Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ancient References to the Lost Books of Livy

Livy, born 53 BC, died AD 17, wrote a history of Rome in 142 books. (These books were shorter than what we generally think of as books. Think books of the Bible instead. Back then, the term referred to the amount of writing which fit into a scroll.)

Of those 142 books, 35 have survived to our day: books 1-10 and 21-45. But we know a lot about what was written in the other 107 books: there is an anonymous 4th-century abridgment of 140 of the 142 books (136 & 137 are missing) referred to as the periochae of Livy. Altogether the periochae are about as long as one of Livy's books. Another anonymous abridgment, of books 37-40 (still extant in the entire form) and 48-55 (lost) was found at Oxyrhynchus in Egypt, and published in volume IV of the Oxyrhynchus Papryri in 1904. In addition, Julius Obsequens, who probably lived in the 3rd century AD, compiled a book of prodigies, or, as we might say, of wonders -- droughts, storms, ecplipses, swarms of bees, unexplained things seen in the sky, etc -- taken from Livy's history.

Also, the works of history written by Aurelius Victor, Florus and Eutropius consist to a great degree of abridgments of Livy.

In addition, there are fragments of Livy: a 1000-word passage from book 91 found in a 5-th century palimpsest of a manuscript in the Vatican library in the 18th century; a piece of parchment containing a few words from book 11, written in the 5th century, found in the Fayum in Egypt in the 1980's.

Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, in a famous letter from AD 401, says that his household is busily editing the whole of Livy's work.

And then there are the fragments which are the subject of this post: quotes from or other references to the lost books of Livy in the works of other authors, from the 1st to the 6th century AD. I have been able to identify the following references. Perhaps there are more. Perhaps some of these are spurious. In addition to these, I have found numerous references to the lost books in scholia (notes written inn the margins of manuscripts), for which I have as yet been able to determine neither an author not a date.

Servius, in the commentary on Vergil he wrote in the 4th century, refers to Livy's books 12, 13, 16, 19, 94, 99, 116, and 6 times to book 136.

Priscian, a 6th-century grammarian, refers to books 14, 17, 56, 112 (twice), and to 113, 118 and 136.

Censorius, a 3rd-century grammarian, refers to books 19 and 49.

Plutarch, in works written in Greek which cover some of the same ground as Livy, refers to books 77, 98 (twice), 111 and 116.

Valerius Maximus refers to book 18.

Augustine of Hippo refers to books 77 and 78.

Frontinus (c30-104) in his book on military strategy, refers to books 91 and 97.

Bishop Agrocius of Sens (5th cent) refers to book 102.

Josephus refers to book 102 in Antiquities of the Jews.

Serenus Sammonicus (d 212), in his book Res reconditae, refers to book 103.

Tacitus refers to book 105.

Jordanus (active mid-6th century) refers to book 105.)

Orosius (375 -- after 418) refers twice to book 109.

Appian refers to book 114.

Jerome refers to book 114.

Seneca refers to book 116 and 3 times to book 136.

Pliny the Elder refers twice to book 136.

Pope Gelasius refers to book 136 in AD 496.

Nonius Marcellus, writing in the 4th or 5th century, refers twice to book 136.

Quintilian refers twice to book 136.

The number of late citations by authors with connections to Africa extraction is striking. (Pope Gelasius, for example, was a Berber.)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Technologischer Wandel und Oelkonzerne

Der Spiegel: Geringere Wartungskosten, kein Ärger mit Fahrverboten, weniger Lärm - die Lkw-Branche entdeckt die Vorzüge der Elektromobilität. Volvo präsentierte nun in Göteborg den ersten strombetriebenen Großserien-Truck.

Oil Price Dot Com: The implications of a looming peak in oil consumption are massive. Without an economic transformation, or at least serious diversification, oil-producing nations that depend on oil revenues for both economic growth and to finance public spending, face an uncertain future.

British Petroleum: Much of the popular debate is centred around when oil demand is likely to peak. A cottage industry of oil executives and industry experts has developed trading guesses of when oil demand will peak: 2025, 2035, 2040? This focus on dating the peak in oil demand seems misguided for at least two reasons.

