Ancients Behaving Badly

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derek
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Ancients Behaving Badly

Post by derek »

For people in the US

Next week, on Tuesday 15th February, at 11pm, the History International channel is showing the Alexander the Great episode of a series called “Ancients Behaving Badly”. The series bombed when it first ran a couple of years ago and they only screened the first two or three episodes before pulling it. As far as I know, this is the first time the Alexander episode has ever been broadcast.

Ancients Behaving Badly looks at notorious figures from history, concentrating on their cruelty and excesses, and rates them on a pathological scale from calculating killer through to blood-crazed loon. It’s a little comic book at times, but is different and interesting enough. I’ve seen Julius Ceasar, Nero, Hannibal, Caligula, and they have Genghis Khan, Attila, and Cleopatra episodes still to screen. But they only crop up now and then and only telly addicts like me spot them.

Anyway – next Tuesday at 11pm on History International. Whether you agree with their findings or not, it’ll be a different take on Alexander.

Derek
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Re: Ancients Behaving Badly

Post by athenas owl »

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLM_H54oVyQ

I could swear I watched this sometime ago....or perhaps it was some other "documentary" that I simply had to turn the channel on, as the eye rolling was causing me physical harm.

Anyway, take a gander at the you-tube link above....it's part one. Yikes.
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Re: Ancients Behaving Badly

Post by marcus »

athenas owl wrote:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLM_H54oVyQ

I could swear I watched this sometime ago....or perhaps it was some other "documentary" that I simply had to turn the channel on, as the eye rolling was causing me physical harm.

Anyway, take a gander at the you-tube link above....it's part one. Yikes.
Ghastly!

Terrible graphics.

What got me was "He was definitely a Mummy's boy. Right up to the day of his death he was corresponding with her." Er ... And then it continues to say that he followed in his father's footsteps but it was his mother he wrote to. Maybe that's because his father was dead?

Sensationalist rubbish. Perhaps there's something of more value later on in the programme, but I suddenly realised I had some paint to watch after about four minutes of this.

ATB
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Re: Ancients Behaving Badly

Post by Taphoi »

They should not have allowed the statement that Parmenion and Philotas were assassinated without a trial to be broadcast, because it is a falsehood. It is indisputable that there was a trial before the Macedonian Assembly and that both were convicted (Parmenion in absentia).

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Andrew
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Re: Ancients Behaving Badly

Post by marcus »

Taphoi wrote:They should not have allowed the statement that Parmenion and Philotas were assassinated without a trial to be broadcast, because it is a falsehood. It is indisputable that there was a trial before the Macedonian Assembly and that both were convicted (Parmenion in absentia).

Best regards,

Andrew
You clearly managed to watch more than I did, Andrew! But you're right. Whatever the sensationalism is of their getting psychologists to delve into Alexander's character, cutting to over-enthusiastic archaeologists who've been swallowing the thesaurus, they should at least get their facts right! What a ghastly programme.

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Re: Ancients Behaving Badly

Post by Taphoi »

marcus wrote:You clearly managed to watch more than I did, Andrew! But you're right. Whatever the sensationalism is of their getting psychologists to delve into Alexander's character, cutting to over-enthusiastic archaeologists who've been swallowing the thesaurus, they should at least get their facts right! What a ghastly programme.
Hi Marcus,

I watched the whole thing out of morbid curiosity. To be fair, all documentaries and books on Alexander that I know have some minor inaccuracies (and I don't exclude my own). It's impossible to avoid in a work of any scale. However, it is a bit blatant for one of the selected "experts" on Alexander seemingly not to be aware of the Trial of Philotas, when it's one of the great set pieces in Curtius, who makes a point of having Alexander defend the right of Philotas to put his defence to the Assembly:
Curtius 6.9.30-31 wrote:Then Coenus, despite that he had wed the sister of Philotas, fulminated against him more fiercely than anyone else, bellowing that he was a traitor to his king, to his country and to the army itself. And scooping up a stone that happened to lie by his feet he prepared to hurl it at him – many surmised out of a desire to spare him from torture. But the king stayed his hand, declaring that the defendant ought first to be afforded an opportunity to deliver his defence and that he would not allow the trial to proceed otherwise.
They used the supposed lack of a trial as "evidence" that Alexander was a pathological murderer. It is a massive irony that the documentary constituted a sort of show trial using untruths and exclusively hostile "experts" to attack Alexander, whereas Alexander himself showed such meticulous attention to fairness as to insist that a man who had failed (by his own admission) to report a genuine assassination plot against the king's life should nevertheless be given a hearing before the entire army :!:

