Sunday, October 04, 2009


An inquisitive reader directs us toward an interesting play on sardonic (see "grin" in Friday Crab Blogging here). Sardonyx is a type of Onx from Sardis, an ancient Lydian city in Turkey. While tempting, it does not appear to be related to Sardinia, the island west of Italy, given the difference in times of ascendancy. But, who knows? The Phoenicians were shuttling between Ionia and the western Mediterranean at that time. (Did you know that Phoenicians traded on the high seas? I didn't.)

I found this onyx cameo carving, the Gemma Agustea from the early part of the first century CE (contemporary with Jesus Christ) to be fascinating. Firstly, the effect of transparency on the robes is a deft stroke. But the bottom collection of figures is quite curious. Not only is there a man in a fedora pulling someone's hair, but there are clearly soldiers raising a Roman Standard (Aquila) as echoed in this iconic sculpture depicting events on Iwo Jima.

This should morph into a discussion of the three symbols below, the presence of an eagle and their use in political cajolary:

Roman Standrd

Nazi Standard

American Standard

But I'm way to weary this morning. Maybe another time.


Ray Girvan said...

Did you know that Phoenicians traded on the high seas? I didn't

Felix I'm sure will remember this too: for British people of a certain age slot, the Phoenicians visiting Cornwall to trade for tin was a standard factoid - now viewed as dubious - taught in schools about the early history of Britain. Strabo apparently started that one off.

Those eagles are ubiquitous. Here's another one: scary or what?

Dr. C said...

Full confession. I and my three brothers were Eagle Scouts, part of that Proto Fascist organization started by (cough, cough) Sir Baden-Powell after he beat up on the Boers at Mafeking.

It is no wonder that so many adults in the US are fascinated by Fascism (unfortunately I have to leave that here, its too good). They spent their youth running around in uniforms with a salute about as close to "Heil Hitler" as you can get. I think the Cub Scout's salute was closer to the Churchill/Nixon Victory sign (Peace, brother).

Color and pageantry, goes right along with mobs and the coliseum.

Julie Heyward said...

The state gem and the state emblems of Sardoodledom.

Dr. C said...

JHC. I wish I could spell.

Ray Girvan said...

Blimey - you live and learn. I'd never run into that one.

Ray Girvan said...

Not forgetting Sardaukar...

Dr. C said...

It commemorates the French playwright Victorien Sardou. He was extremely successful in the 40 years from 1860, creating more than 70 plays, some for the French actress Sarah Bernhardt. (The title of one that he wrote for her in 1882, F├ędora, gave the English language a word for a new type of hat.)

See, I knew those Romans on that onyx were up to something. Always be on the cutting edge (~18 centuries ahead of your time) of style.

Redjalapeno said...

The bald eagle is a "sea" or "fish" eagle.
It's diet consists mainly of fish, carrion, ducks, and geese.

The bald eagle prefers to take its meals from ospreys, or other birds of prey rather than hunt on its own.

Perhaps in this sense its uses for various types of symbolism is spot on.

Doc, I'm knee deep in mid-terms, it's been a long summer, and I'll get around to posting that long story when I get a break.

I've been taking a number of photos for Miss Heyward and again, when I get a break I'll start putting stuff online.

Carry on.

Dr. C said...

RJ, Glad to hear you are alive and kicking. Await your post. Don't get the flu, it can be pretty miserable.