Senior Seminar Strikes Again!

Yesterday (well, actually two days ago, since it’s now past midnight), my senior seminar went on a field trip. I miss field trips. They were always so awesome in high school. Why can’t we have more of them?

Anyway, my class went on a field trip to a rival university. Apparently, they don’t know that we’re rivals. Which is good, cause no one attacked us while we were there. But we went to look at their manuscripts and rare books. They have an amazing rare books room. We were told a lot of the history of making these types of books, and shown a bunch of them. They were amazing. These books were so old! One of the books was a volume of Dante. Only two copies exist in the whole world. And we got to hold it. And turn the pages. HOW COOL IS THAT? Some of the books were bound in wood, others in leather, some in vellum (animal skin, and kinda sticky feeling). Some books were in Latin, some in Greek, and one was in English. They were all ancient, and smelled wonderful. I love that old book smell!!

After we saw the books, we wandered through the philosophy department building. They had some plaster casts of frieze reliefs that were hanging up on the wall, and we looked at them for a bit while our professor talked to us about them. I zoned out. I was very tired.

Then we started heading out. But as we were walking down this one hallway, our professor stopped us and went into some door and down the stairs. Everyone just stood awkwardly in the hallway for a minute. Then I realized that it was the Dendrochronology lab. And I was like, dendrochronology? That’s trees!! So I went in. Sure enough, dendrochronology is the study of tree rings. You can date a piece of wood to the very year in which it was cut down by measuring and counting its growth rings. Outside the lab they had a few samples hung up. One was a redwood, which was about 3000 years old. It started growing in 1015 BC (or BCE, if you prefer). All along the wood were pins noting important events, like the building of the Parthenon and the eruption of Vesuvius. It was so cool.

Our professor brought us down into the lab and the old director (actually retired, but still works there) showed us around quickly. And by quickly I mean that our professor cut him off after about five minutes. But I thought it was amazing. Apparently I was the only one. Everyone else was tired and hungry and couldn’t wait to leave.

We had dinner at a deli that had authentic Greek food, and then drove back home. I was riding shotgun, so I got to chat with my professor the whole way. Everyone was kinda shocked that I would be willing to do so, but I actually enjoy chatting with my professors.

In a way, I was really upset about the field trip. We were gone for eight hours, on a Friday, meaning I could get literally no work done. I also had a friend from out of town, who graduated last year, who was staying with me, so I ended up doing no work today, either, which is rather upsetting, because I have a lot of work to do. On the other hand, I really rather enjoyed the trip. I could have done without the wandering through the academic building, but the manuscripts were awesome, and I absolutely LOVED the dendrochronology lab. (That is really annoying to keep spelling out)

It’s sad to realize that most of the people in my class hate the seminar. True, most of the classes are boring as hell. But this field trip was really fun, but most people couldn’t care less about it. I mean, how could you not enjoy looking at a dendrochronology lab? It’s so cool!! How many people have ever even heard of dendrochronology, let alone heard from one of the experts about it? I think it’s awesome. But on the other hand, I guess I can understand why some people might not. As one girl in my class said, “Why would you ever want to stare at a tree and count rings all day?”

Well, I certainly wouldn’t mind trying for a bit. It would be a change from my daily translations. Which I should be getting back to …

*sigh. Back to work!

Published in: on October 24, 2010 at 12:21 am  Comments (1)  
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Homework can sometimes be fun!

As a senior, I am required to take the senior seminar in the Classics. It is divided up into sections, and the section that we are currently in is numismatics. For those of you who don’t know, that’s the study of coins. This seemed like it could be really fun. We had a guest come into the class, who is a numismatic as a hobby, not profession, but who really knows a lot. He brought in a bunch of coins, and we all got a chance to look at them, learn about them, and hold them.

There’s something really cool to think that you’re holding a coin that was likely once held by an emperor. Or that the coin you held was almost definately buried with a corpse to pay the ferryman on their journey across the river Styx.

However, the class itself was not that cool. I enjoyed looking at the coins and trying to figure out what they said on our own, but then once everyone had seen all the coins, we started discussing them, as a class. In detail. About the imagery. Oh. my. god. Then, when we were done discussing all those coins, he pulled out ANOTHER BATCH OF COINS. This class is two and a half hours. 

The next week was almost the same.  But better. I mean, I do find this interesting, it’s just … I feel like going over each coin by ourselves AND as a group was a bit much. Perhaps if each person/pair had been given a coin to examine, then afterwards they could have all been passed around, so we could all look at it, I think that would have been a lot more interesting.

On the other hand, I hate discussions, and I seem to be the only one at my entire school who does, so maybe it’s just me. I would much rather listen to a professor lecture all class than discuss something as a class.

Anyway, for the third week, tonight, we were each given a mystery coin, that we had to examine, and then we get to present it to the class. And while it seems kinda annoying to have to go into office hours and look at the coin (we couldn’t take them with us), I really did enjoy this project.

Here is my coin:

Not the best photo, sorry ...

Found the photo online, so its not the exact coin, but it looks the same, probably the same minting.

On the front it has a depiction of Emperor Crispus, surrounded by the text FL  IVL CRISPUS NOB CAES. It means Flavius Julius Crispus (his name), nobilissimus Caesar (most noble Caesar).

The back shows a turreted camp gate with a star overhead, and the words PROVIDENTIAE CAESS, which means something like the foresight of the Caesars. I’m not quite sure. At the bottom are the letters SMANTZ, which refers to the place where it was minted, in Antioch.

I didn’t really find anything that exciting about the coin itself, but I had fun looking up the history of it. After all, who has heard of Emperor Crispus? Nobody.

Crispus, born in 303AD, was the oldest son of Emperor Constantine and a woman named Minervina, who was either his consort or his first wife. He was named Caesar (a title of power, not just a name) in 316 AD. He served as consul three times and governed Gaul at one point. He was also a big military general. He led forces against the Germans, and won a large naval battle against Licinius (the brother in law of Constantine, or his son, I’m not sure which Licinius it was). It was the naval battle that really won him fame as a general, because they were outnumbered almost 2 to 1. My coin is probably referencing the fact that he was a general, because he is wearing armor and there is a gate to an army camp on the back.

Crispus was executed for treason in 326. No one is exactly sure why, but the common theory is that his stepmother, Fausta, was jealous of him and set him up. She tried to seduce him to get Constantine mad, but when Crispus refused, she told Constantine that he had tried to seduce her (kinda like the wife of Pontifar and Joseph). Constantine had him tried for treason and he was killed. A few months later, Fausta was killed. Some believe that Constantine found out what she had done and had Fausta suffocated in an overheated bath.

Not everyone believes this, because he suffered damnatio memorae, which means that all traces of him were wiped out of the records as best as they could. But if Constantine found out that his son was innocent, wouldn’t he have forgiven his memory? Maybe not, who knows.

Crispus was also married, and he had a son, but no one knows the name of the boy, or what happened to him. It’s amazing to think that even though we know so much about the Romans, there is still a lot that we don’t know. It’s finding out stuff like this that got me interested in the Classics in the first place. Not so much what we do know, but what we don’t know.

This coin project actually ended up being fun, which kinda surprised me, to be honest. I suppose it’s because I like puzzles, and this is like a puzzle, trying to figure out what things on the coin mean. And then I learned something new, which I feel hasn’t really happened in a while. Language classes that focus on translating really don’t teach much, and I’ve kinda missed learning. So if I got nothing else out of this project, at least I got to learn stuff from it. And I had fun while doing so.

Published in: on September 27, 2010 at 5:36 pm  Comments (1)  
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