First, no one knows: the range of uncertainty is huge. Small changes in assumptions about the myriad factors determining oil demand, such as GDP growth or the rate of improvement in vehicle efficiency, can generate very different paths.

Second, and more importantly, this focus on the expected timing of the peak attaches significance to this point as if once oil stops growing it is likely to trigger a sharp discontinuity in behaviour: oil consumption will start declining dramatically or investment in new oil production will come to an abrupt halt. But this seems very unlikely. Even after oil demand has peaked, the world is likely to consume substantial quantities of oil for many years to come. The comparative advantages of oil as an energy source, particularly its energy density when used in the transport system, means it is unlikely to be materially displaced for many decades. And the natural decline in existing oil production means that significant amounts of investment in new oil production is likely to be required for the foreseeable future.

The Wall Street Journal: Some companies, particularly European energy outfits, see the tipping point coming soon enough that they are talking about it publicly, and overhauling their long-term investment plans to accommodate a greater emphasis on natural gas and renewables. Shell and Statoil say peak oil demand could come as soon as the mid-2020s, though around 2030 is more likely; the chief executive officer of France’s Total SA says he wouldn’t be surprised if it happens by 2040.

But the American companies are betting on a more bullish future. Exxon Mobil, the largest U.S. oil company, sees no end to the world’s need for more crude. In its forecast through 2040, Exxon predicts that oil will remain the dominant fuel source, as demand for both plastics and transportation grows, mostly because of increasing incomes across Asia. It does expect to see huge strides made in fuel efficiency, with the vehicle fleet improving to 50 miles a gallon from the current 30 MPG, but thinks the growth in other areas will have a bigger influence on oil use.

Denken die Leute von Oelkonzernen ueberhaupt an den Einfluss ihrer Produkt auf die Gesundheit von Menschen und anderer Lebewesen? Oder aber haben sie sich alle unter sich vereinbart, nie ueber solchem mit der Presse zu reden?

Ich stelle mir manchmal vor, wie in ferner Zukunft -- vorausgesetzt, dass es noch Menschen in der fernen Zukunt gibt, oder aber andere Lebewesen, welche schreiben koennen -- die Geschichte der 21. Jahrhunderts auf Erde geschrieben werden wird: "[...]Der zaehe Widerstand gegen gruene Technologie begann erst zu weichen, als Leute merkten, dass es kostguenstiger war, wenn sie sich nicht mit Abgasen toeteten. Trotzdessen blieben viele Menschen lange Zeit der alten schmutzig Technologie loyal, was Manche zu der Ansicht leitete, dass, wenn die Menschen als eine Gruppe so dumm waeren, es vielleicht doch besser sein wuerden, dass sie ausstuerben[...]"

Das Verschweigen von Klimakatastrophe und Luft-, Wasser- und sonstige -verschmutzung ist nicht das einzige auffallende Irrealitaet in der Rede von der Leute der Petrochemie-Branche: auch pflegen sie zu reden, als waeren elektrische Kraftwagen die einzige Drohung zu der ewige Nachfrage nach mehr, mehr und immer mehr Oel. Man haette gedacht, dass die Leute von der Branche noch besser als Andere wissen wuerden, dass Transport, nicht nur Autos, sondern auch LKV's und Moterraeder, Schiffe, Bahne, Flugzeuge und anderes, alles zusamen nur rund 1/4 alles Energieverbrauchs darstellt, und dass Wohnungen, Geschaefte und Industry ebenso wie Verkehr -- vielleicht nocht viel mehr so -- zu grunen Energiequellen konvertiert.

Vielleicht wissen sie auch das viel besser als jemand sonst, und haben sich einfach darauf vereinbart, kompletten Bloedsinn in allem zu der Presse zu reden, und ihre eigentlichen Plaenen klammheimlich fuer sich selbst zu halten. Ich rate, es gibt da viele ehrliche Dummheit neben viele schweigsame Verschlagenheit, und dass die Listigen Oel-Executiven vorhaben, ihre Kollegen neben dem Rest von uns unter dem stinkenden Diesel-Bus zu werfen.

