In this week itself, we talked about how the analysis of 4000-year old tablets from the ancient mercantile city of Kanesh (or Kaneš), in what now constitutes the Kayseri province in central Turkey, possibly revealed the locations of 11 lost Assyrian cities. Well, as it turns out, one of the Cappadocian tablet specimens recovered from…
Interesting article on a form of punishment I have heard about over the years, but knew little about. Frankly, I can’t imagine how one would get all these into a sack, not a job I would want to take on.
Ancient Romans had a penchant for doling out punishments in rather theatrical fashion, with one pertinent example relating to the noxii, the criminals who were mainly accused of robbery, murder and rape. At times, the noxii were simply used as living props who were unarmored (or sometimes dressed in ‘show’ armor), and then declared as…
Great examples of Wallpaintings! This is house attributed to Livia and it would have been “in the neighborhood” of the home that Numerius has installed his sister’s family in the first book of the Numerius Meridius Pulcher mystery series. How’s that for desirable real estate?
The House of Livia (domus Liviae) is a building complex on the Palatine Hill, ancient Rome’s most desirable location. It was built in the first half of the first century BC and belonged to the empress Livia, the third wife of Emperor Augustus. It stood next to the House of Augustus (domus Octaviani) alongside a complex of buildings conceived for the ideological propaganda of the emperor’s power and image. The house marks the transition between the 2nd and the 3rd architectural style of the Pompeian wall painting.
First excavated in 1839, the house has been attributed to Livia on the basis of the name IVLIA AVG[VSTA] stamped on a lead pipe on display on the left-hand wall of the tablinum. The two-storey house, built around a central atrium, was decorated with advanced “Second Pompeian Style” wall paintings, reflecting the sophisticated taste of wealthy…
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Here’s a Review from RedHeadedBookLover…check it out. I will definitely be reading this book!
Today’s selection — from Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters by Michael Tierno.The Greek philosopher Aristotle’s book Poetics has given countless writers a guidepost for creating great fiction:
“One of the many things we can thank Aristotle for is his writings on how to create characters that seem both realistic and able to captivate an audience. First, make them good enough that we can root for them. Second, make them ‘appropriate,’ meaning give them characteristics that make sense for the type of person they are. Third, make them human — give them flaws or quirks that make us believe that they exist. Finally, whatever characteristics you do give them, make sure you keep them there throughout the length of the screenplay. As Aristotle says, make sure they are ‘consistently inconsistent.’…
“Additionally, he gives us five principles of life that we can use to create character in our stories:
Capacity for Rational Thought
“Because these five principles all belong to the makeup of a real-life person’s ‘psychology,’ they can be used to create convincing three-dimensional characters. Let’s examine each one.
” 1. Nutritive Life. Do you wonder about your characters’ eating habits? Wouldn’t that tell you (and your audience) a lot about them? Don’t your eating habits say a lot about you? You should brainstorm as much as you can to get a clear picture of what the eating habits of your characters might be, to gather clues about who they are. How do they eat, what do they eat? Do they think about food a lot? What do your characters’ refrigerators look like? Not that any of this ever has to make it to the page, but it’s a window into their character. I mean, when Rocky gets up at 4 a.m, and drinks four raw eggs, isn’t that worth a gazillion pages of psychological notes on him? That image is so powerful and evocative that you know without further elaboration that he is serious about this boxing match. Look at Lester Burnham [in the Oscar-winning American Beauty]. What does he eat? By the end of his transformation from miserable mid-life-crisis guy to seeker of eternal youth, he’s blending and drinking health drinks. What could tell us more about Lester’s new attitude toward life? What could make Lester seem more human?
Roman copy in marble of a Greek bronze bust of Aristotle by Lysippus, c. 330 BC
” 2. Desiring Life. At the heart of all action is the desire of the hero. Basic human desire is really what makes characters come alive on the screen. In The Godfather, when Michael Corleone goes to Italy and falls in love with an Italian woman from the mountains, doesn’t that make him seem truly alive? It’s a probable incident that flows with the action, reflecting his deep commitment to his Italian ‘roots.’ In Gladiator, Maximus yearns to go home to his family and, after they have been murdered, to join them in eternity. In The Blair Witch Project, the kids’ ambition to tape the Blair Witch and make a film leads them to their death. Desiring is at the heart of what it means to be a living, breathing human being.
