Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!
Books Volume 53 Number 5, September/October 2000
by Mark Rose

Ancient Roadmap

An impressive new atlas charts the classical world from Iberia to Bactria

[image] Detail of a map in the new atlas shows the Bay of Naples, Vesuvius, and Pompeii.

TIt has been 130 years since the last comprehensive set of maps for the classical world was published. Needless to say, William Smith's Atlas of Ancient Geography Biblical and Classical is outdated (not to mention out of print). Its long overdue replacement, the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, is now out, the culmination of a project begun in the 1980s and overseen by Richard Talbert of the University of North Carolina. The volume consists of 99 full-color maps showing classical lands from Iberia to Bactria and from the end of the Bronze Age (1000 B.C.) to A.D. 640. An accompanying CD-ROM contains directories for each map (notes and sources for the placement of the sites), which can be read with the Adobe Acrobat program and is PC and MAC compatible. (The directories can also be purchased in printed form as a two-volume, 1,500-page supplement to the main atlas.)

Price is the one great drawback of this monumental work, which is not to say the quality of the atlas doesn't justify its cost. At $325, the atlas is likely to be acquired largely by universities and libraries; the printed form of the directories is an aditional $150.

Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World
Richard Talbert, editor
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000
Listed at $325.00; 99 maps and CD-ROM directory
ISBN 0-691-03169-X
Latin Revival

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Can a dead language be resuscitated? If so, who would you call on to attempt a revival? How about Winnie the Pooh? And if he couldn't manage it alone, why not bring in the Grinch and the Cat in the Hat?

The Dr. Seuss characters are the latest in a long tradition of translating children's books into Latin. Possibly the first was A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh, which appeared in a Latin version--Winnie Ille Pu--in 1960. Winnie Ille Pu proved quite popular; my copy is from the eleventh printing of the first edition, and in 1967 a revised edition was published. A reviewer in the Houston Post said of it, "One of the great cultural gaps of the ages has just been plugged by a small book which should compensate, in part, for the burning of the library of Alexandria in 640." In 1998, a Latin version of the The House at Pooh Corner came out. Winnie Ille Pu: Semper Ludet, as it is titled, is still in print (New York: E.P. Dutton) and retails for $16.95; a revised version (published in 1987 by Viking Penguin) of the original Winnie Ille Pu retails for $11.95.

The charm of such books stems in part from the simple transformation of names into Latin: Christophorus Robinus, for example, or Porcellus for Piglet. Readers who enjoyed the book as children, or in introducing it to their own children, can face the challenge of translating familiar episodes, such as the hunt for the heffalumpus, or Pooh's admission, "Quia ursus pusilli ingenii sum verba difficilia fastidio" ("For I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words Bother me").

The newest entries in this field are translations of the Dr. Seuss books How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Quomodo Invidiosulus nomine Grinchus Christi natalem abrogaverit), which was published in 1998, and The Cat in the Hat (Cattus Petasatus), which came out in August. Like the Winnie the Pooh translations, they are proving very popular, Grinchus selling some 24,000 copies and Cattus Petasatus already racking up sales of 10,000 copies, according to Marie Bolchazy, vice president of Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc., which produced the two books. Whether the Cat in the Hat and the Grinch are able to revive Latin remains to be seen. "In popularizing Latin," says Bolchazy, "we want to publish books that are easy enough for even first- and second-year Latin students to enjoy. Cattus Petasatus especially falls into that 'easy reader' category." Vocabulary lists and translators' notes at the end of the books help those new to Latin (or merely rusty).

Have the Grinch and friends succeeded? Sales of Latin grammar books are picking up, according to Bolchazy. Grinchus and Cattus Petasatus are available in hardback ($22.50) and paperback ($16.95) versions.

Mostly about Mummies

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Books about ancient Egypt must be a sure bet for publishers. Several recent noteworthy titles are mostly about mummies, but the pick of the litter is Tutankhamun, the work of T.G.H. James, former Keeper of Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum, and photographer Araldo De Luca. This massive volume combines James' authoritative text (giving Tut's historical background, the story of his tomb's discovery, and an object-by-object description of the treasure buried with the boy king) with oversize photos of the treasure, including a four-page foldout of the innermost coffin. At only $60, Tutankhamun (New York: Friedman/ Fairfax, distributed by Sterling, 2000) is a real bargain.

The most immediately fascinating parts of Conversations with Mummies, by palaeopathologist Rosalie David and writer Rick Archbold, are about Nakht, a Theban weaver from Dynasty 20 (1200-1085 B.C.), and Djedmaatesankh, a priestess of Dynasty 22 (945-730 B.C.), whose mummies are now in the Royal Ontario Museum. Conversations goes beyond the autopsies of these mummies in two important ways, thus avoiding being too much like the voyeuristic unwrappings of mummies staged as curiosity shows during the nineteenth century. First, David steps back from the mummies as medical subjects and writes about the lives of Nakht and Djedmaatesankh based on the autopsy data, what we know about them from texts found with them, and our broader knowledge of their times gleaned from ancient literary and archaeological sources. Second, authors discuss the importance of palaeopathology for not simply learning about the health and afflictions of the ancients but for understanding diseases today. Conversations (New York: William Morrow, 2000) costs $40.00.

Another good general introduction to the subject is The Mummy in Ancient Egypt, by Salima Ikram of the American University in Cairo and Aidan Dodson of the University of Bristol (New York: Thames & Hudson, 1998; $45.00). The Royal Mummies (London: Duckworth, 2000) is a reprint of anatomist Grafton Elliot Smith's descriptions of the mummies of New Kingdom royalty that were first published in 1912 as part of the catalog of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Those captivated by the Greco-Roman mummies recently discovered at Bahariya Oasis (see "Oasis of the Dead," September/October 1999) will enjoy the lavishly illustrated Valley of the Golden Mummies (New York: Abrams, 2000) by Zahi Hawass, director of the Giza Plateau, which sells for $49.50.

Mark Rose is Managing Editor of ARCHAEOLOGY.

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© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America