Month: September 2020

Month: September 2020

Papponymy

a plaque of a naked woman (or godess) standing with her hands clasped in front of her stomach
An Old Babylonian terracotta in the Louvre, Paris

In the past few weeks I underwent a kind of Inanna’s Descent with the help of some dear friends who were kind enough not to point and laugh as I did what had to be done. Another thing which helped was classical music, and listening to my favourite radio station gave me an excuse to talk about ancient history.

Papponymy is the practice of naming a son after their paternal grandfather, so that names alternate between generations. Many ancient cultures sometimes practiced it, just like Anglos today sometimes name a son after the father. The satraps of Dascyleium / Hellespontine Phrygia included a Pharnabazus son of Pharnaces son of Pharnabazus. If you know to look for papponymy, you can use it as a clue in guessing family relationships and how many generations stand between individuals who happen to be mentioned in surviving writing. If the names are the same, one or three generations are probably missing, if different then two or four.

Listening to that radio station, I learned about a family which practised papponymy in the 20th century:

An ancient historian would call these Dmitri II Shostakovich, Maxim Shostakovich, and Dmitri III Shostakovich (Dmitri I was the composer’s father) because ancient historians value genealogy and umambiguity and have learned about regnal numbers. But in ordinary circumstances, nobody is likely to confuse the grandson and the grandfather.
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Cross-Post: Books on Ancient Warfare 2005-2020

Over on closed social media, someone asked for books published between 2005 and 2020 which readers of Ancient Warfare Magazine should know about. I thought the list was too interesting to get lost on closed social media, so I copied it here, deleting the things which were published too early and the ones which summoned pushback and ones which cost more than about $150.

A question mark ? notes books which I have not flipped through (or been recommended to me by someone I know and respect), and an obelus † marks books which I could not recommend without warnings.
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Against Seeing Everything as an Identity

A chart of the frequency of the word "identity," "nationality," "ethnicity," "race," and "performativity" over time ... "identity" becomes fashionable after 1960 and especially 1985
Google ngrams is a fun toy as long as you dont take its dates too seriously! (They refuse to work with librarians to clean up their data or with paleographers to OCR old books more accurately). https://books.google.com/ngrams/

Some kinds of academics like to talk about “identities.” Literally, that means the things which you point to and say “I am.” But many academics use it to mean other groups that people get sorted in to. In chapter 2 of a book I recently reviewed, Guy Halsall calls class, gender, age, nationality (“ethnic identity”), and free or servile status “identities”. My friend James Baillie (who is absolutely not responsible for this essay) uses the term in the same way to describe different kinds of people in the UK today. The blogger and medical doctor Geeky Humanist wrote the following paragraph on “gender identity”

What do I mean by woman? Short(ish) answer: Any adult whose gender identity is female. For purposes of anti-misogyny endeavours such as International Women’s Day, I would also include a) girls (children whose gender identity is female), and b) anyone who is affected by misogyny as a result of having been determined on the basis of genital configuration to be female, even if their actual gender identity isn’t female. … Transgenderism (and cisgenderism, for that matter) isn’t about ‘choosing’ to identify as a particular gender. It’s about the inescapable fact that nearly all of us do identify as particular genders – not because we choose to, but because it’s a key part of us – and that sometimes a person’s gender identity doesn’t match the gender of their body.

Geeky Humanist has some ideas which are strange to me and which I don’t understand as well as I would like to. I don’t think she is saying that a man is anyone who says he is a man, and she definitely does not think it is any person of the male sex, she seems to understand “gender identity” as something more like sexual orientation. I think that calling gender and class and nationality “identities” and just identities confuses people about how power and societies work.
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Dis Manibus David Graeber

Anthropologist and activist (not always easy to separate in the United States) David Graeber has died at the age of 59 in Venice. He is probably best known for his book Debt and his involvement in the Occupy movement. I first got to know one of my regular thoughtful correspondents while talking about one of... Continue reading: Dis Manibus David Graeber

Cross-Post: Persika

Prolific ancient historian and Iranologist Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones’ latest venture onto the Internet is a vlog on ancient Iran called Persika: Persian Things. Check it out!