” 3. Sensitive Life. It goes without saying that our five senses are a big part of being alive. If a human being faces the prospect of losing sight or hearing, it’s devastating. In fact, all of the five senses — sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste — define our lives at the most basic level. Lester Burnham spends a lot of time masturbating, doesn’t he? In fact, it’s how we are first introduced to him. What more do we need to sense that Lester is real and to ‘know’ who he is? In cinema, perhaps the most important sense in regard to character development is visual perception. Great screenwriters know how to feed information to the audience through the eyes of characters, such as when Lester sees Angela at the pep rally and fantasizes about her. Showing how characters actually see things with their own eyes enables the audience to experience ’causes’ of the action.
It also puts to use a powerful aspect of the cinematic medium, which is the hero’s literal point of view.
” 4. Locomotion. Carefully depicting movement is vital to a screenplay. For example, The Blair Witch Project is a tapestry of rest and locomotion, in which the characters’ use of their eyes and ears is also notably important. Heather, the lead character in the story, spends a lot of time running around, screaming, and trying to videotape the ground in front of her. The lifelike aspect of all the characters is transmitted largely by their physical movement, as they trudge through the woods.
“5. Capacity for Rational Thought. Thinking about the mind and thought processes of people can be a fun way to brainstorm characters into existence. In Annie Hall,
Alvie is a rational man who has bouts of irrationality. This surfaces when a cop pulls him over and he tears up his license. In Titanic Rose jumps from the lifeboat to return to Jack, a slightly more irrational than rational act — but hey, this is a love story, and romantic love is rooted as much in animal nature as it is in the higher mind. (Rose is also slightly larger than life, and she’s being consistent with what we’ve seen of her.)
“In summary, to create a real human being for an audience you must have them do things that convince the audience that they are alive, really alive, giving details that even a scientist like Aristotle would appreciate.”
Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters: Storytelling Secrets From the Greatest Mind in Western Civilization
Author: Michael Tierno
Publisher: Hachette Books
Copyright 2002 Michael Tierno
The Hellenistic World. Using Coins as Sources. By Peter Thonemann. Guides to the Coinage of the Ancient World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Pp. xxxii + 232. Paper, $34.99. ISBN 978-1-107-45175-9. Reviewed by Philip Kiernan, Kennesaw State University The first in a new series on ancient coinage organized by the American Numismatic Society, this book […]
— from The Rise of Rome by Anthony Everitt. In 494 BCE, the people of Rome staged one of the most remarkable and imaginative protests in world history. Though this protest brought some reform, it underscored the seemingly never-ending struggle of the plebs against the major landowners and ruling elite:
“It was the strangest spectacle seen since the foundation of Rome. A long stream of families could be observed leaving the city in what looked like a general evacuation. They walked southward and climbed a sparsely populated hill, the Aventine, which stands across a valley from the Palatine, the site of Romulus’s first settlement. They were, broadly speaking, the poor and the disadvantaged — artisans and farmers, peasants and urban workers. They carried with them a few days’ worth of food. On arrival they set up camp, building a stockade and a trench. There they stayed quietly, like a weaponless army, offering no provocation or violence. They waited, doing nothing.
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Buy Everitt’s book, The Rise of Rome at Amazon
I have loved Historicals since reading The Calico Captive (Elizabeth George Speare) in the third grade. What was your first?
I love sinking into a past world lovingly created around a good story…the ancient world, Rennaisance, Elizabethan, Victorian, Edwardian…all can take me into hours of otherworldly delight.
Old favorites: Mary Renault, Georgette Hyer, Robert Graves, Marguertie Youcenar, Lawrence Schoonover
New favorites: Stephen Saylor, Charles Finch, Robert Harris, Lindsey Davis
My biggest surprise: Norman Mailer’s Ancient Evenings. Not a fan of the man or his work, but I fell in love with this book.
Historicals are magical transport into the past.
What are your favorites? Why do you read Historicals?
In the book I’m currently working on, Numerius Meridius Pulcher And The Case Of The Syrian Slave Dealer, I’m having to deal with the morality of slave buying and selling even within a society that knew nothing else. Numerius, having started as a young sex slave for the old degenerate Tiberius has seen the ugliness of slavery up close and personal and yet, now free, continues to buy slaves for his own household. What does that do to a caring and thinking person? To buy or not to buy? Roman literature has examples of freed slaves who seem to have no compunctions in this, who , in fact seem to be worse slave owners than their own were; men and women who simply took the attitude of “Now it’s my turn.” Fortunately for me, Numerius is not that guy. The new book has led to exploring much deeper that part of Numerius that continues to support slavery and why he makes the decisions he does. It has led to more readings about ancient slavery and to consider how thinking men justified such a stance.