Best wishes,

Andrew
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Re: Ancients Behaving Badly

Post by agesilaos »

I am not sure about the 'meticulous attention to fairness' when he sanctioned the torture of Philotas UNTIL he confessed; certainly would not wash at The Bailey. But that aside I got the distinct impression that some more considered comments had been lost in the edit; there was mention of the rival source traditions but no discussion thus no attempt to arrive at a truer picture of the subject which renders the psychobabble pointless.

The case was actually worse when they tackled Hannibal; it was stated that all our sources were Roman and then they accepted every horror story at face value and went on to imply that the bias manifested itself by talking up Hannibal's military ability, which the chair bound dunderheads dismissed as less than average!

In the Caesar one every one of Caesar's casualty figures is uncritically accepted! Thank the gods they didn't do Xerxes! Not a good advert for Ancient History makes 'Battles BC' look good.

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Re: Ancients Behaving Badly

Post by Taphoi »

agesilaos wrote:I am not sure about the 'meticulous attention to fairness' when he sanctioned the torture of Philotas UNTIL he confessed; certainly would not wash at The Bailey.
The torture was unfortunate, but according to Curtius (who gives by far the most detailed account) its purpose was not to secure a confession. Philotas had already made his defence and been condemned by the Assembly when the torture was applied to him. Furthermore, he gave a confession before the torturers began in the hope of stopping them. However, it appears firstly that torture was a normal part of the punishment for those convicted of treason and secondly that it was designed to try to extract any further information about the plot that might not yet have been uncovered. In this particular case, it is clear that Alexander needed further evidence against Parmenion. He could not execute Philotas, Parmenion's last surviving son, without incurring the enmity of the general, so he was compelled to act against him. According to Curtius, Philotas did indeed provide evidence of Parmenion's treasonous intentions by describing an earlier pact with Hegelochus to kill Alexander after the death of Darius. Curtius also notes (and I agree with him) that such evidence given under torture was of doubtful validity. But that misses the point. Alexander had to move against Parmenion anyway, so it was better to do so on the basis of questionable evidence than on none at all.

Best regards,

Andrew
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Re: Ancients Behaving Badly

Post by marcus »

Taphoi wrote:Alexander had to move against Parmenion anyway, so it was better to do so on the basis of questionable evidence than on none at all.
Indeed.

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Re: Ancients Behaving Badly

Post by agesilaos »

LOL

Since I was only writing from memory I went back and re-read the Curtius VI 7ff and found my memory was not at fault. Philotas is condemned in absentia by a secret meeting of Alexander's friends after Alexander has given him his hand and excused his inaction as not considering the report worthwhile rather than an attempt at suppression 7 xxxv.

This cabal decides at 8 xv that Philotas should be 'interrogated under torture to force him to name his accomplices in the crime'. That is a crime in which no one has implicated him and for which the 'scrupulously fair' Alexander has just excused him. Then Alexander dines with the man he intends to torture! Very Caligulan; in the morning the purge begins.

Purge is the right word, when Dymnus was being arrested there was no sealing of the camp or dawn raids Alexander is using the real plot as a cover for 'a little house-cleaning' as Hitler described his own Night of the Longknives. Philotas is tortured immediately as when Alexander adjourns the Assembly 11 ix it is said that it maybe for 'FURTHER torture in prison'.

Alexander primes the Assembly making it quite clear the verdict he wants, there follow two inflammatory speeches to get the crowd in the mood before Philotas is brought in shackled and covered by an old cloak. Alexander then asks him in Attic if he will speak in Macedonian successfully alienating Philotas from the old guard then leaves to make it plain that Philotas' words are just hot air as far as he is concerned. Philotas makes his plea then Bolon stirs up the crowd's resentment which is egged on to blood lust by the Body Guards, corporis custodes so probably the Seven. Now Alexander adjourns. NO verdict has been issued.