Monday, April 16, 2018

13 Minutes and 31 Seconds

40 years ago -- yes, just about exactly 40 years. It was the spring of 1978 -- I ran a one-and-a-half-mile cross-country course in 13 minutes and 31 seconds. Well, I actually didn't run the whole way. About halfway through, for a short stretch, I and a couple of others walked. I think I may have spotted someone ahead of me slowing from an agonized jog to an unhappy walk. That may have been what it was which gave me the idea to do the same. I didn't do it for very long. I could vividly picture being spotted walking instead running, and being yelled at by an authority figure, the gym teacher or someone else. In retrospect, I don't know what the authority figure would have done to me, besides yelling, if he had spotted me walking. At the time, though, I was scared enough of it to limit the walking to only a short stretch, and on the part of the course where we were farther away from the school and disapproving adult eyes.

I did not do this running (and walking) by choice. I was forced to do so, in school, in gym class. We had gym 3 times a week in high school. 3 times a week, and the beginning of every period of gym, we were required to run five laps around the gym, which came out to a half-mile, and to make a round on some Nautilus weight-training apparatus. I don't remember whether we ran first and then did the weights, or the other way around.

In the 9th grade, once during the school year, we did the 5 laps, the half-mile, as a timed race. 5 of us ran at once, and everybody's time was recorded. And then in the 11th grade came the outdoor mile-and-a-half.

Before the start of the 9th-grade half-mile race, I had assumed I was going to do pretty well. I had thought that I had been more into the 3-times-weekly half mile run than many of my classmates, and that I was in good shape. I remember that there was one other student in our group of 5 whom I assumed I would beat easily. I don't remember his name or much of anything about him, but I remember that, when we were lined up for this half-mile race, he looked puny and pasty and no threat to me.

Then the starting whistle sounded, and it was as if all 4 of the others were at the first turn before I had taken a step. I had assumed that I would be going at considerably less than top speed for this half-mile, but I had to run as fast as I could the whole way, just to stay a considerable distance behind all of them. As I was finishing the final lap, surprisingly, many of my onlooking classmates began to yell, "Go, Steve!" and "C'mon, Steve!" and things like that. It was surprising to me that they knew my name, and even more surprising that they were expressing goodwill. I responded by finishing the half-mile to the absolute utmost of my ability, and crossed the line to a big round of applause. I don't remember my exact time. I remember that it was between 2:45 and 3 minutes, and, if not the slowest time in the class, it was 2nd or 3rd from the slowest at best.

In the 11th-grade mile-and-a-half cross-country, the other boy I remember walking also seemed puny and pasty. And then, approaching the finish line, with most of the class having finished and recovered enough breath to yell, there was a puny and pasty boy a little way ahead of me. I don't know whether it was the same boy who had walked, but he or both of them were definitely not the small pasty boy who had trounced me in the 9th-grade half-mile. I ran faster, trying to catch the other boy, and, again to my amazement, I was cheered on by thunderous applause and shouts of "Go, Steve!" and "C'mon, Steve!" I dug deep, and although the other boy sped up greatly as soon as he figured out that someone was gaining on him, and seemed to be taking this contest with grim seriousness and to be very upset, angry, even, when I caught and passed him, I won the duel and crossed the line at 13:31. A few other boys came in later. (A 5k is a little bit more than twice as long as a mile and a half, and the 5k cross-country world record is well under 13:31.)

I remember them cheering for me in both races. I don't know whether at the time I noticed any cheering for anyone else, but if so, those memories are long faded and gone.

Maybe everybody was cheering everybody. Or maybe -- and this has occurred to me only very recently -- the other boys had noticed that I had been absent from school for long stretches, and had heard something about the psychiatric facilities I had spent time in, and had concluded that I was disabled -- "special" -- and therefore were giving me extra encouragement because they had concluded that I needed extra help, and these two races were the only times when I had noticed the help. In retrospect, it seems to me that I was so oblivious to what was going on in the other student's minds that either possibility is quite plausible.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Miniature Bats Against School Shootings

As many or most people know, a baseball bat, a real one, can be a formidable weapon. An aluminum bat is much more dangerous than a wooden bat, because it's virtually unbreakable. A wooden bat can break the first time it hits something, and as soon as it has so much as a crack in it, it becomes much less leathal. But if someone advances on you brandishing a baseball bat, wood or aluminum, with the intent of hitting you with it, the most sensible course of action would be for you to run away. Screaming for help and covering your head might be good too.

