in general in only one of a number of grievances that led to the revolt. Modern retellings seem to feel the need to explain why a woman is taking arms by making the offence a close personal one - the rape of her own daughters - whereas Tacitus says that Boudicca led the revolt simply because the Britons did not have male primogeniture at the time and leaders could be of either gender, something apparently conveniently forgotten by modern authors.

The episode claims that the story of the fearsome tribe of women (the Silugae) who beseige the men, only to move on when they realise they've got the wrong town, and eventually raze the town they're after and put some man's genitals in a jar, is told in Tacitus' Histories. As far as I can tell without actually re-reading the entire Histories myself, this isn't true - the Histories tell the story of the Year of the Four Emperors. The revolt of Boudicca, which seems to be the inspiration for the episode, is described in Tacitus' Agricola and in Cassius Dio (and the Roman governor who fought was, in fact, Paullinus). It's a shame, because the crack at the end, about how maybe we shouldn't take either Tacitus or Suetonius too seriously, would be quite funny if it was based on a real example. There's also a rather nasty scene where the men prepare to eat Grasientus alive - OK, it's meant to be funny, but it is a bit gross for my tastes.

The best bit of the episode is the first scene, where Aulus goes to a dream interpreter to find out what the horrible blob in his dream means. The dream interpreter inspects the entrails of a goat to try to find out - this is actually pretty accurate, dream prophecies were sometimes verified by extispicy - checking the entrails of a sacrificed animal. The dream interpreter appears to do the New Zealand All Blacks' Haka first, then stabs the goat, which he says establishes that the goat is dead. It's pretty funny. Afterwards, still with no answers, Aulus wonders how he has offended the gods and suggests that perhaps the gods have gone vegetarian and they should be sacrificing carrots, which is even funnier. There's a fairly amusing section towards the end where the men compare war cries (the British 'arrrrgggghhh!' vs the Roman 'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori') but if only the rest of the episode had lived up to these first few minutes!

The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team, performing the haka

4 comments:

  1. Ouch! Lost baggage definitely not a great way to end a holiday! :o(
    Although I kind of enjoyed it when I lived in an elevator-less studio in Belgium for several years... they had to bring the suitcase UP to the appartment themselves! My back was always grateful for that! (that and not having to change trains while lugging luggage!)

    Percy Jackson hit screens here this weekend as well, and I'm trying to decide wether to go on my own or wait for the dvd... I don't know anyone who wants to see it! :p
    So, how was the big apple?

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  2. New York was great, got round everything we wanted to do, including my two big musts, the Empire State Building and the Staten Island ferry! Also had a Manhatten and a Cosmopolitan in the city, which was good fun. Unfortunately the other thing I went for was shopping, and all my stuff is in my case, which has been totally lost - they're not even sure where they sent it from New York :(

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  3. damn! totally lost? still no news?
    what airline was this? (so I can avoid it at all future opportunities)

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  4. They found it now, thank goodness! They've broken it - one wheel is entirely missing - but at least I have my stuff and souvenirs now!

    We flew KLM, it was a KLM plane from Birmingham to Amsterdam and Delta from Amsterdam to New York, but I think they're the same company. Everyone we spoke to seemed to imply this happens pretty often - avoid if possible!

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