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Tony Grist

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Tyche [Nov. 26th, 2006|12:30 pm]
Tony Grist
It was one of those dreams where you wake up and think, "that was significant; I'll remember that." It was about a witch called Tyche who lived in Hull.

So I Googled "Tyche Hull" and discovered there's a Roman mosaic of a female head, identified as Tyche (Latin name: Fortuna) Goddess of Luck and Chance, in the Hull museum. 

Roman mosaics are a minor passion of mine and it's likely I'll have absorbed this information in passing at some time or other- but it wasn't something I knew I knew.

On a tangentially related note I find the Hull museum also has a really whizzy mosaic of a chariot race. 

Also tangential, here's my translation of the hymn to Fortuna from the Carmina Burana. Yes, it's that one- the really shouty, fascistic, much-imitated one- familiar from fantasy movies and aftershave commercials.

FORTUNE VARIUM LUBRICUM

From the Latin of the Carmina Burana

Fortuna, you vicious, uncaring cheat,
What a very bad judge of men you are.
Those whom you favour and load with presents
Are talentless nobodies, most of them.
See how they rise to the top of your wheel
Then struggle for balance. It's fun to watch
The lowlife clambering up from street level,
The dimwit entering government.

Fortuna, she builds you up, then breaks you,
Turning her back on her favourite boy.
Hating today what she'll love tomorrow,
Continually contradicting herself.
She gives, but all that she gives is worthless.
She makes you a contract then tears it up.
Here comes the poor man- he's got a knighthood.
He waves to the rich man plummeting down.

What good was his throne to King Darius?
What honour did Pompey receive from Rome?
They were lovely men; they both got shafted.
Trust me, its better to lower your aim
Than risk that very long fall from the summit
Which lands you lower than where you began.
Its harder to bear bad luck if you're wealthy
Than if you began life with nothing much.

Fortuna's fickle, a traitor even.
Observe how Troy which was great in battle
Got burned and wasted and laid in the dust.

Who broke the pride of the Roman empire
And ended the science and arts of Greece
And dimmed the glory of Dido's Carthage?
Fate likes to give, then claw everything back.
She smashes things that she cherished and yet
A smile, a wink, and we trust her again.

Loveliest of all things that are lovely
Is earthly glory. It doesn't last long.
It rots away like the leaves of summer
Fades like a beautiful field of flowers
Which in a short time the winter will strip.
Prove me wrong. But you know you can't do it,
Fortuna, you vicious, uncaring cheat.

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: strange_complex
2006-11-26 11:55 am (UTC)
a really whizzy mosaic of a chariot race

It's a very important one, too, as it is the only mosaic of a circus-racing scene known from Roman Britain. Until very recently, it was also the only evidence we had to suggest that chariot-racing was practised in this province at all, because no actual circus remains had been found anywhere.

BUT! Just last year, circus remains were identified at Colchester - something which fits very satisfyingly with Colchester's special prestige within the province. So everyone is very excited and happy now, and we can at last be sure that the mosaic depicts not just far-off exotic practices, but something its owner might have seen (or even paid for) himself.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-11-26 12:35 pm (UTC)
I don't know why I didn't know about the mosaic before. I thought I was well-informed about this kind of thing. Obviously it's a national treasure (and it's a wonder the British Museum hasn't swooped down and snaffled it.)

Weren't the Time Team in Colchester the other week? I only caught the final couple of minutes and could have kicked myself.
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[User Picture]From: strange_complex
2006-11-26 12:52 pm (UTC)
Ooh, were they? I didn't know about that. A pity I didn't see it (and that you only saw a bit), but then again all Time Team episodes are repeated ad infinitum on the cable channels, so I'm sure we'll get our chance soon ennough.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-11-26 03:39 pm (UTC)
I'll be looking out for it...
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[User Picture]From: ibid
2006-11-26 02:43 pm (UTC)
I love your translation, it's very earthy and unlike the formal compositions found in books.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-11-26 03:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks.

It's fairly free, of course...
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