A really stupid thing to do, if attacked by someone with a real baseball bat, would be to stand your ground and defend yourself with a miniature baseball bat, the kind which are sold at ball parks as souvenirs. To win in a fight with a miniature bat against someone using a real bat, you would just about have to be so sort of Jedi knight.

And chances are, despite your daydreams, that you're not some sort of Jedi knight.

The widely-reported story of a school district in Pennsylvania arming its teachers with miniature baseball bats and telling them to use the bats to fight back in case of a shooting reminded me that I have just such a miniature bat. It commemorates the Seattle Mariners winning their Division Series in 2001. I got it at a garage or lawn sale in Anchorage, Alaska in 2003 or 2004, for around 50 cents. I wrapped the thick end in scotch tape because it had a crack in it.

It's hard to imagine something which would be more useless in a fight, against someone with a firearm, or against anyone or anything else, than such a miniature bat. It is simply not designed for combat. The thin end, the handle, is so thin that the bat would snap in two the first time it was used to hit something heavier than a small rabbit. And maybe it would snap if you hit a small rabbit, too, if the rabbit was close to the ground at the time. If you missed the rabbit and hit the ground, it's hard to imagine you could use the bat again, unless you recovered one piece of it and swung with that, which would be much sillier still than swinging the entire miniature bat. Whether you were fighting a mouse or a squirrel or a rabbit or a human being armed with an AR-15 style rifle equipped with large magazines and a bump stock, I think you would be better off with nothing in your hands, just your fists, than with a miniature souvenir baseball bat.

The school district which distributed the miniature bats to be used in case of school shootings, and the school district which has given its students buckets of rocks for the same purpose, and those whose advocate arming teachers with guns and have mostly failed to do so, because in most cases the teachers had sense enough to tell them to forget it -- all of these people are emphasizing fighting back. And they are all fighting back, desperately. Against the very notion of stricter gun control in the US.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Dream Log: Renewable Energy Hero

I dreamed that the renewable-energy revolution was winning, worldwide. I was an electrical engineer who traveled the world helping people to set up solar and wind power, people who in some cases had previously had no access to electricity, and in other cases had relied on electrical generation which polluted heavily. I was world-famous for doing this. Many individual people, NGO's and actual governments gave money and other assistance to the projects with which I was involved.

Because of such projects, worldwide demand for oil, gas and coal was rapidly disappearing, and because so often I was a public face of such projects, petrochemical corporations kept sending assassins to kill me. But this fact was so well-known, and I was so well-liked, that the assassins were typically stopped long before they got to me. Some former assassins were now my allies. Some former petrochemical executives who had sent assassins after me had given up, and converted to the cause of renewable energy, and were now among the biggest donors. One of these former oil execs was famous for having publicly said, "It's just a lot more satisfying not to be a son of a bitch." Others were said to have given up fighting me and my colleagues and started planning their exit from the industry, although they had not yet publicly said so.

I and my team of engineers landed in an electric airplane in Central Africa to meet a group of local engineers who were working on the construction of a high-rise building which would contain public housing. We believed that when it was finished it would be the first high-rise in the world to be sheathed by transparent solar cells. Besides generating all of its own electricity, it would provide electricity to a wide surrounding region, and to a water-recovery plant which was being built next to it.

A crowd of joyously screaming children ran to greet us as we got out of the plane. We were used to that sort of thing. We made a conscious effort both to appropriately appreciate such kind welcomes, and to keep them from going to our heads. When we made speeches, we kept emphasizing that we were not essentially different in our outlook and actions from many other people who were getting much less attention. While we were being mobbed by the children, we could see a couple of petrochemical-industry assassins near the runway, being surrounded, disarmed and taken into custody by a crowd of local adults and juveniles.