There now follows the confessions under torture each followed by further 'scrupulously fair' torture until the various statements can be cherry-picked to make the desired confession implicating Parmenion though Philotas allegedly says finally that his father had nothing to do with the plot 11 xxxiii.

Not quite the sugar-coated version you remember, Andrew. Realpolitik, red in tooth and claw, but not justice. Nor is there any evidence to support the claim that suspected traitors were tortured, Amyntas and his brothers weren't nor was Lyncestes. Philotas was singled out for some purely personal cruelty. :evil:
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Re: Ancients Behaving Badly

Post by Taphoi »

agesilaos wrote:Philotas is tortured immediately as when Alexander adjourns the Assembly 11 ix it is said that it maybe for 'FURTHER torture in prison'.
There is no word in the Latin of Curtius that translates as "further" in this passage, which is:
Curtius 6.11.9 wrote:rex in contionem reversus, sive ut in custodia quoque torqueret, sive ut diligentius cuncta cognosceret, concilium in posterum diem distulit...
The word at issue is quoque, which means "also" or "as well". You also have to look at the immediate context (the preceding sentences) to see what this torture/torment is as well as. The correct translation is:
Then indeed the entire assembly was incensed and the Bodyguards made a beginning by bellowing that they should dismember the traitor with their bare hands. In fact, Philotas was scarcely scared on hearing this, since he feared far fouler suffering. But the king came back into the meeting and adjourned the proceedings until the following day, either in order to torment Philotas in prison as well or else to investigate the whole matter more thoroughly.
So in fact it is perfectly clear that the torture/torment in the prison is in addition to the proposal by the Bodyguards that they should dismember Philotas with their bare hands. The meaning of torqueo in Latin is actually literally to wrench or twist, so the dismembering would very much have been recognised by a Latin reader as another instance of it. There is no basis for the translation "further" in the Penguin Curtius, which infers something for which there is no evidence in the Latin.

There has been no mention of Philotas having been tortured before (only the proposal that he eventually should be, which you have mentioned). Hence, the translation "further" would make Curtius refer back to an event that he had not actually stated to have happened. So the Penguin translator (by the artifice of mistranslating a Latin word) would have us swallow that Curtius referred back to an episode of torture that he had forgotten that he hadn't already mentioned a few a pages earlier. Absolute nonsense!
agesilaos wrote:Nor is there any evidence to support the claim that suspected traitors were tortured
I said convicted traitors: the Royal Pages were tortured to death after their conviction (Curtius 8.8.20).

Best wishes,

Andrew
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Re: Ancients Behaving Badly

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Taphoi wrote:So the Penguin translator (by the artifice of mistranslating a Latin word)...
Artifice (from Oxford online): clever or cunning devices or expedients, especially as used to trick or deceive others...

Your words would claim that the Penguin translator (whom you decline to name) has mistranslated to a purpose. That is a rather serious accusation to level at Emeritus Professor John C Yardley.



Many of the points in the post to which you have responded you have ignored. That is not surprising.

The trial is a show trial choreographed by the "scrupulously fair" Alexander to obtain a desired result. Curtius (16.8.15) writes that "the decision was unanimous that Philotas should be interrogated under torture to force him to name his accomplices in the crime". This is a decision Alexander instructs to be kept completely secret. Curtius goes on to describe the subsequent banquet at which "the king was able not merely to dine with the man he had condemned but even to engage him in friendly conversation" thus claiming that Alexander had already convicted Philotas.

If, as you noted above, "torture was a normal part of the punishment for those convicted of treason" then Curtius' clear statement that Alexander had already convicted Philotas of the crime should be accepted for the decision to torture had clearly been taken.

This is again the import of his later description of Philotas being brought before the Macedonians in fetters and an old cloak (6.9.25). Here the Macedonians see Philotas "not merely on trial but condemned – even in fetters!" exactly as Alexander wished them to.