After touring the construction site of the high rise and water recovery plant, I asked if we could be shown some typical homes in the region. Not places that had been dressed up for our visit, but actual average homes. We were shown huts with grass-burning fireplaces, with sewage ditches dug outside. We were carrying backpacks loaded with hand-cranked electrical devices which we distributed to the poor people we met. When I handed these radios and phones to people who kept bowing to me and thanking me profusely -- I knew what "thank you" sounded like in dozens of languages -- I felt like a phony who was vastly over-appreciated. Then I woke up.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Transmission of the Works of Tibullus

Tibullus, born ?, died 19 BC, was a prominent Roman poet during his lifetime, and many today count him among the very finest writers of Latin, although we have only a small amount of his writing: in the Oxford Classical Texts edition of his works by John Percival Postgate, 2nd edition, 1915, in the printing of 1982, the two books of his elegies cover just 46 small pages; then come 29 more pages of poems, referred to as books three and four, some of which probably were written by Tibullus, some probably by Sulpicia, and some probably by someone else.

This collection by Tibullus and pseudo-Tibullus was found in the 14th century, and then lost again, but not before it was copied. The text of Tibullus as the modern reader knows it depends primarily on one such copy made in the 14th century and two in the 15th; the edition which Scaliger made in 1572, which contains material from another lost manuscript; and excerpts of Tibullus' works in various Medieval florilegia. A florilegium is a type of anthology which was very popular during the Middle Ages, compiled from the works of various authors.

After some mentions by his contemporaries Horace and Ovid, and some very high praise from the rhetorician Quintilian (c35--c100 AD), the first trace we have of Tibullus' poems is in an 8th-century list of books at Charlemagne's court at Aachen: "Albi Tibullus lib II." ("Two books by Albus Tibullus.") There are two traces of texts thought to have been copied, directly or indirectly, from this book recorded in the 8th-century: an 11th-century florilegium from Freising containing excerpts of Tibullus; and a 12th-century catalog from Lobbes which mentions "Albini Tibulli lib III."

Around the middle of the 12th century, at Orleans, a florilegium was made which is now called the Florilegium Gallicum, which quotes Tibullus extensively. There are at least six surviving manuscripts of the Florilegium Gallicum. Parts of it, including quotations of Tibullus, were used by Vincent of Beauvais in his early-13th-century encyclopedia Speculum Maius, which was very widely-read in the Middle Ages. There are now hundreds of manuscripts of the Speculum Maius which have survived to our time. In addition to this, several other florilegia copied material by Tibullus directly from the Florilegium Gallicum.

In the middle of the 13th century, a manuscript of Tibullus is mentioned in another library catalog, this time the library belonging to Richard of Fournival, the Chancellor of the Cathedral of Amiens from 1240 to 1260: "Albii Tibulii liber epygrammaton."

Finally, in the 14th century, the oldest copy of Tibullus' works was made which we still have, now owned by the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan: Ambrosianus R sup 26, called A. All the other surviving manuscripts containing the entirety of Tibullus' works come directly or indirectly from A. (That is: they are copies, or copies of copies, or copies of copies of copies, etc, of A.)

But when I say "the entirety of Tibullus' work," I mean the entirety of what we now have which we know or suspect he wrote, plus some other things most likely mistakenly attributed to him: the 46 small pages, plus 29 more, which I mentioned above. If we take just the 46 pages which we're sure he wrote, it's about one tenth as much writing as we have by Lucretius. About one fiftieth as much as what we have from Livy.

How much more did Tibullus write, which didn't survive all the way to the 8th century? Nobody knows. He is said to have written a great many works, but there's little reason to believe all that has been said about him in that regard. Maybe he did write a great deal, and most of what he wrote disappeared some time before Charlemagne. Or maybe he wrote very little. Maybe the poems by him which we have are so very polished and elegant because he wrote very slowly and painstakingly. We don't know. We also don't know how much time he had to write. He was involved in politics and took part in military campaigns. And he may have been born as late as 48 BC, which would mean he was 29 years old when he died. Maybe he was born as early as 55 BC. That would mean that he lived for 36 years.