Later, after the "boorish" Bolon had concluded the highly charged and emotive declamations against the condemned, Curtius says that "the whole assembly really became aroused" going on to clarify that such arousal was at the instigation of the Bodyguards who began yelling for Philotas to be torn to pieces (6.11.8). I would see that as an emotive call for the assembly to rush to agreement with the absent king's earlier conviction of Philotas rather than any call for torture.

All scrupulously and fairly to plan one would think.
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Re: Ancients Behaving Badly

Post by agesilaos »

rex in contionem reversus, sive ut in custodia quoque torqueret, sive ut diligentius cuncta cognosceret, concilium in posterum diem distulit...

Yes, quoque means also, and too but this cannot mean torture in addition to being torn apart it must mean 'again' or 'additionally' which Yardley renders quite fairly as 'further'. Agreed, the Penguin is rife with free translation but I would not say it has any agenda. I shall have to support this interpretation with further instances of quoque meaning again rather than the more usual rursus say. But that displacement activity will have to wait 'til I finish what I am meant to be doing.

Philotas, of course was only a suspect until the Assembly condemned him which happened after the appalling torture. The rights of the Pages may well have been less than a free man or it may just be the increasing Eastern cruelty infecting the king.
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Re: Ancients Behaving Badly

Post by Taphoi »

Paralus wrote:
Taphoi wrote:So the Penguin translator (by the artifice of mistranslating a Latin word)...
Artifice (from Oxford online): clever or cunning devices or expedients, especially as used to trick or deceive others...

Your words would claim that the Penguin translator (whom you decline to name) has mistranslated to a purpose. That is a rather serious accusation to level at Emeritus Professor John C Yardley.
Using "further" instead of "as well" was an artifice to give a particular slant to the Latin. But I do not accuse John Yardley of deliberate deceit. He has put this slant on the Latin, because it was the only one he saw at the time. He simply did not notice that quoque should refer back to the tearing to bits by hand, I suspect. However, the effect is unfortunate in seeming to provide evidence for pre-conviction torture where there is none.
agesilaos wrote:Yes, quoque means also, and too but this cannot mean torture in addition to being torn apart ...
Please explain more clearly just why being torn apart by hand cannot (in your opinion) be regarded as either wrenching/twisting or torment or torture, which are all meanings of torqueo? If you mean that the torture is impossible after the tearing apart, that is the whole point of why the translation must be "as well", because that expression does not imply any particular time order (whereas "further" does). Curtius is inferring that the tearing apart would still be in the process, but after the torture in prison. He is distinguishing between the two phases of torment by labelling one public and the other private.

It should be remembered that shortly after the trial of Philotas, Amyntas & Polemon were acquitted by the Assembly. Their trials were not a foregone conclusion. But Philotas had the special problem that he had freely admitted to having concealed a genuine assassination plot against his sovereign, which would be sufficient to convict him of treason in the UK today.

Best regards,

Andrew
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Re: Ancients Behaving Badly

Post by Paralus »

Taphoi wrote:Using "further" instead of "as well" was an artifice to give a particular slant to the Latin. But I do not accuse John Yardley of deliberate deceit. He has put this slant on the Latin, because it was the only one he saw at the time. He simply did not notice that quoque should refer back to the tearing to bits by hand, I suspect. However, the effect is unfortunate in seeming to provide evidence for pre-conviction torture where there is none.
Unfortunately that "explanation" does nothing to soften the meaning of your words. Artifice is accusatory: you can only mean, as you've written it, that John Yardley, by a cunning or clever mistranslation, "would have us swallow that Curtius referred back to an episode of torture that he had forgotten that he hadn't already mentioned a few a pages earlier. Absolute nonsense!"

Indeed the entire passage is accusatory of the translator John Yardley as the use of the phrase "have us swallow" clearly indicates. I would suggest that "artifice", as used, should be withdrawn.

That aside, "Philotas had the special problem" that he was convicted by the king before he even appeared before the assembly as Curtius clearly relates. The highly charged theatre of the assembly was an orchestrated set piece to have the Macedonians frank the verdict the king had already delivered and which he ordered to be kept strictly secret.
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Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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