The small surviving amount of Tibullus' work which we have puts him the middle of, on the one side, the other ancient Latin writers for whom we have a medium-sized volume's worth of work or more each; and on the other side, those of whose work nothing at all survived except a quote or two in the work of other ancient authors, or in a florilegium or a Medieval work of history or philosophy or elsewhere, as well as those who have been mentioned, but not quoted at all.

And, as far as I can tell, we have no way of knowing how many more authors there may have been who were very well thought-of in ancient Rome, well thought-of enough to be mentioned by other writers, but only in some piece of writing which we don't have anymore. Horace mentions Tibullus. The surviving work of Horace fills one volume which might be called either slim or medium-sized. Probably the latter. Some say it's unlikely that Horace published more than what we have from him today. If that's true, it makes Horace quite unusual among ancient Roman writers. We know that many others wrote many times more than what has survived. We have know way of knowing whom may have been mentioned in all of those lost works. Ancient Roman literary life could have been much more crowded with talent than it is sometimes pictured to have been.

Great amounts of ancient Greek literature which was lost has been found again since the 19th century, in papyri preserved by the dry climate in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East. Recoveries of lost ancient Latin texts have been tiny compared to the finds in Greek. Every now and then, something written in Latin will be found among all those Greek papyri. For a while, from the 18th century onward, many lost works of ancient Latin were found in palimpsests. (Not many compared to the Greek papyri, but still.) Nowadays, it seems that the most promising place to look for lost Latin texts is in cartage: in parchment which was made into book covers. I don't know how they take those book covers back apart in order to read what was on those pieces of parchment, but they're doing it.

When I see an 8th-century library catalog, I see a clue toward finding a manuscript which is 8th-century or older. When I see a mention of a missing text in a 6th-century author, I see a clue toward recovering that lost text. I don't know enough about such things to know whether that makes me refreshingly optimistic, or just foolish. It does seem to make me unusual, and the great sharpness of mind of the many specialists in Classical Studies makes me think that it's realistic to consider such hopes as simply foolish. Still. I see clues.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Fiji Water and Vinyl Records

Those Fiji Water commercials are in heavy rotation on the TV stations I watch, the ones which the choirs of children singing in the background, symbolizing purity, while the child narrator, symbolizing even more purity, talks about purity even more, and how Fiji Water is "untouched by Man." I don't think it says anything good about my IQ that this crap is in heavy rotation on the channels I frequent. (Then again, it could just mean that advertisers don't know what they're doing.) Seriously, how dumb do you have to be to believe that water which is transported 10,000 miles to be put into plastic bottles and sold to rich hipster doofi* for several dollars a pop is "untouched by Man"?

*"Doofi" is plural for "doofus."

About as dumb, I think, as you need to be to believe that "vinyl sounds better." In fact, I think that in very many cases, the people who drink Fiji Water and play music on vinyl are the same individual people: people with too much disposable income and too little clue about reality.

I want these people to be tested: give them tap water which they see flowing from Fiji Water bottles, and Fiji Water which they see coming from a tap, and ask them to describe each sort of water -- assuming that we were able to get the to take a taste of the Fuji Water they saw come out of a tap. Blindfold them, and play them the same recordings of their favorite music: once on vinyl played on a $25,000 turntable, and then on a $10 mp3 player, both fed through the same equalizers and speakers. Ask them to describe their experiences.

The really infuriating part is that it won't work: do such tests, confront the stupid people with the results, and they will find ways to reject what you say and to disbelieve you, so as to remain stupid, drinking their bottled water transported from 10,000 miles away in the name of the environment and of opposition to Evil, and using 19th-century technology to achieve what they continue to believe is the very best possible home-listening experience. And just as with Fuji Water drinkers and vinyl listeners, so too with Republicans and people who pay psychics to read their palms and their tarots.

I want to help these people. There are those of us who want to help them, and those other people who want to rip them off, and they keep going with those others. How do we reach them?